Common Thread: Intriguing One-Hit Wonder Albums from the Early '70s (Part 1)

by Jeff Fiedler

Common Thread is a regular feature on thegreatalbums.com in which we offer up mini-reviews of a small (and often very diverse) assortment of albums that all have one specific shared trait; that "common thread" can vary from column to column. 

Alive ‘N Kickin’, Alive ‘N Kickin’ (1970, Roulette)

This Brooklyn band’s lone hit came to them courtesy of Tommy James of “I Think We’re Alone Now,” “Mony Mony,” and “Crimson and Clover” fame. James would both write and produce “Tighter, Tighter,” which would go all the way to #7. The band would never reach the Top 40 again, but keyboardist Bruce Sudano would go on to form the trio Brooklyn Dreams, who’d reach the Top Three with the Donna Summer duet, “Heaven Knows,” from her album Live and More. Sudano’s association with Summer would continue: he’d co-write the chart-topping title track of her next album, Bad Girls, and the two would marry the following year, also co-writing the Top 40 (and Number One country) hit “Starting Over Again” for Dolly Parton.

Bobby Bloom, Bobby Bloom (1970, MGM/L&R)

Bloom’s lone hit, the wildly catchy, calypso-tinged “Montego Bay,” was a Top Ten smash and has not surprisingly been employed in subsequent years in television spots for Jamaican tourism. But it’s not the only song here that would become a hit: the Staple Singers would score their first Top 40 hit with a cover of this album’s “Heavy Makes You Happy.” But neither of these songs actually holds the title of the biggest hit Bloom ever wrote: Bloom’s the co-writer of one of the most enduring party anthems of all-time, Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Mony Mony,” which would become an even bigger hit when Billy Idol covered it and took it all the way to Number One in 1987.

Fire and Water, Free (1970, A&M)

This British blues-rock quartet strangely only reached the U.S. Top 40 once, but their lone hit – the timeless, muscular grooves of “All Right Now,” the standout cut on this album, the band’s third – remains a regular fixture on classic-rock stations and Paul Kossoff’s guitar work on the song even paid homage to in the opening guitar riff of Steve Miller’s “Rock ‘n Me.” But it’s a bit head-scratching why a band with this much talent wasn’t much bigger. Lead singer Paul Rodgers and drummer Simon Kirke would later go on to superstardom as one-half of the supergroup Bad Company (“Can’t Get Enough,” “Feel Like Makin’ Love,” “Rock and Roll Fantasy”) [Rodgers would also re-emerge in the ‘80s in the supergroup The Firm alongside Jimmy Page and score a hit with “Radioactive”], while bassist Andy Fraser (who had co-written “All Right Now” with Rodgers) would go on to write the massive hit “Every Kinda People” for Robert Palmer. 

Hotlegs Thinks: School Stinks, Hotlegs (1970, Capitol)

This band isn’t nearly as short-lived as you might think: though “Hotlegs” is technically a one-hit-wonder, reaching #22 with the off-beat pop of “Neanderthal Man” and dissolving in 1971 after failing to have a follow-up hit, this foursome didn’t actually part and go their separate ways. They simply regrouped after a change of labels – moving from Capitol to UK – and a change of monikers, and the band evolved into the outfit 10cc, going on to score a pair of timeless Top Ten hits in the U.S. with the ambient art-pop balladry of “I’m Not in Love” and the Beatlesque pop of “The Things We Do for Love.”  

We Went to Different Schools Together, The Jaggerz (1970, Kama Sutra)

This Pittsburgh rock/soul band had only one major American hit, but it was a big one: “The Rapper,” taken from this disc (the band’s second), stopped just shy of topping the charts, peaking at #2. The group would split after just one more album, 1975’s Come Again, but its members wouldn’t entirely fade from view: Jimmie Ross would join the legendary doo-wop vocal group The Skyliners shortly after, while Dominic Ierace would become “Donnie Iris” and join Wild Cherry (“Play That Funky Music”) before going on to a briefly-lucrative solo career in the early ‘80s, during which he’d have a run of three Top 40 hits with the haunting rocker “Ah! Leah,” the deeply groovy “Love Is Like a Rock,” and the retro-tinged pop of the keyboard-heavy “My Girl.”

Vehicle, The Ides of March (1970, Warner Bros.)

The title cut of this album – often mistaken as a Blood, Sweat & Tears song, the record sounding very much like that band’s soulful, brass-heavy brand of pop/rock – was a massive hit, going all the way to #2, and would be revived decades later in commercials for General Motors. But the follow-up single, “Superman,” stalled at #64, and “Vehicle” remains the band’s only Top 40 hit. (The 1966 single “You Wouldn’t Listen” didn’t miss by very much, though, climbing as high as #42.)  But the band’s lead singer – and “Vehicle” songwriter – Jim Peterik would go on to massive success in the ‘80s as the keyboardist, rhythm guitarist and primary songwriter for the hard-rock band Survivor, penning such hits as “Eye of the Tiger,” “I Can’t Hold Back,” “The Search Is Over,” “High on You,” “Burning Heart,” and “Is This Love.” Peterik’s also responsible for co-writing such .38 Special hits as “Hold on Loosely,” “Caught Up in You,” “You Keep Runnin’ Away,” and “Rockin’ Into the Night.”