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Tuesday, Jan 16, 2007
by Mario Tarradell and Mike Daniel [The Dallas Morning News]

Singular sensation: They popped onto the airwaves, then pooped out
by Mario Tarradell and Mike Daniel
The Dallas Morning News


The popular music landscape is littered with one-hit wonders, artists who scored big with a single song and then—poof!—disappeared like the eight-track tape. Some radio staples are pure fluke, a product of stars serendipitously aligning just so for a brief, catchy blip. Others are the beginning of a supposedly promising career that never advanced beyond the first tune. Those are examples of the song being bigger than the singer.


In one-hit wonderland there are the obvious, such as Anita Ward’s disco signpost “Ring My Bell” and Iron Butterfly’s epic, psychedelic rocker “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” Then you have the obscure blokes who got lucky, say, Switzerland’s Double with its jazzy-dreamy “The Captain of Her Heart” and England’s Haircut One Hundred with the buoyant “Love Plus One.”


There’s no way to examine every one-hit wonder; we could fill the entire newspaper. But let’s look at 10 national momentary splashes, five Texans who scored once and five acts most people think were one-hit wonders, but the truth might surprise you.


—Mario Tarradell


___


THE NATIONAL WONDERS


Taco, “Puttin’ on the Ritz” (1983)—Nobody would have suspected that Taco Ockerse from Indonesia could score a No. 4 smash with this synthesized, slightly dance version of the Irving Berlin classic. He did other period pieces (“Cheek to Cheek,” “Singin’ in the Rain”) in the same electronic pop vein on his only U.S. album, “After Eight.” But apparently he vanished once the clock struck midnight, because Taco was never heard from again.


Aldo Nova, “Fantasy” (1982)—Montreal’s Aldo Scarporuscio (no wonder he changed his last name) rode the synthesized classic rock train carrying an air-guitar nugget with a nocturnal vibe. The song pushed his 1982 self-titled album to double platinum. He could never follow it up, though. Two other discs failed to catch fire, and Nova is now more songwriter than performing artist. He penned “I Love You,” which Celine Dion sang on her 11-million-selling “Falling Into You.”


Dionne Farris, “I Know” (1995)—After a brief stint as a singer with hip-hop band Arrested Development, New Jersey’s Farris went solo and delivered “Wild Seed—Wild Flower.” The CD’s lone single sparkled in its rhythmic blend of pop, rock and R&B. It hit No. 4. And then ... nothing. We’re still waiting for her sophomore album. Maybe she knows something we don’t.


M, “Pop Muzik” (1979)—England’s Robin Scott adopted his one-letter moniker and sprinted to No. 1 armed with the bounciest, most effervescent piece of synth pop. Yet he was invisible. His album “New York-London-Paris-Munich” stalled at No. 79. Plus, although he released a handful more records, nothing else even charted. These days it doesn’t matter what he’s dubbed, he’s but a footnote.


The Buggles, “Video Killed the Radio Star” (1979)—A studio concoction of Geoff Downes and Trevor Horn (later of Yes and Asia), the Buggles’ totally machine-driven single holds the distinction of being the first video ever played on MTV. Stateside the song stopped at No. 40 and its accompanying album, “The Age of Plastic,” never charted. But once you hear that song you won’t forget it.


Right Said Fred, “I’m Too Sexy” (1992)—Talk about a pop-culture phenomenon. RSF was the trio of English bodybuilding brothers Richard and Fred Fairbrass and lean guitarist Rob Manzoli. The song was total novelty, adorned by a slinky dance beat and the monotone, baritone Fairbrass vocals. The mass fascination stopped there. RSF couldn’t produce a U.S. successor to the song or the debut album, “Up.”


Alan O’Day, “Undercover Angel” (1977)—For a spell in late ‘70s Hollywood, Calif.-born O’Day was all the rage. Well, at least his song was. His delicious slice of pure pop was inescapable. However, his album, “Appetizers,” had no staying power and he quickly evaporated into the Tinseltown ether. A bit of trivia: O’Day wrote Helen Reddy’s 1974 chart-topper “Angie Baby.”


Haddaway, “What Is Love” (1993)—Born in Trinidad but raised in Chicago, Nestor Haddaway had the dance floor packed every time his propulsive, swirling anthem played. In fact, you still hear the song during sporting events. Haddaway, on the other hand, is out of sight and out of mind. A self-titled debut album never led to a second disc in this country.


Eiffel 65, “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” (1999)—Baby talk or pop-hit genius? The male dance trio from Italy must have loved the United States right before the new millennium. The single darted to No. 6 and the accompanying album, “Europop,” peaked at No. 4 and sold 2 million copies. And where are they now? Hmm, perhaps shimmying by, well, the Eiffel Tower.


Ram Jam, “Black Betty” (1977)—A folk song, written by the legendary Leadbelly, transformed into a roaring, bottom-beat rocker. The New York City group enjoyed a No. 18 hit with “Black Betty” and a self-titled album that reached No. 34. A second album followed in 1978, but Ram Jam was already on its way to music industry extinction.


—Mario Tarradell


___


TEXAS WONDERS


Deep Blue Something, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1995)—Dashing siblings Todd and Toby Pipes considered their Denton band a more haunting version of R.E.M. What proved truly scary was that this buoyant little ode would be reworked by Interscope Records and turn into a No. 4 pop hit (and reach No. 1 in the United Kingdom). But then, DBS pulled a Toadies and disappeared into the deep blue, well, something. Actually, the Pipes brothers began producing records and drummer John Kirtland morphed into an indie record mogul.


Jeannie C. Riley, “Harper Valley P.T.A.” (1968)—Raised in Anson, which is about 25 miles north of Abilene, she moved to Nashville in the late 1950s with her hubby to become a star. Which she did with this cheeky, Grammy-winning country ditty that made her the first female to hit No. 1 on the pop and country charts simultaneously and spawned a variety special, a movie and a TV series. After that, nothing crossed over to the pop chart despite a sultry (for the late ‘60s) image and Hollywood’s infatuation. She later became a born-again Christian and has made gospel albums ever since.


B.W. Stevenson, “My Maria” (1973)—Dubbed “The Voice” by music biographer Jan Reid, this Dallas native hit No. 9 with this taste of harmony-thickened country pop. Despite a glowing songwriting reputation and his status as a staple of Austin’s music scene at the time, he never seriously crossed over as a recording artist again, though his songs frequently became hits for other artists. Brooks & Dunn redid “My Maria” in 1996. Stevenson died in 1988 at age 38.


Edie Brickell and New Bohemians, “What I Am” (1989)—Darlings of Dallas’ Deep Ellum indie scene in the mid-1980s, the New Bo’s happened upon No. 7 pop gold with this jazzy, meandering song with Brickell’s pixie-ish, conversational vocals. However, no other song from its platinum-selling debut, “Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars,” made the Top 40 (“Circle” came close at No. 48), and after the follow-up disc tanked, the band did what Bohemians do and wandered off, with Brickell marrying Paul Simon and doing the motherly thing. A recent reunion has yielded little national notice.


The Fabulous Thunderbirds, “Tuff Enuff” (1986)—Dallas-bred blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughan almost always existed in the shadow of his brother, Stevie Ray. The exception? MTV-era commercial success, epitomized by this macho No. 10 hit and the Austin-based band’s longtime status as Texas roadhouse rock ambassadors. Only thing is, “Tuff Enuff” is its only Top 40 score: “Wrap It Up,” its second-most iconic tune, only reached No. 50.


—Mike Daniel


___


WONDERING? DON’T BOTHER


Vanilla Ice—“Ice Ice Baby” was a chilling-enough tune to have hit Billboard’s top spot in 1990. But its daft follow-up, “Play That Funky Music,” by the cred-crippled Ice was even worse—and it reached No. 4.


Lisa Loeb—Only one song defines this ultracute, camera-kind Dallasite: “Stay (I Missed You),” which captured the top spot in 1994. But Dweezil Zappa’s former squeeze has had two other top 40 hits: the “Stay” follow-up “Do You Sleep?” (No. 18) and “I Do,” which reached No. 19 two years later.


Selena—By our definition, the South Texas-raised Latina songstress is a one-hit wonder. But the circumstances that surrounded the No. 22 hit “Dreaming of You” in 1995—her death earlier that year, her handlers’ posthumous finishing of the song and the grief that may or may not have pushed it into crossover territory, not to mention her legacy as a Tejano pioneer—masks the fact. Simply put, no one thinks of her that way, and that’s absolutely proper.


Arc Angels—Call the Austin supergroup a one-album wonder. Despite critical acclaim, heavy MTV exposure and an intent to exist for many years, the Charlie Sexton- and Doyle Bramhall II-fronted Arc Angels never issued a formal single from its lone self-titled 1992 album. However, three songs (“Living in a Dream,” “Sent by Angels” and “Too Many Ways to Fall”) did appear on the airplay-based Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.


Toadies—More than even Deep Blue Something’s smash (see above), 1995’s “Possum Kingdom” defined the propulsive North Texas indie-rock movement in the mid-1990s. But the Fort Worth outfit’s song never appeared on the pop chart, a fact that should prompt a few rubbernecks.


—Mike Daniel


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Monday, Jan 15, 2007


A really mediocre week. Save for the two Criterion releases, there is not much here of real cinematic substance. You could opt for a nice selection of cutting edge cartooning or one of the summer’s less successful efforts. Then, of course, there are two terrible titles representing the year’s absolute worst. Consider your coinage carefully this week. You may end up with a nasty case of DVD buyer’s remorse. For the second week of January, here is our SE&L Pick:


Gridiron Gang


While it’s nice to see former wunderkind Phil Joanou back behind the lens, did it have to be for a standard issue sports film? You know the kind – hard ass coach with a well placed heart, juvenile delinquents needing leadership and indirect guardianship, an uncaring public, a set of odds to beat and pitfalls to overcome. Sadly, all those elements are here, amplified by the movie’s criminal justice setting. Still, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is good in the role of Sean Porter, real life California corrections officer who devised this ‘athletics as life lesson’ program for his underage offenders, and the film itself has a unique look and feel thanks to Joanou’s directorial flair. Yes, it’s derivative – but sometimes, the familiar can be just fine. It is here.

Other Titles of Interest


The Animation Show: Volumes 1 & 2


Recalling the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, Beavis and Butthead‘s Mike Judge and fellow pen and ink expert Don Hertzfeldt created this post-modern version of the traveling animation festivals that once roamed the arthouse circuit. If you like your cartooning edgy, up front and exceptionally well done, this two volume collection is a terrific treasure trove.

Border Radio: The Criterion Collection


This odd little experimental film from directors Allison Anders, Dean Lent and Kurt Voss follows the adventures of three disaffected members of a local music scene who steal a bunch of money and head for Mexico. Mostly improvised, and filmed in stark black and white, this minor cinematic curio gets the full blown specialty treatment thanks to Criterion’s preservation experts.

Employee of the Month


Ugh and double ugh. Or perhaps a better way of putting it is “a slacker comedy starring Jessica Simpson and Dane Cook”. Still think this movie has some kind of humor potential? There is nothing interesting about this turgid tale of two warehouse workers who compete for the titular title in order to win Ms. Newlyweds one-note   affections.

Mouchette: The Criterion Collection


French film master Robert Bresson delivers another of his spirituality through suffering epics, this time concentrating on an adolescent waif whose impoverished existence becomes a cause for scandal in her local village. Using a non-contextual narrative style requiring audiences to fill in the cinematic blanks along the way, Bresson avoids the safety of storytelling to get his theological themes across.


The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning


Poor Thomas Hewitt. Not only was he born with a freakish facial disorder, rendering him a lamentable laughing stock, but a bad familial foundation lead him to a life as a power tool wielding maniac. What was supposed to be an exploration of this genre giant’s backstory actually became a platform for actor R. Lee Ermey to chew the scenery.


And Now for Something Completely Different


The Red Skulls


For the last six years, brothers Andy and Luke Campbell have been making some of the best, most inventive outsider efforts in the entire realm of self-distributed DVD. Finally hooking up with the Troma-like Tempe Entertainment, their films Midnight Skater and Demon Summer have become incredibly engaging cult endeavors. Now comes their most ambitious project ever – a rockabilly gang film twisted onto a good old fashioned zombie gorefest. When the title bunch of hooligans is purposefully poisoned with some weird pharmaceutical brew, they mutate into bloodthirsty butchers, turning on each other with ravenous intent. Bathed in blood, overloaded with atmosphere and ambiance, and marking a substantial improvement in cinematic technique, the boys continue to grow as filmmakers. Here’s hoping they make the leap into the mainstream sometime soon.

 


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Monday, Jan 15, 2007

As many of us enjoy this day off from work, let’s also remember what this day honors.  Two great tributes come from the stalwart folks at Alternet:


- A few videos of Dr. King’s speeches (what a great orator he was) plus Stephen Colbert adding his two cents


- Sean Gonsalves’ “Be Your Own King”- probably the best recent column I’ve read about his legacy


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Monday, Jan 15, 2007

Randall Stosser’s article in yesterday’s NYT Business section complained about the new iPhone perpetuating Apple’s DRM scheme, arguing that the system cripples customers’ enjoyment while shackling them to Apple players for perpetuity. This seems self-evident to me, always making me wonder who these millions are who bother with the iTunes store—impulse buyers who can’t be troubled with ferreting out mp3s from other (pirate or otherwise) sources? Strosser is similarly confused, wondering not only why you would want to amass a collection of music that you can’t play freely on whatever system you wanted, but why you’d bother collecting songs at all, when subscription services that offer you the entirety of recorded music are just around the corner.


In the long view, Mr. Goldberg said he believes that today’s copy-protection battles will prove short-lived. Eventually, perhaps in 5 or 10 years, he predicts, all portable players will have wireless broadband capability and will provide direct access, anytime, anywhere, to every song ever released for a low monthly subscription fee.
It’s a prediction that has a high probability of realization because such a system is already found in South Korea, where three million subscribers enjoy direct, wireless access to a virtually limitless music catalog for only $5 a month. He noted, however, that music companies in South Korea did not agree to such a radically different business model until sales of physical CDs had collapsed.


Is this really going to be the future? Shuffle-play the songs you get from subscription services like the ones foretold here and you get something that resembles a somewhat less futuristic invention: the radio. Still, I can understand a subscription model, which would change the mentality of subscribers from   a collecting mentality to a playlist-making one—you become the DJ of your own individualized radio station that broadcasts to you and you alone wherever you go. If you are too lazy, then some sort of Pandora-like software will pick songs you’ll like based on the taste profile you help it build. And how easy will it be to let people judge you by your musical taste? Rather than display your collection to them or laboriously type in your favorite bands on a MySpace profile, you can just export the playlists you construct for computer analysis and decoding. This is already going on—iLike, for example, is a social-networking tool that allows you to spy on other people’s iTunes history, what they’ve recently played, what they’ve played a lot.


The pleasures of ownership are sometimes hard to separate from the pleasures of experiencing the things we own, since ownership seems to hold the promise of that experience in abeyance. But in the case of music, the subscription model should blow away the clouds of confusion. If this model takes hold and dominates, obviously it would put an end to casual music collecting, and it will make clear once and for all the difference between enjoying music and enjoying collecting. People who collect music may like music, but that’s not really what it’s about. (The most extreme example of this that I can think of is this guy who collected records and scheduled a methodical routine not for playing them but cleaning them. The idea that he would play them was absurd to him as actually reading a bagged and rated comic would be to a hard-core comic-book collector.) If all the music in the world is available for $5 a month, it will make no sense at all to collect music for the sake of the music. But it will make plenty of sense to collect if you like collecting; that is, if you like organizing fascinating objects, grooming them, and completing series of things for the sake of it, for the satisfaction that comes with a fleeting sense of finality. You won’t have the alibi of really being into music to excuse your obsession, but maybe it won’t seem necessary for an alibi—it hardly seems required as it is. But the coming separation of enjoying music and collecting it hits hard people like me, who thrive on the alibi, who let the dialectic between ownership and experience drive them to keep hearing more, acquiring more. Take away the need to archive, and I may just lapse into listening what I already know and am familiar with. If I don’t have to justify keeping something by making myself listen to it first and make an aesthetic decision, I’ll go with what I know—play that John Phillips record again. (Sometimes I romanticize that feeling of being stuck on a record; sometimes it makes me feel stuck in a rut, depressed.) Being a collector drives the pleasures of evaluation over and above those of sensual experience; without the collecting excuse to prefer evaluation over sensual pleasure, it becomes it bit harder to make the effort. I need to collect to keep my taste from atrophying. If subscription services give me everything, I probably would end up wanting nothing at all.


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Monday, Jan 15, 2007
by PopMatters Staff

One Be Lo/Longshot: Learn [MP3]
ANG13: Ain’t Goin’ Down [MP3]


 


“The first compilation from Chicago’s EV Records details exactly why we should give a shit—about EV Records, the Chicago rap scene, and the direction of hip-hop in general. Everything presents a myriad of EV Records’ artists dropping catchy beats and meaningful prose that reflect not only the presence of meaningful hip-hop, but EV’s high-concentration of talent. In the vein of Mos Def and Talib Kweli, the artists on Everything transcend the current industry standard with music that speaks to the mind. Despite hip-hop circles recent (and probably justified) complaints about sinking standards, EV Records’ roster shows creative and innovative artists producing relevant material that provokes both thought and movement. With a lineup of master producers, talents like Royce Da 5’9”, ANG13, Psalm One, and ex-Binary Star One Be Lo, Everything proves that hip-hop is neither dead nor dying but, in fact, thriving in Chicago.”—EV Records


Explosions in the Sky
Welcome, Ghosts [MP3]


Rob Crow
I Hate You, Rob Crow (Single Version) [MP3]


Eluvium
Prelude tor Time Feelers [MP3]


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