So Groovy: One-Hit Wonders Of The 1960s
The 1960s was a decade of change socially, politically, and especially musically. The events that happened in the world of music during the 1960s helped to shape music into what it is today. That decade has also gifted us with some of the best hits of all time, even if they’re now considered oldies. While some bands during that time exploded in popularity, becoming some of the biggest groups in the world, others just managed to sneak a hit track or two onto the U.S. charts before fading into obscurity. Let’s travel back in time to the ’60s to be reminded of some of the greatest songs of the decade and see which ones have stood up to the test of time.
“Eve Of Destruction” – Barry McGuire
Released in 1964 and written by P.F. Sloan, “Eve of Destruction” is a protest song. However, the best-known recording was by Barry McGuire who recorded the track between July 12th and 15th in 1965. It was released under Dunhill Records with the backup of musicians such as P.F. Sloan, Hal Blaine, and Larry Knechtel.
Although the vocal track was a rough mix, it was leaked and was played by disc jockeys. Regardless, the song was an instant hit and the final version of the song was never even released. The song went on to hit No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 on the UK Singles chart.
“Angel Of The Morning” – Merrilee And The Turnabouts
“Angel of the Morning” was written and composed by Chip Taylor. Over the years, it has been covered and released as a single by countless groups including Evie Snders, Juice Newton, The Pretenders, Mary Mason, The New Seekers, and many others. The song became commercially successful after it was released by Merrilee Rush in 1968.
Encouraged by producer Tommy Cogbill, Rush recorded the song, along with others, to create the album Angel in the Morning. The single was released in 1968 and made it to the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at spot No. 7.
“Louie Louie” – The Kingsmen
“Louie Louie” was first written as a rhythm and blues song by Richard Berry in 1955. The song became popular after The Kingsmen released their version of the song in 1963. Today, it is referenced as a classic rock and roll and pop track of the decade and is still popular today.
The song is based on the track “El Loco Cha Cha,” demonstrating Latin musics influence on American style. “Louie Louie” has been recognized by many media outlets such as Rolling Stone, VH1, and more for its influence on rock and roll and music as a whole.
“If You Wanna Be Happy” – Jimmy Soul
Recorded in 1963 by Jimmy Soul, “If You Wanna Be Happy” was written by Joseph Royster, Carmella Guida, and Frank Guida. The song is based on the track “Ugly Woman” by the Trinidadian calypsonian Roaring Lion, recorded in 1934. The song made it to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 on May 18, 1963 and the R&B Singles chart.
For a time, the song was banned on numerous radio stations for the lyrics “Ugly Girl/Woman” and a dialogue discussing and woman’s looks in a negative way. The song has been used in films throughout the years in films such as Clean and Sober and Rocky and Bullwinkle.
“The Teddy Bears” – To Know Him Is To Love Him
They might have been producer Phil Spector’s first vocal group, but that didn’t ensure The Teddy Bears long-lasting success. The group recorded the Spector-written song at Gold Star Studios 1958, for a mere $75. “To Know Him Is To Love Him” wasn’t an instant hit but it eventually reached the Billboard Hot 100 where it stayed for 23 weeks.
None of the Teddy Bears’ other releases had much success and Spector disbanded the group only a year after “To Know Him Is To Love Him” debuted. Singer Annette Kleinbard went on to co-write”Gonna Fly Now,”the theme song for Rocky.
“In The Year 2525” – Zager And Evans
“In the Year 2525” was the rock duo Zager and Evans’ only hit during their music career. They released the song in 1968 and it rose to become No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks . it also made it to the No. 1 position on the UK Singles chart for three weeks in the same year.
Zager and Evans wrote the song in 1964 and released it on a small record label for the public in 1968. The duo remains the only group to ever top the charts in both the United States and the UK and never to have another chart single again.
“They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” – Napoleon XIV
“They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” is an unusual title for an unusual song. Recorded by Jerry Samuels in 1966 as a novelty tune, it quickly shot to popularity and eventually reached the number 3 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 popular music singles chart. It was also number 2 in Canada, and overseas it reached No. 4 on the UK Singles Chart.
Following its initial success, “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” received the dubious distinction of falling the farthest within the Top 40 in a single week. Samuels wrote two songs for other singers that reached the Top 20 lists.
“Spirit In The Sky” – Norman Greenbaum
Norman Greenbaum wrote, recorded, and released his hit song “Spirit in the Sky” in late 1969. It quickly became a gold record, selling two million copies between 1969 and 1970. After its release, it reached the No. 3 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970, and stayed on the Top 100 for 13 weeks.
In other countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada, the song managed to reach No.1. It was released on his 1960 album of the same name, with Rolling Stone ranking “Spirit in the Sky” No. 333 on the list of 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
“Winchester Cathedral” – The New Vaudeville Band
The British novelty group The New Vaudeville Band released this song in 1966. The band was made up by Geoff Stephens and composed by the same person. Fontana Records released the single as it reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 list.
Stephens wrote the song with a John Carter soundalike singing through his hands. His aim was to imitate a megaphone sound. When the song became an international hit, a band had to come together for it. The band had a #72 hit with “Peek-a-Boo” the following year, but never duplicated the Top 40 success of Winchester Cathedral.
“Teen Angel” – Mark Dinning
This song is about tragedy. It was written by Jean Dinning, but his brother Mark Dinning went on to perform it. It hit the number one on Billboard’s Feb. 8, 1960 list. Sadly, he never made another hit record again.
He eventually passed of a heart attack in 1986, unfortunately. He was only 52 at the time of his death which took place in Jefferson City, Missouri. Interestingly enough, this song was featured on the soundtrack of the hit movie American Graffiti.
“Stay” – The Zodiacs
This jam is a doo-wop originally written by Maurice Williams of the The Zodiacs. Stay was first recorded in 1960 by The Zodiacs, but commercially successful versions of the song ended up releasing later by The Four Seasons and The Hollies. The Zodiac’s version made it into the 1987 film Dirty Dancing, which revived its popularity.
The Zodiacs were an interesting group that kept changing their names. At one point they were The Royal Charms. After that, they tried The Gladiolas and then The Excellos. The Zodiacs released an album called May I in 1965. That album eventually sold a million records.
“Mother-in-Law” – Ernie K-Doe
Ernie K-Doe was a rhythm-and-blues singer who was mildly popular in the ’60s. In 1961, he recorded Mother-in-Law which was written and produced by Allen Toussaint. The song went number one both the R&B charts and the Billboard Hot 100.
The song wasn’t going to happen if it weren’t for Willie Hopper. Hopper was a backup singer for K-Doe and he believed the song was a great one. After some unsuccessful takes, K-Doe was tempted to walk out of the session, but Hopper convinced him otherwise.
“Alley-Oop” – The Hollywood Argyles
Musician Gary S. Paxton and songwriter Kim Fowley assembled the band The Hollywood Argyles for studio recordings. The two wanted to record Dallas Frazier’s country song “Alley Oop” themselves but Paxton was under contract with another record label so couldn’t do so.
Dallas Frazier sang backup, along with Buddy Mize, Scott Turner, and Diane Smith. The Hollywood Argyles “were hopelessly drunk on cider by the time they recorded the song,” according to Fowley. Even so, the song blasted up to #1 on the charts in 1960. “Alley Oop” ended up selling over one million copies, earning a gold disc from the RIAA.
“Wipe Out” – The Surfaris
“Wipe Out” is an instrumental song written by the original members of The Surfaris: Bob Berryhill, Pat Connolly, Jim Fuller, and Ron Wilson. The group wrote the song on the spot while trying to come up with an introduction for a song on the B-side for their “Surfer Joe” single. The song was released in January 1963 and was picked up for national distribution in April of that same year.
“Wipe Out” turned out to be a hit and spent 30 weeks on the Hot 100, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard chart, right behind Stevie Wonder’s “Fingertips.” Since its release, it has been covered endlessly and has been featured in over 20 movies. “Surfer Joe” eventually reached #62, but was never a Top 40 hit.
“Green Tambourine” – The Lemon Pipers
Psychedelic pop group The Lemon Pipers formed in 1966. The group consisted of students from Oxford, Ohio, who were already familiar with the music scene there, each having been a part of other bands before joining The Lemon Pipers.
They signed on with Buddah Records and eventually recorded an album that didn’t make the charts. Buddah asked their producer, Paul Leka, to write a song for them to record and “Green Tambourine” was born. It reached #1 on Billboard in February 1968 and eventually sold more than two million copies. The band’s only other song to chart, “Rice Is Nice,” peaked at #46.
“California Sun” – The Rivieras
Hailing from South Bend, Indiana, the Rivieras were a rock n’ roll group formed in the early 1960s. Although its members hailed from the Midwest, the band became well-known for its surf-style of rock. The Rivieras hit it big in 1964 with “California Sun,” which rose to #5 on Billboard. It stayed there for 10 weeks.
Although they had other songs land on the charts (“Moonlight Serenade,” “Little Donna,” “Since I Made You Cry,” “Count Every Star”), the band never had another top 40 hit again. The Rivieras split up in 1966 but have held a few reunions over the years.
“Wild Thing” – The Troggs
The Troggs, originally named the Troglodytes, are not exactly a one-hit wonder. But one of their songs is so well-known that it tends to overshadow their other work. “Wild Thing,” which topped the U.S. charts in 1966, is listed on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
The band wasn’t able to tour the U.S. until two years after “Wild Thing” hit the charts, which hurt their success somewhat. Even so, their music has withstood the test of time and they’re considered a major influence on future generations of garage and punk rock.
“Hey! Baby” – Bruce Channel
In 1961, Margaret Cobb and Bruce Channel wrote the song “Hey! Baby.” Channel went on to record it that same year and it was released on LeCam Records, which was a local Texas label.
For a three week period, the song held the crown as the number one song on the charts. That time period started on March 10, 1962. Delbert McClinton played the harp on this song. And this was also around the time Channel was touring with the Beatles. Channel ended up with four more Billboard hits, but none in the Top 40.
“MacArthur Park” – Richard Harris
Songwriter Jimmy Webb’s first choice to record this song wasn’t Richard Harris at all. “MacArthur Park” was an unorthodox song about a failed relationship and a cake that was left in the rain. Webb tried to present Harris a different song at first but he rejected it.
Harris,an Irish actor and singer, wanted to make a pop album so he developed a liking for the strange song. The song had four parts to it which made it even more appealing to Harris. It landed at number two on the charts. Fun fact: Harris went on to perform as Albus Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films!
“Dominique” – The Singing Nun
The song “Dominique” is a French language song from 1963. Jeannine Deckers from Belgium wrote and performed the magical French song. She was also known as Soeur Sourire, or The Singing Nun.
The Singing Nun is a Spanish-born priest who is also the founder of the Dominican Order. The song stayed number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for four weeks in December. She would never find that same success again, but she continued to live a colorful life.
“Harper Valley PTA” – Jeannie C. Riley
Harper Valley PTA was written by Tom T. Hall which became a huge country hit for Jeannie C. Riley (center). The song released in 1968 and grew so large that it eventually became the basis for a TV series.
Harper Valley PTA sold over six million copies. Riley became the first female artist to sit on top of both the Hot 100 and Hot Country Singles charts with the same song, something that wouldn’t be done again until 1981. She had many other successes but no other Top 40 songs.
“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” – Steam
There were complications behind this hit song because at first it was attributed to a fictitious group called Steam. Gary DeCarlo, Dale Frashuer, and Paul Leka wrote and recorded the song, but when the song made it big, a real band was then formed to tour behind it.
The band Leka formed ended up breaking before the tour could start, so he had to put another one together. The song went number one in 1969 as a pop single. Steam almost reached the Top 40 again with “I’ve Gotta Make You Love Me,” but it just missed.
“Love is Blue” – Paul Mauriat
The French orchestra leader and conductor Paul Mauriat scored a #1 hit on the charts with his 1968 hit “Love is Blue.” Recorded by Le Grand Orchestre de Paul Mauriat, the song stayed in the spot for five weeks. It was a rendition of “L’amour est bleu,” penned by French composer André Popp.
Mauriat had two other hits that reached the charts but nowhere near the Top 40. These were “Love in Every Room” (peaking at #60) and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (#76). He was also known for “Toccata” and “Penelope.”
“Sukiyaki” – Kyu Sakamoto
Kyu Sakamoto was a member of a few Japanese based groups in the late ’50s and early ’60s. The singer-actor never got his break until he went solo and recorded the song “Sukiyaki.”
It was originally called “Ue o Muite Aruko” but they re-titled it for English-speaking countries. The song was a bittersweet reflection about Kyu’s past in Japan as well as his optimistic outlook on the future. The song holds the title of being the only Japanese-language song to have reached number one.
“The Girl from Ipanema” – Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz
Astrud Gilberto was never a professional singer. She just happened to lend some vocals on two songs from an album that her husband contributed to. One of the songs was a jazz-bossa nova song called “The Girl from Ipanema.”
It was released in the spring of 1964. The peak it reached was number five on the U.S. Billboard list. The song was so good, it won a Grammy in 1965 for Record of the Year. That goes to show you don’t have to be professional to have good taste.
“Grazing in the Grass” – Hugh Masekela
A singer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist called “the father of South African jazz” by many, Hugh Masekela was primarily known for his anti-apartheid songs such as “Bring Him Back Home” and “Soweto Blues.” In 1968 he hit #1 on the Billboard charts with the song “Grazing in the Grass.”
Although he had other tunes on Billboard’s Top 100 during his career, “Grazing in the Grass” was the only Top 40. It sold four million copies worldwide. In 2018 his rendition of the song was inducted into The Grammy Hall of Fame.
“(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet” – The Blues Magoos
The Blues Magoos were original the Trenchcoats from the Bronx. They formed around the mid-’60s with a sound revolving around proto-garage rock. Soon, they transformed into psychedelia sound and took off.
A whirling Vox organ, groovy bass ostinatos, trippy guitar lines, and obscure lyrics were all mashed together to make “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet” from their debut album, Psychedelic Lollipop. The song reached number five on Billboard and allowed the band to go on a massive tour. The bands’ other hits didn’t make it into the Top 40.
“Little Star” – The Elegants
What a name. The Elegants were a doo-wop quintet (all teenagers) formed in New York in the late 1950s. The group got its start performing under boardwalks. Members Arthur Venosa and Vito Picone wrote a song called “Little Star,” and it was a huge hit. It spent 19 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
The song’s success led The Elegants to tour with huge acts like Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Chuck Berry. Unfortunately, they were never able to recreate the success of “Little Star,” although many of The Elegants are still touring to this day.
“Judy in Disguise” – John Fred and His Playboy Band
John Fred formed his band when he was only 15. After a decade of hard work, John Fred and His Playboy Band finally made a number one record in 1968. It was Fred and one of his band members, Andrew Bernard, that wrote the song.
It was a bit of a joke song made in response to The Beatles’ Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. The song also knocked the Fab Four off the top spot of the Billboards for two weeks in in January 1968. Another song, “Hey, Hey, Bunny,” made it to #57 on the charts.
“Worst That Could Happen” – The Brooklyn Bridge Band
Johnny Maestro had a very shaky solo career during the ’60s. And then in 1967, he ended up joining a band that consisted of Del Satins and the Rhythm Method. The band included 11 total members and they called themselves the Brooklyn Bridge.
Their first recording so happened to be a Jimmy Webb song called “The Worst That Could Happen.” The 5th Dimension had already had a version of their song on their album, but for millions of others, The Brooklyn Bridge Band’s version was the first they heard. It shot to number three on the charts upon release in 1969.
“The Stripper” – David Rose
The Stripper is strictly an instrumental song made by David Rose. Even though it was recorded in 1958, it wasn’t released until four years later, making it eligible for this list. It was a song that became popular among striptease artists.
The song blew up by accident. Rose had recorded a different song as the A-side for the record but MGM wanted to get it out as soon as possible. Because it didn’t have a B-side someone at the record label was tasked to find an unreleased song done by Rose and put it on the B-side. It then went on to reach number one.
“Mr. Custer” – Larry Verne
“Mr. Custer” was written by Al De Lory, Fred Darian, and Joseph Van Winkle. Larry Verne sang it all the way to the number one spot on the charts in 1960. Although it only remained at the top spot for a week, that is pretty good for a comical song about a soldier’s plea.
That was the only Top-40 song Verne recorded. His second-most popular song, “Mister Livingston,” managed to reach #75 but never reached the success of “Mr. Custer.”
“Stranger on the Shore” – Acker Bilk
Acker Bilk originally wrote this piece for clarinet and originally named it after his daughter Jenny. Apparently, BBC liked it so much that turned it into their theme tune for the BBC TV drama Stranger on the Shore. It was first released in the UK before coming to America and hitting number one on the charts in 1961.
Bilk recorded other albums that achieved success, but none came close to “Stranger on the Shore.” In fact, he called the song his “old-age pension” because of its commercial success.
“Barefootin'” – Robert Parker
In 1966, New Orleans-born saxophonist Robert Parker hit the Billboard charts with the song “Barefootin'”. Parker had started out playing with the iconic blues musician Professor Longhair in 1949. He also played with other New Orleans stars such as Fats Domino and by 1958 he had a solo career and experienced local success.
“Barefootin'” eventually sold one million copies after reaching #7 on the charts. Although Parker was never able to duplicate the song’s success, he continued to tour for many years.
“Denise” – Randy & The Rainbows
Although Randy & The Rainbows never quite made it to a top five spot on the Billboard charts, the group reached an impressive #10 spot with “Denise” in 1963. It held on there for 17 straight weeks.
The doo-wop band hailing from New York had another top-100 hit with “Why Do Kids Grow Up” but it only reached #97. “Denise” was later recorded by, and became a hit for, the pop/punk group Blondie, who released it under the name “Denis.”
“Telstar” – The Tornados
1962 was the first year a British band hit number one on the charts in America. The Tornados were the band to accomplish this milestone with their song “Telstar.” Joe Meek wrote and produced this song and it was named after a recently launched communications satellite.
It was a genius title of a name to lure in young fans who were so fascinated with America’s new-found frontier. The song remained on the charts for 16 weeks, and the group’s only other song to hit Billboard only made it to #63.
“Ringo” – Lorne Green
“Ringo” was originally written by Don Robertson and Hal Blair. It then became a hit song for actor Lorne Green in 1964. Not only did it go number one on the U.S. Billboard charts, it snuck into the same spot for the Easy Listening charts where it would hold that place for six weeks.
“Ringo” would appear on multiple charts actually and was originally recorded as a track on Greens’s Welcome to the Ponderosa LP. Green had another song reach the US Billboard 100, 1965’s “The Man,” which peaked at #75.
“Venus” – The Shocking Blue
“Venus” was written by Robbie van Leeuwen, a member of the Dutch rock group Shocking Blue. The song was recorded and released by the band in 1969 as a single for the band’s third album Scorpio’s Dance. The song caught on like wildfire and reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February of 1970.
That same year, the record went gold after selling one million copies in the United States, and sold 7.5 million copies worldwide. The song is still popular today and is frequently covered and featured in movies and commercials. Neither of the group’s other two hits made it to the Top 40.
“Asia Minor” – Kokomo
“Asia Minor” is an instrumental recording that’s a rock n’ roll version of “Piano Concerto in A Minor” by Edvard Grieg. It was recorded by jazz musician Jimmy Wisner under the name Kokomo, and was released under his own label, Future Records.
Although the BBC banned the song because of its distortion, it rose to #35 on the UK Singles Chart and #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961. Jimmy Wisner had some top hits after “Asia Minor,” but this was the only one released under the Kokomo name.
“Time Has Come Today” – The Chambers Brothers
The song “Time Has Come Today” was written by Willie and Joe Chambers, becoming a hit track for their group the Chambers Brothers. The song was recorded in 1966 and was released on their album Time Has Come, which came out in November of 1967 and the song was used as the single in December.
The song barely missed the Top 10 chart falling at No. 11. However, it remained there for five weeks. Today, it is is considered to be one of the most recognized songs of the emerging psychedelic genre. One other song the Chambers Brothers recorded,”I Can’t Turn You Loose,” barely edged into the Top 40 charts. It reached #37.
“Dirty Water” – The Standells
Written by producer Ed Cobb, The Standells’ hit “Dirty Waters” just barely missed the Top 10 when it entered the charts in 1966. The #11-peaking song is wildly popular in Boston, due to its many references to the city and events that occurred there. It’s actually used as an anthem of sorts for several Boston-area sports teams.
The Standells, an L.A. garage rock band, managed to hit the Billboard charts three more times in the 1960s (“Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White,” “Can’t Help But Love You,” and “Why Pick On Me”) but never broke into the Top 40.
“Spirit in the Sky” – Norman Greenbaum
Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” is featured on the 1969 album of the same name. By April 1970, it reached No. 3 on the Billboard hot 100, a list it lasted on for 15 weeks. The single went gold when it sold 2 million copies within a year of its release.
Greenbaum told The New York Times in 2006 that he was inspired to write the song after watching Porter Wagoner sing gospel on TV. “I thought, ‘Yeah, I could do that,’ knowing nothing about gospel music, so I sat down and wrote my own gospel song,” he said.
“Kung Fu Fighting” – Carl Douglas
Carl Douglas’ “Kung Fu Fighting” was a homage to the “chopsocky” film craze that swept the ’70s. Released in 1974 in the U.K., “Kung Fu Fighting” became an international hit that sold 11 million records worldwide.
“Kung Fu Fighting” is remembered as one of the greatest one-hit wonders ever. The song largely overshadowed Douglas’s career and as a result, it became the only song he was known for. Though he had two more mild hits, including the follow up “Dance The Kung Fu,” they never saw success outside of the U.K.
“O-o-h Child” – Five Stairsteps
“O-o-h Child” is a song whose title you probably sing in your head as you read it. Released as a 1970 single by Five Stairsteps, the song peaked at No. 8 on the BillboardHot 100 charts that summer.
Chicago-based Five Stairsteps were considered the “First Family of Soul,” consisting of siblings Alohe, Clarence Jr., James, Dennis, and Keni Burke. Though they had a couple other minor hits on their discography, none matched the success of “O-o-h Child,” which was their only Top 40 hit. The song has retained its popularity throughout the years for its positive, uplifting message.
“Magic” – Pilot
Scottish rock group Pilot released their single “Magic” in 1974. Selling upwards of one million copies, it was certified Gold within a year, peaking at No. 5 on U.S. charts. It would be Pilot’s only U.S. success, as their next single “January” was only popular in the U.K. and Australia.
Pilot subsequently faded out of the American music season almost as quickly as they emerged, but people began looking them up again at the turn of the century. Renewed interest in “Magic” generated after Pillsbury used the song in a 2007 commercial. Selena Gomez also sang a cover two years later while she was still on Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place.
“Ring My Bell” – Anita Ward
“Ring My Bell” was Anita Ward’s only hit song. Released in 1979, it hit No. 1 on both the BillboardHot 100 and Soul Singles charts and earned the artist a Grammy nomination. The song’s innuendo raised many eyebrows at the time, which is interesting because it was originally written for 11-year-old Stacy Lattisaw.
R&B singer Frederick Knight originally wrote the song for teens about talking on the telephone, but when Lattisaw signed with a different label, he took the song to Ward. She originally didn’t like it, insisting it should capitalize on the disco trend, but even she didn’t want too many suggestive lyrics, since she started out as a gospel singer.
“Afternoon Delight” – Starland Vocal Band
Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight” was commended for its harmonies, but it remained at the height of popularity because of its suggestive lyrics. Released in 1976, it topped the Billboard Hot 100 and won two of its four Grammy nominations, including Best Arrangement for Voices and Best New Artist.
Of the latter Grammy, founding member Bill Danoff has said, “[That] was basically the kiss of death and I feel sorry for everyone who’s gotten it since.” The following year, the band hosted a CBS variety show, The Starland Vocal Band Show, but were unable to match the success of “Afternoon Delight.”
“In the Summertime” – Mungo Jerry
“In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry is one of the quintessential songs of summer. When people envision summer and its inherent carefree spirit, this is probably one of the songs that comes to mind, especially if you grew up in the ’70s.
Released in 1970 under the Pyre imprint Dawn Records, the single became a worldwide hit. Charting at No. 3 on the BillboardHot 100, the British band sold 10 million copies and it has since been frequently used in television and movies. The song was released as a maxi single in a picture sleeve, which was unusual at the time, making it a rare collector’s item today.
“My Sharona” – The Knack
The Knack’s debut single “My Sharona” was topped the BillboardHot 100 for five consecutive weeks, and became the No. 1 song of 1979. The international hit was certified Gold. Though technically it wasn’t their only hit—their follow-up “Good Girls Don’t” peaked at No. 11—backlash against them prevented them from attaining the same success.
People called them ‘Beatles rip-offs,’ also perceiving their songs to be about teenaged girls when the members of the band themselves were much older. Such accusations led San Francisco artist Hugh Brown to launch a “Knuke the Knack” campaign, which certainly hurt the band’s popularity.
“Me and Mrs. Jones” – Billy Paul
Soul singer Billy Paul was looking for his big break when producers Gamble and Huff helped him create “Me and Mrs. Jones.” The single remained in the No. 1 spot on the charts for the last three weeks of 1972, becoming certified platinum upon selling two million copies.
Billy Paul won a Grammy for the song, which has been covered throughout the years by the likes of the Dramatics, Freddie Jackson, and Michael Bublé. Unfortunately, Paul’s follow-up single, “Am I Black Enough for You?,” failed to match its predecessors’ success. The song evoked a Black Power message that didn’t bode well with mainstream radio.
“You Light Up My Life” – Debby Boone
Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” spent an unprecedented ten consecutive weeks at No. 1 on the BillboardHot 100 in 1977. Boone won a Grammy for Best New Artist and an American Music Award for Favorite Pop Single.
“You Light Up My Life” was originally written for the 1977 film of the same name and sung by Kasey Cisyk. Boone’s cover of the song is still considered to be in the top ten songs of all songs that have charted on the BillboardHot 100. She subsequently took on a country career, but never matched the success of the song that made her famous.
“I Love The Nightlife” – Alicia Bridges
Lovers of disco would remember Alicia Bridges’ “I Love the Nightlife” from 1978. The song peaked at No. 5 on the BillboardHot 100 and No. 2 for two consecutive weeks on the disco charts. The song is considered a crossover hit, as it was reportedly even played at country music radio.
The song is widely regarded as a disco track, especially since it’s about a woman leaving a man to go to the disco. However, Bridges herself reportedly didn’t even like disco. She never matched the success of “I Love the Nightlife,” due in part to her refusal to do a full disco album.
“Dancing In The Moonlight” – King Harvest
“Dancing in the Moonlight” was the only major hit of French-American rock group King Harvest. The song was originally written by the brother of King Harvest drummer, Wells Kelly. King Harvest recorded the song and released the single, but disbanded after six months after it didn’t take off.
That is, until Perception Records bought the song and re-released it worldwide. In 1972, “Dancing in the Moonlight” peaked at No. 13 on the BillboardHot 100. As a band, King Harvest didn’t do much after their initial success since their subsequent singles failed to take off.
“Rapper’s Delight” – Sugarhill Gang
Rap was in its earliest forms throughout the ’70s, but the niche was largely considered a fad outside of the Bronx, which is why big record companies weren’t producing any rap tracks. That began to change with 1979’s “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang.
Though the song was barely able to break the Top 40 on U.S. charts, it still introduced rap to mainstream audiences. After the success of “Rapper’s Delight,” The Sugarhill Gang never had another hit in the U.S., but they did have a glimmer of lasting success in Europe.
“Play That Funky Music” – Wild Cherry
“Play That Funky Music” was a No. 1 single on the BillboardHot 100 when it debuted in 1976. Before Wild Cherry came out with the song, they were a hard rock band who failed to impress at a club performance. This was because disco was popular at the time and one audience member shouted, “Play some funky music, white boy.”
Frontman Rob Parissi took the heckler’s comment to heart, taking the band back to the drawing board to become a funk band. Despite the success of “Play That Funky Music,” it would turn out to be Wild Cherry’s only hit.
“Why Can’t We Live Together” – Timmy Thomas
When kids hear the bossa nova-style percussion and Lowrey organ at the start of Drake’s 2015 banger “Hotline Bling,” what they’re actually listening to is the 1979 track “Why Can’t We Live Together” by R&B musician Timmy Thomas.
Performed completely solo by Thomas, “Why Can’t We Live Together” peaked at No. 3 on the U.S. charts during the early ’70s. Of Drake sampling his biggest hit, Thomas told Spin, “Can you believe, I had a top-three song in 1973, of this same music… and his is No. 4? That’s incredible! Think about how honored I should feel that I would have [such success with] the same song, twice in a lifetime…”
“How Long?” – Ace
In 1974, British band Ace reached No. 3 on the BillboardHot 100 with their song “How Long?” The song became the one Ace is most known for, despite Five-A-Side—the album it came from—doing well in its own right.
Many fans of the song believed that frontman Paul Carrack was singing about a cheating partner, but in fact, he was singing about the band’s bassist Terry Comer. Carrack penned “How Long?” when he discovered that Comer was secretly working with the Sutherland Brothers and Quiver. Comer went back to the band to perform the song, but it would end up being Ace’s only hit.
“Pop Muzik” – M
British band M released “Pop Muzik” in 1979. The song perhaps ushered in a new sound and is credited as one of the first songs in the emerging “New Wave” genre. After debuting in North America, the song quickly topped the BillboardHot 100.
The band M is a project of musician Robin Scott, who originally wrote “Pop Muzik” with a R&B and funk style. He later would say, “I was looking to make a fusion of various styles which somehow would summarise the last 25 years of pop music. It was a deliberate point I was trying to make.”
“Hooked On A Feeling” – Blue Swede
Whenever you hear a song that starts out with an “ooga-chaka,” you’re probably thinking you’re about to hear “Hooked on a Feeling” by Swedish rock band Blue Swede. The song topped the 1974 U.S. BillboardHot 100 upon its release, but what you might not have know is that Blue Swede didn’t really write the song.
“Hooked on a Feeling” was originally sung by American pop artist B.J. Thomas in 1968, but his version peaked at No. 5. Blue Swede’s version is actually a cover of another cover, sung by British pop star Jonathan King, who injected the song with the “ooga chaka” introduction.
“Venus” – Shocking Blue
“Venus” was released written by Dutch Musician Robbie van Leeuwen in 1969 and was released by his band Shocking Blue in 1970. The song would go on to reach No. 1 in nine different countries. The song was released as a single on the group’s third album,Scorpion Dance.
The song went on to sell more than one million copies in the US, earning itself a gold record. Worldwide, the song sold a total of more than 7.5 million copies. Today, it can still be seen in various forms of the media and is now the theme song for the company Gillette Venus.
“All Right Now” – Free
“All Right Now” charted at No. 4 on the BillboardHot 100 when it debuted in 1970. It would be the most successful hit in America by the British band Free. In fact, it wasn’t until “All Right Now” that Free saw any success, even in their native U.K.
Starting out as a blues-rock band, members of Free realized the need for an uptempo song after a performance in Durham. They finished their set and the applause died down before they even left the stage. Unfortunately, Free wasn’t able to follow-up “All Right Now” with something equally as successful.