Every so often here I'll do an article under the auspices of Lost Wax. The premise being if I think there is a song, album or band that has fallen through the cracks, faded with time or never been heard in the first place, I'll shine a little light on it. Today's entry is three one-off hits.
I love One-Hit Wonders. They contain a sort of promise of greatness, wrapped in a failure sandwich. They contain the greatest summation of a band's talent. They represent the shining peak of several people's lifes' work. They are often blatantly wistful and nostalgic. Best of all, they seem to encapsulate the zeitgeist of that year more than other artists more than other artists. One-hit wonders sound very much like the year they were made. Could this be that you remember loving that one summer you went to Lollapalooza and that's why 'Bittersweet Symphony' always reminds you of '97? Who knows. What I do know is that they stink of their time. I have brought up three great ones. The beauty of these is that that if I didn't tell you the year, you could still guess it.
Most amazingly is that these three hits span 4 years (1978-1982) and yet culturally they might as well be 20 years. No other 4 year period beyond maybe 1963-1967 (Frankie Valli to Sgt. Peppers) has such a drastic change. These three accurately reflect their time and thus encapsulate the dramaticness in the change.
Thunder Island - Jay Ferguson (1978) The updown beat of the prominent bass, the do do do, sha la la, the wistful remembrance. Women are always 'my lady', summer is prominently featured. Beaches, Indian summer, sand in your toes, thunderstorms, sex. Where is Thunder Island? I don't know, but I do know that they drink Pina Coladas out there and its capitol is Margaritaville. It's also 1978 there every year.
Ah Leah! - Donny Iris (1980) This song reeks of Ohio. Somewhere in the background there's an abandoned steel mill. While filming this video 7 of his friends got laid off. When this video ends, Donny is probably going to have to go back to work at the post office. But in the meantime he's going to sing about the inability to say no to bad love, and he is going to give in to the rock balladness that clung on in the advent of new wave. This could be easily be a late period Cheap Trick song. It's the 80s, but that brief period where it was still the 70's because while there are digital sounds in the song, they're still being made analog. I call this the Squier period of rock and roll. Also, videos weren't so important yet. So your artist could still look like Eugene Levy.
Street Cafe - Icehouse (1982) I coulda taken 'Someday, Someway' from Marshall Crenshaw, which tapped into that 50's nostalgia that Elvis Costello smoked occasionally in the 70's but the 80's distilled into a suppository and shoved up its own ass, or 'Love Plus One' by Haircut 100, which got Brit New Wave so well you weren't sure if Haircut 100 was a band or a BBC show your friends bootlegged, or I could've gone with 'Heat of the Moment' from Asia*, which actually has the lyric 'And now you find yourself in '82'. In the end I had to go with Street Café, from Icehouse. Always more popular in their native Australia than here, this one still captures the worldwide rock zeitgeist that was 1982. I chose it partially because it's a great song that you haven't heard, and partially because everything about it from the overproduced quality does a much better job of saying 'And now you find yourself in '82' than Asia's song. Keyboards AND bandoliers! Burning wreckage, poor waifs and the café from Indiana Jones! North Africa**! Somehow this is not Duran Duran!
*Asia is basically shitty Yes plus that dude with the glasses from The Buggles. Prog rock doesn't belong here.