Friday, June 02, 2006

Random Rewind: 1968

Time to revisit another week in Top 40 history via the historical wonder that is the Airheads Radio Survey Archive. From their massive database, we've plucked the "Music Power Pack" survey from WKNR in Detroit for this week in 1968--and here are a few randomly chosen hits from the list:

1. "This Guy's in Love With You"/Herb Alpert. This soothing and tasteful MOR classic did a month at Number One nationally--and maybe that's understandable, given the turmoil the country had endured so far in 1968. But it wouldn't keep another shock from coming, within days of this chart.

7. "Here Come da Judge"/Buena Vistas. Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In had premiered on NBC in January, and over its run would spawn catch-phrases by the barrel. "Here Come da Judge" was the first, coming from a 1940s-vintage comedy routine written and performed by Pigmeat Markham and revived on Laugh-In by Sammy Davis Jr. Four versions of "Here Come da Judge" would chart in 1968. Funky 16 Corners has much more.

11. "The Unknown Soldier"/Doors.
A lot of radio stations wouldn't touch this because of its overtly antiwar message, so it barely squeaked into the national Top 40. Stations would have been justified in refusing to play it for another reason, however: It's not very good. You can see a performance clip of the song here, notable for a bit in the middle where Robby Krieger, holding his guitar like a rifle, appears to shoot Jim Morrison.

12. "2 + 2 = ?"/Bob Seger. Another protest record, more subtle than "The Unknown Soldier":
All I know is that I'm young and your rules they are old
If I've got to kill to live
then there's something left untold
I'm no statesman I'm no general
I'm no kid I'll never be
It's the rules not the soldier
that I find the real enemy
In the summer of '68, Seger was still six months away from his first national hit, "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man"--but he was already a huge star in his hometown.

17. "A Man Without Love"/Engelbert Humperdinck. Tom Jones wasn't enough to satisfy American housewives' desires for tanned and handsome crooners performing romantic ballads. Enter Engelbert Humperdinck, who made the Top 10 twice, with "Release Me" in 1967 and "After the Lovin'" in 1977. Between those records, he put several other romantic ballads into the middle reaches of the charts, had a network TV show, and settled into the Vegas routine he continues to occupy today. Nice work if you can get it.

21. "The Horse"/Cliff Nobles and Company.
This early Philadelphia soul recording was the instrumental track for "Love Is All Right," which was supposed to be Nobles' second single. It ended up on the B-side of the single as a throwaway. The vocal version stiffed, but then a DJ in Tampa turned the record over, and "The Horse" became one of the biggest instrumental hits of the 1960s. Cliff wasn't even in the room when his biggest hit was recorded.

23. "Journey to the Center of the Mind"/Amboy Dukes.
Another local legend in Detroit, Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes were more psychedelics than headbangers in their day. Nugent, of course, has long since transcended music, gaining fame for his pro-hunting and anti-vegetarianism stances first, and later for embracing strongly right-wing politics. He is reportedly contemplating a run for governor of Michigan in four years. A recent profile in the Belfast Telegraph described a guy who is at best colorful, and at worst, batshit crazy.

25. "Sky Pilot"/Animals.
The last hit single for the Animals, and the first 45 to be released in stereo, "Sky Pilot" is one of the most exhilarating records you'll ever hear, if you can get past what's always felt to me like unfair criticism of the sky pilot, a chaplain whose job it is to comfort the flyers before their missions:
He mumbles a prayer and it ends with a smile
The order is given
They move down the line
But he's still behind and he'll meditate
But it won't stop the bleeding or ease the hate
29. "Things You Never Get Used To"/Supremes. You'd expect a radio station in Hitsville to play everything that came out of that little house on West Grand Avenue, whether they turned into big hits or not. Which none of the three Motown releases riding the WKNR chart 38 years ago this week became.

30. "Jumpin' Jack Flash"/Rolling Stones. In which the World's Greatest Rock and Roll Band clearly is.


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