Donielle Flynn

ONE-HIT Wonders in honor of 4/20

We’ve compiled a smokin’ list of One-Hits from the ’70s and ’80s in honor of 4-20.  20 one-hit wonders for 420 is our tongue-in-cheek way of celebrating a day associated with weed.  We all know what 420 means, but when did that happen?  TONS of stories have been done on the origin of 420 and its ties to marijuana.  Even Time Magazine has spent its resources trying to answer this question.

What are the 420 Theories?

Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” – 12 x 35 = 420

420 is a police code for marijuana smoking in progress

Adolph Hitler’s birthday is April 20th (WTH?)

None of these have any factual basis, BTW.

The Origin Story of 420

Most sources will agree that the origin of 420 goes back to 1971 in Marin County, California.  Five San Rafael High School students (Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich) would meet at 4:20 by the campus statue of Lous Pasteur to either smoke down or hunt for a pot field that its owner had abandoned… that part is sketchy.  In any case, 420 became their code for marijuana.  They also named themselves “The Waldos” because they met at a wall. –

I find it astounding that 50+ years later, we know the names of these five people and have this amount of detail.  Before the internet, before cell phones, and back when you had to pay for long-distance phone calls, this code managed to grow across our country and become a standard part of our culture.  I dig some digging and according to, the 420 code spread thanks to The Grateful Dead.  It all makes so much sense!

The Grateful Dead Effect

One of the Waldos’ parents handled real estate for The Grateful Dead and the Waldos had access to the band and concerts.  Things really blew up in the ’90s after Deadheads started passing out flyers with the history of 420 and inviting people to meet at, you guessed it, 4:20 on 4-20 to celebrate.  This flyer made its way to The Huffington Post and, eventually to High Times.  Boom. Global pot smoker attention has been achieved.

Some of our one-hits do have the double-bubble of being a one-hit wonder AND weed references, but not all.

Check out the videos and learn fresh nugs of info about the songs.

20 ONE-HIT Wonders for 420

  • One Toke Over the Line - Brewer and Shipley

    Tom Shipley said in an interview, “When we wrote ‘One Toke Over the Line,’ I think we were one toke over the line.”

  • Driver's Seat - Sniff 'n the Tears

    The song was very successful everywhere BUT their home country in the UK.  They got compared to Dire Straits and the EMI pressing plant which made their record went on strike for well over a month right as the song was hitting.

  • Black Betty - Ram Jam

    Black Betty is actually a traditional song, made popular by bluesman, Leadbelly. NYC band, Ram Jam recorded this in 1977.  In 2004, an Australian band, Spiderbait, did another take on it and it went to number one in Australia.

  • Turn Up the Radio - Autograph

    Early MTV and product placement!  Paper Mate funded the video for “Turn Up the Radio” in exchange for the band “signing in” using their pen at the beginning of the video!

  • I Could Be Good for You - 707

    WOLFMAN JACK!  Yes! Livonia representing with 707.

  • Wild Thing - The Troggs

    Chip Taylor wrote “Wild Thing” and he was a wild thing.  He made a ton of money off of this song (and others) but he lost it gambling.  At one point, Chip was gambling 10K a day and got kicked out of every casino in Vegas for card counting.  Chip Taylor is the brother of Jon Voight and Angelina Jolie’s uncle.

  • Tainted Love - Soft Cell

    Did you know that “Tainted Love” is actually a cover?  The original was released in 1964 by the soul singer, Gloria Jones.

  • Smokin' in the Boys Room - Brownsville Station

    What up,  Cub Koda and those sweet specs!  I never got to have cool glasses… I always had to choose from whatever was fully covered by my dad’s GM insurance.  As you may know, this song was inspired by the Ann Arbor movie theater, The Clinton Theater. Cub Koda got the idea from memories of hanging at the theater and sneaking smokes in the men’s room.

  • New York Groove - Ace Frehley

    Ace Frehely is 100% a New Yorker, but the song was actually written by an Englishman, Russ Ballard.  Ballard was a songwriter and guitarist for Argent until 1974.  He wrote the song while flying to New York to work on a Roger Daltrey solo album.  He hadn’t been in NYC in a while so he found himself getting “Back in the New York Groove.”

  • I'd Love to Change the World - Ten Years After

    Taking a look at the problems of 1971: overpopulation, economic inequality, pollution, and war.  Sadly, those problems are still around today.

  • Spirit in the Sky - Norman Greenbaum

    Norman Greenbaum is Jewish, but he used “Jesus” in the song because he felt it was more marketable.  Side note: Norman used to run a goat farm.  You don’t hear that every day.

  • Journey to the Center of the Mind - Amboy Dukes

    Baby Ted Nugent tearing it up!

  • Go for Soda - Kim Mitchell

    Chocolate milk, cigs, and Willy Wonka technology… you HAVE to watch this video.  You’re welcome.

  • Cars - Gary Numan

    This was Gary Numan’s only hit in the U.S. (he’s had a lot more in the UK and a cult following too).  Gary has Asperger Syndrome (think mild autism).  He said until he was diagnosed, relating to people was difficult.  The song is about people using technology to isolate themselves.


  • In the Summertime - Mungo Jerry

    Blowing on a jug to help attain the song’s sound… An amazing snapshot in time.  Love everything about this video.

  • Fantasy - Aldo Nova

    Aldo Nova isn’t a band name… it’s the lead singer’s name (born Aldo Caporuscio).  Not only is Aldo the lead singer, he’s the guitarist, songwriter, and producer.  AND… he’s Canadian.


  • Hold Your Head Up - Argent

    Argent was named for their keyboardist, Ron Argent, previously with The Zombies.  It features Russ Ballard (who wrote “New York Groove”)

  • Mississippi Queen - Mountain

    The legendary Leslie West! Of the songwriting process, Leslie said, “We got real high, I took out a napkin and came up with the main riff and chords.”

  • Boom Boom (Out Go the Lights)

    It hits you like a party song, but the roots are dark.  “Boom Boom” was written by harmonica player, Stan Lewis and originally recorded by Little Walter.  The song is actually about spousal abuse… sorry! But it’s true.  Boom is the punch and out go the lights.  Music can be dark lyrically but the beat hides the lyrical content.  Many bands have combined dark lyrics and happy beats throughout history.

  • The Kings - This Beat Goes On / Switching to Glide

    Roll calling their ladies: the idea to list off the ladies being called was inspired by the song, “Name Game,” by Shirley Ellis. We’ve got several Canadian bacon slices on our list: Aldo Nova, Kim Mitchell, and The Kings out of Vancouver.


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