You hear these classic tunes when you’re driving in your car, and you know them as if you wrote them yourself. Now, try to name the artist. Right, we didn’t think so. Those brain cells have long since made tracks down the highway of middle-age. That’s why we’re here. Sit back and relax—we’ve got you covered.
“Ride Captain Ride,” The Blues Image
This was the only big hit for Blues Image—the band split up not long it came out, in 1970. Lead singer Mike Pinera hooked up with Iron Butterfly and keyboard player Skip Konte rode off to join Three Dog Night.
“United We Stand,” The Brotherhood of Man
It's said that when the British pop group performed this 1970 single on a BBC television show called “Top of the Pops,” a very young (and later-to-be-knighted as “Sir”) Elton John was one of the backup singers. Oh, and dig those puffy shirts!
“One Tin Soldier,” The Original Caste
The Canadian band released this anti-war song in tumultuous 1969, but it wasn’t until it resurfaced two years later in the soundtrack of “Billy Jack” that the tune became really well known.
“Reflections of My Life,” The Marmalades
This was a pretty big hit, but The Marmalades never quite managed to break through. The Scottish band still exists, if you can believe it, though none of its original members are left.
“O-o-h Child,” The Five Stairsteps
This 1970 single, from a five-sibling soul group that competed with the Jackson 5, has been covered by everybody from Hall & Oates to Richie Havens to Beth Orton. But none of those other people got introduced by Don Cornelius!
“Alone Again (Naturally),” Gilbert O’Sullivan
This 1972 release was O’Sullivan’s only No. 1 hit, but it was huge, selling 2 million copies and scoring the Irish singer-songwriter three Grammy nominations. Regrettably, he had a habit of wearing college-style sweaters embossed with the letter “G.”
“Build Me Up Buttercup,” The Foundations
The Brit band had two big hits: this one and “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You.” But that was pretty much it for the multiracial (unusual for the time) Foundations, who were active for only three years, 1967 to 1970. Too bad. Nice pants.
“96 Tears,” Question Mark & The Mysterians
The Latino rock band’s only big hit, “96 Tears,” sold more than a million copies and topped the Billboard charts. The Michigan band’s name came from a 1957 Japanese sci-fi movie, “The Mysterians.” Oh, that explains it.
“I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” The New Seekers
The British rockers released this song in late 1971, adapting Coca-Cola’s “Buy the World a Coke” tune from its wildly successful “Hilltop” TV commercial. And you thought it was the other way around.
“Good Morning Starshine,” Oliver
“Starshine” is actually from the 1967 musical “Hair.” Oliver’s single made it to No. 3 on the Billboard Top 100. Fun fact: Andy Williams once covered the track — with the Osmond Brothers. Douche chills.
“More Today Than Yesterday,” Spiral Starecase
Spiral Starecase was a short-lived California band, and “More” was the title track on an album it released in 1969. The next year, the band broke up. Wonder whatever became of those blue jackets.
“Smile a Little Smile for Me,” The Flying Machine
Here’s another band that didn’t have legs. Flying Machine’s “Smile” went gold in short order, but the British group was caput in a couple years. What’s the use in crying, are we right?
“Patches,” Clarence Carter
“Patches” was first released as a B-side track by the R&B band Chairman of the Board, but it was Carter’s version that broke through. Blinded as a child, Carter taught himself to play guitar and, like Patches, is from Alabama.
“Walk Away Renee,” The Left Banke
Released in 1966, “Renee” was written by the band’s 16-year-old keyboard player Michael Brown, with help from two of his bandmates. The mate who did not help write the song was bassist Tom Finn, whose girlfriend Renee was the object of Brown’s affections. The band busted up pronto. Big surprise.
“Spirit in the Sky,” Norman Greenbaum
Greenbaum had previously been with the psychedelic Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band, producing such stellar tracks as “The Eggplant That Ate Chicago.” But with “Spirit,” he hit the big time (briefly anyway) as the single sold 2 million copies and reached No. 3 on the Billboard 100.
“Tainted Love,” Soft Cell
Soft Cell’s 1981 version was a big hit, but “Tainted Love” was first recorded by soul artist Gloria Jones in 1964. By radically adapting the song to its new wave style, Soft Cell got a second chance with its record company, which had been none too pleased with its earlier work.
“Venus,” Shocking Blue
The Dutch band’s only big hit, “Venus,” shot to the top of the Billboard chart and sold more than 7.5 million records worldwide. In 1986, the girl band Bananarama covered the song, also with a lot of success.
“Vehicle,” The Ides of March
A one-hit wonder for this Chicago band, but a good one at that, “Vehicle” shot to No. 2 on the charts. The horns section on the track is often compared with the sound of Blood, Sweat and Tears. Not that that’s a bad thing.
“Indiana Wants Me,” R. Dean Taylor
Taylor wrote the fugitive song after watching the movie “Bonnie and Clyde.” It was the Canadian’s biggest hit by far, reaching No. 5 in the U.S. in 1970. Sirens and all. For real.
“Seasons in the Sun,” Terry Jacks
Rod McKuen (yep, the one and only) translated a number of works by the Belgian songwriter Jacques Brel, and “Seasons” is one of them. The Jacks version is in rarified company, having sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. No, we are not high! Take that back.
“Video Killed the Radio Star,” The Buggles
This was the Buggles’ debut single in 1979, and was also on the band’s first album, “Age of Plastic.” But the new wave band didn’t hang together. The Buggles broke up in 1981—the same year this became the first video that ever aired on MTV.
“One Toke Over the Line,” Brewer & Shipley
This was the Midwestern-bred folk singers’ only hit. Because of the obvious drug reference, some radio stations refused to air it. But the song managed to slip by the TV censors in 1971, when a gospel duo named Gail and Dale performed it on—get this—“The Lawrence Welk Show.”
“All Right Now,” Free
This track brought the young English rock band to prominence in 1970, but by ’73 lead singer Paul Rodgers split for what he figured might be a better gig, becoming front man for Bad Company.
“Put Your Hand in the Hand,” Ocean
The Canadian singer Anne Murray recorded this gospel song first, but Canada’s gospel rock band Ocean made it popular on its debut album. Ocean’s luck didn’t run deep, though; they disbanded after their second record. Nice outfits, though, we’ll give ’em that.
“Precious and Few,” Climax
Formed in 1970, this Los Angeles rock band included former members of the Outsiders, but “Precious” was its only million-seller.