Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
dude

The Weekly One Hit Wonder

Recommended Posts

Namaste, friends.

I'm going to start this thread, wherein each week, I will post a One Hit Wonder.

It's always been my favorite part of the music scene. While the Fleetwood Macs and Elton Johns and Doobs and Eagles were maintaining their places at the top of the charts, along come those odds and ends, on the fringes of the music world, to unseat the perrenial chart toppers for a while. Sometimes they would hit the top ten, maybe even number one. Then, just as quickly, they were gone, if not from music, from the charts.

It always fascinated me. And, there a lot of them. Really, really good songs.

So, hopefully, I'll get it right. Hopefully, I won't make a fool of myself. Most of all, hopefully, people will click on the link* and listen to the song for the first time in decades, or maybe even for the first time ever, and think, yea, that's groovy.

If I get facts wrong, straighten me out. If I leave something out, fill it in.

And finally, some of you I know, some I don't. But that's neither here nor there. It's all about the music, right?

*I will be using a link 'yousendit.com' to put the songs in the posts. You'll have to click on the link and download the song in order to hear it. the song only stays there for about a week, I think, then it expires. Also, if there's a video, I'll post a link for that as well.

Ok, let's get started, shall we?

The year was 1977.

Gas cost .69 cents a gallon, to pour into your brand new Porshe, show room floor cost, 9,395 dollars. A new bikini would run you 9.00 dollars. You could send a letter anywhere on earth for .13 cents. Minimum wage was 2.30 an hour. Farrah Fawcett posters were all the rage, as was Mr. Microphone.

At the movies, Star Wars blasted into space with cutting edge special effects, the Bee Gees provided a brilliant soundtrack for John Travolta to dance to in Saturday Night Fever, Burt Reynolds and his mustache charmed the pants off of my first crush, Sally Field, in Smoky and the Bandit, and Roger Moore tried again (and failed, IMO), to be the James Bond in The Spy who Loved Me.

On the Boob Tube, Bill Murray replaced Chevy chase on SNL. American Bandstand turned 25, (Dick Clark might still be 25). Roots changed the way people looked at people. CHiPS started off silly and stayed that way. Fantasy Island told tales of Paradise Found & Lost. Jack Chrissy, and Janet took non-sex sexual situation comedy to new heights.

The music world loses Elvis.

On the charts, Rod Stewart's 'Tonight's the Night', and Andy Gibb's 'I just Want to Be Your Everything' battled it out for the top spot.

Meanwhile, topping out at #18 on the charts,

Ram Jam's Black Betty

clubbed you over the head with crunchy guitars and a tribal beat.

The band members were:

BILL BARTLETT lead guitar and vocals

HOWIE BLAUVELT bass and vocals

PETER CHARLES drums

MYKE SCAVONE vocals and percussion

ramjam.jpg

Ram Jam's Black Betty

Bill Bartlett had an earlier one hit wonder, with the Lemon Pipers (Green Tambourine).

The song Black Betty was boycotted by the NAACP, citing it was degrading to black women, even though the song was done in the 1930's by black men. This is where my history is a bit muddled. From what I've read, Huddie 'Leadbelly' Ledbetter wrote the song. However, upon more research, I've found that John and Alan Lomax recorded an a capella version in 1934 by either Leadbelly or 'Iron Head' James Baker, depending on where you get your information. It's a mystery to me, and, actually, I kind of like that the song's exact origins are unknown.

Huddie 'Leadbelly' Ledbetter

Leadbelly.jpg

I could have sworn I had a recording of Leadbelly doing the song with his guitar, somewhere here in this computer, but I simply cannot find it. So, I scrounged up:

Allegedly, Leadbelly's 1939 a cappela version

the song, however, has been covered several times.

1960s:

Odetta

Harry Belafonte

1980s:

Nick Cave

2002:

Tom Jones

2004:

Spiderbait

Ram Jam released one more album, in 1978, never to be heard from again. but, they will always have the most kick-ass version, IMO.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love "Black Betty" and stupid me thought it was from much later than late 70's. Oh well, you learn something new everyday and in my case, a few new things.

This is an interesting thread and I'll look forward to reading it every week.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The song Black Betty was boycotted by the NAACP, citing it was degrading to black women, even though the song was done in the 1930's by black men.

Just 'cos the song was the work of black men, don't stop it from being degrading to black women! Witness some of the less cerebral of the rap/hip-hop genre with all that "bitches and hos" stuff, or some of the blatant misogyny in reggae music (and, regrettably, inherent to the Rastafarian religion)

That aside; great idea, dude! Especially with all the accompanying info. :thumbsup:

For my part, I've always liked Black Betty, ever since buying Ram Jam's single in '78. Who could resist it? So...it's disrespectful to black women? It's pretty disrespectful to visually-impaired children, too, which must at least double its political incorrectness quotient. :o:o:o

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just 'cos the song was the work of black men, don't stop it from being degrading to black women!

This is perfectly true, of course.

I was just pointing out the irony, I suppose.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Understood. I certainly wasn't suggesting otherwise.

When I fell in love with Black Betty all those years ago, I had no idea about any supposed offensive connotations. Don't suppose many of us did.

I think it's one of those situations when the "offensive content" (of a piece of music/art/whatever) lies more in the mind of the one who identifies and analyses it, than in that of the creator.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It appears that Dude himself is not a One Hit Wonder afterall. He is apparently having some type of problem getting into the message boards. I recieved a message asking me to please post this next installment of "The Weekly One Hit Wonder". He asked that if people enjoy the thread enough, perhaps they can post their own weekly wonders, and keep it going.

Being the obliging sort that I am, here you go, Dude! ;)

In 1970, the average cost of a gallon of gas was .36 cents, to fill the tank of your Plymouth Fury, which cost $3.600, right off the showroom floor. A new house would run you around $24,000, and you could mail a letter anywhere in the world for .06 cents.

At the movies, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice & a bunch of stuff us kids weren't allowed to see, M*A*S*H gave us an ever-so-brief glimpse of Sally Kellerman's girl parts, George Lazenby made an even briefer appearance as 007, Patton slapped the crap out of some shell-shocked soldier, then apologized (without really apologizing). And the greatest soundtrack of all accompanied, in my opinion, the purest music movie ever, Woodstock.

On the not quite boob, but getting there fast, tube, Josie and the Pussycats set the standard for little boys, who watched them every saturday morning, but weren't quite sure why they were so interesting. With Flip Wilson, what you saw was what you got, Mary Richards turned the world on with her smile, and the Partridge Family spawned Danny Bonaduce.

The music scene was pretty darned good.

1970's freshman class* included Queen, The Doobie Brothers, Stxy, and ELO

(*meaning they formed, not necessarily releasing anything)

Some pretty darned good albums:

George Harrison ~ All Things Must Pass

Neil Young ~ After the Goldrush

The Beatles ~ Let It Be

Black Sabbath ~ Paranoid

Janis Joplin ~ Pearl

James Brown ~ Sex Machine

The Doors ~ Morrison Hotel

Simon decided he was just about tired of carrying Garfunkel, and went on his own (kinda like George Michael and that other Wham guy, only 20 years earlier)

The Monkees, still imitating the Beatles, broke up. (actually, I rather like a bunch of Monkees songs)

On the charts, the above mentioned Simon and Garfunkel's last effort, Bridge over Troubled Water, was number one, The Carpenters longed to be close to you, the Jackson 5 sang their ABCs, and coming in at Number One on the charts the week of April 27, 1970, we had...

The Ides of March ~ Vehicle

A great, ballsy, crunchy song I've always loved, and invariably makes the cut on any 70's mix cd I burn. The Ides of March were born in 1964, in a basement in Berwyn, Illinois. Originally a guitars , bass and drums band, they later added a horn section.

1970group.jpg

'Vehicle' was written by Jim Peterik*. A lot of people think the song is about a dark perv, trying to lure girls into his car, but in actuality, it was written about an ex-girlfriend of Peterik, who, after their breakup, continued to call him and ask for rides here and there and everywhere. Peterik says he finally got fed up and told her "I'm just your vehicle", and it clicked with him.

Instead of writing the whole story:

From Songfacts

This is really a great song. The horn section is simply spot-on pure energy, and rivals anything Tower of Power or Chicago ever did. (Early Chicago, not that 80's crap, after Peter Cetera castrated them).

Anyway, give it a listen, and be sure and crank it up!!

Vehicle ~ The Ides of March

* after doing some research, I have found out a lot about Jim Peterik. This guy has been ariound for 40 years in the music business. Before Ides, he was in a band called the Chitown Hustlers (I couldn't find any music on line), and after Ides, he founded Survivor (Eye of the Tiger), then was with .38 Special for a long time, cowriting a bunch of their hits (Wild Eyed Southern Boys, Hold on Loosely, Rockin' Into the Night, Caught Up in You, Fantasy Girl, among others).

idesofmarch.jpg

In 1990, Jim reunited with Ides, then in 1993, went back to Survivor. In 1997, back to Ides, where's he's been ever since. They still tour.

I think it was worth the wait. Hopefully we can keep it going... ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Seeing that this thread has stalled out again, I will do the honors with another (Not-Quite-)Weekly One Hit Wonder.

The time was December 1979. The Iranian hostage crisis had entered its second month. The long-awaited feature film adaptation of the original Star Trek TV series had just hit the silver screen. A Who concert in Cincinnati had just become a disaster scene, with eleven concertgoers trampled to death. The disco era, like the decade it dominated, was on its last legs, and the U.S. singles chart had recently been topped by two other one-hit wonders, "My Sharona" by The Knack and "Pop Muzik" by Robin Scott (better known simply as "M").

No doubt those two fine songs will eventually be covered on this thread... but the song I'm talking about wasn't quite that big a hit. Not in the States, anyway. The song, about a musician rendered obsolete in a dystopian future, did top the British chart in late October, but it wasn't until December 15 when Casey Kasem finally got to introduce the song on American Top 40... right at #40. I hope Kasem savored that experience, because the song fell off the US Top 40 straight away the following week, and the duo that recorded it would never have another major hit in either country - but the song and its performers would both find new life in the coming new decade.

Of course, I could only be talking about one song, not only a one-hit wonder but likely the greatest US one-week wonder of all time:

"Video Killed The Radio Star" by The Buggles

Although the song only stayed for a cup of coffee on the US chart, its greatest claim to Stateside fame was still to come. On August 1, 1981, its music video famously became the birth cry of MTV, earning VKTRS its own special place in American music lore. By this time The Buggles had already embarked on a short-lived merger with the legendary prog-rock band Yes, recorded a follow-up Buggles album, and broken up after the album tanked, with one member, Geoff Downes, joining the newly formed supergroup Asia and another, Trevor Horn, electing to retire as a musician and become a full-time producer instead. Ironically, one of Horn's first albums as producer was 90125, the comeback album by the newly reformed Yes!

As one-hit wonders go, VKTRS wasn't the biggest hit by any means, but it may have been the most influential. Not only did the song help set the tone for the British New Wave acts of the 1980s, but its video's newfound popularity showed that MTV could bring them an audience on this side of The Pond as well. Groups like Duran Duran and Ireland's U2 may never have broken in North America, while established groups like The Police and Genesis would have found it that much harder to build upon their modest pre-MTV North American commercial success, without The Buggles leading the way.

All in all, quite an impressive American legacy for a group that barely caught a sniff of the US Top 40.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...