(Above: Tommy James and a blogger, March 2009.)
Continuing on with our series – it’s a new month, and there’s new songs to write about that are turning 50.
February 1, 1969
On this date President Nixon starts meeting with Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to plan talks with China. Andrew Brietbart, who founds the conservative website that bears his name, is born. (He died in 2012.) The next day actor Boris Karloff passes away in England at the age of 81; a few years prior, he narrated How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, but you know him from other things. On Wednesday the 5th, ABC debuts a new TV series called Turn On to compete with the trippy feel of Laugh-In. (Both shows were produced by George Schlatter.) Hosted by Tim Conway, the show airs once; WEWS in Cleveland supposedly bailed out of it at the first commercial break. Good luck finding a copy.
The new #1 song in the country is “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and the Shondells, making it the first “new” top song of the year.
What else is new this week?
“Soulshake” – Peggy Scott and Jo Jo Benson (debuting at #46). We are off to a good start. This will only peak at #37, which is criminal.
“Good Lovin’ Ain’t Easy To Come By” – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell (69). Also criminal: this one stalls at #30, and I can’t remember the last time I’ve heard it on the radio. It’s a great record.
“30-60-90” – Willie Mitchell (74). Plenty of soul to go around to start this week. A great instrumental from the man who also gave us “20-75.” Mitchell went on to become the president of Hi Records, so he did all right. This will climb to #69 and fade away. If you flip the 45 over, you get an amazing version of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” which might be the “oh, wow” of this list.
“Dizzy” – Tommy Roe (86). Let’s set aside thought of soul for just a moment. This, of course, will go on to become a massively popular record and spend a month atop the charts.
“Grits Ain’t Groceries (All Around The World)” – Little Milton (89). I think if I were in college radio in 1969, I’d have followed this up with my “a public service reminder” joke. It’s a remake of an old Little Willie John record from 1955, and it will make it up to #73.
“Woman Helping Man” – The Vogues (90). Interesting story here: this will miss the Top 40, but its B-side won’t. We’re a few weeks away from that charting, though, so hold tight. It will go on to make #6 on the Adult Contemporary chart, though, and make an interesting segue when placed next to the record before it on this list.
“This Girl’s In Love With You” – Dionne Warwick (92). The success of Herb Alpert’s “This Guy’s In Love With You” the year before prompted an answer despite there not really being a question. I suppose it’s not an “answer song” so much as a popular record with the gender flipped around. Either way, it worked: this ends up making it all the way to #7.
“Do Your Thing” – Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd St Rhythm Band (95). We have Bill Cosby to thank for getting this band noticed by Warner Brothers records. Cosby, of course, sold a ton of albums for the label and had some sway. This ends up being their biggest hit, and it’s a mighty fine record – although “Love Land” remains my favorite by the band.
“My Special Prayer” – Percy Sledge (96). Percy’s still releasing records in 1969, even if they’re not demonstrating crossover success. This one will only move up three slots.
“Someday Soon” – Judy Collins (97). This is the follow-up to her huge 1968 hit “Both Sides Now.” It won’t fare as well, stalling at #55, but we’ll hear more from Ms. Collins (and those inspired to write about her) before the year is over.
“Saturday Night at the World” – Mason Williams (99). Now, we go deep. The summer of 1968 was when the world met Mason Williams, largely due to the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour airing a lot of artwork with “Classical Gas” behind it. Mason tried to replicate the success of that single, but didn’t. This is the only week this one makes the chart.
“Cloud Nine” – Mongo Santamaria (100). This cover of the Temptations hit just sneaks in there this week. It’ll go on to make it to #32, which tells me that we should be hearing it more often than we do, which is never. We should be hearing it more anyway, because it kills. Oh, and the flip side? Also pretty decent.