(Above: Do not stare directly at this album cover.)
March 15, 1969
In the news today: there’s a lot of war. President Nixon extends the Vietnam bombing zone into Cambodia, and the bombs begin falling Tuesday. It’s a secret mission that the press doesn’t find out about until three months later. Meanwhile the Soviet Union launches a counterattack on Chinese forces at Zhenbao, an area Red China had attacked two weeks earlier. In Uruguay, a state of emergency declared last June has ended.
On Monday, Golda Meir will be sworn in as the first female prime minister of Israel.
Tuesday will see the birth of Jimmy Morales, who is the President of Guatemala, as well as chess grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk. In Carbondale, Illinois, a young couple will see the birth of their first child. They have hopes that he will go on to accomplish great things; he will instead spend the better part of three decades around radio stations, collect a pile of records, and blog about them.
(Also new this week in 1969.)
There’s a new #1 song this week – it’s “Dizzy” by Tommy Roe, which debuted the first week of February. It’s one of the 40 #1 songs that Hal Blaine provided the drumming for, and his part stands out on this record. It’ll stay at the top of the charts for the next four weeks.
What else is new this week?
“I’ll Try Something New” – Diana Ross & the Supremes/The Temptations (debuts at #54). In the early days you had the Primes and the Primettes. These groups were destined to record together, and did so a few times. This version of the Miracles tune is the highest debut of the week, and it sounds fantastic.
“Don’t Give In To Him” – Gary Puckett & the Union Gap (#69). This is a tune that was originally recorded by Finders Keepers in 1967, but this is the version you know. It doesn’t get much airplay anymore despite being a #15 record.
“Goodbye Columbus” – The Association (#80). There’s just something undeniably catchy about this song. You put this on in the car on a cold, cloudy day, and you almost want to roll down the windows. It’ll stall out right here, not getting any bump from being the theme song to the Richard Benjamin movie of the same name.
“Hair” – The Cowsills (#84). And so continues the appearance of tons of tunes from the musical Hair on the charts. The Cowsills, the clean-cut milk-drinking kids, seem like an odd fit for this one, because of course their mother loves them. This will spend two weeks at #2, unable to get the top spot.
“Time Is Tight” – Booker T. & the MGs (#86). I was eleven when The Blues Brothers came out, and at that time had no idea that the music used to introduce the band came from this (sort of mixed with “I Can’t Turn You Loose.”) The original piece is still solid. It’s also movie music in another way – from the film Up Tight. (No, I don’t remember it either.) It’ll peak at #6 on the pop chart.
“Kick Out the Jams” – The MC-5 (#90). “Oh Wow” status is immediately conferred on this record. Of course, there are two well-known versions of this one. If you click the title, you get the original. If you’d prefer the “brothers and sisters” airplay version, that’s here. This distinction is important: the Detroit-area department store, Hudson’s, decides not to carry the record due to the lyrics. The band’s response? An ad that reads “Fuck Hudson’s.” Elektra Records dropped the band in April in response to that. The controversy doesn’t help sell the record, which only makes it to #82.
“Tracks Of My Tears” – Aretha Franklin (#91). Everybody’s covering Smokey Robinson, and they’re doing it well. The Queen puts a whole new feel on this one, but it will only climb up to #71.
“Move In a Little Closer, Baby” – Mama Cass (#92). Sure, it’s bubble-gummy, and sure, it’s fun. Given some of the fluff that did well, I’m genuinely surprised that this didn’t make it higher than #58.
“It’s Your Thing” – The Isley Brothers (#93). If I am ever pressed to assemble a list of all-time favorite records, this one makes the list. There’s just something about this record that I have always loved. Is it the funky rhythm track, or the keys, or the horns? It’s all of it, and it’s glorious. This will also spend a week at #2, unable to steal the top slot.
“Time Was” – Canned Heat (#94). I have to admit – I’ve always been a little lukewarm on Canned Heat. “Going Up The Country” has been forever associated with Woodstock, and I can dig that. “On the Road Again” is the type of song I’d get up from a comfortable chair to turn off. We never get to hear this one, though, and I have to say I don’t mind it so much. It will make it up to #67.
“The Pledge of Allegiance” – Red Skelton (#96). Back in January, on his television show, Red Skelton did a line-by-line explanation of what the Pledge meant, telling his audience that he had a teacher when he was young that thought the kids were merely repeating the words by rote and not thinking about them. The response from the public – at least those that were watching Skelton instead of, say, Laugh-In, was huge, and Columbia Records pressed and released the recitation as a single. It almost made the Top 40, climbing to #44.
“God Knows I Love You” – Nancy Sinatra (#100). If you forgot about this one, I’m not surprised. It lasts three weeks on the chart, making it to #97. No matter how big the production value, “you cried when my puppy died” isn’t a feel-good lyric. Nancy will dent the Hot 100 twice more this year, but none of the songs make it to the upper reaches of the charts.