(Editor’s Note: Please scroll to the end of the list to view the tournament bracket)
What a difference 10 years makes. The music of 1970 bears little resemblance to 1960, our last Greatest One-Hit Wonders entry. In 1960, the Beatles were a few years from forever changing popular music, and by April 1970, the Fab Four was no more. While 1960 was dominated by teen idol pop crooners, doo wop, and even instrumentals, 1970 had music that didn’t even exist in the early 60s, like psychedelic rock, heavy metal and funk.
To be classified as a one-hit wonder, an artist must have notched a position in the Billboard Hot 100’s Top 40 just once. We sifted through the 40-plus one-hitters from 1970. The class of 1970 is a diverse bunch with virtually every popular genre and style from the era represented.
1970 was especially strong in rock and soul, producing classic rock staples like Free’s “All Right Now” and Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” as well as R&B gems like Five Stairsteps “O-o-h Child.” So, check out these groovy one-hit wonders from 1970. Make sure to read all the way to the end to cast your votes in our Rocktology! bracket tournament (it’s good practice for Nov. 3). Help us pick our favorite one-hitter from 1970. Here we go:
The Shocking Blue – “Venus”
Songwriter: Ronnie van Leeuwen
Hot 100: #1 on Feb. 7
Founded by lead guitarist Robby van Leeuwen and fronted by singer Mariska Veres, Shocking Blue was 1970’s ultimate one-hit wonder. The Dutch Nederbeat group’s only U.S. Top 40 hit was a #1.
As “Venus,” their third single, began climbing the charts on the Dutch listings, U.S. record producer Jerry Ross traveled to the Netherlands to sign Shocking Blue, The Tee-Set and George Baker Selection to an American distribution deal. All three Dutch acts had hits in the states – fellow one-hit wonder The Tee-Set with “Ma Belle Arnie” and George Baker Selection with “Little Green Bag.” Shocking Blue broke up in 1974, allegedly because van Leeuwen wasn’t able to write another “Venus.”
“Venus” sold 8 million copies worldwide and went to #1 in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Canada, France, Italy and Spain. In 1986, English girl group Bananarama covered the song and took it to #1 in seven countries.
Eddie Holman – “Hey There Lonely Girl”
Songwriters: Leon Carr and Earl Shuman
Hot 100: #2 on Feb. 21
“Hey There Lonely Girl” was originally recorded by Ruby and the Romantics, an Ohio-based R&B vocal group, in 1963 as “Hey There Lonely Boy” (#27 on the pop charts). After placing a few Parkway Records singles on the R&B charts in the mid-’60s, Holman got with New York’s ABC Records arranger/producer Peter DeAngelis. DeAngelis’s arrangements featured sweet strings from the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra which proved to be a perfect match for Holman’s soaring falsetto.
Holman told Goldmine magazine that he was hesitant to record the song at first. “The only reason I did is because my wife asked me to – and that’s a very good reason,” he said.
The song charted in 1974 in the UK, peaking at #4. In the ‘80s, Holman went to theology school and became a Baptist minister. Since then, he has sporadically released both gospel and secular recordings, his most recent being 2018’s Lovin’ You.
Edison Lighthouse – “Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)”
Songwriters: Barry Mason and Tony Macaulay
Genre: Bubblegum pop
Hot 100: #5 on March 28
This cheery bubblegum tune from British pop group Edison Lighthouse may be the biggest earworm on the list. The group was the work of songwriters and producers Barry Mason and Tony Macaulay. They brought in session singer Tony Burrows to record the song, and members of the band Greenfield Hammer were later enlisted for the live version of the band.
Following the success of “Love Grows,” Burrows left to pursue other projects, and after a few more 45s were issued as Edison Lighthouse, the group was retired. The band reverted back to Greenfield Hammer.
Interestingly, Burrows holds the title for the singer with the most one-hit wonders. He had four additional hits with four different groups (The Pipkins “Gimme Dat Ding,” White Plains “My Baby Loves Lovin,” The Brotherhood of Man “United We Stand” and The First Class “Beach Baby”). Four of the five charted in 1970.
Marmalade – “Reflections of My Life”
Songwriter: Junior Campbell and Dean Ford
Genre: Psychedelic Pop
Hot 100: #10 on May 9
This wistful song from Marmalade features lovely harmonies and a Beatle-esque reverse tape guitar solo. “Reflections of My Life” reached #3 in the UK in 1969 and sold 2 million copies worldwide. The Scottish band enjoyed much more success across the pond with nearly a dozen UK hits from 1968-1976. In the UK, they’re best known for their cover of the Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” which sold a million copies.
The Ides of March – “Vehicle”
Songwriter: Jim Peterik
Genre: Funk rock
Hot 100: #2 on May 23
Before The Ides of March recorded the horn-driven funk-rock classic “Vehicle,” the Chicago group played British Invasion-styled garage rock. Several of those ‘60s singles were regional hits but failed to make the national charts.
According to songwriter and lead singer Jim Peterick, the idea for “Vehicle” originated from the stereotypical dirty old man who cruises around town in his black sedan, enticing young women with candy. “I had this lab partner, Bill,” Peterick explained to Billboard. “He showed me this anti-drug pamphlet that depicted the drug pusher as a ‘friendly stranger.’ So, I put those things together and came up with ‘Vehicle.”
At the time, “Vehicle” was reportedly the fasting-selling Warner Brothers single ever. Peterick would go on to form the band Survivor and co-wrote the Rocky III anthem “Eye of the Tiger.”
Mountain – “Mississippi Queen”
Songwriters: Leslie West, Cork Laing, Felix Pappalardi and David Rhea
Hot 100: #21 on July 11
A classic rock radio mainstay, “Mississippi Queen” may be the second most famous use of a cowbell after “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” The story behind the song, included on Mountain’s debut album Climbing!, is remarkable.
“We were at a funky beach place called 30 Acres in Nantucket, and because it was so darned hot everyone had their air conditioning on, causing the entire island to black out,” drummer Corky Laing, who was in another band at that point, recalled to Classic Rock Magazine. “The emergency lights came on, but the band stayed unplugged. Everyone was hyped on soul pills. A friend of mine was with a drop-dead gorgeous chick. She was from the South and wearing a see-through dress covered in flowers.”
To keep the show going during the power outage, Laing started yelling ‘Mississippi queen, do you know what I mean?’ and hitting a cowbell repeatedly for over an hour.
“I just had to keep this chick dancing, I was so turned on by her,” Laing continued. “But in screaming so loudly for so long I gave myself chronic laryngitis and screwed up my voice forever.”
When Laing joined Mountain, he brought this idea to the studio, guitarist Leslie West added the unforgettable riff, and the rest is history.
The Lost Generation – “The Sly, Slick and The Wicked”
Songwriters: Gus Redmon, Larry Brownlee, and Lowrell Simon
Genre: Chicago soul
Hot 100: #30 on Aug. 22
The Lost Generation were one of many great R&B vocal groups on Chicago’s Brunswick label in the 60s and 70s. I highly recommend the 2-CD compilation Brunswick Top 40 R&B Singles 1966-1975, which is where I first heard this lovely ballad. I love the echo effect on the chorus (Wicked…wicked….wicked….chiiiiiild).
“The Sly” tied with the Jackson 5’s “ABC” in publication Record World’s 1970 Record of the Year. It also generated enough revenue for Brunswick to buy itself out from its owner, Decca. The Lost Generation had a couple of other hits on the R&B charts, “Wait a Minute” (1970, #25) and “Talking the Teenage Language” (1971, #35).
We hope you enjoyed this installment of Greatest One-Hit Wonders. As an added bonus, we took these seven stellar tracks and added nine more great one-hitters from 1970. 7 + 9 = Rocktology! around here. So check out the bracket below and see which one-hitter was crowned our favorite One-Hit Wonder of 1970!