October 18, 1969
It’s the week that the New York Mets pulled off the miracle, defeating the Baltimore Orioles in five games in the World Series on October 16. It’s the first championship for the seven-year-old franchise. (Of course, they’ll win one more in 1986 on the backs of the Boston Red Sox.) The next day both golfer Ernie Els and rapper Wyclef Jean are born, so they’re fifty as well.
On the 18th a ban on cyclamates, a sweetener used in soft drinks, takes place over health concerns. It’ll be replaced by saccharine, which is bad for you, which gets replaced by aspartame, which is bad for you, or something like that.
The following Monday American Motors (remember them? “Hey Charlie – it’s a Matador!“) announces that they’ve acquired the Kaiser Jeep corporation. By 1985 Chrysler will buy out AMC (who were still making cars in the 80s – remember the Eagle?), retire the line, but keep the Jeeps.
On the charts: the new #1 song in the country is “I Can’t Get Next To You” by the Temptations. It’ll stay there for this week and next.
For as obscure as last week’s adds were, this week has a slew of songs you know. Let’s get to it:
“Something” – The Beatles (debuts at #20) and “Come Together” – The Beatles (#23). It’s rare to see a record debut in the Top 40, but it seems to be the Beatles who do it. On the heels of the release of the Abbey Road LP, the first single from the album has huge appeal. Both sides of the 45 make it into the countdown this week (“Come Together” is the A-side.) Eventually they’ll be co-listed on the chart, and both make #1. For what it’s worth, Frank Sinatra once called “Something” “the most beautiful song ever written” and covered it in 1970.
“Backfield in Motion” – Mel and Tim (#48). This now makes it fifty football seasons that we’ve been taking this record out and giving it a seasonal spin, although you do find the occasional Oldies station that plays it year-round. It’s not a bad record if a little gimmicky. This will hit #10; the group will get back into the Top 40 in 1972 with “Starting All Over Again.”
“And When I Die” – Blood, Sweat and Tears (#50). There’s nothing like a little toe-tapper about death to put you in a mood. 1969 continues to be the Year of #2 Hits for BS&T, as this will be their third. Just like Creedence Clearwater Revival, they never end up hitting the very top. The band will hit the Top 40 three more times in the 1970s, but at lower levels than their peak production this year.
“Take a Letter Maria” – R. B. Greaves (#61). We don’t know if the secretary ever files a harassment suit, or if the whole office is required to watch a Powerpoint on workplace relationships as a result of this story. The debut record for Ronald Bertram Greaves will spend a week at #2 (another one shut out from the top). And no, he’s not a one-hit wonder either: his cover of “Always Something There To Remind Me,” long before Naked Eyes discovers the song, makes it to #27 in 1970.
(Perhaps I should have an “avert your eyes” warning?)
“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” – Steam (#76). One cannot be from the South Side of Chicago and not know this record. An eventual #1 hit that was largely forgotten after it fell off the charts, it made somewhat of a comeback in 1976 when Chicago White Sox Organist Nancy Faust began playing it at the ballpark to celebrate Sox wins or opposing pitchers being knocked out of games. The crowd filled in the chorus, the single got re-issued in a Sox picture sleeve, and Mercury Records presented her with an honorary gold record for her “interpretation” of the song. It’s the only song the band will put in the Top 40, perhaps due to the album cover (see above).
“Undun” – The Guess Who (#78). This one took a while to get here. Back in July “Laughing,” the A-side of the single, hit the charts, and now we get the flip side appearing. This side won’t do as well, ending up at #22, but it still manages a ton of airplay in the Oldies world. There’s one more single coming from the Guess Who yet this year, and it’s a big one.
“Turn On a Dream” – Box Tops (#79). Here’s the first “oh wow” for me this week. It doesn’t make it any higher than #58, but it’s a pretty neat record. The last single for the band, “Soul Deep,” was the last big one for the band (charting July 5). You’ll hear this one get considerable airplay in St. Louis, MO, where it makes #4, and the band’s home town of Memphis, TN, where it makes #8 on the legendary WHBQ.
“Make Your Own Kind of Music” – Mama Cass (#80). This record will be in your head for most of the day, and I am apologizing in advance for that. The Mamas and the Papas stopped charting big hits in 1967, and the band members started working on other projects. Cass Elliot, the most recognizable of the band, managed a few hits on her own. This one made it to #36 and represents the last time she dented the U.S. Top 40. Of course, after this she went on to play Witch Hazel in the H.R. Pufnstuf film, and I think we can respect that.
“Proud Mary” – Checkmates Ltd (#85). There’s absolutely nothing not to like about this record, which is a sort of cross between CCR and the eventual Tina Turner cover. It’ll make it up to #69 on the charts and stop there.
“It’s Hard to Get Along” – Joe Simon (#90). In my head I hear the Impressions’ version of “Amen” as the chorus for this song. It doesn’t do much on the charts, moving up a couple of notches to #87 and disappearing after three weeks. It’s the B-side of “San Francisco is a Lonely Town,” which charted a few weeks ago.
“Shangri-La” – The Lettermen (#92). I can’t help but think that the intro to this record would make a fantastic ringtone – the kind that would get an entire room to stop talking and see whose phone it is. Perhaps I will try that. Given everything else on the chart this one sounds a little out of place, but remember that their last hit – “Hurt So Bad” – made it to #12 earlier this year. This one stops at #54.
“Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday” – Stevie Wonder (#94). Man, there’s still great music down here on this week’s list. I may, on more than one occasion in Grand Rapids, added “Yesterdog,” the popular hot dog eatery, to the title. Comedy jokes! This will make it all the way up to #7, with Stevie’s best work still to come in the 70s.
“Say You Love Me” – The Impressions (#96). Wait, weren’t we just talking about them? Here they are, with a fantastic soul shot. This will only make it to #58, but fare better on regional radio charts. like WJLB/Detroit, who played it as a #5 single.
“Crumbs Off the Table” – Glass House (#97). Here’s the other “oh wow” for me this week. What a terrific record. This group out of Detroit features Scherrie Payne, whose sister Freda will have a much bigger hit on the same label in “Band of Gold” in 1970. Thanksgiving may have been awkward. This one stops at #59, but again was top 10 in Detroit, Oakland, and Philadelphia radio.
“We Must Be In Love” – Five Stairsteps and Cubie (#98). Sears got rid of Roebuck, Von Maur left Petersen and Harned off the marquee, and Cubie eventually was absorbed into the band just as “O-o-h Child” became a huge hit. But the sound is the same, and it’s surprising that this one didn’t land a little bigger, stopping at #88. Timing and marketing is everything, of course, because this musical family sounds a lot like The Jackson Five without a charismatic kid up front. (Oh, we’ll be hearing from them soon.)
“Just a Little Love” – B.B. King (#100). I get a third “oh wow” this week because B.B. King is on the list, and this is amazing. This one will make it up to #76, and I’ll save bigger praise for the next record, which sneaks on to the last chart of the year.