Greetings, loyal readers, and welcome to a happy summer weekend. Get everything done you need to, but set aside a little time for a Top 10 flashback!
This week we’re visiting 1968, a year in which shit started getting real. Martin Luther King was assassinated less than three months prior, Robert Kennedy died earlier in June, and Abbie Hoffman and the rest of the Chicago Seven were making their final plans to disrupt the Democratic National Convention. So the music of the summer of ’68 must have been all about the counterculture and the anti-war movement, right? Um, no.
Listeners to St. Louis’s legendary 630 KXOK (a station that a reader requested), in fact virtually all AM listeners, got a different kind of summer of ’68. Owner Todd Storz pretty much invented the Top 40 format – legend has it that he was in a bar one night and noticed that the most popular songs of the time were repeated throughout the night on the jukebox. Since the old way of programming radio, which was very much like television, was on its way out, he decided to try mimicking that jukebox on his station in Omaha, NE, then developed it into playing the 40 biggest hits on a station in New Orleans. Storz bought KXOK in 1960 and made it STL’s dominant Top 40 station in short order. It was over in the late 70’s.
Listen to a KXOK aircheck from the spring of 1968 featuring Johnny Rabbitt:
Here’s a full tribute site to this legendary station:
Today, 630 in St. Louis is KYFI, broadcasting for Jesus. But this week in 1968, they were definitely broadcasting for the masses, and the masses weren’t having any of that hippie crap. Let’s tune in and have what they were having instead.
You bet your sweet bippy! Survey dated June 29, 1968.
Elvis Presley – Let Yourself Go
Elvis’s famous comeback special wouldn’t air until December, so he was still in “bad movie” mode here. This was from one of his last, “Speedway,” featuring Elvis as a race car driver. He drove so goddamned fast…
Simon & Garfunkel – Mrs. Robinson
A much more famous movie song. The song was not originally written for “The Graduate” – the intended title was “Mrs. Roosevelt,” but it was changed when it was decided to use it in the movie.
Smiths – Now I Taste The Tears
Obviously, this is not the group led by Morrissey in the 80’s. To be honest, I had neither heard nor heard of this song before playing this video. A good song that’s very much a product of its time – if you had asked me to guess when this was made, I certainly would have said late 60’s.
Shorty Long – Here Comes the Judge
Proof that Motown wasn’t above rushing a out a novelty record to capitalize on a hot trend. The hottest show of ’68 was definitely “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” and this wouldn’t be the last record to borrow from it. Shorty Long drowned a year later when his boat capsized in the Detroit River.
Fifth Dimension – Stoned Soul Picnic
Damn, I’m still in love with Marilyn McCoo! A great song by one of my favorite groups, and one of several Laura Nyro compositions the Fifth Dimension covered.
Ray Stevens – Unwind
This song didn’t make the top 40 nationally, which could explain why it completely missed me. The good people of STL obviously liked it quite a bit, but no way did those counterculture hippies agree.
Gary Puckett & The Union Gap – Lady Willpower
Amazing that this group’s four biggest hits – the others being “Woman, Woman,” “Young Girl,” and “Over You,” all sounded pretty much the same. It was a formula that worked for a couple of years until Puckett broke it off with songwriter Jerry Fuller, essentially committing career suicide. A common tale.
Merrilee Rush – Angel Of The Morning
This song had to have been controversial then – fer chrissake, it’s about a one-night stand. Not that I would have minded back then:
Friend & Lover – Reach Out Of The Darkness
My daughter likes this song. So do I. A message of peace, love, and understanding that even the establishment could get behind, man.
All right, as is our tradition, before we get to number one, let’s go down the chart and find a song to spotlight as the “oh, wow” song of the week. Long before there were 12″ DJ singles, which usually feature acapella and instrumental versions of the song so the DJ can create his own mashups, record companies would sometimes strip the vocals from a recording and use it for the B-side. Some famous instrumentals came about this way – Young-Holt Unlimited’s “Soulful Strut” (although that song’s story is a little more complicated), Gary Glitter’s “Rock And Roll (Part 2),” and this one. Soul singer Cliff Nobles recorded “Love Is All Right” in 1968, but didn’t have anything else for the B-side.
Listen to how off center that record is – I think it actually sounds kinda cool that way. Anyway, they called the instrumental version on the other side “The Horse,” and damned if that wasn’t the side that got the airplay. The single went on to sell a million copies in three months; never mind that Nobles wasn’t actually heard on it. I’m sure he didn’t mind the checks he got, though. At #13 this week on the KXOK 6 Plus 30, here’s Cliff Nobles & Co. with “The Horse.”
Groovy. This barely qualifies as a forgotten oldie – they used to play it on oldies stations once in a while in the 80’s and 90’s.
So what was the most popular song in St. Louis 46 years ago this week? I gotta tell you now, because if not I’ll just die:
People think of the late 60’s as a time of hippies, counterculture, acid rock, etc. Well, THIS was the kind of music that dominated the charts in 1968. Herb wasn’t much of a singer, was he?
So there you are. Not exactly what you might have expected, was it? Feel free to chime in below.