1968 – Best Albums – Aretha, Jimi, Cream and Janis!!!!

1968 – More and Louder

The Summer of Love and Sgt Peppers brokered a new era of musical creation in the Pop and Rock scene spreading into a wonderful colourful explosion in 1968.  Album sales continued to boom along with Hi-Fi and stereo systems for vinyl, cassette, 8-Track and Reel to Reel Tape.  Music companies hired and fired, promoted and hyped groups and artists in a unconstrained push to flood the market with golden sounds – golden in the sense that the public might buy almost anything.  And when you take a look at the Billboard Hot 200 LP Chart to some extent this may have been true and is probably always true.

The Touchables – Marilyn Rickard, Esther Anderson, Judy Huxtable and Kathy Simmonds – captures the ’68 Zeitgeist

In 1968 there were more albums released than in any previous year and ‘pop’ music appeared to be getting more sophisticated and complicated, but still a far cry from the ‘establishment’ sounds of our parents.

Gene Scarlatti’s small book – 100 Best Selling Albums of the 60’s lists the top sellers of 1968:

Sales Artist Album Title
500,000 Original Cast Recording Hair
500,000 Cream Wheels of Fire
1,000,000 Monkees The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees
1,000,000 Original Soundtrack Recording Funny Girl
1,000,000 Doors Waiting for the Sun
1,000,000 Original Soundtrack Recording / Nino Rota Romeo & Juliet
1,000,000 Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland
1,000,000 Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet
2,000,000 Monkees Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd
2,000,000 Simon & Garfunkel Bookends
2,000,000 Big Brother & the Holding Company Cheap Thrills
2,000,000 Original Cast Recording / Simon & Garfunkel The Graduate
2,000,000 Glen Campbell Witchita Lineman
3,000,000 Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison
4,000,000 Iron Butterfly In-a-gadda-da-vida
19,000,000 The Beatles The Beatles (aka The White Album)

There is a strong suspicion that this list does not include many easy listening albums released in 1968 that would have sold in huge numbers, particularly by Henry Mancini, James Last and Herb Alpert who were phenomenally popular with the record buying public.  This may require further investigation.  Nonetheless we have a basis for assessing the best albums of 1968.

Our Guide – BestEverAlbums.com

Our fundamental guide to greatness lies with the BestEverAlbums.com listing and for 1968 there are over 720 albums nominated, about 200 more than were included in the 1967 list.  Obviously the A&R men had been plenty busy.  In considering the BestEverAlbums list it is worthwhile to remember that the listing is fluid and has had 50 years to morph into its current status and may change as fans and critics reassess what is ‘best’ in the modern music connotation, and overlooked trinkets from the past may be disinterred from the crypt and bestowed honours unforseen in 1968.

For brevity the Top 30 will be listed and we may highlight some of the gems dwelling in the outer limits:

Rating Artist Album Title Billboard Hot 200
1 The Beatles The Beatles (aka The White Album) 1
2 Van Morrison Astral Weeks DNC
3 Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland 1
4 The Zombies Odessey & Oracle DNC
5 Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet 27
6 Velvet Underground White Light / White Heat 199
7 Kinks The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society DNC
8 Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison 13
9 The Band Music from the Big Pink 30
10 Simon & Garfunkel Bookends 1
11 The Mothers of Invention We’re only in it for the money 30
12 Pink Floyd A Saucerful of Secrets 36
13 The Doors Waiting for the Sun 1
14 The Byrds The Notorious Byrd Brothers 47
15 Aretha Franklin Aretha: Lady Soul 2
16 The Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo 75
17 The United States of America The United States of America 181
18 Os Mutantes Os Mutantes DNC
19 Cream Wheels of Fire 1
20 Big Brother & the Holding Company Cheap Thrills 1
21 Nico The Marble Index DNC
22 The Pretty Things S F Sorrow DNC
23 Small Faces Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake DNC
24 The Incredible String Band The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter 161
25 Laura Nyro Eli & the Thirteenth Confession 181
26 The Moody Blues In search of the lost chord 23
27 Beach Boys Friends 126
28 Silver Apples Silver Apples 193
29 Dr John Gris-Gris DNC
30 The Jeff Beck Group Truth 15

[DNC – Did Not Chart]

   

There are some top albums just missing out of the Top 30 and further into the murky lower regions there are albums of keen interest to fans.

A brief analysis of the 700 or so albums listed by BestEverAlbums.com show that over 60% are modern pop and rock groups and artists, 13% represent Black Soul and RnB, a whopping 11% in persistent and obscure Pyschedelic relics, with some tailings of folk, country and western, and jazz.  The listings did not include any statistical evidence of large selling MOR albums including the big ones – Herb Alpert and his rich mates.

1968 –Black Soul RnB

Of interest it is remarkable that the profusion of best selling singles in Black Soul RnB did not translate into album sales or prominent albums, with the exception of Aretha Franklin who stood head and shoulders over the Motown field.  Aretha launched two albums whose sales went gold in 1968 with Aretha: Lady Soul and Aretha Now and two earlier albums remained in the charts in 1968.  There were other albums that achieved high recognition and sales including: Otis Redding – The Dock on the Bay, The Temptations – Wish it would rain, The Impressions – We’re a winner, The Fifth Dimension – Stoned Soul Picnic, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – You’re all I Need and Diana Ross & the Supremes – Love Child.  Otis Redding’s posthumous album is listed in the Rolling Stone Greatest 500, along with Queen Aretha, but otherwise these efforts are largely ignored by the pundits.

    

Stuart Cosgrove has written a trilogy of books covering Black Soul and RnB over this period, and it is well worthwhile reading Memphis 1968: The tragedy of Southern Soul, which might go some way towards resolving the apparent lack of recognition afforded black artists.

From Obscurities to Re-Issues

In amongst the albums listed in the Top 30 there are a number of albums which were generally ignored by the charts and the punters alike in 1968, although the albums did have small enclaves of dedicated followers.  The United States of America sole self-titled album, released in 1968, has been reissued on many occasions since 1987, most recently in November 2017 by Sundazed Records on special limited edition clear vinyl.  The Incredible String Band’s cult following ensured that The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter album was reissued on no less than ten occasions including by Sundazed and Elektra the original record label, the most recent reissue in 2016.

Similarly Laura Nyro’s masterpiece has been kept alive by multiple reissues by multiple labels in the US, Japan and the Netherlands most recently in 2017.  Lastly Silver Apples self-titled album has also been given a royal reissue treatment over many years by its cultist fans.  The going price for a limited edition numbered copy made in France goes for between $A38.90 and $A135.00.  There’s big money in those re-issues often produced by small concerns (and sometimes by pirates).

   

Ultimate Classic Rock lays it down in Tablets of Granite

The guys at Ultimate Classic Rock normally take no prisoners.  It’s four on the floor and straight “up the guts with plenty of smoke”.  Their list, however, is a revelation.  For once the Beatles do not take top spot and the Rolling Stones – often “standing in the shadows” are revealed as the Rock Gods they will soon become.  Beggars Banquet, an excellent album of blues and shakers is rated #1 with the Jimi Hendrix Experience at #2 with Electric LadylandThe Beatles aka The White Album is acknowledged, in the cold light of day, as a collection of sometimes brilliant but individual songs across a rambling double album.  But Ultimate Classic Rock allows some brilliant lesser “rockers” into the Top 10 – The Band, Music from the Big Pink, The Kinks, Village Green, Van Morrison’s pastoral moment – the lovely Astral Weeks and Simon & Garfunkel’s Bookends.  Surprise absence is Cream and Wheels of Fire.  Have the guys at Ultimate Classic Rock nailed it?  Almost, but for absence of Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin’s bleeding vocals, and the crashing chords and wails of Cheap Thrills.

 

Rating Artist Album Title
1 Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet
2 Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland
3 The Beatles The Beatles (aka The White Album)
4 Van Morrison Astral Weeks
5 The Band Music from the Big Pink
6 The Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo
7 Kinks The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society
8 Simon & Garfunkel Bookends
9 Mothers of Invention We’re only in it for the money
10 Jeff Beck Truth

At #10 is Jeff Beck’s Truth, and on recent re-listening it is a strange album, a liquorice all-sorts of a record with a rough muddy mix, although new comer vocalist Rod Stewart is in high form.

 From the Mountain – Rolling Stone Selections

Rolling Stone Magazine, the voice of the rock generation, and a shaggy well-fingered reference book – The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time – lists 22 albums for 1968:

Rating Artist Album Title
10 The Beatles The Beatles (aka The White Album)
19 Van Morrison Astral Weeks
34 The Band Music from the Big Pink
55 Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland
58 Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet
80 The Zombies Odessey & Oracle
84 Aretha Franklin Aretha: Lady Soul
88 Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison
119 The Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo
143 Dr John Gris-Gris
160 Otis Redding Dock of the Bay
170 The Byrds The Notorious Byrd Brothers
201 Cream Wheels of Fire
229 Simon & Garfunkel Bookends
252 Kinks The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society
261 Blood Sweat & Tears Child is the father of man
284 Grateful Dead Anthem of the Sun
292 The Mothers of Invention We’re only in it for the money
334 Big Brother & the Holding Company Cheap Thrills
388 Creedence Clearwater Revival Willy & the Poor Boys
457 The Drifters Golden Hits

   

Each of these albums feature in the Top 30 of BestEverAlbums with a few exceptions – Otis Redding, Blood Sweat & Tears, Creedence, the Grateful Dead and the Drifters.  There are no real surprises and the Top 10 ratings by Rolling Stone Magazine largely go undisputed.

Billboard – Money and Moula

What does the money say?  Let’s take an overview of the year according to Billboard where sales are king and longevity in the charts is revered.  Initially we peruse Joel Whitburn’s wonderful book of statistics – The Billboard Book of Top 40 Albums (1987) – which includes twelve top selling and rating albums, which made #1 in 1968.  Hair – the original cast recording, although being released in 1968, is listed as a #1 by Billboard in 1969 when it hit the top on 26 April after 13 weeks in the Hot 200.

Date Artist Album Title
Jan 6 – Feb 24 The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour
Mar 2 – Mar 30 Paul Mauriat Blooming Hits
Apr 6 –May 18 Simon & Garfunkel / Original Soundtrack Recording The Graduate
May 25 – Jun 8 Simon & Garfunkel Bookends
Jun 15 –Jun 22 Simon & Garfunkel / Original Soundtrack Recording The Graduate
Jun 29 – Jul 20 Simon & Garfunkel Bookends
Jul 27 – Aug 3 Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass The Beat of the Brass
Aug 10 – Aug 31 Cream Wheels of Fire
Sep 7 – Sep 21 The Doors Waiting for the Sun
Sep 28 Rascals Time Piece / The Rascal’s Greatest Hits
Oct 5 The Doors Waiting for the Sun
Oct 12 –Nov 9 Big Brother & the Holding Company Cheap Thrills
Nov 16 – Nov 23 Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland
Nov 30 – Dec 14 Big Brother & the Holding Company Cheap Thrills
Dec 21 Glen Campbell Wichita Lineman
Dec 28 The Beatles The Beatles (aka The White Album)

The Beatles nicely top and tail the Billboard listing although pundits will say that the Magical Mystery Tour album, a concoction by Capitol Records, was released to chase the mighty dollar and the quality of the album is not up to the standard that the Beatles, George Martin or Brian Epstein would readily condone.  French pianist and orchestra leader, Paul Mauriat, is highly successful commercially with Blooming Hits and the album cover depicts a stunning nude model painted in paisley flowers and butterflies, a leftover of the Summer of Love, whilst he spins honeyed orchestral sounds of 1960 hits – including his #1 Love is Blue.  Vive La France!

Herb Alpert, always in the charts since 1962, again makes it to the top with The Beat of the Brass album which includes his top selling summer single – This guy’s in love with you.  Glen Campbell begins his ascendency with Witchita Lineman and a run of million seller albums.  He may not have to provide occasional vocal support to the Beach Boys any longer, throw away his rented surf board and buy a new house for  his horse.  Life goes on.

Life in the Billboard Hot 200 Charts

Whilst these thirteen albums shared the limelight during 1968 on Billboard, countless others skirmished in the Hot 200 and it is interesting to see what action ensued in the depths, noting again there are very few Black Soul & RnB albums appearing in the top echelons of the lists so far surveyed.

Indeed in the early months of 1968 most of the albums enjoying slots in the Billboard Hot 200 had been there in 1967 and were still hanging around.  In March, Bob Dylan who has not reached #1 in the album charts, sits at #2 supporting Blooming Hits with his slow folk album John Wesley Harding – not an electric guitar in earshot.  The Rascals –Once Upon a Dream makes it to #3.  Aretha Franklin also makes it to #2 with Lady Soul in March and Glen Campbell’s By the time I get to Phoenix sits at #60.  This album eventually makes it to #15 later in the year but manages to stay in the charts all year lobbing up and down but staying in the Top 100 mostly, whilst four or so other Glen Campbell albums shoot up and down the charts.  It’s the year of the Rhinestone Cowboy.

In April Otis Redding’s Dock on the Bay makes it to #6.  Whilst Simon & Garfunkel are basking in the glory of The Graduate Original Soundtrack sitting on top, their previous albums make a repechage up the charts – Sounds of Silence and Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme (both originally released in 1966).  On 11 May Simon & Garfunkel sit at #1 with The Graduate and also in the Top 10 have newly released Bookends and Parsley ETC.  Golden sun shines down upon the duo.  This recurrence of sales and hits follows other artists and the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Cream were also favoured by this trend.

  

Sergio Mendes albums also seem to perform well in 1968 – Look Around at #14 – 14 May.  Electric Flag makes it to #34 on 18 May with A long time coming, Michael Bloomfield’s first outing since the roaring newly-electric Dylan days.  Down in the cellar Traffic appear at #163 with Mr Fantasy along with Tiny Tim chortling away at #167 with God Bless Tiny Tim.  One song might be enough but a whole album!  Late in May the Monkees are making another charge with The Bees, the Birds & the Monkees, which fails to hit #1 making it to #3, their first album not to make the top, and missing out in the UK Charts altogether.  A&R men commit hari kari!!  Shark eats quads!! Pop Squeek! Here today and gone tomorrow.  Notwithstanding the album sells one million copies in any case and someone in this great industry cries all the way to the bank.

June 1968 – northern summer

At the start of summer the Top 10 albums in the Billboard Hot 200 are:

Rank Artist Title Weeks On Chart
1 Simon & Garfunkel Bookends 6
2 Simon & Garfunkel + The Graduate OST 12
3 The Monkees The Birds, the bees & the Monkees 4
4 Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass The Beat of the Brass 4
5 Simon & Garfunkel Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme 82
6 Bobby Goldsboro Honey 7
7 Aretha Franklin Lady Soul 15
8 Ennio Morricone The Good the bad & the Ugly OST 17
9 Cream Disraeli Gears 26
10 Hugo Montengro Music from A fistful of dollars, A few dollars more and the Good the bad & the ugly 16

It is an odd dissection – three Simon & Garfunkel albums, three soundtrack albums, perennial inhabitants of the Top 10 – Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, leaving Bobby Goldsboro and Cream leading the teen charge and Aretha, our only soul Black RnB representative.

Come July Herb Alpert has his way with the top position.  Johnny Rivers is at #27 with his new album Realization and the Four Tops at #28 with a Greatest Hits compilation.  Cream take over the coveted top spot the second week in August and have both their albums in the Top 10 – Wheels of Fire and Disraeli Gears, and first album Fresh Cream re-ascending the Charts.  The Doors – Waiting for the Sun sits at #29 on its second week in the charts.  2001 Space Odyssey with HAL humming in space is at #89.  Could HAL influence the charts by fair means or foul?

   

In the first week in September the Doors hit #1 spot.  The Rascals with Time Piece / Greatest Hits are at #2 but climb above the Doors on 28 September to claim the crown.  At this time of the year, just through the northern summer, there are many contenders in the Billboard Hot 200.  Consistent Glen Campbell is at #8 with Gentle on my mind; Steppenwolf with their self-titled first effort are at #9, Jefferson Airplane at #14 with Crown of Creation, Iron Butterfly with In a-gadda-da-vida at #15, Fifth Dimension with Stoned Soul Picnic at #35, Mike Bloomfield and friends with Supersession at #47, John Mayall with Bare Wires at #95 and the Grateful Dead at #102 with Anthem of the Sun.

The big surprise is Big Brother & the Holding Company making #1 with Cheap Thrills on 12 October.  In the years to come no-one thinks of this album as Big Brother but as Janis Joplin’s first album with a bunch of blokes with long hair.  Her mighty voice and spirit carried this album whilst the band, sticking to her like glue, sounded down and dirty, loud and bluesy.  It’s grand to note that this album is still considered one of THE greats of all time.  In this same week the Jimi Hendrix Experience debut album has re-ascended the charts and is at #13 after a full 60 weeks on the charts.  On 19 October Electric Ladyland hits #178 on its first week in.  Watch this space.

[Billboard Goes Big: Buy Big Brother!!!]

Jeanne C Riley – Harper Valley PTA makes it to # 48 on 26 October falling short of the single’s achievement.  Janis Joplin in her alter ego, Big Brother & the Holding Company, surrenders up the top spot to the Jimi Hendrix Experience on 16 November as Electric Ladyland swamps the charts.  Are you experienced is at #8 – a signal triumph for Jimi and the band.  HAL has crept nearer the action as 2001 Space Odyssey assumes #24.  Jeannie C Riley makes #13 – “getting better all the time”.

But Janis is not finished and reclaims #1 on 7 December.  Jose Feliciano who has been vying for the #1 spot on a number of occasions during the year again settles for #2 with Feliciano!  Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Stephen Stills settle into #12 with Supersession, a really great album.  Music from the Big Pink by the Band makes it #16.

The White Album in its first week in makes #11.  You can almost put the glasses down as we round the last bend leading into the straight.  But with one last gasp, Glen Campbell, our galloping troubadour grasps #1 with Witchita Lineman, whilst By the time I get to Phoenix is still wandering the outer limits of the charts and after 52 weeks in the charts, ie most of 1968, surges to #37!  Steppenwolf have their second album in the Top 10 and Judy Collins, folkster, is at #6 with Wild Flowers.

 

Come 28 December the Beatles launch into the #1 position with the individually numbered double disk The Beatles – aka The White Album, a mish mash of individual excellence and exuberance.  Hail the conquering heroes.  Meanwhile HAL has manoeuvred 2001 Space Odyssey to #68 someway between the twin planets of Dr Zhivago and the Sound of Music but not beyond the orbit of Hair at #72, a galaxy within a galaxy of stars and bars.  Distant constellations merge and glimmer upon a thousand sunsets.  Ride on Kemo Sabe.

[HAL – HAL 9000 –Heuristically Programmed ALgorithmic Computer the first AI killer in outer space.  So far so good?]

1001 Albums you just gotta hear….

1001 Albums “You must hear before you die” is always an invitation to see if you have those particular albums in your collection and maybe prod you into visiting Discogs to check out the price of a mint copy or reissue.  There are a hefty 27 albums listed for 1968 but fewer than in 1967 when 31 albums made the cut.  There is a amazing correlation with the BestEverAlbums selection with a few additional stars – Blue Cheer, Ravi Shankar & Scott Walker.

Artist Title
Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet
Traffic Traffic
The Incredible String Band The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter
Kinks The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society
Ravi Shankar The Sounds of India
Os Mutantes Os Mutantes
Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland
Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison
Laura Nyro Eli & the thirteenth confession
Aretha Franklin Aretha: Lady Soul
Blue Cheer Vincebus Eruptum
Big Brother & the Holding Company Cheap Thrills
The United States of America The United States of America
Dr John, the Night Tripper Gris-Gris
Iron Butterfly In-a-gadda-da-vida
Pretty Things S.F Sorrow
Simon & Garfunkel Bookends
Small Faces Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake
Jeff Beck Truth
Caetano Veloso Caetano Veloso
Scott Walker Scott 2
Velvet Underground White Light / White heat
The Zombies Odessey & Oracle
Van Morrison Astral Weeks
The Beatles The Beatles (aka The White Album)
Mothers of Invention We’re only in it for the money

  

Dr Pop Paul Gambaccini Presents…

Paul Gambaccini, one of UK’s veteran DJs and music raconteur, presented one of the first “best of” album collections with his “Top 100 Albums” published in 1987, and using a formidable gallery of critics.  The tome is a great album sized book with full colour picture pages of album sleeves and comparative selections of top albums in 1977 and 1987 with interesting variations.  His 1968 selections number six albums only and are as follows:

Rating Artist Album Title
9 Van Morrison Astral Weeks
10 The Beatles The Beatles (aka The White Album)
33 Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet
50 Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland
64 The Band Music from the Big Pink
75 The Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo

The list is, to say the least, succinct and almost a desert-island disc selection locked into the rock scene of 1968.

101 Essential Albums

The Jeff Gold selections are unrated and include virtually all we have discovered so far with a few new inclusions – Fleetwood Mac, Pentangle and the Soft Machine.  There are sixteen albums listed and the Beatles and the Rolling Stones do not appear – stark exclusions, where borderline ‘great’ albums by Jeff Beck and the Grateful Dead are included (and might otherwise be excluded).  But we should remember that any album nominations are based on personal preferences and arbitrary bias.  There is no ‘correct’ answer but there might be a better answer.  And Jeff Gold’s selections for previous years have been spot on the money.

Artist Title
Velvet Underground White Light / White heat
Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac
The Incredible String Band The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter
The Zombies Odessey & Oracle
Small Faces Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake
The Band Music from the Big Pink
Grateful Dead Anthem of the Sun
Jeff Beck Truth
Big Brother & the Holding Company Cheap Thrills
The Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo
Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland
Van Morrison Astral Weeks
The Beatles The Beatles (aka The White Album)
Pretty Things S.F Sorrow
The Pentangle Sweet Child
Soft Machine The Soft Machine

   

The Virgin All-Time Top 1000 Albums

It seems sensible to explore Colin Larkin’s view of the world in 1968.  Colin Larkin has published the venerable “Who’s Who” series of music books, which morphed into the Virgin Encyclopaedia of Music.  His brief tome Virgin all-time top 1000 Albums is a gem and often throws some light on dark corners of rock.  In 1968 41 albums are listed and the top 10 are in the following table.

Rank Rank in Top 1000 Artist Album Title
1 3 The Beatles The Beatles (aka The White Album)
2 12 Jimi Hendrix Experience Electric Ladyland
3 15 Van Morrison Astral Weeks
4 75 The Byrds The Notorious Byrd Brothers
5 106 Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet
6 171 Kinks The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society
7 183 Aretha Franklin Aretha: Lady Soul
8 205 Mothers of Invention We’re only in it for the money
9 257 The Band Music from the Big Pink
10 258 Cream Wheels of Fire

There are some choices we see for the first time from the darker corners.  The debate seems to never runs dry of possibilities and alternatives and “what ifs”.

Rank in Top 1000 Artist Album Title
429 The Millenium Begin
601 Otis Redding The Dock of the Bay
647 Joni Mitchell Joni Mitchell
667 Buffalo Springfield Last time around
701 Etta James Tell Mama
704 Frank Zappa Lumpy Gravy
753 Family Music  in a Doll’s House
776 Various /OST Oliver
951 Spirit The family that plays together
972 John Mayall Bare Wires
985 Spirit Spirit
987 Beach Boys Friends

   

The Parallel Universe that is The Grammy’s

Mind tripping was a part of life in the late sixties and it feels that way when we visit the Grammys’ ceremony at the Century Plaza Hotel Los Angeles on 12 March 1969.  The show is hosted by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin so one can be forgiven for thinking that this is just another Laugh-In show with improbable outcomes but plenty of laughs.  OK get out the envelope.  The nominations for Album of the Year are – drum roll – hold your breath and let it all hang out.

Glen Campbell – By the time I get to Phoenix

Jose Feliciano – Feliciano!

Richard Harris – A Tramp Shining

Simon & Garfunkel – Bookends

The Beatles – Magic Mystery Tour

And the winner is – Glen Campbell – the Rhinestone cowboy, part-time Beach Boy riding on the back of the gorgeous songs and melodies of Jimmy Webb.  Congratulations Glen.  Say goodnight Dick.  Goodnight Dan.

In retrospect this is great decision by the Grammy Awards Committee as Witchita Lineman crept in and stole the #1 position on Billboard late in the year for one week only, whilst Phoenix had been doing the hard yards all year battling the storms of the charts and whims of the fans without respite.  This is a truly wonderful and unexpected outcome.

Of passing note, Mason Williams wins the best instrumental of the year – Classical Gas with Hugh Masekela [Grazing in the Grass] and Hugo Montenegro [The Good, the Bad & the Ugly] nominated.  Paul Simon and Dave Grusin clean up with the Best Original Score for Motion Pictures for The Graduate.  Simon & Garfunkel also score Record of the Year with Mrs Robinson.  Song of the Year goes to Bobby Russell for Little Green Apples ahead of the Beatles [Hey Jude], Paul Simon [Mrs Robinson] and Tom T Hall [Harper Valley PTA].  Strange days and nights at the Grammys indeed.  The Establishment still rides roughshod over newcomers and shuffles off to the front of the bus.

1968 in all its glory

1968 was a brash year.  Rock was in full flight, confident and moving at a great pace.  Many of the groups which had emerged in the second wave were applauded by the teenage world and yet many MOR entertainers also surfed on the wave of enthusiasm and joy that was the 60s.  The year really show-cased the new talent on the block.  The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream sailed in full flight – all sky-high rock, blues and psychedelic sounds, bringing two of the world’s astounding guitarists to the fore.  Aretha Franklin, with her new label Atlantic, produced stunning work and posthumously, Otis Redding scored highly.  Folk duo Simon & Garfunkel also enjoyed fortune and fame, and Glen Campbell would never have to busk again.  Janis Joplin was enshrined as a performer beloved, wild and true.  US Bands – the Byrds, the Rascals and the Doors demonstrated their enduring qualities with superior albums.  And we should not forget the British influence although it had been waning in recent years.  The Rolling Stones produced one of their best albums in Beggars Banquet, and the masters – The Beatles – tremendously popular with albums topping and tailing 1968, are always remembered for The White Album – four sides of creativity by John, Paul, George & Ringo.

The Best of the Best ????

On the basis that it is not really possible to select a genuine best of the best that would satisfy everyone or anyone, it might be better to nominate our most favourite albums of 1968.  There are many of our favourite groups and artists who have not rated a mention so far, for example:  – Eric Burden & the Animals, the Hollies, the Who, Tim Buckley, Dusty Springfield, Fleetwood Mac, Leonard Cohen, Procol Harum, Pink Floyd, the Beach Boys, Manfred Mann, Bee Gees, Neil Young, Electric Prunes – all of whom released an album in 1968.  We could go on but to what effect.  The musical output demonstrates that 1968 was a challenging and distinctive year on a panoramic changing music landscape demonstrating a potpourri of styles, ideas, thunderous hits and splendid misses.

   

For better or worse here is our favourite Top 10 from White Elephant Records – in no particular order.

Artist Album Title
Rolling Stones Beggars Banquet
Aretha Franklin Aretha: Lady Soul
The Band Music from the Big Pink
Cream Wheels of Fire
Janis Joplin Cheap Thrills
Blood Sweat & Tears Child is the father of man
Eric Burden & the Animals The Twain shall meet
Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper & Stephen Stills Supersession
Traffic Traffic
Simon & Garfunkel The Graduate

Honourable mentions go to an Australian release by the Twilights – Once Upon a Twilight, the Zombies for their last brilliant psychedelic offering – Odyssey & Oracle, and the Kinks for The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society.  To round out our chronicle, attached below is Jon Savage’s take on 1968 published in Shindig! Magazine #75.  Happy reading.  Also included is the Cream performing their farewell concert in November 1968 at the Royal Albert Hall London – White Room.

1968_Shindig_Savage

 

 

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