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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12 thoughts on “1972: Outstanding One Hit Wonders￼”
Another interesting review. Thanx David. I truthfully don’t remember some of the songs, like “Beautiful Sunday” and “Thunder and Lightning” and “Motorcycle Mama”, but that was the early 70’s. “Hot Rod Lincoln” I always associated with the 50’s ( obviously missed that one) . I do remember WLS in Chicago and WABC. Also WOWO, Fort Wayne, Indiana. I think I liked Argent of the Zombies better but still a good song. My favs were “Day by Day” and “Sunshine” . Thanx again for a very informative piece. Paul
Great review DW and it brought back a lot of wonderful memories. Like Paul’s review I do not remember or recognize some of the one hit wonders. Of those chosen, I enjoyed Godspell for its message. Other favorites include Good Time Charlie which makes me feel relaxed and to just lay back and listen.I have to pick Precious and Few as my favorite, It was the theme to our Senior Prom at William Fleming. My date and I had a wonderful evening. It was one of many dates and good times between us, so much so that we ended up getting married seven years later. You can never forget that,
Nice blog!! I think I would also go with your top pick. Especially the full version of Hold Your Head Up. Lots of variety for sure back in 1972. I also enjoyed your listening history with various radio stations. I miss those good old radio days!!
I do remember hearing most or all of these, some more than others because they still get played. A couple of others that I remember that would qualify and I remember fondly (mostly): Mott the Hoople “All The Young Dudes,” Michel LeGrand instrumental “Brian’s Song,” Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show “Cover of the Rolling Stone,” and Johnny Nash, “I Can See Clearly Now,”
I was a young lad in 72 and I was getting into all genres of music. I will say my favs are
1. Me and Mrs Jones – Billy Paul. This was a illicit love affair between and man and a married woman, without the foul language. Billy really sang that song
2. I will alway love Brandy – Looking Glass – I believe I 1st saw it on “Midnight Special”. I would say it is “Yatch Rock” at its best
3. “Everybody Plays the Fool” – Main Ingredient- I believe this one is a OHW. But even if it isn’t, the title will apply to ALMOST everyone. I know I did. 🤣🤣🤣
I’m not certain the Music World would have been the same had there not been One Hit Wonders and 1972 was NO exception. David, you covered it well. Hard to believe there were two popular instrumentals that held their on at the time “Popcorn” by Hot Butter and “Joy” from Apollo 100. As for my Top 5 One Hit Wonders from 1972:
1) Thunder and Lightning – Chi Coltrane
2) Bang-A-Gong – T.Rex (I never tire of that song)
3) Hold Your Head Up – Argent
4) White Lies Blue Eyes – Bullet
5) Beautiful Sunday – Daniel Boone
Another interesting and informative blog. I do not remember many of the one hit ones you listed or any others right off the top of my head. Brandy I have always love and assumed it was a one hit wonder. Had no idea that the Looking Glass had another hit out! Of your list Precious and Few by Clmax would have to be my number one. Three other good ones for me are Hold Your Head Up by Argent, Good Time Charlie Has the Blues by Danny Okeefe,and City of New Orleans by Arlo Guthrie.Thanks for another interesting read!
Wow! I did not remember a few of these, but this is such a good article David! I listened to WLS whenever I could get it to come in and I always had my transistor underneath my pillow!!! Good days for sure…. I would have to say Argent is my number one pick, Precious and Few my second…Arlo Guthrie 3rd.
I don’t remember that popcorn song at all!!!!
Thank you for another great article!!!!
Another great blog!.. I join the rest saying I don’t remember some of these songs or artists. The one’s that I do remember to got seen #1 worthy. Anyway….Hold your head up & Precious & Few I liked. Question someone mentioned “Everybody Plays the Fool” – was this a one hit wonder??? It was #116 at the JMU juke box at thw student center. Our song.
Another interesting blog, David ! Very educational.
“Hold Your Head Up” is definitely one of my favorites. I’m not familiar with many of the others, but enjoyed music videos for each. I looked-up Danny O’Keefe on Apple music and found a relatively new album by him (2020), which is pretty good. Thanks for another great post !
Hello Dave, sorry for the delay. Here are my reactions to your informative blog post: 1. I was not aware that Looking Glass had another hit besides ‘Brandy’. I would have placed ‘Brandy’ in my top 3 one hit wonders of the year, a great fun up-tune song.
2. Re: ‘Layla’, of course Eric Clapton had numerous other hits, but would this not be the only hit for ‘Derek and the Dominoes’? I would place this very highly if it counted.
3. If you told me that Arlo Guthrie had only one hit, I would have bet the house that it was ‘Alice’s Restaurant’ before reading your blog.
4. The tune ‘I’ll Take You There’ was performed by Mavis Staples live when I saw her open for Bob Dylan in Gilford, NH in 2016.
5. Love to see Neil Young on the blog as well. ‘Heart of Gold’ was one his first songs I recall learning of, along with ‘Old Man’. It has stayed one of my favorites of his.
Another wonderful blog Dave! Forgot all about “My ding-a-ling”. Can’t stop laughing. I so enjoy these blasts into the past. It was definitely a great time to be alive. Thank you once again for your taking the time to post these blogs. Always a joy to read!