(Above: The Echo satellite, obviously pre-destruction.)
June 7, 1969
In the news: the Echo communications satellite burns up in re-entry. It had been in orbit for five years. That same day Blind Faith make their debut in Hyde Park before a crowd estimated to be over a hundred thousand people. June 7 is also the day that Dan Bullock was killed in action in Vietnam. Bullock, who altered his birth certificate to be able to serve, is believed to be the youngest American soldier killed in the war. He was 15.
The day before – June 6 – Joe Namath stunned the sports world by announcing his retirement from football. Just months earlier he had stunned the sports world in a different way: guaranteeing and delivering a win for the New York Jets in Super Bowl III. As it turns out, Namath was facing a possible suspension from the National Football League for consorting with gamblers; all was worked out in the end, and he reports to training camp later in the summer.
On Monday the Federal Reserve board breaks with the usual practice of adjusting the prime lending rate by a quarter or half-percent and bumps the thing up a whole point – from 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 per cent. It’ll move all over the place during the Nixon administration, hitting a low of 4 1/2 per cent in 1972 and climbing to 12 per cent by the end of the term. That’s still a far cry from the all-time high of 21 1/2 per cent in 1980. A typical 30-year mortgage rate by July of 1969 would hit 8.35%.
The following Tuesday – the 10th – Pope Paul VI becomes the first Pope ever to visit Switzerland, making the whole Swiss Guard thing that much more confusing.
On the charts this week: it’s the third week out of five for “Get Back” by the Beatles in the #1 position. There’s a much smaller number of new records this week, so let’s see what we have:
“Didn’t We” – Richard Harris (debuts at #83). When your highest debut is at #83, that tells you there’s not a lot of new product this week. This one technically isn’t the follow-up to the 1968 hit “Macarthur Park” but rather the B-side of that single. The hit in the middle you’ve likely completely forgotten: “The Yard Went On Forever,” which peaked at #64 in 1968. Hell, you probably forgot this one, too, as it peaks at #63.
“My Pledge of Love” – Joe Jeffrey Group (#84). This one I hope you remember, and it doesn’t get nearly enough airplay. This is a fantastic record. One hit on the charts and that was it, and it went all the way to #14.
“You Don’t Have To Walk In the Rain” – The Turtles (#87). OK, it’s a short list, but it’s promising thus far. This is another fantastic record that you just don’t hear anymore. How this only made #51 escapes me, since it has that characteristic Turtles sound that usually spelled success. This is the follow-up to “You Showed Me,” which makes it all the more surprising. (That one was the last Top 40 hit they had.)
“It’s Getting Better” – Mama Cass (#88). Don’t confuse this record with the Beatles’ track from Sgt. Pepper; they’re not the same. This has the sound of musical theater to me. It also says to me that while the rest of the Mamas and the Papas certainly didn’t hold Cass back, she could carry a tune without ’em. This one does make the Top 40, ending up at #30.
“Crystal Blue Persuasion” – Tommy James & the Shondells (#89). I don’t need to say a lot about this one, as it’s been all over Oldies radio for fifty years. It only makes #2 due to the logjam that we’ll see at the top for most of the summer; released a bit later I suspect that this might have been a number one record. Despite all the play this has gotten over the years, it still sounds terrific, especially coming out of a single speaker in the dash on a warm sunny day.
“Mrs. Robinson” – Booker T. & the MGs (#90). Here’s your “oh, wow” record. If you’ve never heard this version, you should stop reading and click the link. If, like me, you’ve heard the Simon and Garfunkel version enough to last you the rest of your life, this will serve as a breath of soulful, fresh air. It’ll sneak into the Top 40, landing at #37.
“Listen To the Band” – The Monkees (#97). Oh, wow, part 2: Here’s one that I liked to sneak in every now and again, non-hit status notwithstanding. It’s actually the flip side of “Someday Man,” which debuted on May 10. It does a little better than that one did, but not a lot, ending up at #61. As I think I indicated, the Monkees don’t see the Top 40 again until 1986, with “That Was Then, This Is Now.”
“Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town” – Kenny Rogers & the First Edition (#98). I wrote about this one when Mel Tillis, its composer, passed away in 2017, so I’ll refer you to that piece instead of droning on here. It’s still a haunting song, and it will make it all the way up to #6.
“Galveston” – Roger Williams (#100). I feel like I’m backtiming into a newscast, or back in my easy-listening days. I much prefer the larger-than-life bass line of the Glen Campbell original; it’s more foreboding than the playful dentist-office piano of this track. It’ll move up to #99 next week and then disappear, serving as the last song that Williams puts on the charts in a career spanning 14 years.