“But where were they going without ever knowing the way…?”
One-hit wonders are a curious thing to me. What is it about that one particular song that made it a hit, while everything else they tried to do was largely ignored? Maybe it was just a particular moment in time when the stars aligned perfectly and public taste met in a divine encounter with one uniquely written and produced piece of music to create a piece of melodic history that would never be replicated again.
Or maybe it was just dumb luck.
Whatever the case may be, the musical landscape is littered with one-hit wonders who enjoyed their 15 minutes of fame and then vanished from sight. To be honest, a lot of them deserved better. Many of them had songs that were just as good or better than the ones they became known for. For example, when a friend of mine played Deep Blue Something’s Home for me, I thought there were several tracks just as strong as “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Of course, Deep Blue Something then went on to have another hit with … um … yeah, that…
The thing many one-hit wonders’, um, one hit (er, hits) is that it is played so many times on the radio and on television and in department stores and anywhere else music can be piped into, we all eventually become sick of it (um, them). The songs just become inescapable, and we all wind up just wanting them to go away. Of course, then we hear them several years later and think to ourselves, “Huh. I wonder what ever happened to those guys…?”.
It was nearly impossible to go anywhere in 1998, for example, with hearing Fastball’s “The Way.” In reality, it’s a very catchy song with very interesting lyrics (More on that later…), but after a while I stopped even caring what it was about. I didn’t care where those people were going or whether they knew how to get there or not. I was greatly relieved when the follow-up single “Fire Escape” was released, but I couldn’t tell you today how that song went at all. I sure do remember “The Way,” though.
Even though “The Way” seemed to be emanating from every possible speaker it could that year, I don’t know if many people knew (or even know now) where the idea for the song came from. Vocalist and bass player Tony Scalzo got the idea for the song after reading several articles about Lela and Raymond Howard of Salado, Texas. Unfortunately, the Howards’ story is not a happy one. Despite Lela suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease and Raymond recovering from brain surgery, the elderly couple decided in June 1997 to leave home and set out for the Pioneer Day festival in nearby Temple, Texas.
They never arrived. Their lifeless bodies were found two weeks later at the bottom of a ravine in Hot Springs, Arkansas. They were nowhere near Temple, Texas, or the Pioneer Day festival.
Scalzo, however, decided to take the concept of a couple just dropping everything, no matter the circumstances, and taking off and romanticized it a bit. The couple in the song is apparently a bit older, although that’s never addressed specifically. They don’t tell their children where they’re going. In fact, they don’t even know where they’re going themselves, and, as the chorus succinctly puts it, “they really don’t care.” Wherever they wind up, “they’re happier there today.”
Why did “The Way” become so popular for Fastball? I don’t know if anyone will ever really know for sure, but here’s my theory: Everyone, at some point in their lives, has wanted to just to drop everything and take off. No responsibilities, no one to answer to, no worrying about how expensive everything is going to be or who is going to take of care of things at home. As irresponsible and dangerous as the couple in the song’s trip may seem, they are obviously quite happy in what they are doing. That kind of freedom seems elusive to so many of us. We would like to run away, too, but we just can’t.
Even though I’m way too much of a flat-foot to ever find running enjoyable, I always thought it would be kind of cool to pull a Forrest Gump and just take off one day. No destination. Just see how far I can get. Yeah, it probably wouldn’t be the brightest decision I ever made. Sure might be fun, though.