As a young man growing up in the 70’s, many of us had dreams of being a rock star. You got the girls, and the parties were great. But let’s be honest, very few people ever become rock stars.
But here’s a question. Would you rather be a ‘one hit wonder’ or never be a rock star at all? Would there be bitterness because you had achieved success, but only so briefly. Or could you live with the fact that, yes you did it. It was not a long career and probably didn’t make any money, but you did it. I know some one hit wonders still get mileage from their single hit, and can actually get paid for performing on the oldies circuit.
But today, on his 70th birthday, we celebrate the ultimate ‘one hit wonder,’ Greg Munford. What puts him in a class above the likes of Lou Bega “Mambo #5,” Zager and Evans “In the Year 2525,” Norman Greenbaum “Spirit in the Sky,” or The Safaris “Wipeout.”
Greg Munford, a high school kid who belonged to his own band called ‘The Shapes,’ was in the studio with his guitar that day as a studio musician with the possibility of helping fill out some background vocals on some songs. Not a bad gig for a high school kid looking to make a few bucks and hang out with rockers.
A new group was recording what was to be their first released song, but they agreed that, even though everyone in the band auditioned as the lead vocalist, they were not satisfied. I imagine someone saying, “Hey kid. Get in here and try this.” Well, Greg jumped in and his voice is the one that everyone recognizes with the opening lyrics ,
“Good sense, innocence, cripplin’ mankind
Dead kings, many things I can’t define
Occasions, persuasions clutter your mind
Incense and peppermints, the color of time”
I personally think he sounds much older than 16 on the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s number one smash ‘Incense and Peppermints.’ Unfortunately for Greg, that was his sole contribution to the band. I’m sure he got his union grade check for that day’s work, but otherwise has received no credit for an iconic rock and roll one hit wonder.
Did he become bitter by not being asked to join the group? After all, it was his vocals that gave them a number one single. They certainly did not get too much farther without him. According to everything I have read about him or heard on Sirius XM, he led a normal life with no bitterness.
After a few more years working as a professional musician, Greg returned to college, majored in music composition and theory at the University of Southern California, and then earned a graduate degree in musicology at the University of Chicago. Thant’s a pretty impressive resume. It was there that he met his wife and decided to pursue a career in advertising. In an interview in 2014 when asked about music, Greg said he was playing guitar with a local band “just enough to have a reason to rehearse”.
So one does not have to be a rock star to be a successful musician or person. And being a rock star does not mean one has to be a jerk (sorry Motley Crue fans!) Sometimes life is good just being good. I have never met Greg Munford but he sure sounds like a good guy. He didn’t let a missed opportunity to be a rock star define his life, “…a yardstick for lunatics, one point of view.” He succeeded, and today we say, “Happy Birthday Greg Munford”. “Look at yourself. look at yourself. Yeah, yeah.”