1967 – Best Albums – Summer of Love / Psychedelia / Sgt Pepper’s

1967 – The Year of the Album and Sales are booming

Not “The Album of the Year”

United Artists, in a moment of confidence and flamboyance, nominated the next James Bond film theme – You only live twice – as “Album of the the Year”.  Despite Nancy Sinatra taking the helm in the Bond theme song the album did not make “Album of the Year” as there were far too many better contenders.  In 1967 album sales world-wide were booming and there were many more albums to buy as new and young groups were picked up by the A&R people, rushed into a studio and often recorded the first thing that came into their heads.  Some of this output was brilliant, raw, and listenable; other offerings were destined for the bargain basement or the garbage bin.  Along with the wild and wonderful psychedelic rock and the Summer of Love the airwaves abounded with sunshine pop, brotherhood and esoteric sounds.  With burgeoning sales of stereo equipment and new technologies – 8 Track and cassette tapes – the music business was enjoying buoyant sales across all music categories – rock, black rhythm & blues, soul and pop, movie soundtracks, classical music, a welter of easy listening music and to a lesser extent jazz and its dedicated fans.  Let’s take a look at the top selling albums according to Gene Sculatti in his mini-tome 100 Best Selling Albums of the 60s (2004).

Rating sales Artist Album Title
87 500,000 Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass Sounds Like
86 500,000 Bobbie Gentry Ode to Billy Joe
67 1,000,000 Glen Campbell Gentle on my mind
68 1,000,000 Various Camelot – Original Soundtrack
65 1,000,000 Cream Disraeli Gears
64 1,000,000 Moody Blues Days of future passed
63 1,000,000 Glen Campbell By the time I get to Phoenix
62 1,000,000 Doors Strange Days
61 1,000,000 Jimi Hendrix Experience Axis: Bold as love
40 2,000,000 Doors The Doors
39 2,000,000 Elvis Presley How great thou art
38 2,000,000 Monkees Headquarters
15 4,000,000 Jimi Hendrix Experience Are you experienced
9 5,000,000 Monkees The Monkees
8 5,000,000 Monkees More of the Monkees
6 6,000,000 Beatles Magical Mystery Tour
4 11,000,000 Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

The Monkees and the Beatles dominate sales and although Jimi Hendrix’ singles did not hit the top spots his albums certainly sold well.  Glen Campbell also enjoyed high popularity in the late 60s with his friendly demeanour and brilliant songs many composed by Jimmy Webb.  Elvis, whilst mainly sticking to the movie business and several mediocre albums, released a special religious experience for his fans to fantastic sales.

  

BestEverAlbum.com – 515 albums rated for 1967

But best selling is not necessarily best album.  The BestEverAlbum.com site lists over 500 albums released in 1967 and there are some interesting albums languishing in the low 500s.  To set the scene the Top 30 albums (rated by the votes of thousands of fans over time and continually changing as fans reassess the critical importance of individual albums or simply change their views) are listed in the following table.  The last column lists the Peak Position reached in the Billboard Hot 200 for comparison.

Rating Artist Album Title Billboard Hot200
1 Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely hearts Club Band 1
2 The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground & Nico 171
3 Doors The Doors 2
4 Jimi Hendrix Experience Are you experienced 5
5 Love Forever Changes 154
6 Beatles Magical Mystery Tour 1
7 Pink Floyd The Piper at the Gates of Dawn 131
8 Leonard Cohen Songs of Leonard Cohen 83
9 Jimi Hendrix Experience Axis: Bold as love 3
10 Cream Disraeli Gears 4
11 Doors Strange Days 3
12 Jefferson Airplane Surrealistic Pillow 3
13 The Moody Blues Days of future passed 3*
14 The Who The Who Sell Out ?
15 Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band Safe as Milk DNC
16 Kinks Something else by the Kinks 153
17 Aretha Franklin I have never loved a man the way I love you 2
18 Nico Chelsea Girl DNC
19 Tim Buckley Goodbye and hello 171
20 Bob Dylan John Wesley Harding 2
21 Byrds Younger than Yesterday 24
22 The Red Crayola The parable of the Arable Land DNC
23 Rolling Stones Their Satanic Majesties Request 2
24 Rolling Stones Between the buttons 6
25 Buffalo Springfield Buffalo Springfield Again 44
26 The Mothers of Invention Absolutely free 41
27 Beach Boys Wild Honey 24
28 Beach Boys Smiley Smile 41
29 Moby Grape Moby Grape 24
30 Jefferson Airplane After bathing at Baxter’s 17

*Days of Future Passed peaked in the Billboard Hot 200 in 1972!!!

This list is certainly representative of the main stream white rock fan, noting Aretha Franklin is the lone black artist in the Top 30.  This may well reflect the type of fan who responds to surveys.

   

And there are more

There are many wonderful albums below the 30 mark and a few are listed in the following table.

Rating Artist Album Title Billboard Hot200
31 Traffic Mr Fantasy  88
37 13th Floor Elevators Easter Everywhere  122
47 Scott Walker Scott  DNC
62 Laura Nyro More than a New Discovery  DNC
70 Small Faces Small Faces aka There are but four Small Faces  (US Release)  ?
77 The Young Rascals Groovin’ 5
79 Strawberry Alarm Clock Incense & Peppermints 11
127 Bobbie Gentry Ode to Billy Joe 1
252 Arthur Connolly Sweet soul music 93
330 The Youngbloods The Youngbloods 131

   

Included in the list of 513 albums of BestEverAlbums.com there are about 50 albums which comprise primarily psychedelic spaced out music which will form part of a later edition of our Rockblogster Forum.

Ultimateclassicrock.com are Us

The Ultimate Classic Rock Top 10 is unequivocal.  From their website Ultimateclassicrock.com, they state “1967 was a banner year for rock music.  The Summer of Love hosted everything from the Monterey Pop Festival, which gave Jimi Hendrix his big break, to the Beatles’ landmark’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.‘  A whole new world opened up to artists, who weren’t content to just record great singles and fill out their LPs with half-hearted covers anymore.  From the Beatles to the Rolling Stones to the Beach Boys, everyone had a grand statement to make at album length.  It wasn’t easy, but we managed to pull together a list of the Top 10 Albums of 1967.”  And here it is:

Rank Artist Album Title
1 Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
2 Jimi Hendrix Experience Are you experienced
3 Buffalo Springfield Buffalo Springfield Again
4 Jimi Hendrix Axis: Bold as love
5 Rolling Stones Between the Buttons
6 Door The Doors
7 Cream Disraeli Gears
8 The Mother of Invention Absolutely Free
9 Jefferson Airplane Surrealistic Pillow
10 Beatles Magical Mystery Tour

   

There are a few surprises in there – Buffalo Springfield, Rolling Stones and the Zappa album – and no Velvet Underground, but it is a pragmatic stab by the experts at Ultimate Classic Rock.  At best it leaves room for debate and does not pussyfoot around with Monkees’ albums, and discounts Glen Campbell, the genuine Rhinestone Cowboy as a contender, who obviously does not meet the ‘rock’ criteria.

The Arbiter Rolling Stone Magazine – or maybe not

To settle a lot of arguments we should move to the Rolling Stone Top 500 albums and review the 21 nominations for 1967 and their relative positions.  The state of play, which is fluid, is as follows:

Rank Artist Album Title
1 Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
13 The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground & Nico
15 Jimi Hendrix Are you experienced
40 Love Forever Changes
42 Doors The Doors
82 Jimi Hendrix Experience Axis: Bold as love
83 Aretha Franklin I never loved a man the way I love you
102 Cream Fresh Cream (released 1966)
114 Cream Disraeli Gears
115 The Who The Who Sell Out
123 Moby Grape Moby Grape
126 Byrds Younger than yesterday
146 Jefferson Airplane Surrealistic Pillow
186 Buffalo Springfield Buffalo Springfield Again
285 Kinks Something else by the Kinks
289 The Velvet Underground White Light / White Heat
297 Bob Dylan John Wesley Harding
343 Pink Floyd The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
351 Rolling Stones Between the Buttons
403 Doors Strange days
476 Merle Haggard Down every road

On the Rolling Stone magazine website [http://www.rollingstone.com/music/pictures/the-40-essential-albums-of-1967-20070705] they have another crack at 1967 with a selection of 40 “Essential” albums.  It is really more of the same with a few black soul albums thrown in by Mississippi John Hurt, Howard Tate, James Brown and Otis Redding & Carla Thomas.  There are no surprises nor inspiration from Rolling stone.

   

Billboard where the money flows

The view from Billboard is another world away in a large room with red carpet, stuffed corner to corner with dollar bills and recording contracts, the walls covered in gold disks and the smiling faces of successful artists.  The Top spot for albums in 1967 was not widely shared as can be seen in the following summary of Billboard’s Hot 200.

Date Artists Album Title
Jan – Feb Monkees The Monkees
Feb – Jun Monkees More of the Monkees
Jun Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass Sounds Like
Jun – Aug Monkees Headquarters
Aug – Oct Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Oct Bobbie Gentry Ode to Billy Joe
Oct – Dec Diana Ross & the Supremes Dianna Ross & the Supremes Greatest Hits
Dec Monkees Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd

From an aficionados’ perspective it is not much of a “best of” list unless you are an out and out Monkees’ fan with all three albums released in 1967 reaching the #1 position.  But if you look deeper into the Billboard Hot 200 throughout 1967 there are some very interesting entrees over the year with some exciting artists in the Top 10 and some tanking in the Bottom 10.  It is also interesting to note those albums listed in the BestEverAlbum.com site which did not make it into the Hot 200 or barely graced the Billboard charts at all.  There are several.

Billboard progressions -January – June

Whilst the Monkees held off in the #1 spot throughout January until 11 February, their erstwhile competition (aside from another Monkees album) was Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass (SRO and Going Places) and popular soundtracks – The Sound of Music and Dr Zhivago.  Other contenders were the Rolling Stones – #6 – Got live if you want it, the Temptations – The Temptations Greatest Hits, Paul Revere & the Raiders – The Spirit of ’67.  More of the Monkees stayed on top from 11 February until 10 June eventually released from their responsibility by the persistent and getting far richer Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass.  Between February and June Love reached #80 with Da Capo, the Kinks #135 with Face to Face – no mention of Something Else by the Kinks!  Frank Zappa made #130 with Freak Out! And the Hollies, favourites in the USA only reached #91 with Stop! Stop! Stop!

In March, Donovan made #14 with Mellow Yellow, Nancy Sinatra #18 with Sugar, the Blues Magoos #21 with Psychedelic Lollipop (released November 1966) and the Byrds at #24 with Younger than Yesterday.  In March there was also a large influx of new albums in the high 100s from Jefferson Airplane, Sonny & Cher, the Youngbloods and the Doors.  Matters warmed up more in April with Aretha Franklin, the Electric Prunes, Frank Sinatra, and the Blues Magoos – with a new album – Electric Comic Book.  In May there were more new arrivals-  the Buckinghams, the Turtles, the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Cream, the Velvet Underground & Nico – arriving at #199 on 13 May and stopping at #171 a little later.

At least in May there was a significant change in the Top 10 despite the Monkees still being at #1.  On 27 May Aretha Franklin sat at #2 with her debut album with Atlantic Records – the dazzling I have never loved man the way I love you.  Comedian Bill Cosby, exceedingly popular in 1967, was at #3 with Revenge, the Mamas & the Papas at #4 Mamas & the Papas Deliver, the Lovin’ Spoonful at #8 with the Best of the Lovin’ Spoonful and at #10 Jefferson Airplane with Surrealistic Pillow.

Come 17 June Herb Alpert launched into the #1 album spot with Sounds Like.  The Monkees jumped right back on top the following week with their second album released in 1967 – Headquarters, but only remained there for a few weeks before the album of the century the Beatles’ masterpiece Sgt Peppers, in its second week in the charts took over the top spot.

   

Billboard progressions – July to December

Sgt Pepper’s, unique in its time and place took the Billboard charts by storm on 1 July until 7 October.  All summer long Sgt Pepper rode the airwaves.  The Rolling Stones made it to #3 with Flowers – a fabulous compilation album in mid August, with the Doors at #4 and Jefferson Airplane at #5.  Scuffling around down below are the Seeds with Future at #196 (peaking at #87) and Canned Heat with their self-titled debut at #198 (making #76).  The Grassroots with Let’s live for today debut at #169 and Jimi Hendrix makes his first appearance in the Billboard Hot 200 at #190 on 26 August.

In September the Rascals made #6 with Groovin’ & Moby Grape with their self-titled debut made #24.  The Top 10 albums for 23 September looks pretty good.

Rank Artists Album Title
1 Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
2 Doors The Doors
3 Rolling Stones Flowers
4 Monkees Headquarters
5 The Rascals Groovin’
6 Jefferson Airplane Surrealistic Pillow
7 Aretha Franklin Aretha Arrives
8 The Temptations With a lot O’Soul
9 Bobbie Gentry Ode to Billy Joe
10 Engelbert Humperdinck Release Me

By 7 October the Jimi Hendrix Experience make #10 with debut album Are you experienced, demonstrating a broader approval rating for what we now recognise as a truly legendary performer.  In the following week the lovely Bobbie Gentry knocks the Beatles off the top perch with her debut album Ode to Billy Joe.  The Four Tops make it to #10 with a Greatest Hits album and many “best-ofs” are big sellers in 1967.

Diana Ross and the Supremes confirm this trend with a Greatest Hits album as their next #1 and stay at the top until 25 November.  Vanilla Fudge with their self-titled debut make it to #6 – a great first effort.  The Beatles are still at #2 with Sgt Pepper’s and by 18 November the Doors have two albums at #3 and #4 – Strange Days and their self-titled debut respectively.  The Bee Gees make #8 with their album titled Bee Gees’ 1st.

   

In their second week on the Hot 200 the Monkees reclaim the top spot with their fourth album – Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd – on 2 December.  The Monkees remain at the top until the end of the year.  Strawberry Alarm Clock arrive with Incense & Peppermints at #29 going on to higher things.  Pink Floyd with The Piper at the Gates of Dawn also arrive at #196 and crawl slowly to #131.  New heavy hitters Cream, with their second album – Disraeli Gears slip into #146 destined for near glory, and Scott McKenzie, the voice of San Francisco over summer, debuts at #150 slumping to #127, lost in the Billboard music swamps.  The Rolling Stones charge into gear with Their Satanic Majesties Request – an album of great ambition but really a slighter shade of pale –nevertheless is #5 on 30 December.  Fans are still trying to work that album out.

So from January to December whilst the Hot 200 was dominated by a few super sellers many challengers entered the fray.  Many of the albums listed in the BestEverAlbum.com list did not even make it to the Hot200 or remained in the Billboard swamps in the low 100s.

Presence and Longevity on the Billboard Hot 200

Broad analysis of the Billboard Hot 200 charts for 1967 reveal some interesting statistics with those groups dominating the record shelves.  Whilst not wishing to deride the sales statistics of Gene Sculatti which we mentioned at the start of this essay, Herb Alpert had seven albums in the Hot 200 four of which made it to #1 in 1966 or 1967, spending up to three and a half years in the Billboard Charts, which means albums were continually selling in large numbers.  A comparative table of the chart champions shows the dominance of the big sellers.

Artist / Album Title Peak Position Weeks on Charts
Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass
SRO (released 1966) 2 85
Whipped Cream (released 1965) 1 185
Going Places (released 1965) 1 164
What now my love (released 1966) 1 129
South of the Border (released 1964) 6 163
Lonely Bull (released 1962) 10 133
Sounds Like 1 53
Herb Alpert’s Ninth 4 49
Monkees
The Monkees (released 1966) 1 102
More of the Monkees 1 96
Headquarters 1 68
Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd 64
Beatles
Revolver (released 1966) 1 85
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band 1 194
Magic Mystery Tour 1 93
Rolling Stones
Flowers 3 35
Got live if you want it! (released 1966) 6 48
Between the Buttons 6 115
Big Hits (High Tide & Green Grass (released 1966) 3 99
Their Satanic Majesties Request 2 30
Bill Cosby
Revenge 2 73
Wonderfulness (released 1966) 7 106
Why is there air? (released 1965) 19 152
Bill Cosby is a very funny fellow…Right! (released 1963) 21 128
I started out as a child (released 1964) 32 140
The Rascals
The Young Rascals (released 1966) 15 84
Collections 14 74
Groovin’ 5 59
Frank Sinatra
That’s Life (released 1966) 6 61
Strangers in the Night (released 1966) 1 73
Francis Albert Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim 19 28
The Movie Songs 195 2
The world we knew (aka Frank Sinatra) 24 23
Sinatra at the Sands (released 1966) 9 45

Billboard, although a wonderful resource, does not provide all the answers and there are further references to pursue.

    

1001 Albums You Gotta Hear

1001 Albums you must hear before you die (2006 Edition) edited by Robert Dimery normally covers the field.  In 1966 there were fewer albums nominated – only 16 albums, compared with 31 in 1967.  There is not a great variation in comparison with the BestEverAlbum.com Top 30 but there are some nice additions including:

Artist Album Title
Astrud Gilberto Beach Samba
Country Joe & the Fish Electric music for the mind & the body
Love Da Capo
The Beau Brummels Triangle
Frank Sinatra / Antonio Carlos Jobim Francis Albert Sinatra / Antonio Carlos Jobim
The Young Rascals Groovin’
Donovan Sunshine Superman
The Electric Prunes I had too much to dream last night
Loretta Lynn Don’t come home a drinkin’ (with lovin’ on your mind)
The Velvet Underground White Light / White Heat
Shivkumar Sharma / Brijbushan Kabra / Hariprasad Chaurasia Call of the valley

   

Paul Gambaccini – Old School

One of our ‘old-school’ music guides is Paul Gambaccini.  He is author of one of the first books on top albums titled simply Top 100 Albums first published in 1987 with an earlier reference point to 1977, noting critics and fans change their perspectives as older albums fade and newer albums take precedence.  Surprisingly Gambaccini selects a paltry six albums for 1967.  He must know something.

Rank Artist Album Title
1 Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
7 The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground & Nico
34 Love Forever Changes
66 The Who The Who sell out
78 Bob Dylan John Wesley Harding
97 Jimi Hendrix Experience Are you experienced

[Courtesy of Billboard Magazine]

Colin Larkin Selections– Independent Wild Card

Colin Larkin, editor of many contemporary music catalogues, if not a bit of a wild card, has a keen ear for amazing albums.  His book – The Virgin All-time Top 1000 Albums (1998) – lists 36 albums from 1967, and many of them have also been nominated by our previous experts.  His Top 10 with their comparative rankings are listed in the following table.

Rank Rank in Top 1000 Artist Album Title
1 2 Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
2 22 The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground & Nico
3 40 Love Forever Changes
4 67 Doors The Doors
5 70 Jimi Hendrix Experience Are you experienced
6 95 Byrds Younger than Yesterday
7 121 The Who The Who Sell Out
8 122 John Coltrane A Love Supreme
9 134 Moby Grape Moby Grape
10 138 Pink Floyd The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

You might wonder which album made #1 if not Sgt Pepper’s.  Larkin’s pick is Revolver released by the Beatles in 1966 and his #3 is – The White Album.  In his book the Beatles win the trifecta and the Monkees creep in at #950 with More of the Monkees, which may put things into relative perspective.

101 Essential Rock Records

Our remaining expert is Jeff Gold and the reference is his wonderful book 101 Essential Rock Records (2013).  And the albums selected for 1967 total 16 taking up a fair slab of the 101 essential albums, indicating that 1967 was a special year, when the seeds originally sown by the British invasion flowered (forgive the pun) across the Atlantic, and America pretty much resumed its rock music birthright, although the Beatles retained the crown with the very special Sgt Peppers.  The albums chosen by Jeff Gold match the Top 30 selection of the BestEverAlbums.com, with three exceptions:

Laura Nyro – More than a new discovery

The Grateful Dead – Grateful Dead

Traffic – Mr Fantasy

  

Grammy Awards – 1968

And lastly we must enter the parallel universe that is the Grammys.  And the 1968 Grammy Awards did not disappoint as they have in the previous few years.  1967 was a watershed moment for modern pop and rock music with awards being shared for some momentous output in 1967.

Beatles at the launch of Sgt Peppers in London 1967

The nominees for Album of the Year were:

Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Bobbie Gentry  Ode to Billy Joe

Ed Ames – My cup runneth over

Frank Sinatra, Antonio Carlos Jobim – Francis Albert Sinatra / Antonio Carlos Jobim

Vikki Carr – It must be him

The Beatles won the award.  They also won the award for the ‘Best Cover, Graphic Arts’, ‘Best Engineered Recording’, and Best Contemporary Album’.

Bobbie Gentry also received awards for ‘Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist’, Best Female Contemporary Vocal Solo’, ‘Best Female Vocal performance’ and ‘Best New Artist’ for Ode to Billy Joe.

Aretha Franklin received awards ‘Best Rhythm & Blues Recording’ and ‘Best Rhythm & Blues Vocal –Performance Female for Respect.

Jimmy Webb cleaned up with ‘Best Song of the Year’ – Up, Up & Away with The 5th Dimension winning “Best group Vocal Performance’ and ‘Record of the Year’ (Record of the year means ‘single’).

Glen Campbell was the ‘Best Male Contemporary Vocal’ winner and ‘Best Male Vocal performance’ for By the time I get to Phoenix – forever on the radio in 1967 and another brilliant Jimmy Webb composition.

   

In closing on the Grammys, Elvis won the ‘Best Sacred Performance’ for his album How great thou art – not a rock shot by any stretch of the imagination, but good for business in the southern bible belt.  So help me Lord and pass the bullets.

[Courtesy of Billboard Magazine]

White Elephant Records Favourite Top 11 Albums for 1967

It has been a fascinating journey through 1967, ‘fifty years ago today’, and many fond memories have surfaced.  During our time in researching this 1967 series of essays, there has been many a purchase from Discogs and other sources to replenish and update the White Elephant Record Library.  And it has been worth it.  1967 was indeed a watershed year – the Beatles flowered, other British groups trooped out the colours of the rainbow, and American rock groups responded in a glorious Summer of Love.  Putting aside drugs, wars, and civil violence, give love a chance and albums were king.

There is as usual a consensus between critics, fans and the record buying public of the best albums of 1967.  Many of these albums did not sell well.  However, many of the ‘best’ albums are still selling today in all formats – streaming, CD, and with the boom in vinyl production and record presses running night and day, in black vinyl 33 and1/3 rpm format with great lovely covers and inserts.  In 2017 there has been a rash of 50th anniversary album reproductions with special CD/DVD bonus packs.  All you need is love and money.

Despite all the prior advice, and selected listening and replays, it is too difficult to select a definitive Top 10 for 1967. At White Elephant we have picked favourites even though the genuine musical “quality” might not compare with the truly magnificent.  But we are talking about ‘pop’ music, and the arguments will continue regardless.  Our eleven favourites in random order are:

Artists Album Title
Jimi Hendrix Experience Are You Experienced
Traffic Mr Fantasy
Kinks Something Else by the Kinks
Various Camelot – Original Soundtrack
Jefferson Airplane Surrealistic Pillow
Small Faces Small Faces
Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Rascals Groovin’
Cream Disraeli Gears
Strawberry Alarm Clock Incense & Peppermints
Mamas & the Papas Farewell to the first Golden Era

Two Australian albums deserve special mention – The Masters Apprentices self-titled debut and the Bee Gees’ 1st.  Tune in, turn on and crank up that stereo.

    

 

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