(Above: I spent many, many hours crossing the Pacific in these things.)
November 29, 1969
Last week baseball star Ken Griffey Jr. turned 50: today, it’s Mariano Rivera’s turn. That same day Keith Holayoke is re-elected as Prime Minister of New Zealand. He’s held that role since 1960.
The next day Charles “Tex” Watson is arrested for his role in the Tate-Labianca killings earlier the past summer. Watson is believed to have been the gunman in the Manson family and ends up convicted on seven counts of first-degree murder. He remains in prison in San Diego.
The following Monday – December 1st – the first draft lottery in the United States since 1942 is held to bolster the troop numbers in Vietnam. September 14th is the first date chosen, and over the course of an hour and a half all 366 possible birthdates are put in order. The New York Times will suggest in early 1970 that the random drawing may not have been so random after all.
The very next day – December 2 – the first flight of the Boeing 747 takes place. The wide-body jet makes the trip from Seattle to New York City in just over four hours. While mostly out of service in U.S. air travel, the plane still makes flights around the world, with 20 of them reportedly still on order as of last month.
On the charts: the new #1 song this week is really two records – “Come Together” and “Something” by the Beatles, which are co-listed as the top song. They’ll only stay at the top for this week, but we get two for the price of one.
Other songs making their debut this week:
“Don’t Cry Daddy/Rubberneckin’” – Elvis Presley (debut at #73). Both sides of this one list together, so we can count them both as #6 records. They’re in the film Change of Habit, which features Mary Tyler Moore as a nun and Elvis as a doctor who falls in love with her. No, really. Of the two tunes, I have to admit a preference for the B-side, which got a bit of a re-birth in 2003 when a remixed version made it to #94.
“What You Gave Me” – Marvin Gaye (#77). Let’s just get right to the good stuff, shall we? I could listen to Marvin sing along with Tammi Terrell all day long. This one’s only a #49 hit, which somehow doesn’t seem right. It’ll make it to #14 on legendary Chicago Black station WVON.
“I’m Tired” – Savoy Brown (#81). Man, we are on a roll so far this week. This one’s only a #74 hit but a damned solid record. Technically Stateside the band doesn’t have any hits, but will hit the Billboard Hot 100 four times. This is the first record to do so.
“Turn Turn Turn (To Everything There Is a Season)” – Judy Collins (#84). OK – we can put that roll on pause for a second. Judy Collins is a wonderful performer; I had the chance to meet her several years ago and she was more than gracious. I’ll never turn off “Both Sides Now” until it’s over. This one? Not so much. It’ll end up at #69 after seven weeks on the charts. Her next record is “Amazing Grace,” and I’ll wager what’s in my wallet at the holidays that you’re more familiar with that one.
“Je T’Aime – Moi Non Plus” – Serge Gainsbourg and Jeanne Birkin (#87). Here we have the dirtiest record of the year. These two were husband and wife at the time of this recording: he was 41 and she’ll be 23 in a few weeks. It’s entirely in French, and she sounds, well, like she’s really enjoying herself while singing it. (Rumors that they actually had sex while recording it are false.) A #58 hit here, this makes it to #1 in the UK and #2 in Ireland. In many other countries it’s banned entirely, as many stations in the States pass on it as well.
“Jingle Jangle” – The Archies (#90). Controversial opinion: if we have to endure “My Favorite Things” as a Christmas song (which it isn’t), why can’t we count this one? Probably because it’s an unstoppable earworm, that’s why. This will hit #10 in early 1970 and will be the second-biggest hit for the band behind “Sugar Sugar.”
“Tonight I’ll Say a Prayer” – Eydie Gorme (#91). This represents the first time in five years that Eydie hits the charts, and damned if it doesn’t almost become a real hit, stopping at #45. I suspect that this gets airplay on stations that lean a little older. It’s a #5 hit at WKBW/Buffalo, New York.
“I Love You” – Otis Leavill (#92). Here’s a great soul shot that you probably haven’t heard in years. This one only makes it up to #63, but damn, it’s fun to listen to.
“No One Better Than You” – Petula Clark (#93). Guilty pleasure alert: I love hearing Petula Clark sing. But, by 1969 the hits stopped happening, at least in the U.S. This is the only week this one will appear on the charts; she’ll hit three more times, the last time in 1982, surprisingly.
“You Keep Me Hangin’ On” – Wilson Pickett (#94). Whoa. Ignore the “Supremes Cover” notion and think of this as Wilson Interprets Vanilla Fudge. This is fantastic. It only spends three weeks on the charts and makes it to #92, but you’ll be glad you clicked the link.
“(One Of These Days) Sunday’s Gonna Come on Tuesday” – The New Establishment (#96). Huh. This is one of those records that’s sort of like a terrible wreck on the highway. You shouldn’t slow down and look, but – you do. This is the only charting release for this band, and it’ll only make it on the charts for two weeks and stop at #92. Airplay is mostly limited to the Pacific Northwest, where the band is from – but it’s a Top 10 record on WEAN in Providence, Rhode Island. It’s also now stuck in your head.
“Feeling Alright” – Mongo Santamaria (#97). And – wow. Now we get a few remakes that I can appreciate. This is, depending on your interpretation, a cover of either Traffic or Joe Cocker (I tend to think it’s the latter). Either way, this is a groove. It only charts for two weeks and climbs to #96, and this is the last time the band will hit the charts at all.
“Wichita Lineman” – Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 (#99). Another guilty pleasure alert: I’ll always stop on SM&B66. In fact, a week or so ago I had them on in my office at Grand Valley, and it must have been a little loud as a colleague popped in to make sure I was OK. Now, don’t get me wrong – the definitive version of this belongs to Glen Campbell. But I suggest you give this a watch and a listen. The cool beat and the sounds of Lainie Hall will brighten even the darkest day.
“Goin’ Out Of My Head/Forget To Remember” – Frank Sinatra (#100). Both sides of this single are listed together. It’ll make it to #79, and Frank won’t see the Top 40 again until 1980 when “New York, New York” makes its way into the upper part of the chart. I’m more partial to the B-side than the Little Anthony remake, but your mileage may vary.