Survey Digging: May 31, 1969

It’s time for a visit to the Airheads Radio Survey Archive to check out what folks were listening to around the country fifty years ago, as May 1969 drew to a close. We’ll check out the No. 31 record at four stations and note the No. 1 and No. 2 records as well.

We’ll start in New York City with the Music Power Survey at WABC. Parked in the No. 31 slot in the survey was “Israelites” by Desmond Dekker & The Aces. The first portion of the second sentence of the Wikipedia entry on the record sums up my memory of the single: “Although few could understand all the lyrics . . .” I recall straining my ears to figure out what the song was about and not really succeeding for years. Wikipedia goes on to note, “the single was the first UK reggae number one and among the first to reach the US top ten (peaking at number 9). It combined the Rastafarian religion with rude boy concerns, to make what has been described as a ‘timeless masterpiece that knew no boundaries’.”

(The “rude boy” culture in Jamaica, another Wikipedia entry points out, correlates roughly with what’s called “gangsta” culture in the U.S.)

Sitting at No. 2 at WABC fifty years ago was “Love (Can Make You Happy)” by Mercy, while the No. 1 record was the Beatles’ “Get Back.”

We’ll head south along the East Coast and make a stop in Miami, where we’ll take a look at the Fabulous 56 Survey from WQAM. The No. 31 record there as May 1969 came to a close was “Goodbye” by Mary Hopkin. The song was written by Paul McCartney (though credited, as was the arrangement at the time, to John Lennon as well). McCartney also produced the recording, adding bass, an acoustic guitar solo and the somewhat odd acoustic guitar introduction. I recall liking the record, which makes sense as it’s kind of a sappy and sad love song, and anyone who’s read this blog more than once knows that’s one of my soft spots. The record peaked at No. 13 in the Billboard Hot 100 and went to No. 6 on the magazine’s easy listening chart.

The No. 2 record on the Fabulous 56 was the Guess Who’s “These Eyes” and the Beatles’ “Get Back” and its flip, “Don’t Let Me Down,” were listed as a double No. 1.

Our next stop is in Tucson, Arizona, home of KTKT and its mundanely named “Top Forty.” The No. 31 record in that part of the southwest on May 31, 1969, was “Pinball Wizard” by the Who. The centerpiece in the group’s rock opera Tommy, the record – full of slashing acoustic guitars and suspended chords (among my favorite sounds) – doesn’t sound nearly as loud or disruptive to me now as it did fifty years ago. I know I didn’t hear it a lot back then, but I sought it out about a year later when I came across the piano arrangement for the song and began to work on it at the keyboard. I got pretty good at it, but it never sounded as cool on the piano as it does on the Who’s guitars, so I let it go. The record went to 19 on the Hot 100.

Sitting at No. 2 on KTKT fifty years ago was, again, “Love (Can Make You Happy)” by Mercy, and the station’s No. 1 record was “Love Theme From Romeo & Juliet” by Henry Mancini.

I was going to end this trip in the Twin Cities, but WDGY’s survey only goes to No. 30, and KDWB didn’t release a 6+30 Survey until June 2. So we’ll finish our excursion with the Entertainment Survey from WLTH in Gary, Indiana. The No. 31 record there fifty years ago today was a favorite of mine: “Where’s The Playground Susie” by Glen Campbell. I wrote some years ago about discovering the song on a live Campbell recording given to me in a box of cassettes: “[W]hen I heard Campbell’s live performance of what was another [Jimmy] Webb gem, the sweep of its melody, the sadness and confusion in its words and the playground metaphor all made me sit up and take notice.” The record went to No. 26 on the Hot 100, to No. 10 on the easy listening chart and to No. 28 on the country chart.

The No. 2 record at WLTH fifty years ago was, as in New York and Tucson, “Love (Can Make You Happy)” by Mercy, and – as in Miami – the No. 1 spot was the double-sided “Get Back/Don’t Let Me Down” by the Beatles.

(As it happens, I could not have pulled any information from a June 2, 1969, edition of KDWB’s 6+30. The station did not begin calling its survey the 6+30 until the end of June in 1969. Before then, the station’s survey was called the Heavy Hit List. It had other names earlier than that, I know. Perhaps someday I will sort them all out. Note added June 1, 2019.)

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