the #1 hit records on the pop charts 1969

Estimated reading time is 41 minutes.

THIS IS THE TENTH 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 “Someday We’ll Be Honky Tonk Women Together” on my publication Tell It Like It Was on Medium on October 1, 2019. The article below is identical to the one on Medium.

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.

 

FifthDimension Essential cd 1500 crop

FEATURED ARTIST: The 5th Dimension was Marilyn McCoo and Florence LaRue (back-to-back winners of the Miss Bronze California contest) with Billy Davis Jr, Lamont McLemore, and Ronald Townson. The group could sing anything (pop, rock, soul, jazz, MOR) but specialized in a highly polished pop sound that left them among the most “soul”-less black vocal groups of the ’60s.

During their heyday (1966–1972), they placed twenty sides in the national Top 40, of which five were certified by the RIAA for Gold Record Awards for sales of a million each. They also received seven Gold Records for album sales of $1,000,000, making them one of the most successful non-rock pop groups of their era.

Their biggest hit was Aquarius / Let The Sunshine In / The Flesh Failure, a medley of songs from the breakaway pseudo-hippie musical, Hair. It was appropriate that a fake “soul” group—serious rock fans and critics alike were always kinda nasty to the 5th Dimension—should take the theme music of a fake “tribal love-rock” musical and make it known to the masses. Of course, it was a perfectly fine pop record but oh so easy to hate back then when authenticity carried a premium.

Lead singers McCoo and Davis left the group in 1975 followed by Townson in ’78. They have been replaced by many, many others since as some version of the 5th Dimension still exists. In the photo above, the members are Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis Jr, and Florence LaRue in front with  Lamont McLemore and Ronald Townson in back.

 

1969

January
Australian media baron Rupert Murdoch purchased the largest-selling British Sunday newspaper, The News of the World.

February
The weekly magazine The Saturday Evening Post folded after 147 years of weekly publication.

March
John Lennon and Yoko Ono were married and, for their honeymoon, they staged a “Bed-In for Peace” in Amsterdam.

April
The Montréal Expos played their first official game as the first Major League Baseball team located outside of the United States.

May
Italy created Tutela Patrimonio Artistico (Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, or Carabinieri T.P.C.), the world’s first police division to specialize in investigating crimes involving archaeology, antique dealing, fakes, and contemporary art.

June
Patrons of the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village, fought back against police harassment for the first time. The Stonewall riots (or Stonewall uprising or Stonewall rebellion) lasted several days and jumpstarted the gay rights movement in the US.

July
The Apollo 11’s lunar module Eagle landed on the lunar surface and Neil Armstrong became the first man on the Moon.

August
Members of the Manson Family murdered seven people, including pregnant actress Sharon Tate (wife of filmmaker Roman Polanski) on two nights at two locations in the Los Angeles area.

The Woodstock Music & Art Fair (“An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music”) was held in Bethel, New York, close to Woodstock, New York.

September
John Lennon announced his intention to leave the Beatles.

October
In one of the greatest upsets in World Series history, the New York Mets beat the Baltimore Orioles four-games-to-one to become the World Champions.

November
Vice President Spiro Agnew verbally assaulted journalists who were critical of President Nixon, calling them “an effete corps of impudent snobs” and “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

December
Black Panther Party members Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were murdered in their sleep during a raid of their apartment by Chicago police officers.

 


 

1969

 

Medium 45 1968 MarvinGaye IHeardItThrough 600

January 4–January 18

Marvin Gaye
I Heard It Through The Grapevine
(3 weeks)
This record spent two weeks at #1 on December 21–December 28, 1968, for a total of five weeks at the top. Refer to that date for more information.

 

Medium 45 1969 Supremes ImGonnaMakeYou 600

January 25

Diana Ross & the Supremes and the Temptations
I’m Gonna Make You Love Me
Motown M-1137
(1 week)

Motown had back-to-back chart-toppers with Marvin Gaye and this one. It featured Eddie Kendricks and Diana Ross, with the other members of the Temps and Supremes effectively acting as backup singers.

This is a good record, but by this time, Ross was trying to leave her sex-kitten voice behind and strained to sound more soulful. I heard it as screeching, and here Kendricks screeches with her. (And the spoken interlude should have been edited out of the record.)

Lew: Neal’s got a point on the performance, but I think the record succeeded on the strength of the songwriting (by Kenny Gamble of Gamble and Huff) and production (by Nick Ashford of Ashford and Simpson). A catchy tune will take you a long way, sometimes all the way to #1.

John: A nice record. It’s not primo Supremes or Tempts, but it’s grown on me over the years. There was a time you could take something like this for granted. We’re long past that time now.

Neal: Amen, John.

Motown did not seek immediate RIAA certification for an official Gold Record Award for I’m Gonna Make You Love Me. This was rectified on August 7, 1997, when it received a Gold Record Award for 500,000 sales.

• Billboard Hot 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 1969 TommyJames CrimsonAndClover 600

February 1

Tommy James & the Shondells
Crimson And Clover
Roulette R-7028
(1 week)

Lots of us record collectors and vinyl junkies have too much time on our hands and sit around making up new pigeonholes to categorize records. Trying to place records like Green Tambourine and Crimson And Clover somewhere led to the coining of terms like bubblegum-psychedelia (even bubble-psych) and acid-pop and pop-psych.

Crimson And Clover is far from bubblegum music just as lyrically it’s pretty far from psychedelia. It’s a good, rock-based pop record with an instrumental track and production techniques that hint at the use of LSD, a chemical that a growing number of people tried in the late 1960s, a trend that continued for years into the ’70s.

As psychedelia, Crimson And Clover is the type of record that appealed to people who had never done psychedelics, meaning mostly teenagers. I doubt it would have ever dawned on any serious head to put Tommy James on the stereo while tripping during the ’60s or ’70s.

But it sounded fantastic on AM radio, especially given that many major artists who had made psychedelic music in 1966-1967 were busy getting back to their “roots” in 1968-1969!

Lew: I love Tommy James, and like many artists in the sixties, he had two phases of his career—first he was the hard rocker of Hanky Panky and Mony Mony, then a more “serious” and “sensitive” artiste. Johnny Rivers, the Beatles, the Hollies, Marvin Gaye, Dion, Stevie Wonder—there’s a long list of performers who had some sort of awakening and upped the ambition of their music during the latter half of the decade. In some cases, the awakening was inspired by LSD, and in others, it was enough just to be living in those heady times.

Crimson And Clover was the opening volley from the new Tommy James, and while it has a certain cheese factor, especially in the tremelo-vocal coda, it’s still a great song. And it paved the way for James’s masterpiece, the crypto-Christian Crystal Blue Persuasion, later in ’69.

Neal: In 1969, several trends were occurring that were related to the counterculture and therefore to some aspects of the world of rock music. One trend involved the choice of central nervous system stimulants over marijuana (which the Feds were making ever more difficult to obtain) and LSD.

The most dangerous stimulant was methamphetamine, which came in pill form, as a powder, and as a glass-like substance known as crystal meth or simply crystal. This highly addictive drug had been tearing apart the Haight-Ashbury since 1967 and in ’69 was a growing evil among countercultural communities worldwide.

It should therefore not be surprising that many people interpreted a pop record by a long-haired group titled Crystal Blue Persuasion to be a not-so-veiled drug allusion. Why would Tommy James and the Shondells be making a record praising meth? And why were radio stations everywhere playing the record?

The word crystal is also used as an adjective to describe an intense clarity of vision (as in “crystal clear water”) as many people who have religious conversions claim they see things as they are for the first time.

In chapter 19 of the Book of Revelations in the Bible, it states that the city of Jerusalem “shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” According to Tommy James, this, not meth, is the source for the title of this record.

The other trend that I mentioned above was a move toward mysticism and religion by so-called hippies while tripping on acid. Thousands of longhairs interpreted the mystical-like experiences they had on acid as being a meeting or confrontation or bonding with Jesus or as God as He appears in the New Testament of the Bible. These folk were both affectionately and derogatorily referred to as “Jesus Freaks” at the time. Tommy James was a nascent Jesus Freak.

A better listening to the lyrics of the song would have confirmed that, especially the fifth verse: “Maybe tomorrow, when he looks down on every green field and every town, all of his children and every nation, there’ll be peace and good brotherhood.”

If a listener hears “he,” the lyrics don’t make much sense. But if a listener hears “He” with a capital “H” then that listener will hear the Christian underpinnings of the song that Lew mentioned.

I wasn’t a Bible reader nor was I much of a Tommy James fan, so I didn’t pay a lot of attention. I just thought “Crystal Blue Persuasion” was another pop-rock bit of pseudo-psychedelia that sounded good on the radio but that I’d never play on my home stereo.

Why am I going on about Crystal Blue Persuasion here in the entry for Crimson And Clover? Because it peaked at #2 on both Cash Box and Billboard, meaning I won’t get to make these comments elsewhere in an article about #1 records.

John: Tommy James is the Sun God. I don’t know what all this other babble is about.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• 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 1969 Doors TouchMe 600

February 8

The Doors
Touch Me
Elektra EK-45646
(1 week)

This is the first Doors record where Morrison sounds sloppy, if not actually drunk. I’m still not certain if his fluctuating between “love ya” and “love you” was supposed to be dramatic (which someone drunk might think) or funny (which someone drunk might think) or merely accidental (like because of being drunk).

And as someone who can say “Been there, done that” far too many times, I can harp on that all I want.

Lew: You are right on about Touch Me, and I think it might be worth mentioning that the song was originally called Hit Me and was this weird masochistic plea from Krieger for his wife to beat him up. Yechhhh.

Neal: Wow! That makes the lyrics make so so much more sense: “Come on now touch me, babe. Can’t you see that I am not afraid?” only makes some sense if a virgin is singing it. Change it to “Come on now hit me, babe. Can’t you see that I am not afraid?” and it makes perfect sense!

John: I’m leaving this one to the old guys. Like I said, I can’t tell the difference between good Doors and bad Doors.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (February 13, 1969)
• 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 1969 Sly EverydayPeople 600

February 15–February 22

Sly & the Family Stone
Everyday People
Epic 5-10407
(2 weeks)

This is a truly fine record with such a lovely message: “I am no better and neither are you. We are the same whatever we do. You love me, you hate me, you know me, and then you can’t figure out the bag I’m in.”

I think this record is where hippies started to think Sly was cool in a hip, countercultural way. Alas, Sly wasn’t remotely cool in a countercultural way.

And he would become perhaps the first famous casualty of cocaine, a “cool” drug that everybody underestimated.

And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo!

Lew: True, Sly was neither cool nor counter-cultural—his free-basing eventually destroyed his brilliant career. But he could sure write a song and lead a band! His performance at Woodstock later in ’69 is neck-and-neck with Santana’s as the Best of Show.

John: The New Testament was showing up strong in the late sixties. It’s no surprise the kid who got his Show Biz start singing gospel with his siblings in the local Church of God in Christ was at the forefront. Nor is it a surprise that the Devil came for him straight away. He always comes for the believers. Free-basing is one way out and it’s always a personal tragedy. Sometimes it’s a cultural tragedy too. Witness Sylvester Stewart

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (4 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (February 13, 1969)
• 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 1969 Foundations BuildMeUpButtercup 600

March 1–March 8

The Foundations
Build Me Up Buttercup
Uni 55101
(2 weeks)

This is a likable piece of confection, hard to resist, if only because of the infectious lead vocals. Some of us thought of this as “bubblegum soul” (“bubble-soul”).

Lew: I agree about the Foundations. I discovered when I got to North Carolina that this stuff is called beach music here—black singers backed by big orchestras singing confectionery songs for white people to dance shag to. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the Beach Boys, Dick Dale, Jan and Dean, et al.

Shag is a dance that, as far as I know, is only danced in the Carolinas, and has the distinction of being the only partner dance you can dance with a beer in one hand, and dance in the sand rather than on a hardwood floor.

Neal: When I grew up in Northeastern Pennsylvania in the ’60s, 15-year-olds learned to drive with a beer in one hand—just in case we ever found ourselves in a situation that called for a good shagging.

John: The Foundations were the first multi-racial group to top the charts in their UK homeland. Build Me Up, Buttercup is a fantastic record on every level. I’m not surprised people had to reach for new terms to describe it. Multi-racial groups—not unheard of in the late fifties’ heyday of doo-wop—had become a thing of the past.

Sly Stone brought the concept storming back on both sides of the Atlantic and the seventies would be the last great period for blacks and whites playing together, everywhere from funk to southern rock to the Midnight Special. If the Foundations had written their own hits, they would probably get the credit they deserve for being at the forefront of restoring one of early rock & roll’s lost promises.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (March 4, 1969)
• 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 1969 TommyRoe Dizzy 600

March 15–March 22

Tommy Roe
Dizzy
ABC 45-11164
(2 weeks)

While the string of hits that the Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz put together in 1968 makes that year the heyday of bubblegum music, Dizzy was the first bubblegummy record to reach #1 on Cash Box. Unlike most of the Kasenetz-Katz records, Roe’s record ain’t too obnoxious. According to Roe:

“Freddy Weller and I had known each other in Atlanta. I was on a TV show with Paul Revere & the Raiders. They had lost their guitarist and I suggested Freddy as a replacement. He moved to California to be with them, and we started writing together. I showed him ‘Dizzy.’

“I had written the chorus but couldn’t complete it. Freddy loved it and said, ‘Let’s finish it,’ and we did that on a tour bus late at night. It sold 6,000,000 copies, 4,000,000 of them in the States, and it was my biggest hit of all.” (SongFacts)

Neal: Here we have a common difference in the recording industry: he said, he said. Joseph Murrells accounted for approximately 2,000,000 sales for Dizzy; Tommy Roe claims three times that amount. Tommy does have an RIAA Gold Record awarded this record for sales of 1,000,000 copies in the US in 1969.

John: Tommy Roe had been making “bubblegummy” records since Sweet Pea went top ten in 1966. Kasenetz-Katz had struck gold in ’68 by taking a reductive approach to Roe and Tommy James so it was poetic justice for each of them to reap the benefits of their own revolution in ’69.

I was underrating Dizzy in memory as I hadn’t listened to it in a while. Re-visiting it just now reminded me how great it was. Tommy fronting the Wrecking Crew (and one of drum god Hal Blaine’s best showcases), how could it miss?

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (4 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (March 7, 1969)
• 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 1969 Zombies TimeOfTheSeason 600

March 29

The Zombies
Time Of The Season
Date 2-1628
(1 week)

The Zombies had two smash hits in 1964 (She’s Not There and Tell Her No) and then were forgotten by American record buyers. In 1967, they recorded the ODESSEY & ORACLE album, which was released with little fanfare and fewer sales in 1968.

In 1969, Al Kooper was an A&R man at Columbia, and he kept pushing the Zombies. Finally, Time Of The Season caught on and the Zombies had their first hit in more than four years. Of course, they had already split up.

This is a really fine record that non-experienced people call psychedelic when it’s more jazz-rock-ish.

Lew: Can we pause a moment to credit Colin Blunstone, arguably the best singer in the history of rock? His breathy vocals could turn to trumpeting power or soar into angelic falsetto, and his voice was always husky with emotion.

The Zombies would reunite in various combinations down through the years, and two of them, Rod Argent and Chris White, would produce and write songs for Blunstone’s solo album Enismore, an overlooked masterpiece from 1972.

John: A lovely, melancholy record. The first chart-topper of the year that carried a strong hint of something valuable passing. There would be others, and this wouldn’t be the only one that had to wait for its time.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (April 11, 1969)
• 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 1969 FifthDimension Aquarius PS 600

Medium 45 1969 FifthDimension Aquarius 600

April 5–May 3

The 5th Dimension
Medley: Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In/The Flesh Failures
Soul City SCR-772
(5 weeks)

The Broadway-type “American Tribal Love-Rock Musical” Hair was basically the lives of hippies as seen through two guys who dug Broadway. It’s not remotely believable as a reflection of the music that hippies and heads listened to—in fact, I don’t know anybody who even remotely qualified as a hippie back then who listened to the album.

“Normal” people bought the album by the millions and it probably fed their fantasies about what it was like in the Free Love movement. But Hair worked on stage as a Broadway musical. For the uninitiated, the show opens with the medley Aquarius / Let The Sunshine In and closes with the medley The Flesh Failures / Let the Sunshine In.

I hated it then.

I kinda dig parts of it now.

Lew: I hated Hair and Jesus Christ, Superstar and all those other fake “rock” musicals and still do. If you play the same old tired show tunes with electric guitars and a big drum sound, that doesn’t make them rock. And yet, like you, I came to like the 5th Dimension version of these songs. Probably didn’t hurt that the Wrecking Crew is playing on them.

Neal: About 15 years ago a friend took me to see Hair as put on by local performers here at the 5th Avenue Theater. It was free and even Berni encouraged me as they were fifth-row center seats to a sold-out performance. The show opened with a lengthy build-up as the “hippies” slowly entered the stage with hand-held instruments (sticks, tambourines, etc.) that led to a circle of them singing Aquarius / Let The Sunshine In.

And you know what? It made sense. It was quite moving. It caught me off-guard, lowered my defenses, and I enjoyed the whole show!

John: Not my favorite 5th Dimension record by a long shot but, like Neal and Lew, it has grown on me. They had already sold a lot of records. The significance of this record’s smash success to the group’s career was that somebody was beginning to figure out if they put Marilyn McCoo upfront, vocally and visually, they would sell a lot more.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (6 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (April 30, 1969)
• Accumulated sales: 3,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No
• Grammy Award: Record of the Year 1969
• Grammy Award: Best Contemporary Vocal Performance by a Group 1969

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

 

Medium 45 1969 Cowsills Hair 600

May 10–May 17

The Cowsills
Hair
MGM K-14026
(2 weeks)

Back-to-back chart-toppers from the American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, this time the goofy title song by a truly talented “kid group.” I hated all kid groups then and barely tolerate them now, but I have learned to dig the Cowsills and this record.

The video they did for this record is a gem, although I don’t remember having seen it back then, I’m sure if I did I found it “offensive” because it made light of the plight of the modern-day longhair. Oh, well, the times (and the minds) they have been a-changing.

Lew: And yeah, Susan Cowsill turned out to be hip, dating Dwight Twilley and other cool musicians.

John: Billy and Bob Cowsill produced this record on their own (one of the best-produced records of the era). They spent many obsessive hours in the studio, including driving their little brother John through more than fifty takes until he got the drum part right. Then their record company refused to release the record as a single because it didn’t fit the Cowsills’ image.

They fought back by taking the demo (there was no single as yet) to a friend at one of Chicago’s powerful Top 40 stations and asked him to play the record and offer a prize to anyone who could guess the artist. The phones lit up. Nobody guessed it. But they wanted the station to keep playing the record! Pretty soon the requests were pouring in all over the Midwest and the record company was forced to press a single to meet the demand.

Soon after that, the Cowsills’ tyrannical father kicked Billy Cowsill—lead singer, writer, producer—out of the band. These stories and many more are available in Louise Palanker’s labor-of-love documentary, Family Band: The Cowsills Story, which I highly recommend to anyone remotely interested in this stuff.

Incidentally, little brother John has been the Beach Boys’ touring drummer for many years. And I’d say dating Susan Cowsill made Dwight Twilley hip because there’s no possible way she ever dated anyone cooler than her.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (April 24, 1969)
• 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 1969 Beatles GetBack 600

May 24–June 21

The Beatles
Get Back
Apple 2490
(5 weeks)

This was a pleasant, innocuous record—an easy-going, likable bit of rock & roll. Unfortunately, “pleasant and innocuous” would become the defining characteristics of much of Paul McCartney’s work from this point through the rest of his still-active career.

This record was part of a process that was to have led to the first Beatles album of 1969 titled GET BACK. Everything seemed to go awry—see the Let It Be movie and you’ll understand—and the project was scrapped and the group recorded a new batch of songs and released them as the ABBEY ROAD album.

Lew: Another zeitgeist record. Even by 1969, kids were realizing that adults were not just going to quietly step down and let us take over. The technicolor burst of creativity that had been the ’60s was a lot of work to maintain, too many of our heroes had been murdered, and it was starting to look like maybe it would be easier to withdraw than to change the world.

The early ’70s were the years of communes and farms and people trying to Get Back to a more Edenic vision of life, and once again the Beatles were ahead of the curve in popularizing that sentiment. Musically the record is significant for the prominence of Billy Preston on piano, briefly touted as the “Fifth Beatle” for his work here and on the flip, Don’t Let Me Down.

John: Sneaky good late Beatles. I’ve mentioned Al Green a time or two in this series and I’ll mention him again. His version of this is a killer, almost as good as his version of I Want to Hold Your Hand.

Neal: On February 17, 1999, Capitol had Get Back recertified as a 2xPlatinum Record Award for 2,000,000 sales.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (5 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (May 19, 1969)
• Accumulated sales: 4,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

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

 

Medium 45 1969 Elvis InTheGhetto PS 600

Medium 45 1969 Elvis InTheGhetto 600

June 28

Elvis Presley
In The Ghetto
RCA Victor 47-9741
(1 week)

Elvis was back on top for the first time since late 1962. Rarely talked about anymore, In The Ghetto was an astounding record: a white Southern man who many black folks thought (still think) was a racist taking a song about crime caused by poverty in the black inner city to the top of the Cash Box chart!

There was nothing like In The Ghetto on Top 40 radio before and precious little like it since.

In The Ghetto following Get Back to the top of the chart is the only time on a national American survey that Elvis and the Beatles had #1 records that followed directly one after another.

John: The first single released from Presley’s monumental Memphis Sessions and one of the most important of his career. I discussed this at length in my “How Much Can One Record Mean” series on my blog The Round Place in the Middle

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (June 25, 1969)
• 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 1969 HenryMancini LoveTheme 600

July 5–July 12

Henry Mancini & Orchestra with Chorus
Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet
RCA Victor 74-0131
(2 weeks)

All the kids who bought all the other singles in 1969 sat back in awe as their parents ran out and made the #1 record a record that sounded like it should be played on the piano at Percy Brown’s restaurant in Wilkes-Barre while my grandparents were having dinner. This was the only easy-listening and the only soundtrack recording to top the chart in 1969.

John: Certainly a weird hit (for any year, let alone this one). It has a certain grandeur, though. I rate it well above Percy Faith, and I don’t know how they were gonna get that big orchestra into Percy Brown’s!

Neal: You remembered Percy Brown’s! That was a fave restaurant in Wilkes-Barre for my grandparents. I think it was the first place I ever went where someone waited on me. They had an organ player and really did up the place for the holidays. Wow—I’m actually getting a twinge of nostalgia here, so I looked Percy Bown up and the founder was a remarkable man who “treated his employees well and paying fair wages.”

“In 1949 came the completion of the most modern lounge room and restroom facilities. During these years Percy A. Brown & Co. gained a national reputation for good food served properly in an atmosphere second only to home. Good coffee of a special blend, better condiments of their own make, along with dressings, bakery products, milk ice cream, and sausages of all kinds—all made in their own manufacturing departments—added to giving the customers something better, something different to grace their tables and satisfy their appetites.” (Citizen’s Voice)

Wow again—looks like my memory done me good regarding my experiences at the restaurant. Like many long-established businesses, Percy Brown’s was inundated by fourteen feet of filthy, polluted water from the Susquehanna River during the flood caused by Hurricane Agnes in 1972, then the greatest natural disaster in the history of the United States. But boy-o-boy is that another story.

Lew: As long as we’re getting lost in the weeds, I have a story about this song: There was an ice cream truck that used to drive through my neighborhood, blaring out a synthesized version of this tune—except that it was broken, and only played the first bar, da-deee-da-da, over and over and over and over. Once I asked the driver if the music wasn’t driving him crazy, and he gave me this weird smile and said, “What music?”

You never know when you’re going to receive zen enlightenment.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (June 25, 1969)
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No
• Grammy Award: Best Instrumental Arrangement 1969
• Grammy Award: Best Contemporary Performance by a Chorus 1969

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

 

Medium 45 1969 ZagerEvans InTheYear2525 600

July 19–August 9

Zager & Evans
In The Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus)
RCA Victor 74-0174
(4 weeks)

Arguably the most intellectually pretentious record ever to hit the top of the charts. Science fiction pop music for people who didn’t read science fiction. Hearing it made me cringe but a few million other record buyers felt otherwise and made it one of the year’s biggest hits.

These guys were true ‘one-hit wonders’: their first record was a major #1 hit on both the Billboard and Cash Box charts but the only other side that reached either survey was Listen To The People, which was #100 for one week on the last week of 1969.

If these guys were really hip, they would have titled the song “In The Star Date 3287.2” and had a career as paid guests at Star Trek conventions for the rest of their lives.

John: I bought this, previously unheard, on an oldies 45 in the late ’70s, abiding by my previously stated theory that anything from the ’60s that was this big a hit had to be at least pretty good. This was the record that proved the exception to the rule.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (6 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (July 18, 1969)
• 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 1969 RollingStones HonkyTonkWomen PS 600

Medium 45 1969 RollingStones HonkyTonkWomen 600

August 16–September 6

The Rolling Stones
Honky Tonk Women
London 45-910
(4 weeks)

Exactly what we needed after six weeks of Mancini, Zager, and Evans: a crude blast of noise about women with loose morals (for which all men need thank God or Allah or, when truly enlightened, Wholly Grommett) featuring a cowbell dueling with an electric guitar for the listener’s attention.

Eventually, I would learn to prefer my women Tanqueray-soaked instead of merely gin-soaked. Of course, Tanqueray is an acquired taste—like dating beautiful, conceited, young women from Rep*blican families.

John: Many years later (December 3, 2004, don’t ask me how I know), I heard this played back-to-back on a local oldies’ station with the Fab Four’s Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da and I thought: Okay, maybe the Beatles did need to break up. Perfect in every way.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (4 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (August 26, 1969)
• Accumulated sales: 2,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

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

 

Medium 45 1969 Archies SugarSugar 600

September 13–October 4

The Archies
Sugar, Sugar
Calendar 63-1008
(4 weeks)

Despite 1968 being the heyday of the so-called bubblegum music of the Kasenetz-Katz team, this was the second bubblegummy record to top the chart this year something none of those records had done the previous year.

It was only #1 for four weeks, but it seemed like four months back then. Another record we guys who took our rock music seriously in 1969 loved to hate.

This is the only record directly connected with a television cartoon show that ever reached the toppermost of the poppermost!

Lew: The reason Sugar, Sugar is such a determined earworm is that the writers are the great Jeff Barry and Andy Kim, the team responsible for Kim’s 1968 hit How’d We Ever Get This Way, one of the great songs of the decade. Also worth noting that the lead vocals are by Ron Dante from the Cufflinks of Tracy fame.

Per Wikipedia, this is the only time a fictional band had ever claimed the top spot on the Billboard annual Hot 100. But that raises the question, what exactly is a fictional band? There were no Cufflinks until Tracy became a hit. Were the Monkees a fictional band that got real? What about the Strangeloves? Neal, I think you need to write a blog entry on this topic.

Neal: Not a bad idea, and there are others: the Hollywood Argyles (Alley-Oop) and the New Vaudeville Band (Winchester Cathedral) spring to mind. And an article that looks at Andy Kim might be fun: he may have elevated bubblegum music to an art form with his string of excellent pop-rock singles.

My fave Andy Kim side is his 1974 chart-topper Rock Me Gently, the best Neil Diamond record Neil Diamond never made!

John: By now, anyone who has been following along knows I have a much higher tolerance for this stuff than Neal or Lew so you can guess how I feel about this one, the apotheosis of what I like to call the Bubblegum Aesthetic. I second all Lew says about Jeff Barry, Andy Kim, and Ron Dante. We also should not forget the great session vocalist Toni Wine, who sang the female voices and, among many other accomplishments, co-wrote Phil Spector’s last great record, the Checkmates’ Black Pearl.

The line between the Aesthetic and Art was always a fine one. Regarding the Cuff Links: I’ve read in the past that Dante was the only lead singer to ever place two records in the Top 10 in the same week with two different groups. If so, I hope it’s still true.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (4 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (August 30, 1969)
• Accumulated sales: 6,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

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

 

Medium 45 1969 BobbySherman LittleWoman PS 600

Medium 45 1969 BobbySherman LittleWoman 600

October 11

Bobby Sherman
Little Woman
Metromedia MMS-121
(1 week)

Did this lightweight record herald the return of the dreaded Bobbys to the pop charts? If you look at the cover of the pop music magazines of the late ’60s (16, Tiger Beat, even Hit Parader), you’ll see that the Bobbys never really went away. Hell, sometimes the Bobbys were called Davy or Sajid!

John: As an aficionado of this stuff, I have to admit Bobby’s records never moved me. I was surprised, years later, to discover that some of his appearances as a regular on Shindig! revealed him as a much better singer than his later big hit records indicated.

His priceless cultural moment, though, came decades later as Michelle Williams’ original-crush object in Dick, which is still the best movie ever made about Watergate. Her throwing Bobby over for Richard Nixon is one of the great tragic moments in American cinema.

Neal: Do you know what the flip-side of this record was? One Too Many Mornings! A little Bob on Bob?

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (October 7, 1969)
• 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 1969 ElvisPresley SuspiciousMinds PS 600

Medium 45 1969 ElvisPresley SuspiciousMinds 600

October 18–October 25

Elvis Presley
Suspicious Minds
RCA Victor 47-9764
(2 weeks)

Following the NBC-TV Special Elvis in December 1968 and then In the Ghetto earlier in 1969 and the stunning FROM ELVIS IN MEMPHIS album earlier in 1969, Suspicious Minds made Elvis look and sound eternal. It seemed like he was just going to get keep getting better and better.

Forever.

Alas.

Lew: Great comments about Elvis. This was the song that really brought Elvis back to his kingdom. It’s also another song that inspired great covers, including those by Fine Young Cannibals and Dwight Yoakam (though Dr. Dwight’s is near slavish in its similarity).

Neal: The older I get, the more awesome (awe-inspiring?) Elvis gets. How does he do it—he’s dead?

John: Yeah, but he’s Elvis. Death is just a state of mind.

Lew: In Argentina, in reverence to the great tango singer Carlos Gardel (who died in 1935), they say, “He sings better every day.”

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (October 28, 1969)
• 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 1969 FifthDimension WeddingBellBlues 600

November 1–November 15

The 5th Dimension
Wedding Bell Blues
Soul City SCR-779
(3 weeks)

The 5th Dimension topped the charts for three more weeks with a great reading of the Laura Nyro song. In a neat bit of irony, a black singer took a white singer’s funky, soulful original and slicked it up and homogenized it for the white pop market.

Lew: Love the irony you point out about 5th Dimension slicking up the soulful original. I adore Laura Nyro, and NEW YORK TENDERBERRY is one of my favorites of all time. Late-night driving music.

Neal: I’m not the biggest Nyro fan, but I certainly understand those who are. And as good as Marilyn McCoo is on Wedding Bell Blues, it just doesn’t come close to Laura’s.

John: This is the old “personal” versus “anthemic” reading again. See our discussion of Daydream Believer (see December 2, 1967, entry) although history has produced dozens of examples. I’d never want to have to choose between Laura Nyro and Marilyn McCoo . . . might as well ask whether I’d rather lose my right arm or my left.

It’s worth mentioning that the 5th Dimension were specifically signed as a black version of The Mamas & The Papas, which was a limiting idea, probably designed to milk a hit or two. They were successful out of the box, but they became huge when they forged their own identity.

Exactly why black people should be excluded from being taken seriously when they step onto “white” turf has always eluded me. (The Supremes’ Mary Wilson has some great thoughts on this subject in her first autobiography Dreamgirl: My Life As A Supreme, which I encourage everyone to seek out.)

Final thought: Supper Club Soul has never gotten its critical due. The 5th Dimension, Dionne Warwick, and Lionel Richie should all be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. None have ever even been nominated.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (3 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (December 5, 1969)
• 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 1969 Beatles Something 600

Medium 45 1969 Beatles ComeTogether 600

November 22–December 6

The Beatles
Come Together
Apple 2654
(3 weeks)

Depending on who you talk to, either side of the Beatles’ single Come Together / Something is remembered as the hit side. As the Beatles designated their preferred A-side by putting it on the uncut apple side of the 45s, then the correct A-side is Something (see above).

On Cash Box, both sides were listed individually with Something initially the hit side. It peaked at #2 on November 1, 1969, while Come Together was at #16 with a bullet. But the latter climbed to #1 for a 3-week stay while the former slid back down the charts. 

On Billboard, it was a different story: there it was listed as a double-A-sided single: Come Together / Something. As such, it was #1 for one week (November 29, 1969). So this record was a substantially bigger hit on Cash Box than it was on Billboard.

Neal: According to the Beatles Bible, “The song was composed for Timothy Leary’s campaign to stand against Ronald Reagan as governor of California. Leary and his wife Rosemary had traveled to Montréal for John and Yoko’s bed-in for peace, which took place on 1 June 1969. The Learys participated in the recording of Lennon’s Give Peace A Chance and were both name-checked in the lyrics.”

I always thought it was John’s plea to the Beatles to get past their differences and maybe keep the group together.

John: Then again, maybe it wasn’t time for the Beatles to break up.

Neal: On February 17, 1999, Capitol perversely had Something recertified and it received a 2xPlatinum Record Award for 2,000,000 sales.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (October 27, 1969)
• Accumulated sales: 3,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

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

 

Medium 45 1969 BloodSweatTears AndWhenIDie 600

December 13

Blood, Sweat & Tears
And When I Die
Columbia 4-45008
(1 week)

First, this isn’t jazz-rock, it’s drag-rock; that is, Broadway music in rock drag. It has more in common with Ethel Merman than Billie Holiday. Second, in 1969, I was certain that David Clayton Thomas was the worst white man trying to sing black music I’d ever heard. Then came Michael Bolton and now I’m not so sure.

Lew: Boy, you hit so many nails on the head in this one: the first Blood, Sweat & Tears album, with Al Kooper at the helm, was brilliant and wonderful and remains an all-time favorite. Never has a group suffered such a catastrophic personnel change as the replacement of Kooper by David Clayton-Thomas, and such a drop in quality, from one record to the next.

Neal: Yes, the first Blood, Sweat & Tears album was killer. Poor Kooper never seemed to get his act focused and become a genuine, long-lasting “rock star.” I bought the second album expecting more of the same and got David Clayton-Thomas and brassy high school band arrangements of non-rock songs.

But people who didn’t really like rock & roll tended to love Blood, Sweat & Tears. The editors of Playboy magazine inducted them into their Jazz & Pop Hall of Fame before hundreds of deserving rockers.

Lew: I think of Kooper’s I STAND ALONE as the real second Blood, Sweat & Tears album. Same structure, a lot of the same songwriters, and except for the stupid Moog instrumental, a great record.

Worth mentioning here that Kooper wrote one of the great rock memoirs, Backstage Passes And Backstabbing Bastards. Funny, insightful, self-deprecating, uncensored, and really well written.

John: I sort of like that first album and sort of like the whole different version of Blood, Sweat & Tears that emerged afterward. No strong feelings either way. But this was another Laura Nyro song that hit big for someone else (there were many others) and I always liked Todd Rundgren’s comment about Nyro to the effect that any songwriter of the period who said they weren’t affected by her first album was lying. Genius finds a way.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (January 14, 1970)
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew: Wait—there has to be a way I can put zero stars.
Neal: Me, too! Me, too!

 

Medium 45 1969 PeterPaulMary LeavingOnAJetPlane 600

December 20

Peter, Paul & Mary
Leaving On A Jet Plane
Warner Brothers 7340
(1 week)

Peter, Paul & Mary had four Top 10 hits in 1962-1963 and were then ignored by most record buyers. In 1967 they returned to the Top 10 with I Dig Rock And Roll Music, which most critics see as condescending satire but I always thought was a nod of affection.

John Denver wrote and recordedBabe, I Hate to Go” in 1966. Peter, Paul & Mary recorded it as “Leaving on a Jet Planefor their 1967 album Album 1700.

In 1969, someone at Warner Brothers was inspired to release Leaving On A Jet Plane as a single, for which they deserved a raise if not a promotion. It was both Peter, Paul & Mary and Denver’s first #1 record.

Lew: I’m not a John Denver fan, but this is a great piece of music and Peter, Paul & Mary do a great job with it. I agree about I Dig Rock And Roll Music—very affectionate. And maybe just a little “Hey, we can do that too.”

Neal: Yeah—exactly! And really, maybe they couldn’t. Except that once.

Lew: I think they could have if they wanted to, but they didn’t want to. They made their point and moved on.

John: It wasn’t all record buyers who ignored PP&M—eight of the ten albums they released in the ’60s went gold but they certainly had less impact on the Top 40 after the Beatles hit. That said, for a straight folk group to score half-a-dozen Top 10 hits across nearly a decade in the rock & roll era was impressive by any standard and I don’t think it was an accident that as the most tumultuous American decade since the 1860s came to a close, the culture literally reached for Mary Travers’ voice to make sense of it all, even if they had to dig up a two-year-old album track to do it.

Neal: Yes, John, thanks—I should have said that Peter, Paul & Mary were ignored by those of us who bought the little-record-with-the-big-hole back then. They continued selling reasonably large quantities of the big-record-with-the-small-hole through the decade.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (December 30, 1969)
• 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 1969 Supremes SomedayWellBeTogether 600

December 27

Diana Ross & the Supremes
Someday We’ll Be Together
Motown M-1156
(1 week)

The year opened and closed with Motown’s biggest hit-makers, Diana Ross & the Supremes, at the top of the charts! They had their second #1 record with another fine soul-tinged pop record. Someday We’ll Be Together was also #1 for the first week of January 1970 for a total of two weeks at #1.

Like most Supremes singles, it’s a Diana Ross solo record with the other members as backup singers. It was also the last record with the Supremes’ name on it that reached #1 on either the Cash Box Top 100 or the Billboard Hot 100.

Lew: Actually, per Wikipedia, this was originally intended to be a Diana Ross solo release and neither Cindy nor Mary is on the track. Which, sadly, tells you something—they had been shoved so far into the background as to be replaceable.

Neal: And your referencing Wikipedia allows me to plug an upcoming article that I will be writing about why readers should never trust any “fact” that appears in a Wikipedia entry about rock and related music—although Wiki entries on more serious topics like science or history or math are far more accurate. In this case, the more reliable SongFacts backs up the statement about Ross being the only Supreme on the recording.

John: So the decade ended with the sound of goodbye—Mary Travers and Diana Ross singing as if the future had already come and gone. It had been a while since Mary Wilson was allowed to sing on the Supremes’ singles and, except for the Tempts’ collaborations, Cindy Birdsong never did.

Still, melancholy and myth-making were Motown’s and Diana Ross’s wheelhouse. Here, we get one of her finest vocals and a fitting coda to the decade we’ve never walked away from and never will.

Neal: Motown did not seek immediate RIAA certification for an official Gold Record Award for Someday We’ll Be Together. This was rectified on August 7, 1997, when it received a Gold Record Award for 500,000 sales and a 1xPlatinum Record Award for 1,000,000 sales.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• 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: ✮ ✮ ✮

The 5th Dimension’s ‘Aquarius’ / ‘Let the Sunshine In’ and the Beatles’ ‘Get Back’ were the biggest hits of 1969. Find the other big hits of the year here! Click To Tweet

PeterPaulMary 50Years dvd 1000 crop

FEATURED ARTIST: Peter Yarrow, Noël Paul Stookey, and Mary Travers were three diehard folkies working the thriving folk music/lifestyle scene that was Greenwich Village in the early ’60s. Manager/hustler Albert Grossman was looking to put together a group that would be “an updated version of the Weavers for the baby-boom generation with the crossover appeal of the Kingston Trio.” He and Yarrow found Travers sho recommended Stookey and Peter, Paul & Mary were born.

Well, actually they were assembled and with the goal of selling records and making money. For this, they were viewed with both skepticism and downright condescension by the more “organic” folkies of the time. This despite the fact that PP&M were an excellent trio, grounded in a variety of folk music. They were immediately successful: Their self-titled first album topped the Billboard best-selling LPs chart and spawned a pair of Top 40 hits singles If I Had A Hammer and Lemon Tree.

In 1963, they introduced Bob Dylan to the masses with versions of Blowin’ In The Wind and Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right reaching the Top 10 on the national pop charts. Their first six albums sold millions each certified by the RIAA for a Gold Record Award. Along with the Kingston Trio, they carried folk music into the forefront of American popular music. Not only did this not endear them to the hardcore folkies, it only made them dislike the trio even more!

With the advent of the British Invasion of 1964, their music along with most folk style music lost many of its followers as the bulk of the record-buying public switched to rock & roll. They officially broke up to pursue solo careers in 1970 but eventually reunited, performing and recording until Travers’s death in 2009 from leukemia.

Year-end observations

Twenty-two records reached #1 on the Cash Box Top 100 chart in 1969. Here is the breakdown of #1 records based on how many weeks they spent at the top of the chart:

8 weeks: 0
7 weeks: 0
6 weeks: 0
5 weeks: 2
4 weeks: 3
3 weeks: 3
2 weeks: 6
1 week:   9

The year opened with Marvin Gaye’s I Heard It Through The Grapevine still at #1. Counting the last two weeks of 1968, it was at the top of the chart for five consecutive weeks. This was the first of three singles that were recorded in 1967, released as an album track in ’67 or ’68, pulled from the album and released as a single in ’69, and went on to reach #1. The other two were Time Of The Season and Leaving On A Jet Plane.

Lew: Not much new blood in the #1 slot this year. Music was in a bit of a fallow period, waiting for the next big thing. And that thing turned out to be the end of Top 40 radio. FM was already taking over as the preferred medium and with it a split into narrowcasting—rock stations, country stations, R&B stations, easy listening stations.

You could make an argument that 1969 was the last year where everybody was invited to the same party. And music listeners are poorer for it.

John: As has no doubt been evident throughout, my experience of the ’60s, musically and otherwise, was very different from Lew and Neal’s. Growing up ten years later, I find their references to “normal” a little humorous. I graduated from a small rural high school in the deep south in 1978. There were about forty boys in my graduating class. I was one of about three who didn’t smoke dope.

Acts of rebellion or “counterculture” in Lew and Neal’s time had already become supreme acts of conformity in mine. I refused to conform. Loving ’60s music was part of my refusal. The only ’60s bands who retained any degree of hipness for my graduating class were the Beatles, the Stones, and the Doors. For that very reason, I viewed them all with a degree of skepticism, preferring the terminally uncool Beach Boys and Four Seasons and the nearly forgotten Byrds and Lovin’ Spoonful.

Time brought me around. I loved them all soon enough and my fascination with the decade has never waned. These days the President of the United States holds tent-revival-style political rallies and closes each one with You Can’t Always Get What You Want.

No matter what you think of that, it does suggest one thing: The Sixties are with us always.

Gold Record Awards

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

RIAA certification rate: 86%

 


 

2 thoughts on “the #1 hit records on the pop charts 1969”

  1. Love the Cowsills! Their version of Hair was a great cover. As Neal knows, I am a great Billy Cowsill fan and highly recommend his early 90’s band The Blue Shadows. Then again, I am Canadian!

    Reply
    • M

      I do believe it was you who turned me on to the Blue Shadows a few years ago. If I haven’t mentioned it, “Deliver Me” is one of my fave recordings of the past thirty years! The first couple of strums of the guitars had me and then theirs that G-L-O-R-I-O-U-S singing. Thanks so much for giving e this song!!!

      Heck, I even like the video:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zv7CCUJhg3c

      Keep on keepin’ on!

      N

      Reply

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