Wednesday, March 07, 2007

One-Hear Wonders

Am I the only one who ever had this experience? In the heyday of cassette recording in the '70s and '80s, sometimes I would hear the first few notes of a song on the radio, instantly decide it was worth recording, and turn on the tape recorder. (Until I acquired a radio with built-in tape deck, this process involved slapping a manual tape recorder upside-down on top of my clock radio.) Sometimes, I never heard the song again. Some of the songs had no or incomprehensible lyrics, so that I didn't even know their titles. I think of these songs as "one-hear wonders", where they stuck in my mind or even became favourites, just from a single airing on my local radio station.

My favourite examples from this category are:

Tempus Fugit (Yes): I didn't know its title or who did it, for about 15 years, until I bought "Drama" at Vortex Records in Toronto.

Battle Scar (Max Webster, guest vocalist Geddy Lee of Rush): I'm sure I only ever heard this once on the radio. For years in the MP3 age, I couldn't find any digital version of it.

Hocus Pocus (Focus): The only vocal on this song is some yodelling. I didn't know the group or the title. Iron Butterfly stuck in my mind, but that was wrong, leading me down a dead end. I vaguely remembered a DJ saying that it was a Dutch group, and ultimately some Googling turned up the song details.

Phasors on Stun (FM): Canadian group FM is very hard to track down online. Ditto the solo efforts of member Nash the Slash. I wound up getting a secondhand CD of "Black Noise" from Amazon and recognized this song from way back. I probably heard it several times on the radio, but never actually had it on tape.

Cinnamon Girl (Neil Young): "Live Rust" was an early addition to my CD collection, so it was only a one-hear wonder for six years or so. I only remember one radio play, yet it became one of my favourite songs on my own mix tapes.

Godzilla (Blue Oyster Cult): Between the SNL "More Cowbell" sketch and some old videos resurrected on VH1, other Blue Oyster Cult songs are more well-known. But this for me is their best. Bonus points to this band for inventing the Heavy Metal Umlaut.

TVC15 (David Bowie): I must have gone about 30 years without hearing this song. Not sure how I missed it through various Bowie "Greatest Hits" collections. Never had it on tape.

Candy Candy (Iggy Pop featuring Kate Pierson): My wife tracked down the vide for this song on VH1. She remembered it clearly. I only have a faint recollection of the tune, probably from a single play on the radio.