My ongoing tussle with a nasty sinus infection – eight weeks and counting with two different antibiotics – reminded me today of a couple of school years when I spent a fair amount of time home ill: During eighth grade, my tonsils kept telling the world that they were no longer fit company for me, burdening me with a series of sore throats that culminated in the sorest throat of all after they were removed. And during my junior year, I spent a fair number of days home complaining of ailments that – looking back honestly – were likely caused by nothing more than a desire to stay home from school.
Whatever the cause, radio was one of the comforts during sick days at home. In the earlier of the two academic years mentioned here, I’d bring our big brown Zenith up from the kitchen and – unhip creature that I was – leave it tuned to WCCO in Minneapolis. I’d listen to the morning shows – Boone & Erickson, Howard Viken – and turn the radio off in annoyance when Arthur Godfrey’s national show came on the air. I’d read in silence for an hour and then turn the radio back on when Godfrey was gone.
By the time of my junior year, there was no need to haul the radio upstairs. I had Grandpa’s old RCA sitting on my nightstand, but the only times it was tuned to WCCO were for Vikings football and North Stars hockey. (Though I followed the Minnesota Twins baseball team, I rarely listened to their games on the radio.) The rest of the time, the RCA was tuned to Top 40: KDWB in the Twin Cities during the day and either WJON right across the railroad tracks or WLS in Chicago during the evening.
I know pretty well what I would have heard had I spent a day home in late October 1969, my junior year. But I wondered what would have been on the menu had my increasingly unreliable tonsils acted up during the last week of October 1966. So I went to look.
Here’s the Billboard Top Ten for the last week of October 1966:
“96 Tears” by ? and the Mysterians
“Last Train to Clarksville” by the Monkees
“Reach Out I’ll Be There” by the Four Tops
“Poor Side of Town” by Johnny Rivers
“Walk Away Renee” by the Left Banke
“Dandy” by Herman’s Hermits
“What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” by Jimmy Ruffin
“Hooray for Hazel” by Tommy Roe
“Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow” by the Rolling Stones
“See See Rider” by Eric Burdon & The Animals
Even though I didn’t truly listen to pop music at the time, I remember all of these from those days, which is a sad thing in the cases of “Dandy” and “Hooray for Hazel,” two of my least-favorite songs from the time. All of the rest are pretty good, with a few deserving special mention: “96 Tears” was inescapable and a great record, as were the Four Tops’ record and “Walk Away Renee.” The Rolling Stones record was likely the loudest thing that group ever produced, as I was reminded a few years ago when I ripped my near-mint 45 to an mp3.
And, as always, there were some gems and some interesting records once one went beyond the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66’s “Mas Que Nada” was sitting at No. 47, up two spots from a week earlier. The group would eventually have three Top 40 hits in 1968, with two them – “The Look of Love” and “The Fool on the Hill” – making the Top Ten, and Mendes would reach the Top 40 in 1983 and 1984 under his own name. “Mas Que Nada” would spend another week at No. 47, then a week at No. 48 before falling out of the Hot 100.
The Sandpipers had reached the Top Ten earlier in the year with “Guantanamera,” which had peaked at No. 9, and in October, they reached the Top 40 again with another Latin-tinged record, a cover of the garage rock warhorse “Louie Louie” translated into Spanish. At first listen a tribute to cognitive dissonance, the record was at No. 59 during the last week of October and would peak at No. 30 during the last week of November.
A few slots lower, we find the Olympics, an R&B group from Compton, California, which reached the Top Ten in 1958 with “Western Movies” and the Top 40 in 1963 with “The Bounce.” (Recording as the Marathons in 1961, the same performers charted at No. 20 with “Peanut Butter” and its immortal command: “Scarf now!”) In October 1966, the group was at No. 63 with “Baby, Do The Philly Dog,” a lively workout that I’ve seen called a Northern Soul classic. “Baby, Do The Philly Dog” fell to No. 70 the next week and then dropped out of sight.
The Arbors were a vocal quartet from Ann Arbor, Michigan, who would reach the Top 40 in 1969, when their cover of the Box Tops’ “The Letter” would go to No. 20. In late October 1966, the group’s second single (the first went nowhere, says Wikipedia) was in the lower portions of the Hot 100 and moving up slowly. “A Symphony For Susan” would eventually peak at No. 51 during the last week of November and the first week of December, but during the last week of October, the record – a traditional vocal workout – was sitting at No. 80.
By the time October 1966 rolled around, the Ronettes, backed by Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, had registered seven hits in the Hot 100, with five of them reaching the Top 40 in 1963 and 1964. From what I can tell – and according to Wikipedia – the last week of October 1966 marked the last appearance of the Ronettes in the Billboard Hot 100: “I Can Hear Music” was at No. 100 and would be there for exactly one week. (It had been in the Bubbling Under section at No. 120 a week earlier; it would fall back to Bubbling Under at No. 113 during the first week of November and then disappear from the chart entirely.)
Finally, sitting in the Bubbling Under section, we find the original version of “Wedding Bell Blues,” which would be a No. 1 single for the 5th Dimension in 1969. Songwriter Laura Nyro’s version, however, would not make the Hot 100. In the last week of October 1966, Nyro’s version of “Wedding Bell Blues” was at No. 127 and in its second week of Bubbling Under. The record would rise to No. 107, where it would spend the last two weeks of November before falling off the chart entirely.
Maybe tomorrow, we’ll take apart a cover version and see how it ticks. If not, we’ll be here Saturday.