1969 – End of a Momentous Decade

Into the Light & Darkness

The Sixties was certainly a decade of vast change and upheaval.  The earlier short back and sides of Rock n’ Roll and the crooners gave way to the irrepressible new beat from Merseyside, the Beatles, mini-skirts and long beautiful hair, leading to the friendly British invasion of the New World.  Bringing it all back home!  By the end of the Sixties the US had revived in the charts from Motown to the acid and Psychedelic sounds of San Francisco, LA and New York City.  The music was getting more complicated and wilder.  The Beatles are on top but are fragmenting.  1969 would form a rampart into the 1970s, but the year would still claim many firsts – from the moon landing to Woodstock, murder and mayhem.  May God bless America.

Going to Woodstock in the fast lane

Hot Summer Downunder

Bush fires at Lara, Victoria, January 1969

In January 1969 the weather as usual was pretty hot in Australia.  Most people were enjoying holidays at the beach and there were serious bushfires throughout Victoria with several fatalities.  Nothing much else was astir, aside from the fires, other than the purchase of the largest selling British Sunday newspaper The News of the World by Australian media baron Rupert Murdoch.  Little did anyone know that this venture would also go down in flames 42 years later, amidst Government inquiries, sex scandals and scurrilous reportage.

The Go-Set Charts in the first quarter

Cream is on top of the Go-Set charts at #1 with White Room, with Eric, Ginger and Jack at full throttle.  They have been there since before Christmas and the top ten is a real mix – Leapy Lee with Little Arrows at #2, the all-conquering Beatles at #3 with Hey Jude; Diana Ross and the Supremes with I’m gonna make you love me, (who could resist?), before Johnny Nash at #5 with Hold me tight still hanging in there, along with Mary Hopkin #6 – Those were the days, the wimpy Ohio Express at # 7 with Chewy Chewy.  There appears to be no rational explanation about why people buy bubblegum music.  It defies logic but then we are talking about pop music.  And who famously said “Pop will eat itself”?  It might well have already started on the entree.  Don Farndon is at #8 with the passionate Indian Reservation.  At #9 we have the Turtles with Eleanore and sitting at #10 Jimi Hendrix – All along the watchtower to cap it off.


After the heady years between 1966 and 1968, the only Australian artists in the Go-Set Top 40 are Ronnie Burns at #18 with Age of Consent and Johnny Farnham at #38 with Rose Coloured Glasses.  One wonders who is selecting his songs, and then who is buying them.  His grannie for starters.

Cream stays at #1 for another two weeks until they are overtaken by the mighty Canned Heat with Going up the country.  In the following week on 22 January, Barry Ryan from West Riding, Yorkshire, and the heavily overwrought orchestral Eloise hits the top spot and stays for several weeks.  Unfortunately he is overtaken by the Scaffold and the silly Lily the Pink, folkish funtime music to amuse your great aunty and her great aunty.  And the Scaffold are to stay at the # 1 position for several weeks, a minor crime against pop humanity.  All is not lost when on 12 March the Foundations hit #1 with Build me up Buttercup after having a monster hit the previous year.  The Beatles are sitting at # 2 with Obladi Oblada, and Elvis, is pushing up the charts after his comeback year in 1968, and is at # 3 with Edge of Reality.

Among the groups in the mix below the Top 10 in the early months of 1969 are the Bee Gees with I started a joke which is a big hit in Australia making it to #3.  Manfred Mann, experimenting with new members with the poppy Fox On The Run, a far cry from their blues and jazz approach in 1965, reaches #23.  Dusty Springfield takes over the #5 spot with the lovely Son of a Preacher Man on 12 February.  Eric Burdon & the Animals are back with Ring of Fire reaching #10.  You can’t keep some of these guys down.   The Doors are also back in town with Touch me, and Herman’s Hermits always persistently happy and friendly are present and accounted for with Something’s happening.  Southern swamp man Tony Joe White, unassuming everyman, is the middle of the charts with the Games people play.


Beatles back on top Play Repeat

The Beatles make it to the top on 19 March with the folksy Obladi Oblada and stay there for five weeks.  No one can penetrate their lofty world and they prevent Elvis from getting to the top spot, making #2.  Astonishing the critics, Tommy James and the Shondells, also consistent with their chart efforts, are at #4 with Crimson & Clover, a mournful love song.  Peter Sarstedt makes it to #23 with Where do you go to (my lovely), destined for higher things, and Fleetwood Mac reaches #12 with the magic instrumental Albatross with the cool Peter Green on moody lead guitar.  Glen Campbell is back in the charts at # 27 with Galveston.  Praise Jimmy Webb and the land of the free.

By March, several new Australian artists join the Go-Set Top 40 – The Zoot (soon to reach the heights) arrive with the terrible One times two times three times four (pretty school boyish and no one knows whether any of the boys were good at mathematics in any case), the Groop with Such a lovely way, Flying Circus with Hayride (mellow sunshine pop) and the soul sounds of The Groove with Relax me.

Autumn Charts

The Beatles hold the fort throughout April.  On 9 April, Russell Morris with his first week in the charts ever, gets to #33 with The Real Thing which was going to be the real thing alright, almost a national anthem.  Tommy Roe with his infectious and irritating pop of Dizzy stalls at #2 unable to crack the Beatles’ crown.  In the lower regions of the Top 40, the Hollies are at play with Sorry Suzanne (#17), another beauty from the Manchester foursome; newcomers Creedence Clearwater Revival from San Francisco assert themselves with their first big hit Proud Mary at #25; the Fifth Dimension with one of many hits from the Rock Musical Hair release the double-sided single Aquarius/Let the sunshine in, sit at #31, and Simon & Garfunkel re-emerge with the Sounds of Silence, a hit song from 1966 possibly popular again following the 1967 movie The Graduate, and release of the soundtrack in 1968.


New Boys in Town

Peter Sarstedt, born in Delhi, India, (1941) achieves #1 on 3 May and stays at #1 until the 24 May, keeping Tommy Roe at #2, the Beatles at #3 and Mary Hopkin with Goodbye at #4.  Peter Sarstedt is subsequently awarded the Ivor Novello Award in 1970 for the “best song musically and lyrically”.  On 31 May Russell Morris with The Real Thing slots into the top spot – Oo mama mow-mow!!!!! and the Fifth Dimension move to #5.

The Real Thing is an all-Australian project, composed by Johnny Young and recorded by Molly Meldrum.  The recording clocks in at an unheard of 6 minutes 20 seconds with psychedelic orchestral overload, using the Groop as the backing band with a member of the Zoot playing the guitar intro.  The song is now rock history DownUnder and is on the National Film and Sound Archive’s Sounds of Australia – up there with Billy Thorpe, Slim Dusty, The Saints and Helen Reddy.

The Top 10 for 3 May shows the mid Autumn status with Australia’s Anne Hawker with a real shocker Boom Bang-a-Bang at #10.  It is amazing how some of these songs see the light of day.  The song got to #2 in Melbourne, the singer’s hometown.

Rank Artist Song
1 Peter Sarstedt Where do you go to (my lovely)
2 Beatles Obaldi Oblada
3 Tommy Roe Dizzy
4 1910 Fruit Gum Co Indian Giver
5 Jose Feliciano Adios Amor
6 Glen Campbell Galveston
7 Russel Morris The Real Thing
8 Hollies Sorry Suzanne
9 Foundations Build me up Buttercup
10 Anne Hawker Boom Bang-a-Bang

Beatles Unstoppable

Russell Morris stays at #1 for a week and then the Beatles assume the mantle again on 7 June with a double-sided single Get Back / Don’t bring me down.  History is in the making again.  And the Beatles stay at #1 for five weeks, achieving total dominance over the charts.

Whilst the Beatles dwell at the top, Creedence Clearwater Revival, marking their first movement in the charts, are at #6 with Proud Mary and also at #35 with Bad Moon Rising.  Tom Jones is at #21 with Love me tonight and Elvis down at #38 with Memories.  Another hit from the rock musical Hair – the main theme song- is at #5 by the Cowsills; Gitzarzan by king of the novelty records, Ray Stevens [Ahab the Arab, 1962], achieves #4, and Simon & Garfunkel are at #7 with The Boxer.  Doug Parkinson hits the Go-Set charts for the first time at #39 with a cover of a Beatles’ song Dear Prudence which seems to go on and on and on, and on with non-stop local airplay. Also moving up the charts in June is Desmond Dekker & the Aces with the surprise hit Israelites, the first Reggae hit of Rastafarian origins, almost matched by the efforts of the Edwin Hawkins Singers with the gospel tinged hymn Oh Happy Day.  Desmond Dekker eventually gets to #3 on the charts on 5 July.

Ned Kelly rides into town

Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull fly into Sydney on 8 July to start the filming of Ned Kelly.  The venture is a series of small to medium disasters.  Maid Marianne is admitted to hospital suffering from an overdose.  Mick attends hospital daily whilst writing love letters to Marsha Hunt in America.  The film is subsequently declared a flop, the sound track lost between pop country and out of the country, and the local papers debate whether Mick should ever have been cast as the notorious Ned Kelly in the first place.

Gimme Head With Hair….

In the following week The Cowsills hit #1 with Hair [Gimme head with hair – Long beautiful hair – Shining, gleaming, Streaming – flaxen, waxen].  The Beatles remain at # 2 with Get Back, Creedence Clearwater at #3 and Tom Jones Love me tonight at #4.  The Cowsills are bold enough to stay on top for two weeks before The Beatles, rampant this year, return to #1 on 26 July with the rollicking Ballad of John & Yoko.  By July there are seven Australian artists in the Go-Set charts including newcomers Ross D Wyllie and the Valentines.

Elvis V Beatles

Other newcomers include Blood Sweat & Tears with their first foray into the charts at #27 with Spinning Wheel and Elvis is at #12 with In the ghetto a sure fire winner.  The Beatles stay on top for three weeks keeping Elvis from the number one position until on 23 August Elvis again reaches for his crown at #1 with In the Ghetto and The Beatles sit at #2.

The Go-Set Top 10 on 9 August looks pretty interesting:

Rank Artist Song
1 Beatles Ballad of John & Yoko
2 Elvis Presley In the Ghetto
3 Cowsills Hair
4 Herman’s Hermits My Sentimental Friend
5 Creedence Clearwater Revival Bad Moon Rising / Lodi
6 Doug Parkinson In Focus Dear Prudence
7 Peter Sarstedt Frozen Orange Juice
8 Tommy Roe Heather Honey
9 Blood Sweat & Tears Spinning Wheel
10 Beatles Get back / Don’t let me down

At #13 is our jokester Ray Stevens with Along Came Jones [..and then along came Jones, slow talk’ Jones, slow walkin’ Jones…][Not to be confused with Murray Kellum’s Long tall Texan – 1963 – oh Roy oh Roy is that your horse…?]


Zager and What….?

Also on 23 August the strangely named Zager and Evans is at #3 with In the year 2525 and the song is going to be a hit across the world.  The Plastic Ono Band is at #6 with the anthem Give peace a chance as Yoko and John try to convert the world, and the FBI doubles down on its investigations of their obviously subversive activities.  The Rolling Stones, who have been keeping a low profile following drug busts in 1968, are sitting at # 7 with Honky Tonk Woman a big change up for the boys.  Australian groups make a charge at the Top 40.  The Flying Circus are at #12 with a new song La La, the dynamic Masters Apprentices are at # 37 with 5:10 Man and The Easybeats with St Louis at #39.

Rolling Stones #1 – Honky Tonk Woman

Elvis stays on top for three weeks being replaced by the Rolling Stones on 13 September.  The Top 10 looks like this:

Rank Artist Song
1 Rolling Stones Honky Tonk Woman
2 Elvis Presley In the Ghetto
3 Zager & Evans In the Year 2525
4 Johnny Farnham One
5 Kenny Rogers & the First Edition Ruby, don’t take your love to town
6 Johnny cash A Boy named Sue
7 Plastic Ono Band Give Peace a chance
8 The Archies Sugar Sugar
9 Flying Circus La La
10 Robin Gibb Saved by the Bell

In the mix we have Thunderclap Newman at #17 with Something in the air, at #29 Donovan with the Jeff Beck Group hover with Barabajagal, and at #40 Bob Dylan with Lay Lady Lay a nearly magic number.  The Monkees have a minor resurgence in fortunes with Listen to the band at #19 but their days of fame are pretty much over except for reruns of the TV series.

September in the rain – Russell Morris #1 Again!!

On 20 September the top three is still the same, but we have Oliver at #8 with Good Morning Starshine, another hit from the musical Hair.  At #13 Creedence Clearwater Revival offer Green River to their many fans.  The Rolling Stones have a dream run with Honky Tonk Woman and reside at the top until 11 October.  In the following week Russell Morris has his second big #1 hit with the esoteric titled Part 3 Into Paper Walls.  It sounds like a re-run of his previous hit and about as long.  Molly must have caught his finger on the record button.  Thunderclap Newman makes #4 with the fantastic Something in the Air, Johnny Farnham with One (is the loneliest number) at #5.   In the same week Jackie de Shannon’s delightful Put a Little love in your life can only get to #31 – very disappointing for such a great song.  Australia’s Rock and Roll wild boy of the 50s, Johnny O’Keefe, makes it to #23 with a come-back song She’s my baby – a truly terrible number which originally charted in 1959.  He should have left it there.

With Russell Morris back on top for the second time within months, there are some interesting visitors in the lower echelons – Crosby Stills and Nash – Marrakesh Express, Ross D Wylie with The Star and Gary Puckett and the Union Gap – This girl is a Woman now – always the same type of pop song – love them, promise them the world and never leave ‘em.  Neil Diamond is getting more attention with his latest song Sweet Caroline and goodness gracious, Kamal is at #32 with the Sounds of Goodbye.  At #35 is Humble Pie and their first outing in the charts with Natural Born Bugie.

Little Bay All Wrapped Up

Often nothing much seems to happen in Australia that claims international attention or interest.  In our adventures since 1965 we have splashed red paint over LBJ’s limousine, introduced decimal currency (that was a year that was!), lost a prime minister in deep surf at Cheviot Beach near Portsea in 1967, and that is about all.  But in October 1969 Australia hit the big time.

The Big Wrap

Artist Christo came and wrapped up the cliffs along the shore at Little Bay, located southeast of Sydney.  This was no mean feat.  The area wrapped was approximately 2.5 kilometres long covering cliffs about 25 metres in height.  90,000 square metres of erosion-control fabric was used for the wrapping, about 60 kilometres of polypropylene rope tied the fabric to the rocks and cliff face.  Ramset guns fired 25,000 charges of fasteners, studs and clips to secure the rope to the rocks.  Over 100 volunteers slaved in great winds and dangerous weather, assisted by 15 professional mountain climbers.  Everyone survived the experience.  And the coast remained wrapped for 10 weeks from 28 October.  At the end of the great wrap up all the materials were removed and recycled and the site returned to its original condition.  It probably would not happen today as there are sure to be regulations, sub-regulations, rules, by-laws and any amount of running interference to prevent any re-occurrence.  The reason why Christo would wrap up the coast is almost impossible to fathom.  One theory is that it would take Sydneysiders’ minds of the Opera House which was undergoing construction amidst severe design difficulties, union turmoil and budget blow-outs.

Just One More Sheet To Go

Australian Artists take top spots on the charts

The next few weeks almost make Australian history as Russell Morris stays on top for three weeks and then is followed on 15 November by Ross D Wyllie with The star, another hit song written by Johnny Young.  Ross D Wyllie is the compere of Uptight, a weekly three hour music program on Saturday morning TV operating between 1967 and 1969.  Molly Meldrum is also a regular on this program.  These guys are obviously collaborating fiercely.  Thunderclap Newman makes #3 on 25 October and Tony Joe White is at #8 with Polk Salad Annie.

Ross D Wyllie – Small Miracles

Miraculously, Ross D Wyllie stays on top for two weeks (the local market has done him well).  The Go-Set charts show Australian Artists at #1 and #2, a world first – at least in 1969.  And then on 29 November, the Big O, Roy Orbison with his worst contribution in a decade, a sweet nothing song called Penny Arcade assumes the mantle.  The Beatles are again threatening at #3 with another double-sided single Something / Come Together.  Elvis, in his first week in, is at #16 with Suspicious Minds – another winner.  A little known singer Nilsson is at the bottom of the Top 40 charts #40 with Everybody’s talkin’ – a sign of better things coming.  At #34 the Fifth Dimension are back with the celebratory Wedding Bell Blues.

Beatles win – it’s Christmas again

On 13 December the Beatles again take over #1 with Something / Come Together. Two good ole boys are at #2 and #3 – Roy Orbison and Elvis.  Outside the top 10 Glen Campbell lingers with Try a little kindness (#12), and Lawrence Reynolds with Jesus is a soul man (#13), Kenny Rogers and the First Edition with Reuben James at #14.  Hank Marvin, without the Shadows, scores with the lush instrumental Sacha (#20).  Further down the charts is Max Merritt and the Meteors with Western Union Man (#29) their first venture into the Australian charts.

The Beatles stay on top for the rest of the year.  Elvis serves time at #2.  Just outside the top ten Melbourne group Axiom strike out with Arkansas Grass, (#14) sounding very American.  Johnny Farnham with his third effort this year with Raindrops keep falling On My head (a cover of the song by American B J Thomas and featuring in the 1969 popular film Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid) makes the top 10 on 27 December.  Creedence Clearwater Revival summon up another hit with Down on the corner (#30).  Blood Sweat & Tears are back again with And When I Die (#5).  Neil Diamond is getting closer to gold with Holly Holy (#25), whilst Ronnie Burns is waiting in the wings with his wonderful song Smiley (#33).


At the end of the year the Go-Set Chart looks like this:

Rank Artist Song
1 Beatles Something / Come Together
2 Elvis Suspicious Minds
3 Roy Orbison Penny Arcade
4 Matt Flinders Picking up Pebbles
5 Blood Sweat & Tears And When I Die
6 Bobbie Gentry I’ll never fall in love again
7 R B Greaves Take a letter Maria
8 Oliver Jean
9 Ross D Wyllie The Star
10 Johnny Farnham Raindrops keep falling on my head

 USA and the USSR – lost in space

More Vodka Olga More Vodka

In January 1969 the space chase is hotting up.  The Soviet Union launches Venera 6 towards Venus on January 10 and five days later launches Soyuz 4 into the earth’s atmosphere and Soyuz 5 on the following day.  The two space craft subsequently dock together on 16 January, crews transfer and return to Earth two days later.  On January 20 Richard Nixon is sworn in as the 37th president of the United States and tricky Dicky could certainly show The Donald a few tricks or two.

Back in the real world, Elvis steps back into Memphis studios on 26 January to continue his glorious come back.  He records Suspicious Minds, In the Ghetto and Kentucky Rain setting up 1969 as successful year for Elvis.

The Billboard Hot 100 – January

Marvin Gaye is on top of the Billboard Hot 100 – I heard it through the grapevine – and has been on top since 14 December.  At #2 is Stevie Wonder with For once in my life, #3 Diana Ross and The Supremes – I’m going to make you love me; #4 is Young Holt Limited with Soulful Strut.  Black Americans own the highest echelons of the Billboard Hot 100.  Glen Campbell – Wichita linesman – is #5.  The Temptations are at #6 with Cloud Nine, and Diana Ross and The Supremes, on full turntable rotation, are at #7 with Love Child.  Johnny Taylor is at #9 with Who’s making love.

The Top 10 Billboard Chart for January 25 has some reshuffles and newcomers and shows the state of play:

Rank Artist Song
1 Marvin Gaye I heard it through the grapevine
2 Tommy James & the Shondells Crimson & Clover
3 Diana Ross and The Supremes I’m going to make you love me
4 Young Holt Limited Soulful Strut
5 Sly & the Family Stone Everyday People
6 B J Thomas Hooked on a Feeling
7 Doors Touch Me
8 Brooklyn Bridge Worst thing that could have happened
9 Bee Gees I started a joke
10 Dusty Springfield Son of a Preacher Man

Marvin Gaye stays on top of the charts till the end of January.  Tommy James and the Shondells, pop favourites to the teeny-boppers, reach #2 with Crimson and Clover – a bit of a shocker.  Sly and the Family Stone sneak into #4 with Everyday people, and the Doors are at # 7 with Touch me.  Brooklyn Bridge with a strangely titled record Worst thing that could have happened is at #8.  The Bee Gees, again with strong material, are at #9 with I started a joke.

Jumbo Jet Airborne in February

Boeing Jumbo Jet 747 first test flight Everett Field Washington [Courtesy Daily Mail UK]

On 9 February a prototype Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet flies for the first time taking off from Everett Field Washington.  The huge plane, weighing in at 183 tonnes (empty) is heaved into the air by four Pratt & Whitney JT9D high-bypass-ratio turbofan engines, developing 193,000 kilonewtons (kN) of thrust at takeoff.  By 2019 a total of 1572 Jumbo Jets have been manufactured.

On 1 February Tommy James and the Shondells achieve #1 with Crimson and Clover,  Sly and the Family Stone are at #2 with Everyday People.  There are some interesting artists outside the Top 20 – Jay and The Americans – This magic moment (#16), the Turtles – You showed me (#17), Bob Seger System with Ramblin’ Gamblin Man (#20) in his first tour of the charts yet to reach the dizzy heights.  Joe South arrives with his classic Games people play (#34), Sam and Dave Soul Sister, Brown Sugar at #41, James Brown – Give it up or turn it loose at #42, and Cream back for more with Crossroads at #65.


Always threatening the top spot, Sly and the Family stone makes #1 with Everyday people on 15 February; the Doors sit at #3 and the flying Foundations at #4 with Build me up Buttercup.  Sly stays on top until 7 March.

The Ides of March

On 10 March in Memphis Tennessee, James Earl Ray, pleads guilty to the assassination of Martin Luther King.  Three days later the Apollo 9 returns safety to earth after testing the Lunar Module.

On 15 March, Tommy Roe always a favourite in America reaches # 1 with the poppy preppy repetitive Dizzy, and the Creedence Clearwater Revival with their first incursion into the deep end make #2 with Proud Mary.  The Classics IV, which had a big hit with Spooky in 1968, are at #5 with a track called Traces – a sonorous ballad that is not a patch on their previous effort.  Aretha with her first run at the Billboard Top 100 in 1969 is at #21 with that classic track The Weight, but strangely cannot make it any higher than #19.

Concorde Ce La Vie

Concorde 001 [F-WTSS] First Flight 2 March 1969 at Toulouse

On 2 April at Toulouse France, the first Concorde 001 test flight [F-WTSS] is successfully conducted, making supersonic commercial air travel a distinct possibility.  Concorde 002 will have its chance next month.

Dizzy stays at #1 until 5 April.  Sitting at #2 is the Fifth Dimension with Aquarius / Let the sun shine in, and at #3 the Zombies with Time of the season are about to have their mojo moment.  Blood Sweat & Tears, new tyros to the charts, are at #4 with You’ve made me so very happy.  Glen Campbell with astonishing success in 1968 is shining at #5 with Galveston.  Things will never be the same again.  On April 12 the Fifth Dimension tops the Billboard Hot 100 and achieve their first #1.

Down in the boon docks

There are some weird and wonderful combinations in the lowest echelons of the Hot 100.  At #73 – The Who Pinball Wizard, which will go on to be a big hit for the overrated rock opera Tommy, Led Zeppelin is at #84 their first ever entry into the Hot 100 charts with the bluesy Good Times Bad Times, and at #87 Cream contributes Badge, and weirdest of the weird we have Chubby Checker doing the Beatles song Back in the USSR – a far cry from Twisting the Night Away but almost as fraught.

On 12 April the Cowsills sit at #8 with Hair another song from the popular tribal rock musical – Hair.  Sitting in the 40s are the Doors with the delightful Wishful Sinful and at #51 are Simon and Garfunkel with The Boxer.  At #74 Peter Sarstedt’s Where do you go to (my lovely) is starting a successful climb of the Hot 100.

Long Beautiful Hair

The Fifth Dimension stays on top of the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks until 17 May. This is longest run on the charts for any single artist for this year.  It follows on from the wild success of Hair the musical, and the Cowsills are also joining the in-crowd.  In amongst all this the Ventures, America’s rock instrumental answer to the Shadows, are at #8 with the theme to the popular TV series Hawaii Five O.  Henry Mancini also returns to the charts (# 18) with the love theme from the film to Romeo and Juliet.

Beatles Rise Again

On 24 May the Beatles are #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with Get Back and the Top 10 looks like this:

Rank Artist Song
1 Beatles Get Back
2 Fifth Dimension Aquarius / Let the sun shine in
3 Mercy Love (Can make you very happy)
4 The Cowsills Hair
5 Edwin Hawkins Singers Oh Happy Day
6 Isley Brothers It’s your thing
7 Donovan Atlantis
8 Simon & Garfunkel The Boxer
9 Ray Stevens Gitarzan
10 Guess Who These Eyes

At #3 is a group called Mercy, with a terrible track called Love (Can make you very happy), probably the worst record released ever, and yet reaching #2 one step from the pinnacle in the Hot 100.  On 7 June with the Beatles still reigning high, One Dog Night, sits at #14 with the maudlin ballad – One, also a big hit for Johnny Farnham in Australia.  Spiral Staircase are at #15 with the middle of the road but easily enjoyable (I love you) more today than yesterday, a sort of white Motown sound.  Desmond Dekker and the Aces sit at #18 with Israelites, a surprise Reggae hit.  1969 appears to be a potpourri of musical wonders and not so wonders.  Blood Sweat & Tears are at #33 with Spinning Wheel and the Rascals at #35 with See.  Short titles are in!  Tom Jones at #38 persuades more young girls to Love me tonight and at #39 Johnny Taylor is solid with Testify.   Iron Butterfly is at #68 with the enigmatic In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, which would go on to cause debates in flats and bars – what did it all mean?   Herbie Mann, the cool man with a flute, brings some sense to the charts playing Memphis Underground and resides at #75.

Henry Mancini Themes Again

The Beatles stay on top of the Billboard Hot 100 until 28 June, when the ever popular Henry Mancini makes #1 with the Love Theme from Romeo & Juliet.  The cover of the album from the film by Zeffirelli would make a worthy candidate as a centrefold for Playboy magazine.  Creedence Clearwater Revival, new stars on parade, are at #2 with Bad Moon Rising – soon to be followed by a string of hits.  Marvin Gaye is at #4 with Thinking about my baby.  Blood Sweat & Tears are at #6 with Spinning Wheel, and another song from the musical Hair by Oliver – Good Morning Starshine is at #8.  The Ballad of John and Yoko by the Beatles is just outside the Top 10.

Saturn V SA-506 Blasts Off

On July 18 Apollo 11 blasts off from the Kennedy Space Centre located on Merrit Island near Cape Canaveral sending Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins into lunar trajectory at 24000 miles kilometres an hour.

Two days later on 18 July, Edward Kennedy, the youngest brother of the ill-fated Kennedys takes a long drive off a short pier near Chappaquiddick Island.  Mary Jo Kopechne, a former campaign manager for his brother Robert, and a passenger in the vehicle, drowns in the cold waters in the submerged car.  There is a full court inquiry and Kennedy is charged with leaving the scene of an accident causing bodily injury.  He is given a mandatory sentence which is subsequently suspended.  We watch the film 50 years later and are still none the wiser.

Neil Armstrong Walking on the Moon

Apollo Moon Landing

On July 20 the Lunar Module ‘Eagle’ from the Apollo Eleven lands in the Sea of Tranquillity.  “One small step for mankind” offers Neil Armstrong and plants the American Stars & Stripes into the Moon’s crusty surface.  Armstrong uncovers a plaque mounted on the Lunar Module descent stage bearing two drawings of Earth (of the Western and Eastern Hemispheres), an inscription, and signatures of the astronauts and President Nixon.  The inscription reads:

“Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D.  We came in peace for all mankind.”

Australia comes into its own.  Signal transmission, initially from Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station outside Canberra is transferred to the more sensitive Parkes radio telescope in central New South Wales, which picks up Armstrong as he mutters under his breath, “It’s all our’s now”.  “Thank God we’ve beat the Russkies to this thankless desert.  Next thing you know McDonald’s [who launched the big Mac in 1969] might start a chain here and colonize the place!!!!!! – The Spaceburger!!”

The Australian film “The Dish” appears on the big screen in 2000, telling us the unburnished truth of the matter of the TV broadcast emanating from Parkes in August 1969.  Stranger than fiction.  Over to you Houston.

Back to the Hot 100 Charts – Z & E

Henry Mancini stays on top for two weeks.  Blood Sweat & Tears and the Creedence Clearwater Revival sit in the second and third positions respectively before floating down the charts.  It is the unexpected Zager and Evans’ In the year 2525 that gets to # 1 on 12 July.   And more surprisingly, Zager and Evans stay at #1 until 16 August.  By any measurement it is a long of stay at the top of the charts for any group this year, and the song seems to have been lodged into the nation’s dreamtime.

August – a dark and yet momentous month

Charles Manson

Charlie Manson and his deranged followers invade the home of Sharon Tate and her husband Roman Polanski in Los Angeles on 9 August.  Tate, who was eight months pregnant, is killed along with her friends.  The following day members of the Manson Family kill the wealthy Leno and Rosemary LaBianca.   Manson was not apprehended until November 1969 and subsequently spent the next 48 years in jail, dying in 2017 – a full life so it seems.  The sordid activities of the Manson Family haunted the suburbs of LA for many years after the murders, and the community appeared to hold a dark fascination with the weird world perspectives of the cult.

That’s right – Zagar & Evans

Every cloud appears to have a silver lining.  Z&E keep Michigan favourites Tommy James and the Shondells from getting to #1 with the terrible Crystal Blue Persuasion.  And there is hopefully bright movement in the lower charts.  The Top 10 for 16 August is an unusually good selection:

Rank Artist Song
1 Zager & Evans In the Year 2525
2 Rolling Stones Honky Tonk Woman
3 Tommy James & the Shondells Crystal Blue Persuasion
4 Neil Diamond Caroline
5 Johnny Cash A Boy Named Sue
6 Jackie de Shannon Put a little love in your life
7 Kenny Rogers Ruby, Don’t take your love to town
8 Stevie Wonder My Cherie Amour
9 J. Walker & the All Stars What does it take (to win your love)
10 Andy Kim Baby I love you

In the mix there are several serious contenders.  At #14 is Tony Joe White with Polk Salad Annie, the Maestro – Bob Dylan at #19, with something different – Lay Lady Lay, the Youngbloods with a post-hippy song Get Together at #21, the Plastic Ono Band – John and Yoko at their best with Give Peace a Chance at #23; Crosby Stills & Nash are at #37 with Marrakesh Express, the not to be denied Archies at #41 with Sugar, Sugar (prepare to be astounded!).  At the very bottom of the Hot 100 at #99 the Chicago Transit Authority assaults the charts with their very first step into the pool with Questions 67 and 68 and sitting at #100 is the Quicksilver Messenger Service with Who do you love – long on fun but short on chart success.

Woodstock – show me where it is on the map

Woodstock without the rain

Billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music”, the now legendary Woodstock Festival is held on 15 to 18 August at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm near White Lake in Bethel, New York, 70 km southwest of Woodstock.  400,000 fans endured three days of music, rain and joy and Woodstock has entered into the rock consciousness and celebrated many anniversaries.  Reputations were made at Woodstock – Santana, Crosby, Stills Nash & Young,  Ten Years After, Janis Joplin, Mountain, Country Joe McDonald & the Fish, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Johnny Winter, Joan Baez, Paul Butterfield Blues Band – the list goes on.  The list of those groups and artists who were invited but declined is also long.  Many were regretful as the Festival was such an outstanding success.  Since those days Woodstock has become the yardstick to measure Rock festivals and not many have been able to measure up to the fullness of the event and the times.

Honky Tonk Woman

The Rolling Stones make the top with Honky Tonk Woman on 23 August.  The UK invasion has temporarily reinvested the shores of the USA as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones hit their stride in the late sixties.  Johnny Cash is stalled at #2 with A Boy named Sue which is probably a good thing.  The Rolling Stones enjoy a long stay at the top vacating the crown on 13 September when the innocuous Archies, which have been hanging around with their annoying and cloying Sugar Sugar make #1.  Only in America it seems can these almost silly ditties make the grade consistently and big time.  Although in UK and Australia truly annoying hits are cheerfully selected to dominate the radio waves and charts more frequently than one would like.  Only in the USA the hits are bigger!!

Vietnam worse than ever

Mi Lai victims 16 March 1968 – Photograph by Ron Haeberle, Combat Photographer, Charlie Coy, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, US Army [Courtesy LIFE Magazine]

On September 5, Lieutenant William Calley is charged with six counts of premeditated murder for the 1968 My Lai massacre deaths of 109 Vietnamese civilians.  Two days earlier Ho Chi Min, the President of North Vietnam, dies at the age of 79.  The Vietnam war rolls on, the death toll on both sides continues to rise and street marches and protests on US campuses continue.  President Nixon addresses the nation on television and radio asking “the silent majority” to join him in solidarity with the Vietnam war effort, and to support his policies.  Not many share his views and up to 500,000 protesters stage a peaceful demonstration against the war in Washington DC – including a symbolic “March Against Death”.

Something in the Air…..

Meanwhile Nilsson’s Everybody’s talkin is steaming up the charts to #18.  Elvis is also on the way up at #37 with Suspicious Minds.  Engelbert Humperdinck – I’m a better man – is trying to surpass his effort in 1968.  Thunderclap Newman, a mysterious talent, burbles along with Something in the Air (years before they discovered the hole in the Ozone layer).  He is at #62 but can only rise to #37 in the end.  There is a little surprise at #76 when Peggy Lee, a large force from the big band era and the romantic 50s lounge scene, makes a come-back with Is that all there is?.  The Hot 100 is always willing to surprise and jolt.

The Archies stay on top for a boring three weeks culminating in the worst ever Top 3, notably the Archies at #1, Oliver at #2 with a shocker titled Jean, and Bobby Sherman at #3 with an equally shocking ballad titled Little Woman.  Mercifully, Black Americans take over the top of the charts on 18 October.  The Temptations land at #1 with I can’t get next to you, followed by Sly and the Family Stone and Hot Fun in the summertime.  Elvis is at #6 with Suspicious Minds. At #7 is Marvin Gaye with That’s the way love is, and at #8 the 5th Dimension with a real zinger Wedding Bell Blues.  The charts are boppin’.

In the lower echelons of the charts Blood Sweat & Tears re-enroll for greatness at #50 with When I die, Crosby Stills & Nash with Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (as Stephen Stills sings a song of his former paramour Judy Collins and they remain friends to this day), and #94 Stevie Wonder stokes up the fires with Yester-me yester-you, Yesterday.  Joe Cocker in an early chart effort is at #95 with Delta Lady.  He will have his moment in the 70s.

Elvis – Long Live the King

Elvis makes his return to the top with Suspicious Minds on 1 November.  His comeback started on TV in 1968 is ultimately successful.  The King is back.  Long live the King.  The 5th Dimension are at #2 with Wedding Bell Blues and Archies, refusing to go away, are still in there at third spot.  The Cufflinks with their awful song Tracy are at #9 and The Beatles have just arrived with a new song titled Come Together at #10.   Elvis only stays on top for a week. The 5th Dimension take over with Wedding Bell Blues on 8 November staying on top for three weeks, with RB Greaves at #2 – Take a letter Maria, a heart-stopper from south of the border.  The Beatles replace the 5th Dimension on 29 November with Come Together/Something – now a doubled sided single.  The Beatles never do things by halves.

Blood Sweat & Tears are at #2 with When I Die.  Stacked behind the top two are the 5th Dimension and R B Greaves.  At #5 is a one hit wonder by a group called Steam.  The song is titled Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye and could be quite useful putting the baby to sleep in times of stress.  But as a hit song it is a shocker.

Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye

The story gets worse.  Steam reach #1 knocking the Beatles off their perch.  This is a world record.  It is one worse than Scotty from Marketing winning the 2019 election DownUnder.  Peter Paul & Mary are ecstatically sitting at #2, before the introduction of special lounges at airports, with Leaving on a Jet plane.  This could be their last big gasp as folkdom fades slowly from the charts.  Looking further below, Led Zeppelin are at #28 with Whole Lotta love and a whole lotta whoompah.  Times are indeed a-changing.

Altamont – Woodstock West! – Maybe Not

Rolling Stone 21 January 1970

Rolling Stone Magazine declares that the Altamont Speedway Free Festival is a disaster.  Held at the Altamont Speedway in Northern California on 6 December, the event is best known for considerable violence, including the stabbing death of Meredith Hunter and three accidental deaths: two caused by a hit-and-run car accident, and one by LSD-induced drowning in an irrigation canal.  Scores were injured, numerous cars were stolen and then abandoned, and there was extensive property damage.  The Hell’s Angels, “unofficial security” for the event, reigned with fear, fists, and weapons.  The violence became so bad that the Grateful Dead and other bands declined to play.  Merdith Hunter is killed not far from the stage during Mick Jagger & the Rolling Stones’ performance.  Mick stopped mid-song but decided it was better to keep the music churning for fear that the free-concert-goers would go beserk without a free concert to keep their attention, amidst the drugs, the thugs and the mugs.  Rolling Stone reports it was “Rock and Roll’s worst day – a day when everything perfectly went wrong.”

Steam stay on top with their little ditty for two long weeks, and on 20 December, Peter Paul & Mary reach the top and have their third #1 hit on the US Charts, but for one week only.  For the last week in 1969 Diana Ross and The Supremes hit #1 with Someday we’ll be together.  The dreary ballad Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head by BJ Thomas is at #3.  Creedence Clearwater are back with Down on the corner at #4.  Neil Diamond, yet to hit his stride, struts Holly Holy at #6.  The Jackson 5 is at #8 with yes their first chart effort – I want you back.  Led Zeppelin is at #9.  Looking a little further down the charts Shocking Blue is at #19 with the song Venus, and a young Mark Lindsay is at #47 with Arizona.  Tom Jones always thinks it is a good thing to advertise and he sits at #50 with Without love there is nothing.

The December Hot 100 is a generally disappointing anticlimax to a reasonable year on the charts in the US.  Without Black Americans hitting the charts as consistently as in 1967 and 1968, the balance is a pale resemblance of spirit and hope, mixed with commercial opportunism.

What’s happening in the UK??

In cold January riots are rampant in Derry as police combat protestors in Northern Ireland.  Later in the month the Reverend Ian Paisley is incarcerated for three months.  Jimi Hendrix is accused of arrogance as his impromptu version of Sunshine of your Love exceeds his time slot on BBC One Program Happening For Lulu.  We should be so lucky.  Otherwise nothing much seems to be happening.  Marmalade are on top with the Beatles’ Obladi Oblada.  Whoever thought we needed another version was painfully right.

But worse things can happen and they did on 8 January when the scrofulous Scaffold regains #1 spot with Lily the Pink a leftover from 1968.  Marmalade, however, resume control on 15 January and remain on top for another two weeks.  Marmalade is one of those English groups that the locals seem to love, strict copyists but in a unique commercially successful slot.

Fortunately Fleetwood Mac is a life saver with the beautiful surfing swish of Albatross, six years too late to hit the surf boom, but just in time for the charts to regain their precarious balance.  The Top 10 on 29 January is worth a look:

Rank Artist Song
1 Fleetwood Mac Albatross
2 The Move Blackberry Way
3 Stevie Wonder For once in my life
4 Marmalade Obladi Oblada
5 Manfred Mann Fox on the Run
6 Herman’s Hermits Something’s Happening
7 The Scaffold Lily the Pink
8 Judy Clay & William Bell Private Number
9 Johnny Nash You got Soul
10 The Foundations Build me up Buttercup

Cream sits at #30 with White Room peaking at #28, one of the best tracks of the Century, about to slip into chart obscurity.  It makes you reflect briefly on the mindset of the buyers as we await another Ken Dodd moment.  It will arrive.  Just you wait.

Up on the Roof…..

The Beatles give their last public performance on the roof of Apple Records on 30 January.  Excerpts of this session features in the film Let it be [released in 1970] and you can buy multiple versions of the bootleg recording today, and it’s all good.  Check out the Mojo report on the rooftop concert in the following link. https://www.mojo4music.com/articles/11595/20-things-need-know-beatles-rooftop-concert

Tiny Tim Has Great balls of Fire

The Move, a much loved English experiment, make #1 with Blueberry Way on 5 February.  The song is terrible but it’s the Move after all.  Martha & the Vandellas move up to #4 with Dancing in the Street, a big hit in the US in 1964, making a profitable rebound in 1969.  Nina Simone takes over #5 with To Love Somebody, a wonderful song written by the Bee Gees which made # 17 on the US charts in 1964.   We are floating through reissueland.  There are other worthies in the mix – Marvin Gaye at #39 with I Heard it through the grapevine, Dino at #40 with Gentle on my mind and the unbeatable Tiny Tim with Great Balls of Fire, almost a bluff but mainly fluff.

The state of play gets worse when on the following week, another English local favourite –  Amen Corner makes #1 with the really terrible (If paradise) is half as nice.  Whatever were they thinking!  Donald Peers (a nice Welshman born 1908 mind you) stars at #6 with Please don’t go operating in another time and space.  Who is buying these records?  Unfairly it seems Amen Corner stay on top for two weeks.

Where do you go to (my lovely)?

Fresh and alive Peter Sarstedt with his glorious Where do you go to (my lovely) hits the top spot on 26 February, and a week later Lulu and Maurice Gibb get hitched at St James Church, Gerrards Cross.  Peter Sarstedt retains the crown for four good weeks giving way to Marvin Gaye on 26 March.  In the intervening weeks many wannabees have been and gone – and some hang around – Noel Harrison at #35 with Windmills of your mind, the fabulous Dick Emery (Oh  you are awful but I like you!) with If you love her at #37, Don Partidge at #26 with Breakfast on Pluto, the Hollies at #33 with Sorry Suzanne, the Righteous Brothers at #11 with You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’, and the Who at #38 with Pinball Wizard.

The New Musical Express announces on 1 March that the Small Faces have disbanded with Steve Marriott linking up with Peter Frampton to form the much-to-be-adored Humble Pie.

The Top 10 for the week ending 26 March looks pretty sound.  British songstresses are in form with Cilla, Sandie and Lulu making the Top 10.  Dino slips into #5 as an old friend and slides to #2 the following week.

Rank Artist Song
1 Marvin Gaye I heard it through the grapevine
2 Peter Sarstedt Where do you go to (my lovely)
3 Cilla Black Surround yourself with sorrow
4 Hollies Sorry Suzanne
5 Dean Martin Gentle on my mind
6 Joe South Games People Play
7 Bee Gees First of May
8 Sandie Shaw Monsieur Dupont
9 Lulu Boom bang-a-lang
10 The Temptations Get Ready

The rumour has it that the Mad March Hare bewitches couples and two Beatles celebrate weddings in March.  Firstly long time elegant bachelor Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman marry at the Marlybone Register Office on 12 March, and John Lennon and Yoko Ono follow in Gibraltar at the British Consulate Office on 25 March (after several failed attempts on a car ferry, cruise ship, and in Paris).

British Concorde 002 G-BSST taking off from Filton Airfield Bristol on 9 April 1969

On 9 April the British prototype Concorde 002 (G-BSST) makes its maiden flight from Filton Airfield Bristol to RAF Fairford, powered by four Rolls-Royce / Snecma  Olympus 593 afterburning turbojet engines.  The first air journey covered 60 kilometres as the crow flies taking 22 minutes.  All systems go.  The Filton Airfield had been extended in the late 1940s to allow testing of the Brabazon airliner subsequently cancelled in 1950.  The extension works included the demolition of the charming hamlet of Charlton, resulting in a section of the runway being of a higher gradient, almost a hill, in the middle of the long runway.  But this unlikely geographic feature did not seem to detract from the success of the tests as the aircraft disappeared over the hill, Olympus engines spewing volcanic exhaust fumes and thence into the wide blue yonder.

Reggae on the move

Quickly rising up the UK charts are Desmond Dekker & the Aces with Israelites, arriving at #21 on 26 March and taking over from Marvin Gaye on 16 April.  Reggae is starting to make its imprint upon worldwide music charts.  Desmond Dekker had released over 25 singles between 1963 and 1969 before getting this chart recognition and Reggae has never looked back, carving out its own musical category in rock pop and blues.  And one week at the top was all Desmond got.

The Beatles are back at #1 with Get Back the first week into the charts, and it does not get any better.  Mary Hopkin, an Apple protégée, is at #3 with Goodbye and the shapely Clodagh Rodgers is at #8 with Come back and Shake Me.  Indeed everyone wanted to.  Frank Sinatra was sitting at #17 biding his time with My Way.  The Beatles remain on top for six weeks until 28 May, keeping Mary Hopkin at #2, and then Herman’s Hermits with My Sentimental Friend and finally Fleetwood Mac with the delicious Man of the World.  Frank makes it #5 on 28 May falling a little short of glory and the Who scrambles into the Top 10 with Pinball Wizard.

John & Yoko’s Bed-in

In a follow up to their Amsterdam Bed-in where the Lennon’s were filmed and watched by the world with worry and wonder, John and Yoko conduct their second bed-in at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal Quebec between 28 May and 2 June, sort of a long weekend.  This is possibly a far more profitable venture as everyone is getting used to the idea and more relaxed to being in bed with the Lennons, and John composes the anthem Give Peace a Chance.

John & Yoko Breakfast Amsterdam Hotel

In the first week of summer on 4 June Tommy Roe roosts the Beatles from the top spot with the pop lite Dizzy.  The Top 10 looks pretty good:

Rank Artist Song
1 Tommy Roe Dizzy
2 The Beatles Get Back
3 Fleetwood Mac Man of the World
4 The Beatles The Ballad of John & Yoko
5 Frank Sinatra My Way
6 Simon & Garfunkel The Boxer
7 Herman’s Hermits My Sentimental Friend
8 Isley Brothers Behind a painted Smile
9 Edwin Hawkins Singers Oh, Happy Day
10 Manfed Mann Ragamuffin Man

At #41 is Max Romeo with the dubious Wet Dream another Reggae track trending upwards.  Tommy Roe’s time at the top is short.  The Beatles ascend the peak again the following week with the Ballad of John & Yoko and remain at the head of the pack until the end of June, giving up the mantle to the intriguing enchantment of Thunderclap Newman’s Something in the Air on 2 July.

Blind Faith, comprising Eric Clapton, Stevie Winwood, Ginger Baker and Rick Grech, play a free concert for 250,000 fans at Hyde Park on 7 June.  A little later the London Evening News runs a byline headed “Cream Farewell Concert”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  A week earlier Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention turn it on at Royal Albert Hall.  Chelsea smiles Kensington grimaces, London is never the same again.

Frank Zappa and the Mothers – Horseguards Parade 1969

Thunderclap Newman Not Your Regular Hero

Thunderclap Newman keeps Elvis at bay, sitting at #2 for three weeks, with In the Ghetto.  At #4 is Jethro Tull, ancient forest junkies, with Living in the Past, a song giving them some future.  Also on 2 July the Edwin Hawkins Singers are at #5 with Oh Happy Day, Booker T & the MGs at #6 with Time is Tight, and the Beach Boys make the Top 10 once more with the pretty average Breakaway.  Creedence are at #9 with Proud Mary just shaved by the Family Dogg and the terrible Way of Life.

Rolling Stones Not Always Good News

Brian Jones, original founder of the Rolling Stones, is found at the bottom of his swimming pool on 3 July.  The bird that flew too high has crashed.  He will be the first of many who will succumb. Vale Brian.

The Rolling Stones perform a free concert in Hyde Park two days later on 5 July to commemorate Brian’s death.  Mick recites poetry and pigeons are released to soon join their mates in Trafalgar Square.  New guitarist, Mick Taylor is introduced to 250,000 fans, flowers and screaming girls.  Mick is certainly a busy boy as he and Marianne Faithfull fly to Australia on 8 July for the filming of Ned Kelly.

The Rolling Stones push their way to the top on 23 July with the clanking thrusting Honky Tonk Woman.  The boys are just getting into stride after a long warm up starting in the mid sixties.  Many other sixties beat groups appear in decline.  At #2 is the Plastic Ono Band – John & Yoko at their best with Give Peace a Chance – obviously not in decline but also not in the Beatles!  Robin Gibb sits at #5 with Saved by the Bell.  Amen Corner, Marmalade and Family Dogg clog up the lower rungs of the Top 10, squeezing the delightful Clodagh Rodgers into #8 with her hopeful ballad Goodnight Midnight.

Abbey Road

The Beatles are snapped at 11:30 in the morning on a zebra crossing on a quiet Abbey Road by photographer Iain McMillan.  Not a fan to been seen and a photograph that becomes an iconic reference to four moptops at their peak and would lead to many hours of fan scrutiny as to why Paul McCartney appears without footwear.  Is he still alive?  Now who started that rumour?

Battle For Bogside

On 12 August riots break out in Derry Northern Ireland in what became known as the Battle for Bogside.  Rioting continues for several days and Ireland requests a United Nations Peacekeeping Force.  Instead the British Government sends troops in to maintain law and order.

The UK charts do not appear in good repair – Love Affair, another second rate group make #13 with Bring on back the good times, Joe Dolan croons Make me an Island and Ken Dodd lingers hauntingly at #28 with another tear jerker – Tears won’t wash away these heartaches.  Oh woe!  And Max Romeo makes the Top 10 with Wet Dream on 10 August.  Even the cod group Vanity Fare makes it to #10 on 17 August with Early in the Morning, whilst Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac struggles to a peak of #32 with the beautiful blues of Need your love so bad.  Presiding over this mess the Rolling Stones remain at #1 untroubled with the chart’s detritus for five weeks until Zager & Evans take over on 24 August with the worldwide hit In the Year 2525.

Humble Pie Not So Humble

Their stay at the top lasts 3 weeks not as long as their period of ascendancy in the US.  But they restrict Creedence to #2 with Bad Moon Rising and Stevie Wonder makes it to #4 with My Cherie Amour.  A new comer sits at #10 on 31 August – Humble Pie with Natural Born Bugie destined for stadium rock stardom.  In the same week David Bowie with his first ever hit Space Oddity makes it to #48, whilst the lovely and enigmatic Bobby Gentry sits at #32 with I’ll never fall in love again.  Amidst the debris some quality is emerging.  On 30/31 August the second Isle of Wight Festival attracts 150,000 fans; the major drawcard being Bob Dylan.

Creedence Clearwater Revival finally makes it to #1 on 14 September and the Top 10 is not too bad.

Rank Artist Song
1 Creedence Clearwater revival Bad Moon Rising
2 Bee Gees Don’t forget to remember
3 Zager & Evans In the Year 2525
4 Jane Birkin Je t’aime..moi non plus
5 Humble Pie Natural Born Bugie
6 Marvyn Gaye Too busy thinking ‘bout my baby
7 The Equals Viva Bobby Joe
8 Oliver Good morning Starshine
9 Bobbie Gentry I’ll never fall in love again
10 Rolling Stones Honky Tonk Woman

Bob’s Everywhere – on the charts and at the Isle of Wight

In the same week Bob Dylan makes it to #30 with his lush Lay Lady Lay and Mama Cass sings a love song It’s getting better to reach #16.  CCR do their best to keep Jane Birkin and Bobbie Gentry from the top spot but eventually succumb and who would not.  In the first week of October Jane Birkin, France and Britain’s pin up girl, makes #1 with the breathily distorted mist of Je t’aime..moi non plus.  The BBC meanwhile has banned the single from airplay.  We are not sure of Serge Gainsbourg’s role in this shared hit but we all think that he is a pretty lucky fellow.

Bobbie Gentry follows into the #1 position unassisted by Serge with I’ll never fall in love again on 12 October.  And the Top 10 on 12 October is entirely changed from the previous month.

Rank Artist Song
1 Bobbie Gentry I’ll never fall in love again
2 Jane Birkin / Serge Gainsbourg Je t’aime…moi non plus
3 Lou Christie I’m gonna make you mine
4 Johnny cash A boy named Sue
5 Hollies He ain’t heavy he’s my brother
6 Karen Young Nobody’s Child
7 Bob Dylan Lay lady Lay
8 David Bowie Space Oddity
9 Fleetwood Mac Oh Well
10 Oliver Good Morning Starshine

The odd one out in this Top 10 is Karen Young with her one hit wonder Nobody’s Child. Although it is not very often you see a Bob Dylan single in the Top 10.  The Hollies, long time favourites, reach #5 with the rich He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother at least as worthy as Bridge over troubled water although not as feted.  Of note, Led Zepellin head off on their 4th tour of America on 25 October.

But it all turns to mush on 19 October as the not-quite-real Archies reach the #1 position with Sugar Sugar and stay there for eight impossible weeks until 7 December.  And it gets much worse.  On 14 December, Rolf Harris, jailbird, makes the top spot with Two Little Boys.

Archie, Jughead, Reggie, Betty & Veronica

What makes it all rather pathetic is that the Archies did not in fact exist.  Can you remember the band touring?  Archie, Jughead, Veronica, Betty and Reggie only ever existed in a comic strip or as smiling cartoon animated characters.  Yet Sugar Sugar, written by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim, sold over six million singles and was awarded song of the year by the Billboard Hot 100.  One of the session musicians, who performed the song is Ron Dante from the Cufflinks, who in turn had a truly unmemorable song titled Tracy in the Hot 100 in 1969.  The song reached #9.  But he made up for it with Sugar Sugar.  One can only hope that the Pixies might one day impose their untamed talents on a surf punk version of Sugar Sugar.  It might make #1 all over again!

Rolf Goes Cold Turkey!!

Whilst the Archies and Rolf were having their moments of fame other worthies were enjoying the fray in the ruck.  Fleetwood Mac would make it to #2 on 2 November with Oh Well, Joe Cocker to #10 with Delta Lady, Plastic Ono Band to #18 with Cold Turkey and Kenny Rogers and the First Edition at #21 with Ruby don’t take your love to town.  Even the Beatles failed to get to the top with the Archies sprawled on the big couch and Something/Come Together stalled at #4 on 16 November, whilst the Tremeloes, with a puzzling and dedicated fandom, pushed their song (Call Me) Number One to #2.

John Lennon, ever the rebel, returns his MBE to protest against the British Government’s support of the war in Vietnam and its involvement in Biafra.  Say no more.

Reggae still on the Move

Stevie Wonder makes it to #2 on 30 November with Yester-me Yester-you Yesterday and Blue Mink, a surprise hit with the wonderful Melting Pot make #7 and peaking at #3.  There are more Reggae songs in the charts with the Upsetters at #8 with Return of Django / Dollar in the Teeth, Jimmy Cliff with Wonderful World Beautiful People at #11 and the Harry J All Stars and The Liquidator at #13.  The pop world might well be saved even yet.

Rolf Harris stays on top until the end of the year.  How many Christmas stockings had a copy of Two Little Boys stuffed inside?  Oh Well!  Kenny Rogers ends up at #2 with Ruby.  Elvis is stuck at #6 with Suspicious Minds and the aforementioned Cufflinks arrive at #10 with Tracy, the second worst song to have made the charts in 1969.  The Top 10 remains unchanged for the last two weeks of the year as if everybody in Britain has lost interest.

This is the state of play on a chilly 28 December.

Rank Artist Song
1 Rolf Harris Two Little Boys
2 Kenny Rogers & the First Edition Ruby don’t take your love to town
3 Archies Sugar Sugar
4 Elvis Presley Suspicious Minds
5 Blue Mink Melting Pot
6 Stevie Wonder Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday
7 Bobbie Gentry & Glen Campbell All I have to do is dream
8 Engelbert Humperdinck Winter World of Love
9 The Cufflinks Tracy
10 Tom Jones Without Love (there is nothing)

In the end 1969 fizzled out in London; there was barely a pop heartbeat.  But at #5 in the above chart – Melting Pot – by some backroom boys called Blue Mink hit the season with flair and a soaring chorus.

“What we need is a great big melting pot

Big enough to take the world and all it’s got

Keep it stirring for a hundred years or more

And turn out coffee-coloured people by the score”

Life made simple really.  Ban the Bomb.  Down with the Establishment.  Up the Junction. Viva La Revolution.  Just Party.

The White Elephant Top Hits

These are our favourite Top 20 songs from 1969 sort of in order.  Push play for a listen in.

Rank Artist Song
1 Beatles Get back / Don’t bring me down
2 Rolling Stones Honky Tonk Woman
3 Dusty Springfield Son of a Preacher Man
4 Bob Dylan Lay Lady Lay
5 Peter Sarstedt Where do you go to (my lovely)
6 Fleetwood Mac Albatross
7 Thunderclap Newman Something in the Air
8 Elvis Presley Suspicious Minds
9 Beatles Ballad of John & Yoko
10 Jackie De Shannon Put a little love in your life
11 Fifth Dimension Wedding Bell Blues
12 Led Zepellin Whole Lotta Love
13 Blood Sweat & Tears You’ve made me so very happy
14 Aretha Franklin The Weight
15 Nilsson Everybody’s talkin’
16 Doug Parkinson In Focus Dear Prudence
17 Creedence Clearwater Revival Proud Mary
18 Bobbie Gentry I’ll never fall in love again
19 Sly & the Family Stone Everyday People
20 Desmond Dekker & the Aces Israelites

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