(And now for something completely different.)
October 4, 1969
The day after Gwen Stefani was born (yes, she’s also turning 50 this year) marked the start of the first-ever divisional playoffs in Major League Baseball. The expansion to twelve teams in each league included a split into two divisions. The American League sees Minnesota face Baltimore, while the National League pits New York against Atlanta. We know how this ends up. (Interestingly, the two losing squads are back this year.)
That same day, Diane Linkletter, daughter of television personality Art Linkletter, dies in an apparent suicide, possibly fueled by drugs. Art will release a recording related to this that we’ll be talking about in a few weeks.
The following night Monty Python’s Flying Circus makes its debut on the BBC. It will be years before we see it in the States, and many more years before I start quoting it relentlessly around radio stations. Fortunately, every so often I get a student in class who gets the references. (Once when explaining to students that they needed three sources in a paper, I tore into the Book of Armaments from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The cool kids got it, and I’m sticking to that version of the story. “Five is right out.”)
On the charts: It’s the third straight week at the top for “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies. This also might be the shortest list of new adds for the year, with only nine new records on the chart. Let’s see what’s in the bag:
“Smile a Little Smile For Me” – The Flying Machine (debut at #66). I’ve always had a soft spot for this record. I recall finding it at a record shop in Moline called ABC Collectables, where I usually had good luck finding 45s for not a lot of money. I haven’t been back to the Quad Cities for over twenty years, so I am sure it’s long gone, but I still have my rather scratchy but serviceable copy. This is the only Top 40 hit they’ll manage, and it will make it all the way up to #5. The follow-up record, “Baby Make It Soon”, will only spend two weeks on the charts in 1970 before disappearing. (And no, this isn’t the same band that James Taylor was in nor the reference in “Fire and Rain.”)
“You’ll Never Walk Alone” – Brooklyn Bridge (#70). It feels like we haven’t seen as much of the nostalgia/throwback for “oldies” that previous weeks have featured. Here’s a cover of the standard that we used to hear Jerry Lewis warble every Labor Day weekend. It’ll stall out at #51.
“Ball of Fire” – Tommy James & the Shondells (#82). One of the first CDs I ever picked up was Tommy James and the Shondells Greatest Hits on Roulette. It’s the shorter collection that featured the full-length version of “Crimson and Clover.” It also opened with this track, if I recall correctly, which means I played it a lot. Radio spun it a bunch as well, at least for a while, as it did make it to #19.
“Judy Blue Eyes” – Crosby Stills & Nash (#86). Billboard properly adds the word “Suite” to the title in its second week on the chart, but this is how it looks at the debut. This ode to Judy Collins doesn’t need a whole lot of explanation from me, but you might be surprised to learn that it missed the Top 20, landing at #21.
“The Ways to Love a Man” – Tammy Wynette (#90). This is a re-entry from August 30 that still doesn’t light the charts on fire. It will end up peaking only at #81. (That reminds me – I still owe readers of this blog all of the releases from August. I need to get on that.)
“I’ll Bet You” – Funkadelic (#94). Here we have the debut record from one of the more interesting acts of the 1970s. What they lacked in chart success they made up for in stage presence, with as many as 40 people in the band at once. George Clinton’s forces also recorded as Parliament, so you see both names on records through the 70s. Here’s where it all starts, though, with a tune that makes it to #63 nationally. It’s a little bigger in Michigan, making it to #1 on CKLW/Windsor-Detroit, #2 at WJLB/Detroit and WJIM/Lansing, and #4 at WKNR/Detroit. I’m actually partial to the original version by Theresa Lindsey from 1966; between the two I think we have our “oh wow” for the week.
“Delta Lady” – Joe Cocker (#98). The second release from Joe Cocker doesn’t give him huge numbers, either, landing at only #69. The third record, coming in December, does that.
“Cherry Hill Park” – Billy Joe Royal (#99). I didn’t expect to find this one debuting so far down the list, since it’s been a staple of just about every Oldies station I’ve ever worked for or listened to. It’s the third and final Top 40 song for Royal, landing at #15. He’ll get four more records into Billboard – the last being a version of “Under the Boardwalk” in 1978 – but none will move this high.
“Eternity” – Vikki Carr (#100). In which Ms. Carr uses Mozart to chart, at least in the intro of the record. (I immediately thought of “Hooked on Classics,” which also features Symphony #40, but that’s how my brain works.) The intro seems disjointed from the rest of the record, and it only makes it up to #79. Vikki will hit the charts twice more in 1971 and 1972 but won’t move past #96 with either of them.