(Above: Wal-Mart used to look a bit different.)
November 1, 1969
The Internet turned fifty this past week – sort of. It was on October 29, 1969 that the first message was sent over ARPANET, a forerunner of the modern net, from UCLA to Stanford. The plan was to send the letters “L-O-G” to Stanford, who would send back the “I-N” to complete “login.” The system crashed after two letters, in another foreshadowing of the modern internet.
October 30 is the 50th birthday of Darrin O’Brien, who as “Snow” had a hit in 1993 with “Informer.” The song spent seven weeks at #1, and has been in my head since some high school friends posted about it on Facebook last week. Now, it’s in your head. Tag – you’re it. The next day Sam Walton’s store, Wal-Mart, was formally incorporated. (They likely sold this album with a warning on it.)
On the charts: there’s a new song at the top as “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley lands at #1. It will be there for only this week, and represents the last time that Elvis has the top record in the country (although he’ll come close in 1972 when “Burnin’ Love” makes it to #2). There’s a slew of new titles this week as well.
“Holly Holy” – Neil Diamond (#71). For as many Neil Diamond records as I played on the radio, I always hated having this one come up, if for no other reason it never sounded to me like it started. The “dead air” panic is strong with the beginning of this record. This will make its way up to #6.
“Up On Cripple Creek” – The Band (#74). To this day this one remains a fun record to hear. Largely a staple of classic rock stations, it still becomes a #25 hit. (You also know the flip side, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” which will chart big for Joan Baez in 1971 and was written about briefly here.)
“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” – The Dells (#82). This is a tough one. On the one hand, it’s hard to argue with the strength of the original version; should it have been covered? Then you hear this and think “Yeah, it did.” This just manages to miss the Top 40, stopping at #42.
“I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City” – Nilsson (#83). This was supposed to be included in the film Midnight Cowboy, but was left off. (Heck, it was almost the theme song, but “Everybody’s Talkin'” from August 16 got that nod.) Years later it turned up in You’ve Got Mail, which doesn’t have quite the same cultural gravitas. It’s still a catchy little number that made #34 and that I haven’t heard on the radio since I used to sneak it in.
“Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” – Bob Dylan (#85). I spent a lot of my youth listening to Dylan’s “electric trio” (Bringing it All Back Home, Highway 61, and Blonde on Blonde) over and over again, and never wandered much past it on the new side. As I got older I came to appreciate Nashville Skyline more. This one, to me, feels like it should be a Van Morrison record. (I can’t find such a version, but Jeff Beck tore it up.) This one inches up to #50 and goes no further.
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” – B.J. Thomas (#86). I feel like I don’t need to explain this one. It spends four weeks at #1 in 1970, largely fueled by Robert Redford, Katharine Ross, and a bicycle from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. (Note that the soundtrack version is a bit different, and not just the instrumental break in the middle.)
“We Must Be in Love” – Five Stairsteps and Cubie (#88; re-entry). We covered this one on October 18, so I’ll refer you there.
“Love Will Find a Way” – Jackie DeShannon (#90). I imagine the trick here would have been trying to blend this into a horn-heavy jingle, since it sounds like a jingle at the start. It’s another one you never hear on Oldies radio but was technically a Top 40 hit, making it exactly to #40.
“Okie From Muskogee” – Merle Haggard (#91). I pass directly over most of what passes for Country music these days without passing go or collecting my $200. This one I’ll always stop on, if for no other reason than it sounds so gosh-darned dated. It just missed being a crossover hit, stopping at #41, but spent four weeks at #1 on the Country chart. (I am also convinced that there was a commercial for California Prunes set to this melody that went “I’m proud to be a prune from California/I was once a plum but now take a look at me.” Did I hallucinate this? I can’t find it anywhere.)
“Ballad of Easy Rider” – The Byrds (#92). There is a lot of movie music this week, isn’t there? This one spends six weeks on the charts, makes it to #65, and is still positively gorgeous.
“We Love You, Call Collect” – Art Linkletter (#93). Man, this one must have been tough for Art. His daughter Diane committed suicide on October 4th; her voice is on the B-side of this single. This almost made it into the Top 40, stopping at #42. Some radio stations played it a ton: it made it to #5 at WOKY in Milwaukee, WI and #14 in Kansas City, MO.
“Cupid” – Johnny Nash (#94). OK, now we have an “oh wow.” Yes, it’s THAT song – the one that was huge for Sam Cooke and later the Spinners. Put a reggae feel behind it, and you get this, which made it all the way to #39. (It’s the arrangement that Amy Winehouse used for her version as well.)
“Why Is The Wine Sweeter (On the Other Side)” – Eddie Floyd (#98). If you’ve been in the habit of bailing out of these lists at the bottom, you’re missing out this week, as there’s gold down here. This only spends two weeks on the charts and moves no higher than where it is right now, but damn, is this a fine record.
“Midnight Cowboy” – Ferrante and Teicher (#99). I wrote about this one a few weeks ago when Vincent Bell died; he’s responsible for the cool “watery” guitar on it. It’s more movie music, and it will go on to become a #10 hit.
“I Can’t Make It Alone” – Lou Rawls (#100). One more bit of awesome before we go: this one makes it up to #63 with some regional airplay (#18 in Baltimore, MD) propping it a bit. It’s smooth and satisfying.