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November 27, 2023

One Hit Wonder

By Tony Gloeggler

There's something about a one shot hit maker, like Little Eva or James Carr, or underrated ones, like Darlene, Gary US Bonds or the Young Rascals, that are more fascinating to me than the big league musicians who have been prominent for years. Part of it is that your love of this music helps you feel you belong to this secret world that's not so easily discovered. The other is that it tells you everything you need to know about the American dream: Everyone has a shot at the top, and anyone can disappear into the distance, beyond the possibility of recovery.

Bruce Springsteen

1969. You're fifteen.
The girls have all gone home.
Five guys are trying to stop
Saturday night from turning
into Sunday morning. You're sitting
on the hood of a car, nursing
that last warm six pack. The doors
are flung open and the radio plays
the first chords of Louie Louie.
Someone slides down, walks
over, turns it up. You yell out
the names of other one hit wonders:
Red Rubber Ball, Sweet Soul
. Pretty soon your friends
jump in with Expressway
To Your Heart, Walk Away Renee

Even now you wonder
what happened to the lead
singer of The Soul Survivors,
the drummer in The Kingsmen?
Are they living off royalties
somewhere in South Florida?
Do they still play second rate
hotels and glitzy casinos?
When they drop their kids off
at school and Knock On Wood
comes on, do their fingers drum
the steering wheel? Do their kids
cover their ears and say,
"Oh Dad no, not again?"

In your old neighborhood
no one remembered anyone
for anything good. John
Taurisani will always be the boy
who pissed his pants and cried
the time Sister Carolina made him sit
in the garbage pail all day. Michael
Towey missed a wide open lay-up
with five seconds on the clock
and you lost the CYO championship.
You can still see Theresa Burns
getting out of her seat,
still hear her saddle shoes
sounding down the empty hall
when her name was announced
over the loudspeaker to please
report to the principal's office
the Friday morning her mother
and father died in a car crash.
And Marshall Perriera's girlfriend
will always be chasing him
down Reeves Avenue, yelling,
"Marshall, I'm fucking pregnant,
you better fucking marry me
Marshall," two weeks before
he joined the marines.

You want to know how often
Scott McKenzie or Percy Sledge
thinks about the time their song
poured out of every car window,
the times they walked across a stage
and girls screamed? Does it feel
good all over? Does it make
their eight hour day selling
real estate or painting houses
that much longer? Do they lie
in bed next to their wives
after making love and feel empty?

You remember Erica more
than anything. You still live
in the apartment she found
in November of 1979.
That first night you zipped
two sleeping bags together
and every whisper grew
louder and bigger until
the empty apartment felt
full. You took the first shower
together, washed each other
carefully, trying to keep
the floor burns from stinging.
You even miss the times
you were too tired, or angry,
or bored, and you just kissed
and hugged and went right
to sleep like grown ups,
like your mother and father,
and you still knew you wanted
to lie like that until you died.

The last you heard, she's living
in Virginia, married to a physics
professor with one young son.
Most of the time, you hope
she's happy, and sometimes
when you're driving alone,
maybe waiting for a light
to change, your fingers move
the dial back and forth hoping
to find that one tiny station
where the DJ's taking only
your requests. For What It's Worth.
Little Bit Of Soul. 96 Tears.

And by the time that first forty-five
spins from beginning to end
you're nineteen, you believe
in true love again and that this car,
this highway, can take you anywhere.
When Double Shot Of My Baby's
by The Swinging Medallions
fights its way through static
you're sure that somewhere
on Belmont Avenue in the Bronx,
Hawthorne, California or Freehold,
New Jersey, five fat bald guys
whose names you once read
on the back of an album cover
are hurrying home from work
to meet in somebody's garage
or basement. They're plugging in
amps, picking up drumsticks,
strapping on the bass and guitar.
They look at each other, nod.
"One." "Two." "Three." "Four."

Article © Tony Gloeggler. All rights reserved.
Published on 2017-05-01
Image(s) are public domain.
2 Reader Comments
03:27:56 PM
I really like this, Mr. Gloeggler. Hits the chord and rings the bell.Has a nice Kerouac quality.
H. Silverman
01:21:48 PM
Fun read the first time through.
Thought provoking the second read.

Good job.
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