One Hit Wonders #23: “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass (Epic Records 1972)

You couldn’t go into any bar, pub, or tavern in my fishing port hometown of New Bedford, MA for literally decades without someone playing Looking Glass’s #1 hit from 1972, “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” on the jukebox – usually more than once a night!:

(And yes, that’s future country legend Kenny Rogers doing the introduction!)

The song/story of a barmaid in love with a sailor she can never truly have, because as he says “my life, my lover, my lady, is the sea” resonated with us locals, as I’m sure it did in every “harbor town” where barmaids work “layin’ whiskey down” to hard working seafaring men (not to mention that fact that it made a helluva great slow-dancing tune as closing time neared – ah, those were the days, my friends!).

The band Looking Glass was from New Brunswick, New Jersey, and consisted of Elliot Lurie (lead singer, guitar), Larry Gronsky (keyboards), Pieter Sweval (bass), and Jeff Grob (drums). While “Brandy” was a smashing success, their self-titled debut album only made it to #113 on the Billboard LP charts. A follow-up LP, SUBAWAY SERANADE, did worse, though it did yield a minor hit in “Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne”, which crawled up to #33. After Lurie left the group disbanded, with Sweval and Grob forming the late 70’s glam-metal band Starz, who had some small success in 1977 with “Cherry Baby”:

Elliot Lurie, who wrote “Brandy”, had a brief solo career before moving to Hollywood and becoming a music supervisor for both films (THE SURE THING, ADVENTURES OF FORD FAIRLANE, ALIEN 3, A NIGHT AT THE ROXBURY, SPANGLISH) and television (CLUELESS, NASH BRIDGES, LIZZIE MCGUIRE, THE 4400). But for most of us, he’ll be forever immortalized as the man who gave voice to a girl who “wears a braided chain, made of finest silver from the North of Spain”, and who, “at night, when the bars close down,..walks through a silent town, and loves a man who’s not around”….

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One Hit Wonders #22: “Heartbeat – It’s A Lovebeat” by The DeFranco Family (20th Century Records 1973)


Now that I’ve got horror movies out of my system (at least for a minute!), let’s switch gears to the saccharine sweet DeFranco Family, Canada’s answer to the Osmond Brothers, The Partridge Family, and The Jackson 5, who scored a #1 hit in 1973 with the bubblegum-pop “Heartbeat – It’s A Lovebeat”:

Siblings Benny, Marisa, Nino, Merlina, and Tony DeFranco had been making music together all their lives before a demo tape earned them a contract with 20th Century Records. 13-year-old lead singer Tony was groomed to be the Next Big Teen Idol, and his face was plastered all over the covers of teen magazines of the era: Tiger Beat, 16, Fave!, ad nauseam. The DeFranco’s popularity was brief however, as disco began taking over the airwaves, not to mention Tony hitting puberty and his liltingly light voice changing! The family became a Vegas lounge act for a couple of years before quietly leaving the music scene altogether.

And whatever became of would-be teen idol Tony? Well, he seems to have done well for himself, as he’s now a successful Southern California real estate agent with Southeby’s International Realty . Whadda ya know – a ‘teen idol’ story with a happy ending!

Tony DeFranco today – lookin’ good, Tony!

One Hit Wonders #21: “Seasons in the Sun” by Terry Jacks (Bell Records 1974)

Terry Jacks’ “Seasons in the Sun”, perhaps the most maudlin hit of all time, reached #1 on the charts in March 1974 and stubbornly stayed there for three long weeks:

This schmaltzy little ditty about a man saying goodbye to his loved ones as he’s preparing for death was based on Belgian chanteur Jacques Brel’s 1961 European hit “Le Moribond”, with English lyrics provided by that most sickeningly saccharine of 60’s poets, the Godfather of New Age, Rod McKuen (ATTENTION DIABETICS: better take your shot of insulin before clicking on the next video!):

Terry Jacks was no stranger to the Top 40. He and his wife Susan performed under the name The Poppy Family (how cute!), and reached #2 in 1970 with the single “Which Way You Goin’, Billy?”:

ARRGH! All this sweetness has given me a sugar rush! Think I’ll go run around the block six or seven times….

One Hit Wonders #20: “I Fought The Law” by The Bobby Fuller Four (Mustang Records 1965)

One of rock’s most iconic anthems, “I Fought The Law” by The Bobby Fuller Four made it to #9 on the Billboard charts in March of 1966:

Written by Sonny Curtis of Buddy Holly’s Crickets (who also penned the memorable theme song for THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW , “Love Is All Around”), “I Fought The Law” was a throwback to the heyday of rockabilly in that year of British Invasion madness, and was all over the airwaves that spring and summer. Fuller’s Holly-influenced sound brought rock back to its roots, and his surf guitar stylings were on a par with legendary Dick Dale.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Bobby Fuller was born in Baytown, Texas in 1942, and the family, including younger brother Randy, moved to the West Texas town of El Paso when Bobby was twelve. Like most teens during the mid-50’s, Bobby was rock’n’roll crazy, and soon he and Randy were fronting bands and playing the local circuit. Relocating to LA in the early 60’s, The Bobby Fuller Four signed with tiny Mustang Records (who were distributed nationally by Roulette), and enjoyed some regional success before “I Fought The Law” put them at the top of the rock pile.

The Bobby Fuller Four were riding high, appearing on teen-oriented TV shows like HULLABALOO and WHERE THE ACTION IS, and even popped up in AIP’s last ‘Beach Party’ movie, THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI, along with Tommy Kirk, Deborah Walley, Nancy Sinatra, and veterans Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, and Patsy Kelly:

On July 18, 1966, Bobby Fuller’s mom found him dead in his car parked outside their home. The windows were rolled up tight, and there was an open gas can in the car. Despite the facts there were multiple bruises on his arms and shoulders, a reported broken finger, and his body being doused with gasoline, the death was officially ruled a suicide. In October, the LA medical examiner changed the verdict to “accidental asphyxiation”. Speculation has run rampant since then, from Fuller being “hit” for having an affair with a Mafioso’s girlfriend, to an LSD-related death allegedly involving Charles Manson, to a deal gone sour with mob-connected Roulette Records boss Morris Levy (aka “The Godfather of Rock’N’Roll”). Bobby Fuller was at the peak of his career at the time; why would he commit suicide? We’ll probably never know the truth as to what happened that fateful summer night. All we know is rock lost another artist at a young age – Bobby Fuller was just 23 years old.

“I Fought The Law” has gone on to become one of rock’s most covered songs, with everyone from your local bar band to artists like Bruce Springsteen, John Mellencamp, The Grateful Dead, and Hank Williams Jr. interpreting the tune. It was hugely popular among the punk rock movement, covered by The Dead Kennedys, The Ramones, The Stray Cats, and most notably The Clash:

Great as that version is, I’ll always think of The Bobby Fuller Four’s rendition as being definitive, their place in rock history ensured forever. And I’ll think of  Bobby Fuller himself, a life cut short on his way to rock immortality.

One Hit Wonders #19: “Hot Smoke & Sasafrass” by The Bubble Puppy (International Artists Records 1969)

San Antonio, Texas rockers The Bubble Puppy rocketed to #14 on the charts with the psychedelic hard rocking “Hot Smoke & Sasafrass”:

The band pioneered the dual lead guitar sound, with Rod Prince and Todd Potter riffing their way to an appearance on Dick Clark’s AMERICAN BANDSTAND. Soon groups like The Allman Brothers and Thin Lizzy took the concept to new rocking heights, but The Bubble Puppy (also featuring Roy Cox on bass and “Fuzzy” Fore on drums) were there first. The song, which has been covered by MGMT and The Mooche, remains an early example of the heavy metal genre.

Though The Bubble Puppy released only one album (“A Gathering of Promises”) before disbanding in 1970, it’s members all continued working in the music industry. Prince and Fore are currently gigging in the Texas area in a reformed version of The Bubble Puppy with new members Mark Miller (guitar), Gregg Stegall (guitar), and Jimi Umstattd (bass), bringing a triple lead sonic assault to a festival near you… if you live in Texas, that is! All hail The Bubble Puppy!

One Hit Wonders #18: “Lies” by The Knickerbockers (Challenge Records 1965)

“Hey, did you hear the new Beatles song?”, screamed virtually every teenybopper in 1965, only it wasn’t The Beatles , but New Jersey’s own The Knickerbockers singing the Top Twenty smash “Lies”:

The Knickerbockers consisted of brothers Beau (vocals, guitars) and John Charles (vocals, bass), Jimmy Walker (vocals, drums), and ex-Royal Teen Bobby Randell (vocals, sax), who scored a hit in 1958 with “Short Shorts” (also featuring future Four Season Bob Gaudio and future Blues Project/Blood, Sweat, & Tears/solo artist Al Kooper):

The tight-knit harmonies and John Lennon-sounding lead vocals had many people fooled into thinking The Beatles had recorded “Lies” under an alias, but the world soon found out it was just a bunch of Jersey kids doing an incredible facsimile. The Knickerbockers became featured regulars on Dick Clark’s five-days-a-week ABC-TV teen dance show WHERE THE ACTION IS (1965-67), along with Paul Revere & The Raiders, Keith Allison, and Linda Scott, but their small record label failed to produce another hit. By the late Sixties, The Beatles had moved on to a more mature sound, and The Knickerbockers faded into obscurity, save for that one brief, shining moment when everybody listening to their AM radios thought four kids from New Jersey were THE Fab Four.

Enjoy other “One Hit Wonders”:

The Night Chicago Died (Paper Lace)  – One Tin Soldier – Theme from BILLY JACK (Coven) – Long, Lonesome Highway (Michael Parks) – Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye (Steam) – DOA (Bloodrock) – Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl? (The Barbarians) – Why Can’t We Live Together (Timmy Thomas) – They’re Coming to Take Me Away (Napoleon XIV) – In the Year 2525 (Zager & Evans) – Summertime Blues (Blue Cheer) – Little Girl (Syndicate of Sound) – I Had Too Much To Dream (The Electric Prunes) – The Ballad of The Green Berets (SSgt. Barry Sadler) – Smell of Incense (Southwest FOB) – In The Summertime (Mungo Jerry) – The Safety Dance (Men Without Hats)

 

One Hit Wonders #17: “The Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats (Backstreet Records 1982)

When this song came on my car radio last week, I immediately knew I had to do a “One Hit Wonders” post on it, so without any further ado, here’s Canadian New Wave pop rockers Men Without Hats doing their #3 smash dance hit “The Safety Dance”:

The band was led by singer/songwriter Ivan Doroschuck, who claimed he penned the bouncy tune in response to nightclubs banning pogo dancing, then a hot thing. At the time of recording the song and others for the album “Rhythm of Youth”, the group consisted of Ivan’s brothers Colin (guitars) and Stefan (bass), Allen McCarthy (keyboards/electronics), and Martin Cartier (percussion). The silly, Renaissance Fair-looking video got in heavy rotation on MTV (remember when they actually played music all day?), which aided it’s rise to the top of the pop charts.

Men Without Hats have gone through multiple personell changes over the years, with Ivan Doroschuck the one constant. But never again would they hit the lofty heights of their one hit wonder, that peppy, synth-heavy little dance number from The Golden Age of New Wave. I still crank it up whenever it comes on the radio… and I bet you do, too!