Not What I Expected

Here’s what the Top Fifteen in the Billboard Easy Listening chart looked like fifty years ago this week:

“Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat
“(Theme From) Valley Of The Dolls” by Dionne Warwick
“Love Is Blue” by Al Martino
“To Each His Own” by Frankie Laine
“If You Ever Leave Me” by Jack Jones
“Don’t Tell My Heart To Stop Loving You” by Jerry Vale
“Winds Of Change” by Ray Conniff & The Singers
“Cab Driver” by the Mills Brothers
“We Can Fly” by the Cowsills
“Ame Caline (Soul Coaxing)” by Raymond Lefevre & His Orchestra
“In The Sunshine Days” by Tony Sandler & Ralph Young
“Kiss Me Goodbye” by Petula Clark
“Goin’ Out Of My Head/Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” by the Lettermen
“Mission-Impossible” by Lalo Schifrin
“L. David Sloane” by Michele Lee

As this is the first time I’ve actually dived into a weekly round-up of the Billboard charts now called Adult Contemporary, I chose one from 1968 for a reason. I thought that, given the fact that most of the music I heard around the house during my youth came from the Twin Cities radio giant WCCO, I would recognize all or nearly all of the records at the top of what was then called the Easy Listening chart.

I was wrong. Very wrong.

Of those fifteen records, I would have – before this morning – recognized only four well enough to cite both title and performer: Those would be the records by Paul Mauriat, the Mills Brothers, the Lettermen and Lalo Schifrin.

I would have known, obviously, that the Martino record was a cover of the Mauriat tune; I would have recognized Warwick’s voice; I would have recognized the songs offered by Lefevre and Clark and recognized Clark’s voice; and I likely would have recognized Conniff’s work while admitting I’d never heard the song before, even though I collect his work when I find it.

(There’s a reason for that last. I’ve never heard “Winds Of Change” because it was never on one of Conniff’s albums; it was on the soundtrack album to the movie How To Save A Marriage And Ruin Your Life.)

Titles for those records mentioned in that paragraph would likely have eluded me. And the other records in that list of fifteen would have brought shrugs. (In the case of Michele Lee’s “L. David Sloane,” a very baffled shrug.)

This first experiment, then, in digging into one of the weekly Adult Contemporary charts has left me wondering how much I actually know. Did I just choose a bad week? Or do I know far less easy listening music – and far less about that music – than I thought?

Those questions hang in the air and will be answered as I try this experiment a couple times more in the months to come. In the meantime, let’s listen to the record that was probably my favorite out of those I knew at the top of the Easy Listening chart fifty years ago this week: The Lettermen’s live performance of “Goin’ Out Of My Head/Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You.” It went to No. 2 on the Easy Listening chart and to No. 7 on the pop chart.

A note: As we are still emptying and moving boxes, I lost track of the fact that yesterday was the first Wednesday of March. Thus, my monthly look back at 1968 via my monthly posts of ten years ago went missing. It will run tomorrow.


2 Responses to “Not What I Expected”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    Your experience isn’t unique, whiteray: even though I heard plenty of WCCO at the breakfast table, most of those songs are likewise unfamiliar. I’d chalk that up primarily to ‘CCO’s full-service, personality format, which would not have been music-intensive enough to encompass the entire top fifteen in its playlist. Many of their personalities still chose the music to play on their own shows, too.

    The Cowsills certainly would have been far too “rock” for the conservatively-programmed adult stations in the Twin Cities. In addition to the ones you remembered, I heard Dionne, the Cowsills and Pet Clark on the two top-40s. Raymond Lefevre made the cut on KQRS and, to a lesser extent, Red Owl-owned KRSI, which had recently hired KDWB’s Tac Hammer as PD and gone oldies/adult top-40 in February.

  2. jb says:

    The easy-listening charts of the 60s are a visit to another world, and I look forward to future installments of this.

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