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Things I Think About, by Peter Bowditch

One Hit Wonders

I occasionally spend Saturday finding related music videos and posting them to Facebook for the entertainment of my numerous (and patient) virtual friends.

Today’s music selections will be One Hit Wonders, but with a difference. Some of the works will be from musicians or bands with extensive repertoires but which are only known to the general public for one piece. These are the performers who, when you say their names to people who are not fans of the artist or the genre, you will get an answer of “Oh, yes” and then the name of the song.

I can be almost certain that your favourite will be omitted, but I have to stop somewhere.

Let’s start off with one of the greatest One Hit Wonders of all time, a song which takes me immediately back to the 1960s and gives me a Proustian memory of the smell of patchouli oil and burning incense. Or maybe the smell of something else burning.

You and I know that this man had a plethora of stuff out there as a solo artist and when he was playing in some band, but I would bet money that a good number of the almost 110 million people who have watched this on YouTube know him only for this song. Of course, if the only thing he had ever done was this then he would have done more than most singers.

Anecdote: I wanted to quote the words “Imagine all the people sharing all the world” in the book I wrote about the Internet. My editor did the right thing and approached the copyright holder for permission and it was refused. Michael Jackson owned it at the time and I had mentioned him elsewhere in the book when talking about availability of music. I took his name out. If he wouldn’t let me use eight words written by someone else I wasn’t going to remind people of him.

A true One Hitter. Feargal Sharkey retired from the music business at 30 because he didn’t want to become one of those old hasbeens. Too late!

Yes, fans can recognise “Immigrant Song” from the first second, the drum intro to “When The Levee Breaks” is unmistakable, and we’ve all done “Black Dog” on karaoke night when we’ve had a little too much refreshment, but surely there has never been a band so identified with a single song as this one.

Anecdote: Some other singer once whined to Rolling Stone that Robert Plant appeared to be using, how shall we put this, some prosthetic augmentation of the contents of his trousers. The paper ran the story under the headline “The Schlong Remains The Same”.

Sometimes it is acceptable to be grateful that someone only had one hit. The follow-up might have been a worse earworm.

I apologise for this, but no One Hit Wonder collection is complete without it. Please don’t hate me.

At one time this was the biggest selling single record in the history of Australia. It might still be, although I think that something by John Farnham relegated it to a little lower in the list.

I will regret this every time I drive through Hampton and this jumps into my brain, but it had to be done. I love the kangaroos but I have to be very critical of the representation of two-humped camels in Egypt. If you can’t trust dancing hamsters who can you trust?

When people say they hate jazz I always wonder which type they hate the most because the genre covers a lot of styles. Here’s another example of someone with a vast output who is known for one thing only. (I have over three hours of him in iTunes and this is 2% of it.) If you say “Dave Brubeck” to the most ignorant jazz hater they will probably say “Oh, yes, Take Five. That’s not too bad”.

He died too young (don’t they all). I know about “Grace”, but this is the one people respond with when you say “Jeff Buckley”.

Disclaimer: I don’t think this is the best version of the song, but surely I’m allowed to depart from consensus occasionally.

“Hate your next door neighbours but don’t forget to say grace”. Sadly, I can remember almost all of the photos in this montage from when they first appeared.

Anecdote: You know how much work goes into making a recording these days, what with autotune and then piecing the correct notes together, followed by promotion (unless you’re Adele, but most of us aren’t)? This was recorded in one take on a Thursday morning with McGuire reading the words off a crumpled piece of paper. The producer planned to clean up the sound a bit but decided to release it. It was on radio within a couple of days (cf Elvis and “That’s Alright Mama”).

This one was recommended by a Facebook friend when I was part-way through posting the songs. It is another perfect example of a One Hit Wonder.

I know he had another hit (“Frozen Orange Juice”), but this was the big one. It’s a hate song worthy of Dylan at his most subtle nastiness. His brother was working in Australia under a stage name when this hit the charts. He gave up a successful career here and moved to Europe to perform as a duo. Never heard of again.

I couldn’t leave this one out.

Yes, I know about “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)”. A lesson that composers need to learn is don’t release everything at once, because there might be nowhere to go afterwards. (The first two songs that Glenn Frey and Don Henley wrote together, “Desperado” and “Tequila Sunrise”, were held back until their third album. They figured they knew how to write songs but releasing these first would have branded them as a country music band.)

This song produced one of the best interview responses to idiot questions that I’ve seen. When asked for about the millionth time what the song meant McLean replied “It means that I never have to work again unless I want to”.

I know, the man had a million hits, but everything after this was coda. You say “Billy Joel”, they say “Piano Man”.

Finally something to cheer you up. If crying is what cheers you up. The band had a career of more than 40 years, but this is what they are known for.

That’s all folks. Look for another compilation in a couple of weeks.

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