Thursday, December 26, 2019


Over the next several days we'll be looking back at some of the "Best Of" lists that best exemplify 1969 ... movies ... tv ... and today, music.

While most will agree that The Grammys are not a very good barometer when it comes to measuring GOOD music (aka "Hit" music ... or reflecting the sounds of the times), they seemed to do all-right in their awards honoring the music of 1969.  

The Record Of The Year Award went to Producer Bones Howe and the Fifth Dimension for their chart-topping hit "Aquarius / Let The Sunshine In," a song that held down the #1 spot for six weeks that year. (We covered "The Story Behind The Song" in one of our earlier salute pieces that showcased the music from the hit Broadway Musical "Hair," which made quite a mark on the pop charts in 1969.)

The Album Of The Year was awarded to James William Guercio (Producer) and Blood, Sweat and Tears for their self-titled LP, which spawned the hit singles "You've Made Me So Very Happy", "Spinning Wheel" and "And When I Die", all of which reached the #2 spot on The Billboard Chart that year.

Song Of The Year was a bit of a surprise ... this honor went to Joe South for his Top Ten Hit "Games People Play".

And Crosby, Stills and Nash were named "Best New Artist" that year as well.

Other significant award winners that year were Harry Nilsson (Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Male, for "Everybody's Talkin'"), Peggy Lee (Best Contemporary Vocal Performance, Female, for "Is That All There Is"), The Fifth Dimension (Best Contemporary Vocal Performance by a Group for "Aquarius / Let The Sunshine In"), "Color Him Father" by The Winstons (Best Rhythm and Blues Song), Joe Simon (Best Rhythm and Blues Vocal, Male, for "The Chokin' Kind"), Aretha Franklin (Best Rhythm and Blues Vocal, Female, for "Share Your Love With Me"), The Isley Brothers (Best Rhythm and Blues Vocal, Group, for "It's Your Thing"), "A Boy Named Sue", which won honors for both Shel Silverstein as the songwriter (Best Country Song of the Year) and Johnny Cash, who took home the honors for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male. (Cash won an additional Grammy for writing the liner notes to the Bob Dylan album, "Nashville Skyline"!) Tammy Wynette won the Best Country Vocal Performance, Female, for her big hit "Stand By Your Man" and The Edwin Hawkins Singers won Best Soul Gospel Performance for their recording of "Oh, Happy Day". Best Instrumental Arrangement went to Henry Mancini for "Love Theme from 'Romeo And Juliet'" and Burt Bacharach won for Best Original Score Written For A Motion Picture for his work on Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Finally, Art Linkletter won Best Spoken Word Recording for his very moving "We Love You, Call Collect" and Bill Cosby took home the honors for Best Comedy Recording ... all in all, a pretty spot-on year when it came to recognizing these achievements.

Meanwhile, on The Pop Charts, Billboard Magazine declared "Sugar Sugar" by The Archies to be the biggest single of the year.  

Lead Singer Ron Dante remembers:

1969 was an incredible year for The Archies.
Archies Fun House was the number one Saturday morning show that year and our music was everywhere.  "Sugar, Sugar" was the number one record of the year and the cartoon was even played on The Ed Sullivan Show.  
I remember the "Sugar, Sugar" recording session was really cool with the legendary Don Kirshner, Jeff Barry, Toni Wine and Andy Kim all present.  Don put the whole thing together, getting Archie comics to let him choose the songs, producer and singers.  Jeff and Andy were terrific at coming up with great songs and hooks for the group. Andy even played guitar on "Sugar, Sugar," using a matchbook instead of a pick. 
Jeff worked the musicians a little harder than usual, giving the bass player ideas that took some time.  After I did my lead vocal, Toni Wine and I did all the background vocals and she added her wonderful voice to the "I'm Gonna Make Your Life So Sweet" line.  
In 1969 everything changed ... 
Woodstock, The Moon Landing, The Mets and The Archies.
A perfect year.
Ron Dante    

Some found the unexpected surprise of a bubblegum / pop record earning The Single Of The Year Award a bit dumbfounding, especially in light of some of the other musical trends of that era. Music had definitely taken on a harder edge by 1969 with the formation of new super groups like Led Zeppelin, Blind Faith and Crosby, Stills, Nash (and sometimes Young) releasing their first LPs.  

Here are a few of the comments we received on this topic when our 40th Anniversary Salute to 1969 ran in 2009:

Was "Sugar Sugar" by the unforgettable Archies really the number one song in '69? No big deal. Hey, the hooks were kind of catchy.
I couldn't get enough of Creedence, Tommy James, Rush Street, Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders or anything via Stax, Volt or Motown. Rush Street, in particular, was just too much fun. The Street had yet to go corporate, so my haunts were Rush Up, Rush Over, Mother's, Butch's and Puncinellos.
Rush Up was the apex of boy - girl attraction. If you couldn't find a babe in that joint by 10 pm you just weren't trying. There was also a tonk bar on Broadway avenue called "The Do It Lounge" which really should have been outlawed.
We just danced until we passed out ... and then danced again. Thank God the place had a 4 A.M. license.
My man Wayne Cochran was appointment entertainment. He was running a band with at least a dozen musicians. They were so damn tight it hurt. The Riders always drove home the point with the heaviest of jazz-funk bass lines and horn sections that were overwhelming.  Wayne, of course, was a handbook on showmanship. I would love to get in contact with him.
Kids today think they're having fun. Forget it. We put a copyright on fun in 1969.
We were doing the popcorn and the funky chicken.
Had to make a few bucks and I was truly blessed. I'd hooked up with WFLD - now Fox 32 - and was working a variety of jobs: news writer, on-camera sports reporter, etc. It was a wonderful rush for a 21 year old kid. 21 years old? Actually on the tube? Couldn't happen today ...No News Director would have the guts.
Here's the deal ... TV, especially UHF, was still very embryonic. I wound up doing all those gigs at 'FLD because the station was running on a short leash budget. My salary was about 200 bucks a week. That wasn't bad since I never spent more than about 300 dollars a week.
Chet Coppock  
LOL ... good stuff, Chet ... I can TOTALLY relate to spending 50% more than what you're earning ... and STILL have that problem today!!! (lol) kk  

Hey Kent,
1969 was the year that I graduated from Falconer Grammar School in Chicago. It was also the year that I discovered bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, The Doors, Three Dog Night, Jimi Hendrix, Elephants Memory and one hit wonder The Bubble Puppy (who I was surprised to see in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame One Hit Wonder Exhibit).
I grew up listening to my older brother's music collection (10 Years Older) ... Elvis, the Crewcuts, the Everly Brothers, Roger Miller, West Side Story soundtrack, etc. It was a great foundation to Rock N Roll. But when I saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, at 8 years of age, I ran out and bought Meet The Beatles on vinyl and my whole world changed. (Although I have always been an Elvis fan).
1969 was also the year that I began my High School Years at Prosser Vocational. That opened up my eyes and ears to many different types of music ... Santana, Stevie Wonder, the Temptations, and many non-white bands, being that Prosser was a non-district school. You could live anywhere in the city, and attend Prosser. I made many friends of all different races and religions during that time, and still have many friendships from that era.
Mark Zimmerman
Hayward, CA

'69 MEMORIES: What a great year. I spent most of that year in the 8th grade or Junior High (when did it become middle school? lol) and had a newspaper route. I used to build plastic model cars and the entire line-up of '69 Chevrolets became my favorite cars and remain so to this day (a few years later my best friend bought a '69 Chevelle SS396 and taught me to drive standard shift with it). That year I decided to go to Trade School to learn the Printing Business after getting a sampling of it in the Jr. High Print Shop, so that year had a big effect on my life because I worked as a Printer from 1973 up until 2008.
So much great music that year ... the Beatles, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Motown still cranking out great songs and The Rolling Stones, which you mentioned and always kind of makes me chuckle that Honky Tonk Women got knocked out of the #1 spot by Sugar, Sugar although I do love both songs.  (Side-note:  a few years ago I had the good fortune to meet and talk with both Ron Dante and Andy Kim at different times and found them both to be excellent performers as well as very nice people.)  It shows what a wide variety of music was on the radio back then.
I certainly remember the moon landing because our entire extended family was at a barbecue and everybody went inside to watch on TV. My youngest brother was born five days later on the 25th, he just turned 40 (Happy Birthday, Charlie!) and my cousin got married that summer, 1st wedding I ever went to, and she and her husband are celebrating 40 years of marriage this year.
Of course, I watched all the news reports about Woodstock, but at 13 years old, no way could I have gone, although I live about two hours drive from the site.  (I did manage to go to Woodstock '94 ... lots of fun).
My summer ended on a bad note when, in late August, I was nearly killed in a car accident with my brother, cousin and 16 yr old next door neighbor in his brand new '69 Volkswagen Fastback (remember those?). Fortunately, we all survived, but I spent four weeks in the hospital (riding shotgun without seatbelts) and started High School in October instead of September and walked around with two black eyes for about six months.
Anyway, lots of great music including the now much over-played Suspicious Minds and the DJs on WABC playing around when the song faded out and then came back again. I used to love that and nowadays I never hear that version anymore even though the song gets played several times a day by every station in my area.  (I know, we don't need to hear it, but I would love to hear that version on the radio once in awhile)
That's about it for me on 1969 (please excuse the rambling!)
Thanks, Kent, for all you do
Orange, CT

69: Those numbers are not JUST for what some of you are thinking.‘69 the year is indelibly etched in MY mind due to many of the things that a lot of you have mentioned this year in the Forgotten Hits salute. 
For ME, it was when I realized that (during that summer and fall) all types of music clashed and collided to become the true soundtrack of the end of our collective adolescence. Think about it. A WHOLE generation had known about ELVIS and bad movies. Some of his songs were sorta relevant … and then “Suspicious Minds” came out … a career rejuvenator for sure. The Beatles hit their peak (some suggest two years prior) with the release of Abbey Road that fall. CCR was becoming the biggest American rock band. The Stones had “Honky Tonk Women” even with the erased tracks of their founder Brian Jones. Motown was still making relevant music, although NOW mostly influenced by what Sly Stone was up to. Stax was still puttin’ down the grooves … although they maybe had peaked the year before … (Don’t count “Shaft” later, as that was the beginning of the end for the Stax empire.) Bubblegum was still in the mix with Bobby Sherman’s “Little Woman” … although the best true bubblegum was gone already. The ROCK of The WHO, Janis, Jimi, The DOORS were all at the peak of their powers then. The SOUL was still magnificent from Detroit, Memphis, NY … not yet morphing into Disco … although SOME of the roots of Disco CAME from that year … (Listen to the rhythms and beats in Soul songs from ’69.) Folk singers could still sell records … Dylan, Baez, Arlo, Simon & Garfunkel, etc … PURE POP FUN was still available from The Turtles (although their peak was in ’67 & 68.) Lou Christie was a hit-maker from another era … (only gone for two or three years!) And there were STILL a lot of regional hit records in each major city. Just look at all of the WLS surveys that Kent has been posting recently. Even WABC was still playing some regional faves, even at THAT late date. Some records I heard on WFIL and WIBBAGE in Philly were LOCAL records that NEVER made it to NY or Chicago … and could only BE played in Philly today! But … just what WAS the commonality of all this music?? We loved almost ALL of it! And several songs could be played by ONE station. Not all, mind you … the really esoteric tracks were played by the AOR stations … the POP stuff on AM … but for ONCE, AM played a lot of “heavy” hits and a LOT of black music that was only played on “SOUL” stations just a year before … when CHAOS ruled the airwaves … the killings of very popular figures, and not ONE of our generations MUSIC LEGENDS had yet croaked. It’s not because I was 16 in ’69 that made me superior in my tastes in music (which entailed ALL of the above in some magical place in my head) … no. It was the fact that it all was HEARD by the masses.
Today, there is no such thing as a MASS appeal station for ANY genre. Perhaps COUNTRY is close, but even THEY are broken up by niches and old vs. new country. And OLD means the 90’s. I also think THIS is why Classic Hit stations of today that actually PLAY a little of ALL that we remember are doing so WELL in most cities. We didn’t stop liking music in ’69. I know I didn’t. But by ’89, I was gone. New music didn’t cater to ME anymore. BECAUSE much of it was only played on SELECT STATIONS. They were already sliced and diced into little corners of the FORMAT world of consultants and certain programmers. THAT’S when it all went bad. 
It’s not a recent thing. It started in the 80’s ... or maybe even the late 70’s!!!!!!! So my memories of ’69 are VERY fond. I was able to deliver my papers on my bike still, and STILL have time to head to the beach in a nearby Jersey Shore town. I was TETHERED to my earpiece on my paper route (so much so, that a customer asked my mom if I was DEAF! Mom laughed and she thought the woman was gonna hit her. She explained that it was a pocket RADIO that I had in my ear from morning ‘til night!) I didn’t NEED it at the beach that summer, as almost EVERYONE had on either 77 WABC or 102.7 WNEW-FM. There was a chasm already developing between the freaks and the straights … but I was a little of BOTH; musically anyway.
All I know is what I feel NOW. I feel like it was a special time when the stars DID align and the moon was in the seventh pass ... and Jupiter was aligned with Mars. We THOUGHT peace would guide the planet. Alas it didn’t … but musically MILLIONS of us were on one or maybe only TWO wavelengths. And THAT was very special. It will NEVER happen that way again. 
I didn’t get to Woodstock, as my liberal MOTHER wouldn’t let me go. My CONSERVATIVE father said, “Let him go.” Mom won out … as SHE was listening to the MOR station on the radio describing what was about to happen, and SHE didn’t want her oldest being exposed to that “crowd.” Little did she KNOW I knew the crowd. I wasn’t a 100% freak, nor was I a 100% geek.  I knew HOW to get there, and I had a ride!!! But I didn’t go. I savored the MOVIE the following year. I bought BOTH albums … and even got the 4 CD set a few years back … with songs NOT in the movie. I play it once a year around that time JUST to try to LIVE it for real. Then we became adults VERY quickly as a generation, and it all seemed like a dream. It wasn’t. It was a very REAL … but somewhat SURREALISTIC time for ALL of us middle Boomers.
Thanks for reading my thoughts! ‘69 indeed!
Big Jay Sorensen

By 1969, the LP was quickly becoming the preferred way to purchase and listen to music. This trend is clearly in evidence as you look at some of the Biggest LPs of 1969 (according to Billboard Magazine ... you'll find OUR list coming up in the next day or two):

1) In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida - Iron Butterfuly
2) Hair - Original Cast
3) Blood, Sweat And Tears - Blood, Sweat and Tears
4) Bayou Country - Creedence Clearwater Revival
5) Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin
6) At Folsom Prison - Johnny Cash
7) Funny Girl - Soundtrack (huh?!?!?)
8) The Beatles (White Album) - The Beatles
9) Greatest Hits - Donovan
10) Greatest Hits - The Association

"In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" coming in as the biggest album of the year was a bit of a surprise ... it debuted on the charts in July of 1968 ... but rode the chart for 140 weeks, or nearly three years!!! Incredibly, it never reached the #1 spot yet still earned enough points during the year to finish on top of Billboard's LP list. Their follow-up LP, "Ball", also finished in the year-end Top 20.

Three Dog Night's debut album made the year-end chart as did classics like "Nashville Skyline" by Bob Dylan, "Cheap Thrills" by Big Brother and the Holding Company and "Stand" by Sly and the Family Stone. And who could forget the cult-classic "Switched On Bach" by Walter Carlos and Benjamin Folkman?!?! (After all kinds of media coverage, it finished up as the 21st biggest album of the year!)

For a look back at another classic album released in 1969, please visit our other web page and click on the Dusty Springfield link ... "Dusty In Memphis" is regarded as one of the best albums of all-time today ... yet upon its original release it only managed a #99 showing on The Billboard Chart.
Click here: Forgotten Hits - DUSTY SPRINGFIELD

Other '69 albums classics include the first Crosby, Stills and Nash album and the first and only Blind Faith LP. Creedence Clearwater Revival would release THREE LPs that year!!! ("Bayou Country", "Green River" and "Willie And The Poorboys" were virtually NEVER off my turn-table in 1969 or 1970!) "Abbey Road" was released too late in the year to make 1969's year-end chart (but wound up as the #4 album of 1970.) Other notable releases include "Let It Bleed" by The Rolling Stones, "Tommy" by The Who, (the first Rock Opera), "In The Court Of The Krimson King" by King Krimson, the self-titled album releases by The Band, The Chicago Transit Authority, Blood, Sweat and Tears, The Allman Brothers Band, It's A Beautiful Day and Santana, the first two Led Zeppelin releases, "Hot Buttered Soul" by Isaac Hayes and "Volunteers" by The Jefferson Airplane. Good stuff ... and necessary components of ANY complete record collection.