(Up on the housetop, hits are made.)
May 10, 1969
It’s the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Hamburger Hill, a Vietnam offensive in which 72 Americans lose their lives and 400 others are wounded. It’s also the 50th anniversary of “Zip to Zap.” The town of Zap, North Dakota, population 339, is overrun by two thousand college students who decide to go there to have a party at the urging of the student newspaper at North Dakota State University. Police shut it down quickly; one of two tavern owners reportedly stocked up with ten thousand cases of beer “just in case.”
Two days later on May 12, Winnie Mandela is arrested and jailed for nine months with no charges ever brought. Her husband, Nelson Mandela, is already in prison. That same day actress Kim Fields – who you know as Tootie from TV’s The Facts of Life, is born. Actress Cate Blanchett and Danny Wood of the band New Kids On the Block are born two days after that.
On the charts this week: it’s the second to the last week at #1 for “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In (The Flesh Failures)” by the Fifth Dimension. There’s a lot of new records making their debut, though, so let’s jump in:
“Get Back” (debuting at #10)/ “Don’t Let Me Down” (#40) – The Beatles. I believe that this is the first time we’ve had a song debut in the Top 40, and it’s both sides of the 45 with the A-side starting out in the top ten. Most of what’s reported about the band at this stage has to do with internal squabbles. They’re down, but definitely not out.
“Love Theme from ‘Romeo and Juliet’” – Henry Mancini (#71). You’ll hear this one a lot as it makes it all the way to the top by the middle of summer. I always confuse this one with “Love Story,” which I associate with the song played as the world ended. By that I mean the EBS scare of 1971, when the “this is not a test” code word was sent out by mistake on a Saturday morning. I’ve used the audio of WOWO/Fort Wayne in my broadcasting classes, and the use of this song makes it that much creepier. (I wrote about this here, if you’re interested.)
“Testify (I Wanna)” – Johnnie Taylor (#73). By all means we should let him, because this is a fantastic record. This will just slide into the top 40, landing at #36.
“Black Pearl” – Sonny Charles & Checkmates Ltd. (#75). I have always thought that this was a terrific record that doesn’t get nearly enough airplay for being a #13 hit. It’s a Phil Spector creation, which may be why it sounds vaguely familiar. It was redone in 1990 by a New Zealand group called Moana and the Moahunters. When I played their version on the air down there I referred to the original, and most of my audience (and my young airstaff) had no idea what I was talking about.
“It’s Never Too Late” – Steppenwolf (#76). Admittedly, I always think of this group as a party soundtrack band. Most did, as this only landed at #51. It shows a different side of the band and is a pretty decent record.
“Gentle On My Mind” – Aretha Franklin (#77). Oh, wow. I love – love – the Glen Campbell rendition of this record, and this – just… wow. How does this only make it to #76? Well, it is the flip side of “I Can’t See Myself Leaving You,” which is getting airplay, and many stations only have so many spots for Black records. (I read that in a dissertation somewhere.)
“Someday Man” – Monkees (#85). We tend to think that the Monkees phenomenon was done with by 1969. This record disproves that, at least from the notion that they were done making catchy music. This only makes #81, but is the B-side to a slightly bigger track we’ll see in a couple of weeks.
“Friend, Lover, Woman, Wife” – O.C. Smith (#88). This is a fine bit of soul that should have landed in a higher place than #47.
“Special Delivery” – 1910 Fruitgum Co. (#89). Well, this is why we can’t have nice things like the O.C. Smith record. This makes it to #38, because it sounds like everything else they did, and people bought the literal shit out of those records. It will be the last Top 40 hit for the band.
“Truck Stop” – Jerry Smith (#90). I have to admit, I had no memory at all of this one. What’s a honky-tonk piano instrumental like this doing on the charts in the spring of 1969? Not a lot, as it ends up at #71. Fun fact: Jerry played the piano on the Dixiebelles’ hit “Down At Papa Joe’s.”
“Sunday” – The Moments (#92). We have another “oh wow” – slow jam edition. This is terrific. This only climbs to #90, which is a shame. They’ll put one more out this summer before having a smash in 1970 with “Love On a Two Way Street.”
“Welcome Me Love” – The Brooklyn Bridge (#93). This is the flip side of “Blessed Is The Rain,” which missed the top 40 in March. This just misses as well, landing at #48. Dare I say I prefer it of the two sides of the 45?
“What Is a Man?” – The Four Tops (#94). When is the last time you’ve heard this on the radio? I’m guessing that it’s been too long. It’s a “greatest miss,” landing only at #53 but higher in places like Boston and Fresno.
“Turn Around and Love You” – Rita Coolidge (#96). Yes, *that* Rita Coolidge. This is her debut record, long before rising to stardom in the 70s. This is the only week that this one spends on the chart. It’s a pretty record.
“Ivory” – Bob Seger System (#97). One week on the charts and that was it for this follow-up single to “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man,” which is one of the only early Seger songs that is easy to find. There’s a lot of great early System music that, unless you have the original LPs, is darned near impossible to locate.
“Just a Little Bit” – Little Milton (#98). A great piece of Chicago soul that only spends two weeks on the pop charts and moves up to #97. On Black radio, this is a solid smash – it’s top ten at WJLB and WCHB in Detroit.
“I’m Gonna Do All I Can (To Do Right By My Man)” – Ike and Tina Turner (#99). One of the ickier titles to hear Tina sing, given what we know about their relationship. But boy, does she sell this song. It only goes to #98 on the pop charts, but in Littleton, Colorado this makes it to #5.
“Born to Be Wild” – Wilson Pickett (#100). Just click it. It’s that good. It’ll make #64, and we’ll never really hear it again, which is a shame.