A Look at Some of the Best of the “One-and-Done” Recording Acts
This catchy little pop tune was part of the British Invasion that took over world radio in 1964.
The band was originally called the Sheratons. They were performing at the Mildway Tavern in London when a young songwriting duo approached them. Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley offered the group several tunes. The group jumped at the chance as they were about to audition for record producer Joe Meek.
The group passed the audition and Meek decided to use one of the Howard Blaikley songs, “Have I the Right?” as the group’s first single.
Just as most of were embarking on life as full-fledged adults, Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young penned this Hallmark card of song, encapsulating the life of tranquil bliss we all imagined ourselves living once we settled down with our "one true love."
"Our House" was featured on Dejé Vu, the album that saw Neil Young formally join what had been the superstar trio of David Crosby, Steven Stills and Graham Nash. It was written by Nash about his relationship with singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell. The two were living together in L.A. The couple had stepped out for breakfast. After the meal, Mitchell spotted a vase she liked on Ventura Boulevard. When they arrived back at home,the weather had turned chilly. Nash remarked, "Why do I light the fire and you put some flowers in the vase you just bought."
Struck by his own words, he went over to the piano and an hour later, "Our House" had been composed.
As few, if any of us, ever achieved the idyllic existence promised in the lyrics of the song, it may be comforting to know that Nash and Mitchell didn't either. The couple split up before the year was out.
Blonde on Blonde – Bob Dylan
What if you had been able to tell your 13-year old self that Bob Dylan would one day win the Nobel Prize for Literature? Do you think then your English teacher would have let you do your book report on Dylan’s latest album?
Maybe not. But there’s no question that Dylan was on an incredible hot streak in the mid-sixties, one that saw him release 3 albums that cemented his transition from folk to rock and put him in the very forefront of the contemporary music scene.
That trio of albums began with Bringing It All Back Home, continued with Highway 61 Revisited, and reached the pinnacle with the 1966 release of one of the first double albums in rock history, Blonde on Blonde.
In 1965, Michael Brown was a 16-year old classically trained musician who had formed a rock band (like many classically trained young men and women of the day). He also had become infatuated with a young girl. His problem was the young girl was dating the bass player in his band.
So Michael Brown did what many young men facing hopeless romantic prospects did. He wrote a song about her (with help from co-authors Bob Calilli and Tony Sansone). Here’s where Michael and the rest of those lovesick boys part company.
Brown’s band was the Left Banke, the girl was named Renée Fladen and the song he wrote about her was “Walk Away Renée.”
Most of us know the situation in Northern Ireland has been tense for decades. That tension bubbled over into tragedy on January 30, 1972, when a group of unarmed civil rights activist, protesting Britain’s practice of imprisoning suspected Irish radicals without trial.
British troops opened fire on the crowd, killing 13. As you might expect, British investigators bought the soldiers’ claims of “self-defense” and exonerated them.
A little over 10 years later, the Irish rock band U2 wrote a song about it for their album War.
U2’s front man, Bono, claims the song is not meant to be partisan, just a simple plea for peace and calm.
BTW – In 2010, the British government finally accepted responsibility for the massacre, calling it “unjustifiable.”
A singer who landed 16 songs in the Top 40 and 4 in the Top 10… 22 songs in the British Top 40… a songwriter who penned Top 10 hits for 3 other artists… an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame… yet he is almost forgotten today.
He is Gene Pitney.
Pitney was born in 1940 in Hartford, Connecticut. By high school he was singing with a local doo-wop group called the Embers. By 1959, he was recording with a young woman named Ginny Arnell under the name Jamie & Jane.
Pitney also started working as a songwriter and actually had his first success there, writing “He’s a Rebel” for Darlene Love & the Blossoms (recording as the Crystals), “Rubber Ball” for Bobby Vee and “Hello, Mary Lou” for Ricky Nelson.
Perhaps the Guiltiest of Guilty Pleasures for a Rock Fan
With the possible exception of ABBA (who we’ll talk about at a later date, trust us), there was no band who took more flak from “serious rock fans” than the Pre-Fab Four.
Criticized from the beginning because they were not a band who came together in the traditional sense, the Monkees were “cast,” mere actors signed to pretend to be a rock band on television show. Adding insult to injury, it was quickly revealed that the lads didn’t even play on their own records! So “serious rock fans” quickly wrote them off.
But how valid was the criticism? In truth, not very.
Tommy James’ “Mony Mony” is one of those great little rock songs from the 60s that has aged very well. Thanks to a cover from Billy Idol in the 1980s, the song was reintroduced to a whole new generation of listeners. But what, exactly, is the song about?
Not much, as it turns out. Tommy James says he and songwriting partner, Ritchie Cordell, were just trying to come with a frat/party rock song in the vein of “California Sun” or “Money (That’s What I Want)”… something that cut against the grain of all the “serious” rock that was then dominating the music scene.
So, who the heck is “Mony?”
Ah, there is the real story. James and Cordell had most of the song together. They had even created the music tracks in the studio. But they were stuck on a girl’s name. They wanted it to be unusual (like “Sloopy”) and it had to be two syllables to fit the track they had already created.
The pair were sitting in James’ apartment in New York City trying to complete the song. As James tells it: “…finally we get disgusted, we throw our guitars down, we go out on the terrace, we light up a cigarette, and we look up into the sky. And the first thing our eyes fall on is the Mutual of New York Insurance Company. M-O-N-Y. True story.”
And for the first and probably last time in rock history, an insurance company inspired a classic song!
And Decca passed on the chance to sign the Beatles - let that sink in...
Pop Up Player
Jim Steinman 1947-2021
It is with sadness that we learned that Hall of Fame songwriter Jim Steinman passed away Monday from long-term health problems. Often referred to as "the Wagner of Rock," Steinman is, of course, best…
Buried Treasure: The United States of America (1968)
One album from that great era of psychedelic rock is the self-titled album by a group that called itself The United States of America. The group was led by an avant-garde composer intensely interested in…Read more...
Supergroups of the Sixties - The Searchers
When Beatlemania exploded across America, record labels began scouring England and specifically Liverpool looking from groups that might be able to follow the Fab Four up the charts. One of the first to accomplish this…
The Story Behind the Song: Sally Go Round the Roses
One of the simplest, yet most haunting songs of the 1960s, “Sally Go Round the Roses” hit right before the start of Beatlemania in August of 1963. The record is credited to a one-hit wonder,…Read more...
Let’s All Sing Together
While a great many rock bands follow in the mold of Mick Jagger & the Rolling Stones or Freddie Mercury & Queen where one member primarily handles the lead vocals, some of rock’s most successful…
Why Cover Songs?
One question we get asked often is about the cover songs here at Boomtown America. 3 reasons: Cover versions put the focus on the song: In our parents’ era, there were few singer/songwriters. As such,…