A couple of days ago, I posted a preview of today’s post, a video of Los Bravos’ 1968 single “Bring A Little Lovin’,” which ended up peaking at No. 51. What I forgot to mention in that preview was that in the Billboard Hot 100 of May 11, 1968 – forty-three years ago today – the record was sitting at No. 135, on the very last rung of the Bubbling Under section of the chart, with nothing underneath it but air.
And it was a great record.
That, to me, is the joy of these Chart Digging posts, finding record that were never huge hits but are still records worth hearing. Now, a good number of the records I highlight from the lower levels of the Hot 100 aren’t nearly as good as the Los Bravos side I highlighted earlier this week. After all, I do enjoy records that are odd, and I do shed light on some that are horrendously bad. But they’re all fun, especially those that deserved a wider hearing than they got.
So, armed with some books and the irreplaceable assistance of folks who post obscure music at YouTube, I went looking for gems in the lower levels of the May 11, 1968 chart.
As a point of reference, here are the tunes that were in the Top Ten in that chart:
“Honey” by Bobby Goldsboro
“Tighten Up” by Archie Bell & The Drells
“Young Girl” by the Union Gap featuring Gary Puckett
“The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” by Hugo Montenegro
“Cry Like A Baby” by the Box Tops
“A Beautiful Morning” by the Rascals
“Cowboys to Girls” by the Intruders
“The Unicorn” by the Irish Rovers
“Mrs. Robinson” by Simon & Garfunkel
“Lady Madonna” by the Beatles
Well, except for the Goldsboro single, that’s a nice set. The Irish Rovers’ tune isn’t all that great, either, but it’s not nearly as bad as “Honey.” And there are some obvious gems in there.
There are a few gems in the far reaches of the Hot 100, too. And I’ve found a couple of things that are more cut glass than gem, but they’re worth a look, too.
Among the music the Texas Gal brought with her to Minnesota almost a decade ago was a multi-disc set of Neil Diamond’s music. For me, one of the great surprises in that set was a tune called “Brooklyn Roads.” Brooklyn after World War II – because of its ethnic make-up, because of its proximity to and distance from Manhattan, because of the Dodgers – has become a myth unto itself, and it seems to me that any creative artist who makes the post-war borough a central part of any work risks sliding into cliché. But drawing on his childhood and youth in that New York borough, Diamond manages not only to avoid most clichés (the butcher shop downstairs, true though it might be, is one), but sketches a detailed and moving portrait of himself in that urban setting.
“Brooklyn Roads” was at No. 98 forty-three years ago today and would climb as high as No. 58. By May 1968, Diamond had already placed nine records in the Hot 100; he’d wind up with fifty-six, thirteen of them in the Top Ten and three at No. 1.
Most folks my age think of Michelle Lee as the gal who played Karen MacKenzie on Knots Landing, the CBS television drama that ran from 1979 into 1993. (That span of years surprised me; I had no clue the show was around for that long.) But in 1968, Michelle Lee made her one appearance in the Hot 100 when “L. David Sloane” went to No. 52. It’s a cute record, and in the Hot 100 from forty-three years ago today, it was at No. 72.
As 1967 had turned to 1968, the Lemon Pipers had found their way to No. 1 with “Green Tambourine,” a pleasant confection from the bubblegum factory at Buddah. By the time the spring of 1968 rolled around, the Pipers and the Buddah production folks were grasping at straws. Sitting at No. 101 in the Bubbling Under portion of the chart was “Jelly Jungle (Of Orange Marmalade),” a mess of a record redeemed only by what I think are a few slightly naughty double entendres. (Read the lyrics included with the video.) Abysmal as it was, “Jelly Jungle (Of Orange Marmalade)” managed to get to No. 51. [In a comment below, friend and frequent commenter Yah Shure notes that the video originally linked was the album version of the recording. I’ve since linked to the single version. which he said was a favorite of his at the time. The album version is here.]
Despite knowing many bits of Beatles trivia, I was unaware of the group called Grapefruit until this morning. My first thought when I listened to “Elevator” was that it sounded a fair amount like the Beatles and Badfinger. So I did some digging: Grapefruit was formed by George Alexander, who was also signed as a songwriter by the Beatles’ Apple Music Publishing Ltd. And the group, according to Wikipedia, got some help from the Beatles: “The group was launched by the Beatles with a press conference in 1968, on January 17, with the first single ‘Dear Delilah’. It went to number 21 in the UK single chart in February 1968. Paul McCartney directed a promo film (never released) for the single ‘Elevator’. John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison attended and helped in their recording sessions for the singles, as Grapefruit didn’t have a producer at the time.” Forty-three years ago today, “Elevator” was at No. 113, and it would go no higher. But it sounds better than that. So I consider the information from Wikipedia, the credit “Produced by: Apple Music Ltd.” on the single and the general sound of the record, and it all makes sense.
Another good track I found this morning was a slice of propulsive British R&B. Sitting at No. 126 in the Bubbling Under portion of the chart was “Looking Back” by the Spencer Davis Group. I have to wonder how a record this good can miss, but it didn’t do well, climbing only another thirteen spots before disappearing. It was the last time the Spencer Davis Group would come close to the Hot 100.
Near the bottom of the Bubbling Under section from the May 11, 1968, Hot 100, we find the Gentrys. After “Keep On Dancing” got to No. 4 in 1965, the band from Memphis kept on trying to replicate that record’s performance. Five more singles on MGM failed to reach the Top 40 (three of them bubbled under but failed to crack the Hot 100), and the band ended up at Bell Records in early 1968. “I Can’t Go Back To Denver” was at No. 133 in the Bubbling Under section on this date in 1968. It would rise one more spot, to No. 132, before falling out of the chart. I thought it was a pretty good single. (After that, the Gentrys went to Sun Records and saw five more singles reach the Hot 100 or its Bubbling Under section although none hit the Top 40. The best performance came from their No. 52 version of “Cinnamon Girl,” which I wrote about briefly last month.)