No. 55, Fifty-Five Years Ago (June 1966)

It’s been a couple of years since we looked at a chart from 1966 for any reason, so we’re going to head that direction this morning and then play a game of Symmetry. Here are the top ten records from the Billboard Hot 100 from the third week in June 1966, fifty-five years ago:

“Paint It, Black” by the Rolling Stones
“Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind” by the Lovin’ Spoonful
“I Am A Rock” by Simon & Garfunkel
“When A Man Loves A Woman” by Percy Sledge
“Strangers In The Night” by Frank Sinatra
“A Groovy Kind Of Love” by the Mindbenders
“Barefootin’” by Robert Parker
“Green Grass” by Gary Lewis & The Playboys
“Cool Jerk” by the Capitols
“Red Rubber Ball” by the Cyrkle

As I typed that list, I knew nine of those ten, and a trip to YouTube refreshed my memory of “Green Grass.” How many of those would I have known fifty-five years ago, though?

I was twelve, between seventh and eighth grades, and that might have been the summer that I took summer school courses in cooking and World War II history, or it might have been chemistry and Spanish. And I wasn’t yet very interested in pop music, so any of those records I remember, I remember only because I heard then when I was with my peers and the radio was on, not because I was listening.

I have vague memories of hearing the records by the Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, the Lovin’s Spoonful, Percy Sledge and the Cyrkle. And I know I heard the Frank Sinatra single: I was still an easy listening kid, and “Strangers In The Night” topped the Easy Listening chart for seven weeks. I no doubt heard it on WCCO from the Twin Cities and on the two St. Cloud stations, WJON and KFAM. And I liked it, too.

I also liked “I Am A Rock” and “Red Rubber Ball,” as well as “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind,” although the dilemma facing the singer in that tune bemused me. I could not imagine myself in a position of having to make a choice between two willing girls. (I marked that one off on my bucket list not quite ten years later.) On the other hand, even though I knew it fifty-five years ago, I have never really liked “When A Man Loves A Woman,” and I don’t have any idea why that is.

How about now? Do any of those records fit into my day-to-day listening? Let’s look at the iPod. Four of them are there: The records by Sinatra, the Stones, the Cyrkle and the Capitols. That last is a surprise, almost as much of a surprise as the absence of “I Am A Rock.”

Now, to our other business today: Checking out the record that sat at No. 55 in the middle of June 1966. Not unsurprisingly, it’s a record I don’t think I’ve ever heard of, much less heard: “Come Running Back” by Dean Martin. Back then, I knew “Everybody Loves Somebody,” Martin’s No. 1 hit from 1964, and I think I’d heard “Houston” on one of the 45s that I got from Leo Rau, the jukebox jobber who lived across the alley.

But that was the limit of my Dean Martin lore then. In the past few years, I’ve added a hits package to the digital shelves, but I don’t know much of it well except “Volare” and “That’s Amore.” Add “Mambo Italiano” from my cabaret adventures with Lucille and Heather a few years ago, and that’s the extent of my Dean Martin awareness.

“Come Running Back” is an okay record – it’s a mid-Sixties swingin’ and brassy Pack Rat joint – except for the shrillness of the background singers, and since they pretty much start things off, well, that takes off some points right there. Lyrically, it’s pretty simple: She’s gone and he’s saying that if things don’t work out, come on home. Yeah, we’ve found better records on our dives into the charts, but we’ve also found much, much worse.

“Come Running Back” peaked at No. 35 on the Hot 100 and at No. 4 on the Easy Listening chart.

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