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Attack of the One-Hit Wonders: “Rock On” – David Essex

For American audiences, the David Essex story is rather short and fairly typical of one-hit wonders. He appeared out of nowhere, starring in a film about 1950’s rock & rollers called That’ll Be the Day. He wrote his one and only American hit for that film.

He said “Rock On” was an attempt to create a song with 1950’s lyrics and 1970’s music and production. In that, he succeeded wildly. Recorded and released in 1973, the song went to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, #3 in the UK and #1 in Canada.

Essex followed up that success with another star turn in Stardust, a sequel to That’ll Be the Day that brought his 50’s rocker right into the 1970s. (The two films are notable because Essex’s fictional band, the Stray Cats, inspired the creation of the real-life band fronted by Brian Setzer.)

Alas, Essex was never able to ever follow-up “Rock On” with another hit in the States. But not so in his native England. He charted 18 more singles in the British charts, including two #1s. His acting career has also flourished in the UK. He continues to appear in both live theater and television productions to this day.

So one could say that Essex has rocked on rather well.

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