the #1 hit records on the pop charts 1969

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 Mon­treal 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.

 


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, 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 on 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 Trom 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 of 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 14-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 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 of 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 168, 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 this 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 Mon­treal 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 PP&M 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 in 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, Noel 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%

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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!

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