‘It’s Good News Week . . .’

All right, it’s January 8, 1966, a Saturday. I was twelve, my sister was fifteen, and who knows what we might have been doing that day. But it’s a good bet that sometime during the day – quite likely after lunch – my sister and I ended up with dishwashing duty.

When we took care of the dishes in those days, my sister would tune the kitchen radio to 630, KDWB, to hear what the world of Top 40 sounded like while she washed and I dried. I would have greeted the radio tuning with a shrug, not really caring about Top 40 yet but nevertheless hearing enough of it around me that I would know the major hits of the time.

So what might we have heard on KDWB as we did the dishes that Saturday forty-nine years gone? Well, certainly stuff from the top of the station’s Fabulous Forty Survey released that day. The top single was “We Can Work It Out” by the Beatles, followed by Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound Of Silence.” No surprises there.

Then, at No. 3, we find “The Little Girl I Once Knew” by the Beach Boys, which was clearly better regarded in the Twin Cities than it was nationally, as it got to only No. 20 in the Billboard Hot 100. I imagine I’ve heard it one time or another over the years, but it’s not a record I remember. But then, as I’ve likely said here before, I’ve never been much of a Beach Boys fan, so it’s not unthinkable that “The Little Girl I Once Knew” might have slipped past unnoticed. As I listen this morning, I mentally shrug and think, “Yeah, it’s the Beach Boys. What next?”

And that’s where things might have gotten interesting in the kitchen and definitely get interesting nearly fifty years later, now that comparing surveys and charts and similar listings takes up some of my time. Sitting at No. 4 in the Fabulous Forty was a record I do not recall by a group whose name I thought might have been a joke: “It’s Good News Week” by the Hedgehoppers Anonymous.

It’s good news week
Someone’s dropped a bomb somewhere
Contaminating atmosphere
And blackening the sky

It’s good news week
Someone’s found a way to give
The rotting dead a will to live
Go on and never die

Have you heard the news
What did it say?
Who’s won that race?
What’s the weather like today?

It’s good news week
Families shake the need for gold
By stimulating birth control
We’re wanting less to eat

Lots of blood in Asia now
They’ve butchered off the sacred cow
They’ve got a lot to eat.

It’s good news week
Doctors finding many ways
Of wrapping brains on metal trays
To keep us from the heat

Bleak, surreal and utterly cheerful in its presentation, the record didn’t do nearly as well nationally as it did on KDWB, peaking in the Hot 100 at No. 48. And it wasn’t just KDWB; the record was No. 3 that week on WDGY, the Twin Cities’ other main Top 40 station. (It had peaked at No. 3 a week earlier at KDWB.)

Nor was it just the Twin Cities. In Chicago, “It’s Good News Week” went to No. 3 on WLS and No. 5 on WCFL. It went to No. 4 on CJCA in Edmonton, Alberta, and there are surveys at the Airheads Radio Survey Archive from a smattering of stations that show the record in the top ten.

It’s likely worth noting that the highest ranking found for the Hedgehoppers Anonymous’ single in any of the surveys at ARSA is the No. 1 slot on Radio London, a ship-based renegade station broadcasting to the United Kingdom from international waters. The record also went to No. 2 on the similarly based Radio Caroline South. As the Hedgehoppers Anonymous were from England, that makes a little sense.

But the record’s reception in the Twin Cities (and Chicago) seems odd. Just one of those things that happen, I guess. And if we ever heard the record during that hypothetical (but very likely) dishwashing session, I’m sure I would never have remembered it.

Addendum: I suppose I should note here in passing that “It’s Good News Week” was written and produced for the Hedgehoppers Anonymous by Jonathan King, who had a hit with “Everyone’s Gone To The Moon” in 1965 and who was convicted in 2001 of sexually abusing teenage boys during the 1980s.

Thanks to regular reader and friend Yah Shure for reminding me that the lyrics in the video did not match the lyrics found on the Net. I simply forgot to change them. As to why the lyrics were different, see Yah Shure’s note below.

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3 Responses to “‘It’s Good News Week . . .’”

  1. Yah Shure says:

    Given the regional nature of top 40 radio at the time, it’s entirely possible that London Records’ Midwest promotion team smelled a far bigger hit in “It’s Good News Week” than the company honchos in New York did and thus gave the record a far bigger push within their territory. The radio stations cited also felt it was right for their markets and played it accordingly. For such records as this one to score equally well on both top-40s in Minneapolis-St. Paul and Chicago meant that local sales backed up their lofty survey positions.

    When the initial airplay failed to generate a commensurate level of local sales, you’d usually see the oddball record stall somewhere in the twenties for two weeks and quickly disappear.

    If the sales were slower to build, yet still never explode, that same record would tend to linger around for several more weeks following that initial peak, maybe bouncing up or down a place or two or three. The Strangeloves’ “Night Time” (which debuted the following week) was a good example of this in the Twin Cities, eventually netting enough airplay over the course of a couple months that listeners probably would have been surprised to find that it never reached the top twenty on either station’s survey.

    The YouTube clip is a bit of a mixed breed, picturing the Decca Germany picture sleeve and U.K. Decca record label, while the audio itself plays the U.S. Parrot version, with its second verse lyrics altered from:

    Families shake the need for gold
    By stimulating birth control
    We’re wanting less to eat

    to:

    Lots of blood in Asia now
    They’ve butchered off the sacred cow
    They’ve got a lot to eat.

  2. whiteray says:

    Thanks, Yah Shure! I’d noticed the difference in lyrics and made a mental note to check on it (and change the lyrics in the post), but as I wandered through the data at ARSA, I lost track of that.

  3. Yah Shure says:

    No problem, whiteray. Actually, I’m glad you hadn’t changed them initially, because seeing the German picture sleeve led me to assume the clip featured the European lyrics, so I nearly forgot to listen to it.

    An original Parrot promo 45 was still among the mere handful of ’60s singles remaining in the KOMA record library as late as the early ’80s, which tells me the record had likely been a good-sized hit in Oklahoma City, as well as the western half of the country served by its killer nighttime skywave signal.

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