The Curious Case of a Band Called Ambrosia, the World's Only Three-Hit Wonder

Most every music fan has their guilty pleasures and mine is the super-cheesy soft rock of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Among the guiltiest of these guilty pleasures is the band Ambrosia. Now, don’t fret if you don’t remember Ambrosia. They were big enough to garner a few Grammy nominations back in 1980 but not big enough to win.

So, here’s the weird thing about Ambrosia. Many years ago I came to the realization that Ambrosia was responsible for not one, not two, but three of the greatest tunes in soft rock history. The three tunes are:

Biggest Part of Me
You’re the Only Woman
How Much I Feel

If you gave those songs a quick listen, I’m sure that you’d agree that all of them are nothing short of incredible. Each one could easily be considered a legitimate one-hit wonder song and yet Ambrosia somehow produced three absolutely perfect tunes.

Post-epiphany, I rushed out and bought their Anthology collection. Look, if you’re a band that can deliver three 24 karat gold songs you definitely deserve my $15 for the rest of your best stuff. But then the weirdest thing happened when I listened to the full album.

It was unlistenable.

Now, I don’t mean that it was average quality music. I’m not saying that it was uneven or erratic. I’m telling you that every other song – aside from the big 3 mentioned above – was horrible. I’m talking “the Yoko songs on Double Fantasy” level horrible.

Quite honestly this blew my mind. And the more that I thought about it, the more that I realized that Ambrosia may be the only band in the history of music to accomplish such a rare feat: they produced three amazing songs and literally nothing else of quality.

Think about it. Most successful bands that are talented enough to sign a record deal, tour and maintain a career tend to deliver at a fairly consist level throughout their recording careers – barring significant line-up changes or finding god. And while many bands may be culturally significant for just a handful of popular songs, their popular songs will usually fit logically within the context of their entire catalog.

For example, my favorite band, The Black Crowes, are famous for probably 4 early ‘90s hits (‘She Talks to Angels”, “Hard to Handle”, “Jealous Again” and “Remedy”). In the case of the Crowes those songs perfectly represent the band and even though they aren’t mainstream popular anymore, they have consistently produced work of roughly the same quality for 20 years.

One-hit wonders, on the other hand, typically produce a singular song that strongly represents a moment in time where the cultural moment eclipses the actual quality of the song.

Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is the perfect example of a one-hit wonder where the song became inexplicably popular in the summer of 1988 in a way that represents the summer of 1988 much more strongly than it represents Bobby McFerrin. Most of us know Bobby McFerrin from that terrible song, but in reality he’s an accomplished musician whose work and reputation far exceeds that one song. sadly, Bobby McFerrin will always be remembered for a song that doesn’t represent him particularly well. In a way, that sucks for him as an artist. In another way, those royalty checks probably keep his mansion well-stocked in cocaine and hookers.

But most one-hit wonders don’t have the musical chops of a Bobby McFerrin. Their one-hit does accurately represent the entirety of their musical identity. In most cases those one-hit wonders weren’t able to sustain a career precisely because that one-hit gave us exactly what we needed from them. There are countless songs that fit into this category, but a great example is Toni Basil and her hit “Mickey.” “Mickey” fairly represented both the early MTV era of 1982 as well as Toni Basil’s musical vision, so we don’t need anything more from her.

The next level up from the one-hit wonder is the one-and-a-half-hit wonder. In this scenario, a band, take Extreme for example, hits it big with one huge song (“More Than Words”). Since people enjoyed that one song so thoroughly that they were more than willing to try another song (“Hole Hearted”) that showed a different side of the band. And while “Hole Hearted” became a moderate hit it couldn’t quite reach the heights of “More Than Words,” which caused people to question whether they like the band Extreme or just the song “More Than Words”. As a result, their inability to nail that second hit sealed Extreme’s fate of better than one-hit wonders but not good enough to sustain a consistent career.

In conclusion, my theory is that every band in the history of music can easily be slotted into one of those 4 categories: consistent band, good one-hitters, bad one-hitters or one-and-a-half hitters.

Except for one band: Ambrosia.

The world’s only three hit wonder.

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Comments

The Curious Case of a Band Called Ambrosia, the World's Only Three-Hit Wonder — 23 Comments

  1. You need to go beyond their greatest hits. You need to listen to each of their albums and you will find gems such as “Endings”, “We Need You Too”, or “Livin’ On My Own” to name a few. Yes they had a hard time finding their sound/rhythm and sadly that is why they were not a bigger band when they should had been. Like them many others.

  2. I think that Ambrosia was a terrific band and yes, they did have three marvelous soft-rock hits. What’s wrong with that? A lot of struggling bands would die to have that kind of success! I do agree with Lorenzo that you need to listen to all of their albums to find a few other gems, but I can listen to their three big hits over and over. These are timeless hits that make me feel good whenever I listen to them.

  3. omg!! Have you even listened to Somewhere I’ve never traveled? It has so many great songs that weren’t hits & should have been! Can’t let a woman, Nice, Nice Very Nice, Cowboy Star, I wanna Know, Time waits for no one The album is AMAZING! There IS a few weird stuff in between like the Animal sounds & that organ noise during Cowboy Star but besides that I just LOVE it! I remember having the 8 track tape back in the day and also went to see them with Foghat back in 1976. Actually it was crazy; as I was totally rocking out to them, they were booed off the stage! I couldn’t believe it! Does anyone remember that? But anyways I recently got the cd and wow!! just getting those great feelings again. I can’t stop listening to it!

  4. “barring significant line-up changes or finding god.”

    That is beyond the funniest line. I almost spat my coffee. Great overall post. I feel the same as you.

  5. Could not disagree more. Sure there are a couple dogs on the Anthology CD but to call it unlistenable is way to harsh. The three hits mentioned are sweet, chick orientated Pop songs (very good ones I grant you) to which Mitch certainly has an affinity towards. That is in-between his playing of Barry Manilow and Bette Midler CD’s. I’d suggest a second listen after a couple brewski’s.

  6. I liked a lot more of their music than just their top three (listed above) hits. I’m going to see the most recent incarnation of the group this Saturday. They are claiming a new album for 2015 so that might make it interesting if they can capture the magic of their original hits. with so few original members, it will be interesting.
    I totally agree about Extreme. ‘More than Words’ can be listened to a thousand times with enjoyment…everything else I’ve heard by them was ‘head banger’ noise.
    It’s always amazed me that so many great singer/songwriters can be so prolific in their younger years and fail to keep up that quality and originality as they age. I saw Billy Joel in San Francisco last weekend and he admitted he hadn’t released an album in over 22 years. He cranked out gorgeous melody after gorgeous melody (not to mention the great lyrics) for so many years and then the well dried up, I guess.
    Such a shame but it happened so often, it must be part of living on this planet.
    You could say that after their success and the money and fame rolled in, they lost the urge to succeed and that dried up the creativity. If that is true, then someone should let Keith Richards and Mick Jagger know. They still get a good song out every few years and so does Bob Seger.
    I’ll let you know how the latest incarnation of Ambrosia was to see. I’m hoping for the best. Saw Little River Band at the same venue last year and while they had nothing new, they could play their hits and sound just like the original record (which is really what we go to see anyway).
    I walked of a Bob Dylan concert along with half the audience a couple of years ago. He had changed all of old hits so much nobody could recognize them…and not for the better. So sad.

  7. You obviously have spend little time listening to Ambrosia’s first two albums… Ambrosia (1975 Debut) and Somewhere I’ve Never Traveled. None of the big 3 hits were on these albums. Both albums are brilliant! Both albums were nominated for a Grammy. Billboard praised Somewhere I’ve Never Traveled as a “work of collective genius.” The first album is one of the best debut albums that was put out in the 70′s. “Time Waits For No One”… “Make Us All Aware”… “Mama Frog”… “Drink Of Water.” These songs were progressive and not top 40. Listen to “Life Beyond L.A.” and “Apothecary” off the 3rd album titled “Life Beyond L.A. You couldn’t be more wrong IMO!

  8. If you like the 80′s soft rock you might want to checkout other Ambrosia songs like “I Just Can’t Let Go – Ambrosia feat James Ingram & Michael McDonald” and “Holding on to Yesterday”. And how the 3 songs you mentioned could be hits and “How can you love me” was not is just confusing. This song had all the 80′s sound to it. Delve into Ambrosia as suggested by others and you will be a fan!

  9. Ambrosia is a shitty band the 3 best songs you have mentionned are at the limit average but the rest is crap. Who can enjoy this music it`s outside my comprehension.

    By the way I play piano and guitar

  10. When your music tastes mature you will see how wrong headed this article is. If the band’s music is so bad, why then, do they get north of $150.00 for the cheapie concert seats.

  11. Mitch – for a music fan, you’re incredibly lazy! – Either a total fucking curmudgeon, or tone-deaf… or just shilling for the absolutely aesthetically bankrupt slave-trade, aka -The Music Industry! Ambrosia’s first record is MAGNIFICO!!! “Nice, Nice, Very Nice”, “Time Waits for No One”, and “Make us all Aware / Lover Arrived” could not have been written by any of the current Hit-Makers – Taylor Swift, or “Con-ye”… Yeah – right!

  12. “3 Hit wonder”??? Puleeeeez!!! And the stupid reference to “sweet chick oriented pop songs”? Anyone who relies on top 40 hits and labels such as the afore mentioned reference to great harmonies, excellent lyrics and musicianship is just a fool. Sorry, but my group of music loving friends and myself would never be so shallow. So much of Ambrosia’s music is way beyond “hits”, since that never mattered. Hits just means you sell a lot of records. Big deal. Although it is important to sell a lot of records, that shouldn’t be the way to rely on finding great music. Most of my taste always ran in the underground, and from that time period is only being discovered by more of the population now. Now it’s considered “cool” to enjoy all the great stuff from the counterculture of the past. But don’t be so judgemental. There is some wonderful music from newer bands as well, but you ain’t gonna find it on the radio.

  13. i don’t know much more about ambrosia but I do know that after 35 years when I hear David pach. Voice it still puts a lump in my throat and makes me want to reach out to one off u beautiful women and……..tell u how much I feel!!!!

  14. To Jo blow fest u could stand by ur comments with yOur name second, I’m in to Pop metal even heavier I also play guitar but if ur the bagging musicin u claim to be u think u would be able to spot fantastic chord progressions great harmonies and a song that makes u feel just because it’s not ur style ur eyes and ears are closed if u really want to be a great musician u should probably close ur mouth and judgement and listen to some talented aspects of what ever style ur listening to I hope ur musicianship grows faster than ur maturity ps appreciate all of it music is a true gift fromGod bob maina

  15. one of the best progressive bands ever. The three songs mentioned are good but most of the rest of their songs are amazing,great musicians, great vocals and harmonies!!!

  16. You obviously are NOT a music CRITIC or genius…what about “Holding on to Yesterday” or “Nice, Nice”…the 3 songs that YOU feel are thier top 3 are NOT thier best by FAR…those songs merely conformed to the sound of the times back then

  17. My favorite band from the ’70′s. “Can’t Let A Woman” my favorite song. Talented. Intricate music style compared to the shit produced today.

  18. Excuse me, you’ve forgotten:
    “Nice, Nice, Very Nice”
    “Time Waits for No One”
    “Holdin’ on to Yesterday”
    “World Leave Me Alone”
    “Make Us All Aware”
    “Lover Arrive”
    “Drink of Water”

    I just so love when people don’t know their facts. You’ve forgotten an entire album! And if anything lacked, it was not because of the band, it was because of the producer. Thanks for your input. You know where you can input it.

  19. I disagree with this post Mitch. Ambrosia’s first LP was great and a constant favorite for lots of folks – as you’ve seen from the other comments here. As was pointed out “Nice, Nice, Very Nice” is a great example. They aren’t for everyone, but they are much more than 3-hit Wonders.

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