If you listen to oldies stations, you will hear a lot of songs that will trigger memories, and then ask yourself, “I wonder what ever happened to this artist?” However, these hits are embedded into the fabric of music and deserve recognition. Note: these are songs that charted in the US within the Top 40.
Number Ten: Free – All Right Now. Free was one of the biggest selling British blues bands. Fronted by Paul Rogers, who would go on to front Bad Company, the band would record two albums from 1969 and 1970. While the albums sold well, they didn’t see a hit record until their third release, Fire and Water, which contained their one and only hit, “All Right Now.” The band would go on to release three more albums before disbanding.
Number Nine: Ten Years After – I’d Love to Change the World. Another British blues band, Ten Years After, gained worldwide acclaim with their appearance at Woodstock. While they enjoyed some top 100 successes, they only charted in the top 40 once with “I’d Love to Change the World” from the album, Space and Time, in 1971. Written by frontman and guitar virtuoso Alvin Lee, the song was a reflection of the times such as Vietnam and social issues. Written in a folk style, it wasn’t merely another rock song.
Number Eight: Mott The Hoople – All the Young Dudes. Written specifically for the band by David Bowie, “All the Young Dudes” was recorded by Mott The Hoople in 1972. Led by Ian Hunter, he rejected Bowie’s offer to record the then unreleased “Suffragette City,” but agreed to record the gift Bowie bestowed upon him. As a part of the glam rock movement, the band was flamboyant and campy. While the band did chart in the UK with “All the Way from Memphis,” the U.S. market wasn’t buying it.
Number Seven: T-Rex – Bang a Gong (Get it On). T-Rex never got the credit they deserved in the US. Fronted by the charismatic Marc Bolon, the band were pioneers of the glam movement who influenced the likes of David Bowie and Elton John. While the band did chart several singles in the UK including “Jeepster,” “20th Century Boy,” and “Telegram Sam,” they couldn’t break into the American charts until 1971 with “Get it On.” They added “Bang a Gong” as to not be confused by the group Chase song. Bolon wrote the song inspired by the Chuck Berry tune, “Little Queenie.” It peaked at number 10 on the Billboard charts.
Number Six: Lou Reed – Walk on the Wild Side. Found on the album Transformers, the “Walk on the Wild Side” sites many of the Warhol Factory’s dwellers and was a retrospective about Reed’s many encounters during his time with the Velvet Underground. Most notably, Candy Darling who was a trans woman actress who starred in two of Warhol’s films. Reed initially slipped by the censors with the line, “even when she’s giving head,” but was forced to edit that line out. Produced by David Bowie, the track captured a moment in time.
Number Five: Rick Derringer – Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo. Johnny Winter initially recorded the song while Rick Derringer was in his band and was on the album Johnny Winter And in 1970. Critics hated it. Derringer recorded his version of “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo” on his debut solo record All American Boy, and made it a hit. The song itself is a hard driving guitar track which has become a regular on 1970s compilations as well as classic rock stations. In 2012, Derringer rerecorded the song with a Christian vibe entitled “Read the Word and Live it Too.” The original version has been covered and sampled several times.
Number Four: Emmylou Harris & Gram Parsons – Love Hurts. The song was originally a ballad recorded by the Everly Brothers in 1960, then was given a country makeover by Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris in 1974. While “Love Hurts” did enjoy some success when Roy Orbison recorded it, the version was only recognized in Australia reaching number five. It wasn’t until Nazareth got a hold of it that it charted in the US, reaching number one on the Billboard top ten. The song has also been recorded by Cher, Rod Stewart and former Traffic member, Jim Capaldi. But nobody has matched the success of Nazareth’s rendition and remains a staple on classic rock radio.
Number Three: Nick Gilder – Hot Child in the City. Written and recorded by Nick Gilder, “Hot Child in the City” reached the top spot on Billboard. While it sounds like your typical pop song, the underlying message was a reference to child prostitution. Gilder had previous success with the band Sweeney Todd with the song “Roxy Roller,” which charted in his homeland, Canada. While he has recorded 10 albums, as recently as 2007, he remains a “one hit wonder.”
Number Two: David Essex – Rock On. David Essex scored the number five spot on Billboards top 100 with the song, “Rock On,” in 1974. The song was experimental for the time as it featured a slow moving tempo with a heavy bass line and Essex’s voice was produced with reverb giving it an ominous feel. “Rock On” was inspired by the 1950s rock and roll, but most notably by the iconic James Dean. The song has been covered several times by such artists as Def Leppard, Smashing Pumpkins, Duran Duran and Blondie.
Number One: Led Zeppelin – Whole Lotta Love. Despite having several albums in the top 10, Led Zeppelin only charted once in the states with “Whole Lotta Love” from their second album Led Zeppelin II. The song wasn’t your usual top forty single as Jimmy Page ran his guitar through a Vox Super Beatle which created echo effect. Midway through the song, it breaks into an improvised jam session which features controlled distortion, Plants signature moans and groans and a Bonham drum solo. However, clocking in at 5:30, the label deemed it as too long for Top 40 AirPlay, and so AtlantIc trimmed out the middle before releasing it. The band were ultimately taken to court over the song as it resembled the Muddy Waters’ hit, “You Need Love” a bit too closely.