First thing you'll notice is there are only 20 on this list and they cover four years, indicating that the hits that made it to the very top stuck around longer than the previous era. By comparison, look sometime at how the #1 hits of the mid 1990s-2000s often stay there for most of the season and you've got a much more stable -- and therefore, boring -- atmosphere. Does anyone want a song to be #1 for 13 weeks?
One of the joys of Top 40 Radio back then was that anything could happen and no one style of music dominated the charts. Some folks still found those charts to be crass and preferred the chances being taken on FM radio, but you can't say it was a completely horrible experience when you were stuck in a car with just AM radio.
I admit a great bias here. So far, the hits on the radio have been primarily good. Future blogs will move into the 1970s where we will see things change dramatically. Or not. One person's treasure is another person's junk. And we're all gonna die someday! But we have plenty of junk food until then!
Otis Redding wrote it and Aretha took it away from him. But Otis didn't mind. The personnel involved on both records are a Hall of Fame until themselves. It's the kind of legendary performance that only a complete churl would deny its greatness. Or someone who watched too much Murphy Brown.
19) Groovin' -- The Young Rascals (1967):
This tune is influenced by Felix Cavaliere's interest in Afro-Cuban music, which went deep enough to add a conga and a harmonica part that got redone for the LP version. The label thought it wasn't a single, since there were no drums but DJ Murray the K persuaded label head Jerry Wexler to put the damn thing out.
People think of 1967 as the Summer of Love and the heavy hippy trip, but this joyful little piece of whimsy, which knows how to repeat itself quite well, was right there at #1 in July of 1967. "Father? Yes, son. I want to kill you…Windy? I want to……" Right ON!
17) Light My Fire -- The Doors (1967):
Even leather-man Jim Morrison had to settle down and listen to his guitar player Robby Krieger's little love song if he wanted to pay the way for his Oedipal fantasies. Whether you think J-Mo's "funeral pyre" verse works in the song or not is up to you, but it's unanimous over Ray Manzarek's "carnivalesque" organ intro. That's what a winner sound likes!
Only 1968 would see the Beatles fail to chart a #1 hit in the summer months, but 1967 could've gotten away from them as well. While both Lennon and McCartney were suited to crafting radio hits, Lennon kicks off here the sloganeering phase that would affect his solo career with "Give Peace A Chance," "Power To The People" and even the subtler "Imagine." Bring On The Loofah!
15) Ode To Billie Joe -- Bobbie Gentry (1967):
After the Beatles tied up the charts for a single week, Bobbie Gentry rightfully took her spot with a song where you can feel the heat and humidity cling to the conversation being held around the table. Though the song sounds like the heart of July, it topped the charts just as the kids were getting ready for school.
Considered to be one of the first "funk" tracks to make a major impression on a pop audience, "Tighten Up" was eventually covered by such "funk-meisters" as REM and Yo La Tengo.
13) Mrs. Robinson -- Simon and Garfunkel (1968):
Initially heard in pieces in the Mike Nichols film The Graduate, "Mrs. Robinson" finally had a full airing (and a rewrite) as a single from the album Bookends. It won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year in 1969. Joe DiMaggio, however, wanted an explanation!
Oh sure, laugh all you want at those Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass albums you bought for the kitsch factor. But no one messes with a Burt Bacharach / Hal David song from this period. Alpert decided it should be done as a solo record and it became his first #1 single and, therefore, also the first #1 for his own A&M record label, who surely knew they had to promote their boss above all else. OK, when's the Jerry Moss album coming?
11) Grazin' In The Grass -- Hugh Masekela (1968):
It takes a special instrumental to make the top of the charts. People like words. Even if most pop songs consist of the same words in a different order, people still like them to be there. Yet, South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela nailed this track into our consciousness. Can't you feel the pavement radiating heat?
For all their darkness, The Doors knew how to write catchy. Amazingly, the tune had been there from the start, having been demoed for another label back in 1965. Courts ruled the song sounded too similar to the Kinks' "All Day and All of the Night" and Ray Davies now receives the songwriting royalties for this number, which seems fair. Those of us breathing the air owe a royalty to John Cage. Look it up.
9) People Got To Be Free -- The Rascals (1968):
1968 turned out to be one of the worst years in modern U.S. history and The Beatles didn't get their summer entry in until August, when they released "Hey Jude" which then spent most of the Fall (9 weeks) at #1. So, the Rascals had this timely tune that actually was inspired by the band getting hassled by rednecks in Florida. Lesson: stay home.
Though wedding bells were breaking up that old Beatle gang of ours, they still managed to sound like a unit for appearance's sake. Surely, the Stones panicked for who would they copy from here on out? Well, first they grab Billy Preston.
7) Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet -- Henry Mancini (1969):
Rock 'n' Roll bands may have been the flavor of the day, but never doubt the subtle powers of Easy Listening! Also known as "A Time For Us," this theme was written by Nino Rota (Godfather!) and arranged by Mancini.
First off, there's no way we reach the year 2525 at the rate we're going, so to postulate the year 9595 is just, well, silly. Corporations will kill us in no time!
5) Honky Tonk Women -- The Rolling Stones (1969):
It might have been the slow dissolution of the Beatles, but the Stones surely came back energized in the late 1960s and nothing was a better declaration of purpose than this nasty slice of tension and release. Or as modern record reviewers might say, "the use of negative space here is a compelling argument for future research."
Ray Stevens had other hits with "Harry The Hairy Ape," "Funny Man," "Santa Claus Is Watching You," "Jeremiah Peabody's Polyunsaturated Quick-Dissolving, Fast-Acting Pleasant-Tasting Green and Purple Pills" and "Ahab The Arab," which all have better titles than this Award-winning tune. He's now 74 and a Tea-Party favorite. Way to ???, old man.
3) The Long And Winding Road -- The Beatles (1970):
McCartney may have hated Phil Spector's overproduction of the tune but it became the group's 20th and final #1 hit. Bring on the Klaatu!
This was the third straight #1 hit out of 4 for the Jackson 5 that gave the world the distinct idea that "Jackson" would be a name we'd be hearing a bit more from, with Michael Jackson and Jermaine Jackson handling the lead vocals. The co-lead vocals were by Jermaine Jackson, Tito Jackson and Marlon Jackson. Michael Jackson, Jermaine Jackson, Tito Jackson and Marlon Jackson sang the background vocals with the addition of Jackie Jackson. However, the "side vocals" were done by Marlon Jackson, Tito Jackson and Jackie Jackson. Gene Pello played the drums.
1) Mama Told Me (Not To Come) -- Three Dog Night (1970):
Somebody had to get some hits out of this Randy Newman character and clearly Newman wasn't the guy to win over the hearts of the hard rock crowd. So, they sent in The Dog to get it done!
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