Broadcasting, Music, Radio, Retro Rock

Back in the Summer of ’69

I got my first real six string,

Bought it at the five and dime,

Played it til my fingers bled,

Was the summer of ’69.

But when I look back now,

That summer seemed to last forever,

And if I had the choice,

Yeah, I’d always wanna be there,

Those were the best days of my life.

 

The “Summer of ‘69” was a time when Canadian rocker Bryan Adams was buying his first guitar and reminiscing about that summer being the “best days of his life.”

That summer of 1969 was an eventful time for those in the United States. The Vietnam War continued with over 500,000 American troops still in Southeast Asia and Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.

During August, the Woodstock “3 Days of Peace and Music” Festival happened, with over 400,000 people attending one of the greatest events in rock music history. Meanwhile, the Beatles recorded their last album, “Abbey Road” just before John Lennon quit the legendary rock band.

The summer of 1969: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” to quote Charles Dickens from his book, “A Tale of Two Cities.”

Various Records that I bought during the summer of 1969.

It was during the hot summer of 1969, that I listened to the radio 10 to 12 hours a day and made a decision that I wanted to be a radio announcer when I grew up. My pursuit to become “DJ Dave” started in the summer of ‘69.

I have fond memories of listening to Top 40 radio during the summer of ‘69. Living in Roanoke, Virginia during this time, I would mostly listen to legendary Top 40 WROV 1240 AM in the daytime, with DJs Jack Fisher, Fred Frelantz and Bart Prater. I also would occasionally tune into WBLU 1480 AM Salem, a second Top 40 station in the Roanoke radio market. WBLU DJ’s Chris Shannon, Les Turpin and Bill Cassidy played the hits, while Dave Moran was the general manager at the station.

At sundown, WROV reduced their power and WBLU signed off the air, so I tuned my radio into stations hundreds of miles away from my Virginia home. Since radio waves changed on a nightly basis, I would listen to a variety of 50,000 watt, clear channel AM stations on any given night.

Various records that I bought during the summer of 1969.

The two main stations that I listened to during the nighttime were WLS 890 AM Chicago and WABC 770 AM New York. On the Big 89 WLS, Larry Lujack, Chuck Buell and Kris Erik Stevens were my favorite DJs. When listening to WABC, Dan Ingram and Cousin Brucie (Bruce Morrow) are the two radio DJ voices that I remember from that hot summer.

On nights that WLS or WABC were hard to pick up, I had other clear channel stations that I could listen to. Among those other stations: WOWO Fort Wayne, WCFL Chicago 1000 AM, CKLW Windsor, Ontario (Detroit) 800 AM, WKBW Buffalo 1520 AM and WKYC Cleveland 1100 AM.

Because I spent so much time listening to Top 40 radio that summer, I decided that I wanted to become a DJ when I became an adult. My desire to work in radio became a reality for me five years later in 1974, as I landed a remote engineer position with WROV Roanoke when I was 18 years old.

Dave Woodson playing records for WROV Roanoke remote broadcast during 1974.

For the remaining portion of this message, I will be focusing on the music that was played on Top 40 radio during the summer of 69. I will be highlighting hits songs from 50 years ago that are still considered relevant here in 2019.

Musically, the summer of ‘69 is considered part of the “Golden Age of Top 40 Radio.” Diversity accurately describes the music that accounted for the biggest hits during that summer.

It was not uncommon to hear different genres played back to back: A DJ might start a music set with country crossover, “A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash, segueing into a gospel song, “Oh Happy Day” from the Edwin Hawkins Singers and finally playing a reggae tune, “Israelites” by Desmond Decker and the Aces.

 

Various records that I bought during the summer of 1969.

To further show the diversity of the music, here are five songs that reached number 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Cash Box Top 100 charts during the summer of 69:

 

1. Get Back—The Beatles with Billy Preston

2. Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet—Henry Mancini & his Orchestra

3. In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)—Zager & Evans

4. Honky Tonk Women—The Rolling Stones

5. Sugar, Sugar—The Archies

 

In addition to those five songs, “In the Ghetto” by Elvis Presley spent the last week of June at the number 1 position on the Cash Box Top 100 chart.

 

WLS Chicago Hit Parade Surveys 7/21/69 & 8/4/69. Courtesy of Pete Battistini: Author of AMERICAN TOP 40 WITH CASEY KASEM (THE 1970’S)

Before I reveal my Top 10 most relevant songs from 50 years ago, I am going to share some other significant songs from the summer of ‘69.

Top Underrated Songs:

1. I’m Free—The Who

2. See—The Rascals

3. Marrakesh Express—Crosby Stills and Nash

4. Spinning Wheel—Blood Sweat and Tears

5. Polk Salad Annie—Tony Joe White

 

WROV Roanoke Super Summer Survey 8/24/69. Courtesy of DJ Steve Nelson and WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

Top Love Songs:

1. What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)—Jr. Walker & the All Stars

2. Love (Can Make You Happy)—Mercy

3. Baby, I Love You—Andy Kim

4. My Cherie Amour—Stevie Wonder

5. My Pledge of Love—Joe Jeffries Group

 

My 45 RPM single of the Rascals “See” record that I bought in 1969.

Top Miscellaneous Subject Songs:

1. Grazing in the Grass—Friends of Distinction

2. Color Him Father—The Winstons

3. Black Pearl—Sonny Charles & the Checkmates

4. Sweet Caroline—Neil Diamond

5. More Today Than Yesterday—Spiral Staircase

 

My 45 RPM single of Oliver’s “Jean” record that I bought in 1969.

Now I will be focusing on what I consider to be the top ten 1969 summer radio songs. These are songs were either released and/or were hits between June and September 1969.

The top ten songs that I have selected fit into the following categories: I deem the 10 songs to still be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant. There are no rankings with my listing and the songs are placed in a random order.

 

My 45 RPM single of CCR’s “Fortunate Son/Down on the Corner” record that I bought in 1969.

One—Three Dog Night

When the Beach Boys and the Byrds started to wane on Top 40 radio, a new vocal powerhouse came upon the scene: Three Dog Night. Group members Chuck Negron, Danny Hutton and Cory Wells were all talented vocalists and their blended harmonies and vocal versatility soared with their catchy, up-tempo rock tune. “One” spent 3 weeks at number two on Cash Box Top 100 chart and was the first of 21 consecutive songs to reach the Billboard Top 40 between 1969 and 1975 for Three Dog Night.

Easy To Be Hard—Three Dog Night

Just after their song “One” became a hit, Three Dog Night had a second smash tune during the summer of 69: “Easy To Be Hard” from the Broadway musical “Hair.” Chuck Negron has excellent passion when singing the lyrics that question the harsh treatment of humanity: “How can people be so heartless, how can people be so cruel, easy to be hard?” Three Dog Night went on to have a 3rd Top 10 hit with “Eli’s Coming,” a Laura Nyro tune, during the fall of the same year.

Bad Moon Rising—Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR)

The second CCR song to reach number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, after “Proud Mary” in the spring of ‘69, is considered to be one of the first tunes in the “Swamp rock” genre of music. Plus, “Bad Moon Rising” has perhaps the most misheard lyric ever in modern music history. Many folks think CCR’s leader John Fogerty sings “There’s a bathroom on the right” instead of “There’s a bad moon on the rise.” “Bad Moon Rising” remains popular and is still played at many sporting events here in 2019.

Fortunate Son—Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR)

Summer of ‘69 was huge for CCR. The band played at Woodstock, 4 hit singles charted and their “Green River” album was released. Then in September, the band released “Fortunate Son.” The song quickly became an anti-war movement anthem and is considered a signature song for John Fogerty. In 2013, “Fortunate Son” was added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

 

Crystal Blue Persuasion—Tommy James and the Shondells

With the Vietnam War ongoing, Tommy James had his 3rd consecutive top 10 hit, a song longing for a future age of brotherhood, harmony and living in peace. James has been quoted multiple times, stating that the inspiration for “Crystal Blue Persuasion” came from him reading the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel and Revelation in the Bible. The melodic acoustic guitar and organ on the tune help to make this song still sound good, 50 years later.

Get Back—The Beatles with Billy Preston

A song that was originally performed at the historic Beatles “Rooftop” concert in January 1969, the single “Get Back” was the first number 1 song, on both Billboard and Cashbox charts, during the summer of ‘69. The Beatles’ “Get Back/Don’t Let Me Down” single is the only time that another artist was credited on a Fab Four recording, with Billy Preston sharing the honor for the biggest Beatles single in 1969. “Get Back” was also the Beatles’ first single released in America in true stereo.

Get Together—The Youngbloods

With the catchy chorus, “Come on people now/Smile on your brother/Everybody get together/Try to love one another right now,” the Youngbloods created a timely classic with their “Love and Peace” anthem “Get Together.” American involvement in the Vietnam War remained strong in 1969 and the song was a huge hit on Top 40 radio. It was also embraced by many Christian churches during this time period, that wanted to promote “Love and Peace” in their congregations. A true quintessential song from the golden age of Top 40 radio.

Put a Little Love in Your Heart—Jackie DeShannon

It is interesting to look back on how many of the most significant songs from 50 years ago were on the subject of love and peace. Jackie DeShannon’s biggest hit record, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” is one of those “Love and Peace” songs that resonated with radio listeners in the summer of 69. Along with DeShannon’s other big hit, “What the World Needs Now,” her message of seeking love and peace, rather than war, is still relevant today.

In the Ghetto—Elvis Presley

For most folks who think about Elvis songs, very few remember his songs of social concerns. “In the Ghetto” is completely different than almost every other Elvis tune and provided a comeback for the “King of Rock and Roll” in 1969. The Mac Davis-written song tells a narrative of generational poverty that is set in the city of Chicago. With the success of this song, Elvis charted two consecutive number 1 songs in 1969: “In the Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds.”

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes—Crosby Stills and Nash (CSN)

When CSN played at Woodstock during August 1969, the band opened up their set list with “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” The song was the second single from the CSN self-titled debut album, after “Marrakesh Express” and was released as a single in September ‘69. The tune is made up of four separate sections and is seamlessly woven together by excellent harmonies of the band. Truly, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” is the signature song for CSN.

 

Various records that I bought during the summer of 1969.

Now that I have humbly submitted my thoughts on the most significant singles from the summer of 1969, I am curious to find out your opinion on the music from 50 years ago.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of music from the golden age of Top 40 radio. The songs that you feel are the best from the summer of 1969 could be completely different than my selections.

So I am asking for your opinion: What songs do you feel are the best, greatest or most significant singles from the summer of 1969?

Listening to the music on Top 40 radio in 1969 highlighted some of the best days of my life. Rock on!

I leave you with the ending lyrics to “Crystal Blue Persuasion:”

Maybe tomorrow.

When he looks down,

On every green field,

And every town,

All of his children,

In every nation,

There’ll be peace and good,

Brotherhood,

Crystal blue persuasion

 

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Music, Retro Rock

Gayle Deel: Mega Beatles Fan Explores England and Iceland

 

The Beatles Story Museum exhibit in Liverpool. Photo by Gayle Deel

Imagine no possessions

I wonder if you can

No need for greed or hunger

A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people

Sharing all the world…

 

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will live as one

Imagine if you were inside the childhood house of Paul McCartney in Liverpool and a tour guide invites someone on the tour of the home to play a song on Paul’s piano? It may sound like a dream but it actually became reality for Beatles fan and Roanoke, Virginia native Gayle Deel.

While on tour at McCartney’s home, Gayle played John Lennon’s signature song, “Imagine” on the same piano that Paul himself played and sang “When I’m 64”, along with James Corden, on a June 2018 Carpool Karaoke episode of The Late Late Show. It was truly one of the highlights of Gayle’s trip to England to visit multiple Beatles sites during September of last year.

I first came in contact with Gayle shortly after I published Dave & Steve Delaney: Beatles Pilgrimage to England on my blog last October. Through our mutual friend Bruce Bias, Gayle and I communicated about me possibly sharing her Beatles experience after she enjoyed reading about the Delaney Brothers Fab Four trip.

Earlier this month, I interviewed Gayle about her trip to England and a secondary visit to Iceland to visit a John Lennon memorial, The Imagine Peace Tower. Gayle’s passion and knowledge of the Beatles was evident as she reminisced about various things associated with the band that got their start in Liverpool.

As a retirement gift to herself, Gayle Deel planned a trip of a lifetime: Touring Beatles sites in London and Liverpool, England. Gayle retired from the Veterans Administration Hospital in Salem, Virginia where she worked in the Radiology department for many years.

Exhibit at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, England. Photo by Gayle Deel.

Accompanying Deel on the trip were her brother Douglas Nauman of High Point, North Carolina and her boyfriend Douglas Rhodes of Roanoke, Virginia. The three embarked to England on September 11, 2018 and spent 7 days viewing various Beatles sites in Liverpool and London.

Gayle’s love for the Beatles began on February 7th, 1964 when she watched the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite with her father. As Gayle stated to me, “I fell in love. My dad just shook his head.”

Deel went on to say, “That’s when I became a Beatle devotee for life and I anxiously awaited any magazine that was published just to own a piece of them in print. My only prized possession at that time was a 45 rpm “I Want to Hold Your Hand” –played repeatedly on a portable turntable.”

After getting off the airplane at England’s Heathrow Airport, Gayle and her traveling companions boarded a train in London bound for Liverpool. Gayle mused on that initial train ride: “I just knew it was going to look like the same train: I hear “A Hard Day’s Night” (from the 1964 movie where the Fab Four ride on a train from Liverpool to London).

The first location the trio visited in Liverpool was the Cavern Club. The Beatles played many concerts there during their early days as a band but the original building was closed in 1973 due to construction on a new underground rail loop. A new building for the Cavern Club came in 1984 and this site is now one of the most visited tourist sites in England.

Gayle Deel at the Cavern Club Liverpool, England.

Gayle accounts her experience at the historic music site in Liverpool: “The first stop was the Cavern Club, taking the steps down into the cellar with music flowing, signatures of thousands across the ceiling and “The Stage” where my heroes began their journey. All I could hear was “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Twist and Shout” in that hallowed cellar.”

Every Beatles fan has a favorite Beatle, and Gayle has been a John Lennon fan since the days that the Fab Four performed on the Ed Sullivan show during February 1964. She shared with me that visiting Lennon’s Liverpool childhood home was her favorite event on the Beatles pilgrimage.

Gayle Deel at John Lennon exhibit in Liverpool, England

Here is Gayle describing her tour of the Lennon home: “It was emotional to walk into the back yard and enter the kitchen knowing John had been through that door many times with friends such as Pete Shotton, Ivan Vaughan and sometimes Paul McCartney. The most chilling was being in the small bedroom where John spent young years and teenage years reading about other musicians, listening to American artists and beginning to craft his own musical talents.”

Paul McCartney childhood home in Liverpool, England. Photo by Gayle Deel.

Gayle’s second favorite visit on the trip was her visit to Paul McCartney’s home on 20 Forthlin Road in Liverpool. Gayle also shares her thoughts on this memorable happening:

“On to Paul’s home – the second thrill of my trip, because it was here that I played, in his living room, the very same piano that THE Paul McCartney had played. Actually the song that rolled off my fingers was “Imagine” by John Lennon, not a McCartney song. But I found it applicable as I had imagined many times the reuniting of these two brilliant musicians. Another young Beatle fan joined me and we played “Let It Be”. He with the melody and me on the chords. I’ll never forget it!”

The other tourist stops on the trip to Liverpool are too numerous to name. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Penny Lane
  • Strawberry Field
  • St Peter’s Parish
  • Eleanor Rigby’s grave

The Beatles Story Museum in Liverpool, England. Photo by Gayle Deel.

After spending a few days in Liverpool, it was then time to take what Electric Light Orchestra sang about in 1979, the “Last Train to London.” The next day, Gayle’s touring group hit various Beatles sites in and around London.

The first memorable site Gayle visited was 3 Savile Row, which was the location of the Beatles last live performance ever: The Rooftop Concert. This mini concert became the climax of the 1970 documentary film “Let It Be.”

Visiting 3 Savile Row was a surreal experience for Gayle as she shared with me,

“The Beatles’ rooftop concert with Billy Preston, was the last time the group ever played together as a band. The Apple building was once owned by all four Beatles and each had an office in that structure. I went in and experienced being in the former beautiful wooden offices, now lined with clothing to purchase. What a shame this building is not a museum. I hear, “Get Back.”

The other highlight for Gayle in London was visiting Abbey Road. The iconic street is known around the world as John, Paul, George and Ringo were photographed walking across thoroughfare and the Beatles made it the front cover of the “Abbey Road” album. In Gayle’s words, “The walk across “Abbey Road” in London: no words can explain and then to turn and see Abbey Road Studios. I hear “Come Together.”

Gayle Deel walking across Abbey Road in London, England.

As trips go, Gayle, her brother and boyfriend all enjoyed their Beatles trip to England. However, Gayle wasn’t finished visiting sites associated with the Beatles.

On December 4th of last year, Deel and her boyfriend Douglas Rhodes went to Iceland to view the Imagine Peace Tower.

The memorial to John Lennon by his widow Yoko Ono, is dedicated to peace, and the tower’s name comes from Lennon’s signature 1971 solo hit song, “Imagine.”

Gayle had a wonderful experience visiting Iceland and the Peace Tower. Here are some of her thoughts as she recalls visiting the Nordic island country in the North Atlantic.

Iceland town. Photo by Gayle Deel.

“Iceland is a beautiful country. The air is clean and crisp and it is a quiet, peaceful country. It looks like a scene from Santa’s workshop.”

“The Peace Tower is located on Viday Island and a boat ride is required to get that location. We went at night. It was cold, windy and there were several inches of snow on the ground. We made the trek up the hill to the beautiful monument that shone a blue light into the heavens. Engraved on its’ sides is “Imagine Peace” in 24 languages. It is inspiring and moving. Yoko has also placed a stone that says: “I dedicate this light tower to John Lennon. My love for you is forever – Yoko Ono October 9, 2007.”

Whale watching boat, Atlantic Ocean, along the coast in Iceland. Photo by Gayle Deel.

“Yoko chose Iceland with the blessings of the Icelandic people to build the monument there because it is between Liverpool, England, the land of John’s birth and New York City, the city he loved as it reminded him of Liverpool. Iceland is also considered the most peaceful country in the world – thus The Peace Tower.”

“The light is visible for many miles and the blue hue of the light just exudes a peaceful feeling and a yearning for self and world peace. The sole purpose of this trip was to experience that peace. And it happened: I hear ”Give Peace a Chance.”

As you can tell from Gayle’s writing above, she was deeply moved by her time in Iceland visiting the Imagine Peace Tower. She told me during our interview that she would like to revisit Iceland again in the future.

Imagine Peace Tower in Iceland. Photo by Gayle Deel.

Next up on Gayle’s bucket list is visiting Bermuda. This was the location where John Lennon wrote the songs for his last album, “Double Fantasy” which was released just prior to his assassination on December 8th, 1980. Gayle would love to listen to Lennon’s song, “Watching the Wheels” while visiting the Caribbean Island.

Now that Gayle is retired, she has taken up photography. You can view some of Gayle’s photography work on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/gaylendeelphotography/

Thanks to Gayle for sharing her pilgrimage to England and Iceland. After hearing and writing about her experiences, this Beatles fan is ready to travel in England and beyond to visit Fab Four sites.

These are Gayle Deel’s words to live by:

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will live as one

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Music, Retro Rock

What is Frat Rock?

 

 

 

Now the seats are all empty

Let the roadies take the stage

Pack it up and tear it down

They’re the first to come and the last to leave

Working for that minimum wage

They’ll set it up in another town

 

Now roll them cases out and lift them amps

Haul them trusses down and get’em up them ramps

Cause when it comes to moving me

You guys are the champs

But when that last guitar’s been packed away

You know that I still want to play

So just make sure you got it all set to go

Before you come for my piano

The lyrics above are from Jackson Browne’s 1977 song “The Load Out,” which mentions roadies. I had this song rolling across my mind, as I was a roadie for Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb of God” tour in Roanoke, Virginia last month. While taking a break from roadie duties that day, I received a call from my friend Bruce Bias.

After finishing small talk, Bias asked me the question: “What is Frat Rock?” My friend had been listening to E Street Radio on SiriusXM and heard Bruce Springsteen mentioning that he used to play Frat Rock music in the early days of his career before the release of the “Born to Run” album in 1975.

I didn’t know quite how to respond to his question. The only thing that initially came to my mind was music that was played in the 1978 film, “Animal House.” Or maybe it was music that is played by garage bands?

Before ending our phone chat, I told Bruce that I would research the meaning of Frat Rock and get back with him. Obviously, I educated myself on the subject and am ready to share my thoughts with Bruce and to everyone else who is reading about Frat Rock now.

The week that I was researching Frat Rock, I watched the 1996 film, “That Thing You Do!” for the first time. Written and produced by Tom Hanks, the movie chronicles the rise and fall of a fictional 1964 “one hit wonder” garage rock band.

The film accurately portrays what a typical garage band would be like in the mid-60’s and paints the picture of what many Frat Rock bands had to deal with during that time period. My daughter Amy recommended the film to me and I am now recommending the movie to all who are reading this message.

So what is Frat Rock? This genre of music is closely associated with the garage rock bands that became popular after Beatlemania swept across America in 1964. Frat Rock is also associated with 60’s R&B grooves: songs that have fast up-tempo beats and explosive choruses that can be sung by multiple singers.

Many of the early Frat Rock songs sounded like a party was happening in the studio when the song was being recorded. Backup singers on these early recordings would hand clap, shout, laugh, holler and make it sound like a party was being thrown while the song was actually being made into a record.

Quite a few Frat Rock songs released in the 60’s were made by rock bands that were either “one hit wonders” or tended to not have more than two or three major Top 40 hits. Later on during the 70’s, Frat Rock’s biggest acts were J. Geils Band and Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. These two bands featured plenty of guitars along with keyboards and saxophones.

One of the finest examples of Frat Rock from Bruce Springsteen comes from “The River “ album and the song, “Sherry Darling.”

During the 35th anniversary of Springsteen’s “The River” tour in 2016, Billboard Magazine had this to say about his “Sherry Darling” song: “The whooping party noises on this throwback frat-rock stomper provide a funny contrast with the lyrics, all about a guy stuck driving his girl’s pain-in-the-butt mother to the unemployment agency. Springsteen based the tune on ‘60s classics like the Swingin’ Medallions’ ‘Double Shot of My Baby’s Love,’ and he nails the vibe while injecting just enough sociopolitical angst to make it his own.”

During the late 60’s and early 70’s, Frat Rock songs became a mainstay for college fraternity parties. Perhaps the most celebrated Frat Rock song of all time is the tune called, “Shout.” The Isley Brothers wrote and recorded the song in 1959 but in was immortalized in the 1978 movie, “National Lampoon’s Aminal House.”

In the “Animal House” film, Otis Day and the Knights perform a cover version of “Shout” at a fraternity party that features drunken frat boys in togas dancing with sorority sisters. “Shout” is now in the Grammy Hall of Fame and Rolling Stone magazine ranks the song at number 118 on their, “500 Greatest Songs of All Time Listing.”

So what do music critics consider to be the best Frat Rock songs of all time?

ThoughtCo.com has a listing of their Top 10 Frat Rock songs:

  1. Double Shot Of My Baby’s Love—The Swinging Medallions
  2. Louie Louie—The Kingsmen
  3. Wooly Bully—Sam the Sam and the Pharaohs
  4. Nobody But Me—The Human Beinz
  5. Quarter To Three—Gary “U.S.” Bonds

 

  1. Shout—Isley Brothers
  2. 96 Tears—? And the Mysterians
  3. Land of a 1000 Dances—Cannibal and the Headhunters
  4. Farmer John—The Premiers
  5. Mony Mony—Tommy James and the Shondells

There is even an album called, “Frat Rock! The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Party Tunes of All-Time.”

Some of the songs on this compilation album from Rhino Records include:

  1. Gimme Some Lovin’—Spencer Davis Group
  2. Hungry—Paul Revere and the Raiders
  3. Keep on Dancing—The Gentrys
  4. Barbara Ann—The Beach Boys
  5. Wipe Out—The Surfaris

 

  1. Wild Thing—The Troggs
  2. Do You Love Me—The Contours
  3. Dance To The Music—Sly and the Family Stone
  4. Reelin’ and Rockin’—Chuck Berry
  5. Function at the Junction—Shorty Long

 

And now some of my favorite underrated Frat Rock Songs:

  1. (We Ain’t Got (Nothin’ Yet)—Blues Magoos
  2. Pushin’ Too Hard—The Seeds
  3. Talk Talk—The Music Machine
  4. You, I—The Rugbys
  5. Shape of Things To Come—Max Frost and the Troopers

 

  1. Birthday—Underground Sunshine
  2. Hot Smoke and Sasafrass—Bubble Puppy
  3. I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)—Electric Prunes
  4. Psychotic Reaction—Count Five
  5. Did You See Her Eyes—The Illusion

Obviously, my thoughts on Frat Rock are just the tip of an iceberg. If you want more information about this genre of music, there are many places on the Internet to satisfy your curiosity about the various aspects of Frat Rock.

To Bruce Bias, as I promised to you: an investigation and a blog message on Frat Rock. Enjoy the read!

And to everyone else who is reading this message now: You don’t have to be a former college fraternal brother to enjoy the type of music described on this blog.

Everyone can delight listening to this musical genre. Long live, Frat Rock!

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above.

 

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Music, Retro Rock, Virginia Artists

Agents of Good Roots Celebrate 25 Years

Agents of Good Roots Celebrate 25 Years

In 1993, “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston was the biggest single of the year, Michael Jackson played the Super Bowl halftime show and the Dave Matthews Band from Charlottesville, Virginia released their live album, “Remember Two Things.”

While the Dave Matthews Band was gaining popularity nationally during 1993, another Virginia band was formed that same year in Richmond: the Agents of Good Roots (AOGR). Andrew Winn and Stewart Myers, friends from Patrick Henry High School in Roanoke, Virginia, hooked up with Brian Jones and J.C. Kuhl to form the band that became a darling of East Coast college campus venues and club circuits throughout the 90’s.

Agents of Good Roots are celebrating their 25 years as a band by performing two Virginia concerts. AOGR will playing at The Broadberry in Richmond on December 21st and then the next night will be performing at Roanoke’s 5 Points Music Sanctuary.

My connection with AOGR goes back to the late 80’s when I met Tom and Nancy Myers along with their son Stewart. I was a sound engineer for Grace Covenant Church in Roanoke, Virginia and Stewart played bass with the worship team during his high school years.

Stewart Myers met Andrew Winn at Patrick Henry High School. The two boys played together in various rock bands and formed their musical bond during this time period. After graduation from high school, Winn attended James Madison University and Myers went to school at William and Mary.

By 1993, both Myers and Winn ended up in Richmond and formed a band with Brian Jones and J.C. Kuhl. The original name of this new band was River Jacks and their first show was played at Shockoe Bottom in Richmond 25 years ago. Quickly after the first concert, the band became Taxicat and then finally came up with the name Agents of Good Roots within the first year of the band’s forming.

From 1995 until 2001, AOGR toured up and down the East Coast and had a regional following. The band toured with Virginia artists Dave Matthews Band and Bruce Hornsby, along with Blues Traveler during their active touring years.

Agents of Good Roots recorded five studio albums, two EP’s and released four singles during the years 1995 through 1999. Two of the AOGR singles received airplay on Triple A rock radio stations and one of the band’s videos was played on MTV.

The single, “Smiling Up the Frown” was a radio hit on Triple A rock radio stations and reached number two on the Billboard Triple A chart during 1998. Another popular single for the band in 1998 was “Come On (Let Your Love Come Alive).” This tune also received airplay on Triple A rock radio and MTV added a video for this song to their rotation when the song was popular.

Starting in 2001, AOGR cut back on their massive touring schedule and maintained a limited amount of concerts in and around the Richmond area. Then in 2006, the band went on hiatus and remained dormant until 2017.

According to the official Agents of Good Roots website, the band, “reunited for a memorial show for their tour manager and spiritual advisor, Jeff Peskin.” Since that time in October 2017, AOGR have performed 12 concerts in Richmond, Roanoke, Hampton, Charlottesville and Arrington, all in Virginia, plus in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington D.C.

I had the opportunity to attend the Agents of Good Roots Roanoke concert back in October and also met with band members Andrew Winn and Stewart Myers three hours before the beginning of their concert that evening. It was great reconnecting with Myers and a pleasure meeting Winn for the first time at the 5 Points Music Sanctuary concert venue.

So how does one describe what kind of band AOGR is and what genre of music they play? I asked this question to Winn when we met and he came up with one word: “improvisational”. My one word to describe AOGR’s music is “hybrid”. They play rock, pop, jazz and old school R&B with some retro grooves. The band is known for playing its songs differently each time they perform live.

If you are attending one of AOGR’s 25th anniversary concerts, here is the lineup you will see:

Drums, Vocals / Brian Jones

Tenor, Bari, Soprano Sax / J.C. Kuhl

Bass, Vocals / Stewart Myers

Guitar, Keys, Vocals / Andrew Winn

So what are the “day jobs” that the Agents of Good Roots members are performing here at the end of 2018? Winn now lives in Roanoke and is an anesthesiologist with Carilion Clinic. Myers works in the recording industry and recently produced an album by Virginia folk/country artist Sarah White. Kuhl and Jones both teach college jazz courses at the College of William and Mary, the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University.

If you are looking for more current facts on AOGR band members, Tad Dickens of the Roanoke Times provided an excellent article on the band just before their Roanoke concert during October. https://www.roanoke.com/arts_and_entertainment/music/reunited-agents-of-good-roots-in-it-for-fun-headed/article_c6cdc4b0-7258-5857-8068-06eb8f9c5db9.html

Recently, I asked Andrew Winn a couple of questions on AORG music:

What are the Top 5 AORG songs?

  1. “Sidewinder”
  2. “Smiling Up the Frown”
  3. “Bucks in Cash”
  4. “Shot Down”
  5. “The Ballad of Hobby and the Piano

What is the signature song of AOGR?

“Sidewinder”

AGOR’s member Brian Jones wrote “Sidewinder” and here are the opening lyrics to the signature song from the band:

“Standing in the Eden Garden

Lying in the shade

Sidewinder in the dirt

Grass cutting King of Spades

Sidewinder

Adam was combing hair

Eden was bearing fruit”

Agents of Good Roots Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Agents-of-Good-Roots-1630761856948921/

Agents of Good Roots Official Online Page: https://www.agentsofgoodroots.com/

Agents of Good Roots: Photo by Dylan King

As I mentioned above, I attended AOGR’s Roanoke concert a couple months ago and I came away impressed with the musical variety and musicianship of each member of the band. I enjoyed their show and would definitely attend another concert by AOGR.

If you ever have the opportunity to attend an Agents of Good Roots concert, you will not be disappointed. Happy 25th anniversary to the band.

 

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The Beatles White Album: They Say It’s Your Birthday—50 Years

50 Years of The Beatles White Album

“They say it’s your birthday, we’re gonna have a good time, I’m glad it’s your birthday, happy birthday to you” are the opening lyrics to the song “Birthday” off of The Beatles’ legendary White Album.

The White Album, officially named “The Beatles,” turns 50 on November 22nd. Originally released in 1968, the double album has a plain white sleeve with no graphics or text other than the band’s name embossed on the front cover of the album.

The White Album contains 30 tracks and is diverse with many musical styles. Rock, pop, blues, country, reggae, avant-garde, folk, psychedelic and Indian music are all featured on this landmark album. It was a groundbreaking eclectic mix of musical styles for the year 1968.

While there were no singles released from the White Album, the songs “Hey Jude” and “Revolution” were both recorded during the same recording sessions but left off the album. This was the same pattern that was used when “Penny Lane” and Strawberry Fields Forever” were left off the Beatles, “Sgt. Pepper” album in 1967.

By no means will this article attempt to rank songs, claim to be a definitive source or declare that any tune from the White Album is the “greatest or best” from the album. If you are looking for that type of analysis, I would encourage you to check out other Internet sources for that kind of information.

According to The Beatles Bible, most of the songs from the White Album were written during a “transcendental meditation course with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh, India, between February and April 1968.”

During the time the band was in India, Beatle fans were clamoring for more music. The “Lady Madonna” single became a number 1 song during that time period but that was the only music released by the band.

After the Sgt. Pepper’s album was released in May 1967, The Beatles did not put out any more full-length studio albums for a year and a half. The six-track “Magical Mystery Tour” EP and the four new songs for the “Yellow Submarine” LP were the only new Beatles music being produced. Some wondered if the band were all washed up.

Once back in England, the Beatles started recording the White Album in May 1968 and didn’t complete the process until October of that year. It was an extremely long and arduous undertaking that many music historians link to the beginning of the end for the most popular band of the 60’s.

Along with the recording of the White Album, the band also formed the Apple Record Company, which brought many new challenges to the Beatles’ empire.

Most of the tracks of the White Album were recorded at the Abbey Road Studios in London. But as my friend Steve Delaney of Virginia Beach shared with me, a few of the tracks on the album were also recorded at London’s Trident Studios. Delaney learned of that information when he and his brother Dave Delaney visited the legendary Abbey Road Studio during August 2018.

Beatles record producer George Martin decided to take two tracks from the White Album recording sessions, Hey Jude and Revolution, and release those songs as a double A sided single during August 1968. “Hey Jude” was not only was the biggest song of 1968 but also was the best selling single for the entire 60’s decade.

One of the most interesting quotes that I read researching the history of the White Album is from writer Jann S. Wenner that was published in Rolling Stone Magazine on December 21st, 1968:

“There is almost no attempt in this new set to be anything but what the Beatles actually are: John, Paul, George and Ringo. Four different people, each with songs and styles and abilities. They are no longer Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and it is possible that they are no longer The Beatles.

Wenner’s review is almost seems prophetic as the demise of The Beatles became reality when John Lennon privately told his band mates that he was leaving the band ten months later during September 1969. (Public announcement of the Beatles break-up came in April 1970 when Paul McCartney announced that he was also leaving the band).

For this 50th anniversary of the White Album, I have asked some of the biggest Beatle fans that I know for their thoughts on the album released exactly 5 years after the assassination of U.S. President John F Kennedy on 11/22/63.

But before I share my friends’ thoughts on various songs from the White Album, I want to express what are my favorite songs from the album turning 50 years old this month. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is my absolute favorite Beatles song of all time and “Back in the USSR” is my third favorite song ever by the band.

You can listen to a countdown of my favorite Beatles songs of all time when I was a guest DJ for a My Fab Four segment with The Beatles Channel on SiriusXM. This SoundCloud audio file is from August 2017.

Besides “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Back in the USSR”, rounding out my top 5 songs on the White Album are “Blackbird,” “Helter Skelter” and “Revolution 1.”

If you ask 100 individuals what are the top five songs on the White Album, most likely you would end up with 100 different answers. With this in mind, I have asked friends of mine who are huge Beatles fans, to share some of their thoughts on this legendary album.

David Hollandsworth: Roanoke, Virginia:

“I was only 11 when the While album came out so it wasn’t until a
couple years later that I first heard it at a friend’s house. I was
intrigued by it because it was a double LP release in a plain white
jacket.

Favorite songs would include “Back in the USSR”, “Birthday,” “Ob-La-Di,
Ob-La-Da,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” “Blackbird,” “Happiness Is a Warm
Gun” and “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey”.
Probably my favorite is “Dear Prudence”; I’ve just always liked the
melancholy chord progression and mood.

I used to think this was kind of a hodge-podge album but it’s grown on me over the decades and next to Abbey Road and Sgt. Pepper’s, I would say this is my third favorite Beatles album. Hard to believe it’s turning 50 years old! Happy birthday to ya!”

Sherry Hicks Richardson: Roanoke, Virginia:

“The Beatles White Album is one of my all-time favorites. I remember getting this album for Christmas and listening to it non-stop for weeks. It’s iconic. Wow! Favorite song off the album? I really like “Glass Onion” for the historical references (although Paul was not the walrus — John was) and I still remember photos of Paul with his sheepdog Martha, so “Martha My Dear” is a big fave too. I’ve always liked “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by George — it’s one of his best Beatles songs. It is just too hard to pick just one favorite.”

Gayle Deel: Roanoke, Virginia:

“The White Album – 50 years ago – I was 14.  I had been what I call myself an ‘original Beatlemaniac’ since 9 years old. This album helped to continue the hunger for more music, more Beatles, more growth in their societal involvement.
The album was an eclectic contribution by all four of my favorite musicians and idols.

What I know factually is that they recorded for many weeks and for many 24-hour marathons and it was during this period that they first recorded on an eight-track tape machine.

From the hard driving “Back in the U.S.S.R.” to the ironic “Happiness is a Warm Gun” to the moving “Julia” or the most beautiful of the album  – George’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” – I loved them all. I can’t choose. It is impossible.

Love you John, Paul, George and Ringo – thank you for all the creativity, the dedication, the genius that has personally helped me through many times and provided me with a lifetime of memories.” 

Dave Delaney: Roanoke, Virginia:

“I have definitely gone through phases with the White Album. I remember my brother Steve and I hearing this for the first time in late 1968, visiting our grandparents for Thanksgiving. The next-door neighbor had a teenager who had gotten it and played it for us.

Even at 11 years old I could tell that these were no longer songs meant to blow up the pop charts. This was music that older kids would sit down and listen to, even more so than Sgt. Pepper’s had been. Later I remember thinking that the whole album was a bit of a sloppy attempt at self-indulgence (“yeah we’re the Beatles – it doesn’t matter what we play – people will listen to it”). Only later did I really come to appreciate that this was indeed additional ground-breaking work. I grew to love this album so much that I named my car after it! And the Beatles song people most ask me to play when I’m sitting around holding a guitar is ‘Blackbird.’”

Steve Delaney: Virginia Beach, Virginia:

“I think perhaps more than any album, the White Album highlighted the amazing range of musical styles they were able to pull off. Contrast “Julia” with “Helter Skelter” or “Yer Blues” with “Mother Nature’s Son.” Then add in unusual tracks like “Ob-La-Di” or “Piggies” and you have a smorgasbord of styles and sounds.

It also might be interesting to point out that the White Album wasn’t entirely recorded at Abbey Road. A few tracks were recorded at Trident Studios in London. They had 8 track equipment as opposed to EMI’s 4 track machines.”

Here are the 30 tracks on the White Album:

  • Side 1

Back In The USSR

Dear Prudence

Glass Onion

Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Wild Honey Pie

The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Happiness Is A Warm Gu

  • Side 2

Martha My Dear

I’m So Tired

Blackbird

Piggies

Rocky Raccoon

Don’t Pass Me By

Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?

I Will

Julia

  • Side 3

Birthday

Yer Blues

Mother Nature’s Son

Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey

Sexy Sadie

Helter Skelter

Long, Long, Long

  • Side 4

Revolution 1

Honey Pie

Savoy Truffle

Cry Baby Cry

Revolution 9

Good Night

Fifty years after the White Album was released, it remains one of the greatest rock albums of the 20th Century. In 2003, the White Album was ranked number 10 on the Rolling Stone “Greatest Albums of All Time” listing.

Critics all rank the White Album as one of the top three Beatles albums of all time. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but one thing is sure: The Beatles’ White Album is a beautiful collection of songs and is now celebrating 50 years of wonderful music.

They say it’s your birthday: I am sure glad that John, Paul, George and Ringo recorded the White Album, “All Those Years Ago.” Rock on!

 

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Dave and Steve Delaney: Beatles Pilgrimage to England

Dave & Steve Delaney: Penny Lane Sign Liverpool

“Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes, there beneath the blue suburban skies” is the chorus to my 2nd favorite Beatles song of all time, “Penny Lane.” During August 2018, brothers Dave and Steve Delaney had the opportunity to visit Penny Lane in Liverpool and to tour the Abbey Road Studios in London as part of their Beatles pilgrimage to England. I will be chronicling Dave & Steve’s journey to various Fab Four sites during their Beatles excursion.

Recently I had the opportunity to interview the Delaney brothers to hear their stories as they reminisced about their Beatles trip. It was a wonderful time viewing their photos as they shared various experiences while visiting Beatles sites in England.

I first met Steve while we were both students at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia during the late 70’s. Steve and I also worked together at public radio station WMRA 90.7 FM during that time period. Dave and I first met at Roanoke College during my daughter Amy’s graduation in May 2011.

Over the course of the past few years, I came to discover the love that Dave and Steve have for the Beatles. I actually saw them at the end of a Paul McCartney concert that all three of us attended in Greensboro, North Carolina back during October 2014.

Before I start describing the brothers’ Beatles trip, here is a little bit about each brother:

Steve provided the following bio: “Steve Delaney has worked for Virginia Beach Public Schools for 23 years, and is currently serving as an Instructional Technology Specialist. He graduated from James Madison University in 1982 with a degree in Communications. While at JMU, he fostered his love of music of many genres by working at public radio station WMRA. He lives in Virginia Beach with his wife and daughter, who both share his love of the Beatles.”

Bio for Rev. and Dr. David Delaney: Since 2001, Dave has been as Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries for Lutheran churches in Virginia (Virginia Synod ELCA). He also teaches part time in the religion and philosophy department at Roanoke College. Dave also was the pastor for several Lutheran congregations in Virginia prior to 2001. He holds an undergraduate degree from Wittenberg University, a degree from Trinity Lutheran Seminary and received his PH.D. in Early Christianity and Judaism at University of Virginia. Dave married his wife Nancy in 1980 and they have two daughters.

Dave & Steve at Strawberry Fields Gate Liverpool

The first vivid memory that Dave has of the Beatles came during 1964 when the Delaney family was at a fast food restaurant in Beckley, West Virginia. Dave was 6-1/2 years old at the time and all the tables had a jukebox. While at the restaurant, someone selected “I Want To Hold Your Hand” on the jukebox and Dave then described to me what happened next:

“I was immediately smitten and started dancing in my seat. I remember my parents looking at me with resigned concern as if to say, “Oh no – he likes it.” Steve, 3 years younger, was next to me and I seem to remember him reacting the same way, although I don’t know if it was the music or my twitching around that was bringing it on.   Anyway, the rest, as they say, is history.”

The catalyst for Dave and Steve traveling to England and checking out all Beatles locations was the opportunity to tour Abbey Road Studios (formally known as EMI). This recording studio is where the Beatles recorded most of their music from 1962 until the group split up in 1970.

Sound board inside Abbey Road Studios

So how did Steve and Dave get to tour the legendary Abbey Road Studios (ARS), since that facility is not open for regular tours? Dave read about a lecture series that ARS was conducting in August and obtained tickets for the event. As part of the lecture, attendees were given a full tour of the ARS facility at the end of the lecture. This was a dream come true for the Delaney brothers.

“The Studio That Became A Legend” was the name of the lecture that Steve and Dave attended at ARS.  Here is what Steve had to say about his experience at this site:

“After being inside Abbey Road Studios, seeing the pianos and vintage equipment, and spending the day in Liverpool, I hear Beatles music with a new set of ears. I’m working my way through listening to the Beatles’ body of work again, and have a new, fresh perspective. It’s wonderful.”

Being inside ARS was also meaningful for Dave. Here is what he had to say:

“Visiting Abbey Road Studios and walking across “the crossing” is something I had always hoped to do, but I never dreamed I would have the chance to go INSIDE and be in the very same room where the Beatles recorded some of the most famous music of all time! To spend time in Studio 2, where the magic happened, and so many landmark conversations took place, was beyond all expectations.”

Later on that day, the Delaney brothers walked the famous Abbey Road crosswalk, just like the Beatles did in the summer of 1969 and thousands of other Fab Four fans do on a monthly basis.

One other place of interest that Dave and Steve visited was the house that Paul McCartney bought in 1965 located on 7 Cavendish Ave. in St John’s Wood, London. The brothers Delaney then finished up day one touring regular tourist attractions like Big Ben, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace.

Day two of the Beatles pilgrimage for the Delaney brothers started with a four-hour train ride from London to Liverpool. The tour of the birthplace of the Beatles started with a stop at “The Beatles Museum” located on the UNESCO World Heritage site at Albert Dock along the Mersey River.

Dave & Steve at Philharmonic Pub Liverpool

After checking out that museum, the brothers went to the Philharmonic Pub, which was the site of Paul McCartney’s small intimate “concert” that was featured on James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke segment in June 2018. Unfortunately, Sir Paul wasn’t performing at the pub the day Dave and Steve were at this establishment.

After lunch, Steve and Dave hailed a taxi and took a personalized two-hour tour of Liverpool for only 50 pounds.   During this time, the cab driver played Beatles music in the cab while driving and when stopped, he acted as a tour guide for the various Beatles-related places of interest.

One of the stops on the taxi tour was “beneath the blue suburban skies” of Penny Lane. This famous street is a main thoroughfare in Liverpool and the brothers visited several of the locations mentioned in the song “Penny Lane” including the barber shop and the roundabout. The bank building is now home to another business and the fire station is longer found on the corner.

Strawberry Fields Gate Liverpool

Another site brothers Delaney visited on the taxi tour were the gates at Strawberry Field. The building associated with that area was a children’s home but it is now being renovated. Plans are to open up the grounds for visitors and to have an exhibition center dedicated to the place and song of “Strawberry Fields Forever” in the future.

The final stop for Dave and Steve was St Peter’s Church. It was at the church’s yard that Paul McCartney met John Lennon for the first time. Here is Dave’s communication on why this site was important for him to view:

“My number one goal in Liverpool was to go and stand at the place where the Quarrymen had performed on July 6, 1957, the day that Paul came and saw them and later on met John. I finally have a 3-D visual on St. Peter’s churchyard and the Parish Hall for the day that is often called the “Big Bang” of the Beatles. I did manage to get a nice photo of myself there and put it side by side with the famous photo of John performing with the Quarrymen in roughly the same spot.”

Once the taxi tour was finished, it was time to head back to London for the Delaney brothers. After spending the night in London, the Beatles pilgrimage was at its end. Steve and Dave then headed back to Virginia, via a short visit to Iceland. It was an extremely satisfying trip for the Delaney Brothers.

Dave summed up the trip with these words: “It’s hard to believe that we were in England for just two days – we packed so much into that brief time that it felt like weeks. I suppose it would take weeks to actually see everything related to the Beatles in both London and Liverpool. Where next, then, Hamburg?”

Being huge Beatles fans, this was a trip of a lifetime for Steve and Dave. After I listened to their stories and viewed the photos of their trip, I am ready to sign up for the next lecture series held at Abbey Road Studios. One day I hope to experience London and Liverpool Beatlemania for myself.

Thanks to Dave and Steve for allowing me to share the story of their Beatles pilgrimage to London and Liverpool, England. Rock on!

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Hey Jude: Best Single of 1968?

 

 

“Hey Jude, don’t make it bad

Take a sad song and make it better

Remember to let her into your heart

Then you can start to make it better”

If you asked music historians what they felt was the greatest single record from 1968, many would select “Hey Jude” by the Beatles as being the best individual song from 50 years ago.

“Hey Jude” has the distinction of being not only the top selling single from 1968 but also the biggest song for the entire decade of the 60’s according to Billboard magazine. The tune was also the first number one song to be over seven minutes long.

So I wonder: Is “Hey Jude” the best single of 1968? Although I have great respect for the Beatles and their mega hit, I feel there are some other songs that I place higher than the Fab Four’s biggest song during their career. Side note: If the Beatles had released “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” as a single in 1968, that song would be my choice as greatest song for that year.

Besides “Hey Jude”, here are some of the other top selling songs of 1968 according to Billboard:   “Love is Blue” Paul Mauriat, “Honey” Bobby Goldsboro, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock on the Bay” Otis Redding, “Mrs. Robinson” Simon and Garfunkel and “Tighten Up” Archie Bell and the Drells. However, none of those songs are on my top ten listing of best singles from 1968.

Here is the criterion am I using to determine the best single songs of 1968:

  1. Are the lyrics meaningful and have substance?
  2. Does the song have historical significance?
  3. Is the song still relevant in 2018?
  4. Has the song received honors and awards from music Hall of Fames?
  5. Does the song still sound good in the 21st Century?
  6. Did the song reach number 20 or higher on either Billboard or Cashbox?

From reading my list above, you may guess that that there are some excellent songs from 1968 that don’t make my listing as they were not hits in America. Example: “The Weight” by The Band. This song ranks number 41 on the Rolling Stone “500 Greatest Songs of all Time” listing and is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but only reached number 62 on the Billboard Hot 100 during 1968. It’s a great song, but not a hit in the U.S.

Here are the songs that I consider to be the best 10 singles from 1968. There are no rankings with my listing and the songs are placed in a random order. I deem the 10 songs to be culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.

  1. Born To Be Wild—Steppenwolf

“I like smoke and lightning, heavy metal thunder, racin’ with the wind and the feelin’ that I’m under. Like a true nature’s child, we were born, born to be wild, we can climb so high, I never wanna die.”

“Born To Be Wild” musically and lyrically has become a motorcycle rock anthem and is associated with the 1969 classic cult motorcycle movie, “Easy Rider.” The lyrics of “heavy metal thunder” are credited with the naming of “heavy metal” as a genre of rock music and the song was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Fame earlier this year. Steppenwolf’s signature song is “Born To Be Wild.”

“Born To Be Wild” peaked at number 2 on Billboard Hot 100 August 1968.

  1. Scarborough Fair—Simon and Garfunkel

“Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine.”

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel took an old traditional English folk ballad, “Scarborough Fair” and combined the song with Simon’s song “Canticle” which came from rewriting a 1963 Simon song, “The Side of a Hill.”   The beauty of this tune is that “Scarborough Fair” and “Canticle” are actually two songs that are sung simultaneously with alternately verses from both songs interweaved together.

This melodic anti-war song was featured in, “The Graduate” movie and is absolutely brilliant.

“Scarborough Fair” peaked at number 11 on Billboard Hot 100 April 1968.

  1. Hurdy Gurdy Man—Donavan

“Histories of ages past, unenlightened shadows cast, down through all eternity, the crying of humanity. It is then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man, comes singing songs of love, then when the Hurdy Gurdy Man, comes singing songs of love.”

Donovan wrote “Hurdy Gurdy Man” when he was with the Beatles in India while studying Transcendental Meditation during early 1968. The music on this tune is considered psychedelic rock and features three session musicians who became famous just after recording this song. Those musicians: Jimmy Page on electric guitar, John Bonham on drums and John Paul Jones on bass. These three guys, along with vocalist Robert Plant formed Led Zeppelin right after laying down the track for “Hurdy Gurdy Man.”

“Hurdy Gurdy Man” peaked at number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 August 1968.

  1. Jumpin’ Jack Flash—Rolling Stones

“I was born in a crossfire hurricane and I howled at the maw in the drivin’ rain. But it’s all right now, in fact, it’s a gas, but it’s all right, I’m Jumpin’ Jack Flash, It’s a gas, gas, gas.”

After going through a psychedelic pop phase during 1967, the Rolling Stones returned to a more blues-rock sound and this song is known for its signature guitar riffs by Keith Richards. The distinctive guitar sound on the tune places it in the top ten of the “greatest guitar tracks” in rock music history. The Rolling Stones have also played “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” during every concert the band has performed since the song was released 50 years ago.

“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” peaked at number 1 on the Cashbox Top 100 July 1968.

  1. Do It Again—Beach Boys

“It’s automatic when I talk with old friends, the conversation turns to girls we knew, when their hair was soft and long and the beach was the place to go. Suntanned bodies and waves of sunshine the California girls and a beautiful coastline, warmed up weather, let’s get together and do it again.”

After Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys recorded the landmark “Pet Sounds” album in 1966, Wilson had health issues and the group quit having hits on Top 40 radio. The band then recorded and released, “Do It Again” during July 1968 with much success. The highlight of this tune is the five-part harmony that is sung throughout the song. Once again the Beach Boys had created the magic of the “Pet Sounds” album with this summer of 1968 hit.

“Do It Again” peaked at number 8 on the Cashbox Top 100 September 1968.

  1. Sunshine of Your Love—Cream

“It’s getting near dawn and lights close their tired eyes, I’ll soon be with you, my love, to give you my dawn surprise, I’ll be with you, darling, soon, I’ll be with you when the stars start falling. I’ve been waiting so long, to be where I’m going, in the sunshine of your love.”

The hard driving drums of Ginger Baker, the guitar playing of Eric Clapton and the excellent bass riffs and vocals on “Sunshine of Your Love” make this tune the signature song by the trio Cream. The song continues to rank as one of the greatest rock songs of all time, was voted as one of the best rock guitar riffs of all time and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“Sunshine of Your Love” peaked at number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 August 1968.

  1. Wichita Lineman—Glen Campbell

“I am a lineman for the county and I drive the main road, searchin’ in the sun for another overload. I hear you singing in the wire, I can hear you thru the whine and the Wichita lineman, is still on the line.”

Glen Campbell soared to great heights with the Jimmy Webb-written song “Wichita Lineman” on both country and Top 40 radio during 1968. Campbell employed members of “The Wrecking Crew” to play on this tune that some have called “one of the greatest pop songs ever composed.” Carol Kaye’s guitar playing on this tune is outstanding. A truly quintessential crossover hit almost 50 years ago.

“Wichita Lineman” peaked at number 3 on Billboard Hot 100 December 1968/January 1969.

  1. Pictures of Matchstick Men—Status Quo

“When I look up to the sky, I see your eyes a funny kind of yellow, I rush home to bed, I soak my head, I see your face underneath my pillow, I wake next morning, tired, still yawning, see your face come peeping through my window. Pictures of matchstick men and you, mirages of matchstick men and you, all I ever see is them and you.”

Status Quo’s only hit in America was inspired by matchstick men paintings of L.S. Lowry that depicted industrial areas of England during the 20th century. This tune features a phasing audio effect with wah-wah guitars. The record is said to be one of the first to use this technique. The distinctive four-note guitar riff throughout the song makes this a memorable song from the summer of 1968.

“Pictures of Matchstick Men” peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 July 1968.

  1. All Along the Watchtower—Jimi Hendrix

“All along the watchtower, princes kept the view, while all the women came and went, barefoot servants too, outside in the cold distance, a wildcat did growl, two riders were approaching and the wind began to howl.” 

Bob Dylan wrote the lyrics to “All Along the Watchtower” in 1967 but it was Jimi Hendrix’s cover version of the song that put this tune on music map. Obviously with Hendrix being one of the greatest guitar players of his generation, he does an outstanding job laying the riffs down on this masterpiece. Rolling Stone magazine ranks Hendrix’s cover at number 47 on their “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list.

“All Along the Watchtower” peaked at number 18 on the Cashbox Top 100 October 1968.

  1. People Got To Be Free—Rascals

“All the world over, so easy to see, people everywhere just wanna be free, listen, please listen, that’s the way it should be, peace in the valley, people got to be free.” 

50 years ago this week, the Rascals had the number 1 song in America with “People Got To Be Free.” The song spent five weeks at the number one position and was a popular song of healing for our country after the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy earlier in 1968. The Rascals message of freedom was much needed for all the turmoil that America witnessed during that time period.

“People Got To Be Free” peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 August 1968.

There you have my top ten songs from 1968. I do not proclaim that my selections are the absolute ten best tunes from 50 years ago. Now that you know my top ten songs, I would love for you to post your thoughts. What songs do you consider to be the best songs from 1968? I value your opinion on this topic. Rock on!

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