Thursday, October 20, 2011

One Hit Classic Rock Wonders

For all the interest in one-hit-wonders, the topic is always narrowly defined as artists who had one big top 40 hit.  I've always wondered about those bands who were mostly album rock bands, who toured a lot, and had a following, and weren't generally flash in the pans, who have just one song regularly played on classic rock radio.

Towards this end, I've gone through the bonus section on Classic Rock Tracks (1964-1980) from Joel Whitburn's "Rock Tracks" book.  The book is mostly a compilation of the chart histories for the Billboard "Mainstream Rock" and "Modern Rock" charts.  It's not actually clear how the Classic Rock Tracks list was compiled, but I think it's a nice list.  Here is every artist that is listed once and only once on that list with a classic rock track from the 60s or 70s (in alphabetical order).

Ace - How Long (75)
Gregg Allman - Midnight Rider (73)
Amboy Dukes - Journey to the Center of Your Mind (68)
Argent - Hold Your Head Up (72)
Average White Band - Pick Up The Pieces (74)
Elvin Bishop - Fooled Around and Fell In Love (76)
Black Oak Arkansas - Jim Dandy (73)
Blind Faith - Can't Find My Way Home (69)
Blue Cheer - Summertime Blues (68)
Blues Image - Ride Captain Ride (70)
Blues Magoos - (We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet (67)
Brownsville Station - Smokin' int he Boys Room (73)
Bubble Puppy - Hot Smoke & Sassafrass (69)
Climax Blues Band - Couldn't Get It Right (77)
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen - Hot Rod Lincoln (72)
Crow - Evil Woman Don't Play Your Games With Me (69)
Rick Derringer - Rock and Roll, Hootchie Koo (74)
Dire Straits - Sultans of Swing (79)
Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show - The Cover of Rolling Stone (73)
Dr. John - Right Place, Wrong Time (73)
The Easybeats - Friday on My Mind (67)
Dave Edmunds - I Hear You Knockin' (71)
The Electric Prunes - I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night (67)
David Essex - Rock On (74)
Fever Tree - San Francisco Girls (Return of the Native) (68)
Five Man Electrical Band - Signs (71)
Focus - Hocus Pocus (73)
Dan Fogelberg - Part of the Plan (75)
Free - All Right Now (70)
Ace Frehley - New York Groove (78)
Frijid Pink - House of the Rising Sun (70)
Gary Glitter - Rock and Roll Part 2 (72)
Golden Earring - Radar Love (74)
Norman Greenbaum - Spirit in the Sky (70)
The Hollies - Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress) (72)
The Ides of March - Vehicle (70)
Iron Butterfly - In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida (68)
It's a Beautiful Day - White Bird (69)
Joe Jackson - Is She Really Going Out With Him? (79)
Tom Johnston - Savannah Nights (79)
Rickie Lee Jones - Chuck E.'s in Love (79)
King Crimson - Court of the Crimson King (69)
Lighthouse - One Fine Morning (71)
Nick Lowe - Cruel to Be Kind (79)
MC5 - Kick Out the Jams (69)
McGuinn, Clark, & Hillman - Don't You Write Her Off (79)
Don McLean - American Pie (72)
Lee Michaels - Do You Know What I Mean (71)
Molly Hatchet - Flirtin' With Disaster (79)
Mott the Hoople - All The Young Dudes (72)
Mountain - Mississippi Queen (70)
Graham Nash - Chicago (71)
Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Mr. Bojangles (71)
Orleans - Dance With Me (75)
Pure Prarie League - Amie (75)
Question Mark and the Mysterians - 96 Tears (66)
Quicksilver Messenger Service - Fresh Air (70)
Rainbow - Since You Been Gone (79)
Ram Jam - Black Betty (77)
Rockets - Oh Well (79)
Roxy Music - Love is the Drug (76)
Leon Russell - Tight Rope (72)
Sanford/Townsend Band - Smoke From a Distant Fire (77)
The Seeds - Pushin' Too Hard (67)
The Shadows of Knight - Gloria (66)
Carly Simon - You're So Vain (73)
Small Faces - Itchycoo Park (68)
Patti Smith Group - Because the Night (78)
Sniff 'N' The Tears - Driver's Seat (79)
The Status Quo - Pictures of Matchstick Men (68)
Stealer's Wheel - Stuck in the Middle With You (73)
Al Stewart - Year of the Cat (77)
Strawberry Alarm Clock - Incense and Peppermints (67)
Sugarloaf - Green-Eyed Lady (70)
Ten Years After - I'd Love to Change the World (71)
Thin Lizzy - The Boys Are Back in Town (76)
Thunderclap Newman - Something in the Air (69)
Pat Travers Band - Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights) (79)
T. Rex - Bang a Gong (72)
The Troggs - Wild Thing (66)
Vanilla Fudge - You Keep Me Hangin' On (67)
Wet Willie - Keep On Smilin' (74)
The Youngbloods - Get Together (67)

Because of the criteria I chose, there are definitely some artists that don't make sense on this list.  This would include individuals or groups that made it big previously or later as part of a group or as a solo act.  It also includes artists that had other hits that just weren't rock hits and a number of artists that avoided one-hit-wonder status by having more hits in the 80s.  Nonetheless, I think this is an interesting collection of songs and artists, many of whom have interesting stories, stories that won't be told on VH1 due to the lack of video evidence.


  1. Bobby, the Whitburn book lists Highway to Hell (78), TNT (76), Whole Lotta Rosie (77), and You Shook Me All Night Long (80), and they had lot of radio play with other tracks in later years. They definitely weren't one hit classic rock wonders.

  2. The Circus - Stop, Wait, and Listen

    You put Rainbow in there, but that was led by Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple. Not sure but I think this violates your rules.


  3. @Anonymous, are you from Cleveland? I don't think Circus made it beyond Cleveland, but thanks for suggesting the song. They sound like they could have been a great one hit wonder.

  4. Hah! Yes I am. We jam that in clubs (I'm a guitarist and singer) and people just melt. It is a real classic rock favorite, at least around here.

    After posting I thought about it and you're right, it was not a "hit". It was on Billboard at #91 briefly but did not make the rankings for end of year.


  5. Why is Orleans on here? They had another hit ("Still the One") that is played even more than "Dance with Me" on classic rock radio. And there are other acts on here that had other songs that are still played on classic rock radio like Thin Lizzy ("Jailbreak", "Cowboy Song"), T. Rex ("Cosmic Dancer"), Mountain ("Nantucket Sleighride"), Focus ("Sylvia"), and especially the Hollies ("The Air That I Breathe", "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother", and many others). And that doesn't even go into those who had more hits in the 80s like Dire Straits, Joe Jackson, and Gregg Allman.

  6. @Anonymous, the issue with the 80s artists is covered by the explanation before and after the list about where the list came from and likely reasons for omissions, but that's an excellent question about Orleans.

    The Whitburn book I have is copyrighted 2002. I agree with you that "Still the One" is at least as popular as "Dance with Me", but I wonder if it was more of a pop hit that didn't cross over to classic rock radio until more recently.

    Re: Thin Lizzy, they're in that rare category of being a consistently outstanding act that barely ever broke through on radio. I think calling them a one hit classic rock wonder is very accurate in terms of radio play. They may have had a few songs that made a temporary dent in airplay, but nothing besides "Boys are Back in Town" that gets widespread national airplay. The same goes for T. Rex, another great artist that only broke through once.

    Re: The Hollies, once upon a time, I think a lot more of their stuff got played on oldies stations as opposed to classic rock stations. The Whitburn book doesn't get into what Oldies stations played and I guess there's increasingly little distinction between classic rock and oldies.

    Now I'm curious if there's a newer edition of the Whitburn book. If Mountain or Focus are getting more than one hit played nationally on classic rock radio, that's definitely a change from 10 years ago. If you're hearing that somewhere, it might be a regional trend or it could be a temporal trend. I don't know which it is.

    1. I have the 2009 version of Whitburn's Top 40 hits and it lists only Mississippi Queen for Mountain but 3 for Orleans - Dance with Me #6, Still the One #5 and Love Takes Time #11.

  7. It's not actually clear how the Classic Rock Tracks list was compiled, but I think it's a nice list. rock review

  8. Dire Straits weren't one hit wonders. You forget Money for nothing? And Golden Earring Twilight Zone.