Back by popular demand, we have a PART 2 of the top cheesiest one-hit wonders from the 1970s, so let us know if you remember any of these!
Some songs are instant classics. From the moment “Hound Dog” was released you knew people were going to be listening to it forever. Other songs, however, are super popular when they come out, but decades later seem cliched and inane. And it’s the second group we’re going to be looking at today as we dive into some of the cheesiest songs of the 1970s! Some of these songs just seem silly, some are so saccharine as to make you gag, and others stray a little too close to racism. But all of them have a cheese factor off the charts.
“The Streak” – Ray Stevens
For some reason, in the mid-1970s America became obsessed with the idea of streaking. Streakers were everywhere – in the newspapers, on TV shows, sporting events, and Robert Opel even streaked across the stage of the Oscars. And the culmination of this fad? Ray Stevens’ cheesy 1974 number one hit simply titled, “The Streak.” The song’s three verses open with a news reporter interviewing an eyewitness to three separate instances of streaking. It turns out that the same man was there all three times, which seems suspicious to me.
He reports that he had to yell to his wife Ethel to cover her eyes, but she’s too late every time and always gets an eyeful. By the end of the song, Ethel has left the man for the streaker, so she apparently liked what she saw. If this sounds like an awesome idea for a song to you, you’d be wrong. Because it’s cheesy and terrible. Fortunately much like its namesake fad, “The Streak” song’s popularity has faded since its heyday – and hopefully won’t ever be revived. But if you wanna relive some groovy fads, check out our collection of 1970’s fads to take you back!
“Kung Fu Fighting” – Carl Douglas
Now we have the hit that kicked its way into people’s hearts and minds. Literally. Because during the summer of 1974 everyone was “Kung Fu Fighting.” With lines like “there were funky chinamen from funky Chinatown,” and using a melody, unfortunately, named the “Oriental riff,” the song was always going to be problematic even if it was sung by an Asian-American. Of course, it wasn’t, it was sung by Jamaican vocalist Carl Douglas, which makes the song’s underlying racism that much worse. Moving beyond the poor racial stereotypes, the song is just plain dumb. With exaggerated ‘huh’s and ‘haha’s meant to imitate karate-chopping sounds the song veers from interesting novelty to cheesy mess almost instantly. The worst thing about it is that “Kung Fu Fighting” is incredibly catchy – once you hear it the rest of your day is ruined as “those cats were fast as lightning” plays on repeat in your head.
“Hopelessly Devoted to You” – Olivia Newton-John
“Guess mine is not the first heart broken, My eyes are not the first to cry, I’m not the first to know, There’s just no getting over you.” If this opening line to “Hopelessly Devoted to You” isn’t the definition of cheeseball, then I don’t know what is. The song was sung by Olivia Newton-John in the hit movie Grease, and it doesn’t get any better after that whopper of an opening stanza. It’s full of the most stereotypical saccharine schmaltz you could ever come up with – “My heart is sayin’, Don’t let go, Hold on to the end, that’s what I intend to do, I’m hopelessly devoted to you,” makes me dry heave a bit.
And then you remember that this is a 16-year-old singing about a 17-year-old who she knew for a few weeks during summer vacation and the gags become all too real. The makers of Grease were forced to include the song in the movie because Newton-John’s contract had a requirement that she would have a vocal solo. But no one’s contractually obligated to listen to it, and since the other songs from Grease are absolute smash hits, we have two throwback Grease videos for you to check out next.
“Convoy” – C.W. McCall
The 1970s sure were a bizarre time. Exhibit A: “Convoy,” a song about a rebellious group of long-haul truckers. Sung by fictional character C.W. McCall, the song attempted to capitalize on the CB radio fad that was sweeping the country in the mid-70s. To protest unfair working conditions the truckers Rubber Duck, Pig Pen, and Sodbuster – all CB radio handles – break the speed limit, tear up the timesheets designed to make them get rest, and refuse to drive on toll roads – all the while talking in CB slang on their radios.
As far as rebellions go, a pretty minor one. I suppose that to a public that was in the grip of CB fever the song had a certain appeal, but looking back on it 45 years later it’s hard to see what exactly that was. Hindsight is 20/20, and today we can see “Convoy” for what it is – a cheesy novelty song that doesn’t need more than one listen.
“Midnight at the Oasis” – Maria Muldaur
Sometimes cheesy can mean sappy, sometimes silly, sometimes outdated, sometimes overtly racist. And Maria Muldaur’s 1973 hit “Midnight at the Oasis” tidily indulges in all four of these definitions. A song about some good old fashioned desert lovemaking, “Midnight at the Oasis” contains the not unproblematic lines “I can be your belly dancer, and you can be my sheik,” and “I know your daddy’s a sultan, A nomad known to all, With fifty girls to attend him, they all Jump at his beck and call.” Oof.
But people apparently found the song to be super sexy – Muldaur has stated that to this day people still come up and tell her that “Midnight at the Oasis” has inspired sexual encounters, pregnancies, and even the loss of virginity. I guess when you hear the line, “And you won’t need no camel, when I take you for a ride,” the only option is to immediately start having sex. The song, while a hit in its day, probably belongs buried in the sands of time.
“Disco Duck” – Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots
This cheesy 1976 single was a no-brainer. The fact that the single is ambitiously dumb is self-explanatory. Annoying as all get out? Self-evident upon listening. But here we go. Dees originally wrote the song in just one day (unsurprising) as a parody novelty mocking Disco music. But as Nietzsche said, “Battle not with monsters, lest you yourself become a monster.” And boy did “Disco Duck” become a monster. It shot up the charts to number, was on every radio station in the country, and was even featured in a scene from Saturday Night Fever.
But unlike other songs on this list, I don’t want the song to remain in the ’70s. Far from needing to disappear, I think “Disco Duck” should be mandatory listening for all aspiring songwriters. Afterward, we’d grab them by the shoulders, shake them, and desperately plead, “please, for the love of God, do not write music like this.”
“The Blind Man in the Bleachers” – David Geddes
So far on this list, we’ve had some pretty cheesy fare. But for this last song, I’m going to need you to take my hand and jump, because we’re diving into the massive fondue pot of life. David Geddes released “The Blind Man in the Bleachers” in 1975 and man, is it something. The song tells the story of a high school footballer who’s not good enough to ever play. His blind father sits right next to the announcer in the stands, and his biggest wish is to hear his son’s name called when he enters the game. Then one day the father doesn’t show up. Because of injuries the boy plays, and has the greatest game ever, rallying his team to victory.
He then explains that his dad died earlier that day, went to heaven, and the boy played so well because it was the first game his dad could watch him play. Cue the waterworks. It’s as if every corny, stereotypically melodramatic trope was forced into one song. Fortunately, Geddes’s song is no longer popular, so we’re all saved from truly the cheesiest song of the ’70s.
Okay, that’s all of them, no need to throw things. Because these were some of the cheesiest songs of the 1970s. And add some cheesy 1970s songs we left out. What corny songs did we leave out? We wanna hear from you!
Today we’re bringing you the top then ’70s one-hit wonders. How did they come about? What were they about? And of course, where are they now? Dust off those bell bottoms, throw on a halter top, some hoop earrings, and get ready for some good times. Here we go.
Let’s start from the bottom to the top. Can you already take a guess at what one-hit wonder will fill our #1 spot on this list?
10. The first one hit-wonder… “Dancing in the Moonlight” – King Harvest
Although “Dancing in the Moonlight” can certainly be described as a happy song, its origins actually aren’t happy at all. In fact, the inspiration for this song is downright terrifying. Musician and writer, Sherman Kelly and his girlfriend took a schooner from St.Thomas to St. Croix. They decided to camp out on the beach under the moonlight. There they were brutally attacked by a local criminal gang. His girlfriend Adrien was raped and feared that she might be killed, but all of a sudden Sherman gained consciousness and made enough noise to scare the gang off, most likely saving both their lives. Sherman suffered from broken ribs and a fractured face and the doctors didn’t think he would make it. Fortunately for the world, he did.
Although he couldn’t play in a band for a long time, he was still writing and during his recovery, he wrote “Dancing in the Moonlight.” He wanted to write about a world that was pretty much the exact opposite of the night he experienced in the Caribbean. “Dancing in the Moonlight” is about a world where nobody “barks and nobody bites” the feeling is “warm and bright” nobody “fusses and nobody fights.” The song went on to chart at number 13 on the billboard, was covered by the Baha Men, and was hit all over again when it was covered by an English band Toploader. The song prominently features a Wurlitzer piano which you might recognize from some other famous songs.
9. “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)”- Looking Glass
“Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” was released in 1972 by the Looking Glass, from their debut album Looking Glass. It was written by Looking Glass lead guitarist Elliot Lurie. The song was originally released as a B-side to the single “Don’t It Make You Feel Good,” but was then released as a single itself because it was more popular than the A-side.
The song is about a barmaid at a busy seaport who falls in love with a sailor. Even though Brandy is a fine girl, they cannot be together because the sailor’s first love is the sea. A pirate’s life for him I guess. The story is remarkably similar to that of a Mary Ellis, a famous New Jersey spinster who waited until she died for her love to return from the sea, but the writer, lead guitarist of the Looking Glass, claims it’s just a remarkable coincidence and it is actually loosely based on a girl he knew named Randy. The song went all the way up to number one on the U.S. Charts, and was recently featured prominently in the blockbuster Marvel hit Guardians of the Galaxy series as the opening scene. He’s 71 years old now. Still performing, and still has a great voice.
8. “Mr. Big Stuff” – Jean Knight
Released on Knight’s 1971 debut album of the same title, it became a huge crossover hit. The song spent five weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Soul Singles chart and peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. Knight performed the song on Soul Train on December 11, 1971, during its first season. “Mr. Big Stuff” became one of Stax Records’ more popular and recognizable hits. It was featured in the 2007 mini-series The Bronx Is Burning. It was nominated for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance at the 1972 Grammy Awards.
This is not her only time on the charts although it is her most notable. In 1985, she gained more recognition when she covered Rockin’ Sidney’s zydeco novelty hit, “My Toot Toot,” and found herself in a cover battle with Denise LaSalle. While LaSalle’s version reached the top ten in the United Kingdom, Knight’s version was the more successful stateside, reaching #50 on the pop chart. Knight was then given a chance to perform it on the TV variety show Solid Gold. The song also became her only hit in South Africa, reaching number 3.
7. “All Right Now” – Free
This famous tune was written by Andy Fraser and Paul Rodgers. Paul Rodgers went on to front the supergroup Bad Company and even fronted Queen after Freddie Mercury’s death. John Mellencamp even called Rodgers “the best rock singer ever.” But there wasn’t always rockstar praise and fanfare for the band. In fact, according to the Bassist and songwriter, “All Right Now” was written after the band played a terrible gig.
They said, “This terrible gig we did at a college in Durham. We’d driven up there on a rainy Tuesday, it was cold and miserable and we got there in a pretty foul mood, to be honest. And then we saw the audience… it was a venue that could hold 2,000 people, but there were only about 30 people there. And those 30 were all off their heads on Mandrax… it was pretty grim. But of course, we went on anyway. Now usually, we could get up there on stage and it didn’t matter who was watching or whether they were getting into it… we’d just play for ourselves, basically, and have a good time. But this night, it just wasn’t happening… we absolutely sucked. Afterward, in the dressing room, there was just this horrible silence… a really bad atmosphere. So to try and alleviate the tension, I just started singing… y’know, ‘All right now, baby it’s all right now,” over and over, kind of like a parent trying to get their kids along! But it worked, the rest of the band started tapping along and so I thought, ‘We’re onto something here.'” They definitely were because the song went to number one in the UK and number four in the U.S. To this day, pretty much everybody has heard this song.
6. “The Hustle” – Van McCoy
“The Hustle” By Van McCoy is the only instrumental song on our countdown but that doesn’t make it any less “wonderous.” In case you haven’t noticed yet, DISCO was a pretty big deal in the ’70s. This song was actually conceived in New York City. One night Van McCoy was at a club named Adam’s Apple and he watched patrons doing a dance called “The Hustle.” That week he and his band recorded the song “The Hustle” and the rest is history. It went all the way up to No. 1 and was even sampled by the late pop sensation Selena, years later. McCoy has about 700 song copyrights to his credit. He has produced songs for many famous artists including Gladys Knight, The Stylistics, and Aretha Franklin.
5. “Love Hurts” – Nazareth
This song has actually been recorded and released by a number of famous and successful artists including The Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Emmylou Harris, and even the iconic Cher. There are actually so many versions of this song. In 2006 Rod Stewart covered this song on an album that went to No. 1. There’s even a bluegrass version prominently featured in the hit Marvel movie Deadpool 2. Although Nazareth didn’t write this song, they did record the most successful version of it in the U.S. Their version reached the top 10 in the U.S quite impressive considering the competition.
4. “Rapper’s Delight” – The Sugarhill Gang
Rap started in The Bronx in the early 1970s. Rappers and MC’s would rhyme over DJ’s looping certain parts of funk, disco, and R&B records. Rappers and DJs would battle to see who could rock the party better. The track was produced by Sylvia Robinson, who uses the bass line from the song “Good Times” by Chic and features the vocals of “Wonder Mike” “Big Bank Hank” and “Master Gee.”
Widely recognized as the first rap song, Rappers Delight introduced hip hop to the world charting in the top 40 in the US and reaching the top 3 in the UK and Canada. Nobody had ever heard anything like this before, but still, many thought rap was a novelty that would come and go. As we all know today, rap did NOT come and go and went on to become one of the most popular genres in America. For this reason, It is widely regarded as one of the most important tracks ever made and was entered into the Library of Congress in 2011 but The Sugarhill Gang never repeated the success.
3. “You Light Up My Life” – Debby Boone
This song received many awards including the Grammy for Song of the Year and is the only song on our list to have won an Oscar for Best Original Song. This song was truly record-breaking as it held the #1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for ten consecutive weeks straight, which at the time, was a new record. Although it was originally written as a love song for a movie of the same title, Boone, a devout Christian, interpreted the song as more inspirational and claimed that it was actually about God lighting up her life. Although in 1980 Boone returned with a number on the country hit – “Are You on the Road to Lovin’ Me Again,” she would never repeat the record-breaking success she enjoyed for “You Light Up My Life.” Like other songs on our list, this song was covered by many famous artists including Johnny Mathis, Whitney Houston, and Kenny Rogers. It’s probably worth noting she is the daughter of Pat Boone, who According to Billboard, was the second-biggest charting artist of the late 1950s, only beaten by the king of rock and roll himself, Elvis Presley.
2. “O Oh Child” – The Five Stairsteps
Released in 1970, “O Ooh Child” was a B-Side to a Beatles cover, “Dear Prudence” but the B-Side ended up overshadowing the A-Side going all the way up to #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. Another song on our list that was prominently featured in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy series and yet another song on our list that inspired cover versions. From huge Artists like Nina Simone, Dusty Springfield, Hall and Oates, and Janet Jackson. Tre from Phish even covered it on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon – Long live the 70’s.
1. The best ’70s one-hit wonder is… “My Sharona” – The Knack
“My Sharona” could be the number one-hit wonder of all time. Good luck finding anyone who hasn’t heard this classic of rock and roll. GET THE KNACK was actually the fastest-selling debut album for a group since MEET THE BEATLES. And of course the #1 selling single of 1979. The song has a pretty literal meaning, The lead singer Doug Fieger actually knew a girl named Sharona Alperin and used the song to win her over, needless to say, it worked!
At one point they were even engaged but they were never married. Fieger’s rock and roll lifestyle became too much to handle and they called it off. Not sure if muses get royalties for the songs they inspire but Sharona is doing just fine and is now a successful realtor in Los Angeles. When Fieger passed away Sharona wrote “From the time Doug and I first met, both of our lives changed forever. It’s very rare for two people to have such an impact on each other. The bond we shared is something that I will treasure as long as I live, he will always have a special place in my heart.”
Did we miss any ’70s one-hit wonders? Which one of these one-hit wonders is your favorite?