One Hit Wonders That Trigger Major ‘70’s Flashbacks
One hit wonders are popular songs everyone loves to sing long after the artist has faded back into obscurity. These songs get the crowd going every time, but if you played another song by the same artist, you would get nothing but puzzled looks.
Every decade has its lasting icons as well as its super-brief stars. The music of the 1970s focused heavily on disco with some rock and roll, folk and R&B hitting the airwaves as well. The artists behind some 1970’s hits may have faded away, but they still trigger some major ‘70’s flashbacks every time their top singles play. Take a listen!
"Play That Funky Music" by Wild Cherry
Even if the only lyrics you know from this song are "Play that funky music, white boy," you definitely know them well. Oddly enough, the song was inspired by a disgruntled listener. The band was playing some random gig, and the performance was not going well. A heckler in the audience yelled out that very line. The leader of the band took note — and a song idea was born.
"Afternoon Delight" by Starland Vocal Band
This song was written by Bill Danoff, one of the members of the band. He got the idea from a menu title that included "afternoon delights." He thought the name would be great for a song title, and it took a few months to finish the song.
"In the Summertime" by Mungo Jerry
This song is still considered one of the best summer songs of all time. Ray Dorset, the lead singer of the band, wrote it on a second-hand Fender guitar in only 10 minutes. The end of the song features what sounds like a motorcycle, but it was a Triumph sports car that was driven past the studio while someone held out a microphone.
"Ring My Bell" by Anita Ward
This song was written about — no, not boxing — talking on the telephone. It was originally intended for a 12-year-old singer named Stacy Lattisaw — after all, talking on the phone was a very teenage thing to do at the time. Plans fell through when Lattisaw suddenly left the record label and signed with another company.
"Got to Be Real" by Cheryl Lynn
Cheryl Lynn got her music career going in a strange manner. Growing up, she was vocally talented but too shy to perform solo. In fact, she never considered a career in music until her boyfriend told her he would break up with her if she didn’t share her talent with the world on a TV contest called The Gong Show.
"Rapper’s Delight" by Sugarhill Gang
At the time this song was written, it was hard to find an artist to record it. Most people believed in the ‘70s that rap could only be performed live. Artists didn’t want to record rap music because it went against the tradition of performing live in front of an audience.
"Kung Fu Fighting" by Carl Douglas
This song was created at the last minute when a record needed a B-side track. It was recorded in only two takes in the last 10 minutes of a studio session. In a bizarre twist, after the record label manager heard the two tracks, "Kung Fu Fighting" was moved to the A-side of the record — a good call, obviously.
"Venus" by Shocking Blue
Being from the Netherlands, the band had to translate the song into English, and there was a typo in the translation. Basically, instead of the first line being "A godness on the mountain top," it was accidentally translated as "A goddess on the mountain top." It obviously didn’t matter to English speakers, especially considering "goddess" is a much more common English word. The song ended up being a number one hit.
"All Right Now" by Free
This song was written after an all-too-quiet gig, where the audience applause died out before the performers even exited the stage. The band looked at their setlist of nothing but mellow songs and decided they needed something upbeat with a faster tempo to get people excited.
"O-o-h Child" by Five Stairsteps
This band was very unique because they were all siblings. They got their name from their mother, who commented that when the kids lined up by age, they looked like stair steps. This sweet, caring song was loved by many people from all walks of life.
"Magic" by Pilot
If you weren't around when this song came out in 1974, you might have first heard it when it was used in 2007 in a Pillsbury commercial. Still younger than that? If you were a Wizards of Waverly Place fan maybe you heard Selena Gomez's version of the song instead.
"Love Hurts" by Nazareth
This was a cover of a song written by The Everly Brothers. The band Nazareth was a hard rock band from Scotland, and this track was their biggest international hit. It made it all the way to number one on the charts in several countries and is still the bestselling record of all time in Norway.
"Turn the Beat Around" By Vicki Sue Robinson
"Turn the Beat Around" was a smash disco hit for Robinson. The song was number one on the disco charts and made it to number 10 on the Billboard charts. She even earned a Grammy nomination for Best Female Vocalist. When creating this hit, she recorded the lead vocals in one take and even sang and arranged the backup vocals too.
"Spirit in the Sky" by Norman Greenbaum
Greenbaum penned this massive hit in only 15 minutes. After its mega-success, the song was given new life in the ‘80s, when it was covered by Doctor and the Medics. The song was also covered in 2003 by the Kumars with Gareth Gates, so it has enjoyed more than one resurgence in popularity.
"Feelings" by Morris Albert
This song holds the title for the longest run on the Billboard charts in 1975. It was on the charts for an impressive 32 weeks. Unfortunately, it was later discovered that the song largely plagiarized a French song called "Pour Toi" (For You) by Louis Gaste.
"Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles
Even younger generations know this song, thanks to the Just Dance video games they had growing up. After hearing this song, it will be a miracle if you don't get the hook stuck in your head for the rest of the day. The 1979 music video for "Video Killed the Radio Star" was actually the first-ever pop music video to air on MTV. Pretty cool, right?
"You Light Up My Life" by Debby Boone
This track is a cover of a song from a movie with the same name. If you don’t remember it, the actress who played Frenchie in Grease, Didi Conn, was the star. This cover song earned Debby Boone both Best New Artist and Best Song awards at the 1978 Grammy awards.
"Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks
This song had to go through many phases before it gained popularity. It was first created by a Belgian, and then an American translated the song and changed it up a bit. Finally, a Canadian sang it and turned it into a hit, although it was the only big U.S. hit he ever had.
"Born to Be Alive" by Patrick Hernandez
Patrick Hernandez is a French singer/songwriter. This hit song first exploded in Europe as a massive hit before it hit the airwaves in the U.S. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this song is an interesting little discovery that went with it. When choosing dancers for the world tour, Hernandez came across a young dancer named Madonna.
"Me and Mrs. Jones" by Billy Paul
This heartbreaker of a song is a sad ballad about a man who is in love with a married woman. Billy Paul was known for his impressive register that allowed him to hit the high notes that were usually only possible for female singers.
"My Sharona" by The Knack
This is a love song that was written about lead singer Doug Fieger's crush on a girl named Sharona. They invited Sharona to the band's rehearsal, and that is where she heard the song for the first time. Unfortunately, Sharona was dating another guy at the time, but she did eventually date Fieger. (He wrote a song for her, after all.)
"I Love the Nightlife" by Alicia Bridges
After signing to Polydor Records, Bridges released "I Love the Nightlife" as her first single. The song was a hit, not only on the Billboard charts, but it even got love from country radio — strange for a disco song. It sold more than 1 million copies in the U.S and in Canada, earning the song two gold disks.
"Stuck in the Middle with You" by Stealers Wheel
The band Stealers Wheel has one of the craziest and messiest histories of all time. This song — originally simply titled "Stuck in the Middle" — was written by Joe Egan and Gerry Rafferty and recorded and performed by the band Stealers Wheel. The song did very well and topped the Billboard charts.
"American Pie" by Don McLean
If you’ve never heard this song, then you must not be from Planet Earth. Many people have speculated about what the song is about, but the only thing that really matters is it essentially captured the mood of America at the time and turned into an enduring rock anthem.
"Cat's in the Cradle" by Harry Chapin
This song focuses on the conflicting emotions of a man who wants to be a good provider for his family but also wants to spend time with his kids. It was written by Sandra Chapin — Harry Chapin's wife — about her ex-husband.
"The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by The Charlie Daniels Band
This song was written to be a fiddle-centered song. In order to be appropriate for the radio, the lyrics in the last line were changed to "son-of-a-gun" (rather than SOB) for the radio version. The fiddle solos in the song are actually several fiddles laid over each other to create one track.
"Lovin' You" by Minnie Riperton
The song was originally written as a lullaby by Minnie and her husband for their daughter, actress Maya Rudolph. Later, they needed one more song for an album, so "Lovin' You" was changed into a love song. It was a perfect subtly sultry song for the ‘70s. The minimalist track focused on the strong vocal abilities of Minnie with few instruments used.
"Baker Street" by Gerry Rafferty
The most notable part of this unorthodox song is the saxophone. The musicians tried to play the riff with a guitar before deciding to use the saxophone. The song was a top-five hit in many countries, and the music video is also very popular, with more than 5 million views.
"Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede
This is a cover track of B.J. Thomas' song with some changed lyrics — mainly because they wanted to avoid a drug reference in the original song. It was the Swedish band's first international hit, and the hit song led their album of the same name to decent success.
"Ça Plane Pour Moi" by Plastic Bertrand
This song title is French slang for "This works for me." Ironically, the song was actually first written in English, but it was assumed it wouldn’t be good for radio because of the psycho lyrics. The beat, however, was too good to pass up.