1968 Street Fighting, Protest & Revolution – Hot Singles

[Courtesy Pat Oliphant 1968]

Vietnam – a gloomy shadow

Improving on the Summer of Love was always going to be difficult.  1968 proved to be a long and frustrating year.  The war in Vietnam was getting worse, more bombing, more fighting, and an increasing death toll on both sides with an ineffective back-ground of peace talks in Paris, protest marches and moratoriums against the war in major western cities.  Governments failed to appease their critics and failed to act amidst fears of communism, the domino theory and out-of-this-world body snatchers and their ilk.

On 30 January 1968 the Tet Offensive, a coordinated attack by North Vietnamese forces on 100 cities, towns and villages in South Vietnam, shook the allied forces and was perhaps a turning point in the war leading towards the long slow withdrawal of American and allied troops from Vietnam.

Against this dark back drop, 1968 sees the emergence of bubblegum pop, and an increasing number of novelty songs, whilst other members of the rock pantheon become more complex, more serious and heavier.  Black Soul & RnB continues in its satin sequined path saturating the charts with cool doo wop, love ballads, dance and blues destined to take Motown higher.

Australia fizzles…pop or plop!

Downunder, in early January the search for missing Prime Minister Harold Holt in the waters of Cheviot Bay is called off, and on 10 January 1968 John Gorton steps into the prime spot, a surprise to many as he was an unconventional leader by most reckonings, if not a loose cannon on deck.  One of his first actions as PM was to send a telegram to Pete Townsend telling him that The Who, currently on tour with the Small faces and at war with the Australian press pack, will not visit Australia again.  Worse things follow.  Take the Go-Set Top 40 for example on 3 January.  Sitting at #1 is Snoopy’s Christmas by the Royal Guardsmen, a joke group from Ocala, Florida, USA and a great embarrassment to anyone with a sense of fairness.  And they stay at the top for two weeks when normality returns and the Beatles, unquestioned masters of the Pop Universe, assume their rightful role as leaders of the pop kingdom with Hello Goodbye / I am the Walrus (coo coo cachou!).

Hence, the 17th of January 1968 is a better date to take a look at the Go-Set Top 40.  There is a new boy on the block in Johnny Farnham and for balance, an ‘oldie’ – Engelbert in his entire ‘Madrassan’ splendor, and two legendary Australian groups – the Twilights and the Bee Gees.

1 Beatles Hello Goodbye / I am the Walrus
2 The Royal Guardsmen Snoopy’s Christmas
3 Johnny Farnham Sadie the cleaning lady
4 The Monkees Daydream Believer
5 Engelbert Humperdinck The Last Waltz
6 Sandie Shaw You’ve not changed
7 Cowsills The rain, the park and other things
8 Bee Gees World / Sir Geoffrey saved the world
9 Twilights Cathy come home
10 Bee Gees Massachusetts

Sadie the Cleaning Lady

Thankfully, nor is it ever likely to be, Sadie the cleaning lady is not recognized in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as we write, but the song topped the charts in Australia on 31 January and stayed there until the end of February – a truly baffling feat.  “Sadie” was the biggest selling Australian single in the 1960s selling 180,000 copies.  One can only wonder but as we always say – it’s only pop!  Who cares?  But it did wonders for Johnny Farnham’s career, launched by a wet mop and stayed in the stratosphere (in Australia) indefinitely.  Sadie stopped a few good songs from reaching top spot – the Monkees – Daydream Believer at #3, the Small Faces – Tin Soldier also at #3, and close by Georgie Fame with the widescreen violence of The Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde, and the terrible Bottle of Wine by the Fireballs.

Although the number of Australian artists in the Go-Set Top 40 had declined since 1967, a new Australian band, Somebody’s Image, (Russell Morris’ first band outing) made #17 with the Joe South song Hush, a much better version than the Deep Purple offering.  Hovering at #19 were Memphis garage band The Hombres with Let it out (let it all hang out), making their one and only visit to Australian charts, but thanks for the memory.  Jimi Hendrix sat at #31 with Foxy Lady / Fire, closely attended by Paul Mauriat – Love is Blue at #33.  Strange bedfellows but reflects the wide ranging stuff that surfed the air waves in this era.

Judy in Disguise – With Glasses!

Judy in Disguise (with glasses), another novelty song, with a novel moniker – John Fred & the Playboy Band took over from Sadie on 6 March hogging the top spot for an astonishing three weeks.  Pop was at a low ebb or at its most poppiest, depending on your point of view.  Indeed the top four on 20 March is pretty sad – Judy in Disguise, Love is Blue, Bottle of Wine and Sadie.  Outside the top ten there were some contenders – Manfred Mann – The Mighty Quinn #14, The Groove – with the soulful Soothe me #15, and the stratospheric blues of Cream’s Sunshine of your love #26.  The psychedelic attraction of the Lemon Piper’s Green Tambourine has already slipped into the top 10 at #8.

L’amour is Bleu —Euuuhhh!

Love is Blue – Paul Mauriat’s instrumental version hit #1 on 27 March.  Mauriat’s version was a world-wide hit.  L’amour est bleu was composed by André Popp, lyrics by Pierre Cour, in 1967 and was first performed in French by Greek singer Vicky Leandros, who appeared as Vicky, representing Luxembourg in the Eurovision Song Contest 1967. French orchestra leader Paul Mauriat’s version became the only number-one hit by a French born artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 in America, not forgetting Go-Set for five weeks in Autumn downunder.  There was no getting away from the song.  Along with Sadie it dominated radio play.

And the song still resonates today – one astute comment on YouTube draws us to the small screen world of Madmen – “Every time this song starts, I immediately see Don Draper standing alone at the exit of their posh New York mansion. This is perhaps the moment when Don finally realized that things were falling apart, and that he isn’t able to control every aspect of his life”.  Screen fades to blue…….

Love is Blue holds off all-comers and fortunately keeps the 1910 Fruitgum Company with the terrible (Simple) Simon Says from the top spot.  That would have been one step too far by far.  Pop goes plop! But there is hope.  The Magical Mystery Tour EP surges into the Top 10, Tom Jones’ Delilah makes #3, Lulu’s haunting To sir with love languishes at #19, and Johnny Farnham revisits the charts with Underneath the Arches – what was his manager thinking? – with the B-side – the much better – Friday kind of Monday.

Lady Madonna #1

Reality strikes briefly on 1 May.  The Beatles restore relevancy to the charts as Lady Madonna reaches #1.  How long can they keep saving us?  Bobby Goldsboro, with the maudlin Honey reaches #2 in the following week, and in fact goes one better on 8 May knocking their lordships off the throne. Unreality strikes back leading to a very weak Go-Set Top 10 with popular favourites the Union Gap and Young Girl at #2, Cliff Richards with Congratulations at #5, the horrible whip-cracking Legend of Xanadu from the multi-headed monster Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick & Tich at #7, the even worse If I only had time by John Rowles at #8, and the Irish Rovers with the jaunty and useless The Unicorn at #9.  Such is Pop and the charts stay at this low ebb for weeks with Honey eventually being replaced by The Unicorn in mid-June and the Irish Rovers set up shop at the top for another five weeks.

Where are you Johnny Rotten?

One wonders why Punk didn’t happen then.  Why wait until the mid 1970s.  Where was Johnny Rotten when you needed him?  Redemption was needed now.  In fact it may have happened already.  American Evangelist Billy Graham toured Australia in Autumn, perhaps charging the air waves with soppy pop songs defeating the Devil’s music at his own game.  Notwithstanding Graham was nowhere near as revered nor as influential compared to his earlier visit in 1959, where single-handed he resurrected Christianity in Australia, and a massive 143,000 souls joined him at the MCG.  Not even the once mighty Collingwood could manage that!  In 1968 he was more or less sidelined along with US Imperialism as Vietnam raged and university student s protested loudly in the streets.

Spaghetti Westerns

Hugo Montenegro, orchestra leader and composer, made it to #2 on 3 July with The Good the Bad and the Ugly, a spaghetti western movie theme, and we all loved it and the movie and Clint Eastwood.  Despite the film critics advice we loved all the spaghetti westerns, a special part of late 60s movie culture, and they made some pretty bad movies, almost matching vicarious 60s garage bands output.  Instead of guitars we had ponchos, donkeys, mesquite and senoritas and gringos and greasy bar-tenders.

What’s the difference between Jumpin’ Jack Flash and a Unicorn? A Solar System!

The Irish Rovers were an enigma. On 3 July on the Go-Set charts the glorious Lazy Sunday by the Small Faces is at #5, worthy of the top spot.  The Four Tops follow at #6 with the tried and true If I were a carpenter, Simon & Garfunkel at #8 with the venerable Mrs Robinson, and the Rolling Stones, rough, ready and revolutionary with Jumpin’ Jack Flash…is a gas gas gas!  Australian presence in the Go-Set charts has dropped to a meagre three artists including at #10 a strange creation named Pastoral Symphony (perhaps a tenuous link to Billy Graham) and the revolting song Love machine.

Protesters marching in the streets

July is a series of rolling student protests in Sydney and Melbourne.  Placards waving, shouting war cries  “1-2-3-4 what are we fighting for” – “LBJ how many kids did you kill today” – hooting outside the US Consulate in St Kilda Road Melbourne and marching past Victoria Barracks to the newly created blank space that was called the “city square” near Swanston and Collins, before dispersing to local watering holes up near RMIT and the bulwarks of the Carlton United breweries.  Many arrests were made, backsides kicked, heads biffed, placards broken, and small fines handed out.  The headlines made it look like an unruly mass of long haired freaks breaking the law of the land and upsetting the locals, forgetting the political nature of the protest and the cruel background of the Vietnam war, another messy place our government had invited youngsters to go and safeguard our way of life.

A&M Records make their next $100m

Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass are constant gardeners in the Pop Music Charts of the 60s.  Those guys sold millions and made millions and put the A&M Label on the map. Herb puts aside his golden trumpet for the beautiful, persuasive and understated song This guy’s in love with you and hit the #1 position of the Go-Set Charts on 17 July.  The song was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, and Bacharach arranged the music for the recording of the song by Herb.  In the same week Jumpin’ Jack Flash was at #2, and Merrilee Rush at #3 with Angel of the Morning, a song adopted regularly by young brides walking up the aisle.  The popular Union Gap resided at #8 with Lady Willpower another mindless power ballad.  Sitting at #12 were the Irish Rovers with another offering – the Orange and the Green – as if there wasn’t enough trouble to go around, aside from the splendid humour of the song.

Herb hangs on for a couple of weeks at the top but the game is up.  Jumpin’ Jack Flash is too good.  It is a song for the times and the Rolling Stones make #1 on 31 July.  And it is useful to note the Go-Set Top 10 for this week:

1 Rolling Stones Jumpin’ Jack Flash
2 Herb Alpert (& the Tijuana Brass) This guy’s in love with you
3 Merrilee Rush Angel of the morning
4 The Union Gap Lady Willpower
5 The Irish Rovers The Orange and the Green
6 Ohio Express Yummy Yummy Yummy
7 Small Faces Lazy Sunday
8 Cowsills Indian Lake
9 Richard Harris McArthur Park
10 The Irish Rovers The Unicorn

    

You need a strong constitution to listen to Bubblegum Pop

Bubblegum pop is rampant at #6 with Ohio Express and the childlike Yummy Yummy Yummy.  Dear Lord please excuse us.  Protestors may complain that you get slammed into goal for lesser commissions.  Safely residing at #40 on the Go-Set charts for this week is Dreams of the everyday housewife by Wayne Newton.  Perhaps a heavy fine if it pleases your honour?  The song was also covered by the Union Gap on their golden Young Girl album, which settles their account on the grey side of the ledger to some extent.

Angel of the Morning

By August we are in amongst the early spring flowers as Merrilee Rush takes the pedestal with the pretty Angel of the Morning.  Merrilee stays for two weeks but the Irish Rovers are unstoppable and the Orange and the Green adorns the top of the charts until the end of August.  Richard Harris’ rendition of Macarthur Park makes it to #2 – another Jimmy Webb triumph, and the Cowsills jingle and jangle away at #3 with Indian Lake, another glorious dose of sunshine pop by the kids from Newport, Rhode Island.  At #8, #9 and #10 we have Donovan and the rollicking rhythmic Hurdy Gurdy Man, Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart and the girl-next-door Alice Long and Manfred Mann with My name is Jack with the memorable lyric line “and I live out the back of the Greta Garbo home for wayward boys and girls“, a place in real life, formally known as the Kirkland Hotel, San Francisco.

Legendary Mama Cass

On 4 September Mama Cass, leading the Mamas & the Papas, launches into #1 with the wonderful Californian pop of Dream a little dream of me, holding off Macarthur Park and Indian Lake a trio of great songs.  The Beach Boys sit at #6 with the slinky Do it again.  Things seem to be improving.

My name is Jones….Tom Jones

Tom Jones, who many women thought should have been cast as James Bond, slipped onto the throne on 18 September and stayed there for three weeks with Help Yourself one of his biggest hits.  The song has overtures of Bacharach, but is an Italian song, originally called Gli Occhi Meie (My Eyes), and the English lyrics have nothing at all to do with the original composition.  From Jones’ point of view it was simply a case of ‘Help Yourself’ and the single and subsequent album were hugely successful.  September was a good month for new tracks.  Mason Williams’ addictive Classical Gas is at #7,  Bee Gees’ I’ve gotta get a message to you at #8, Vanilla Fudge and the mesmeric You keep me hanging on at #9.  Help Yourself stays at the top for three weeks keeping the finger-pointing Jeannie C Riley and Harper Valley PTA at #2.  The song, a first for ‘country protest’, written by country singer Tom T Hall, took on community hypocrites in their comfort zone.  We had to wait until 1978 before the lithe and lovely Barbara Eden (I dream of Jeannie fame!) at 47 years of age, donned a mini skirt, and as Stella Johnson addressed the Harper Valley PTA, in a comedy film, now a cult classic for Harper Valley fans.

Take your pick – Hey Jude / Revolution

The Beatles swiftly return to #1 with the majestic Hey Jude / Revolution single on 9 October.  The Rolling Stones’ Street Fighting Man makes it to #13.  Aretha Franklin’s I say a little prayer surprisingly is at #15 eventually making it to the Top 10, and the Rascals, who dropped the “young” qualifier from their name at the beginning of the year, sit at #10 with their funky People got to be free.  The Beatles keep the insistent Harper valley PTA at #2 for three weeks and many other contenders, including the Paul McCartney produced Mary Hopkin ballad of the times Those were the days.  In fact the Beatles reign until early December.  Contenders come and go – Johnny Nash with his early Reggae influenced Hold me Tight makes it to #6, the never-heard-of Don Fardon with the haunting Indian  Reservation makes it to #4, bubblegum pop artists the 1910 Fruitgum Company make it to #9 with 1 2 3 red light, another simplistic ditty for our crowded kindergartens.  Canned Heat, who previously have not had much success in Australia have found the right number with On the road again – sitting at #11.

November – Cream, Joe Cocker, Steppenwolf ETC

In November some heavy hitters are making an appearance – Cream with White Room at #18, Joe Cocker – with a stormy stomping version of Ringo’s song With a little help from my friends #18, the Grassroots with Midnight Confessions at #34 and the Turtles with Elenore at #13.

On 4 December the Beatles spend their last week on top with Hey Jude.  In the Top 10 we have Cream, Joe Cocker, the Turtles and Diana Ross and the Supremes with Love Child.  Jimi Hendrix is at #13 with All along the watch tower.  Steppenwolf blasting away at #28 with Magic Carpet Ride and at #40 Ronnie Burns is about to re-launch his career with Age of Consent.

    

Ladies and gentlemen – from Eastbourne! Loud Applause Quick Fade!

Leapy Lee, born one – Graham Pulleyblank of Eastbourne UK – for one week only, steals the #1 position with Little Arrows. And he was never heard of again.  The Beatles re-assume the mantle at the top for the rest of the year.  Hey Jude / Revolution reigns supreme and life is back to normal.  The Top 10 looks pretty hot – aside from Little Arrows – and makes you question how and why do these novelty records sell so many copies?

Go-Set Top 10 26 December 1968:

1 Beatles Hey Jude
2 Cream White Room
3 Leapy Lee Little Arrows
4 Diana Ross & the Supremes Love Child
5 Mary Hopkin Those were the days
6 Don Fardon Indian Reservation
7 Johnny Nash Hold me tight
8 Joe Cocker With a little help from my friends
9 Turtles Elenore
10 Jimi Hendrix All along the Watchtower

Where have all the flowers gone?????????????

In December there are two Australian artists in the Top 40 – Ronnie Burns at #17 with The Age of Consent and Johnny Farnham with his fourth single, on his Partridge family trip, – Rose Coloured Glasses at #30.  Both singers will go on to fame and fortune. But where have all the flowers gone???  There is a noticeable sharp decline of new Australian artists in the charts for 1968.  Normie Rowe had been called up to serve the Nation in February 1968, effectively killing his pop career.  The Bee Gees, with several contributions, can mainly be counted as international artists.  It is not as if there has been a plethora of vital new music or groups from either the US or the UK overwhelming the local market, and the disconcerting rise of bubblegum and novelty songs, is not seen as having any influence.  Certainly Australian groups did not follow this trend although Pastoral Symphony might qualify.

Let’s take a look overseas, where things might be happening, where the next exciting act might be emerging, to the land of bubblegum pop, country protest and shoo-fly pie.

Dark days for Uncle Sam

The winter of January 1968 in America was very cold the temperature not getting far above zero on the eastern seaboard and major cities.  Several disturbing international incidents occur. On 21 January a B-52 Stratofortress crashes in Greenland discharging four nuclear bombs.  This was one of two recent nuclear serious accidents which caused the US to cancel operation Chrome Dome, another harebrained scheme, of Dr Strangelove and his associates.  Two days later, North Korean naval forces captures the USS Pueblo, a spy ship, and its crew.  On 30 January the Viet Cong launch the Tet Offensive.

[Courtesy of Rowan & Martin and NBC TV]

Amidst this doom and gloom, the ongoing threat of nuclear Armageddon and a humming cold war atmosphere, there is a sudden brightness.  Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In commences a six year run on NBC Television and the world is introduced to Goldie Hawn and a shake-down of off-beat humour, day-glo colour and fun.  Sock-it-to-me baby!  You bet your sweet bippy!  Sublime, ridiculous and funny.

Back in the real world, the Beatles, ever at the helm, are still at #1 from 1967 with Hello Goodbye with local heroes the Monkees at #2 with Daydream BelieverJudy in Disguise (with glasses) by John Fred and His Playboy Band are not to be denied and dethrone the Beatles on 20 January and we can check out the Billboard Top 10 at this time:

1 John Fred & His Playboy Band Judy in Disguise (with glasses)
2 Aretha Franklin Chain of Fools
3 Beatles Hello Goodbye
4 Union Gap Woman Woman
5 The Lemon Pipers Green Tambourine
6 The Monkees Daydream Believer
7 American Breed Bend me Shape me
8 Smokey Robinson & the Miracles I second that emotion
9 Gladys Knight & the Pips I heard it through the grapevine
10 Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell If i could build my whole world around you

There are some aspects of this Top 10 that are repeated throughout 1968 – a strong black, soul RnB presence, the ubiquitous Union Gap (despite or even because of the confederate outfits), new American groups – in January featuring the Lemon Pipers and American Breed – and less British outfits although the Beatles maintain their supremacy.  Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Sly & the Family Stone and other black performers will shine consistently.  Another trend, although not evident in January, is the oddball or novelty song or group, and the inevitable bubblegum pop.  Hold tight.

Lemon Pipers triumph

By 3 February the Lemon Pipers attain their once and only conquest of the crown with the mighty Green Tambourine a sing-along psychedelic gem.  Love is blue by Paul Mauriat hits #1 in the following week with the haunting Spooky by the Classics IV at #3.  Spooky stated out as an instrumental by saxophonist Mike Sharpe (Shapiro) and had minor success on the charts in 1967, but the Classics IV nailed the song (lyrics by J R Cobb and producer Buddy Buie), and it is worthy of membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, alongside the late Betty McQuade’s Midnight Bus (1961) [composed by John D Loudermilk].  Dusty Springfield’s B-side gender-flipped version of the song featured in the Guy Ritchie 1998 film Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.  Spooky is cool with an off-beat charm.

Love is Blue – Mon Dieu!

Love is Blue takes America by storm during those bitter winter months and successfully enslaves the pop market staying at #1 for five long weeks.  Mon Dieu! the French have never been so popular in the USA – before or after – except perhaps immediately following Jean Lafitte’s triumph in 1812, when he assisted general Andrew Jackson to defeat the British in ‘bloody’ New Orleans.  There are many contenders in the moshpit – Theme from Valley of the Dolls #2 – Dionne Warwick, Dance to the Music #7 Sly & the Family Stone, I wonder what she’s doing tonight #8 – Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart, Simon Says – 1910 Fruitgum Company, Scarborough Fair #11 – Simon & Garfunkel, I wish it would rain #4 – The Temptations, Summertime Blues #14 – Blue Cheer, Carpet Man #29 – Fifth Dimension.  The Balloon Farm is at #44 with a song titled A Question of Temperature – nothing at all to do with Climate Change – and present a stunning fuzz of proto-punk psychedelia making #37 and thereafter falling into the abyss.  The group has been rescued from oblivion and is included on the 1998 4CD set Nuggets, Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968, Volume 2. Dream on.

    

On 16 March the Legendary Otis Redding posthumously reaches #1 with his wonderful (Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay, written and recorded in 1967 just prior to his death in a plane crash.  Otis and this song are now duly listed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  Otis Redding’s farewell song to his fans remains on top of the Billboard Hot 100 until 4 April.

Martin Luther King Assassinated

On this same day Martin Luther King is assassinated in Memphis Tennessee.  Riots rampage in several cities for two days.  It is a tumultuous period.  Students have held rallies, protest and sit-ins at Howard University in Washington for five days during 19th – 23rd March, and on 31 March President Lynden B Johnson announces he will not seek re-election.  Who would want the job?  America is under fire in Vietnam, fighting in the streets at home, and waging a cold war of quiet intensity with the USSR.  President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (aka The Fair Housing Act) on 11 April, largely in response to the Kerner Commission report of 1967 following the severe race riots of 1967, and the impact of the recent riots following Martin Luther King’s death.  The fight is all about equality and it still rages.

Long Beautiful HAIR – Shining, gleaming, steaming, flaxen, waxen!!!!!!!!!!!

On April 29 the Tribal-Rock musical Hair opens on Broadway.  According to author Barbara Lee Horn [The Age of Hair 1991], the musical is “a product of the hippie counterculture and sexual revolution of the late 1960s, several of its songs became anthems of the anti-Vietnam War peace movement.  The musical’s profanity, its depiction of the use of illegal drugs, its treatment of sexuality, its irreverence for the American flag, and its nude scene caused much comment and controversy”.  All bets are off as the Age of Aquarius takes off with gay abandon.

Back on track, Bobby Goldsboro’s maudlin Honey is sitting at #1 on 13 April and stays there until 11 May.  There is no getting away from the Union gap as Young Girl sits at #2, and the Box Tops at #3 with Cry like a baby.  Aretha Franklin is at #5 with Since you’ve been gone and Georgie Fame makes it into the Top 10 with the Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde.  Elvis keeps making appearances but flounders in the bottom end of the Hot 100.  The Beatles stall with at #4 Lady Madonna on 4 May, followed immediately by Tighten Up at #5 by Archie Bell & the Drells (destined for higher things), Cowboys & Girls at #6 by the Intruders, the Good, the Bad & the Ugly at #8 by Hugo Montenegro, Beautiful Morning at #9 by the Rascals and The Unicorn at #10 by the Irish Rovers – a curious mix of showbiz.

Further into the mix and coming up for air are the Temptations at #13 with I could never love another, Ain’t no way by Aretha Franklin at #16, Shoo-be-doo at #20 by Stevie Wonder and Do you know the way to San Hose at #21 by Dionne Warwick.  Incredibly Archie Bell & the Drells reach the pinnacle on 18 May with the junky funky Tighten Up.  It’s catchy and sounds like a house band tuning up and rehearsing before they get to do the real thing.  Archie stays on top for two weeks and keeps the imposing Mrs Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel at #2.  The Good the Bad & the Ugly slinks into town after dark at #4.

Mrs Robinson Jesus Loves You

On the first day of the northern summer, Mrs Robinson, dark flashing eyes, leopard skin negligee, a smoldering filter tip and attitude, scrambles into the big bed at #1 with appropriately, The Good the Bad & the Ugly for company at #2.  The deplorably chirpy Yummy Yummy Yummy sits at #6 courtesy of the Ohio Express (and a record company without any scruples in respect of acoustic amenity).  Marvin Gaye and Tammy Terrell are at #8 with Ain’t nothing like the real thing.  Just outside the Top 10 at #11, #12 and #13 respectively, are three hot numbers: Herb Alpert – This guy’s in love with you, Richard Harris – Macarthur Park and Aretha Franklin – Think.  The summer thaw of the charts is underway.

Bobby Kennedy Killed

On 5 June Bobby Kennedy is shot in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after a convincing win in the California primary.  He dies the following day.  America’s bleak year lurches on as the 1968 election rambles around the country.  The requiem mass for Kennedy concluded with the Battle Hymn of the Republic sung by Andy Williams.  The song subsequently makes it into the Billboard Hot 100.  Bobby Kennedy was buried at Arlington near his brother John F Kennedy on 8 June.  The Ambassador Hotel, also home to the Cocoanut Grove nightclub and many Academy Award ceremonies, was demolished in 2005.

Here Comes to Judge – all four of them

Simon & Garfunkel stay at the #1 position until 15 June.  In the Billboard Hot 100 there are four versions of Here comes the judge.  This may be unaccountable but it is true.  The four different versions are by Pigmeat Markham (top spot #19), The Magistrates (#54), Shorty Long (#8) and the Buena Vistas (#88), whose version was titled Here come da judge.  Essentially each version was composed by different musicians.  Pigmeat Markham’s version is the inspiration of Here comes does the judge from a comedy skit on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.  In all probability it is the first genuine rap record.  Shorty Long’s version is a successful blend of funk and RnB, although the Magistrates version goes close with some excellent funky gospel singers the Buena Vistas, fresh out of Buffalo,  bring a cool instrumental jazz sound that is big in Syracuse.  It just seems that the joke and giggles generated on Laugh-In carried on into the charts and everyone wanted a piece of the judge.

Herb – You Star!

Herb Alpert with his Tijuana Brass hit #1 on 22 June with the great This guy’s in love with you, a huge seller around the world.  A&M profits go through the roof (again).  In the following week one hit wonder The Horse by Cliff Nobles and Co, sounding like early Shaft / Blaxploitation, surprisingly sits at #2.  Cliff Nobles, who is the singer in the group, did not even play a note on the instrumental hit and the horn section would later become MFSB.  In the Netherlands the track became the main theme of the illegal and immensely popular off-shore Dutch radio station “Veronica” in the 1970’s.

Sergio Mendez & Brasil ‘66, who have a run of hits in 1968, sit at #5 with his version of The look of Love another Bacharach charmer.  Tommy James and the Shondells, teenage garage band from Michigan and repeat offenders, are at #6 with Mony Mony, a song of little merit, just above Merrilee Rush with Angel of the Morning at #7.  It is below the Top 10 that some serious contenders bide their time – The Rolling Stones with Jumpin’ Jack Flash at #11, Hugh Masekela at #13 with Grazing in the Grass, still the unstoppable Union Gap at #15 with Lady Willpower, the Cowsills at #18 with Indian Lake and the Fifth Dimension at #19 with Stoned Soul Picnic.  Things are humming.

Herb Alpert remains at #1 until 13 July and is replaced on 20 July by Hugh Masekela with the fantastic joyful happiness of Grazing in the grass.  The Billboard Hot 100 Top 10 is a pleasant mix with the Rolling Stones providing the rampaging “born in a cross-fire hurricane…..” and the Doors are ready to pounce with their next big one.

1 Hugh Masekela Grazing in the grass
2 The Union Gap Lady Willpower
3 Rolling Stones Jumpin’ Jack Flash
4 Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass This guy’s in love with you
5 Cliff Nobles & Co The Horse
6 Fifth Dimension Stoned Soul Picnic
7 Donovan Hurdy Gurdy Man
8 Mason Williams Classical Gas
9 The Doors Hello, I love you
10 Cowsills Indian Lake

Grazing in the Grass – Classical Gas – Stoned Soul Picnic!!

Hugh Masekela sells millions with Grazing in the grass and stays on top for two weeks, although only making it to #15 of the Billboard Top 40 Easy Listening Chart.  The song obviously attracted the younger generation.  On 3 August the Doors achieve their second #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with Hello I love you.  Mason Williams’ addictive Classical Gas moves into the #2 position with the Fifth Dimension enjoying success with Stoned Soul Picnic at #3.  Donovan has moved in to the #5 spot with the rollicking Hurdy Gurdy Man – not bad for a folky type, and Cream, whose praise has always outshone their chart performances, make it #10 with the smiling rock-psychedelia of Sunshine of you love with the great rock voice of bassist Jack Bruce shining through.  Close to the Top 10 are newcomers Steppenwolf from Toronto with Born to be wild at #11, the song featured in the counter-culture film Easy Rider in 1969, and the Rascals with People need to be free at #13.  Sitting at #32 with a red bullet is Jose Feliciano with his version if Light my fire.  The Doors look on with interest.

   

Doors unhinged

Hello I love you stays at the top for two weeks.  The trend in the Billboard charts seems to be a quick turnover of product.  Singles seem to spend less time in the charts overall and the time spent at the top or in the Top 10 is shorter, although some songs may huddle in the middle of the charts for weeks without making much impact on the market.  Already our attention span is getting shorter and we are moving on to the next ‘big thing’ regardless of the quality of existing product and heedless of the quality of new products – just as long as it is new – the essence of the pop market – perhaps leading to an inevitable decline in the market.

On 17 August the Rascals reach the top for a third time with People got to be free.  With the exception of the Vogues at #7, this is a classic Top 10.

1 Rascals People got to be free
2 The Doors Hello I love you
3 Mason Williams Classical gas
4 Steppenwolf Born to be wild
5 Jose Feliciano Light my fire
6 Fifth Dimension Stoned Soul Picnic
7 The Vogues Turn around and look at me
8 Cream Sunshine of your love
9 Hugh Masekela Grazing  in the grass
10 Donovan Hurdy Gurdy Man

Rascals in the Van

Contrary to the brevity of the stay at the top by recent singles, the Rascals stay at #1 for four weeks until 14 September.  In those four weeks there are many new and interesting entrees into the Billboard Hot 100.  The Bee Gees are back with I’ve gotta get a message to you (#8), Iron Butterfly with the mesmeric and boring In-a-gadda-da-vida (#30), Jackie de Shannon with a song by the Band – The Weight (#55), Aretha with The house that Jack built (#6), Don Fardon and Indian Reservation at #20,  Big brother & the Holding Company – Janis Joplin on vocals – and Piece of my heart (#12), Vanilla Fudge and their epic version of You keep me hanging on (#6), Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell with You’ve all I need to get by (#8), Clarence Carter with the lovely ballad Slip Away at #6.  James Brown, who often struggles to make it in the Billboard Hot 100 (although he dominates the RnB charts), sits at #10 with the classic sock-it-to-me number Say it loud (I’m Black and I’m proud).

    

Where is Harper Valley?

Small town hypocrisy hits back.  Harper Valley PTA by country singer Jeannie C Riley explodes up the charts and makes #1 on 21 September.  We all cheer when the little person strikes back and makes her point. The following week, with her 15 minutes of fame behind her, Jeannie C Riley, slips to #2 and the Beatles rise to #1 with Hey Jude and defying recent trends remains on top for nine weeks until 23 November.  Revolution, the B-side to Hey Jude, makes it to #12.  Maybe society is sick of the wars, sick of the rallies, protests and sit-ins, and contemporary politics.  On October 31, as a result of progress being made at the Paris peace talks, Lyndon B Johnson announces the end of Operation Rolling Thunder – the bombardment of North Vietnam, which commenced in 1964 and ran through to 1 November 1968 dropping 864,000 tons of American bombs on the enemy; a total strategic failure, a gross waste of human lives and of tax payers money.  Richard Nixon wins the election on November 5 and his inauguration is scheduled for the New Year, along with his vice presidential nominee Spiro Agnew.  We will hear more about these two stars in the future.

Crazy world of Arthur Brown – No relation at all

Fire by the Crazy World of Arthur Brown makes it #2 by 19 October.  O C Smith, a regular in the charts, is at #3 with Little Green Apples. Girl Watcher, a male fantasy, of uncertain hipness is at #5 by the cryptically-named O’Kaysions.  The Vogues, a white male group of tuneful warblers, return to the Top 10 for the second time with an even worse song – My Special Angel – and are at #7.  Mary Hopkin makes her move to #2 on 2 November with Those were the days, bringing along the Grassroots at #5 with Midnight Confessions, the Turtles with Elenore at #6, and the Union Gap at #7 with Over You.  #8, #9 and #10 are also big songs on the rise – Johnny Nash with Hold me tight, Diana Ross & the Supremes – Love Child and Cream with their piece de resistance – In my White room.

Just arriving in the charts we have some big hitters – Glen Campbell with the Wichita Linesman at #75 and Stevie Wonder with For once in my life at #79.  By 9 November Steppenwolf are back in the Top 10 with Magic Carpet Ride (#7), the Fifth Dimension sit at #13 with Sweet Blindness, continuing their chart success.  Tammy Wynette’s Stand by your man, not yet a classic is at #98.  She will have to wait until Jake & Elwood Blues bring it to Bob’s Place [“…we got two kinds of music here – Country – and – Western!”] before that happens.  Fast forward 12 years.

    

The USA reminisces

On 16 November two very different tracks make #8 and #9 – Johnny Taylor – Who’s making love and Dion with Abraham, Martin & John – the latter a fond folk reminiscence of the deaths of Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, John F Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy – rendered in gentle fashion by Dion, a far cry from his normal rawk and roll style.  At the same time, Andy Williams, with a version of The Battle Hymn of the Republic (performed with the St Charles Borromeo Choir at the funeral of Bobby Kennedy), slowly makes its way to #33 on 2 December.  His version is a fitting eulogy for America’s fallen guardians. But the best live performance without hubris goes to Joan Baez from her concerts in early 1963 and appearing on the album Joan Baez in Concert Part 2.  Notwithstanding, Americans on both sides of the divide and of all ages are standing toe to toe.

Diana Ross & the Supremes with Love Child boast their 11th #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 when they hit the top on 30 November.  In the mix is Marvin Gaye with I heard it through the grapevine at #16, Otis Redding with Papa’s got a brand new bag at #57, Dusty Springfield with Son of a Preacher man at #62, Jimi Hendrix with Crosstown Traffic at #73, Soulful Strut by Young Holt Unlimited at #65, and Sly & the Family Stone at #93 with Everyday People heading for glory.  The Billboard Charts configure a world where everything is possible maybe.

Elvis – The King – we love you

Elvis released 12 singles in 1968 and had middling to zero success.  His films are grossing less and Colonel Tom Parker is finding it more difficult to get $1,000,000 advances from the movie barons.  Bright idea let’s do Las Vegas on TV!  Dubbed the Elvis ’68 Comeback Special “The King” delivers a strong live performance on 3 December on NBC TV.  Many of the performances have been shot live during studio sessions earlier in June 1968 and are combined to make the complete show.  NBC claims that the program is the highest rating show all year and kicked off subsequent successful tours of Elvis across the country and at Las Vegas in 1969.  It is a great achievement noting that Elvis had not toured America since 1962, and his last live performance may have been in 1961 in Berlin.  On December 3 he swaggered, swayed and slayed the audience. Long live the King.

Black Soul on Top

Come 14 December Marvin Gaye topples the Supremes with I heard it through the grapevine.  Black soul rules the toppermost rungs of the hit ladder: Diana Ross – Love Child at #2, Stevie Wonder – For once in my life at #3 and Johnny Taylor at #5 with Who’s making love.  Tommy James & the Shondells, toiler-makers from Michigan, make another appearance this week at #85 with Crimson and Clover.  The bad news is that they make #1 but thankfully that’s for 1969.

Marvin Gaye finishes the year on top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts flanked by Diana, the Supremes and Stevie Wonder.  Glen Campbell makes it to #4 with the really good Wichita Lineman on 28 December.  Judy Collins, a sidekick of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan is in the charts again at #8 with Both sides now, and the Classics IV are back with a second effort – Stormy at #5.  Diana Ross at the Supremes have another hit track in the Top 10 – I’m gonna make you love me – just missing #1 in the New Year.

Yossarian resolves Catch-22 or does he?

Finally, the crew of the USS Pueblo, after 11 months in arduous captivity under extreme conditions, is released by the North Koreans on 23 December and look forward to family reunions, roast turkey and all the trimmings. The Cold War and the Vietnam War grind on.  The prospect of nuclear war although unthinkable is possible.  With the pointless strategic doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) we watch the nightly weather forecast with blank interest and switch to Laugh-In.

London – bold cold and bright

The weather in UK in January 1968 is stormy, cold and wet with snow storms in the north.  Harold Wilson enters his fifth years as prime minister.  For motoring enthusiasts Ford introduces the Escort replacing the old empire Anglia, and is manufactured in Merseyside at the Halewood Plant.  The Escort will prove to be a successful new model in UK.  Our other monstrous success from Liverpool, the Beatles, reign supreme with Hello Goodbye holding the #1 position for the four weeks leading up to Christmas and remaining at the top until 23 January.  The Beatles are still riding high on the launch of their Apple Boutique at the corner of Paddington Street and Baker Street on 7 December 1967.  Defying local planners, the building was given a gorgeous psychedelic mural by the The Fool artist collective.  The Beatles also occupy #2 spot with the Magical Mystery Tour EP and the Top 10 looks like this:

1 Beatles Hello Goodbye
2 Beatles Magical Mystery Tour EP
3 Tom Jones I’m coming home
4 Scaffold Thank u very much
5 4 Tops Walk away Renee
6 Monkees Daydream believer
7 Gene Pitney Something’s gotten hold of my heart
8 Val Doonican If the whole world stopped loving
9 Simon Dupree & the Big Sound Kites
10 Georgie Fame Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde

Firm favourite of the pearls and twinset crowd, Val Doonican, warbles away with the dismal If the whole world stopped loving at #8.  Sitting immediately below is perennial favourite Gene Pitney with his winsome Something’s gotten hold of my heart.  To be brutal the lower echelons of the Top 50 chart do not show much promise.

Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames on fire

Georgie Fame achieves his third #1 on 24 January with the Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde.  Sitting right on his tail at #2 is the limply named Love Affair with the terrible Everlasting Love.  This song then proceeded to #1 and stayed on top for two weeks until 7 February.  Some nightmares just go on forever.  It is one of those songs which you hope is going to end and then it just keeps going – everlastingly!  Love Affair’s Everlasting Love features in the movie – Bridgit Jones: The Edge of Reason, but for some reason the CD of the soundtrack has a version by Jamie Cullum.  There is some justice after all!

Take a deep deep breath

Readers may think that we are being a little harsh with Everlasting Love but there are too many songs, making the highest rungs of the charts, that capture the popular imagination for the briefest of times – their five minutes of fame – and plummet into oblivion.  Although we acknowledge that it is a free world and artists and their A&R brains trust produce what they think is a good thing, and then fans buy whatever they want.  The ‘Law of Diminishing Returns’ must be at work somewhere in there.

Take a deep breath and clock in on 14 Feb.  The Mighty Quinn, composed by Bob Dylan, performed by the new Manfred Mann hits #1.  At #3 is Amen Corner with a shabby version of Bend Me Shape me, not a shadow on the American Breed version.  Judy in Disguise having made it to #3 a few weeks previously slips to #6.  The real Bend me Shape me sits at #28 only making it to #24 subsequently.  Local lads make good.  Sitting at #32 is Cinderella Rockafella by Esther & Abi Ofarin destined for the top along with the Legend of Zanadu at #35 by the popular Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick & Tich (DDDBM&T) also destined for undeserved greatness.

Esther & Abi Ofarim reach #1 with Cinderella Rockafella on 28 February and is joined at #2 by the Legend of Zanadu in the following week and remain locked together until DDDBM&T reach #1 on 20 March – a battle of the featherweights!  The beautiful Green Tambourine by the Lemon Pipers scrapes into #8.  Immediately above is Donovan with Jennifer Juniper and Otis Redding’s posthumous offering, the brilliant Sitting on the Dock in the bay.  Each of these three tracks is superior in every way to the current number one.  And Green Tambourine has its own claim to fame being performed by at least five other groups – Sun Dragon, The Young Lovers, Heather & the Thunderbirds, The Flames and the Psychedelic Lemons.  Did anyone else do the Legend of Zanadu – in their right mind of course?

   

If you ain’t here yet you might not be

On 1 March the British Government introduces the Commonwealth Immigrants Act (1968) which further reduces the right of entry for citizens of the British Commonwealth to the UK.  Again probably too late as the horse has already bolted, and with the prospect of joining the European Economic Community (EEC) just around the corner, means that whole swarms of European citizens might want to visit Carnaby Street permanently.  Angry demonstrators fill Grosvenor Square on 17 March in front of the US Embassy protesting the Vietnam War.  There are many peace signs, struggles, and arrests with Bobby’s hats flying across the cobblestones.

Luckily the Beatles save the day and launch again to #1 with Lady Madonna on 27 March.  Tom Jones sits at #2 with Delilah and Otis Redding at #3.  An unlikely Louis Armstrong, at 78 years of age, is at #6 with What a wonderful world.  Evergreen Cliff Richard, always popular in UK, hits #1 on 10 April with Congratulations and keeps Tom Jones at #2.  Congratulations was an entry in the Eurovision Contest for 1968 and failed to win by a single vote to the Spanish entry La La La – rumoured to have been rigged by the Spanish  government of dictator Francisco Franco– however, Congratulations, went on to be a huge hit in Europe and Australia.

  

Boris might have raffled the bridge

[London Bridge Sold in April 1968]

Funny things happen in UK.  Before we talk about that, recall the financial crisis of 2008.  One of the fallouts was the serious decline in fortunes for Greece and part of the solution was to sell off government assets and utilities.  Well Britain started that trend in 1968 with the sale of the John Rennie designed 19th century London Bridge for the then princely sum of £1,029,000.  On discovering in 1962 that London Bridge was sinking inexorably into the Thames and could not handle modern traffic, the powers that be at the City of London decided to dispose of the bridge through the agency of an international auction.  On 18 April American oil tycoon Robert P McCulloch was announced as the successful bidder and subsequently dismantled and shipped the bridge’s exterior granite blocks over to Lake Havasu City in Arizona, where it was reassembled and still stands today.  The child’s lament of ‘London bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down, my fair lady’ fell on deaf ears when it came to the crunch as Britain decided to offload some history and update the old capitol.  Not all of the bridge went to the USA.  There are some bits at Nancy Steps and also in the bar of the Mug House Pub in Tooley Street.  There is a rumour that the buyer was hoodwinked and thought he was bidding for Tower Bridge.

Two Kray or not too Kray

The notorious Kray twins, who have the dubious claim of being the last prisoners held at Tower Bridge in 1952 for failing to register for national service, were arrested on 8 May.  For the past four weeks Louis Armstrong had been top of the pops (truly) with What a wonderful world – a far cry from the dark underworld of the Kray Twins who were subsequently given life sentences for their misdemeanors.  During Louis’ time at the top he held many youngsters at bay – the 1910 Fruitgum Company at #2 with Simon Says (thank god for small mercies), the Small faces with the exotic surburbia of Lazy Sunday at #2, Engelbert Humperdinck with A man without love at #2.  The Herd, Peter Frampton’s band, struggled to an implausible #5 with the nauseating I don’t want our love to die.  In fact the charts during springtime in UK were pretty second rate.

By 22 May the Union Gap had raided the top spot with Young Girl.  Let’s take a look at the unspeakably bland Top 10:

1 The Union Gap Young Girl
2 Engelbert Humperdinck A man without love
3 Bobby Goldsboro Honey
4 Small Faces Lazy Sunday
5 Louis Armstrong What a wonderful  world
6 The Herd I don’t want our loving to die
7 1910 Fruitgum Company Simon Says
8 Andy Williams Can’t take my eyes off you
9 Love Affair Rainbow Valley
10 Jacky Lee “Jacky” White Horses

In the mix in the Top 50 the exciting This wheel’s on fire by Julie Driscoll & the Brian Auger Trinity is at #15 and Aretha down at #38 with Think crawling to #26.  It is difficult to put a finger on the reason for the paucity of quality songs making it on the charts.  And things don’t change too quickly as the Union Gap enjoy their stay at the top for four long weeks with Young Girl, a song that just goes on and on like Everlasting Love.  And people still love Young Girl and copies come and go very quickly at local record fairs.  And then there are those silly confederate uniforms to explain away!!!!

 

Jumping Jack Flash is a gas gas gas!

The Rolling Stones, purveyors of virile teenage rock angst, are beginning to come into their own.  Jumping Jack Flash hits the airwaves amidst protest marches, anarchy and revolution and hits #1 on 19 June 1968, vacating the top two weeks later.  The Equals are their replacements with Baby come back and eclipse the Stones by remaining in the top spot for three weeks.  Donovan’s Hurdy Gurdy Man makes it to #4.  Don Partridge, an English folkie, surprises everyone with Blue Eyes finishing at #3.  There are many songs in the lower echelons of the charts which will make their impact a little later.  Things are not all that bad except for the next #1 – I Pretend by Des O’Connor which hits the top spot on 24 July.  How did this happen?  The Brits love of the Irish?  His father was from Ireland and his mother Jewish and he was born in Stepney, East London, so there is no obvious clue there.  We will put it down to the unsound effect of the unfettered free market again.  Say no more.

  

From bad to worse

But it does actually get worse.  The dreaded Mony Mony by Tommy James and the Shondells bumps off Des O’Connor and retains the crown for two weeks, is displaced by the Crazy World of Arthur Brown with the psycho-rock ‘weirdness in the coal mine’ of Fire on 14 August, and regains the crown the following week.  The record buying public, free to do as they wish, do so with gay abandon.  During this time there are some decent hits in-the-making skulking in the Top 10 and below – Help Yourself by Tom Jones (one of his best) to #5, Mrs Robinson by Simon & Garfunkel to #4, I close my eyes and count to 10 by Dusty Springfield to #4, Herb Alpert and This guy’s in love with you to #3, the glorious dreamy Days by the Kinks to #12, and Macarthur Park by Richard Harris to #4.

But change is coming and it always comes in the hit charts.  Regulars for many years the Beach Boys have their first #1 for some time with the relaxed Do it again on 28 August.  Sitting at #2 are the Bee Gees with I gotta get a message to you which makes it to the top in the following week.  Herb Alpert is still sitting at #3 and cannot break into the top spot despite his persistence and popularity.  His chances are dashed as the Beatles, and in their second week in the charts, storm into #1 with Hey Jude, another monster hit.

  

The Top 10 for 11 September is a beauty (compared to the recent blandness):

1 Beatles Hey Jude
2 Bee Gees I gotta get a message to you
3 Beach Boys Do it again
4 Aretha Franklin I say a little prayer
5 Johnny Nash Hold me tight
6 Herb Alpert This guy’s in love with you
7 Mary Hopkin Those were the days
8 Tom Jones Help Yourself
9 Amen Corner High in the sky
10 Canned Heat On the road again

Sitting quietly at #50 is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  Watch this space.

On 25 September, Welsh-born Mary Hopkin singing a Russian folksong, tops the Beatles and stays on top for a mammoth six weeks.  This is a dazzling success for the fledgling Apple Records.  Mary made it to #2 in both Australia and the USA.  Those were the days keep Leapy Lee from making the top along with the Casuals with the Marty Wilde penned Jesamine, a pop psychedelic ballad.

Motorway Food is the worst in the world!

For those canny motorists that purchased their new Ford Escorts in January the land speed record from London to Leeds would now almost be attainable following the completion of the new MI motorway in October 1968.  It is UK’s first inter-urban connector – forget those B roads and zip onto the motorway, later celebrated by Ray Davies on the Kinks’ 1972 album Everybody’s in Show Biz and the song Motorway:

“Motorway food is the worst in the world,

You’ve never eaten food like you’ve eaten on the Motorway.

Motorway food is the worst in the world

The coffee tastes weak and the cakes taste stale

And gasoline fumes are the worst to inhale

Your stomach rolls over and your face turns pale”

[Words and music by Raymond Douglas Davies. Copyright Davray Music Ltd 1972]

Grosvenor Square Clash

[Grosvenor Square Protesters Clash with Police]

Protesters and police clash again in another anti-Vietnam rally held outside the US Embassy on 27 October.  1968 has been a year full of anger and protest across campuses in the USA, Europe and Australia.  In UK the protests were generally linked to the war in Vietnam and mainly occurred in Grosvenor Square.  Civil Rights, per se, did not appear to be as big an issue in UK.

It is not until 6 November that we have a new #1 – Joe Cocker’s superb version of With a little help from my friendsThose were the days slips to #2.  At #3 is the Good the Bad and the UglyEloise by Barry Ryan sits at #4.  Surprisingly, Light my Fire, (previously #1 for the Doors in the USA on both Cashbox and Billboard, but not the UK where it could only make #49) is at #7 by Jose Feliciano.  Jimi Hendrix is at #9 with Bob Dylan’s All along the watchtower.  In the lower echelons there are some odd surprises the Scaffold with Lily the Pink at #41 and the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah band at #44 with I’m the urban spaceman.  Things could get a little strange.  Cream’s superb Sunshine of your love can only make #25.  Stranger things still!

Housing and Services for All

Notwithstanding Enoch Powell’s stirring “Rivers of Blood” speech in April announcing the demise of the home of the white man in UK, the government passed the Race Relations Act on 26 November “making it illegal to refuse housing, employment, or public services to a person on the grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origins.  It also created the Community Relations Commission to promote harmonious community relations”. [Courtesy Wikipedia]  Things might down at Brixton but things were starting to swing in Notting Hill.

Man with no name

The Good the Bad & the Ugly, the main theme from the film, becomes a household name making #1 on 13 November.  And so do Sergio Leone (director) and Clint “make my day punk” Eastwood.   Ennio Morricone composes the theme, and his distinctive original compositions – gunfire, whistling, and yodeling – pervade the film.  The Spagetti Western theme resembles the howling of a coyote, and is a two-note melody that is a repeated motif used for the three main characters, with a different instrument for each: flute for Blondie (Man With No Name), ocarina for Angel Eyes, and human voices for Tuco.  The Good the Bad & the Ugly seamlessly fills out the soundtrack of our weird world in 1968 and without any momentum or effort remains howling at the top for four weeks until 4 December.  As we foresaw, stranger things might happen.

“Am I too late”….”nah, jump up on the cart!”

And they did.  Lily the Pink by the dire Scaffold hold the fort on the next week – 11 December.  And they remain on top until the end of the year.  It sums up the resilience or otherwise of the UK charts in 1968.  There are few interesting artists and songs in the ruck.  Firstly we will publish the Top 10 for 18 December:

1 Scaffold Lily the Pink
2 Nina Simone Ain’t got no – I got life
3 Foundations Build me up Buttercup
4 Des O’Conner 1-2-3 O’Leary
5 Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band I’m the urban spaceman
6 Ennio Morriconi The Good the Bad & the Ugly
7 Love Sculpture Sabre Dance
8 Gun Race with the Devil
9 Marmalade Ob La Di Ob La Da
10 Isley Brothers This old heart of mine

Without a doubt Nina Simone’s contribution is a potential #1 – top-drawer in quality and spirit.  The Foundations and the Isley Brothers are both solid and honest offerings.  Gun’s Race with the Devil is a borderline pass proto-hard-rock.  Love Sculpture’s Sabre Dance is ridiculous.  The rest can be consigned to the garbage bin of history without further comment, although it must be said that these tracks hung around the top part of the charts for several long weeks.

  

Outside the Top 10 there are also a few gems – Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross – destined for glory and Stevie Wonder’s For once in my life at #32.  Harper Valley PTA, with its surefire appeal in the US stops at #15.  Similarly Love Child by elegant Diana Ross & the Supremes only makes it to #15 also.  Dusty Springfield, a firm favourite in her homeland, can only make it to #9 with Son of a preacher man.  This is all really surprising.

1968 What little gems you have brought

So for the first time in a number of years the Beatles fail to come to our rescue to end out the pop year with a marvelous winner.  We are left with Lily the Pink. And we will also leave you with Lily the Pink in the following YouTube video which has the highest number of down thumbs for any song on the internet.  How embarrassing.  They even make Red Faces on Hey Hey It’s Saturday look good.

Two Jukeboxes of the better than best pop sounds of 1968 are in our next Rockblogster – 1968 Hot Hits in Black White & Technicolour.

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