As 1968 approached its ending forty-two years ago today, I don’t think I was doing anything remarkable. I know that, six days earlier, I’d watched the Minnesota Vikings in their first playoff game ever (a 24-14 loss to the Baltimore Colts). And I imagine that, as we were all out of school for the week, Rick, Rob and I spent some time playing tabletop hockey in our basement.
We also probably spent an evening or two that week over at St. Cloud State’s Halenbeck Hall watching college basketball. In the late 1960s (and into the early 1970s, I think), St. Cloud State hosted a holiday tournament, the Granite City Classic. (The tournament name lives on, but for many years, it’s been an event for high school teams, not college.) One of the draws for the 1967 and 1968 tournaments, if my memory serves, was the play of a team from Hiram Scott College, a small and short-lived (1965-70) school based in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. The Scotts, if I recall correctly, ran and pressed; I do remember that they played with an athleticism rarely seen on the floor of Halenbeck Hall and I think they won the two tournaments they played in St. Cloud. And I recall Rick, Rob and I marveling at the Scotts’ style of play.
But beyond those admittedly vague memories of watching college ball and an assumption of playing hockey in the basement, nothing pops out of my memory of the last days of 1968.
Perhaps the Billboard Top Ten from December 28, 1968 – forty-two years ago today – will help:
“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye
“For Once In My Life” by Stevie Wonder
“Love Child” by Diana Ross & The Supremes
“Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell
“Stormy” by the Classics IV featuring Dennis Yost
“Abraham, Martin and John” by Dion
“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”
by Diana Ross & The Supremes & The Temptations
“Who’s Making Love” by Johnnie Taylor
“I Love How You Love Me” by Bobby Vinton
“Cloud Nine” by the Temptations
With the exception of the Vinton tune, that’s one hell of a Top Ten. There’s lots of Motown and a dash of Southern R&B; a couple of ballads, one written by Jimmy Webb; and the peak of Dion’s amazing career. This would be a great hour of radio.
And, as I looked at this Top Ten last evening, I realized that it holds the second third record that I’ll file under Jukebox Regrets. I have no idea how I managed to put together more than two hundred favorite records and not include “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me.” As I’ve noted before, I wasn’t actively listening to radio a lot in those days, but the Supremes and Temptations, like a number of other groups and performers, were inescapable. A soundtrack kid knew their tunes simply by breathing the same air as did his contemporaries. And “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” spoke to the budding romantic in me. I think I even attached the song’s pledge to a specific young lady, even though I had as much chance of keeping that pledge as I did of playing basketball for Hiram Scott College.
In any event, the record, which had leaped from No. 17 to No. 7 in the past week and was on its way to No. 2, probably should have been in the Ultimate Jukebox I put together this past year:
And, as always, there were some interesting sounds further on down in the Hot 100.
At No. 29, we find the Magic Lanterns and “Shame, Shame.” The Lanterns were from Warrrington, England, and “Shame, Shame,” which would go no higher than No. 29, was their only Top 40 hit. Three other records by the group made the Billboard Hot 100, including “One Night Stand,” which went to No. 74 in 1971 (and which I believe I wrote about a few years ago).
From No. 29, we drop quite a ways further in the Hot 100, coming to rest at No. 67, where we find the last Hot 100 hit during the 1960s for Eric Burdon & The Animals. “White Houses” might not have been a great record, but it carried among its virtues, of course, Burdon’s amazing voice. The record went no higher than No. 67 and was the last of nineteen Hot 100 hits for the band in its original run; a 1983 reunion of the group – billed simply as the Animals – resulted in “The Night,” which went to No. 48.
From No. 67, we’ll drop deeper yet and spend the last half of today’s exploration in the nether regions of the Billboard chart. At No. 97, we find a trio from Memphis called the Goodees with their teenage romance drama, “Condition Red.” The single owes a great deal to the Shangri-Las’ 1964 epic “Leader of the Pack,” but whatever the Goodees – or more likely, their production team – got from listening to the Shangri-Las, the wittiness didn’t come along with it. The record, the trio’s only hit, peaked at No. 46.
During his nearly fifteen-year career, until his death at age thirty-seven in 1973, Bobby Darin put forty-eight singles into the Hot 100 and charted as well with a couple of EPs. And given the stylistic changes in Darin’s music during the last six or so of those years, one wonders if record companies – his singles in the last seven years of his life were on Atlantic, Direction and Motown – had any idea what to do with him. As All-Music Guide says: “There’s been considerable discussion about whether Bobby Darin should be classified as a rock & roll singer, a Vegas hipster cat, an interpreter of popular standards, or even a folk-rocker. He was all of these and none of these.” In 1968, Darin released Born Walden Robert Cassotto, a rock album laced, says AMG, with psychedelic touches. It didn’t do well. But a single from the album, “Long Line Rider,” got some attention, making it to No. 79. Forty-two years ago today, “Long Line Rider” was in the second week of its climb, sitting at No. 110 in the Hot 100’s Bubbling Under section. I couldn’t find a video of the single, but I found a clip of Darin performing the tune on the February 20, 1969, episode of The Dean Martin Show.
Finally, near the very bottom of the Billboard chart for December 28, 1968, we find The Fun and Games, which Joel Whitburn’s Top Pop Singles describes as a bubblegum pop band from Houston, Texas. The group’s lone hit, “The Grooviest Girl In The World,” was bubbling under at No. 119, up eight places from the week before and on its way to No. 78.
And that’s it for today. Odd, Pop and I will be back here Thursday, and I think we’ll take a look at some of our favorite listens from the first decade of the twenty-first century.