Thursday, August 1, 2013

One-Hit Wonders -- Albums

Doug:  Today we want to talk about one-hit wonders, but beyond the usual notion of a band that had one Top-40 single.  Today I'd like to hear your thoughts about artists who had a debut album that was solid... and they were hardly (if ever) heard from again.  My nominee is Get the Knack (Capitol Records, 1979) by The Knack.

Doug:  According to a quick Google search on the album, at the time of its release it was considered one of the greatest album debuts in history, selling over a million copies in about two months.  Of course the two major hits spawned by this disc were the infectious My Sharona and the follow-up Good Girls Don't.  And in both of those songs, you pretty much have a summary of the rest of the content -- bawdy, risque', and even arrogant.  If you click this link, you'll be taken to the Wikipedia page that contains comments from critics who reviewed their work at the time.  After reading that particular paragraph, it's little wonder why the band flamed out almost as quickly as they arrived.  Personally, I think every cut on the album is a good one, and the four guys in the band seemed talented.  I love the bass work on My Sharona!  And yes, I know they had a second album, and there's also an album of live recordings from their bar-playing days of 1978.  But c'mon...  if you're thinking of The Knack, you're thinking of this record.

Doug:  So, what about you?  What albums did you have in your collection and, thinking back, you wonder why such-and-such an artist never caught the public's attention a second time?

32 comments:

Edo Bosnar said...

I think Missing Persons and their debut album Spring Session M (released in 1982) fall into this category. The album, which I had back then on cassette and even now have on CD, was a pretty solid pop/new wave effort by a bunch of Frank Zappa alumni (Terry Bozzio, Dale Bozzio and Warren Cuccurullo and a few others), with quite a few songs that became hits and got quite a bit of radio airplay (most notably "Words," "Walking in LA" and "Destination Unknown"). And then - nothing much. They released two more albums that nobody really knows about. Heck, I was a big fan back then, and I had no interest at all; I don't think I've ever heard any of the songs from them.
Funny thing is, I remember the Missing Persons remained sort of popular and toured and showed up at rock & pop festivals throughout the early '80s, but it was all on the strength of that first album.

Speaking of Zappa alumni, Geronimo Black is another band that was sort of a one-album wonder that probably should have been more popular than they were - as per Doug's question at the end of his post, I always wondered why they never caught on to become one of the big power bands of the '70s. It consisted mostly of former members of Zappa's Mothers of Invention, and their untitled debut album is really good: solid early '70s hard rock mixed with some of that Zappaesque absurdity and experimentation.

david_b said...

I was inititally thinking of the Aussie 'Little River Band' but I guess they had a couple of other albums (per wikipedia). 'Sleeper Catcher' had Reminiscing and Lady, but the next had Lonesome Loser and Cool Change, so they could be (at least in the US market) a two-hit-album wonder.. Both pretty solid albums. Love wikipedia by the way: When looking up LRB, I read that according to Albert Goldman's biography, John Lennon named "Reminiscing" as one of his favourite songs.

It's kinda hard with some bands who get on the AM dial.. Most just have a big hit, like 'Starland Vocal Band', but those are known more for a song or two that makes the charts rather than the impact of the album itself..

As for albums, I'd guess I'd go with "Traveling Wilburys, Volume 1". Volume 3 was good, but it didn't match the cool, joyful energy of the first album.



Always wondered whatever happened to those guys.. Nelson, Otis, Charlie T, Lefty and Lucky.

Anonymous said...

T'Pau - their debut album "Bridge of Spies" was *amazing*, yet in the states they practically disappeared and (as far as I know) their follow-up albums generated zero buzz. Darn shame, I feel.

Matt Celis said...

Pretenders. Chrissie even said you have your whole life to write your first LP, then a year to write the follow-up.

david_b said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
david_b said...

Another great album was Vallotte by ol' Julian Lennon. Great feel, very laid back. I went to see him on his initial US tour here in Milwaukee, he was ON-FIRE off the success/synergy/mojo of that first album. Great rhythm section, apparently a lot of his dad's old friends came on tour to take care of Julian.

By the time I saw him in Germany about 5yrs later, he was still doing small tours, but he was definitely 3rd tier by that point, his record company wasn't even promoting his albums anylonger.

My niece is a big Airplane fan and she brought to my attention Paul Kanter's premiere album 'Blows Against the Empire', where Kantner (and Grace Slick) sang about a group of people escaping earth in a hijacked starship. The album was actually nominated in 1971 for a Hugo Award. Awesome album, but little if any follow-on success or interest in revisiting until Paul did a sequel in '83 'The Empire Blows Back'..

Matt Celis said...

Solo debuts of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash were all hits...subsequent LPs not so much as record buyers apparently prefer them as a group.

Rip Jagger said...

I'd go with "Layla and other Assorted Songs" by Derek and the Dominos! Monster hit song. It was among the very first 45's I ever bought. But what a band it was with Eric Clapton and Duane Allman. I have it in my car and I need to give it a listen. Thanks for the reminder!

Rip Off

Matt Celis said...

Are there other LPs by Derek & Dominoes? I thought it was a one-time deal.

Karen said...

Technically I suppose they might not fit, but the first band that popped into my head was Guns N' Roses. When Appetite for Destruction burst onto the scene everyone was ready to proclaim GNR the new kings of rock and you couldn't escape from "Sweet Child o' Mine" no matter where you went. It seemed like they were headed for superstardom. They had a three big hits off that first album -besides "Sweet Child," there was "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Paradise City."

I know "Use Your Illusion" I and II did do well but they didn't seem to have the impact of that first album, and when you talk to people about GNR it's Appetite that they recall. So much potential, all wasted, mostly due to drugs and personal clashes within the band.

Matt -really, the Pretenders as one-hit album wonders? Pretenders II had "Talk of the Town" which did really well, and "Learning to Crawl" was one of their most commercial albums, with "Back on the Chain Gang," "Middle of the Road," and "My City was Gone," all of which I recall getting plenty of airplay.

Anonymous said...

Tough one, Doug. How about Blind Faith? One and done. Another band that never came close to the heights of their first album was Boston. I always thought it ironic that their follow-up was "Don't Look Back". Then it took them what, 8 or 10 years to put out their 3rd album? But that debut has to be right up there with the greatest albums of all time. Every song is a classic.

Tom

Matt Celis said...

Are we talking great records or just big sellers?

J.A. Morris said...

I was a big fan of the Stone Roses 1st album when it came out in 1989, it was big hit in Europe but never made an impact here. Stone Roses released a couple follow-singles,but they ended up in a protracted legal battle and didn't release another album for 5 years.

But their "self-titled debut" holds up pretty well.

Colin Jones said...

Allanah Myles had a good debut album ( I thought ) including " Black Velvet " and then she seemed to vanish. Does Joel Whitburn still do his Hot 100 books ?

Pat Henry said...

"Dream Weaver"—gotta be one of the biggest one-hit wonders of all time.

Steve Does Comics said...

Curses. I was going to nominate Peter Frampton as the greatest one-hit wonder of all time, for Frampton Comes Alive but a quick check of Wikipedia tells me he actually had another big hit album in the US (though not in the UK).

I'll side with Karen and defend the Pretenders' honour. Their first three albums all made the American Top 10 and they were still having Top 10 albums in the UK into the mid-1990s.

Edo Bosnar said...

I agree with Karen and Steve about the Pretenders - they had several big (both great and big seller) albums and remained a popular, well-regarded band for a considerable period.

Steve, I think Peter Frampton and his big live album fit into this category perfectly - I had no idea he had a "big hit" album in the US later. I checked the Wikipedia page, and where it says he had a "brief, moderate comeback of sorts in 1986" with Premonition, I think that's being charitable. I recall that album as just another one of Frampton's failed comeback attempts. Seriously, in the US, like in the UK I assume, his popularity dropped not long after the excitement over Framption Comes Alive died down, and his participation in that ill-advised Sgt. Pepper movie was kind of the final nail in the coffin.

(By the way, all these comments and nobody has yet made fun of me for liking Missing Persons. Don't worry, I can take it, I'm used to ridicule for that.)

Colin Jones said...

Steve, I started reading your comics and TOTP blog just weeks before they ended, doh !

Anonymous said...

My older sister went and bought an 8-track tape player sometime around '80. Then she went and bought some 8-track tapes at a garage sale. That's how my little brother and I found out about Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Blue Oyster Cult. Then she got the Knack (no pun intended). Great rock n roll album. Just basic rock in the age of disco and new wave. Then she bought ACDC Back in Black...

Steve Does Comics said...

Edo, it seems Frampton had a Number 2 album in the US in 1977, called I'm In You, of which I've never heard before but it went platinum over there.

Colin, my TOTP blog is dead as a dodo but the comics blog is still active.

Tony said...

The Arc Angels was a really good album. Definitely underrated. Another favorite is the Canadian band, The Kings. They are still playing gigs and recording but are probably best known for this. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxkjvKBPQjo

Matt Celis said...

The Sgt. Pepper movie is great fun. I think it is vilified as a result of being overhyped: "Bee Gees! Peter Frampton! Beatles music!"

Matt Celis said...

I'm In You has one of the all-time cheesiest album covers...gotta love the '70s.

Matt Celis said...

How about Crowded House? They recorded several good albums post-debut, but couldn't get arrested. At least in the U.S.

Anonymous said...

What about the Kings? "Switch into Glide"...

Colin Jones said...

Steve, you're right- I just checked ! But I thought you'd finished on New Year's Eve ?

Steve Does Comics said...

Colin, I had to take a break while I concentrated on other things but it was only a temporary one.

Garett said...

Canadian band 54-40 had an awesome self-titled debut album in 1986, that at the time was equal to REM's music. You may know one of their tunes-- "I Go Blind", covered later by Hootie and the Blowfish...the original is much better. They were heard from again on Canadian radio, but they never quite captured again the magic on that album, instead taking a more average musical route. Although their later song One Gun was quite good.

Joseph said...

What a great topic (no surprise given the track record of this site)!

Karen: So bizarre that my 10 yr old son asked about Guns N Roses just this evening and I pontificated (aka: bored him) about how great their first album was and the subsequent drop off. (PS - i also agree that the Pretenders success extended well beyond their first album, though Chrissie's sentiment is valid).

If we aren't counting the one and done's (namely Derek & the Dominoes and Blind Faith), then I agree that Boston burned the brightest on one album and was uninspired on the others. I can sing darn near every song on that debut, but I'm hard pressed to even remember even the hits of the others.

Edo: Missing Persons was an inspired choice. If not for Boston, I would've thrown my hat in that ring. Just loved that Spring Session M album (one of my favorite fun facts that i'll bet everyone already knows: the title is an anagram for the band name).

Edo Bosnar said...

Joseph, your views on Boston are intersting; my older sister and brother both liked Boston back in the day, and bought those first two albums, so I inadvertently listened to them quite a bit back then. To me, both seemed quite uniform throughout (i.e., I didn't think the second album was any more or less notable than the first); also, I think my favorite Boston song was the title track to the second album, "Don't Look Back."

Joseph said...

Bizarre follow-up: swear to God, the morning after posting, I saw Boston's first album at a garage sale for a mere 50 cents. Darn near bought it out of respect for this site and its regulars.

david_b said...

Joseph, your post inspires me greatly. Those small town rummage sales are still phenominal.

Hate to rub again, but my mom picking up that covered Beatles butcher cover for a quarter is still quite a valuable lesson. I'm still hunting for vinyl deals from elderly estate sales and rummages.

For all the expense and legwork required, you would still be surprised.

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