Five one-hit wonders with a great catalog of other songs

“Now, I’m gonna play you a medley of my hit.”
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This is where it gets complicated. If you’re sitting here in the USA, there are a bunch of bands that had a single hit in America, but were huge in the UK. Can I really call Mott the Hoople or Free one-hit wonders? “All the Young Dudes” and “All Right Now” may be the only songs a lot of us in the States ever hear, but they both had several other top ten hits across the pond. The same is true of Thin Lizzy and T. Rex.

I suppose I could have gone with American artists Lou Reed or Warren Zevon since they also each have one song that kind of steals the air from the rest of their prodigious output, but Zevon hated being reminded of ‘Werewolves of London”, and if I start in on Lou Reed, I’ll never shut up. So I’ll go with Alvin Lee and his band Ten Years After.

Rolling Stone magazine regular Paul Evans dismissed TYA as fairly boring, saying about their best album Cricklewood Green that “it’s really only Lee’s guitar that smokes.” As if playing arguably the greatest, fastest blues-rock electric guitar ever was simply a throw-away. If you are a fan of blues guitar – from Jimmy Page to Stevie Ray Vaughan – you need to listen to Alvin Lee.

In the States, TYA’s hit was “I’d Love to Change the World,” which alternates between an Emerson Lake and Palmer psychedelic lyric and Lee’s blistering licks. You can criticize, as Paul Evans does, Lee’s vocals. They are average.

But TYA was never concerned with vocals. The voice was just a supporting instrument, either carrying a melody line on a song like “Working on the Road,” or turning into another percussive instrument, as on the titanic live Woodstock performance of “I’m Going Home,” which opens with a guitar solo that was attempted (and failed) by thousands of would-be shredders over the years. My favorite deeper cut comes from A Space in Time called “Ónce There Was a Time,” a simple mellow bit of delta blues that allows Lee to show off how good he could be even when not playing at light speed.