Hear Today, Gone Tomorrow


Posted by in March's Magazine

Spurred on by a recent discussion about guilty pleasures, where I proclaimed my love for 90s R&B classic I Love Your Smile by Shanice, I got to wondering whatever happened to her, for such a cracking tune she appeared to simply vanish without even a follow up single, at least that’s how it appeared to me. As is the way with the Internet though, one thing leads to another, and I ended up looking up a load of one hit wonders.

My own favourite is Sly Fox’s Let’s Go All The Way; a classic slab of mid-80s electro pop-funk, with it’s oddly catchy ‘bum, bum, zingy, gingy’ intro, was my favourite 7” until a decade ago when my mate played me the 12” with bonus rap: seek it out, it’s great. I was pleased/embarrassed to learn that the group consisted of Parliament/Funkadelic stalwart Gary ‘Mudbone’ Cooper and Puerto Rican vocalist Michael Camacho. After the debut hit they were marketed as teen idols and they bombed, Mudbone is still bringing the funk to this day, including an album with self-styled ‘crippled by his own talent’ numpty, Dave Stewart.

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1970s funk and soul was very much an album genre, but there are a few notable (stunning) exceptions. Jean Knight burst onto the scene with the classic Mr Big Stuff her first and only hit on the legendary Stax label. Knight fell out with her producers and she disappeared just as quickly. Carl Douglas’s Kung Fu Fighting from 1974 is one of the best selling singles ever, re-released – sampled and remixed multiple times. Douglas is arguably the definitive one hit wonder, and is still making a tidy living from that one song.

Minnie Riperton started as a receptionist then backing singer for legendary blues label Chess, moving on to become singer for experimental rock/funk group Rotary Connection. Her smash hit was Lovin’ You in 1975. In January 1976 Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer and was given about six months to live. Refusing to be beaten, she became a spokesperson for the American Cancer Society, and was officially recognised by President Carter before her death in 1979. The track resurfaced in 1990 sampled by ambient heroes The Orb on A Huge Ever Growing Pulsating Brain That Rules from the Centre of the Ultraworld.

Success for some one hit wonders took a turn for the unexpected: Terry Jacks’ first single, Season in the Sun, was a #1 hit in multiple countries. Successive hits weren’t forthcoming and Jacks withdrew from music, becoming involved in the environmental movement where his work was recognised by the United Nations. Bill Bartlett turned Leadbelly’s minute long ditty Black Betty into a hugely influential rock classic, which became a smash when producers built the group Ram Jam around him. Bartlett went on to have a career in interpretive dance and in recent years has become a boogie-woogie pianist.

Five Easy Pieces

Toni Basil started as choreographer for films such as American Graffiti and musicians like David Bowie and Talking Heads. She was also an actress, appearing memorably in cult classics Easy Rider and Five Easy Pieces. In 1982, aged 39, she adapted the song Kitty by Racey and, combined with the memorable (certainly for a 9 year old yours truly) video featuring Basil as a cheerleader, Mickey was a worldwide smash. Basil continues to work in music and film choreography and, as a founding member of The Lockers, was instrumental in bringing street dance to prominence.

Another ‘young Dave fave’ was German singer/actress Nena. She scored an unlikely international hit in ‘83 with the strangely catchy German New Wave song 99 Luftballons. In 1984, she re-recorded this song in English as 99 Red Balloons, the widely misunderstood political commentary was lost on many and became a #1 pop smash. Nena’s following releases failed to trouble the charts beyond Germany. 20 years on, her baffling English-German (who’d have thunk it) duet with Kim Wilde, Anyplace, Anywhere, Anytime, was a #1 in a number of European countries.

MARRS was intended to be a collaboration between A.R. Kane and Colourbox. The collaboration went tits up so they agreed to each do a track. Pump Up the Volume, a Martyn Young track constructed largely of samples, including one of A.R. Kane’s guitars, was a shot in the arm for lazy 80s cheese pop. The track was a big #1 in several countries, although the US release saw problematic samples removed and replaced. This was MARRS’ massively influential but only release, it was the first UK chart topper to contain samples from other songs, and was Grammy nominated in 1989.

Finally, it turns out that Shanice was more than a just one hit wonder, she was actually a child star, appearing in a KFC ad with Ella Fitzgerald as a kid, and was a regular on kids TV shows. Her 1991 debut album featured the hit I Love Your Smile and also Minnie Riperton’s Lovin’ You. Her multi octave range and virtuoso whistling skills (true) didn’t make the charts until she sang backing vocals on a track on the ghastly – post death – Michael Jackson cash in album Michael…sigh. ν

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