1969 – End of the Decade – Best Albums

1969 – Rising Stars, Riots, Roaring Festivals, Peace Marches: Closing down the Fanfare

Getting to Woodstock was the easy part – just follow the crowd man

1969 almost seems an afterthought after the riotous breakneck speed years from 1963 to the end of the decade.  New stars have risen (and fallen quickly) feeding off the magic of the Beatles, the Liverpool wonders, and the Beat Groups from London and Manchester.  American rock and pop has survived and revived with Rock Festivals unparalleled, and a Black Music market second to none in talent, soul and attitude.

The vinyl album is a thing of beauty and in 1969 more albums than ever before were hitting the racks in record stores across the Western world.  And fans were buying them by the proverbial truckload along with the new fangled cassette tapes and popular eight track cartridges.  The Album is king.

There are many information sources and opinions as to which might be the best albums released in any year.  The critics differ, fans buy whatever catches their whim or fancy, and producers release everything in the hope that some will enrich record executive’s accounts and artists thrive.

Let us start with Gene Sculatti’s small tome 100 Best Selling Albums of the 60s.  There are 24 albums listed:

Sales Artist Album Title
500,000 Diana Ross & the Supremes / The Temptations TCB
1,000,000 Nino Rota (Composer) Romeo & Juliet Soundtrack
1,000,000 Beatles Yellow Submarine
1,000,000 Glen Campbell Galveston
1,000,000 Moody Blues On the Threshold of a Dream
1,000,000 Bob Dylan Nashville Skyline
1,000,000 Sly & the Family Stone Stand!
1,000,000 Blind Faith Blind Faith
1,000,000 The Doors Soft Parade
1,000,000 The Band The Band
2,000,000 The Who Tommy
2,000,000 Creedence Clearwater Revival Bayou County
2,000,000 Santana Santana
2,000,000 Chicago Transit Authority Chicago Transit Authority
2,000,000 Creedence Clearwater Revival Willie & the Poor Boys
2,000,000 Rolling Stones Let it Bleed
3,000,000 Johnny Cash Johnny Cash At San Quentin
3,000,000 Creedence Clearwater Revival Green River
3,000,000 Van Morrison Moondance
3,000,000 Blood Sweat & Tears Blood Sweat & Tears
4,000,000 Crosby Stills & Nash Crosby Stills  & Nash
10,000,000 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin
12,000,000 Beatles Abbey Road
12,000,000 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin ll

As usual this listing does not tell us all that happened or is considered worthwhile in 1969.  But there are new comers – Creedence Clearwater with three top selling albums, Led Zeppelin with two huge sellers, the Moody Blues, Blood Sweat & Tears, Chicago Transit Authority (soon to be known as simply Chicago), and solo Van Morrison.  The Beatles as usual score highly.

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Our Guide – BestEverAlbums.com

Our fundamental guide to greatness lies with the BestEverAlbums.com listing and for 1969 there are 925 albums nominated, about 200 more than were included in the 1968 list, which itself had exceeded 1967 by the same margin.  The album is highly sought after and the variety of popular music available made life a fan’s paradise.  All you need is love and money, and preferably plenty of the latter.

Again the BestEverAlbums.com listing is viewed as a guide as the listing moves over time as old favourites fade from memory, other lesser known gems are floated higher on the list and new music fans start to vote for their own favourites from a completely different perspective.  And some albums grow in stature whilst others fade.  We feature the Top 30 in the first instance:

Rating Artist Album Title Billboard Hot 200
1 The Beatles Abbey Road 1
2 King Crimson In the Court of the Crimson King 28
3 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin ll 1
4 Rolling Stones Let it bleed 3
5 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin 10
6 The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground 197
7 The Who Tommy 4
8 Nick Drake Five leaves left DNC
9 Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band Trout Mask Replica DNC
10 The Band The Band 9
11 Neil Young & Crazy Horse Everybody knows this is nowhere 34
12 Frank Zappa Hot Rats 173
13 Miles Davis In a Silent Way 134
14 Kinks Arthur (or the decline and fall of the British Empire) 105
15 Crosby, Stills & Nash Crosby, Stills & Nash 6
16 The Stooges The Stooges 106
17 Creedence Clearwater Revival Green River 1
18 Creedence Clearwater Revival Willy & the Poor Boys 3
19 Dusty Springfield Dusty in Memphis 99
20 Sly & the Family Stone Stand! 13
21 David Bowie Space Oddity DNC
22 Blind Faith Blind Faith 1
23 Pharoah Sanders Karma 188
24 Isaac Hayes Hot Buttered Soul 8
25 Bob Dylan Nashville Skyline 3
26 Fairport Convention Liege & Lief DNC
27 Leonard Cohen Songs from a room 63
28 Santana Santana 4
29 Scott Walker Scott Walker 4 DNC
30 MC5 Kick Out the jams 30

By any standard this is a fairly representative list, which reflects contemporary and current views on the quality of an album but does not necessarily reflect the position of the album in the charts or sales in 1969.

Just outside the top 30 there are a few beauties – Chicago Transit Authority (#31), Tim Buckley – Happy Sad (#34), Jethro Tull – Stand Up (#37), another Creedence Clearwater Rival album – Bayou Country (#38), Elvis Presley – From Elvis in Memphis (#39).  Below this point there are many other albums which are greatly respected amongst fans.  There are many albums which charted well on Billboard in 1969 that do not have good rankings in BEA.  This is mainly because the BEA list reflects current views rather than contemporaneous views.  To check out the complete list click on the following link and see where your favourites might reside.

https://www.besteveralbums.com/yearstats.php?y=1969

1969 – Black Soul Music

Once again, as in 1968, the success of Black music in the singles charts did not translate to sales or popularity of albums.  Of the 925 albums listed in the BEA less than 40 albums are attributed to Black artists.  Only four albums appear in the Top 30, including two jazz albums -Sly & the Family Stone – Stand! (#20), Isaac Hayes – Hot Buttered Soul (#24), jazzers – Miles Davis – In a Silent Way (#13), Pharoah Sanders – Karma (#23).  Other than Sun Ra with Atlantis at #64, none of the remaining albums are in the Top 100.

Below is a short list of Black music albums.

Rating Artist Album Title
102 Toots & the Maytels Sweet & Dandy
123 The Meters The Meters
135 The Temptations Cloud Nine
154 Nina Simone To love somebody
180 Al Green Green is Blues
202 Sam & Dave The Best of Sam & Dave
207 Muddy Waters Fathers & Sons
216 Stevie Wonder Ma Cherie Amour
223 James Brown It’s a Mother
234 Thelma Houston Sunshower
244 Jackson 5 Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5
251 Richie Havens Richie Havens 1983
277 The Impressions The Young Mods Forgotten Story
287 Aretha Franklin Aretha’s Gold
307 The Four Tops The Four Tops Now
340 Otis Redding Lover Man
456 Marvin Gaye That’s the way love is
460 Desmond Dekker Israelites
482 Diana Ross & the Supremes Cream of the Crop
917 Mavis Staples Mavis Staples

The veracity of the BEA list, despite its democratic formulation, is brought into doubt when one sees Mavis Staples with her debut solo album at #917.  Is this album so bad that it dwells almost at the bottom of the list or is the album simply forgotten?  A review from Cashbox Magazine in June 1969 warmly welcomes this album produced by Steve Cropper with some great studio musicians in support and with carefully selected soul songs for Mavis.  Many of the albums in the above list should have much higher rankings.

Mavis Staples – Star

Of course there were also many other famous personalities in the lower echelons of the BEA Best of 1969, including John Lennon & Yoko Ono at #559 with The Wedding, Engelbert Humperdinck (who was all the rage) at #840 with his self-titled album, and Peggy Lee with her famous “come back” album – Is that all there is at #821.

Ultimate Classic Rock – Top 10

The guys at Ultimate Classic Rock go full speed straight up the guts with plenty of smoke and their Top 10 does not include any surprises nor Nick Drake.

Rating Artist Album Title
1 The Beatles Abbey Road
2 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin ll
3 Rolling Stones Let it Bleed
4 The Band The Band
5 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin
6 The Who Tommy
7 Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band Trout Mask Replica
8 Santana Santana
9 The Stooges The Stooges
10 The Flying Burrito Brothers The Gilded Palace of Sin

Notable exclusions from the Top 10 are King Crimson, the Velvet Underground and Neil Young, but these albums do turn up in an expanded Top 30 1969 Best Album list at Ultimate Classic Rock.

Rolling Stone Magazine Selections

Rolling Stone Magazine has maintained a Top 500 list for about 20 years and it also changes as older albums lose favour and newer albums burst into the Top 500 forcing earlier selections out.  So from the Rolling Stone The Greatest 500 Albums of All Time  the following 23 albums are listed for 1969.

Rating Artist Album Title
14 The Beatles Abbey Road
29 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin
32 Rolling Stones Let it Bleed
45 The Band The Band
60 Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band Trout Mask Replica
79 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin ll
89 Dusty Springfield Dusty in Memphis
96 The Who Tommy
121 Sly & the family Stone Stand!
149 Santana Santana
185 The Stooges The Stooges
189 Quicksilver Messenger Service Happy Trails
190 Elvis Presley From Elvis in Memphis
192 The Flying Burrito Brothers The Gilded Palace of Sin
210 Neil Young with Crazy Horse Everybody knows this is nowhere
247 Grateful Dead Live Dead
262 Crosby Stills & Nash Crosby Stills & Nash
294 MC5 Kick Out the Jams
309 Creedence Clearwater Revival Willy & the Poor Boys
316 The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground
373 Jefferson Airplane Volunteers
496 Boz Scaggs Boz Scaggs

There are no real surprises here, noting Sly Stone is the sole black music representative.  Rolling Stone is generally on the money, predictable, staid , and never seems to incline towards the obscure and uncertain.

Billboard 200 – Who sells more wins

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 eleven top selling and rating albums, which made #1 in 1969.  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 and stayed at #1 for four months – an amazingly long time.  With the number of spin-off tracks recorded by other artists, namely The Cowsills and The Fifth Dimension, songs from the musical were pounding the airwaves continuously.  And we will look at the Billboard 200 particularly during this time to check out the albums that did not make to the top whilst Hair presided over the charts.

Date Artist Album Title
4 Jan – 1 Feb Beatles The Beatles aka The White Album
8 Feb Diana Ross & the Supremes / The Temptations TCB
15 Feb – 1 Mar Beatles The Beatles aka The White Album
8 Mar – 22 Mar Glen Campbell Wichita Lineman
29 Mar – 25 Apr Blood Sweat & Tears Blood Sweat & Tears
26 Apr – 22 Aug Original Cast Hair
23 Aug – 19 Sep Johnny Cash Johnny cash At San Quentin
20 Sep – 3 Oct Blind Faith Blind Faith
4 Oct – 31 Oct Creedence Clearwater Revival Green River
1 Nov – 26 Dec The Beatles Abbey Road
27 Dec Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin ll

Billboard 200 From Winter to Spring 1969

The tussle on the Billboard Hot 200 is a very contested market where albums and artists twist the nights away.  The Beatles are still astride the top of the charts from 1968 with The White Album and Diana Ross and the Supremes and the Temptations sit at #2 and #3 also from 1968.  It not until February that there is a change at the top, and Diana Ross & the Supremes with the Temptations, make the coveted #1 position with TCB.  But only briefly.  The Beatles subsequently retain the crown for another three weeks.

By 22 February the Beatles are knocking at the door again with The Yellow Submarine – only because it is the Beatles.  Any other group presenting Yellow Submarine would probably have failed the ‘pop’ test.  New comers Blood Sweat & Tears are at #6 with their second self-titled album.  BS&T will hang around in the Top 10 for most of the year.  Cream are at #20 with their Goodbye album – a brief farewell of triumph for the fans as the album scoots to #2 on 15 March, whilst a double album of great sonic impact – The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper makes it to #26 and surprisingly does not go higher.  Aretha Franklin with her underrated Soul ’69 sits at #37 (peaking at #15).

Glen Campbell hits paydirt again with Witchita Lineman reaching #1 for the second time on 8 March staying there until 22 March.  The Rhinestone cowboy rides on into the Billboard Sunset on a cloud of floating dollar bills.  In the mix for the week of 15 March, Jefferson Airplane sit at #17 with Bless its little pointed head, Vanilla Fudge at #21 with Near the Beginning, the Bee Gees with their legendary Odessa at #27, and MC5 with Kickin’ out the Jams at #108.

Blood Sweat & Tears launch into the #1 position on 29 March.  Not bad going for a group that had a significant influx of new members since their first album in 1968.  But Jazz-Rock-Fusion is growing fashionable.  Columbia had assigned James William Guercio who also was producing Chicago, fellow label-mates, to work with BS&T with an obviously excellent outcome.  Glen Campbell reclaims the crown for one week only and then BS&T stay on top until 19 April.

Over five weeks on top. And during that time many artists pop into the Top 10.  Down in the trenches there are three interesting albums – Mike Bloomfield, Al Kooper and Stephen Stills with the magic Supersession at #179, Gary McFarland – master jazz composer and band leader – and the incomparable America the Beautiful at #189, and lastly Pacific Gas & Electric with Get it on at #192.  None of them are chartbusters but they are great albums.

On 26 April – HairThe American Tribal Love-Rock Musical takes over from BS&T and remains at #1 for months.  Four long months in fact.  The Musical is almost as big as The Sound of Music or South Pacific or Oklahoma – another great American Musical for the baby-boomer generation, and it is selling in the millions.  After an off-Broadway start the show opened in the Biltmore Theatre on Broadway in April 1968 and ran for 1,750 performances.  Productions in cities across the United States and Europe followed shortly thereafter, including a successful London production that ran for 1,997 performances.  There was no escape.  And in Melbourne and Sydney theatre goers flocked to performances and we all bought the album, sang the songs and danced wildly.

Biltmore Theatre circa 1969

So with Hair blocking all rivals, who else was in the struggle and ruck to make it into the Billboard 200?  In April upstarts from the San Francisco Bay Area – the Creedence Clearwater Revival were at #9 with Bayou County their second studio album.  The Temptations, consistent and classy performers are at #5 with Cloud Nine, whilst Led Zeppelin are at #14 with their debut album.  That strange album by Wendy Carlos / Benjamin Folkman – Switched-on Bach – weird Moog Music swirled along at #10 – its peak position and the Moog would go on to be used in experimental music forever after.  This album topped the Billboard Classical albums chart from 1969 until 1972 – what does that say about classical music in the 60s!  Look Bach in anger!!

The Top 10 albums for 3 May look pretty good.

No Artist Album Title
1 Original Cast Hair
2 Glen Campbell Galverston
3 Blood Sweat & Tears Blood Sweat & Tears
4 The Temptations Cloud Nine
5 Donovan Donovan’s Greatest Hits
6 Tom Jones Help Yourself
7 Iron Butterfly In a gadda da vida
8 Glen Campbell Witchita Lineman
9 Creedence Clearwater Revival Bayou County
10 Iron Butterfly Ball

Iron Butterfly fans are hoodwinked into spending their hard earned dollars buying strange fuggy sounding records with the result that Iron Butterfly has two mediocre albums in the Top 10 of Billboard 200.  It is estimated that more than 40 million copies of In a gadda da vida have been sold across the world.  How many copies are still revolving on ancient turntables?  Maybe heaps as it appears that there have been 26,075,542 views of the 1968 original version played on YouTube – that is 17:02 minutes of music each time the clip is played.  Play on you San Diego giants.

[Note this is the single version of In a Gadda da Vida – less tortuous than the 17:02 minute version]

On 24 May His Bobness achieves #3 on the Billboard 200 with Nashville Skyline.  His previous three albums have all rated well – Highway 61 Revisited at #3, John Wesley Harding at #2 and surprisingly the gem Blonde on Blonde at #9, although both John Wesley and Nashville reached #1 in UK.

Summer to Fall 2019 in the USA

Hair is still flying high on 7 June.  BS&T are still hanging in there at #2.  The top 10 is remarkably stable with many groups growing old at the top including Credeence, Iron Butterfly and the Fifth Dimension.  Andy Williams sneaks in to #10 with Happy Heart – his 23rd album in a long career – including modern songs and the patriotic gem Abraham, Martin & John.  In the mix Sly & the Family Stone are at #13 with Stand! (their peak), Traffic is at #20 with Last Exit, the Ventures at #21 with Hawaii 5-0 (Yeeehaa!!!), John Winter with his self-titled album at #24 and Joe Cocker at #122 with that enormous take on the Beatles With a little help from my friends.  A number of albums sit just outside the top 10 waiting their chance.

By 21 June the Fifth Dimension album The Age of Aquarius, another Hair spin-off sits at #3; the Romeo & Juliet Soundtrack (composed by Nino Rota) is at #4 moving to #2 in July.  The Top 2 – Hair and BS&T remain unchanged.  Led Zeppelin, after making a peak of #10, slides down the charts.  Tommy by the Who peaks at #16 and Elvis with his return to form album peaks at #18 with From Elvis in Memphis.

Come the height of summer in the week of 26 July, BS&T eventually claw their way to the top of the Billboard 200.  The group has been sitting in the either the #2 or #3 position for months.  It is  an consummate achievement  Their label mates Chicago (aka Chicago Transit Authority) peak at #17 with their debut double album and the group offers excitement and value with three double albums in their first releases followed by a four album live fourth release.  The Top 10 for 26 July is worth a peek.

No Artist Album Title
1 Blood Sweat & Tears Blood Sweat & Tears
2 Original Cast Hair
3 Nino Rota Romeo & Juliet Soundtrack
4 Tom Jones This is Tom Jones
5 Fifth Dimension Age of Aquarius
6 Henry Mancini A Warm Shade of ivory
7 The Who Tommy
8 Crosby Stills & Nash Crosby Stills & Nash
9 Iron Butterfly In a Gadda Da Vida
10 Bob Dylan Nashville Skyline

Johnny Cash, evergreen Country champion, relieves BS&T on 23 August with his album – Johnny Cash at San Quentin.  And there are some newcomers in the Top 10 – Cream at #4 with the Best of Cream – a goodbye cash-in album after their recent Goodbye album; Blind Faith, in effect the New Cream with their self-titled debut available in two different covers in the USA as determined by one’s taste.  The current reissues of the album are of the young girl image.  The Doors, without controversial cover, make #6 with The Soft Parade, as Jim Morrison struts his stuff again.

Down in the cellar of the Billboard 200 there are some interesting albums – It’s a beautiful Day debut at #54 (on its way up), the John Barry Midnight Cowboy Soundtrack at #121, The Stooges with their debut self-titled album are at #131 – an album of proto-punk noise five years before its time, Taste – our first glimpse at Irish Rocker Rory Gallagher – with their self-titled live debut at #140, and Spooky Tooth with their second album Spooky Two at #143.  It was all happening down below.

Johnny Cash remains at the helm for four weeks.  Blind Faith usurps the Billboard 200 on 20 September staying on top for two weeks before succumbing to the Creedence Clearwater Revival on 4 October with their third album release in two years – Green River – a triumph for the San Francisco swamp cowboys.  Ten Years After, with their third release, sneak into #20 with Ssssh perhaps a promise of things to come.  And Santana after their appearance at Woodstock in August are at #27 with their debut album and ready to reap vast rewards.

CCR remain on top until 25 October.  The following week, 1 November, sees the Beatles back in their special position as leaders of the pack with Abbey Road almost fifty years ago today.  The Top 10 is excellent.

No Artist Album Title
1 Beatles Abbey Road
2 Creedence Clearwater Revival Green River
3 Rolling Stones Through the Past, Darkly (Big Hits Vol 2)
4 Blind Faith Blind Faith
5 Johnny Cash Johnny Cash at San Quentin
6 Janis Joplin I got dem ole Kozmic Blues again mama!
7 Crosby Stills & Nash Crosby Stills & Nash
8 Isaac Hayes Hot Buttered Soul
9 Iron Butterfly In a Gadda Da Vida
10 Santana Santana

The Beatles almost make history again and stay at the top until Christmas and Led Zeppelin, the new monster million seller group from UK make #1 on 27 December.  They are in for the long haul, their own jetliner, the girls, the money, life on the road, drugs, a final curtain call and endless reissues, remastering. repackaging.  More more more.  More of that later perhaps.

Notably, on 27 December a second British invasion appears to have materialized.  Led Zeppelin are on top, the Beatles at #2, the Rolling Stones at #3 with the stunning Let it Bleed – destined for glory – and Tom ‘Show me yer nickers’ Jones at #4 with Tom Jones Live at Las Vegas – admittedly not a very good album, but carving up the charts.  Positions #5 through #10 are all US artists.  But overall the albums on the charts in December 1969 are strong albums, a rich culmination of productive and creative talents and processes refined during the 60s.

In the last month of the year a number of good albums linger below the Top 10 and rate an earnest mention.  John Mayall, with his ninth album Turning Point makes #32, The Flock with their fantastic self-titled debut album make #48, Jethro Tull makes #25 with Stand Up, the Kinks start their vaudevillian period with Arthur (#143), Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass are still insisting on a presence with The Brass is Coming (#50), Jackie De Shannon with her brilliant 14th album – Put a little love in your life at #87, Rare Earth with Get Ready at #168, Frank Zappa – with his mainly jazz rock instrumental Hot Rats at #171 – the great cover features Miss Christine of the GTOs emerging from an empty swimming pool, and the Steve Miller Band (with a slew of albums in the 60s) with Your saving Grace at #196.

There are many interesting albums which do not sell well in 1969 which are still in demand today, strikingly the fans and the critics were wrong.

1001 Albums you just gotta hear….

1001 Albums “You must hear before you die” is an existential challenge to your judgement on what’s good and what’s not.  And you might ask yourself surely I should have purchased that album even in CD format!  There are a hefty 39 albums listed for 1969 – 12 more than in 1968 when 27 albums made the cut.  1001 does not give any precedence over which albums might have a higher rating.  Once again there is a close correlation with the BestEverAlbums selection with a few additions – Pentangle, Miles Davis, Isaac Hayes and Skip Spence with his sole solo album Oar.  One notable exclusion is Santana.

Artist Title
Neil Young & Crazy Horse Everybody knows this is nowhere
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band Trout Mask Replica
Creedence Clearwater Revival Bayou Country
Crosby Stills & Nash Crosby Stills & Nash
Blood Sweat & Tears Blood Sweat & Tears
Flying Burrito Brothers The Gilded Palace of Sin
Johnny Cash Johnny Cash At San Quentin
Creedence Clearwater Revival Green River
The Beatles Abbey Road
The Who Tommy
Miles Davis In a Silent Way
Bee Gees Odessa
Pentangle Basket of Light
Rolling Stones Let it Bleed
Nick Drake Five Leaves Left
Dusty Springfield Dusty in Memphis
Elvis Presley From Elvis in memphis
The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground
Quicksilver Messenger Service Happy Trails
Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin
The Band The Band
Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin ll
MC5 Kick out the Jams
The Temptations Cloud Nine
Sly & the Family Stone Stand!
Tim Buckley Happy Sad
Chicago Transit Authority Chicago Transit Authority
Fairport Convention Unhalfbricking
The Youngbloods Elephant Mountain
Isaac Hayes Hot Buttered Soul
Grateful Dead Live Dead
The Kinks Arthur (Or the decline and fall of the British Empire)
King Crimson In the Court of the Crimson King
Leonard Cohen Songs from a Room
Fairport Convention Liege & Lief
Scott Walker Scott 4
The Stooges The Stooges
Alexander Spence Oar
Frank Zappa Hot Rats

So far there are relatively very few Black and/or Soul albums included in any of the album charts.

Dr Pop Paul Gambaccini Presents…

Paul Gambaccini, UK’s veteran DJs and music raconteur, presented one of the first “best of” album collections with his “Top 100 Albums” published in 1987, using a formidable gallery of critics.  The tome is an 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 1969 selections number seven albums as follows:

Rating Artist Album Title
12 Rolling Stones Let it Bleed
13 The Beatles Abbey Road
24 The Band The Band
54 Creedence Clearwater Revival Green River
70 Sly & the Family Stone Stand!
81 Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band Trout Mask Replica
82 The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground

What is surprising is the succinctness of the list and also the fact that the Rolling Stones shade the Beatles perhaps for the first and only time.  Notable exclusions are Led Zeppelin.  Perhaps Led Zeppelin did not find favour with Dr Pop but also one might feel that those first two albums were overrated.

101 Essential Albums

Jeff Gold selects fifteen albums from 1969.  His selections are unrated and include many we have discovered so far.  As in 1968 the Beatles and the Rolling Stones do not appear, nor does Led Zeppelin.  Jeff Gold’s selections for previous years have been spot on the money and obviously personal preferences rule.

Artist Title
Creedence Clearwater Revival Bayou Country
The Flying Burrito Brothers The Gilded Palace of Sin
Sly & the Family Stone Stand!
Neil Young & Crazy Horse Everybody knows this is nowhere
Alexander Spence Oar
The Who Tommy
Crosby Stills & Nash Crosby Stills & Nash
Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band Trout Mask Replica
Blind Faith Blind Faith
Jethro Tull Stand Up
The Stooges The Stooges
Nick Drake Five Leaves Left
King Crimson In the Court of the Crimson King
Fairport Convention Liege & Lief

The Virgin All-Time Top 1000 Albums

It is always useful to explore Colin Larkin’s view of the world in 1969.  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 [published in 1998] is a gem and often throws some light on dark corners of rock.  In 1969, 46 albums are listed and the Top 10 are in the following table.

Rank Rank in Top 1000 Artist Album Title
1 5 The Beatles Abbey Road
2 44 Rolling Stones Let it Bleed
3 49 The Band The Band
4 61 Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band Trout Mask Replica
5 105 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin ll
6 126 Crosby Stills & Nash Crosby Stills & Nash
7 130 The Velvet Underground The Velvet Underground
8 149 Fairport Convention Liege & Lief
9 151 Neil Young & Crazy Horse Everybody knows this is nowhere
10 155 Sly & the Family Stone Stand!

There are some choices we see for the first time in the dungeons of his list and also some that have much higher perches in other lists.  But who is to say what should be where although it is nice to see Joe Cocker getting a mention at last.  Ever since Woodstock he has been an attraction in America, but we will have to wait until the release of Mad Dogs and Englishmen in 1970 before Joe makes the world his own.

Rank in Top 1000 Artist Album Title
362 Procol Harum A Salty dog
404 Joe Cocker With a little help from my friends
496 Scott Walker Scott 3
712 Joe Cocker Joe Cocker!
717 Leonard Cohen Songs from a Room
733 Various Easy Rider Sound Track
833 Elvis Presley From Elvis in Memphis
937 Steve Miller Band Brave New World
942 Al Stewart Love Chronicles
973 Rolling Stones Through the Past Darkly
994 Grateful Dead Aoxomoxoa

And of course the Parallel Universe that is The Grammy’s

The 12th Grammy Award show was held at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles on 11 March 1970 with more red carpet than at a White House dinner party.  Of Course the Academy had come to recognize the talents and accomplishments of musicians for the year 1969 and Bob Cosby at the height of his popularity is the host.  Blood Sweat & Tears and Quincy Jones are the most nominated artists for the year and the highest number of awards are presented to the 5th Dimension and Blood Sweat & Tears – not a crooner in sight.  How things have changed.  Although the Trustees Award was presented to Robert Moog, mainly due to the success of Walter (real name Wendy) Carlos and Switched on Bach and the assistance of the Moog Synthesizer.  There are thousands of copies of Switched on Bach ditched in thrift shop racks waiting for the second coming.

Blood Sweat & Tears

Back to business.  The Album of the Year nominations are a refreshing change:

Blood Sweat & Tears              Blood Sweat & Tears

Crosby Stills & Nash               Crosby Stills & Nash

Johnny cash                             Johnny Cash at San Quentin

The 5th Dimension                  The Age of Aquarius

Beatles                                        Abbey Road

The obvious winner falls short and the Academy awards the Grammy to Blood Sweat & Tears.  But the Beatles were busy doing other things like breaking up and this slight probably is not noticed beneath the sparkling lights of the Century Plaza ballroom.  In consolation perhaps the Beatles win the best engineered album award.

The best album covers nominations are also of interest.  The nominations are:

Gary McFarland                     America the Beautiful

Blind Faith                              Blind Faith

Led Zeppelin                          Led Zeppelin ll

Pidgeon                                   Pidgeon

Richard Prior                         Richard Prior

The original Blind Faith cover for the American release features naked 11 year old Mariora Goschen holding a shiny metal aeroplane, however the cover is considered too controversial for the American market and subsequent reissues portray the group on the front cover.  The reissue cover is not exceptional in any way shape or form and one can only assume that the original cover is nominated.  Whatever being up against a Zeppelin, a Pidgeon and an American Bald Eagle there is only one result possible and Gary McFarland, with a fantastic jazz album, takes out the cover of the year award.

The album – America the Beautiful, is also worth noting as McFarland’s tribute to the wonderful nature and natural resources of the USA which he remembers as a youth.  The album is a quiet protest against the damage being done to the environment in the name of progress, and the demise of the habitat of the American eagle is a symbol of that destruction.

As a footnote the Pidgeon album cover is probably more controversial than the Mariora Goschen cover as a live pigeon sits trapped in an appetizing looking modern cuisine sandwich.  Chomp Chomp squawk squawk!!!

One last footnote to say that John Barry wins the best instrumental theme with Midnight Cowboy.  Truly haunting.  And Nilsson takes out the Best Contemporary Male vocalist with Everybody’s talkin’.

 

1969 – a Brief Summary

On balance 1969 cannot claim the greatest year for impressive albums.  Lethargy seems to have seeped into the rock music market after six years of boom times with new groups, artists and music.  The Festivals are getting bigger and Woodstock is the big daddy of them all.  And several new groups launch successfully in 1969 – Creedence Clearwater Revival, Led Zeppelin, Blood Sweat & Tears, Chicago.  The Beatles, although still releasing great albums are on the verge of disintegration although we do not know it at the time, and the Rolling Stones, despite the loss of Brian Jones, are forging into new and exciting territory.

And finally below is yet another list from Billboard Magazine of 27 December 1969 which lists the “Top 1969” albums including a separate list of those in the Soul market segment.  Iron Butterfly heads the list!!!!  And Abbey Wood is absent.  But there is a proviso which reads as follows:

“The information compiled for the Top Records of 1969 was based on the weekly chart positioning and length of time records were on the respective charts from the Billboard issue dates of January 4, 1969 through December 13, 1969. [Which explains the absence of Abbey Wood].  These recaps, as well as the weekly charts, do not reflect actual sales figures.  The ratings  take into account the number of weeks the disk was on chart, plus the weekly positions it held during its chart life.  Each disk was given points accordingly for its respective chart.  These recaps were compiled by the staff of the Billboard Popularity Charts Department, under the direction of Andy Tomko.” [So blame him.]

1969_Billboard Top 100 LPs

White Elephant favourite Albums for 1969

Our selections for our favourite 1969 Albums, or more accurately the ones we play the most, in no particular order, are:

Artist Album
Kinks Arthur (or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)
Rolling Stones Let it Bleed
Chicago Transit Authority Chicago Transit Authority
Beatles Abbey Road
Blind Faith Blind Faith
The Flock The Flock
Santana Santana
Aretha Franklin Soul ‘69
Dusty Springfield Dusty in Memphis
Frank Zappa Hot Rats
Sly & the Family Stone Stand!
The Allman Brothers band The Allman Brothers Band
Al Kooper & Mike Bloomfield The Live Adventures of Al Kooper & Mike Bloomfield
Janis Joplin I got dem ol’ Kozmic Blues again
Spooky Tooth Spooky Two
Fleetwood Mac English Rose
Norman Greenbaum Spirit in the Sky
Joe Cocker Joe Cocker!

The Part’y’s Over – Time to call it a day

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