Between late 1979 and the end of 1989, there were nearly 500 (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s that reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 just one time, a list that includes Soft Cell, Gary Numan, Timbuk 3, The Church, Bronski Beat, Nik Kershaw, The Buggles, The Waitresses, Ultravox and two different bands named The Silencers. Once a week, I’ll highlight a (real) one-hit wonder for you.
It’s April 30, 2017, and for the first time in awhile, I’ve been under the weather all weekend. Maybe (or, rather, hopefully), it’s one of those 48-hour bugs. So, I wanted to find a (real) one-hit wonder of the 80s that makes me feel better just by listening to it, both then and now. One song immediately came to mind – “Sausalito Summernight” by the Dutch Pop / Rock band, Diesel.
Not many music acts hailing from The Netherlands have reached the shores of the U.S. Pop chart, or in this case, the BILLBOARD Hot 100, but there have been some. In the 80s alone, that list included Golden Earring and Stars On 45. Even Van Halen namesake and brothers Eddie Van Halen and Alex Van Halen are from Holland.
Diesel (not to be confused with the Massachusetts-born, Australian-raised musician) formed in late 1978 as a hobby, but within a year, the then-four-man band released a couple of singles, one of which, called “Goin’ Back To China,” nearly reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in 1982, stopping at No. 105.
“Goin’ Back To China” reached No. 34 in the band’s Dutch homeland, while their next single, “Down In The Silvermine,” was the band’s biggest hit in Holland, reaching No. 16. Diesel’s first four singles appeared on their 1980 debut album, WATTS IN A TANK.
Diesel’s fourth single from WATTS IN A TANK, “Sausalito Summernight,” was released as the band’s first single here in America. And it was an instant favorite with yours truly.
“Sausalito Summernight” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-September 1981, receiving decent airplay on both Rock and Top 40 stations. It debuted in the Top 40 five weeks after its Hot 100 arrival, spent a week at its No. 25 peak in late November 1981, and finished its 18-week chart run in early January 1982. Diesel wouldn’t reach the Hot 100 again. In Holland, “Sausalito Summernight” stopped at No. 33, while in Canada, it fared well, No. 10.
In 1982, Diesel released their second album, UNLEADED, but it was not well-received. The band would continue to release singles through 1985, broke up and reformed in 1988 for one year, having minor success in Holland with a single called “Samantha.”
The band’s original four members reunited in 2004 for a charity event, and there were plans to reform the group in the years that followed, but in mid-November 2009, bassist Frank Papendrecht died of a heart attack. Strangely enough, less than a week later, drummer and keyboardist (and producer of WATTS IN A TANK and “Sausalito Summernight”) Pim Koopman also died of a heart attack.
Today, founding members Rob Vunderink and Mark Boon (both on lead vocals and guitars) carry on as Diesel as a five-man band, performing at festivals, and working on a new album. In March 2017, they released a fun single called, “Like Hell I Will!”
Though “Sausalito Summernight” (a song about the beleaguered last miles of a road trip in the San Francisco area) could be (and was) mistaken as a song by Steve Miller, it was one of those songs from my early days of getting to know music that was always fun to listen to, replete with a kick-ass guitar solo.
More than 35 years later, I still love hearing this song, and any time of the year (doesn’t have to be Summer), I will always gladly hop aboard that five-minute road trip known as “Sausalito Summernight.”