Saturday Single No. 653

As this month opened, we did here one of our exercises in Symmetry, matching the number of years in the past with a position on the Billboard Hot 100. In that particular case, we were in the year 1963, and we ended up listening to a dismal Al Martino ditty, “Painted Tainted Rose,” that topped off at No. 15 on the Hot 100 and No. 3 on the magazine’s Middle-Road Singles chart, the chart that these days is called Adult Contemporary.

It was a dissatisfying conclusion, as sometimes happens when blindly heading toward specific positions on specific charts. But as we seek a Saturday Single this morning, I thought we’d head back to the summer of 1963 and take a look at the top ten on the Billboard Middle-Road Singles chart during the second week or August.

That’s the kind of stuff that was playing on the radio stations we listened to on Kilian Boulevard at the time, when I was preparing for fifth grade and reading news stories in the Minneapolis Star that I didn’t entirely understand about places like Mississippi and Vietnam. I imagine I’ll recognize some of that top ten and find a tune suitable for an August morning fifty-six years later. So here we go:

“Blowin’ In The Wind” by Peter, Paul & Mary
“More” by Kai Winding
“Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport” by Rolf Harris
“Hopeless” by Andy Williams
“Abilene” by George Hamilton IV
“Green, Green” by the New Christy Minstrels
“Detroit City” by Bobby Bare
“Danke Schoen” by Wayne Newton
“My Whole World Is Falling Down” by Brenda Lee
“True Love Never Runs Smooth” by Gene Pitney

Well, I’m familiar with seven of those, and I’d say I remember four of them from that long-ago season. The three I’m not familiar with by title are those by Andy Williams, Brenda Lee and Gene Pitney; none of the three show up in the digital stacks. (I thought the Pitney might, as I seem to recall scavenging a Pitney anthology once upon a time.) Even after a trip to YouTube, I recall none of the three.

And then there are the three I know most likely from other times: “Danke Schoen,” “Abilene” and “Detroit City.” I know Newton’s single, and I’ve never liked it (just as I’ve never liked anything I’ve heard from Newton, probably because of his voice). I know the song “Abilene,” most likely from a different version, as I have no memory of Hamilton’s version, which was itself a cover of Bob Gibson’s 1957 recording. And I know Bare’s “Detroit City,” but only because I’ve come across it in the many years since. I doubt I knew any of those three back in the summer of 1963.

Then, there are four from that top ten that I generally recall hearing from the radio either at home or at friends’ homes or wherever: “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “More,” “Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport” and “Green, Green.” I recall the Rolf Harris single mostly because I didn’t understand that the word “me” in the title was a possessive; I wondered why the singer wanted to be tied down like a kangaroo.

The other three have been part of my musical environment since that summer, especially the Peter, Paul & Mary and New Christy Minstrels singles. In the case of “More,” I have no doubt recalled the song itself over the years more than the specific single; versions of “More” floated around the easy listening world in amazing numbers. (I once put up a post here that offered the original version of “More” from the film Mondo Cane and eighteen covers of the song.)

Still, when I plunged into music collecting online in early 2000 and came across Winding’s version of the song, I was pretty sure it was the version I recalled hearing when I was a sprout. Call it eighty percent certainty.

As to the other two singles, I’m not sure I need to say anything. I remember hearing them – and liking them – in 1963, and Peter, Paul & Mary have popped up here often enough to make my opinions of them obvious. I also recall assessing “Green, Green” here favorably.

So how to decide between the two records this morning? Well, I’ve featured “Green, Green” here before at least once, and as far as I recall (and I may be wrong), for as many times as I’ve written about the music of Peter, Paul & Mary, their cover of perhaps Bob Dylan’s greatest song has seemingly never been featured here. And it was omnipresent during the summer of 1963. It was No. 1 on the Middle-Road Singles chart for five weeks and went to No. 2 on the Hot 100. And the album from which it was pulled – In The Wind – was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for five weeks.

So here’s Peter, Paul & Mary’s version of “Blowin’ In The Wind.” It’s today’s Saturday Single.

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