Just before Christmas I posted a holiday message on a Facebook page I run for a vocal group I wrote about in an earlier blog . In so doing, I inadvertently said something that gave me an idea for a new post. What I said simply was that one of the reasons I love music is that one song, one album or one group can bring a lifetime of joy and happiness to the world. There is no expiration date on a song. The words just came out of my head but when I reread them I realized that there is a lot of truth to that idea. It carries on, year after year, decade after decade. Timeless. More than that, a good song that makes us smile, sing a long with or dance to can come from someone still performing today like the Rolling Stones, or from someone who was around for only a shorter period of time, say Otis Redding for example. It can also come from someone who never recorded another song and eventually faded into obscurity. A one hit wonder in other words.
As I thought about this I also realized that over time, I have a lot of ‘One Hit Photos’ in my collection. Places that it is highly unlikely I will ever go back to, or some that may not even exist anymore, such as old buildings. In other cases, it may be someplace I go to often but feel like I cannot better a photo taken on a previous trip. As with most photography, the reason for taking a photograph in the first place is because we see something interesting. We recognize it to be different from our daily life. A different place, new types of architecture, a different climate with new types of plant life. Other times, a photograph may be the result of a happy accident unfolding rapidly before our eyes such as a sunset or a wildlife encounter. Whatever it is, we want to preserve the moment and the best of them find often find their way into photo albums, picture frames or screen savers on our computers. The rest of them often get resigned to files on the computer or dusty boxes filled with old photos, seldom viewed again in relation to those we decide to be our favorites. But we recognize why they stand out.
Which made me think how similar that process is to music in some ways. We all have our favorites, regardless of what style or era it is from. These are the songs we listen to the most, the ones we know by heart, the ones we have good memories of. We have no trouble remembering what band or singer it is. We pride ourselves on knowing them the instant they come on the radio, instantly recognizable from the first note. On the other side of it are songs we love equally, yet often have to admit knowing very little about. We don’t remember the band names, or who was in the band for that matter. We may not remember what year it was released exactly. We certainly don’t remember the name of the album it appeared on. And we definitely can’t remember a single other thing the singer or group has ever done. Cue the very long list of one hit wonders in popular music. The ones who had massive inescapable air play, TV and press coverage, music videos playing around the clock yet failed for one reason or another to make a mark past that first hit.
The field of popular music is littered with such artists, going right back to the earliest days of record charts. Though I must admit that some of those hits are very cringe worthy today (Afternoon Delight by Starland Vocal Band comes to mind-yikes!) and have not held up so well with the passage of time. However many more do, so from Toni Basil singing Mickey, to The Knack with My Sharona we appreciate them as much as we do our favorite songs by our favorite artists. With every year that passes, those one hit wonders become part of the bigger musical landscape, and that one song becomes as valuable and meaningful to us as anything by the Rolling Stones, Beatles or Michael Jackson.
The reason for that is because of what I said at the start. The really good songs survive as mementos, or as artifacts in a wider musical archaeological dig. Those one hit wonders may not have the same history compared to bands that survived past the first album do, but does that really matter in the broader scope of things? The point is that someone remembers and enjoys something you did years later. The song did not go bad or ‘expire’ just because fashions and musical trends moved on. Instead it survives, ten, twenty or thirty years later because it is good. What better feeling can there be knowing that something you did is still important to people years later.
For my own one hit wonders for this post, I chose a photo that I thought really stood out. The secluded feel, the shadows of the arches, the cooling appearance of the marble, and the dash of yellow provided a different sort of feel compared to many of my other photographs. Thinking of photos for this post it was one of the first that came to mind as a ‘One Hit Photo’ because it was so different, yet it slots in nicely with my other work. Rather like those songs that are one hit wonders fitting in with the rest of your favorites.
As to the song for this edition there were many choices to make. My Sharona was definitely a strong possibility, as were Come On Eileen or Funkytown. Going back even further I considered songs like Seasons In The Sun or even Kung Fu Fighting! What I decided on was one that meets all the criteria I mentioned above. I clearly remember watching this video on MTV when I was a teenager. Other than the song title, I never remembered what the name of this group were for the past 30 years. I had no idea what the name of the album was, or who any of the members of the group were. If they released any other music after this song, I’m sure I never heard it. And yet, on the rare occasions I hear this song pop up somewhere, I bop along to it just as readily as I do to a Beatles song. And I smile at the memories!
What are your favorite One Hit Wonders?
10-9-8- Written By Angelo Petraglia
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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle