1968 Edition, by Rich Paschall
Many musicians toil away at their craft hoping to break through the mass of musical acts and reach success with a hit recording. Following endless rehearsals and low paying jobs, some of the best, or most interesting, will land recording contracts. These artists wait eagerly for the day when one of their songs will be heard on the radio and climb the pop charts. In 1968 there was no shortage of new acts to reach the Top 100.
Success may mean interviews and television appearances. In an era with many television variety shows and, of course, American Bandstand, a chance to show off in front of millions could be at hand. After finally having made it, performers looked for the next hit. For many, it would not be. They would go down in music history as “one-hit wonders.”
Some golden songs will be 50 this year but will anyone come to the party? As a one time triumph, the tunes may have faded from memory. Some of you may still have the vinyl recordings on hand and listen to these songs with great fondness, despite the pop and hiss on your old record player (Millennials should go look up “record player” before reading on). Others of you may have forgotten these completely.
In order to bring back some memories, I will give you my top 10 “one-hit wonders” of 1968. I promise you all of these really did hit high on the pop music charts and they are songs I still like.
Some of these songs sing out “Give Me One More Chance,” so come over because it “Ain’t Nothin’ But A House Party.” You will find us “At The Top Of The Stairs” where “Sally Had A Party” with the “San Francisco Girls. ” You might discover the “Smell of Incense” at our “Soul Meeting,” “Thank U Very Much.” Don’t worry, “I Got A Sure Thing.”
10. Fire, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. This song charted in many countries and sold over a million copies. If you see the video, you will think Arthur is indeed in a Crazy World.
9. In A Gadda Da Vida, Iron Butterfly. The album version of this psychedelic hit played over 17 minutes. The song was edited down to 2:53 for the single. By the way, the song was supposed to be “In The Garden Of Eden,” but the drummer could not understand it when the singer first played it for him (he was drunk, apparently), wrote down the wrong thing and the title stuck. It’s just another strange rock legend.
8. Green Tambourine, The Lemon Pipers. The song was released in late 1967 and hit number 1 by February 1968. Status Quo, also on this list, covered the song on their 1968 album. It was not their one hit wonder.
7. MacArthur Park, Richard Harris. The Irish actor and singer had his one big hit with this Jimmy Webb song. The tune was written with the group The Association in mind. They did not do it, but there were many covers, including a disco hit by Donna Summer.
6. Nobody But Me, The Human Beinz. This was a cover of the 1963 Isley Brothers tune which failed to hit the charts. Released late in 1967, the song made number 8 for The Human Beinz in 1968.
5. Pictures of Matchstick Men, Status Quo. This psychedelic rock tune was the only song by the group to chart in the US. The group did have some later success in the UK.
4. Classical Gas, Mason Williams. The instrumental piece was composed and performed by Williams. Fun Fact: Williams was the head writer for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and premiered the piece on their program.
3. Angel of the Morning, Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts. A number of artists found success with this composition. Rush received a Grammy nomination.
2. Soulful Strut, Young-Holt Unlimited. It’s another instrumental piece for our list. The jazz musicians Isaac Holt and Eldee Young from Chicago had no further success with their trio and gave up by 1974, although they still played around town.
1. Grazing in the Grass, Hugh Masekela. It is another jazz instrumental. This time South African trumpeter Masekela takes the lead. The Friends of Distinction would add words and have a hit with the song the following year.
Click on the title of any song to go to the video, or hit up the entire playlist here.
Are we missing any good ones? Check Billboard or Wikipedia for one-hit wonders of 1968.
Sources include: 1968 One Hit Wonders & Artists Known For One Song, hotpopsongs.com
See also: “Those Were The Days, My Friend,” The Golden Age of Rock Turns 50.