I am amazed by the popularity of one hit wonders, and how the topic brings back nostalgic memories for many folks. Three articles that I have written over the past couple of years, about 1969, 1970 and 1971 one hit wonders, are among my most viewed messages of all-time.
With this edition of my musical musings, I am concentrating on the best “one hit wonders” of 1972. I will be counting down the top songs in this category from 50 years ago.
I have fond memories listening to Top 40 radio during 1972. I turned 17 that year and lived in Roanoke County, Virginia. During daytime hours, I was a regular listener to a couple of local Top 40 AM radio stations: WROV and WBLU.
My go to station was legendary WROV 1240 AM, which was the top-rated radio outlet in Roanoke. The WROV DJs that I remember during 1972 include Bart Prater, Larry Bly, Dan Alexander, Ron Tompkins, Phil Beckman and Charlie Bell.
WBLU 1480 AM was the other Top 40 outlet in the Roanoke radio market. The only times that I listened to WBLU was traveling via school bus to and from Glenvar High School, and during an afternoon art class that I took during my junior year.
At sundown, WROV reduced their power and WBLU signed off the air, so I tuned in radio stations located hundreds of miles away from my Virginia home. Since radio waves changed on a nightly basis, I would listen to a variety of 50,000-watt, clear channel AM stations on any given night.
There were three main stations that I listened to during the nighttime: WLS 890 AM Chicago, WCFL 1000 AM and WABC 770 AM New York. On the Big 89 WLS, I remember DJs John Records Landecker, Fred Winston, Chuck Buell and JJ Jeffries. When tuning in WCFL, I would listen to Larry Lujack, Big Ron O’Brien and Bob Dearborn. With WABC, I regularly heard Cousin Brucie (Bruce Morrow) and Dan Ingram.
A Top 40 radio station that is memorable to me in 1972 was WAPE 690 AM Jacksonville. My family was on vacation in Florida during July ’72 and I talked my parents into letting me visit the WAPE studios that was located in Orange Park. Since it was my dream to become a DJ once I graduated from high school, getting to visit the “Big APE” was extremely exciting for me.
During my tour of WAPE, I got to meet music director and afternoon DJ Cleveland Wheeler, who gave me a quick look around the station. Then before leaving, Wheeler allowed me to view the “Big APE” main studio, where Larry Dixon was working his midday DJ shift.
My visit to WAPE was influential in my pursuit to make radio a career. Less than two years later, I landed a job with WROV Roanoke in April 1974. I was thankful that I had the opportunity to tour the “Big APE” during the summer of 1972.
What exactly is a “One Hit Wonder?” The basic definition: An artist has only one hit song on the national Billboard Hot 100 pop chart during their career. This music blog message pertains solely to hit songs within the United States.
To avoid any confusion, here are the criteria that I am using to define a one hit wonder:
- No other songs from an artist ever peaking at number 40 or higher on the Billboard National Pop Chart. (Chart positions from number 40 to number 1).
- One hit wonders vary from country to country. An artist may have just one hit in the United States but may have multiple hits in another country.
- Regional hits are not taken into account: A second song must be a national hit and chart within the Billboard Top 40 pop survey.
- Any songs peaking outside of the Top 40, are always excluded for consideration.
- Songs that peak from numbers 41 through 100 on the national Billboard Hot 100 pop chart are never considered as second hits.
All documentation of chart positions I share below in this article comes from The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits by Joel Whitburn. I proudly own a hard copy of this excellent reference manual, which I consider to be the ‘bible” handbook for music history with Top 40 radio.
When I started researching the topic of 1972 one hit wonders, I found some interesting data. There happened to be no artists with only one hit, among the 20 biggest songs from 50 years ago. Below are the top records for 1972, according to Billboard magazine:
1 “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” Roberta Flack
2 “Alone Again (Naturally)” Gilbert O’Sullivan
3 “American Pie” Don McLean
4 “Without You” Nilsson
5 “The Candy Man” Sammy Davis Jr.
6 “I Gotcha” Joe Tex
7 “Lean on Me” Bill Withers
8 “Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me” Mac Davis
9 “Brand New Key” Melanie
10 “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast” Wayne Newton
11 “Let’s Stay Together” Al Green
12 “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” Looking Glass
13 “Oh Girl” The Chi-Lites
14 “Nice to Be with You” Gallery
15 “My Ding-a-Ling” Chuck Berry
16 “(If Loving You Is Wrong) I Don’t Want to Be Right” Luther Ingram
17 “Heart of Gold” Neil Young
18 “Betcha by Golly, Wow” The Stylistics
19 “I’ll Take You There” The Staple Singers
20 “Ben” Michael Jackson
Before I start sharing my 1972 one hit wonders countdown, I need to correct inaccurate information on the topic. Some Internet sites erroneously give 1972 one hit wonder status to songs and artists with multiple Top 40 hits. Clearly, the two singles listed below ARE NOT 1972 ONE HIT WONDERS:
- Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)—Looking Glass
One of my all-time favorite epic story songs from the 70s is actually a two-hit wonder. During the summer of 1972, “Brandy” was a number 1 song. Looking Glass had a follow up hit in 1973 with “Jimmy Loves Mary Ann” which peaked at number 33 on the Billboard Hot 100. If “Brandy” had truly been the only hit for Looking Glass, it would have made #1 on my 1972 one hit wonder countdown.
- Layla—Derek & the Dominoes
It is absurd to place Eric Clapton as a one hit wonder. Clapton is the writer, singer and lead guitarist for the song “Layla” which was recorded under his band’s name of Derek & the Dominoes. The only 3-time member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, had 16 Top 40 solo hits, including covering his song “Layla” in 1993. The legendary guitarist also charted multiple top 40 hits, as a member of Cream and the Yardbirds. Absolutely, Eric Clapton is NOT a one hit wonder.
As I surveyed all true one hit wonders from 1972, I found 13 high quality singles that are on my countdown. These are songs that I deem to be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant. Ahead of my countdown beginning, I want to share some extra songs that didn’t make my Baker’s Dozen listing.
Novelty records that were one hit wonders in 1972:
• Jungle Fever—The Chakachas
• How Do You Do—Mouth and Macneal
• The Delegates—Convention 72
Six-extra ’72 one hit wonders. These selections are all quality songs, that fell just outside of my Baker’s Dozen countdown:
- White Lies Blue Eyes—Bullet
- Small Beginnings—Flash
- Easy Livin’—Uriah Heap
- Run Run Run—Jo Jo Gunne
Without further ado, here are what I consider to be the 13 best one hit wonders from 1972. My Baker’s Dozen countdown starts now:
13. Hot Rod Lincoln—Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100: #9, 69th Biggest Hit of 1972
Novelty tune. Commander Cody’s band combines country, rock, pop and western swing genres of music. Lyrics describe illegal auto racing in California.
12. Popcorn—Hot Butter
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100: #9, 28th Biggest Hit of 1972
First of two instrumental tunes on the countdown. Music composed by Gershon Kingsley. Conductor Stan Free utilizes a Moog synthesizer on this song.
11. Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues—Danny O’Keefe
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #5 Adult Contemporary #9 Hot 100 in 1972
Folk singer-songwriter from Spokane, Washington. Danny O’Keefe has written hundreds of songs recorded by other artists: most prominent include Elvis Presley, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, John Denver, Jackson Browne and Glen Campbell.
10. Motorcycle Mama—Sailcat
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100: #12, 89th Biggest Hit of 1972
Southern rock band from Alabama. Song written by Sailcat member John Wyker. The group decided to break up in 1973, after “Motorcycle Mama” was their only Billboard Hot 100 chart success.
9. Day by Day—Godspell
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #8 Easy Listening, #13 Hot 100 in 1972
Cast from the Off-Broadway musical Godspell, are featured on this folk-rock ballad. Parables from the biblical book of Matthew provide lyrical content for this successful anthem.
8. Beautiful Sunday—Daniel Boone
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 #15, 42nd Biggest Song of 1972
English pop musician. Daniel Boone named “Most Likable Singer” by Rolling Stone magazine in 1972. According to Wikipedia, “Beautiful Sunday” is the biggest selling single by an international artist in modern Japanese musical history.
7. Thunder and Lighting—Chi Coltrane
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 #17, Cash Box #15, Record World #12
Pianist, singer-songwriter with rock and gospel music genres. American Chi Coltrane was known as “The First Lady of Rock” in the United States and the “Queen of Rock” throughout Europe during the 70s.
6. Sunshine—Jonathan Edwards.
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 #4, 37th Biggest Song of 1972
Country folk-rock song. Jonathan Edwards was born in Aitkin, Minnesota. Opened up tours for the Allman Brothers Band and B.B. King after “Sunshine” became a hit tune.
5. Joy—Apollo 100
Peak Positions on Billboard Hot 100 #6, 71st Biggest Song of 1972
The second instrumental song on the countdown. “Joy” It is an up tempo contemporary rendition of a 1723 composition by Johann Sebastian Bach called “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.”
4. Precious and Few—Climax
Peak Position of Billboard Hot 100 #3, 30th Biggest Song of 1972
Soft rock band from Los Angeles, California. Lead singer of Climax was Sonny Geraci, who also provided lead vocals on the song “Time Won’t Let Me” from his former band the Outsiders during 1966.
3. Bang a Gong (Get It On)—T. Rex
Peak Position of Billboard Hot 100 #10, 56th Biggest Song of 1972
Originally named Tyrannosaurus Rex, the English glam rock band shorten their name to T. Rex in 1969. Song written by front man Marc Bolan. Among one of the best glitter rock singles from the 70s.
2. The City of New Orleans—Arlo Guthrie.
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 #18, 45th Biggest Song of Year
Late singer-songwriter Steve Goodman portrays a train ride from Chicago to New Orleans on the Illinois Central Railroad and their legendary “City of New Orleans” rail line. The song was written in 1971, after Amtrak took over servicing the famous railroad route from Illinois Central. Arlo Guthrie’s biggest Top 40 hit.
- Hold Your head up—Argent
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 #5, 50th Biggest Song of 1972.
As a founding member of the Zombies, Ron Argent was keyboardist and a chief song-writer for his British rock band. He penned 3 of the Zombies biggest hits: “She’s Not There”, “Tell Her No” & “Time of the Season.”
In 1969, Ron Argent left the Zombies and formed a new rock band, named after himself: Argent. Three years later, the band released the album “All Together Now” which featured Argent’s only song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100: “Hold Your Head Up.”
Here is what legendary keyboardist Rick Wakeman proclaims in a Louder Sound Dot COM quote: “Rod (Argent) is a good friend, and I’m not just picking people because they’re my mates, I’m picking this because it’s brilliant. The organ solo in “Hold Your Head Up” is, for me, one of the finest organ solos on a record. It’s brilliantly put together, and from an era where you couldn’t go back and correct notes and redo things. It’s a true solo. A little work of art, so it has to go in. It’s just brilliant, so good.”
The first time that I heard Argent’s song was via radio, on WAPE Jacksonville and the Big APE played it multiple times the week I was on vacation in Florida (July ’72). I loved the song when it was a hit and still have fondness for the tune nearly 50 years later. Without a doubt, my top number 1 outstanding one hit wonder from 1972 is “Hold Your Head Up” by Argent.
Now that I have humbly submitted my countdown of 1972 one hit wonders, I am curious to find out your opinion on this topic. Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique. The songs that you feel are the best may be completely different from my selections.
What do you consider to be the best one hit wonders from 1972? There are no right or wrong answers. I welcome your thoughts.
I leave you with lyrics from a 1972 Mac Davis authored song, “I Believe in Music” that pop rock band Gallery covered during 1972: “Music is the universal language, and love is the key, to peace hope and understanding, and living in harmony.” Rock on!
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