I discovered top 40 radio in early 1967 as an 11-year-old boy in Roanoke, Virginia. Finding WROV 1240 AM that year, expanded musical horizons in my life and set up a future course for me working as a radio DJ.
Attending Oakland Elementary School, I was familiar with the Beatles and viewed “The Monkees” TV series on a weekly basis but my knowledge of pop/rock music was limited.
Christmas 1966, I was gifted 3 albums that whetted my appetite for popular music at that time: “Boots” by Nancy Sinatra, “Gary Lewis & the Playboys Greatest Hits” and The Monkees’ self-titled debut album. Santa Claus also left a record player underneath the Christmas tree that year.
My parents were not rock fans so I didn’t inherit any guidance on this popular type of music. My father listened to country music on WSLC 610 AM while my mother favored the smooth “Middle of the Road” format on WDBJ 960 AM.
In the winter months of 1967, I was curious about radio and started my lifelong love of music. Located in our living room was a huge RCA stereo console, which featured an AM/FM radio. I spent many afternoons exploring various local Virginia stations after I got home from school.
It was also in this time period that I bought my first record album: “More of the Monkees.” This was the second LP released by the TV rock band and featured the mega number 1 hit “I’m a Believer.”
Forward to spring break 1967: with no school happening, I found an AM desk-top tube radio in our kitchen. The stations that I listened to that week both had Top 40 formats: WROV 1240 AM and WPXI 910 AM.
Then on my 12th birthday in May 1967, my parents gave me a transistor radio. From that point on, I was hooked on top 40 radio and WROV.
Legendary Top 40 WROV 1240 AM was the top-rated radio station in Roanoke during the mid to late 60s and also throughout the 70s decade. The two DJ’s that I distinctly remember from WROV back in ‘67 are Jack Fisher and Fred Frelantz.
WROV DJs Fred Freelantz and Jack Fisher. Photo courtesy of WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.
My radio listening expanded during the “summer of love” in ’67, as I commandeered the desk-top tube radio from our kitchen and permanently kept this device in my bedroom. During daylight hours, I exclusively listened to WROV.
Unlike my small transistor radio, the devise in my bedroom could pick up radio stations that were located hundreds of miles away from my Virginia home. On many nights that summer, I would tune in 50,000-watt, clear channel AM radio stations, such as WLS 890 Chicago and WABC 770 New York.
I still have fond memories listening to top 40 radio during 1967. For the remainder of this article, I will be sharing what I consider to be the best songs played on top 40 music stations 55 years ago.
As a guide, I used the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1967 survey for songs I selected with my countdown. For chart information, I utilized, “The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits” by Joel Whitburn.
Below are the top 10 songs of 1967 according to Billboard:
1 “To Sir With Love” Lulu
2 “The Letter” The Box Tops
3 “Ode to Billie Joe” Bobbie Gentry
4 “Windy” The Association
5 “I’m a Believer” The Monkees
6 “Light My Fire” The Doors
7 “Somethin’ Stupid” Frank & Nancy Sinatra
8 “Happy Together” The Turtles
9 “Groovin'” The Young Rascals
10 “Can’t Take My Eyes off You” Frankie Valli
Songs listed below are 1967 singles that I like but fell outside my top 20 countdown, randomly placed with no ranking. It was extremely hard excluding these outstanding songs from the final listing:
- Soul Man—Sam & Dave
- The Letter—The Box Tops
- Light My Fire—The Doors
- To Sir with Love–Lulu
- Expressway (To Your Heart)—The Soul Survivors
- Somebody to Love—Jefferson Airplane
- Ode to Billie Joe—Bobbie Gentry
- Pleasant Valley Sunday—The Monkees
- All You Need is Love—The Beatles
- Gimme Little Sign—Brenton Wood
- Mirage—Tommy James & the Shondells
- I Had too Much to Dream (Last Night)—The Electric Prunes
- Friday on My Mind—The Easybeats
- Here Comes My Baby—The Tremeloes
- Reflections—The Supremes
As Casey Kasem used to say on his American Top 40 show: “It’s now on with the countdown.”
20. White Rabbit—Jefferson Airplane
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #8 Hot 100, 81st Biggest Song of 1967
Written by Jefferson Airplane’s vocalist Grace Slick. Lyrics uses figurative language from two Lewis Carroll books: “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass.” “White Rabbit” was a standout performance at Woodstock in 1969.
19. Kind of a Drag—The Buckinghams
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 16th Biggest Song of 1967
Band from Chicago, Illinois. “Kind of a Drag” was the first of 3 consecutive top 10 hits and 5 top 40 charting singles in 1967. Song has outstanding horn section.
18. Respect—Aretha Franklin
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 13th Biggest Song of 1967
Otis Redding penned this song in 1965. Two years later, Aretha Franklin went to Muscle Shoals recording studio in Alabama and re-created Redding’s composition into an anthem. “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” became Franklin’s first number 1 hit and is considered her signature song.
17. Groovin’—The Young Rascals
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 9th Biggest Song of 1967
First number 1 hit for New Jersey formed band. Song is in both the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll.” The Rascals dropped “Young” from their name at the end of 1967.
16. Happy Together—The Turtles
Peak Positions of Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 8th Biggest Song of 1967
Only number 1 hit for the band. Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan formed a duo called “Flo and Eddie” after breakup of the Turtles. Song is in the Grammy Hall of Fame.
15. Daydream Believer—The Monkees
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 94th Biggest Song of 1967
Song written by John Stewart. Last number 1 hit by the band. Davy Jones of the group sings lead vocals on the track.
14. We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet—The Blues Magoos
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #5 Hot 100, 65th Biggest Song of 1967.
Psychedelic rock band from New York City. A one hit wonder. Considered in the sub-genre “Frat Rock” category. Tune has catchy organ-guitar riff.
13. The Rain, The Park & Other Things—The Cowsills
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #2 Hot 100, 49th Biggest Song of 1967
Debut smash for Newport, Rhode Island family band. Sold 3 million records. Reached number 1 on the Cashbox Top 100 chart. A quintessential “Sunshine Pop” selection.
12. Sweet Soul Music—Arthur Conley
Peak Position of Billboard Charts: #2 Hot 100, 17th Biggest Song of 1967
“Sweet Soul Music” was co-written by Arthur Conley and Otis Redding. Lyrics honors some of the biggest R&B artists from the mid 60s: The Miracles, Lou Rawls, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and James Brown. Brass instruments create a rich sound on the tune.
11. On a Carousel—The Hollies
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #11 Hot 100, 42nd Biggest Song of 1967
“On a Carousel” is a perfect pop song, written by Hollies band members Allan Clarke, Graham Nash and Tony Hicks. Melodic tune and vocal harmonies are rich on popular recording.
10. I Was Made to Love Her—Stevie Wonder
Positions on Billboard Charts: #2 Hot 100, 14th Biggest Song of 1967
Stevie Wonder was just 17 years old when “I Was Made to Love Her” was a hit. The musical prodigy played clavinet and harmonica, while the legendary Funk Brothers provided premier bass, drums and guitar backup on this Motown classic.
9. Never My Love—The Association
Peak Positions on Billboard Hot 100: #2 Hot 100, 20th Biggest Song of 1967.
“Never My Love” peaked at #1 on the Cashbox Top 100 chart. Popular wedding song over the past 55 years. Second most played song on radio and TV during the 20th century according to BMI.
8. San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)—Scott McKenzie
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #4 Hot 100, 48th Biggest Song of 1967
The Mamas and Papas’ John Phillips wrote this song for his friend Scott McKenzie. “San Francisco” became the anthem for the “Summer of Love” in 1967, as thousands of young people flocked to the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco, California, searching for peace, love and tranquility.
7. Bernadette—The Four Tops
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #4 Hot 100, 82nd Biggest Song of 1967
One of Motown’s greatest bass lines is found on this song. Levi Stubbs provides outstanding vocals on the Four Tops last top 10 hit of the 60s. I rank “Bernadette” as the 8th best Motown single of the Detroit years with the recording company.
6. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough—Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #19 Hot 100, 87th Biggest Song of 1967
I rate Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s single as the best Motown duet of all-time and the second greatest song during the 1961-1971 time period with the record company founded by Barry Gordy. With instrumentation by the Funk Brothers and Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Terrell/Gaye are marvelous on this toe-tapping tune.
5. I Can See for Miles—The Who
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #9 Hot 100, 98th Biggest Song of 1967
The Who’s first top ten hit in the U.S. Rolling Stone places “I Can See for Miles” as the second greatest song by the British band. Pete Townshend’s soaring guitar and Keith Moon’s driving drum playing, makes this one of the best rock singles from the 1990 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees.
4. Incense & Peppermints—Strawberry Alarm Clock
Peak Positions on Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 23rd Biggest Song of 1967
Psychedelic rock band formed in Glendale, California. Founding member Ed King went on to fame with Lynyrd Skynyrd. Recorded songs in the “Sunshine Pop” genre. “Tomorrow” was a second top 40 hit for the band.
3. For What It’s Worth—Buffalo Springfield
Peak Positions on Billboard Chart: #7 Hot 100, 27th Biggest Song of 1967
Originally called “For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey What’s That Sound).” Stephen Stills wrote and sang lead vocals on the single. Became an anthem during the 1967 “Summer of Love” and is considered one of the greatest protest songs from the 20th century.
2. Penny Lane—The Beatles
Peak Positions of Billboard Charts: #1 Hot 100, 55th Biggest Song of 1967
“Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” were originally set to appear on the Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album. Instead, both songs were released as a double-A sided 45-rpm single.
Paul McCartney’s masterpiece “Penny Lane” uses many instruments not associated with most Beatles songs: flutes, piccolos, oboes, trumpets and a flugelhorn. “Penny Lane” is my second favorite Beatles song of all-time and was the first 45-rpm single that I bought with my own money during the spring of 1967.
- Whiter Shade of Pale—Procol Harum
Peak Positions of Billboard Charts: #5 Hot 100, 38th Biggest Song of 1967
British band Procol Harum came through with another 1967 “Summer of Love” anthem with their song “A Whiter Shade of Pale.” The single sold over 10 million copies world-wide, inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and is number 57 on the Rolling Stone “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list.
The music was composed by band member Keith Reid, while lyrics were written by the group’s Gary Brooker and Matthew Fisher. Melody on the song has a classical music feel, with an outstanding mixture of organ and bassline. This is a brilliant piece of music, in my humble opinion.
“A Whiter Shade of Pale” is my second favorite song of all-time and Procol Harum’s chef d’oeuvre is my number 1 top 40 single of 1967.
Now that I have submitted what I consider to be the most significant top 40 hits of 1967, I am curious to find out your opinions on this topic. What are your favorite songs on my countdown?
Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of superb pop hits from 1967. The songs that you might feel are the best, may be completely different from my selections.
Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts and comments below on what you consider to be the fantastic top 40 hits of 45 years ago. I look forward reading your responses. Rock on!
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