Today, Soundcheck is debuting a new, occasional series called That Was A Hit?!?, in which we examine the baffling success of pop hits that probably should never have been pop hits. In our inaugural installment, Billboard magazine's Joe Levy delves into a few songs that strangely found themselves near the top of the charts, including Bloodrock's 1971 hit "D.O.A."
Levy was also on Soundcheck, talking about a few unlikely, improbably musical hits.
"Laying here looking at the ceiling," goes the first line of "D.O.A." by Bloodrock, which could be a pretty promising start for a Top 40 single from 1971, especially since just a few seconds later the singer is telling us about something warm flowing down his fingers. Hey, maybe little explicit, but it is the ‘70s, the decade where soft-rock come ons that started with stuff about climbing on rainbows progressed quickly to blunt propositions like, "If you’re wondering where this song is leading, I’d like to make it with you."
Thing is, the second line isn't about a warm wind blowing the stars around or pina colada fueled walks in the rain. It’s about a hospital attendant pulling a sheet across the singer's chest. That warm stuff causing the sticky fingers? Human blood!
"D.O.A." is definitely deserves a nomination for the strangest hit of all time: 4:35 of plodding chiller-theater rock sung from the POV of a guy who’s been in plane crash. "I try to move my arm and there’s no feeling, and when I look I see there’s nothing there." His girlfriend is dead next to him. The chorus? "I remember! We were flying along, and hit something in the air." Bloodrock were distressingly literal, so along with ambulance sirens you get details like "the sheets are red and moist where I’m lying" and the climatic line, "God in Heaven, teach me how to die." It’s actually kind of simple: First you stop breathing...
It’s hard to imagine something this gruesome on the radio, let alone on enough radios across the nation to climb the chart. Thing is, it was a No. 36 hit for six-shaggy haired dudes from Ft. Worth, Texas, one of whom was a would-be pilot who’d actually seen a friend die in a small plane crash and written “D.O.A.” in response.