Crying 96 tears for my Sharona

Published 6:47 pm Tuesday, October 1, 2019

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Just in case you missed it, last Wednesday (Sept. 25) was set aside to remember and pay our respects for those that wrote and performed songs that are forever etched in our minds.

Well, that opening sentence could easily be interpreted as a wide array of music from an equally broad base of talented individuals or groups. However, Sept. 25 is used to only recognize one particular set of songs and groups….those achieving mainstream popularity for a singular piece of work.

Yep….you guessed it – last Wednesday was One Hit Wonder Day.

Everyone has their favorites when it comes to those musical performances that became the only one true hit of the artist. My top 10 One Hit Wonders are:

#1 “Louie Louie” – performed by The Kingsmen in 1963 (yep, I’m showing my age). It tops my list because no one could (or still can) completely understand the lyrics. Those of my generation (and others who listened to this classic song) believed the lyrics were full of sexual innuendoes. But after reading them word-for-word, the song is about a Jamaican sailor coming home to see his girlfriend.

#2 “Spirit in the Sky” – released in 1969 and performed by Norman Greebaum. Although my generation was all into the psychedelic movement of that period of time and this particular song contained all the elements of that style of music, Greenbaum claimed to have been inspired to write “Spirit in the Sky” after listening to a gospel song performed by legendary Country Music star Porter Wagoner.

#3 “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” – from Iron Butterfly in 1968. If you are looking for a song with a very few lyrics, this is the one. It’s another classic from the psychedelic age with haunting guitar licks, deep-deep bass, electric keyboard, and one of the best drum solos of all time.

#4 – “96 Tears” – by Question Mark and the Mysterians, released in 1966. Great song, especially with its catchy lead-in on an electric keyboard, but as the group’s name implies, they did indeed fall off the face of the earth thereafter.

#5 “My Sharona” – a 1979 “one-hitter” by The Knack. I loved this song for its beat rather than the lyrics. One of its two writers, Doug Fieger, based the lyrics on a 17-year-old girl – Sharona Alperin – he met and fell in love with. He was age 25 at the time.

#6 – “Venus” – from 1969, performed by Shocking Blue. This choice follows the near identical theme of #5 as “Venus” is a woman who holds an uncanny ability to attract men.

#7 “Sugar Sugar” – another hit in 1969 (are ya’ll noting a pattern here!?) and performed by a studio band known as The Archies. And, once again, the lyrics are about a woman (a “candy girl” as noted in the song).

#8 “Smokin in the Boys Room” – by Brownsville Station. Even though this song was released in 1973, two years after earning a diploma at Northampton High, it takes me back to my time in high school where we would dash into the bathroom for a quick cigarette between classes. I do remember getting caught the very first time and swore I’d never do it again after getting three licks from the paddle of my principal – the late, great Jake Campbell.

#9 “Harper Valley P.T.A.” – from Jeannie C. Riley in 1968. Come on now….who doesn’t like this ballad; the story of a single mom who confronts her hypocritical peers for doing the identical things they accuse her of.

#10 “Convoy” – C.W. McCall (a character created by Bill Fries) released this novelty song in 1975. It’s written as CB radio slang as a trucker joins with his brethren on the road as they make their living hauling goods. “How ‘bout you Rubbie Ducky…you by the channel?”

There are plenty of other one-hit wonders to choose from. Let me hear from you about your personal favorites.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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