Two weeks ago I blogged on One Hit Wonders, and promised to try to rectify the wrongs done to artists on the list wrongfully accused. The most egregious offenses were against Blind Faith, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Simple Minds, and the Grateful Dead. In defense of those categorizing such memorable bands with the ignominy of One Hit Wonders is these acts often only had one song to peak high on the charts. But charting doesn’t always capture the popularity of a band and their releases, with many other quality, well known songs being a part of the fabric of their generation. For instance, while the Dead’s only hit song on the charts was “Hell In A Bucket” most music listeners in the ‘70s and ‘80s even if not Dead fans know “Friend Of The Devil,” “Casey Jones,” “Ripple”, “Truckin’,” “Shakedown Street,” “Fire On The Mountain,” and “Uncle John’s Band.” And while Simple Minds was responsible for one of the true anthems of the ‘80s with “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” they also had well known quality songs in “Sanctify Yourself” and “Alive And Kicking,” the latter of which provides the title of the playlist, as these bands didn’t roll over and play dead, but were very alive and kicking.
Also included on this new Alive And Kicking playlist that had been previously featured among One Hit Wonder bands on my playlist Video Killed The Radio Star are the likes of Survivor, Shannon, General Public, A-ha, Dead Or Allive, Scandal, Cutting Crew, and even Tone-Loc.
These artists who often had 2 or 3 or more quality offerings inspired a follow-up playlist of bands who were Two and sometimes Three Hit Wonders. These bands were primarily known for 2 or 3 songs that were hugely successful, with a very significant drop-off in popularity of their other releases. That doesn’t always mean they didn’t have other quality songs, but often just that such songs were less well known to the general music listening unless big fans of the band. The playlist is titled “123 – Two (and Three) Hit Wonders” borrowing its name from the Len Barry 1966 song “1 2 3,” with the band’s only other song of significance “Like A Baby.” Other Two Hit Wonder bands featured include Steppenwolf, Gerry Rafferty, 10cc, Orleans, The Motels, The Romantics, Golden Earring, Power Station, Naked Eyes, Mr. Mister, Crowded House, John Secada, Blues Traveler, Toad The Wet Sprocket, Dido, Five For Fighting, Neon Trees, Owl City and even LMFAO as well as many others.
Three Hit Wonder greats include The Zombies, The Spencer Davis Group, Argent, Kansas, Don McLean, Seals & Croft, Blue Oyster Cult, Steve Perry, Asia, A Flock Of Seagulls, UB40, Tears For Fears, Rick Astley, Spin Doctors, The Fray, Train, and Plain White T’s, among others. Steve Perry, Tears For Fears, Train, and Plain White T’s are examples of acts who undoubtedly had several other great songs, but not near attaining the popularity of the 3 songs that achieved such success, airplay, and popularity. Many of you will likely argue how many songs that you love by such artists aren’t included, and thus they are, similar to my One Hit Wonders listed above, falsely accused. But there’s no denying how popular the listed songs were, and it makes for a fun playlist and great fodder for argument and discussion.
If you are fans of music of the ‘70s and ‘80s, I trust you will thoroughly enjoy the music, if not be frustrated by some of the songs not included. But that’s the great part about such playlists – they can be a springboard to inspire further listening of other songs, artists, and albums from the past.
I thought I’d do such a wandering, inspired by the playlist, to highlight one of my favorite keyboardists, Steve Winwood, who is featured in these playlists as a member of The Spencer Davis Group and Blind Faith. In addition to my first concert artist Billy Joel, and another favorite Elton John, Steve is one of the best keyboardists of all time, if not the most precocious. Steve started his career in his early teens backing on guitar and keyboards for the likes of Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Chuch Berry, and Bo Diddley. At the age of 14 he joined his first band The Spencer Davis Group. They had to sneak him into clubs and bars to play, as he was so underage. He also played keyboards on “Voodoo Chile” on Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland album. Additionally he provided keyboards for David Gilmour on his About Face album
So as one of my friends likes to say, we’ll venture down that rabbit hole, borrowing a phrase from Alice In Wonderland. Though the choice is up to you. As Morpheus proposes in The Matrix:
You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.morpheus in The Matrix
So if you’re interested in a trip down Steve Winwood lane, take the red pill, and follow the rabbit down the hole to some great music and videos.
Here he is in his mid-teens with the Spencer Davis Group, with a song not included on my playlist, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out.” What white teen from England can sing and tickle the ivories like Ray Charles? Steve Winwood, that’s who!
Now just barely 20 with Blind Faith in Hyde Park, London, in 1969, along with Eric Clapton on guitar only 24, and Ginger Baker on drums the elder statesman at 30.
A great concert to watch Winwood and Clapton reunited is “Live From Madison Square Garden” from 2009 (currently available through Qello Concerts on Prime Video). It’s such a great concert, well worth a watch. A similar performance at the Crossroads Guitar Festival in 2007 paired Winwood and Clapton with Derek Trucks and Doyle Bramhall II. Just amazing guitars.
His third band was another favorite of mine, Traffic. Here he’s featured on the almost 14 minute long classic “The Low Spark Of High Healed Boys,” a song featured for its saxophone on my playlist Sultans Of Swing:
And a newer performance of an old Traffic song “Glad” highlights Steve in one of his better piano performances, featured on my Piano Man playlist:
As an FYI, all of my playlists and their associated blogs are accessible via the menu on this blog, sub-categorized as genre, theme, or word centered playlists. So if you’re hunting for certain past playlists or blogs that’s where to find them.
As a solo artist he had many hits, including “While You See A Chance,” “Valerie,” and “Roll With It” and “Higher Love,” among many others:
He even parlayed his popularity to making beer commercials:
I’ve been fortunate enough to see Steve Winwood twice, once in 2004 on his About Time tour, and again in 2010 opening for Carlos Santana. He’s such a talented musician, with such a soulful voice, amazing keyboard skills, and great guitar chops. Sadly he was supposed to be on our Keeping the Blues Alive Mediterranean II cruise (see Mediterranean Blues blog and playlist), but had to withdraw for health reasons. I wish him well, and thank him for the amazing music.
I hope that this music and my blog truly serve as a “revival: a new presentation of something old,” a springboard to return to the music of your youth, or perhaps to find artists you want to discover anew. Rediscover the passion of music in your life.
Live in the moment.
Enjoy the moment.
Love the moment.
Listen to the Music!