(Above: John R. Cash.)
July 26, 1969
It’s two days after the Apollo 11 astronauts splashed down safely after eight days in space. They spend some time in quarantine – so we don’t get “moon cooties” from them, I assume – and scientists get to work studying the rock samples they’ve brought back and also planning for Apollo 12. That same day actress and singer Jennifer Lopez is born in New York. Yeah, J-Lo is 50.
Last night Senator Ted Kennedy went on television in Massachusetts to ask his constituents whether or not they thought he should resign his Senate seat over the Chappaquiddick incident. Most residents – including the mother of Mary Jo Kopechne, who drowned in the wreck – say that he should stay. He’ll remain in the senate for another 43 years until his death.
Tomorrow – July 27 – President Nixon becomes the first president to visit Indonesia. Also on that date music teacher Gary Hinman is killed at the age of 34. It’s believed to be the first murder carried out by followers of Charles Manson, who we’ll hear a lot more about in August.
On the charts: it’s yet another week at the top for Zager and Evans’ “In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus.)” Here’s what’s new this week:
“A Boy Named Sue” – Johnny Cash (debuts at #42). Fun fact: Shel Silverstein wrote this song. You know, the guy who did Where the Sidewalk Ends. This will go on to become the biggest hit that The Man In Black ever had on the pop charts, in the same unfair way that Chuck Berry’s biggest was “My Ding-a-Ling.” It’ll get stuck at #2 for three weeks. (This is the “unbeeped” version at the link; AM radio wasn’t comfortable with “son of a bitch” in 1969. They weren’t really any more comfortable ten years later when “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” tested the feelings.)
“True Grit” – Glen Campbell (#61). Movie music gives us the second-highest debut of the week, and this is one that I haven’t heard in a long time. It goes on to become a #35 pop hit; there’s still more to come from Campbell this year and his biggest hits will be in the Seventies.
“Give Peace a Chance” – Plastic Ono Band (#62). Odds are good that you started singing the chorus upon seeing the words. This will make it to #14. Fun fact on this one: that’s Tommy Smothers on lead guitar. More fun fact: Mitch Miller, of all people, did a cover version, perhaps as an atonement for A&R decisions that he had made in the 1950s in keeping Columbia Records far, far away from rock and roll.
“I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” – Tom Jones (#86). This title has confused music fans for years. You have the sort of upbeat Burt Bachrach composition that Dionne Warwick made a hit out of at the end of the year (and that Burt put on the chart three weeks ago), and you have this tune. Both were hits; this one will make it to #6. It’s the second time on the charts for this record for Jones; it missed the top 40 in 1967.
“Odds and Ends” – Dionne Warwick (#90). Speaking of Ms. Warwick – and her friends network knew we would – here she is with a lovely little number that will stall out just short of the Top 40, stopping at #43.
“Sugar, Sugar” – The Archies (#91). My media history students have this song in their heads every term. As part of a discussion I call “So, What Do You Really Know About the Sixties?”, I point out that this was a bigger hit in the fall of ’69 than most of what got played at Woodstock. It’ll spend four weeks at Number One, proving that you don’t really need a band. (Students also greatly dislike the video, or at least find it strange. I have no shame in sharing it, but note that a dollar for a kiss in 1969 is about seven bucks today.)
“Everybody Knows Matilda” – Duke Baxter (#92). I covered this one a while ago, and it’s still a fun record. It’ll make #52 nationally, but it’s a #2 record in Boston, #3 in Vancouver, and #6 in Rochester, New York, among other places.
“First Hymn from Grand Terrace” – Mark Lindsay (#93). Here’s the first solo single from Mark Lindsay, and if you were expecting something akin to Paul Revere and the Raiders, you might have been disappointed. You got Bobby Goldsboro, basically. This only makes it to #81. His next release, which will come at the end of the year, becomes a huge hit that you’ll sing along with as soon as you see it. (No spoiler.)
“Let Yourself Go” – Friends of Distinction (#94). Here, we have an “oh wow.” This is fantastic, but it’ll get buried at #63. That’s because in a few weeks the flip side of the single will chart and become a Top 20 hit. (Again, I won’t spoil it.)
“A Time For Us” – Johnny Mathis (#96). Did you remember Johnny Mathis hitting the chart in ’69? Me either. This will appear on later charts as “Love Theme from “Romeo and Juliet” (A Time For Us)”, since it’s a vocal version of the #1 Henry Mancini record. This is as high as this will get, spending three weeks on the chart. Johnny will hit the #1 position in the 70s, of course, ending a 15-year Top 40 drought.
“Ease Back” – The Meters (#98). Add a funky groove to your day. This band, featuring Art Neville, who just passed away this week, charted earlier this year with “Cissy Strut.” This follow-up single stops at #61, but I’m thinking it would make a kick-ass ring tone.
“Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind” – Little Anthony & the Imperials (#99). This one sounds a little out of place in the Summer of ’69; it’s a little more in the vein of “Tears On My Pillow” and Anthony’s earlier hits. It’ll make it up to #52. The band will chart a few more singles in the coming years, but none will do as well as this one.
“Big Bruce” – Steve Greenberg (#100). Holy shit. This is the three-minute gay joke that you didn’t need. It’s a parody of “Big Bad John,” except the guy’s name is Bruce, and he’s a hair stylist? Get it? Jimmy Dean’s people sued, despite getting writing credit, as they didn’t want their record referenced any more than was already suggested by the parody. A second version was released that didn’t make any of it less obvious. This only makes it to #97, and I’d be hard-pressed to find a terrestrial station that would give it airplay today. Then? Well, it charted at #1 in Sacramento, CA and #2 in Salt Lake City, UT. No, really. It also got considerable airplay in Australia.