One Hit Wonders #13 “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)” by The Electric Prunes (Reprise Records 1966)


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Los Angeles psychedelic rockers The Electric Prunes rose to #11 on the Billboard charts with their 1966 hit, “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)”:

The band were noted for their early use of fuzz-tone guitars, wah-wah pedals, and other studio tricks to add an eerie ambience to their rock’n’roll noise. Though they never had another hit, their 1968 album “Mass in F Minor” has become a psychedelia collector’s Holy Grail, a complex, baroque rock concept LP composed and arranged by David Axelrod (the jazz producer, not the political pundit) sung entirely in Greek and Latin. The record was so complex, in fact, The Prunes had difficulty playing the songs, and studio musicians were brought in to fill in the gaps. A song from “Mass in F Minor” called “Kyrie Elieson” gained some notoriety when it was used in Dennis Hopper’s 1969 biker classic EASY RIDER:

As for The…

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One Hit Wonders #12: “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet” by The Blues Magoos (Mercury Records 1966)


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The very first concert I saw was… er, a very long time ago! Teenybop pop rockers Herman’s Hermits headlined the show, and the opening act was The Blues Magoos, performing their #5 Billboard hit, “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet”:

The Blues Magoos, from The Bronx, were early practitioners of psychedelic rock’n’roll, going so far as to name their debut album “Psychedelic Lollipop”. They were loud, heavy, and wore these electric suits that blinked on and off during their rendition of the classic “Tobacco Road”:

Even without the suits, they were pretty far out, man! The lineup consisted of Emil “Peppy Castro” Theilheim (vocals, rhythm guitar), Mike Esposito (lead guitar), Ralph Scala (organ), Ron Gilbert (bass), and Geoff Daking (drums). They made the rounds of all the TV shows, like AMERICAN BANDSTAND, THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS COMEDY HOUR , and the above clip from a Jack Benny-hosted episode of THE KRAFT MUSIC…

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One Hit Wonders #11: “LITTLE GIRL” by The Syndicate of Sound (Bell Records 1966)


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San Jose’s The Syndicate of Sound reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1966 with their proto-punk hit, “Little Girl”:

The band was formed in 1964 by members of Lenny Lee and the Nightmen and The Pharaohs as a San Jose supergroup: Don Baskin (lead singer/guitars), Larry Ray (lead guitar), Bob Gonzalez (bass), John Sharkey (keys), and John Duckworth (drums). Two years later, “Little Girl” became a local radio smash,  and Bell Records picked it up for national distribution. Baskin’s snarling vocals and the speed-freak jangling guitar sounds got teens movin’ and groovin’, and the song today is considered one of the progenitors of the punk movement of the 1970’s.

Bell demanded an album from the boys, and after Ray was replaced by Jim Sawyers, the Syndicate cranked one out in three weeks that’s a garage rock classic. Besides their hit and five other originals, the group performed covers…

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One Hit Wonders #10: “Summertime Blues” by Blue Cheer (Philips Records 1968)


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Direct from Haight-Ashbury, psychedelic hard rockers Blue Cheer ushered in the Age of Heavy Metal with “Summertime Blues”, reaching #14 on the Billboard charts in 1968 (Crank It Up LOUD!):

Singer/bassist Dickie Peterson, who lived on San Francisco’s Haight Street during the “Summer of Love” days, originally formed the band as a five-piece group, but stripped down to the power trio model popularized by Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience, with Leigh Stephens on guitar and Paul Whaley on drums. Blue Cheer’s hair was longer, and their sound more ear-splitting, than anyone around, and the band’s thundering heavy metal noise made both the single and their debut album “Vincebus Eruptum” into classics of early metal then and collector’s items today.

Blue Cheer’s classic lineup: Dickie Peterson, Leigh Stephens, and Paul Whaley

The band went through numerous personnel changes before breaking up in 1970. Peterson reformed the group in the 80’s…

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One Hit Wonders #9: “In the Year 2525” by Zager & Evans (RCA 1969)


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A futuristic ballad about the danger of technological advancement and dehumanization spent 6 weeks at the top of the Billboard charts in 1969. Properly titled “In the Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus)”, this was the first and only hit for folk-rock duo Denny Zager and Rick Evans:

1969 had been a banner year for science fiction themes, with the films PLANET OF THE APES and 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY becoming box office hits a year earlier, popular novels from Kurt Vonnegut (SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE), Michael Crichton (THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN), and Ursula K. LeGuin (LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS) being published, and a young Brit named David Bowie releasing his LP “Space Oddity”. Of course, that was also the year Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon, and the possibilities for space exploration seemed endless. But some doomsayers warned of the impending takeover by machines, where mankind would become a slave…

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One Hit Wonders #8: THEY’RE COMING TO TAKE ME AWAY HA-HAAA! by Napoleon XIV (Warner Bros Records, 1966)


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Back when AM Radio ruled the airwaves, before the onset of polarization, you could hear everything from rock and pop, to soul and jazz, to country and folk all on your favorite local station. Frequently sandwiched in with the hits were novelty tunes, like “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” by Napoleon XIV, which reached #3 on the Billboard Top 100:

Napoleon XIV didn’t really exist. The record was the brainchild of one Jerry Samuels, a recording engineer who used a Variable-Frequency Oscillator to create the vocal effects and manipulated the tape speeds to get his desired results. Samuels didn’t exactly sing the ditty as much as use a poetic cadence, which makes him a pioneer of early rap music!

“They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” plummeted down the charts as quickly as it rose. A controversy had ensued regarding the song making fun of the mentally ill, and the…

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One Hit Wonders #7: “Why Can’t We Live Together” by Timmy Thomas (Glades Records 1972)


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I had a completely different music post scheduled for today, but with all the strife and hatred going on right here in our country, I thought I’d share Timmy Thomas’ #1 global smash “Why Can’t We Live Together”, an impassioned plea for peace and unity that’s (sadly) as relevant today as it was 45 years ago. No further words from me are necessary, just watch the video:

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