SINGLES ACTION

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.

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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…

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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.]

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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

# Title Artist
1 Hey Jude The Beatles
2 Love is Blue Paul Mauriat
3 Honey Bobby Goldsboro
4 (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay Otis Redding
5 People Got to Be Free The Rascals
6 Sunshine of Your Love Cream
7 This Guy’s in Love With You Herb Alpert
8 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Hugo Montenegro
9 Mrs. Robinson Simon & Garfunkel
10 Tighten Up Archie Bell & the Drells

Australia

# Title Artist
1 Hey Jude / Revolution The Beatles
2 Sadie (The Cleaning Lady) Johnny Farnham
3 Love is Blue Paul Mauriat
4 Honey Bobby Goldsboro
5 The Unicorn The Irish Rovers
6 Those Were the Days Mary Hopkin
7 Little Arrows Leapy Lee
8 The Orange & the Green / Whiskey on a Sunday The Irish Rovers
9 Macarthur Park Richard Harris
10 Hello, Goodbye / I Am the Walrus The Beatles

Canada

# Title Artist
1 Hey Jude The Beatles
2 Honey Bobby Goldsboro
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

 

37 comments

  1. I’m a big pictures of matchstick men fan but the version I really like is by camper van Beethoven. Same with mrs. Robinson and the lemonheads. I’m seeing a trend here. My thirteen y. o. has recently taken up the guitar. He turns the reverb all the way up and plays the same twelve riffs over and over. Fortunately they are songs I like. Do kids in Australia live Green Day? They seem to be the high school favorite here.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey, a good cover version can be a delight!

      Green Day are reasonably popular here. I think from that time, Weezer more so.

      Good luck with the reverb Jeff.

      Like

  2. Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)? Jesus fuck!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Quite. And the song lives up to the title.

      And do you want to hear something as scary as zombies in Tokyo? I could probably sing along with most of it.

      Sadie, the cleaning lady, her aching knees aren’t getting any younger…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We’re all infected by dreck – I can sing along with all manner of horrid novelty records I last heard on the radio 30 ears ago.

        ON BBC4 here they often show complete episodes of Top of The Pops. It’s remarkable when you watch one from a year you love like ’78 or ’68, just how much the great stuff stands out in contrast to the general bum fodder there was clogging up the airwaves.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Yes, I’ve seen some edited highlights but get what you mean. Lot of dross with the occasional gem. I remember a UK show called ‘Sounds of the Sixties’ that edited together highlights – now that was brilliant!

          Liked by 1 person

        2. The best ever performance on TOTP that I’ve seen over and over was the Saints blasting out ‘This Perfect Day’.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I used to love Arthur Brown’s “Fire.” Couldn’t get enough of it. In fact, I have a post planned for that tune along with a couple of other goodies from that era. My wife despises the song “Honey” and would likely murder anyone who sang it to her and would probably be acquitted.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Grounds for acquittal, I reckon.
      Look forward to more on ‘Fire’, Jim. I briefly re-visited the album earlier this month in the ‘Three 68 Bees’ post.

      Like

      1. I’ll be sure to check it out.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. There is a lot of dreck in there, but I generally would give some love to any sixties stuff from Aretha, Hollies, and Cream.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ah…MacArthur Park made Australia’s Top 10 for the ’68. Nicely done.

    ““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.]”

    Couldn’t agree more, Bruce! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Michael.

      Now fellow music fans might wonder at Leopard 13’s comment about ‘Macarthur Park’. That’s because Michael very recently posted on this divisive but certainly unique song. Check it out if you are a fan of melting cakes…

      https://le0pard13.com/2018/09/14/friday-song-cover-macarthur-park-by-richard-harris-and-donna-summer/

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you very kindly for the linkage, Bruce. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Loads of stuff there that I’ve never heard; though that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it would appear. I can never get enough of Dusty singing Son of a Preacher Man. I’m also quite fond of Joanna and Sunshine of your Love (naturally).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, Cream had Jack Bruce, didn’t they? And that other guitar-playing fella.

      That Dusty album (“In Memphis”) is an absolute beauty.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They did, aye. That whatshisface… and, most importantly, Ginger.

        I have a bonus disc version of that In Memphis album. Some additional gems, for sure.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Nice oldies.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Some of these are great and some explain why I can’t stand those ‘greatest hits of the sixties, seventies and eighties’ type radio stations.
    Canned heat holds the conscious mindfield after reading this excellent post (ie is playing in my head).
    Meanwhile dear old Sadie will have been contracted-out , work-choiced, casualised and will likely be flexi-permed before being put on a knee replacement wait-list when she retires later this year with 50 year’s service under the belt.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fabulous. Thank you.

      Like

  9. I have always been a fan of the early Bee Gees. When they did Saturday Night Fever, NO WAY. Their early stuff is really great. I am a Beatles fan so any Beatles song is fine with me. I also agree with your choices. I would be happy if I never heard Engelbert Humperdinck again.
    Your earlier post inspired me to purchase Truth from Jeff Beck, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown from Arthur Brown, and Notorious Bird Brothers from The Byrds. My husband and I loved all three. Our favorite is The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. I can’t review albums as you do, but other readers of the blog should read your really fantastic review on your other post. Somehow, we also ran into Gil Scott Heron and purchased his debut album (it’s ’71 though) and loved thay too.
    Loving the ’68s

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not literally run into him though, sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. What a wonderful and heart-warming response/report. Thank you Ms Crimsonowl63. That you have loved crazy Arthur Brown just makes me grin with pleasure! And totally with you on early Bee Gees. As they did not one, but TWO LPs in 1968, I reckon I’d better find a place to review them, eh?
      Was the Gil Scott Heron ‘Pieces of a Man’? That’s one of his best. Nice work!

      More 68 to come.

      Like

      1. Unfortunately, no. I wanted ‘Pieces of Man’, but don’t really buy the 180s, but they weren’t at all expensive and there were a lot of them. The ’71 or even ’72 versions that I found were a little expensive for me. So, being a snob, I decided to wait till I had saved to get it.
        I got a DJ copy of ‘The Mind of Gil Scott Heron’ from ’78 instead.
        Yes, thank you SO much for the Arthur Brown album review that introduced him to me!

        Can’t wait
        For the next ’68
        ~Cheryl

        Liked by 1 person

        1. My pleasure Cheryl
          -Bruce

          Liked by 1 person

  10. I have to laugh at the listing of Bobby Goldsboro on the Billboard chart. “Honey,” I guess was his major hit — a real sapper. But it was “Watching Scotty Grow” that always got me into a gymnastics vault to jump up and quickly change the station. It’s interesting how they listed “Dream a Little Dream of Me” as Mama Cass rather than the Mamas and the Papas. Granted it was only her singing, but still quite an error! – Marty

    Like

  11. I have a friend who is convinced the Bee Gees never improved on her early stuff. Indeed, I think she reckons very few people did.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I meant to say THEIR early stuff, obvs…

      Liked by 1 person

    2. A defensible opinion in my (not even remotely humble) judgement!

      Like

  12. CB digs a few of those and and few his ear just wouldn’t let him do it. I’m not sure I’m up for a re-listen like you usually send me on. Interesting cut ‘Sabre Dance’ Love Sculpture. Every once in awhile something like that sneaks through the programmers. Good stuff Bruce. Enjoying the album journey. One of those Irish Rover guys was just in my area singing the ‘Unicorn’ song for the ???,( I can’t count that high) times.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Can’t believe an Irish Rover is still, er, roving. Amazing.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Ah, the days of my youth. Definitely curate’s egg on the table there, but the good bits are really, really good.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. A lot of the names are unfamiliar but I might recognize the tunes – and I’ve changed my tune on the Bee Gees after exploring their work from this era!
    I don’t believe my tune was ever remotely negative about Dusty/The Kinks from this vintage – and nor should it be!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There is a reason the term ‘disposable pop’ appeared. But none of those artists you mention contributed. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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