May 31, 1969
It’s the day after Mario Andretti won the Indianapolis 500. Andretti set a record in doing so, averaging 156.8 miles per hour and finishing the race in 3 hours and 11 minutes. It’s the only time he’ll ever win the race despite being a perennial fixture at the Brickyard.
It’s also the day before Georges Pompidou receives the most votes in France’s election, forcing a runoff in two weeks with Acting President Alain Poher, since none of the seven candidates pulled a majority.
On the charts: it’s the second week at #1 for The Beatles’ “Get Back.” There’s also a slew of new records this week.
“Tomorrow Tomorrow” – The Bee Gees (debut at #60). The biggest debut of the week is a song that, to be entirely honest, I had completely forgotten. Not a bad musical surprise, and – as I’ve said – I have a preference for pre-falsetto Brothers Gibb. It will only make it to #54, and the Brothers won’t see the inside of the Top 40 again until early 1971.
“No Matter What Sign You Are” – Diana Ross & the Supremes (#61). To be entirely honest again, I wish I had forgotten this one completely. I do dig the campy-as-hell set on the Sullivan show depicted in the video, but the record is utterly forgettable. This actually does make the Top 40, landing at #31.
“I Turned You On” – Isley Brothers (#63). Here’s a decent find, but for some reason I’d now like a beer with a lime in it. This was a #23 hit, and I can’t recall the last time I heard it on the radio, as is often the case for all but three of these Brothers’ hits.
“My Cherie Amour” – Stevie Wonder (#70). There’s not much that I can say about one of the all-time greats that hasn’t already been said. Because the top of the charts stay clogged for long periods of time in 1969, this only makes it to #4.
“Without Her” – Herb Alpert (#71). Back in the 1990s I got to do one show on WJJD-AM before it transformed to talk. It was an MOR station at the time, and this song came up on the playlist. I had to admit – at the time, I didn’t know it. I thought Alpert had only sung “This Guy’s In Love With You.” But the popularity of that record led to others (and the fantastic Christmas LP), including this one. It’ll only make it to #63, which could be how I missed it. It was written by Harry Nilsson.
“Moody Woman” – Jerry Butler (#72). 1969 continues to be a very good year for The Iceman. This was a sizable hit in his home town of Chicago than nationally, and it does make it to #24 around the country to continue a string of Top 40 hits that will last through most of the year.
“Spinning Wheel” – Blood Sweat & Tears (#78). Here we have another huge hit that everyone knows. Hell, I knew it from Sesame Street as a kid. BS&T hits #2 three times in 1969, and this is the second of those. (This song does top the Adult Contemporary chart for two weeks.) I always insisted on finding the full version with the calliope, which runs a good minute longer than the single edit in the first link. (BS&T also does excellent versions of the songs at #71 and #80; neither rendition charts, but they’re worth seeking out.)
“The Minotaur” – Dick Hyman & His Electric Eclectics (#79). Speaking of running long – this eight minute plus bit of synthesized swing gives us our first solid ‘oh, wow’ of the week. Believe it or not, this DOES sneak in to the Top 40, ending up at #38.
“I Can’t Quit Her” – The Arbors (#80). Oh, wow, part 2. I mentioned that Blood, Sweat and Tears did this song; actually, they were first in 1968 with a version that didn’t chart. This is a sort of a mashup between that record and Simon and Garfunkel’s “For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her.” It won’t stop The Arbors from having only one Top 40 record (“The Letter,” which debuted on February 22) as this only ends up at #67. It does go up to #7 in Jackson, Michigan and to #6 on CKLW; the boys were from Ann Arbor, after all.
“The Popcorn” – James Brown (#81). Brown put nine singles on the charts in 1969 in total, and some of them had crossover capacity. This one ends up at #30. It will also spawn two similarly-titled records to follow this year, so watch for those.
“Sincerely” – Paul Anka (#82) and “Hushabye” – Jay & the Americans (#90) – Of course, we can’t go through a chart in 1969 without a couple of nostalgic remakes that we really didn’t need. Anka’s latest attempt to cash in on the past stalls at #80, while Jay & the boys fare a little bit better, making it to #62. I’ll stick with the originals.
“Brown Arms in Houston” – Orpheus (#92). This is the debut single for a band from Boston, and later this year they’ll release one of my favorite “see if you’ve heard this” records. This only spends three weeks on the charts and moves one notch higher, but it’s a nice (if mostly forgotten) tune that’s worth a listen.
“I Need You Now” – Ronnie Dove (#94). I’m not going to lie: when I started this record I thought Monday Night Football was on for a quick second. It’s a bigger intro than the rest of the record would indicate. This stays at #93 and will be the last song that Ronnie puts on the charts. He’ll end up with eleven Top 40 hits in total.
“Running Bear” – Sonny James (#95) and “Hurt So Bad” – The Lettermen (#96). More remakes. The first one – even in its hit version – sounds so terribly dated today that I imagine a traditional Oldies station needs to have a discussion about whether or not to include it in the rotation. (This version? Easy. It’ll only make #94 and we can forget about it.)
The second one, though? You bet you put it in the rotation. While I love the original Little Anthony version, the Lettermen rendition just still sounds terrific – and it goes on to become a #12 hit. (On the Adult Contemporary chart, it spends three weeks at #2, held at bay by Henry Mancini.) I’d play ’em both.
“Son Of a Travelin’ Man” – Ed Ames (#100). This is corny – so much so that it’s also fantastic. If I had to describe what late 60s loungey-pop sounds like in my head, it’s the intro to this record. There’s also no arguing with the silky smoothness of Ed’s voice. It’ll go on to hit #21 on the Adult charts, while only hitting #92 (and being the last crossover Pop hit for Ames) on the Hot 100. That’s not to say that no pop stations reported it; it did well in the Pacific Northwest, landing at #29 in Boise and #23 in Vancouver, Washington on KISN.