One-hit Wonders

I wanted to belatedly note the passing of Tom Verlaine, guitarist, and songwriter for the band Television. Their seminal album Marquee Moon from the punk era (really a guitar album) is one that i’d done a blog on a while back. Actually, I reblogged a guy who is no longer blogging so you can’t find it. Maybe I’ll get around to doing a post myself one fine day.ย 

I did a couple of posts previously about one-hit wonders here and then some weird ones here. Here’s a few more for ya.

Wikipedia: “Brewer & Shipley are an American folk-rock duo who enjoyed their peak success in the late 1960s through the 1970s, consisting of singer-songwriters Mike Brewer (and Tom Shipley.

They were known for their intricate guitar work, vocal harmonies, and socially conscious lyrics which reflected the concerns of their generation โ€“ especially the Vietnam War, and the struggles for personal and political freedom. Their greatest commercial success was the song “One Toke Over the Line” from their 1970 albumย Tarkio.”

“One Toke Over the Line” is an incredibly infectious tune that I find myself singing along to as I drive down the road. I know that other people appreciate me singing it as well as I can see people in other cars pointing and laughing and doubtless saying, “What a good time he’s having. Too bad I have to cut him off!”

I love the explanation of what this song is about in Songfacts. I learned somethinig new! “This song is about drugs, especially marijuana. A ‘toke’ s a puff from a marijuana cigarette (!) or pipe.” Shipley – “I considered marijuana a sort of sacrament. If you listen to the lyrics, ‘one toke’ was just a metaphor. It’s a song about excess. Too much of anything will probably kill you.”

The Sanford Townsend band consisted of John Townsend and Ed Sanford, both of whom, oddly, played keyboards and sang. They are a couple of guys from the Deep South (Alabama) who were pretty much songwriters for people like Loggins and Messina.

They went out as a band and had a pretty big hit with the catchy “Smoke From a Distant Fire.” I remember going to see them at some point. They did this tune and everybody sang along and danced. Before and after that everybody pretty much just chatted with each other, not recognizing any of the other tunes.

According to a write-up of the tune on The Unfortified Castle, “the narrator is talking to his unfaithful ex-partner, saying how we should have seen her wavering affections and ultimate infidelity coming from a mile away.” Then later he says, well you know what? You wanna be with that guy, go and don’t the door hit in the ass,

Of course, you know the song “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.” When your team wins and the other team loses it’s a great companion to “We Are the Champions” by some other band.

The band that does this tune – Steam – was not a band at all. It is not at all uncommon in the history of recording for songwriters and/or studio musicians to come up with the tune, make up some bogus band name, and hit the charts. That’s what happened here and so, who really cares who these guys were? I will say this – I would have sworn that that was a woman singing lead but it turns out it was a guy named Garrett Scott.

I fucking love “Walking on Sunshine.” I just do. It’s such a great, exuberant performance with a great vocal. I have it on Spotify and listen to it during some of my workouts. I find it upliftting to know that someone is walking on sunshiine when I am too often stuck in the primordial mud.

This is done by Katrina and the Waves whoย  despite being a British band – were led by a Kansas woman named Katrina Leskanich. It turns out they also won a Eurovision contest wit another song but I can advise you it never broke over here in the good old US of A. Another tune that brings in royalties for its songwriter. (Not Katrina)

Last but hardly least is the tune “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by the Proclaimers, twin brothers from Scotland. I remember one of my kids asking what it was about and I told them it was a man’s devotion for (I assume) a woman and that he’d walk endlessly to be with her. I feel that way about a good steak.



8 thoughts on “One-hit Wonders

  1. Great additions to the one-hit wonders series. Had lost track of that cool Sanford Townsend track, and the fact they were from my own neighborhood (aka Alabama). Bonus points for the probably unintended segue from the “toke” to “smoke”items. I probably would not have publicly admitted it without you going first, but I also find “Walking On Sunshine” to be an infectious earworm. Nothing wrong with a nice pop song.


  2. All great picks, Jim. I knew all except for Brewer & Shipley, even though their name rang a distant bell. “One Toke Over the Line” with its great harmony singing is right up my alley.

    “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves just is an infectious song that immediately puts you in a great mood. In fact, I think their entire breakthrough album “Katrina and the Waves” from 1985 is pretty good. Apart from “Walking on Sunshine”, I dig “Red Wine and Whiskey” and “Cry to Me” in particular.


  3. The ‘Smoke Distant Fire’ had a Van vibe. Why I liked it.
    On your last post of this topic, I meant to tell you, I watched an episode of ‘Saul’ and he butchered ‘Brandy’ at a karaoke bar. Very funny especially after your take.


    1. ‘Breaking Bad’ was such a great show. I watched Saul for a while. What bugged me was his brother’s afflicaiton. Everybody gets an affliction. Hey writers, go into a room and create an afflication for thei character. (I watched an HBO series for a while where a guy had problems with hsi feet). Maybe there’s a payoff but I could not see the point.


  4. I love that Steam track – right up there with my favourite one-hit wonders.

    I get that Kimberley Rew is a one-hit wonder for Katrina and the Waves, but I do enjoy The Soft Boys’ ‘Underwater Moonlight’ album from 1980, which he plays on.


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