The Soul Survivors, When The Whistle Blows Anything Goes, Crimson CR-502, 1967
For record #365, I’ve chosen a semi-rare album from a semi-on hit wonder. The Soul Survivors were a New York band fronted by a pair of brothers, Charles and Richard Ingui. According to the liner notes on their one Crimson release, on March 19, 1966 two cars had an accident on the New Jersey Turnpike. Both were bands on their way to gigs, and they decided to form a Soul band together. Clever as they were, The Soul Survivors were born.
Frankly, the charts in the Spring of 1966 were dominated by two records, The Righteous Brothers (You’re My) Soul & Inspiration, and The Young Rascals Good Lovin’. This album sounds like it was performed by both of those groups. The #4 smash Expressway To Your Heart is absolutely the best Rascals song not performed by The Rascals. They do a note for note cover of The Rascals cover of The Marvelttes’ Too Many Fish In The Sea. The Album closes with The Rydle, a/k/a I Gave My Love A Cherry, done with a clear nod to the the Righteous way Bobby Hatfield sang standards like Unchained Melody and Ebb Tide.
Crimson is also a one hit wonder of sorts. This record represents half of their entire output as a label, with Crimson 501 being a bizarre DJ concept album with no artist or song credits that was designed as a quiz for people curious enough to buy. Needless to say, this was the only Crimson album to chart. Despite the bizarre Philadelphia based company background, The Soul Survivors project was the first hit for the production team of Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. They went on to start Philadelphia International Records which surpassed Motown as the premiere creative Black label in the 70s. Not a bad way to end a blog…
Cost: $10, $1 Remaining
$191 Spent, $6.16 per record
The Hues Corporation, Freedom For The Stallion, RCA APL1-0323, 1973
What we have here is clearly a second pressing. The cover of the original album has been altered to include the huge notice that THIS Hues Corporation record contains their big #1 hit from June, 1974, Rock The Boat. Sure, lead off single, Freedom For The Stallion is included too, but people only bought the album for the hit. I’ve seen a million of these, and not a one of the original cover without the printed ad on the front.
But what a hit! Many people cite Rock The Boat as the first disco song to hit #1, and it’s a natural transition song from the early 70s R&B sound and into the later 70s Disco sound. I also love the clever name the group chose. “The Children Of Howard Hughes” didn’t get past the eagle eyed lawyers in the RCA legal department, but Hues Corporation did. The play on the Hughes name and Hues of colors is pure one hit wonder genius. It was pretty much over for the group after this record, what with personnel changes and declining sales, but this is a good album.
Unfortunately for those looking for the record 44 years after it came out, it was pressed on RCA’s flimsy dynaflex vinyl. Designed to weigh less and bend more, these flimsy records just don’t stand the test of time. Some people call the format “dynawarp” because it doesn’t take much to permanently reshape these records into something unplayable. This one is in great shape, so I’ll be careful to store it on an angle inside a protective plastic sleeve, and keep it out of direct sunlight.
Cost: $3, $383 Remaining
Joey Scarbury, America’s Greatest Hero, Elektra 5E-537, 1981
You’ve gotta feel bad for Joey Scarbury. Not for the suit they put him in, his glasses, or the horrendous art design of this, his only album. It’s one thing to be a one hit wonder, but its just always so sad when that hit peaks at #2 on the charts. Artists that hit #1 always pop up in all kinds of ways, while those that never reached the top spot rarely do.
In fairness, the song did get stuck behind one of the biggest hits of the 80s in Endless Love by Diana Ross & Lionel Richie. Still, The Theme From “The Greatest American Hero” (Believe It Or Not), besides having one of the wordiest titles ever, is remembered about as often as the bad 80s TV show it was featured on. It’s unlikely that Joey Scarbury tours today based on the strength of this record.
It’s all just so meh it hurts. His unease on the cover comes through onto the record. Not that I was able to find the time to listen the whole thing… Believe it or not, I’ll just pull this record out to laugh at rather than play. Sorry Joey!
Cost: $2, $402 Remaining
Elvin Bishop, Struttin’ My Stuff, Capricorn CP-0165, 1975
Elvin Bishop is one of the most accomplished blues guitarists of all time. He’s in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame and The Blues Hall Of Fame. He played with most of the other greats in both Rock and Blues music too. But most people, when they hear the name Elvin Bishop, think of a hit single billed as “Elvin Bishop” that features another singer.
Gravelly voiced Bishop is quoted as saying his limitations as a vocalist improved his songwriting. So when recording this album, he asked one of his background singers, Mickey Thomas, to lead sing a ballad called Fooled Around And Fell In Love. No one really thought much about it at the time, but a few months later, the song was released as a single and it zoomed to #3 on the charts. With no mention of Mickey Thomas on the record, legions of fans thought that Elvin Bishop was the singer.
Unless of course, they heard the rest of the album. There, you hear the gruff Bishop Struttin’ His Stuff, which really is, I have to say, a fantastic name for a mid 70s blues rock album. It’s a fun album, but I also have to say the best part is the 4:44 extended version of the single I though for 35 years was by “Elvin Bishop”.
Cost: $2, $436 Remaining
Amii Stewart, Knock On Wood, Ariola Records SW-50054, 1979
In the 80s there was a raging debate about whether Madonna or Cyndi Lauper would be the more successful singer. For the discount record buyer, we have to scale it down a bit to questions like which 1979 Disco one hit wonder’s record is better, Anita Ward’s or Amii Stewart’s? On cover alone, Amii Stewart wins. Don’t wear this outfit to shovel snow in February.
While the back is much more sedate, it’s easy to see why her career never really reached these heights again. Side one features the #1 hit in a fun 6:13 extended dance mix along with the #69 follow-up, an 8:26 version of The Doors’ Light My Fire. Unfortunately side two is just some middling efforts written by the producer Barry Leng. The vocals are engineered in such a way that I don’t think it really mattered who the singer was.
Interestingly, however, while this one album will represent the extent of any US record shopper’s Amii Stewart collection, she did go on to have a successful 10 year string of chart success in Italy. Apparently, l’amore is mutual, as Stewart lives in Italy and appears on TV and performs there to this day. Take that Anita Ward!
Cost: $2, $438 Remaining
Johnny Lee, Lookin’ For Love, Asylum 6E-309, 1980
It’s safe to call Johnny Lee a one hit wonder. The title track of this album hit #5 on the charts thanks to it’s inclusion in the John Travolta movie Urban Cowboy. It was the perfect country bar band song for a movie, and the female background singer did her level best to sound just like Stevie Nicks. Outside of a follow up that peaked at #54, this was his only chart success. It’s a very common tale, but unfortunately for most people, this song is known for something else.
With the record still on the charts, Eddie Murphy did a parody of a mail order record commercial on Saturday Night Live. “Buckwheat Sings” became an instant classic as Murphy stuttered his way though the hits of the day dressed like the Little Rascals character from the 30s. “Lookin’ For Love” became “Wookin’ Pa Nub” and was born.
Maybe Lee’s problem was that the Country Music community didn’t really appreciate being branded as the latest dance fad for the larger community. A John Travolta movie didn’t help. Lookin’ For Love sounded very Country on 1980 Pop radio, but very Pop on Country radio. That’s never a good place to be for a recording artist, and Lee is still playing shows nightly in Branson.
Cost: $2, $453 Remaining
Stories, About Us, Kama Sutra KSBS-2068, 1973
There are a million stories out there about records and how they came to be. This is a good one but it’s not all that unique. There’s the part about the all-white group (Stories) taking an all-black group’s (Hot Chocolate) song (Brother Louie)and having the bigger hit with it. Stories added a nice twist to that story by having the song literally about a white man coming in to a black family and taking away their daughter…
Another story is about how Stories came about in the first place. Michael Brown, who found pop success in the 60s with his previous group The Left Banke met Ian Lloyd through their fathers who had played together for years in orchestras. They set about creating a new baroque/beatlesque rock band and called the group Stories. About Us was their second album and it appeared headed for the great dust bin in the sky and Michael Brown left the group to work on other projects. A previously recorded track that wasn’t on the album was released as a final single, and Brother Louie shot to #1. Kama Sutra recalled the album and added the single to it and quickly re-released it.
The last story here is how unintended success can ruin things. Shocked by their sudden hit status, the group fell apart because covering British Soul records was not the direction they wished their group to go. There was one more album, but Stories certainly go down as being a one hit wonder. It’s true that the rest of the album sounds nothing like the hit, but original copies of this record without the hit are worth big bucks. As it is here, it was fairly priced at $2…
Cost: $2, $502 Remaining
Zager & Evans, 2525 (Exordium & Terminus) RCA LSP-4214, 1969
Sometimes news headlines can affect the pop charts. Apollo 11 was landing on the moon, and the age of Aquarius was upon us. This odd little folk record from an obscure little duo came along to capture the vibration of the moment and a worldwide number one was born.
It tells of a future world in 1010 year increments where things like test tube babies will happen. It’s sort of funny now, but with men on the moon for the first time, who wasn’t wondering what else was gong to happen? Zager & Evans were billed as “two guys with something important to say”. Once they said it though, that was kind of it. They hold the record for being the only act to hit number one on both sides of the Atlantic, and then never have another chart hit.
Listening to the rest of the album, you can kind of hear why. It’s just not exciting or special in any way. Yeah, they can sing, but it’s just so “meh”. Still, the hit is good, and I got a mint 1969 RCA inner sleeve.
Cost: $2, $741 Remaining
Looking Glass, Looking Glass, Epic KE-31320, 1972
By far one of the most popular one hit wonder hits of all time is Brandy. I would bet money that it’s been played on the air every day since it was released in May, 1972. With a song that great, that has multi-generational appeal, how is it that the band who made it almost completely forgotten? To be fair, until I (just) watched a vintage clip of them singing their fine girl, I had no idea who in the band did what. Even though I probably would have picked this photo out of a line-up as being the one and only Looking Glass.
But I do have a theory as to why they only had the one hit (yes, I know they had a charting follow-up single, but who the hell knows what that was). It’s because the rest of the album doesn’t sound like their hit. It doesn’t sound like the same band did the other songs, like they were recorded a few years before. I think this is true for a lot of one hit wonders. Back when people bought CDs, many of the bought the Sheryl Crow album that had All I Wanna Do on it, and dumped it quickly. The rest of that record was harsh compared to the one song people know.
So the Looking Glass cracked up after this, but it’s still a heck of a single. Owning this album makes the case for only collecting 45s of groups like this, but I’m glad I found this one. Every record collection needs as much Brandy as possible.
Fun Fact: Brandy as a girl’s name went from #353 in popularity in 1971 to #82 by 1973. So if you’re named Brandy and you’re 43-44 years old, this record is probably where you got your name from.
Cost: $2, $759 Remaining
Anita Ward, Songs Of Love, Juana 200,004, 1979
It is said that Anita Ward’s biggest fear was becoming a one hit wonder. But with the success of Saturday Night Fever, Disco Music sales soared, virtually ending the popularity R&B/Soul sound of African American singers. It was way past the point of people thinking it was a fad. So when the popular disco label TK Records tells you that their star producer Frederick Knight wants to sign you to a brand new label he’s starting and has a sure-fire hit to jump start your career, well, if you’re like Ms. Ward, you sign on the dotted line.
Like many up and coming singers, the lure of a hit might cause you to agree to a few things that you never thought you would. Like Donna Summer, Anita Ward’s faith made her uncomfortable to sing the double entendre sexual lyrics she was given to record. Ring My Bell really had nothing to do with actual bells after all.
Unlike Ms. Summer, it all came crashing down fast for Anita Ward’s career. Despite the international success of Bell, TK Records was bankrupt by 1980, disco died virtually overnight, and Anita was in a bad car accident that laid her up for months. Her seven big days at number one would be all she ever had. This excellent copy of her crowning achievement will live on on my shelf, complete with it’s original shrink wrap and promotional stickers, the Juana label with the TK inner sleeve, and it’s cautionary tale for all newcomers.
Cost: $2, $825 Remaining