1968 Pop Charts – Top 20’s of the time

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Me & Baby Brother 1968 (me on left)

SEPTEMBER 1968

To be clear, these charts aren’t my first charts, I compiled them a few years after the event, when the late 60’s were still fresh in my memory, and my childhood hadn’t been cruelly wiped from history by the BBC. These pop stars, I loved them all, many of them I’d loved for 5 years (I was 10 years old by now), I used to play “name that pop group” games and list as many pop stars as I could in my scribble notebooks, I was pretty obsessed by pop music really. No change there then….

Anyway, my dad came in from work one day, RAF Swinderby, and said the Beatles had gone straight in at number one. Meanwhile, Opportunity Knocks (The X Factor of the day) had made a star out of young singer Mary Hopkin, who I loved, and her first Paul McCartney-produced hit was selling bucketloads to shoot up the charts – would it knock off the Beatles off the top? The media was all a-quiver. How big were The Beatles in 1968? Imagine Madonna, Michael Jackson, Robbie, Take That, Lady Gaga, One Direction at their peak – and that’s still nowhere near as popular, prolific, inventive, famous, influential as the Fabs. Not even close. So it was a big news story.

I just started my last year at Bassingham Primary School, and I heard about Alan Freeman’s chart rundown on Radio 1 on Sunday. I tuned in, and I was hooked from that moment on. All my fave current hits at once! In the right order, more or less. Not quite, though, and a in couple of months my actual first charts would be on their way. I needed charts for when it all started though, and these are pretty accurate reflections of what chart records I liked at the time (with the odd flop like Abergavenny by Marty Wilde missing).

I loved these pop stars. Johnny Nash was the first reggae star. Contrary to popular belief it wasn’t Bob Marley (though Johnny had a hit with one of his songs), or Desmond Dekker, or Jimmy Cliff. It was smooth Sam Cooke wannabee Johnny Nash, and he’s all but been forgotten, unfairly.

Herman of his Hermits was a teen pop star, and his Sunshine Girl was a playground fave of most kids. We changed the lyrics round a bit:

Sunshine Girl I’m looking down your bra
I see two round things I wonder what they are
will you invite me
to squeeze them tightly
not bloody likely, my sunshine girl…

Kids today eh, the records real lyrics are already much much dirtier so that they dont bother rewriting them!

Of the first Top 20 acts, I have seen almost half of them in concert, and a lot of the tracks featured on an Australian Album my dad bought a year later in Singapore – it really was the very first multi-artist current chart hits album ever, called 16 Big Hits, and was 3 years ahead of the UK’s own versions (KTel and Arcade) and the 80’s Now albums.

Anyway, onward, and the first number one ever in my chart had to be….

10th September chart

HEY JUDE The Beatles 1 3 4
GOTTA GET A MESSAGE TO YOU The Bee Gees 2 5 7
KEEP ON Bruce Channel 3
HOLD ME TIGHT Johnny Nash 4 2 5
THOSE WERE THE DAYS Mary Hopkin 5 1 1
HELP YOURSELF Tom Jones 6 10 14
THIS GUYS IN LOVE Herb Alpert 7 13 10
SUNSHINE GIRL Herman’s Hermits 8 11 17
DREAM A LITTLE DREAM OF ME Mama Cass 9 6 9
LITTLE ARROWS Leapy Lee 10 4 2

I CLOSE MY EYES AND COUNT TO TEN Dusty Springfield 11
HIGH IN THE SKY Amen Corner 12 14 16
DO IT AGAIN The Beach Boys 13 12 15
DANCE TO THE MUSIC Sly & The Family Stone 14 17
MONY MONY Tommy James & The Shondells 15 19
I SAY A LITTLE PRAYER Aretha Franklin 16 9 8
LADY WILLPOWER Gary Puckett & The Union Gap 17 7 6
I PRETEND Des O’Connor 18 16 19
JEZAMINE The Casuals 19 8 3
FIRE The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown 20 20

17th Sept new entries

ON THE ROAD AGAIN Canned Heat 15 12
CLASSICAL GAS Mason Williams 18 14

24th Sept new entries

THE RED BALLOON The Dave Clark 5 11
ICE IN THE SUN Status Quo 18
HELLO I LOVE YOU The Doors 20

OCTOBER 1968

To be clear, I LOVED these records. There might not be invasion of new hits but they all meant a lot to me at the time, the kiddie pop of Leapy Lee, Dave Clark 5, Tremeloes & the fab Dave Dee & co wall-of-sound epic, to the MOR ballads (Marbles were the Bee Gees mates and they wrote it, Engelbert with a french ditty 4 decades ahead of Eurovision) via Hispanic rock covers, classical rockpop instrumentals, reggae, soul, Motown, a spaghetti western theme and above all my two faves of all, the fabulous melody of The Casuals Jezamine, and the haunting brilliance of Mary Hopkin’s Russian folk ballad, at 1 & 2 for the whole month.

1st October chart

THOSE WERE THE DAYS Mary Hopkin 1 1 1 1 1
JEZAMINE The Casuals 2 2 2 2 2
LITTLE ARROWS Leapy Lee 3 4 8 11 19
LADY WILLPOWER Gary Puckett & The Union Gap 4 7 11 14 16
HEY JUDE The Beatles 5 6 6 5 7
THE RED BALLOON The Dave Clark 5 6 3 5 10 14
I SAY A LITTLE PRAYER Aretha Franklin 7 13 17 18
HOLD ME TIGHT Johnny Nash 8 10 13 13 18
CLASSICAL GAS Mason Williams 9 8 15 15 20
GOTTA GET A MESSAGE TO YOU The Bee Gees 10 11 14 12 13

MY LITTLE LADY The Tremeloes 11 5 4 8 10
DREAM A LITTLE DREAM OF ME Mama Cass 12 16 18 21
THIS GUYS IN LOVE Herb Alpert 13
HELP YOURSELF Tom Jones 14 18
A DAY WITHOUT LOVE The Love Affair 15 15 16 17
LIGHT MY FIRE Jose Feliciano 16 9 7 6 6
ON THE ROAD AGAIN Canned Heat 17
HIGH IN THE SKY Amen Corner 18 20 20
THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY Hugo Montenegro 19 17 12 9 4
DO IT AGAIN The Beach Boys 20


8th Oct new entries

LES BICYCLETTES DE BELSIZE Engelbert Humperdinck 12 9 7 8
THE WRECK OF THE ANTOINETTE Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich 14 3 3 5
ONLY ONE WOMAN The Marbles 19 10 4 3

15th Oct new entries

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS Joe Cocker 19 16 11

22nd Oct new entries

MEXICO Long John Baldry 19 12
ELOISE Barry Ryan 20 9

29th Oct new entries

BREAKING DOWN THE WALLS OF HEARTACHE The Bandwagon 15
THIS OLD HEART OF MINE The Isley Brothers 17

NOVEMBER 1968

It might only be a short chart but plenty of these hits are well-known today, though it’s taken the passage of time and rediscovery in some cases (The Foundations and Nina Simone were largely forgotten until the 90’s and 00’s, if you want to know where they peaked in my chart tune in next month: hint, I was well ahead of the game when I was 10 years old. I only say it cos it’s there in black and white….!). Meanwhile, one of the greatest records of all-time (and under-appreciated) hits the top for Barry Ryan, formerly of twins pop stars Paul & Barry Ryan, and written by Paul. It’s epic, and The Damned did a soundalike, but inferior, version in 1986 which is more likely to be played, annoyingly. This one is cinematic in scale, and covers every emotion from passion, gentle tenderness through to screaming mania, complete with full orchestra. Barry’s vocals have to be heard to be believed. I Quite like it you know…

The other chart-topper, The Turtles, has a gorgeous melody and harmonies, a specialty of producer-pop-stars The Turtles (used by other big pop stars of the day) and is supposed to be a piss-take. The record company wanted another pop hit, so the boys stuck every pop love song lyrical cliche they could think of, added “etcetera” to rub it in, and still managed to create an amusing and oddly touching great pop song anyway. Almost topping was the great version of Ennio Morricone’s spagehtti western theme, Paul McCartney’s younger-brother (plus poet mates) novelty hit Lily The Pink, and singer-comedian Neil Innes’ topical social commentary oompah-oompah novelty hit for the Bonzo’s. I generally like any record that has spaceman or space-themes in the title:)

5th Nov chart

ELOISE Barry Ryan 1 1 2 5
THOSE WERE THE DAYS Mary Hopkin 2 3 3 4
THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY Hugo Montenegro 3 2 5 10
JEZAMINE The Casuals 4 5 9 12
ONLY ONE WOMAN The Marbles 5 9 12 16
MEXICO Long John Baldry 6 12 17 20
THIS OLD HEART OF MINE The Isley Brothers 7 6 8 11
HEY JUDE The Beatles 8 11 15 15
LIGHT MY FIRE Jose Feliciano 9 14 16 17
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS Joe Cocker 10 17 19

THE WRECK OF THE ANTOINETTE Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich 11 15
BREAKING DOWN THE WALLS OF HEARTACHE The Bandwagon 12 8 7 7
ELENORE The Turtles 13 4 1 1
MY LITTLE LADY The Tremeloes 14 19
LES BICYCLETTES DE BELSIZE Engelbert Humperdinck 15
AIN’T GOT NO…I GOT LIFE Nina Simone 16 13 10 6
LADY WILLPOWER Gary Puckett & The Union Gap 17
HARPER VALLEY P.T.A. Jeannie C. Riley 18 16 13 8
THE RED BALLOON The Dave Clark 5 19
ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER The Jimi Hendrix Experience 20 18 20

12th Nov new entries

LILY THE PINK The Scaffold 7 4 9
I’M A TIGER Lulu 10 6 3
MAY I HAVE THE NEXT DREAM WITH YOU Malcolm Roberts 20 14 13

19th Nov new entries

(I’M THE) URBAN SPACEMAN Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band 11 2
IF I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW Val Doonican 18 14

26th Nov new entries

BUILD ME UP BUTTERCUP The Foundations 18
ONE TWO THREE O’LEARY Des O’Connor 19

 

DECEMBER 1968

3RD DEC CHART

Imagine the scene: RAF Swinderby, Lincs, Primary School was starting to wind down to the end of term, and winter draws on (literally). It’s cold outside. My Aunty Eileen (dad’s younger sister) visited at weekends to see her boyfriend, my dad’s mate Tony, and I listened to the Top 20 while they were about, and alternated between Land Of The Giants on TV (fab!). I was 10, and xmas was approaching, Dr Who was must-see on Saturdays (Troughton, Jamie, Zoe) after an afternoon to the Camp cinema. Not as in gay, as in RAF cinema : yes, in those days every forces base had it’s own cinema, showing 4 or 5 films a week, and kids stuff on saturdays. We got to see loads of films, usually a year or two after the rest of the country had seen them, or often, never seen them (no mulitplexes then, generally just 2 cinemas per town one film each for a week)

Music-wise: It was 3 weeks at the top for The Turtles (I was mad on that record, and the rest of the chart), modern classics from Nina Simone and The Foundations shoot up to 2 and 10. I started cutting out the words to hit songs from “Weekend” magazine (wow!) to singalong. 3 featured tracks I loved: Barry Ryan was a bit of a heart-throb for the girls, this song.Is.Epic. If you watch it, amke sure you hear the end ** Jeannie C. Riley: proper country song telling tales, as they tended to in those days, as opposed to endless whining or posturing, as they tend to now, and very much a song to appeal to all ages, not excluded from kids radio (as it would be now by idiots who feel 10-year-olds can’t possibly like country, unless it’s homogenized teen pop country) ** LOve Sculpture: PLEASE watch this, one of the most exciting rock instrumentals ever, the fab Dave Edmunds on lead guitar, a man I revered at 15 and still do, he has two new tracks in my charts this very week, for 45 years of great music. Brilliant!

1 ( 1 ) ELENORE The Turtles
2 ( 6 ) AIN’T GOT NO…I GOT LIFE Nina Simone
3 ( 4 ) THOSE WERE THE DAYS Mary Hopkin
4 ( 2 ) (I’M THE) URBAN SPACEMAN Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band
5 ( 8 ) HARPER VALLEY P.T.A. Jeannie C. Riley
6 ( 3 ) I’M A TIGER Lulu
7 ( 5 ) ELOISE Barry Ryan
8 ( 13 ) MAY I HAVE THE NEXT DREAM WITH YOU Malcolm Roberts
9 ( 7 ) BREAKING DOWN THE WALLS OF HEARTACHE The Bandwagon
10 ( 18 ) BUILD ME UP BUTTERCUP The Foundations

11 ( 11 ) THIS OLD HEART OF MINE The Isley Brothers
12 ( 10 ) THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY Hugo Montenegro
13 ( NEW ) A MINUTE OF YOUR TIME Tom Jones
14 ( 9 ) LILY THE PINK The Scaffold
15 ( 19 ) ONE TWO THREE O’LEARY Des O’Connor
16 ( 14 ) IF I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW Val Doonican
17 ( NEW ) DON’T FORGET TO CATCH ME Cliff Richard
18 ( 17 ) LIGHT MY FIRE Jose Feliciano
19 ( NEW ) SABRE DANCE Love Sculpture
20 ( 16 ) ONLY ONE WOMAN The Marbles

10th DEC

Marmalade cover The Beatles doing reggae and get a huge hit. It’s not The Beatles, but it’s fairly cloned, and it became a playground anthem along with Lily The Pink. In at 16, the timeless classic from Dusty, still the greatest white soul singer ever (I’m happy to give Amy 2nd place, but Dusty still rules!). In at 20, diva La Ross, when she still had to put up with having Mary Wilson & new girl Cindy Birdsong hogging a minute part of her spotlight. I saw Mary in concert and she was great a year or two back. Di, of course, doesn’t grace us these days, but she had a great sweet voice at her peak, and never better than this social conscience song, spine-tingling stuff. Urban music didn’t used to be about shagging, bragging, slagging and glorifying bitch-slapping and rolling in dollars. It was more important than that…

1 ( 1 ) ELENORE The Turtles
2 ( 3 ) THOSE WERE THE DAYS Mary Hopkin
3 ( 2 ) AIN’T GOT NO…I GOT LIFE Nina Simone
4 ( NEW ) OB LA DI OB LA DA Marmalade
5 ( 13 ) A MINUTE OF YOUR TIME Tom Jones
6 ( 6 ) I’M A TIGER Lulu
7 ( 7 ) ELOISE Barry Ryan
8 ( 10 ) BUILD ME UP BUTTERCUP The Foundations
9 ( 4 ) (I’M THE) URBAN SPACEMAN Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band
10 ( 9 ) BREAKING DOWN THE WALLS OF HEARTACHE The Bandwagon

11 ( 5 ) HARPER VALLEY P.T.A. Jeannie C. Riley
12 ( 15 ) ONE TWO THREE O’LEARY Des O’Connor
13 ( 11 ) THIS OLD HEART OF MINE The Isley Brothers
14 ( 8 ) MAY I HAVE THE NEXT DREAM WITH YOU Malcolm Roberts
15 ( 17 ) DON’T FORGET TO CATCH ME Cliff Richard
16 ( NEW ) SON OF A PREACHER MAN Dusty Springfield
17 ( 12 ) THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY Hugo Montenegro
18 ( 16 ) IF I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW Val Doonican
19 ( 14 ) LILY THE PINK The Scaffold
20 ( NEW ) LOVE CHILD Diana Ross & The Supremes

17th DECĀ 

…and so it came to pass..that this is the chart that started it all for me. Christmas holidays had started, I had leisure time to indulge my new-found music chart passion, and I did. I put the songs in the right order for the very first time. This was my actual-first-ever list of songs wot I wrote down. 5th week at the top for the Turtles, check out the video, see how not-happy-being-pop-stars they were (so endearing) ** Herman’s Hermits, another playground fave, a teenager with a lot of teeth who the girls loved (Peter Noone), the closest thing to One Direction around at that time.

The chart is great lesson in how time conveniently erases inconvenient old facts: for example, I really liked (apparently) a fairly bland Tom Jones record – there is no way I would have recalled that as being anywhere near the truth, we all like to think we only liked the great stuff, the cool stuff, or particularly important records to us personally. But there it is, staring me right in the face, along with Cliff, Des ‘n’ Val, and worst of all Malcolm Roberts. I stand by all the other tracks for a 10-year-old, and I remain a bit embarrassed by those:)

1 ( 1 ) ELENORE The Turtles
2 ( 2 ) THOSE WERE THE DAYS Mary Hopkin
3 ( 4 ) OB LA DI OB LA DA Marmalade
4 ( 5 ) A MINUTE OF YOUR TIME Tom Jones
5 ( 8 ) BUILD ME UP BUTTERCUP The Foundations
6 ( 3 ) AIN’T GOT NO…I GOT LIFE Nina Simone
7 ( NEW ) SOMETHING’S HAPPENING Herman’s Hermits
8 ( 6 ) I’M A TIGER Lulu
9 ( 7 ) ELOISE Barry Ryan
10 ( 10 ) BREAKING DOWN THE WALLS OF HEARTACHE The Bandwagon

11 ( 16 ) SON OF A PREACHER MAN Dusty Springfield
12 ( 15 ) DON’T FORGET TO CATCH ME Cliff Richard
13 ( 9 ) (I’M THE) URBAN SPACEMAN Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band
14 ( 12 ) ONE TWO THREE O’LEARY Des O’Connor
15 ( 11 ) HARPER VALLEY P.T.A. Jeannie C. Riley
16 ( 13 ) THIS OLD HEART OF MINE The Isley Brothers
17 ( 14 ) MAY I HAVE THE NEXT DREAM WITH YOU Malcolm Roberts
18 ( 17 ) THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY Hugo Montenegro
19 ( 20 ) LOVE CHILD Diana Ross & The Supremes
20 ( 18 ) IF I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW Val Doonican

24th DEC

It’s Chriiiiiistmas! The Foundations get to my number one. There’s Something About Mary made it famous even more-so than it was at the time, but I loved it then and I love it still. It’s worth pointing out that they were a multi-racial band, fairly unique, based in the UK, the song was written by Mike (manfred Mann) D’Abo and they were on TOTP seemingly often (all-scrubbed now of course). There is a European video version on youtube, but as they spend the whole time overlaying 2 white dancing girls over all of the black members of the band (including lead singer Clem) I’m not posting it. I’m not saying it’s racism, but…OK I am saying that. If you like rock, check out The Gun video. Exciting, manic, fun. Fab stuff. Modern rock of course wouldn’t know the meaning of fun and manic invention, it’s all tedious posing, humourless and drab. I don’t count bands like The Killers, who do know how to avoid cliche, of course. I cannot imagine Radio One playing anything like Race With The Devil, and I think that’s sad!

1 ( 5 ) BUILD ME UP BUTTERCUP The Foundations
2 ( 3 ) OB LA DI OB LA DA Marmalade
3 ( 1 ) ELENORE The Turtles
4 ( 6 ) AIN’T GOT NO…I GOT LIFE Nina Simone
5 ( 2 ) THOSE WERE THE DAYS Mary Hopkin
6 ( 7 ) SOMETHING’S HAPPENING Herman’s Hermits
7 ( 11 ) SON OF A PREACHER MAN Dusty Springfield
8 ( 4 ) A MINUTE OF YOUR TIME Tom Jones
9 ( 14 ) ONE TWO THREE O’LEARY Des O’Connor
10 ( 8 ) I’M A TIGER Lulu

11 ( 9 ) ELOISE Barry Ryan
12 ( 19 ) LOVE CHILD Diana Ross & The Supremes
13 ( 15 ) HARPER VALLEY P.T.A. Jeannie C. Riley
14 ( 13 ) (I’M THE) URBAN SPACEMAN Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band
15 ( 10 ) BREAKING DOWN THE WALLS OF HEARTACHE The Bandwagon
16 ( NEW ) RACE WITH THE DEVIL The Gun
17 ( 16 ) THIS OLD HEART OF MINE The Isley Brothers
18 ( 12 ) DON’T FORGET TO CATCH ME Cliff Richard
19 ( RE ) SABRE DANCE Love Sculpture
20 ( RE ) LILY THE PINK The Scaffold

31st DEC

Recent re-charter Stevie enters high over the new year. Check him out looking young and cool, as he was, he (it should be remembered) was a child-star. He’d had years of hits by the time he was Martin Garrix’ age (17). He also tackled any genre of music, as do all the greats, in this case Michael Buble or Jamie Cullum would be quite comfortable with For Once In My Life – but they wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as Stevie. Then there’s Fleetwwod Mac, also still going strong, albeit their early line-up with the dreamily gorgeous rock blues instrumental. Earlier rock comments apply here too.

1 ( 1 ) BUILD ME UP BUTTERCUP The Foundations
2 ( 6 ) SOMETHING’S HAPPENING Herman’s Hermits
3 ( 2 ) OB LA DI OB LA DA Marmalade
4 ( 7 ) SON OF A PREACHER MAN Dusty Springfield
5 ( 4 ) AIN’T GOT NO…I GOT LIFE Nina Simone
6 ( 12 ) LOVE CHILD Diana Ross & The Supremes
7 ( 9 ) ONE TWO THREE O’LEARY Des O’Connor
8 ( NEW ) FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE Stevie Wonder
9 ( 11 ) ELOISE Barry Ryan
10 ( 10 ) I’M A TIGER Lulu

11 ( 14 ) (I’M THE) URBAN SPACEMAN Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band
12 ( 16 ) RACE WITH THE DEVIL The Gun
13 ( NEW ) BLACKBERRY WAY The Move
14 ( 15 ) BREAKING DOWN THE WALLS OF HEARTACHE The Bandwagon
15 ( 8 ) A MINUTE OF YOUR TIME Tom Jones
16 ( 19 ) SABRE DANCE Love Sculpture
17 ( 13 ) HARPER VALLEY P.T.A. Jeannie C. Riley
18 ( RE ) THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY Hugo Montenegro
19 ( NEW ) PRIVATE NUMBER William Clay & Judy Bell
20 ( NEW ) ALBATROSS Fleetwood Mac

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