“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” – Iron Butterfly (1968)
“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” is one of the first Billboard hits that is considered heavy metal. Featuring a fuzzed-out guitar riff, powerfully throbbing drums, and an eerily ominous organ, the song certainly rocks. While the single that was released clocks in at a measly 2 minutes and 52 seconds, the album version lasts for over 17 minutes!
Even the title came about through a bit of heavy metal excess, it was written by organist Doug Ingle while drinking an entire gallon of red wine. When he played the song to the rest of the band, he was slurring so much that they couldn’t understand what he was saying. And so a song originally titled “In the Garden of Eden” became “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” a much more mysterious title that only adds to this song’s allure. Iron Butterfly never had another song as successful, but “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” lives on, famously appearing in a Simpsons’ episode using its original un-slurred title.
“Wipe Out” – The Surfaris (1963)
The epitome of ’60s surf rock, “Wipe Out” was a happy accident. In 1963, The Surfaris were a group of young high school friends who were in the studio recording their song, “Surfer Joe.” The band realized they needed a “B” side for their single, and wrote the instrumental “Wipe Out” pretty much on the spot as a throwaway. But with a furious drum solo that was a sped-up version of the group’s marching band cadence, and introduced by a maniacal laugh followed by the cry of “Wipe Out!,” the song was an irresistible summer smash.
It quickly soared to #2 and stayed in the charts for 30 weeks. The Surfaris continued to record music, but nothing else they released matched the popularity of “Wipe Out,” and the band broke up in 1966. “Wipe Out” can still be heard in movies such as Dirty Dancing, The Sandlot, and Toy Story 2, and will always be a summer favorite!
“Nobody But Me” – The Human Beinz (1968)
If repetition is the key to success, then The Human Beinz certainly succeeded with their 1968 hit “Nobody But Me.” In 1968 The Human Beinz were a rather unremarkable cover band struggling to make any traction in the music industry. In fact, they were so unknown that their record label misspelled their name on their contract, a “g” was dropped, and the Beingz became the Beinz. However, that all changed when they covered The Isley Brothers 1962 failed single “Nobody But Me.”
A song about a man proudly proclaiming his dancing prowess, “Nobody But Me” was an up-tempo feel-good dance hit, and quickly went to #8 on the charts, and into the record books. The song holds the record for most repetitive Billboard top 100 single, with the word “no” being repeated over 100 times, including an astounding 31 times in a row. The band quickly faded back into obscurity, however, and by 1969 they had called it quits. “Nobody But Me” continues to live on, however, appearing in Kill Bill and in TV’s The Office season 7 intro.
“Just One Look” – Doris Troy (1963)
When James Brown discovers you at The Apollo Theater when you’re just 16, it definitely bodes well for your future music career. And after Doris Troy released her first single, 1963’s “Just One Look,” it seemed as if the sky was the limit for the up and coming new singer. “Just One Look” was a prototypical 1960s soul song and an upbeat love ballad that you could dance to.
In a departure from a lot of songs in the early ’60s, it was actually written by Troy herself! The original demo that she recorded for Atlantic Records was so good that the label decided to release it as is, rather than re-record it, and it rocketed up to #3 on the charts. Unfortunately, Troy’s early promise didn’t last, and she was unable to chart another hit. Although she continued to sing backup long after her solo career ended, her career definitely peaked with “Just One Look.”
“Sugar, Sugar” – The Archies (1969)
The Weird Sisters from Harry Potter. Bill and Ted’s excellent band Wyld Stallyns. Sexual Chocolate of Coming to America fame. These are all fictional bands that made audiences fall in love with them. But none of these groups were as successful as The Archies, who have the distinction of being both a fake band and the singers of 1969’s #1 hit “Sugar, Sugar.”
“Sugar, Sugar” was recorded by session musicians to be a single for The Archies, a cartoon band from the TV show of the same name. However, record companies were hesitant to play a song from a made-up band, and all of their songs up to that point had been failures. So the record company gave the song to radio DJs with no label and told them it was a “mystery” group. “Sugar, Sugar” shot to #1, with the fake band selling over 1 million very real records. The Archies never had another hit, but the song continues to be used on TV to this day, making appearances on The Wonder Years and The Simpsons.
And there you have it – ten of the most memorable one-hit wonders of the 1960s. Whether surf rock classics, holiday traditions, or even sung by cartoons, people flat out loved these songs. They let their artists taste the sweet nectar of success, and if that success was fleeting, that doesn’t make it any less sweet. What was your favorite one-hit wonder from the 1960s?