the #1 hit records on the pop charts 1968

THIS IS THE NINTH in a se­ries of ten ar­ti­cles listing and ad­dressing the #1 records of the year as they ap­peared on Cash Box mag­a­zine’s Top 100 chart from 1960 through 1969. It was orig­i­nally pub­lished as “Grazing In The Grass With Mrs. Robinson” on my pub­li­ca­tion Tell It Like It Was on Medium on Sep­tember 19, 2019. The ar­ticle below is iden­tical to that one.

Please read “In­tro­duc­tion To The #1 Records On The Cash Box Pop Chart Of The 1960s” be­fore reading this ar­ticle. It will ex­plain the na­ture of this project, in­tro­duce you to the writers whose opin­ions follow, and will make every­thing easier to understand.

The opin­ions ex­pressed below are those of John Ross, Lew Shiner, and me. John is the talent be­hind the Round Place In The Middle web­site where he opines about rock & roll, western movies, and de­tec­tive novels. John is my fa­vorite writer writing about rock & roll. He is cur­rently working on his first novel.

Lew is one of the finest nov­el­ists in America. Since you’re reading his name here, start with his novel Glimpses, which com­bines time-travel with fan­tasy and the mi­lieu of ’60s rock music. Follow that with De­serted Cities Of The Heart (time-travel and psy­che­delic mush­rooms!) and then his latest, Out­side The Gates Of Heaven, which also takes place in the ’60s.

If you want to skim through this ar­ticle and skip around from record to record or com­ment to com­ment, that works and you’ll have fun. But this ar­ticle will make more sense if you read it from be­gin­ning to end.

One of the first things you will no­tice is that each of the ar­ti­cles opens with a cal­endar of events that re­flect the zeit­geist of the era. Hope­fully, these will give you some back­ground and some con­text in which the #1 records of that were made.

 JohnFred PlayboyBand bw 1000

FEATURED ARTIST: In the last weeks of 1967, well after SGT. PEPPER blew mil­lions of minds and tens of thou­sands of those mind-blown lis­teners put some flowers in their hair and headed to San Fran­cisco and the Summer of Love, a rather strange record from a group with a dorky name started get­ting a lot of air­play on Top 40 radio sta­tions across the country.

The first hun­dred times I heard Judy In Dis­guise (With Glasses)—and there was no way to avoid it if you fol­lowed the hits—I thought that John Fred & His Playboy Band (I mean, c’mon, that’s so, so unhip a name!) were a bunch of old farts (maybe even in their thir­ties!) trying their earnest best to cap­ture the sounds and feel of the psy­che­delic ’60s.

And failing.

I didn’t get the spot-on humor of the record even when it hit the top­per­most of the pop­per­most on every chart in the country and gone its blessed way to Golden Oldies Land.

In 1971, I found a sealed stereo copy of the JUDY IN DISGUISE album for 99¢ and bought it. I played it while stoned and got it!

Fi­nally.

1968

Jan­uary
The North Viet­namese launched the Tet Offensive.

Feb­ruary
A
pex Nov­el­ties pub­lished Robert Crumb’s Zap Comix #1.

March
Amer­ican troops mas­sa­cred hun­dreds of Viet­namese civil­ians in what be­came known as the My Lai Mas­sacre. It helped un­der­mine public sup­port for the U.S. ef­forts in Vietnam. Three US ser­vicemen tried to halt the mas­sacre and rescue hiding civil­ians; these men were shunned and de­nounced as traitors. 

April
Martin Luther King Jr. was as­sas­si­nated at the Lor­raine Motel in Mem­phis, causing riots to erupt around the country.

May
Ap­prox­i­mately 1,000,000 pro­tes­tors marched through the streets of Paris, partly in op­po­si­tion to Amer­ican in­volve­ment in Vietnam.

June
De­mo­crat fron­trunner for the par­ty’s pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion Robert Kennedy was as­sas­si­nated in Los Angeles.

July
Ap­prox­i­mately 1,000 ath­letes with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties par­tic­i­pated in the first In­ter­na­tional Spe­cial Olympics Summer Games in Chicago.

Au­gust
Po­lice at­tacked anti-war pro­testers at the De­mo­c­ratic Na­tional Con­ven­tion in Chicago.

Sep­tember
The tele­vi­sion news show 60 Min­utes débuted on CBS-TV.

Oc­tober
The Walter Reade Or­ga­ni­za­tion re­leased the movie 
The Night of the Living Dead in the US.

No­vember
Richard Nixon was elected Pres­i­dent of the United States.

De­cember
The tele­vi­sion spe­cial Elvis was broad­cast on NBC-TV.

 


 

Medium 45 1967 Beatles HelloGoodbye 600

January 6

The Bea­tles
Hello Goodbye
(1 week)
This record spent one week at #1 on De­cember 30, 1967, for a total of two weeks at the top. Refer to that date for more information.

 

Medium 45 1968 GladysKnight IHeardItThrough 600

January 13

Gladys Knight & the Pips
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Soul S-35039
(1 week)

Gladys Knight—the grit­tiest, the funkiest, and the blue­siest fe­male singer on the Mo­town roster—was given the best song and the best pro­duc­tion of her ca­reer and she makes the most of it. If she had made this one record and died, we’d still re­member her.

Lew: The Gladys Knight ver­sion is fine, but like a lot of folks, I prefer Marvin Gaye (below). Marvin had a quality of longing and pain in his voice that took him over the line into the all-time greats

John: Gladys did add a new di­men­sion to Mo­town, not just the distaff side. As to the com­par­ison be­tween this and Marvin, I’ll just say that her ver­sion could never have fol­lowed his and we all know what hap­pened when his ver­sion fol­lowed hers. That only proves how great his ver­sion was be­cause, in the ab­stract, I wouldn’t have bet this could be bettered.

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: 2,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1968 ArethaFranklin ChainOfFools 600

January 20

Aretha Franklin
Chain Of Fools
At­lantic 45-2464
(1 week)

Back-to-back chart-toppers by two of Amer­i­c­as’s finest fe­male soul singers, Gladys Knight and Aretha Franklin. This was Aretha’s fifth con­sec­u­tive Top 10 single since joining At­lantic the year before.

Lew: This song was written by the in­cred­ible Don Covay (for Otis Red­ding, but Jerry Wexler wisely gave it to Aretha). Covay wrote Mercy, Mercy (later done by the Rolling Stones), Pony Time for Chubby Checker, and a raft of other great songs, in ad­di­tion to being a pow­erful and soulful singer in his own right. In ret­ro­spect, given the gospel feel of the a capella sec­tions, Aretha seems the in­evitable choice for this one.

Neal: And there’s the great dance scene in the 1996 movie Michael where John Tra­volta gets all the gals a-moving and a-grooving by playing Aretha on the jukebox in a cowboy bar. I did not in­clude a link to this scene on YouTube as it has a spoiler for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie. Need­less to say, I rec­om­mend those folks do see it!

John: I’ve en­coun­tered sev­eral anec­dotes of Vietnam vets se­cretly ded­i­cating this one to everyone from LBJ to the lieu­tenant who was risking a frag by or­dering them into the brush one more time. Some of the mem­o­ries may have been re­arranged by the con­ve­nience of hind­sight, but it’s the kind of record that will do that. Pos­sibly Aretha’s greatest, as­suming any one record could carry such a burden.

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (Jan­uary 10, 1968)
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: 2,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes
• Grammy Award: Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal Per­for­mance – Fe­male 1968

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1968 JohnFred JudyInDisguise 600

January 27

John Fred & the Playboy Band
Judy In Dis­guise (With Glasses)
Paula 282
(1 week)

Per­haps the year’s most in­fec­tious record to be such a big hit, it was also the year’s goofiest record to be a big hit. Louisiana’s John Fred & His Playboy Band took a poke at both psychedelia—especially the Bea­tles and SGT. PEPPERand soul music.

So, some­thing that isn’t ob­vious is the meaning of the third line in the third verse: is it “Can­taloupe Eyes, come to me tonight” and “Can­taloupe Eyes” is a pet name the singer uses for Judy?

Or is it “Can­taloupe eyes come to me tonight” and “can­taloupe eyes” is a vi­sion or hal­lu­ci­na­tion the singer is having?

John: Goofy, in­fec­tious, funny. It’s all those things. Forget being a hit. Forget even being made. It’s the kind of record that could only have been dreamed of in the late ’60s. I al­ways thought the lyrics amounted to an at­tempt at a se­cret lan­guage. Reading them just now on­line I pray I was right. As usual, the “real” lyrics are some­where be­tween no big deal and a bummer, man. It’s what you hear in your head that counts!

Neal: The first time I heard this in late 1967, I thought it was a se­rious at­tempt by a bunch of old guys—you know, in their 30s (the ones we were never sup­posed to trust)—trying to sound young. It took me a while to figure out it was a bunch of young guys too busy being funny to have time to be hip.

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (Jan­uary 31, 1968)
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : 
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1968 LemonPipers GreenTambourine 600

February 3

The Lemon Pipers
Green Tam­bourine
Buddah BDA-23
(1 week)

Psy­che­delic music for people who had never done acid. (Which was me in 1968.) And prob­ably never would. (I would; I did.) This gets lumped in with bub­blegum music, with which it has nothing in common, be­cause it was is­sued on Buddah Records and be­cause the group’s follow-up sin­gles were bubblegum.

Lew: I might argue that it has a few things in common with bub­blegum: a com­plete lack of soul, a cal­cu­lated con­struc­tion mo­ti­vated solely by greed, and stupid lyrics. (I was not charmed.)

Neal: For in­ter­ested par­ties, the Lemon Pipers were a very tal­ented band who “sold out” to make some money—a not un­rea­son­able de­ci­sion then or now—who were ca­pable of pro­ducing some fine music. Give a listen to Through With You from their GREEN TAMBOURINE album: it is in­tel­li­gent, ad­ven­turous, and (yes) psychedelic—everything that their silly sin­gles are not.

John: It cer­tainly wasn’t any­where near as strange (or good) as Judy In Dis­guise.

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (Feb­ruary 14, 1968)
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: 2,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: 
Lew : 
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1968 PaulMauriat LoveIsBlue 600

February 10–March 23

Paul Mau­riat & His Orchestra
Love Is Blue (L’Amour Est Bleu)
Philips 40495
(7 weeks)

At the height of the sup­pos­edly Psy­che­delic Six­ties, a French or­chestra led by Paul Mau­riat took the pumped-up, ir­re­sistible, easy-listening in­stru­mental Love Is Blue (L’Amour Est Bleu) to the top of the pop charts, where it re­mained #1 for seven con­sec­u­tive weeks!

In spite of being a fine recording, for many of us record buyers, it over­stayed its wel­come at the top by six weeks.

Lew: I agree that it’s a re­ally ir­re­sistible melody. An in­ter­esting foot­note is that after his split from the Yard­birds, Jeff Beck cov­ered this as one of his first single re­leases, along with the childish Hi Ho Silver Lining and Tal­lyman, on both of which Beck did lead vocals.

These were the, uh, un­usual de­ci­sions of pro­ducer Mickey Most, as he flailed around trying to find a di­rec­tion for the band. Beck fi­nally put his foot down and in­sisted on Rod Stewart being al­lowed to sing, and the rest is history—or at least TRUTH.

John: Well, it’s better than Percy Faith. I’ll give it that.

Neal: John, that’s a good way to look at this record, be­cause while it is or­ches­trated easy-listening, it’s night-and-day dif­ferent from the or­ches­trated easy-listening hits of the first few years of the decade by Percy Faith and Bert Kaempfert!

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: Yes (5 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (Feb­ruary 27, 1968)
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: 4,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1968 Monkees Valleri 600

March 30–April 6

The Mon­kees
Val­leri
Col­gems 66-1019
(2 weeks)

The Pre-Fab For re­stored some bal­ance to the pop charts with a neat piece of hard-driving pop-rock.

Lew: Ne­smith tries to tear off some hot flamenco-style licks on the lead break. I re­member a lot of us at the time saying, “Wow, is that re­ally Nesmith?”

Then my lead gui­tarist said, “Of course it’s Ne­smith. Listen to all the flubbed notes.”

Oh, right. You’d never hear that many mis­takes on a record these days.

Points for am­bi­tion, anyway.

John: Wikipedia and other sources list ses­sion man Louis Shelton as playing the fla­menco guitar part. If he flubbed notes it was prob­ably in im­i­ta­tion of the garage band ethos pop­ular at the time, proving, yet again, that pros can im­i­tate am­a­teurs a lot better than am­a­teurs can im­i­tate pros. An­other great Davy Jones vocal, though again he seems to have been the only Monkee on the record. Heading for a breakup, they were get­ting to be like the Bea­tles in more ways than one.

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (Feb­ruary 26, 1968)
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1968 GaryPuckett YoungGirl PS 600

Medium 45 1968 GaryPuckett YoungGirl 600

April 13

Gary Puckett & the Union Gap
Young Girl
Co­lumbia 4-44450
(1 week)

While it’s easy to ad­mire Gary Puck­ett’s raw vocal chops—Elvis was a fan—for many rock & roll fans, he was one of the more ob­nox­ious singers of the decade. He is one of those artists who ap­par­ently sold al­most all of his records to young girls.

The lyrics to Young Girl tell of a man ap­par­ently sleeping with an under-age “girl” and then blaming her for fooling him. The song is kind of sordid, even though such sce­narios play out every day in “real life.” The pa­thetic part is the man blaming a girl for her pulling the wool over his en­am­ored eyes.

On a lighter note, in high school, we used to sing, “Young girl, get out of my pants!” But what did a bunch of pimple-faced, 16-year-old vir­gins know, right?

John: Puckett’s angst al­ways sounded con­vincing to me. Maybe Elvis liked this be­cause it had him flashing on Priscilla. You know, in Germany.

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (April 5, 1968)
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : 
Neal: 

 

Medium 45 1968 BobbyGoldsboro Honey 600

April 20–May 11

Bobby Golds­boro
Honey
United Artists UA-50283
(4 weeks)

For those of us who thought it couldn’t get any worse than Young Girl, Bobby Golds­boro’s Honey al­most single-handedly re­de­fined the term “sappy.” The song is about the singer re­mem­bering his dead wife and the re­frain is “Honey, I miss you and I’m being good, and I’d love to be with you if only I could.”

Well, the thing is he could—easily! But then this song would be about his sui­cide in­stead of his loss.

Lew: This song was guar­an­teed to send me lunging for the push-buttons on my car radio to change the sta­tion. I’m lucky I didn’t wreck the car.

John: I get all the ob­jec­tions to this and I might feel very dif­fer­ently if it had been gum­ming up my radio when I was a teenager. But as someone who bought it on a 45 a decade later on the sole rec­om­men­da­tion that it had been a big hit in a decade I loved from afar, I don’t hate it.

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: Yes (5 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (April 4, 1968)
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: 3,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : 
Neal: 

 

Medium 45 1968 ArcheBell TightenUp 600

May 18

Archie Bell & the Drells
Tighten Up
At­lantic 45-2478
(1 week)

One of the lightest-weight soul records to be a hit at any time. this wiped the sap off the air­waves left be­hind by Honey. In hind­sight, it sounds like “Dance To The Music Lite”—bubblegum soul music.

Lew: This song lends it­self to parody (e.g., Loosen Up by The Nazz), es­pe­cially the spoken word intro (“Hi, every­body! I’m Archie Bell and the Drells …”), but thanks to Archie giving a shout-out to the Bayou City, it was very big in Texas, and all the local combos (in­cluding mine) cov­ered it. I still find it rather charming, whether be­cause of or in spite of Archie’s less than tuneful singing.

Neal: I forgot all about The Nazz track. I bought their first two al­bums when they came out (Philly only being a couple of hours away from Wilkes-Barre so I heard their sin­gles on the radio) and loved them! The first two al­bums were super but NAZZ III was such a bringdown.

John: Groovy and groovin’. There’s no year that can’t use some of that.

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (May 22, 1968)
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John:✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1968 SimonGarfunkel MrsRobinson 600

May 25–June 15

Simon & Garfunkel
Mrs. Robinson
Co­lumbia 4-44511
(4 weeks)

Simon & Gar­funkel brought us back to just how good folky-based pop music could be with the super-savvy Mrs. Robinson, which was #1 for four weeks.

Most people who played this record end­lessly prob­ably hadn’t a clue as to what the mem­o­rable line “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio, our na­tion turns its lonely eyes to you” meant, but who cared.

Koo-koo-ka-choo, in­deed!

Lew: This is clever in spots and cer­tainly well-produced by the great Roy Halee (who en­gi­neered the Lovin’ Spoonful and others be­fore be­coming a pro­ducer in his own right), but singing about a char­acter from a movie didn’t touch me the way The Sounds Of Si­lence or I Am A Rock or Home­ward Bound had.

John: “Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio” meant the center could not hold. It didn’t.

Lew: Nice one, John.

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: Yes (3 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (June 10, 1968)
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes
• Grammy Award: Record of the Year 1968
• Grammy Award: Best Con­tem­po­rary Pop Per­for­mance – Vocal Duo or Group 1968

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1968 HerbAlpert ThisGuysInLoveWithYou PS 600

Medium 45 1968 HerbAlpert ThisGuysInLoveWithYou 600

June 22–July 13

Herb Alpert
This Guy’s In Love With You
A&M 929
(4 weeks)

Trumpet player and band­leader Alpert was prob­ably second only to the Bea­tles in selling LP al­bums in the ’60s with his Ti­juana Brass. With this record, he stepped out as a singer and sur­prised every­body with a hit that stayed at #1 for four straight weeks.

Not al­lowing Gary Puckett to have the chick’s record niche to him­self, Herb steps away from his Ti­juana Brass and croons the kind of song I nor­mally as­so­ciate with Charles Boyer (al­though he’d have done it slower, fun­nier, sexier).

John: I find this con­vincing, too. Herb should have sung more. And, from Elvis on down, I’ve never re­ally been steered wrong by trusting “chicks’” tastes.

Neal: Frankie Avalon? Sajid Khan? Bobby Sherman? Michael Bolton? All those face­less “boy bands” and “over­wrought” divas of the past few decades?

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: Yes (4 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (July 16, 1968)
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes (Life­time Achieve­ment in the Non-Performer Category)

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1968 RollingStones JumpinJackFlash PS 600

Medium 45 1968 RollingStones JumpinJackFlash 600

July 20

The Rolling Stones
Jumpin’ Jack Flash
London 45-908
(1 week)

What a breath of fresh air! Jumpin’ Jack Flash was the hardest rock record of the year to top the charts. It was also one of the few rock records to top the charts. If you were a fan of real rock & roll, this was prob­ably the best #1 record of the year!

Of course, in the summer of ’68, I was still in my loathing the Stones pe­riod, al­though I had re­ally en­joyed the THEIR SATANIC MAJESTIES REQUEST album, which would be­come the first Stones record I would own. My brother and I spent a couple of weeks with our best friend Connie Flynn as guests at a cabin in the Poconos Moun­tains (back when the Poconos was an af­ford­able va­ca­tion spot for working-class fam­i­lies and hadn’t been ac­quired by yup­pies, the nou­veau riches, etc.).

That summer is mem­o­rable be­cause Donnie had brought the Stones new single along with him and played it end­lessly, forcing me to listen to “It’s a gas-gas-gas” end­lessly. And I started to like it, too.

What was even more mem­o­rable than ac­knowl­edging to my­self that Jag­ger’s singing was get­ting to me was that Donnie, Charles, and I went to the Pocono Play­house a couple of nights, which also served as a reper­tory movie the­ater. There we saw a movie that scared the pants off of us: Robert Wise’s 1963 movie The Hauntingstill the best darn ghost movie ever made!

Okay, we kept our pants on throughout the movie but to­ward the end, we three sea­soned horror movie buffs were so shocked by one scene that we spilled every­thing in our hands—popcorn, soda, candy, whatever—onto the floor!

If you’ve seen the movie, you should re­member the scene I am talking about. Like ol’ Jumpin Jack Flash, Hugh Crain was a gas-gas-gas!

Lew: What is this song about? Sure, rock songs don’t have to be about any­thing, but on this one, I felt the vacuum. Lots of rep­e­ti­tion, both lyri­cally and musically—a bridge would have helped. The Stones still had great work ahead of them (EXILE ON MAIN STREET), but I’m feeling dol­drums here.

Neal: Please allow me to in­tro­duce Mr. Jack Flash, he’s a man of wealth and taste.

John: This record was the re­sult of Mick Jagger’s third deal with Beelzebub (see July 10, 1965, for de­tails of the second deal). I’m not at lib­erty to re­veal every­thing, but the con­ver­sa­tion began with, “It’s the band. They keep coming up with these riffs. I’m going to need that new voice we spoke about.”

It ended with, “Al­right, Al­ta­mont it is then. I’ll give Manson to the Bea­tles. We’ll speak again in ’73,” and a promise the lyrics would never be prop­erly tran­scribed, let alone understood.

Neal: Be­fore you turn this Mick-Jagger-meets-the-Devil (and one of my fa­vorite nick­names for the Fallen One is “Old Scratch”) into a novel, you might want to read George R.R. Mar­t­in’s Ar­mageddon Rag.

John: I will do that … be­fore I turn it into a novel. I’m not promising any­thing in re­gards to pub­lishing full tran­scripts of these little con­ver­sa­tions, though. Ne­go­ti­a­tions are ongoing.

Neal: I just fin­ished Tom O’Neill’s Chaos – Charles Manson, The CIA And The Se­cret His­tory Of The Six­ties. If O’Neill is correct—and the ev­i­dence he presents is mighty convincing—you may have to re­think the Manson/Beatles thing.

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1968 HughMasekela GrazingInTheGrass 600

July 27

Hugh Masekela
Grazing in the Grass
Uni 55066
(1 week)

The year’s second in­stru­mental to top the chart, Grazing In The Grass was a blend of jazz and soul that sounded pure pop. Masekela cut the track at the last minute to have enough ma­te­rial for his new album! As a pop artist, Masekela was a one-hit-wonder, as none of his other sin­gles even came close to the Top 40.

Masekela was last heard on the Top 40 ac­com­pa­nying the Byrds on So You Want To Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star in early 1967, and he had ap­peared with them at the Mon­terey In­ter­na­tional Pop Fes­tival in June ’67.

In 1969, the Friends of Dis­tinc­tion had a good-sized hit with a vocal ver­sion of Grazing In The Grass (and which sounds like proto-disco fifty years later).

Lew: Not that there’s any­thing wrong with proto-disco, right, Neal? I think Masekela is a great trum­peter (sure kicks Herb Alpert’s ass!) and I love this song. Es­pe­cially the Friends of Dis­tinc­tion ver­sion, with its in­ter­locking, rapid-fire vocal lines and sunny vibe.

Neal: I worked as a bar­tender at the Cosmic Train, the first ’70s era disco in North­eastern Penn­syl­vania in 1973. I liked discos—especially as it got girls out of jeans and into dresses—and I liked disco music. I used to tell people, “If disco ever breaks out of discos and onto radio and we have to hear it every­where all the time, we’re all gonna hate it real fast.” (Sigh.)

John: This is one of those left-field hits which never happen any­where on your radio dial any­more. It’s not one I seek out but it’s al­ways fun to en­counter it at random.

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (July 18, 1968)
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1968 GaryPuckett LadyWillpower PS 600

Medium 45 1968 GaryPuckett LadyWillpower 600

August 3

Gary Puckett & the Union Gap
Lady Willpower
Co­lumbia 4-44547
(1 week)

Gary Puckett was back, ar­guably more ob­nox­ious that he had been a few months be­fore. Little girls ate it up.

John: Gary seems to have gotten over his de­sire to send the sweet young thing away. And ex­pe­ri­ence has taught me that little girls are often right about these things

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (July 18, 1968)
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : 
Neal: 

 

Medium 45 1968 MasonWilliams CalssicalGas 600

August 10

Mason Williams
Clas­sical Gas
Warner Brothers 7190
(1 week)

Yet an­other in­stru­mental to make it to #1, and de­spite the pro­fi­ciency of the playing and the clev­er­ness of the pro­duc­tion, it’s still a lot more easy-listening than it is rock or soul!

Lew: This is one of those in­stances where trying to stuff some­thing into a genre is Pro­crustean at best. This is just a great song and doesn’t fit as rock or easy lis­tening. The guitar playing is mas­terful and melodic, the drums and horn sec­tion are pow­erful and dri­ving, the strings sweet and emo­tional, the time changes any­thing but “easy.” The ex­cel­lent pro­duc­tion never buries the guitar, yet lets the or­chestra blow it out. This is still a great listen.

John: This sounds like it should have been the theme to an acid western star­ring Jack Nicholson as the hired gun. That’s a compliment.

Neal: Howz­about a western where Jack Nicholson is the good guy (in com­par­ison to all the other men in the story) sheep farmer who has to fend off a hired a gunman played by some actor so huge he not only wouldn’t be in­tim­i­dated by Nicholson but would steal scenes from him and Nicholson would think it was cool?

Someone like, oh, I don’t know … say, Marlon Brando?

John: Sounds as though you liked Mis­souri Breaks more than I did. Maybe acid helps?

Neal: I think I liked Mis­souri Breaks more than just about any of the few people who saw it! I think Rolling Stone did an in­ter­view with Nicholson at the time, asking him about Bran­do’s scene-stealing, which Jack thought were bril­liant and hilarious.

Hmmm, I don’t think Jack or Marlon were trip­ping at the time; next time I see it, I will look for the tell-tale signs (es­pe­cially the trails be­hind them when­ever they move quickly).

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No
• Grammy Award: Best In­stru­mental Arrange­ment 1968
• Grammy Award: Best Con­tem­po­rary Pop Per­for­mance – In­stru­mental 1968
• Grammy Award: Best In­stru­mental Theme 1968

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1968 Doors HelloILoveYou PS 600

August 17

The Doors
Hello, I Love You, Won’t You Tell Me Your Name?
Elektra EK-45635
(1 week)

No­tice that the song’s orig­inal title on the single is a ques­tion: Hello, I Love You, Won’t You Tell Me Your Name? (Tech­ni­cally, it should be some­thing like “Hello, I Love You! Won’t You Tell Me Your Name?”) When it was in­cluded on the WAITING FOR THE SUN album, it was con­densed to a state­ment: Hello, I Love You.

With one single the psychedelic/blues/poetry foun­da­tion that propped up the rep­u­ta­tion of Jim Mor­rison crum­bled. “Hello, I Love You” was ef­fec­tively bub­blegum music for the older sib­lings of kids who were buying bub­blegum music records by the mil­lions in 1968.

I con­sider the Doors’ self-titled—normally I would say “epony­mous” but that’s an­other word so reg­u­larly mis­used by writers-without-dictionaries that I’m no longer cer­tain most readers would un­der­stand its meaning—first album to be one of the great rock al­bums of all time. That said, fifty years later and I am still sur­prised at how quickly the group de­volved from Crystal Ship and Moon­light Drive (1967) to Hello I Love You and Touch Me (1968), which we all wish were iron­ical but aren’t.

Lew: Ac­tu­ally the song pre­dates the Doors per se and harks back to its pre­de­cessor, Rick & the Ravens, so was written no later than early 1965. They res­ur­rected it in sheer des­per­a­tion to fill out WAITING FOR THE SUN after they were un­able to get a us­able recording of the in­tended cen­ter­piece of the album, Cel­e­bra­tion Of The Lizard. The flip side, Love Street, is just as ter­rible, proving that Mor­rison didn’t have to look to the past to come up with a bad song.

John: This might be a func­tion of growing up half a gen­er­a­tion later, but I’ve never been able tell good Doors from bad Doors. Robert Christgau once wrote of Jim Mor­rison: “I prefer his Tommy James to his An­tonin Ar­taud.” It doesn’t happen often, but I’m with Christgau on this one.

Neal: I con­sider the first two al­bums—THE DOORS and STRANGE DAYS (the ones where Jimbo wasn’t f*cked-up drunk)—to be among the best al­bums of the ’60s. I frankly don’t care if I ever hear the others again.

I loved Christ­gau’s system for sep­a­rating al­bums for re­view that ap­peared in Christ­gau’s Record Guide! Back in the 1960s and early ’70s, when I paid sooo much at­ten­tion to record re­views in Craw­daddy, Rolling Stone, etc., it never dawned on me to con­sider the chore of merely lis­tening to hun­dreds of al­bums a week to pick a few to write about. His system was brutal to cer­tain types of records and artists but what can a poor boy do?

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (Au­gust 28, 1968)
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : 
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1968 Rascals PeopleGotToBeFree 600

August 24–September 7

The Ras­cals
People Got To Be Free
At­lantic 45-2537
(3 weeks)

From a rock & roll point of view, this was the year’s second-best chart-topper. Aside from being some gen­uine rock & roll, it was one of the most en­er­getic and in­fec­tious hits from the Ras­cals. It was also their last big hit be­fore all their cre­ative en­er­gies as a Top 40 band seemed to dissipate.

Lew: I’m going to dis­sent on this one. The Ras­cals had made a ca­reer out of doing R&B, but this song took “blue-eyed soul” dan­ger­ously close to min­strelsy for me. The whole “train of freedom” voiceover, ending with the em­bar­rassing “Look out, funkies, it’s coming right on through!” hit me the wrong way. A great in­stru­mental track, dri­ving beat, but to me, the band started their down­hill slide with this song.

John: A New Tes­ta­ment vi­sion of­fered in the wake of war, riot, as­sas­si­na­tion. One of the sad things about growing older and studying human his­tory is dis­cov­ering just how many people in all times and places have no de­sire what­so­ever to be free.

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: Yes (5 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (Au­gust 23, 1968)
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1968 JeannieRiley HarperValleyPTA 600

September 14

Jeannie C. Riley
Harper Valley P.T.A.
Plan­ta­tion 3
(1 week)

This one came out of left field: a fairly straight­for­ward country record about nosey neigh­bors by a woman who likes to wear short skirts. Why a such a record caught the at­ten­tion of mil­lions of rock, soul, and pop fans es­caped me then and con­tinues to es­cape me decades later.

Lew: I think some songs are pop­ular be­cause they cap­ture some­thing about the zeit­geist. The rural US was in­fecting country music, country boys were growing their hair and side­burns, and some of them were planting some­thing other than al­falfa in the lower 40.

In­stead of being blindly pro-government like they were in the ’50s, a lot of country folk were starting to get the idea that the gov­ern­ment wasn’t nec­es­sarily their friend.

By the time of Rea­gan’s first run at the pres­i­dency in 1976, after school busing and stagfla­tion, we were seeing the seeds of the dark pop­ulism that would cul­mi­nate in the apoth­e­osis of Donald Trump. Jeannie C. Riley touched that anti-establishment nerve.

John: A take­down of small-town hypocrisy H.L. Mencken might have been proud to call his own had he lived to hear it and con­vinced him­self the rubes them­selves weren’t re­spon­sible. It’s all cour­tesy of Tom T. Hall’s pithy lyric and Riley’s su­perb vocal, which con­veys a mix of right­eous anger and down-home wit that isn’t nearly as easy to pull off as she makes it sound.

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (Au­gust 26, 1968)
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: 5,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No
• Grammy Award: Best Country Vocal Per­for­mance – Fe­male 1968

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1968 Beatles HeyJude 600

September 21–November 2

The Bea­tles
Hey Jude
Apple 2276
(7 weeks)

For some fans this 7-minute opus of opaque im­ages and non-sensical al­lu­sions is one of the Bea­tles’ greatest achieve­ments; for others, it’s just so much hooey—an un­con­nected mish­mash of id­ioms (“take a sad song and make it better”) and stoned non­sense (“the move­ment you need is on your shoulder”).

Ac­tu­ally, Hey Jude is a 3-minute single with a 4-minute coda that con­sists of Paul singing “na-na” re­peat­edly, the non­sense “words” that many recording artists used in a demo when they haven’t com­pleted the lyrics. A year later, a record cred­ited to Steam would take the same “na-na” to the top of the chart with the now seem­ingly ubiq­ui­tous Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.

Whether you thought of the record as proof of Paul’s ge­nius or proof of how badly he needed to col­lab­o­rate with John, it was a very pow­erful record when heard on the radio. It was an even bigger hit on Bill­board, staying at #1 for nine weeks on their Hot 100. That makes it one of the biggest hits of the rock era on that survey, bigger than “I Want To Hold Your Hand.”

Lew: Is it worth men­tioning yet again that Mc­Cartney wrote the song (orig­i­nally “Hey Jules”) for Lennon’s son Ju­lian, later to have his own mu­sical ca­reer? No? OK, then, I won’t.

I am with Neal on this one. Three min­utes of mediocre song fol­lowed by four min­utes of boredom. It wouldn’t have been so bad if you’d been al­lowed to es­cape it, but it was every­where, all the time, in the summer and fall of 1968.

John: Again, I didn’t have the chance to grow tired of this on the radio be­cause I didn’t hear it until years later. To my late ’70s ears, it sounded like the ’60s bleeding out.

It still does

Neal: On Feb­ruary 17, 1999, Capitol Records had Hey Jude re­cer­ti­fied and it re­ceived a 4xPlatinum Record Award for 4,000,000 sales.

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: Yes (9 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (Sep­tember 13, 1968)
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: 6,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : 
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1968 MaryHopkin ThoseWereTheDays 600

November 9–November 16

Mary Hop­kins
Those Were The Days
Apple 1801
(2 weeks)

Paul Mc­Cartney fol­lowed his #1 Bea­tles record (Hey Jude) by watching a record he pro­duced follow it to the top of the charts. Mary Hop­kins sang like a tal­ented teenager, the song was a pop re­make of an older Russian song, and the whole thing an­noyed the hell out of as many record buyers as it in­spired other record buyers to buy it!

This is a record that I hated then and, fifty years later, still reach for the dial to change sta­tions when it’s played. (I guess that state­ment is a wee dated as there no oldies sta­tions on the radio any­more. So sub­sti­tute YouTube or Pan­dora for “radio” and it works.)

John: I haven’t felt this in­dif­ferent to a chart-topping ’60s record since Percy Faith, al­most a full decade ago. But at least I could imagine some­body smooching to that one.

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (No­vember 20, 1968)
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: 8,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: 
Lew : 
Neal: 

 

Medium 45 1968 Supremes LoveChild 600 1

November 23–December 7

Diana Ross & the Supremes
Love Child
Mo­town M-1135
(3 weeks)

Love Child was about a woman born out-of-wedlock re­fusing to give in to her boyfriend’s pleas for sex out of fear that they might con­ceive yet an­other “il­le­git­i­mate” baby. Pretty heady stuff for Top 40 radio, es­pe­cially given that many white Amer­i­cans thought that pro­ducing a “love child” was al­most a rite of pas­sage for black Americans.

Lew:Nothing wrong with this number, ex­cept that it lacks the magic of the songs that Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote and pro­duced for the Supremes. The lead writer and pro­ducer here is R. Dean Taylor, who did the ut­terly for­get­table #1 hit from 1970, In­diana Wants Me.

John: This is Diana Ross’s spiritual au­to­bi­og­raphy, even if she never lived a word of it any­where but the studio. Art is like that some­times. One thing that was dif­ferent by this time was the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Ross and her backup singers. Flo Bal­lard was gone and Mary Wilson wasn’t al­lowed to sing on a lot of the records, in­cluding this one.

Their neigh­bor­hood har­monies had given the group’s records a haunting quality which ses­sion backup singers could not re­pro­duce. On this record, though, the pro­fes­sional dis­tance only serves to re­in­force Ross’s isolation.

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: 2,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1968 StevieWonder ForOnceInMyLife 600

December 14

Stevie Wonder
For Once In My Life
Tamla T-54174
(1 week)

Back-to-back chart-topping hits for Mo­town as Stevie Wonder con­tinued with his new ‘ma­ture’ sound with a song that sounded like it should have been Frank Sina­tra’s latest single.

Lew: This doesn’t sound like Sinatra to me—the bounce in the drums, the chro­matic har­monica, the fierce punc­tu­a­tion of the horns all mark it as middle pe­riod Wonder, halfway be­tween the raw power of “Fin­ger­tips” and the sheer ge­nius of INNERVISIONS. Not by any means Ste­vie’s greatest single, but a splash of sun­light on the airwaves.

Neal: I didn’t mean that Ste­vie’s per­for­mance was any­thing to dismiss—I don’t think Wonder could have cut a bad vocal at this time. It’s just that the song it­self sounds so Sinatra-ish (Darin-ish?), so Ve­gasy. And INNERVISIONS is one of my fa­vorite al­bums of the decade that fol­lows the ’60s.

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1968 MarvinGaye IHeardItThrough 600

December 21–December 28

Marvin Gaye
I Heard It Through The Grapevine
Tamla T-54176
(2 weeks)

Gladys Knight & the Pips’ I Heard It Through The Grapevine had been the first #1 song of 1968 and Marvin Gaye’s ver­sion was the last song to top the charts in ’68. Whereas Knight’s ver­sion was a fairly straight­for­ward soul record, Marvin Gaye’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion seemed to em­anate from a deeper, darker re­cess of the human psyche.

What was never men­tioned by Top 40 disc-jockeys was that the record was more than two years old and had been re­jected by Mo­town’s Berry Gordy as a single in 1967. It had been re­leased on Gaye’s pre­vious album, where it caught the at­ten­tion of some pro­gres­sive radio sta­tions, who began playing it as an album cut.

In his 1989 book The Heart Of Rock & Soul (sub-titled “The 1001 Greatest Sin­gles Ever Made”), Dave Marsh listed Gaye’s Grapevine as the #1 single of all time. Like most books of this na­ture, it would have made a lot more sense if his se­lec­tions had been listed chrono­log­i­cally in­stead of by Dave’s rankings.

Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It Through The Grapevine spent the first three weeks of the new year (Jan­uary 4-18, 1969) at #1 for a total of five weeks at the top­per­most of the poppermost.

John: Top 40 dee-jays may not have men­tioned the behind-the-scenes drama (Gordy didn’t just re­ject Gaye’s ver­sion, he was adamant), but it’s been dis­cussed ad nau­seam ever since. Given how good the boss’s ear usu­ally was, and how mon­u­mental Marvin’s ver­sion of this song be­came in the cul­ture, I can only chalk his re­sis­tance up to Karma.

Had this come out first, it would have ei­ther buried Gladys Knight’s ver­sion (and cost some­body a lot of roy­al­ties) or flopped com­pletely (and cost every­body in­volved a whole lot more). By the end of this trau­matic year, a year I be­lieve America has never walked away from and never will—that our failure to deal with the col­lec­tive trauma will be seen by fu­ture his­to­rians as the source of our unraveling—Marvin Gaye’s doomier ver­sion was an in­evitable smash, des­tined to haunt any fu­ture we could make.

Yes, it was that great.

• Bill­board Top 100 #1: Yes (7 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes

• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Ac­cu­mu­lated sales: 3,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

Paul Mau­ri­at’s ‘Love Is Blue’ and the Bea­tles’ ‘Hey Jude’ were the biggest hits of 1968. Find out about the other big hits of the year here! Click To Tweet

ArethaFranklin 1968 3000

FEATURED ARTIST: Everyone knew that Aretha Franklin was enor­mously tal­ented but a lot of people just didn’t know what to do with it. After seven years with Co­lumbia Records, she had re­leased nine studio al­bums and two-dozen sin­gles, not one of them breaking her into the Big Time. In 1967, she signed with At­lantic Records and by the end of the year, she had three Top 10 hits and a pair of al­bums that would be the first of many to re­ceive RIAA Gold Record Awards.

Her fourth single of ’67 was Chain Of Fools which topped the Cash Box charts in Jan­uary but pooped out at #2 on the Bill­board Hot 100. While she con­tinued to pro­duce smash hits, she wouldn’t top ei­ther survey again until Spanish Harlem reached $1 on Cash Box in 1971.

Of the thou­sands of pop, rock, and soul records that have found their way onto the sound­track of a movie, few have been better used that Chain Of Fools in Nora Ephron’s Michael (1996) with John Tra­volta as the arch-angel of the title’s name. Rather than put a link here to that scene, I sug­gest that you find the whole movie and watch it and find out why women find Michael irresistible.

Year-end observations

Twenty-three records reached #1 on the Cash Box Top 100 chart in 1968. Here is the break­down of #1 records based on how many weeks they spent at the top of the chart:

7 weeks: 2
6 weeks: 0
5 weeks: 0
4 weeks: 3
3 weeks: 
2
2 weeks: 
3
1 week: 
13

The records that topped the Cash Box Top 100 chart in 1968 were proof of the broad taste that Amer­ican record buyers had at the time. Two dozen records reached the #1 po­si­tion, and while most spent the normal one week at the top, two re­mained there for seven weeks each.

Psy­che­delia was over with: ex­cept for one record that was Psych Lite and an­other that was a spoof of the music, mind-bending music was ab­sent from the top of the charts.

But there was rock & roll and soul and country and hints at clas­sical and jazz and even some Russian folk music, so it was a rea­son­ably di­ver­si­fied year for styles and sounds. The first #1 record of 1968 had been 1967’s last #1 record, and 1968’s last #1 record would be 1969’s first #1 record.

Mo­town fin­ished the year 1968 with three con­sec­u­tive #1 records! The last hit was a rereading of the song I Heard It Through The Grapevine which had topped the chart eleven months earlier.

No artist dom­i­nated the year: only two had two #1 records, the Bea­tles and Gary Puckett & the Union Gap. Seven black artists had one chart-topper each, with four of them by Mo­town artists. The closest thing to a nov­elty record making the top was Harper Valley P.T.A.

Only a few records that anyone would con­sider rock & roll made it: Judy In Dis­guise, Val­leri, Jumpin’ Jack Flash, Hello I Love You, and People Got To Be Free.

Var­ious forms of what could be con­sid­ered easy-listening/adult con­tem­po­rary ruled: Love Is Blue, Honey, This Guy’s In Love With You, Grazing In The Grass, Clas­sical Gas, Those Were The Days, and For Once In My Life. Those hits could be an ar­gu­ment that adults were still buying 45s or that teens back then had truly varied tastes.

Lew: In­ter­esting about all the easy lis­tening stuff. 1968 was a rough year—MLK, RFK, po­lice riots at the DNC, and maybe people were feeling a need to pull back from the in­ten­sity. Funny the trends that your analysis can pick up.

As I look over the list, what strikes me are all the second-rate songs by for­merly great bands: Mrs. Robinson, which is just a movie promo; Jumpin’ Jack Flash, which al­ways felt to me like they were going through the mo­tions; Hello, I Love You, which is just awful; People Got To Be Free, which bor­dered on self-parody; and Hey, Jude, which I was tired of the third time I heard it. I think you could make an ar­gu­ment that 1968 was the end of “the Six­ties,” which had only begun in 1962 or ’63.

Gold Record Awards

Of the twenty-three records that reached #1, Joseph Mur­rells lists twenty-three of them as million-sellers. Record com­pa­nies sought cer­ti­fi­ca­tion from the RIAA for of­fi­cial Gold Record Awards for sev­en­teen singles.

RIAA cer­ti­fi­ca­tion rate: 74%

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