Vinyl Connection has been thoroughly enjoying presenting a selection of the albums released in 1968. So far, we have featured a goodly number of debut records (D) but what really stands out is the variety of different sounds. Here’s the list to date:
Jeff Beck – Truth (D)
Arthur Brown – The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (D)
The Byrds – Notorious Byrd Brothers
Fairport Convention – Fairport Convention (D)
Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul
Aretha Franklin – Aretha Now
Jethro Tull – This Was (D)
The Nice – Ars Longa Vita Brevis
Pink Floyd – A Saucerful of Secrets
Spooky Tooth – It’s All About (D)
Traffic – Traffic
Nor had we ignored this fruitful year prior to the 50th anniversary rolling around. Previous features included:
John Mayall – Blues From Laurel Canyon
Small Faces – Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake
James Taylor – James Taylor (D)
Tomorrow – Tomorrow (D)
And there’s more to come. Some of it is surprising, some enchanting, some bonkers.
Wandering amongst all these multi-hued and sparklingly creative records it is easy to forget that in 1968, the single still ruled the pop airwaves. Even progressive DJs like John Peel spun singles and it was the little 7″ platters that most record buyers went to first. But then again, most folk chose the anodyne pop they were hearing on most radio stations. We’ve been admiring orchids, tiger lilies and other exotic blooms while in fact people were taking home bunches of daisies.
I was powerfully reminded of this when I spun a couple of Spirit of the 60s compilations (1968 vintage) last weekend. The charts were filled with innocuous pop songs and schmaltzy ballads. Sure, some of them were quite sweet—Donovan’s “Jennifer Juniper” is very pretty and even Herman’s Hermits “Something’s Happening” has a certain saccharine appeal—but for every rip-snorter like The Move’s “Fire Brigade” there’s a wet MOR clunker like John Rowles “If I only had Time”.
Here’s the track listing. Almost all of these were UK Top #5 singles (the rest were Top #10)* though it should be noted that folk in other regions may find some of the titles unfamiliar. (I’d never heard “Yesterday has gone” by Cupid’s Inspiration, for instance). There is also a dearth of US artists that is hard to explain, given the label is Time-Life. Anyway…
Here is my Fave Five from this CD:
“Pictures of Matchstick Men” – Status Quo [A truly fabulous slice of British psychedelia. After hearing this (and watching the brilliant black and white clip on youtube) the boy, thirteen years old, was singing the guitar part for hours.]
“This Wheel’s On Fire” – Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity [This cover of the Dylan/Band song is powered by Julie Driscoll’s magnificent vocal. Covered as the theme song for Ab Fab.]
“Fire Brigade” – The Move [Classic psychedelia but nothing formulaic here; full of burning creativity.]
“On the road again” – Canned Heat [That chugging boogie is simply irresistible. Timeless.]
“Green Tambourine” – The Lemon Pipers [Actually released in late ’67, this US psychedelic single is truly infectious.]
The second disc delves a little deeper into the UK charts, with most of the songs landing somewhere between #5 and #20. The ones that made me smile were:
“Words” – The Bee Gees [The early hits, and indeed albums, by the Brothers Gibb are criminally underrated. Until it appeared on a compilation LP, this was only ever a single, released in January 1968.]
“Son Of A Preacher Man” – Dusty Springfield [Great song, powerful delivery, and a rare instance of a song with the woman at the centre of the story. Go Dusty.]
“Days” – The Kinks [This peerless song of love, loss and resignation is worthy of an entire post. Sublime.]
“America” – The Nice [Described by Keith Emerson as “the first ever instrumental protest song”, this arrangement of the West Side Story classic got The Nice into quite a lot of trouble. It’s energy, however, is not in question.]
“Ice in the Sun” – Status Quo [I wouldn’t swap all their denim-clad blues rock for the handful of psychedelic classics the Quo put out in the sixties.]
Despite what the charts said, ten songs out of 48 is not a massive hit rate. Of course an alternate view is that really enjoying 20% of the offering half a century later is amazing. Either way, I’m not entirely convinced the count would leap upwards with consideration of a couple of dozen #1s from the third volume*. Perhaps that’s why we’ll return to 1968 albums very soon.
* There is another volume that has a whole bunch of #1s.
Any songs from these two ringing your bells? Or, conversely, that you never wish to hear again?
While you are thinking about that, here is the Billboard Top 10 for 1968, as listed in Wikipedia, followed by Top 10s from Australia and Canada. The Aussie one is by far the worst; unremittingly awful other than having The Beatles topping and tailing the list.
US – Billboard
|1||Hey Jude||The Beatles|
|3||Mrs. Robinson||Simon & Garfunkel|
|4||Young Girl||Gary Puckett & The Union Gap|
|5||People Got To Be Free||Rascals|
|6||Green Tambourine||Lemon Pipers|
|7||I’ve Gotta Get a Message To You||The Bee Gees|
|8||This Guy’s In Love With You||Herb Alpert|
|9||Harper Valley PTA||Jeannie C Riley|
|10||Yummy Yummy Yummy||Ohio Express|