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Greatest One-Hit Wonders: 1972

1972 was a long year. It was a leap year, and two additional leap seconds were added to the Coordinated Universal Time. So, it’s literally the longest year ever. But 1972 was figuratively a long year, as well. In June 1972, operatives working for the Committee to Re-Elect the President broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters, kicking off the infamous Watergate scandal. At the Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, Palestinian terrorists murdered 11 Israeli athletes. Hurricane Agnes hit the Atlantic region, particularly the eastern United States, killing 128 and totaling over $2 billion in damage.

’72 was also a culturally significant year. In a Cold War chess clash, American grandmaster Bobby Fischer defeated Russian Boris Spassky. Apollo 17 landed on the moon, marking the last time a man walked on the lunar surface. The Godfather premiered, and M*A*S*H* began its long run on CBS. The HP-35 Scientific Calculator, the first pocket scientific calculator, debuted. (Nearly a decade later, Kraftwerk would release a great song about this technology).

The top five Billboard year-end Hot 100 singles of 1972 were: “The First Time I Saw Your Face” by Roberta Flack, “Alone Again (Naturally)” by Gilbert O’Sullivan, “American Pie” by Don McLean, “Without You” by Harry Nilsson, and “The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis Jr. Neil Young’s Harvest was the best-selling album.

So to mark the end of ’22, let’s go back 50 years and revisit eight of the greatest one-hit wonders from ’72. From funk and soul to progressive rock and Latin music, the one-hitters came from a number of angles. Remember, to qualify as an official 360°Sound one-hit wonder, an artist must have had just one entry into the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100.

Charley Pride – “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’”

Songwriter: Ben Peters
Genre: Country
Billboard Hot 100 peak: #21 on February 5

Charley Pride had already lent his warm baritone to numerous country hits by the time he released the crossover smash “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” in 1972. Written by Ben Peters, who was inspired after the birth of his daughter, “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” was the only Pride single to crack the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #21.

The success of “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” earned him Entertainer of the Year and Top Male Vocalist by the Country Music Association in 1972. Pride is the most successful African American country singer of all time with 29 country number-ones and over 50 Top Ten hits.

The Chakachas – “Jungle Fever”

Songwriter: Bill Ador (pseudonym for Willy Albimoor)
Genre: Funk
Hot 100: #8 on March 25

The Chakachas have a most interesting backstory. Formed in the late 1950s by two Belgium-based studio musicians, pianist Nico Gomez and percussionist Gaston Bogaert, they produced mambo, cha-cha-cha, and rumba records and rarely performed outside of Brussels. In 1965, Gomez started recording his own albums, and later in the decade, more bands began having success playing music in the Latin style.

The group’s producer, Roland Kruger, persuaded everyone but Gomez to reunite and record the Jungle Fever LP. Polydor released the funky title track as a single, and it blew up. However, the label was concerned that if anyone learned the band was white, the album would tank. They hired a bunch of Black musicians to act as the band on stage for a performance at the Apollo. Lucky for them, no known photos of the real Chakachas members existed.

“Jungle Fever,” a million-seller, features a woman moaning and having an orgasm, which is likely why it was included in the 1997 film Boogie Nights, a tale about the ‘70s porn industry. That film’s soundtrack also included the 1972 one-hit wonder “Joy” by Apollo 10, a strange instrumental pop take on a Bach composition. “Jungle Fever” was banned by the BBC in the UK due to the heavy breathing.

Argent – “Hold You Head Up”

Songwriters: Rod Argent and Chris White
Genre: Hard rock
Hot 100: #5 on August 26

In 1969, Rod Argent, former keyboardist and songwriter for The Zombies, founded Argent. Recorded at Abbey Road in 1971, their sole hit, “Hold Your Head Up,” features Russ Ballard on lead vocals. Included on the third album All Together Now, the song was conceived as the band was playing the Hamburg, Germany club circuit to little fanfare. They experimented with a rumba beat and “Hold Your Head Up” was the result.

The album version runs over six minutes. It was edited to just over three minutes for the single release. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing The Zombies live twice, and they played “Hold Your Head Up”, and Argent’s “God Gave Rock and Roll to You,” on both occasions, bringing down the house.

Malo – “Suavecito”

Songwriters: Richard Bean, Abel Zarate and Pablo Tellez
Genre: Chicano rock
Hot 100: #18 on May 6

Formed in San Francisco in the early 1970s, Malo (Spanish adjective for “bad”) were a Latin group who drew comparisons to Santana. Their self-titled debut album on Warner Bros. contained the mellow “Suavecito” (“soft” or “smooth” in Spanish), their sole chart entry. The lyrics to “Suavecito,” written by Richard Bean, originated as a love letter to Bean’s girlfriend in high school. Bean saw her with another guy and the song was inspired by his heartache.

Malo would release three more albums before disbanding in 1974. They reformed in 1981 and have since released a half dozen more LPs. In 1999, Sugar Ray referenced “Suavecito” on the chorus of their #3 hit “Every Morning.” Singer Mark McGrath said, growing up in California, “Suavecito” was a low-rider anthem. “Any car show or swap meet you’d ever go by, you’d always hear [“Suavecito”] and that just stuck in your mind,” McGrath told MTV.

Frederick Knight – “I’ve Been Lonely For So Long”

Songwriters: Posie Knight and Jerry Weaver
Genre: Soul
Hot 100: #27 on July 8

In late 1971, Birmingham, Alabama native Frederick Knight sent a demo of “I’ve Been Lonely For So Long,” to R&B powerhouse Stax Records in Memphis. The label signed him early next year and the single, which was written by Knight’s wife and guitarist Jerry Weaver, peaked at #27 on the pop charts and #8 on the R&B charts. Knight’s biggest success would come later, during the disco era. He wrote and produced the disco classic “Ring My Bell,” a #1 hit for one-hit wonder Anita Bell in 1979.

Joey Heatherton – “Gone”

Songwriter: Smokey Rogers
Genre: Pop
Hot 100: #24 on August 12

Davenie Johanna “Joey” Heatherton started her career as a child actress. She performed on Bob Hope’s USO tours and guested on many TV shows throughout the 1960s. I was not familiar with Heatherton prior to researching for this article, but I really dig her solo hit “Gone,” a cover of country singer Ferlin Husky’s crossover hit from 1957. It’s not at all a country tune though. This is heavily-orchestrated AM pop with a tinge of R&B. Think Burt Bacharach meets Phil Spector.

Heatherton released her only album, The Joey Heatherton Album, in 1972. The follow-up single “I’m Sorry” only made it to #87 on Hot 100. She returned to her acting career for the rest of the ‘70s. In 1997, she posed for Playboy at age 53. She’s also topless on the cover of the 2004 Hip-O expanded reissue of The Joey Heatherton Album.

Uriah Heep – “Easy Livin’”

Songwriter: Ken Hensley
Genre: Hard rock
Hot 100: #39 on September 23

English singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Ken Hensley, lead singer of hard rock group Uriah Heep, composed “Easy Livin’” after the band shared a taxi ride from a long day at the studio. The band members joked about how the public saw musicians as living an easy life of showing up, playing music, and making loads of money. Hensley finished writing the intentionally ironic song in just 15 minutes at the piano when he got home. The Heep released 24 studio albums with guitarist Mick Box as the only original member to appear on all of them. Still recording, their 25th album, Chaos & Colour, is set for a January 2023 release.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer – “From the Beginning”

Songwriter: Greg Lake
Genre: Progressive rock
Hot 100: #39 on October 28

Emerson, Lake & Palmer were a progressive rock supergroup comprised of keyboardist Keith Emerson (The Nice), singer/bassist Greg Lake (King Crimson) and drummer Carl Palmer (Atomic Rooster). Many people consider ELP to be the most bombastic and pretentious of the early ‘70s prog-rockers. Despite their tendency for excess, they also wrote lovely ballads like “From The Beginning,” which starts simply with Lake’s acoustic strumming and Palmer’s congas. It’s capped off with a cool synth solo from keyboard wizard Emerson.

The charts can be endlessly sliced and diced, but there is something special about an artist’s only Top 40 hit. Sometimes they come out of nowhere, and sometimes we’re surprised that artists with very successful careers only cracked the Top 40 once. 50 years ago, it’s interesting to note how diverse our taste for one-hitters was.

Keep coming back, as 360°Sound continues to spotlight these career-defining accomplishments.


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