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Sep 06

Popular ’68

Popular121 comments • 2,419 views

I AM THE GOD OF POLL-FIRE AND I BRING YOU… tickboxes. 44-year-old tickboxes. Mid-August 68 and the TODALLY bonkers world of Art Brown was here, soon giving way to a string of killer Bs, Beach Boys, Bee Gees and The Beatles Band. The latter clearly warming up their newly-minted Olympic theme song.

So, here’s Tom’s standing orders:

I give a mark out of 10 to every single featured on Popular. This is your chance to indicate which YOU would have given 6 or more to, by whatever standard you wish to impose. And if you have any ‘closing remarks’ on the year to make, the comments box is your place!

Which of the Number Ones of 1968 Would You Have Given 6 Or More To?

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Poll closes: No Expiry

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Comments

  1. 1
    Tommy Mack on 16 Aug 2012 #

    Only Stones, Equals, Beach Boys, Hugh Montenegro and Arthur Brown for me. Two of my least favourite Beatles hits, though still better than some of the crap they were to release the following year.

  2. 2
    Tommy Mack on 16 Aug 2012 #

    Hey Jude maybe just scrapes it for the Judy-judy-judy-judy-waaaaaah! Possibly the only Macca flambe vocal that really does it for me.

  3. 3
    thefatgit on 16 Aug 2012 #

    1968 is a funny year to evaluate, because I was only a toddler then. So I’ve voted with hindsight and surprisingly quite a lot of these get 6 or more. Only 6 didn’t make the cut, including one Beatles song and one Beatles cover.

  4. 4
    swanstep on 16 Aug 2012 #

    12/20 for me. There’s a strand of primitivism running through the year’s #1s that’s a bit galling. Still, in many cases the upshot was good enough for a 6 in my books, hence a tick. ‘Fire’ is my song of the year, and a solid 10.

  5. 5
    Billy Smart on 17 Aug 2012 #

    A not-especially vintage 12/20 for me, too. A lot of fives in that list.

    There were two ‘phantom’ number ones in 1968, that topped the other (NME) chart but not the one that Tom’s using:

    Help Yourself – Tom Jones 2 weeks
    Eloise – Barry Ryan 2 weeks

  6. 6
    punctum on 17 Aug 2012 #

    #4: what’s wrong with primitivism?

  7. 7
    Ed on 17 Aug 2012 #

    I had forgotten that this year includes my absolute least favourite #1 of all time – possibly my least favourite piece of recorded music of all time – Joe Cocker’s WALHFMF.

    That’s not at all primitivist, and it’s all the worse for it.

  8. 8
    swanstep on 17 Aug 2012 #

    @punctum, 6. Nothing, it’s just that a little of it goes a long way for me (perhaps I like my primitivism in blobs rather than in strands?). I listened through all of the #1’s again (in the order they charted) before voting and just found the experience a bit wearying is all. I was newly thrilled by Mony Mony and Fire and the Stones but then felt a bit depressed by the evident urge to simplify in both Beatles and Beach Boys tracks (relative to their 1966 and 1967 stuff say). I like a lot of this stuff and voted accordingly (even for Joe Cocker!), but all bunched together they kind of cancelled each other out I found.

  9. 9
    JonnyB on 17 Aug 2012 #

    Would have been an interesting example of A/B testing, to publish this poll before and after the Olympic opening ceremony.

    A huge agreement with Swanstep #4. I bought an Arthur Brown album from the cheap CD rack years ago and was blown away by the whole thing. Magnificent for those ‘I am a bit off my face’ moments – did his stuff ever resurface in clubs?

  10. 10
    punctum on 17 Aug 2012 #

    #8 – well, yes, but given what the Beatles and the Beach Boys had gone through in (then) recent times I can’t really blame them for wanting to keep it simple (or is it that simple? Listen to the fadeout of “Do It Again” again…).

    Did anyone else catch Arthur Brown at the Half Moon, Putney, last Saturday?

  11. 11
    wichita lineman on 17 Aug 2012 #

    Or the gorgeous middle eight of Do It Again. Or the freaky drum intro. To be honest Swan I thought you were initially referring to Mony Mony (and the blockheaded but irresistible Baby Come Back).

    What a shame Eloise was denied a Popular thread.

    Less of a shame about Help Yourself, which weirdly only got to no.5 on the Guiness chart.

  12. 12
    swanstep on 18 Aug 2012 #

    @ wichita, 11. I *was* referring in the first instance to things like Mony Mony and Baby Come Back, but the thing I found wearying was the different notes of retrogression across the board. You and Punctum are right, of course, that Do It Again in particular does show signs of life (and all of us would be proud to have written it!), but it still feels like a pulling-back from Good Vibrations/Just wasn’t made for these Times, etc.. (Understandable as punctum suggests, but still disappointing when you’re, as I was, gulping the year’s chart-toppers down all at once!)

    Somewhat unrelatedly, davyh’s Ghosts of Electricity blog featured a great Roberta Flack track, ‘Compared to What?’ (1969) this week. I hadn’t knowingly heard it before (although apparently it was used in Boogie Nights, despite not appearing on either soundtrack cd!). Worth checking out if you haven’t heard it before.

  13. 13
    Dan Quigley on 18 Aug 2012 #

    Surely the come-down from 1966 Beach Boys to ‘Do it Again’ isn’t so much in the inventiveness of the record but the tune itself: after all those leap-filled melodies on Pet Sounds et al it’s a shock to hear a vocal line made up of three adjacent notes, and three hackneyed adjacent notes at that.

    I can understand why this sort of thing would appeal to Brian at the time, (since you can’t really go further than the setting of ‘Columnated ruins do-o-min-o’ why not try going in the opposite direction?) but to me it’s more an interesting record than a loveable one.

  14. 14
    Jimmy the Swede on 18 Aug 2012 #

    #11 – Agree entirely about “Eloise”. One of those great spectaculars to be sure. “Question” by the Moodies, two years later, was another. And indeed another tragic number two.

  15. 15
    ottersteve on 18 Aug 2012 #

    I remember this year having the longest single of all time (just short of 8 minutes)- Macarthur Park by Richard Harris. Personally I loved it, but would like to know what the comments here would have been if it made No.1. I was 14 at the time and admittedly more of a “nerd” than “cool” – only became less nerdy in my late teens.

    Admittedly this is one of the most overblown records of all time, but somehow it worked and i believe it got to No.3

  16. 16
    Jimmy the Swede on 18 Aug 2012 #

    #15 – Perhaps I might be allowed to repeat the time when “Macarthur Park” was destroyed for me. Kenny Everett was playing it many years ago and all was going well until we got to the the orchestral “ba-ba-ba-ba-ba” middle-bit and Kenny pipes up with “Two choc-ices, please!” and then goes off again. I’ve never been able to appreciate that great record since.

  17. 17
    enitharmon on 18 Aug 2012 #

    Overblown is sometimes wonderful. See also Eloise from this year, and the entire Jim Steinman canon.

    Tom remarked in one of his pieces (I can’t remember which and don’t feel in the mood just now to find out) something along the lines that an accomplished singer can ruin a song (something similar I heard years ago was that nobody could sing Leonard Cohen like Cohen himself doesn’t). This was never more true than with Macarthur Park; many better singers have been there and it just doesn’t work, the song comes out like a laughable piece of kitsch. In Richard Harris’s hands, or rather larynx, it’s monumental.

    Perhaps that restless, angry year, the year of les événements de mai, the Grosvenor Square riots, Black Power salutes on the Olympic rostrum and tanks on the Václavák, demanded explosions.

  18. 18
    ottersteve on 18 Aug 2012 #

    Another memory I have of ’68 (childhood memory gets stronger the older you get, apparently) is TOTP having a 3-way TIE for the No.1 slot that included Herb Alpert, the Bee Gees and the Beach Boys – am I right?
    “This Guy’s In Love” being Herb Alperts entry?

  19. 19
    enitharmon on 18 Aug 2012 #

    @18 Yes, I remember it well. The chart Tom is working to isn’t the one most of us paid attention to at the time, it’s an affectation of Guinness. Despite what certain persons who weren’t around or weren’t old enough to know (naming no names) may protest. We oiks from bog-standard comps didn’t work to the charts published by the NME, Melody Maker, Record Mirror let alone a rag for the retail industry; the BBC chart was canon.

    It’s Dominic Sandbrook syndrome innit. Bright young things who think because mummy and daddy bought them into a posh school and Oxbridge their scribblings about a period they didn’t live through are gospel despite bearing little resemblance to the experiences of those who were there.

  20. 20
    Jimmy the Swede on 18 Aug 2012 #

    #19 – Are you talking about Cameron and Osborne, Rosalind?

  21. 21
    swanstep on 18 Aug 2012 #

    I like all the famous versions of MacArthur Park about equally well, but the instrumentation on Harris’s original is especially good (it’s those ‘Wrecking crew’ guys again who played on so many great records of the time). In all versions, however, the cake imagery does prompt guffaws (but unless someone’s indulging their inner adolescent/Kenny Everett I don’t think it throws the whole song off). Food in general seems tricky in (non-leering) pop songs. Martin Fry is one of the sharper pop lyricists of the ’80s, but he’s regularly entered in ‘worst lyrics of all time’ lists for his ‘Can’t complain, mustn’t grumble/Help yourself to another piece of apple crumble’ couplet from Beauty Stab.

    I like (what amounts to) Webb’s trial run for Mac. Park, the album he wrote for 5th Dimension in 1967: The Magic Garden. The songs are all short but they tend to be explosively instrumented and also built up from wild lyrical conceits. There’s a breakup-song called ‘Requiem: 820 Latham’ (i.e., an address) which talks about the moon melting etc., and about kissing sweat that ‘hangs like honey from her goddess brow’… And I’m not sure that I care to hear an undistinguished vocalist take on Orange Air.

  22. 22
    Tommy Mack on 18 Aug 2012 #

    Re: primitivism: I’ve long been an advocate, but by it’s very nature it lends itself to quick bursts, punctuated by something else before it becomes dull. I once saw the fantastic Guitar Wolf (RIP Basswolf) play for three hours. It’s fair to say they couldn’t sustain the impact and intensity of first hearing them for that long!

  23. 23
    Tommy Mack on 18 Aug 2012 #

    I’d agree with punctum and wichita lineman that Do It Again has a lot of ideas packaged under some primitive sound (and that incredible snare sound in the drum intro). Come to think of it, I’d Jumpin’ Jack Flash (check those dueling guitars in the middle eight) and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly in this package. The Stones apparently worked hard to make JJF sound so crude: recording acoustic guitars on dictaphones to give them an eerie droning quality, Keef standing behind Charlie, whacking the floor tom on his kit.

    It’s a year of primitivism (on this and other evidence) and the challenge was: could you make something interesting or compelling from the shrapnel left lying around after the summer of love or would you fall back on aimiable boogie?

  24. 24
    wichita lineman on 19 Aug 2012 #

    Primitivism vs Maximalism. Eloise and Macarthur Park were where pop could have gone if Dylan, the Beatles and the Stones hadn’t decided to get back to their roots and abandon ’67’s progressions; there was still a strong strain of ’67 ambition around, but the main contenders all bowed out. I’ll always take We Love You or She’s A Rainbow over JFF.

    Across The Universe was John’s contender for the first Beatles single of ’68 but bossy Paul overruled him. That would have been a 9 for me. Other soft-centred ’68 favourites: The Casuals’ Jesamine, Grapefruit’s Dear Delilah, Honeybus’s I Can’t Let Maggie Go, all heavy on the woodwinds.

    Rosie, good point about Macarthur Park sounding kitsch in anyone else’s hands – even Levi Stubbs’ version doesn’t come close to Richard Harris. Maybe everyone knows this but the song was originally offered to the Association. They didn’t record it because they’d just finished recording their (magnificent) Birthday album, and didn’t want to cut eight minutes from it. I think they’d have done a pretty great job on it.

    Another ’68 maximalist 45 – Mason Williams’ Classical Gas (US no.2, UK no.9), arranged by Mike ‘Rockford Files’ Post (I especially love the drum burst at 1.16). In fact it was a great year for instrumentals: Hugh Masekela’s Grazing In The Grass was a US no.1, Cliff Nobles’ The Horse a US no.2, and Albatross was in the UK Top 5 at Christmas.

  25. 25
    Erithian on 19 Aug 2012 #

    “My name is Tommy. and I became aware this year…”

    Difficult to be objective about this year, the year of my 6th birthday and so many formative experiences. “Bonnie and Clyde” is the first number one I remember from the time and “Fire” was the first record I willed to get to number one – I can still remember seeing the Top 30 list in the Mirror and being delighted seeing it at the top. And ’68 was the year for which I joined the Popular comments crew as well…

    Other vague memories include seeing the league table in the Manchester Evening News “Football Pink” every Saturday night with City, United and Leeds swapping places in the top three, which seemed the natural order of things. Luckily my choice of team wasn’t decided by City winning the league but by United winning the European Cup a couple of weeks later, and the fact we lived in Stretford at the time. Otherwise I’d have had to wait until the day before my 50th birthday to see my team winning the title again!

    Then in September I took leave of all the friends I’d made at infant school by that stage to move across town to Denton – ending up in the same class as one Michael Hucknall.

    So I’ve ticked all but four of the year’s number ones, and even the ones I couldn’t bring myself to tick in an attempt at objectivity – Des, the Scaffold, the Ofarims – hold fond memories. Only the whiney Bee Gees one really leaves me cold.

  26. 26
    Jimmy the Swede on 19 Aug 2012 #

    Surely “Classical Gas” is a masterpiece, as is “Sabre Dance”. Dear God, there was some great stuff knocking about back then!

  27. 27
    wichita lineman on 19 Aug 2012 #

    1968 was on Pick Of The Pops yesterday. Just started listening… first track, Hold Me Tight by Johnny Nash! The only UK rocksteady hit I can think of.

  28. 28
    swanstep on 19 Aug 2012 #

    Paul Mauriat’s Love is Blue spent 5 weeks at #1 in the US in 1968 (it had 5 weeks in the top 20 in the UK). Salad days for instrumentals.

  29. 29
    ottersteve on 20 Aug 2012 #

    Can I nominate a musical “crime” for 1968? In this case, Aretha Franklins “Say a little Prayer” failing to make No.1 anywhere.

    Overblown to perfection.

  30. 30
    Jimmy the Swede on 20 Aug 2012 #

    #27 – Rocksteady? How about The Piglets’ classic “Johnny Reggae”? A real tasty geezer, even if the guy responsible certainly wasn’t.

  31. 31
    wichita lineman on 20 Aug 2012 #

    Johnny Reggae is reggae innit. Swede, have you ever come across Don’t Stick Stickers On My Paper Knickers by X Certificate? None more 70s. It references clunk click, ooh you are awful, put a tiger in your tank, and sounds like Johnny Reggae times ten.

  32. 32
    Jimmy the Swede on 20 Aug 2012 #

    Lineman – I can’t bring myself to agree that “Johnny Reggae” is anymore reggae than “Reggae Like It Used To Be” so I have to file it elsewhere. Anywhere!

    No, I’ve not come across X Certificate. I shall investigate when I can get to a more obliging computer. It sounds wonderful. Cheers for the prompt.

  33. 33
    Tommy Mack on 20 Aug 2012 #

    Listening to MacArthur Park, possibly for the first time, certainly for the first time intentionally. To my ears sounds more Nilsonesque pop classicism than Brian Wilson-ish mad, reaching for the stars exploration. Actually, I’d bloody love to hear a Harry Nilson version of MacArthur Park!

    Back to JJF: what strikes me about most of the Stones’ ’68 stuff is not the much noted raw/back-to-basics-ness etc, but the murkiness of it: everything on JJF (and Street Fighting Man even more so) sounds like it’s looming towards you out of the dark and the rain and greasy pea-souper fog.

  34. 34
    wichita lineman on 20 Aug 2012 #

    I think they’re the first post-Andrew Oldham productions. The single before JJF in most of the world outside the UK was She’s A Rainbow b/w 2000 Light Years From Home. It’s a clear division for me between the 60s and 70s Stones (even though it’s only summer ’68!).

    Street Fighting Man predicts the Slade production sound, perfected on Gudbuy T’Jane: man singing really loudly three rooms away.

    Can’t really hear Harry Nilsson in Macarthur Park, Tommy. Structure and lyrics are more Smile than Aerial Ballet innit?

  35. 35
    Tommy Mack on 20 Aug 2012 #

    I’d say ’68 is like a transitionary period between 60s and 70s Stones. By ’69 and Honky Tonk Women, they’ve hit on the raw, brash bar-band sound they’ll use throughout much of the 70s as they build the World’s Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band brand, but in ’68 there’s still magic and mystery and menace and psychedelic wierdness hanging around, curdling fascinatingly with the tougher grooves they’re starting to bring in. There’s a real serpentine menace to Jagger around this time that he’d never really have again.

    I like She’s A Rainbow and We Love You (esp the video with Keef in his newspaper wig), but my favourite Stones song of the time has got to be (relative flop) Have You Seen Your Mother… – really nice marriage of furious garage-rock momentum with everything-but-the-kitchen-sink psych-era production values – should have been a much bigger hit!

  36. 36
    swanstep on 21 Aug 2012 #

    In case anyone hasn’t come across it before, Nik Cohn’s Dec 1968 joint review (pdf) in the NY Times of The White Album and Beggars Banquet.

  37. 37
    punctum on 21 Aug 2012 #

    “the TODALLY bonkers world of Art Brown”; this is why Britain will be relying on UN food parcels before 2020.

  38. 38
    punctum on 21 Aug 2012 #

    I read the first paragraph of that Cohn piece and knew that it was so batshit I didn’t need to read any further. I did, though, and it was boring. “Stray Cat Blues,” eh? G*ry Gl*tt*r really only the tip of a very big and unpleasant iceberg in rock.

  39. 39
    Cumbrian on 21 Aug 2012 #

    Being childishly rebellious, I thoroughly enjoyed throwing “Stray Cat Blues” back in the face of my Stones loving Dad when he complained about the lyrical content of some of what I was listening to when a teenager. Soon put paid to that line of reasoning.

  40. 40
    Tommy Mack on 21 Aug 2012 #

    Punctum, I thought Cohn was pretty on the nose: White Album sees the Beatles getting tired and settling for pottering when they once would have flew (and yes, it’s been said many, many times before, but you could do away with much of disc two and the world would be none the poorer – even George Harrison admitted he rarely got further than side one!), the Stones embracing their inner scumbaggery to more menacing effect.

    Apparently Nick Cohn was a massive pinball fan and The Who wrote Pinball Wizard to ensure a good review from him!

  41. 41
    punctum on 21 Aug 2012 #

    Sorry but apart from the Pinball Wizard story that is total bullshit.

    Why should anyone admire anyone for “embracing their inner scumbaggery” or being “menacing”? This is the thing that holds pop or rock back from getting anywhere; this stupid leather kecks, rocknroll, chicks drugs n SLEEEEEEEEEEAZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ notion that was antiquated at the outset. “Rock and roll” as premature heritage factory/theme park is BORING. I mean if Jagger’s going to drool over 15 yr old girls, shouldn’t Scotland Yard be rounding him up (I don’t CARE that it was ’68; it was shit then and it’s shit now), but no, we preserve him as some skeletal reminder of HOW IT USED TO BE without recognising that HOW IT USED TO BE had already been proved USELESS.

    Also ’68 Cohn’s a shit writer; too many presumptions and assumptions, inability to see outside his own head, let alone the bigger picture. OK he was only about twelve or something when he wrote this but I wrote better than him when I was twelve.

    Totally wrong, received opinion about the White Album (but so was anybody related to it called George); I demolished all that type of thinking when I wrote about it on TPL, go look it up, I’m not your butler.

    Rock “growing up” doesn’t NECESSARILY mean turning into the Moody Blues.

  42. 42
    punctum on 21 Aug 2012 #

    They actually played “Stray Cat Blues” on the radio the other day. Christ it was chronic. Three-and-a-half decent tracks on that record. Glad I didn’t have to write about it.

  43. 43
    Mark G on 21 Aug 2012 #

    I vote “Stray Cat Strut” for the win.

  44. 44
    Tommy Mack on 21 Aug 2012 #

    Why should we admire anyone for being menacing or transmitting scumbaggery? Because he’s a performer and it creates a compelling spectacle. I’m not really talking about chicks’n’drugs’n’sleaze – agreed…boring…can’t even remember Stray Cat Blues.

    What comes across with all Jagger’s best stuff is his sheer coldness, his detachment and antipathy. It’s more of a ‘shudder, I hope I don’t meet you on a full moon’ than a ‘you’re so cool and hedonistic and badass, I wish I was you’ Reprehensible in a person, but then I’m not asking him to be my mate or a role model. Not a goodie, but a charismatic and compelling baddie; puckish, snaked-hipped master of mischief, stirring up trouble, spreading corruption throughout the youth.

    Mind you, as I’m typing this, I’m struck by the notion that I’m basing much of this on Sympathy for the Devil and I vaguely remember much of Beggars Banquet being rather rickety acoustic blues – I’ll have to go back and listen to it again.

    As early as ’69 I’d say you’d have a fair point about The Stones and their rock’n’roll becoming a bit of a theme park (although I still love those early 70s Stones albums, as daft as I’ll admit their gunslinger imagery is), but on their best early sides, they still sound like they genuinely want to raise Hell, rather than just ‘raise hell’

  45. 45
    Tommy Mack on 21 Aug 2012 #

    As for The White Album, I find much of it boring and unsatisfying. I actually used to like it a lot more, but I’ve got bored of it over the years in a way that I never have with most other Beatles albums. Even some of the songs I like are little sketches. The sound is mean and thin and spare compared to the joyous exuberance of their last…well, of nearly all their stuff up to this point. It’s an interesting album and it’s a good album by anyone else’s measure, but it’s very near my least favourite Beatles album, probably only Let It Be I enjoy less. Actually, much of Abbey Road is ropey too, but then I’d say Come Together and Here Comes The Sun are better than nearly everything on The White Album.

    Agreeing with the concensus is not the same as lazily adopting the concencus: you shouldn’t assume that anyone who disagrees with you does so through ignorance, but I will check out your article and see if it does indeed demolish my thinking. I’m quite open to having my mind changed.

  46. 46
    punctum on 21 Aug 2012 #

    You see, my feeling is that dislocation and dissolution are sort of the point of the White Album; as the decade falls apart, so do its avatars etc., but I reckon the Beatles had an art to their dissolution and it’s something that I find much more redolent than the Bernie Delfont posturing of BB. You speak of Jagger’s coldness, and I agree, but at this point his coldness is still fairly tepid – or maybe half-baked (you’re right that once you get past the big setpieces, BB is mostly falling-to-bits acoustic bloooz yawns) – and both he and the band (or whatever was left of them after Brian) re-emerge quite dramatically with Let It Bleed; it’s only right that in terms of sixties number one albums, they should have had the last word. At that time I felt it was a more apposite and dynamic response to its moment than Abbey Road, but really it’s like trying to square JG Ballard against Evelyn Waugh.

    Revision: maybe not so much “demolish” your thinking as “reshape” it.

  47. 47
    Tommy Mack on 21 Aug 2012 #

    Ah yes, Let It Bleed has much of the stuff I vaguely thought was released a little earlier.

    Reading your White Album piece now: fascinating reading, makes me want to relisten to the whole album, which as I mention, I used to like a lot more: curse you, I meant to get some work done this afternoon!

  48. 48
    Tommy Mack on 21 Aug 2012 #

    There’s also an element of spite in admiring Jagger’s wickedness: It’s ’68, The Man has pulled the flowers of of The Kids’ hair and stomped them into the mud, so now let’s unleash the worst of us on the man: let rock’n’roll actually become all the filthy, nasty stuff The Man suspects it is. Of course, it’s never really The Man that gets it, more often the 15-year old groupie of Stray Cat Blues, but Jagger, like Eminem, can be thrilling on the occasions he turns his venom on more deserving targets.

  49. 49
    Tommy Mack on 21 Aug 2012 #

    On The White Album: I guess it’s been a real victim of what Tom Ewing and Lord Sukrat were calling the ‘cull mentality’ a while back. I always used to be a real completist, determined to see the worth in even the flimsiest and most throwaway tracks, but there’s nothing like having to choose your favourite 16GB of music to carry round with you to make you succumb to the cull mentality: Martha My Dear is no longer a charming slice of whimsy, it’s occupying space that Charles Wright, The Zombies, Tricky or Billy Bragg (to cast a glance at the pile of CDs waiting to be podded) could be sitting in. And so all of history gets reduced to what feels best to jog or cook or blot out the night bus to!

    Mind you, there are loads of albums on my iPod with filler tracks that I regularly skip on random play, but I still keep on there because I sometimes like to listen the whole album and I can’t say The White Album is among them. Maybe because the Beatles did so much great stuff, I don’t have to make the effort to enjoy something of less obvious charms. I did really enjoy your article and I will give the album another listen in full and see if I change my mind!

  50. 50
    JonnyB on 21 Aug 2012 #

    The Nik Cohn piece: Sympathy for the Devil ‘remains a strong melody line’.

    That single sentence about the music seems an odd bit of analysis, in the least.

  51. 51
    Ed on 22 Aug 2012 #

    ‘Revolution’ does even better: it “remains a brilliant melody line.”

    Did the NYT not employ any subs in the sixties?

  52. 52
    Mark G on 22 Aug 2012 #

    Yes, they all thought Nik Cohn remained a brilliant writer.

  53. 53
    Tommy Mack on 22 Aug 2012 #

    Cohn’s opinion on The White Album wasn’t much shared at the time, was it? I think I’m right in saying that it was the White Album that earned Lennon and MacCartney the Schubert comparison (in The Sunday Times? But Cohn’s opinion has come to be cliche – the recevied opinion of which punctum speaks. Mind you, Cohn also says he thinks The Stones have missed their moment and they’ll never get the recognition they deserve!

  54. 54
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 22 Aug 2012 #

    Ned Rorem said “She’s Leaving Home” (on Pepper) was comparable to Schubert: that is in the New York Times. It’s an obvious, almost an unavoidable comparison at a certain point — number of songs pouring out, arranged in song cycles, classically literate commentators enjoying them, someone was always going to say it. I think there was disappointment at the time with the White Album — not at a fall off in quality so much as a shift in tone… it’s a chastened and a wearied record, and people didn’t think they came to the Beatles for those things. Certainly my mum and dad didn’t play it as often as they had Pepper (I suspect I played it more than they did) : but they had tougher burdens to bear by then also, with knowledge of my dad’s Parkinson’s sinking in — and the absurd bright youthful joy of 1967 was something they knew they wouldn’t recapture.

  55. 55
    enitharmon on 22 Aug 2012 #

    I’ve certainly heard Revolver attract Schubertian comparisons but I can’t name names. Here There and Everywhere is an obvious candidate, as is Eleanor Rigby.

    The White Album has some cracking stuff on it. It also has some misfires but I can’t hold it against them for trying. Even misfires can be picked up and developed by others.

    I’m in the camp that believes Revolver >> Sgt Pepper.

  56. 56
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 22 Aug 2012 #

    In his famous Times review of Pepper*, William Mann mentioned Schumann, Wolf, Monteverdi and Britten — but I believe Mann had written about them before, calling them the “greatest songwriters since Schubert”. He was a subtle and an elegant writer — his Pepper review is thorough and accurate — and I suspect the context turns the grand puffing claim into less of a hyperbole and more of a precise point. Leonard Bernstein was also very excited by them at this point.

    *Which I still have, kept as a cutting in my parents’ copy of Pepper, in the sleeve in place of the Pop Art cut-outs, which my sister and I had made short work at the time, running round the sunlit garden of the welsh holiday cottage in cardboard glasses and mustache. It was the week after my 7th birthday.

  57. 57
    Mutley on 22 Aug 2012 #

    I think the comparisons with classical music started earlier than any of the above-mentioned (see http://www.beatlesebooks.com/not-a-second-time). According to this article, William Mann, the music critic of The Times wrote in 1963 “Harmonic interest is typical of their quicker songs, and one gets the impression that they think simultaneously of harmony and melody, so firmly are the major tonic sevenths and ninths built into their tunes, and the flat submediant key switches, so natural is the Aeolian cadence at the end of ‘Not A Second Time’ (the chord progression which ends Mahler’s Song of the Earth).” John Lennon said, however, that he was influenced in this song by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. I think William Mann was the one who also made the Schubert comparison.

  58. 58
    Mutley on 22 Aug 2012 #

    As stated in #56 which I hadn’t seen when I sent #57.

  59. 59
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 22 Aug 2012 #

    Other classically literate enthusiasts included Wilfred Mellers and Deryck Cooke. Well-grounded scholars were genuinely startled (and delighted) at the new turn of events: some of them dug pretty deep too, and didn’t just heap praise on the big names. Many of them — not all — were a bit baffled at the idea you could learn songwriting by ear (rather than by studying scores), and thus magpie up ideas by very unattested, “unwriterly” routes (and roots). And they weren’t all familiar or comfortable with blues or R&B, of course — though Bernstein and Mellers certainly knew jazz fairly thoroughly.

    There isn’t nothing in White Album to excite this specific kind of attention — Revolution No.9 is a superb bit of Goons-inflected musique concrete, for example — but on the whole it’s a record more about limits and regrets than about wide-open possibility.

  60. 60
    Mutley on 22 Aug 2012 #

    From the standpoint of a teenager (I was 19 when the Beatles first broke) favourable classical comparisons during the Beatles’ early days were welcomed, as rock’n’roll was still on the defensive against the older generation (and more traditional pop, trad jazz etc) even after 7 years or so of existence. So in that respect, classical comparisons for me (and I suspect many others) were on a par with “Elvis can really sing, just listen to It’s Now or Never” and in the grand tradition of “Don’t Knock the Rock” and “Rock’n’Roll is Here to Stay”. As we all know, the Beatles made rock’n’roll “loveable” for mums and dads, and a little intellectual support could only help. This of course was in those cosy Horlicks-ridden days when you wanted your mum and dad to like your music. I recall that there was quite a bit of mocking of these classical comparisons at the time (Paul Johnson? Bernard Levin?)

  61. 61
    Ed on 22 Aug 2012 #

    Poor old Nik Cohn has been taking stick from several people on this thread, including me, and it’s worth remembering he could be brilliant.

    This final chapter of ‘Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom’ is a cracker:

    http://books.google.com/books?id=O9xtRMht6sgC&pg=PA241&lpg=PA241&dq=nik+cohn+superpop+awopbopaloobop+alopbamboom&source=bl&ots=pYEdikizLO&sig=axIRio7a7YpPw2CMMGacdYeoQNI&hl=en#v=onepage&q=nik%20cohn%20superpop%20awopbopaloobop%20alopbamboom&f=false

  62. 62
    Ed on 22 Aug 2012 #

    And there’s Tom’s fave, ‘Rock Dreams’, now going for $50 on eBay, I see. I knew I should have bought the copy they had in the second-hand bookshop in East Street, Epsom, in 1981, but they were asking £3 for it,

  63. 63
    Tommy Mack on 22 Aug 2012 #

    #59: Loads of songs on the White Album seem really sketchpad-y: stylistic experiments and pastiches that wear their influences on their sleeves and never better or transcend them. It’s tempting to believe this is because the Beatles are working more seperately than before, but it could just as easily be fatigue after ten years of graft, five of them spent not just at the very top of the game, but expanding the rules and boundaries of the game at a furious rate – there’s something very potter-y about much of the album; let’s just have a play around and see what happens: nothing wrong with that, but it’s never going to sound as compelling to me as Pepper or Revolver or Rubber Soul. Or Hard Day’s Night, Help or Please Please Me, for that matter.

  64. 64
    wichita lineman on 22 Aug 2012 #

    Nik Cohn could be a lazy writer, he’s admitted it himself a few times. But he’s still my favourite pop writer ever. The fact that he’s “admitted” half the anecdotes in Pop From The Beginning/Awopbopaloobop were invented (I’m guessing the Gene Pitney one for a start) doesn’t bother me at all.

    The White Album was ‘obscure’ enough for me to not have had half of it until 1986, when I was 21. Its rep seemed to be elevated in the 90s, in the wake of Revolver’s reassessment, but now seems to have sunk below Abbey Road again in the pecking order.

    It’s a fascinating document – of the group and the state of pop – but, natch, I think it would’ve made a better single album. No Ob La Di, no Rev 1 or 9, no Honey Pie (but yes Wild Honey Pie), no WDWDIITR, no Yer Blues, no Savoy freakin Truffle. Yes I’m a butcher. But we should give thanks George Martin wasn’t handed the carving knife.

  65. 65
    swanstep on 22 Aug 2012 #

    If anyone’s interested, that Nik Cohn article comes from this NY Times blog which concerns (and links to) a music podcast that (at about 15mins in) interviews Cohn about his 1968 review and elicits his thoughts on the then current release of the remastered White Album. It’s definitely worth a listen. For example, Cohn talks a lot about his speeding and the Beatles being Acid and never the twain shall meet, etc., and he’s very amusing about the hyperbolic esteem in which he felt the Beatles were held in 1968 (‘the sum of all human wisdom’) and which he offers as partial excuse for his intemperately negative review at the time.

  66. 66
    Rory on 22 Aug 2012 #

    The White Album was my first Beatles album after a singles compilation the year before. I loved it with an intense teenage passion, which I imagine would infect any re-listening today (haven’t given it a spin for years; Revolver and Beatles For Sale are my go-to albums now when I’m in a Fab mood). Whenever people would do what-to-cut thought experiments, I would be dismayed at the thought that any of its songs could have ended up unheard (until the anthologies, at least, but they didn’t come out until I was pushing 30). Even “Revolution 9”, which I rarely listened to because it was the obvious track to drop to fit it all on a C90, was worth those rare listens. As for the rest, they all stood up to frequent exposure in my late teens, and I still love every one. Yes, even (or even especially) “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road?”, 1:41 of hand-clapping shouty-Paul falsetto-Paul goodness which always reminds me of my Dad’s spontaneous riposte of “You’ll frighten the horses!”

  67. 67
    enitharmon on 22 Aug 2012 #

    wichita @64

    in the wake of Revolver’s reassessment

    Was Revolver reassessed in the 90s? News to me. Who by? And why should that person’s assessment change anything? Who are these people who form their opinions based on what some scribbler writes in some rag? Can’t they make a judgement for themselves?

    Revolver was a brilliant, ground-breaking album in 1966; it is so in 2012 and I can’t see any reason why it would have been anything else in the intervening years.

  68. 68
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 22 Aug 2012 #

    One of the reasons things get “reassessed” — by musicians and listeners as much as “scribblers” — is that it’s actually often really hard to hear how something several decades old is “groundbreaking” with your own ears: precisely because it’s entered the language itself, it’s present in everything, it’s become the ground itself — and the ground it was once breaking from is (because it seemed halt and stilted and needing to be broken through) is itself no longer accessible, and lost to the ordinary young listener. It turned routine and was set aside. Scribblers are actually the primary reason I know which records were considered groundbreaking before I was around and listening: because they’re the main people who document the other stuff.

    Often wrongly, of course: much of the 60s and 70s rhetoric about how staid the music of the early 50s and 40s was is, well, rhetoric — this was probably one of the most exciting discoveries of the 80s for me. When you’re told something’s groundbreaking, you have really to go back and check all the stuff it broke from to grasp why, in case the scribbler you’re reading — caught up the fashions of their moment — is just wrong. We aren’t born with a perfect memory and grasp of everything that happened before we were born.

    I have a slightly belated relationship to Revolver, because mum and dad didn’t own it — their devoted fandom started with Pepper — and I bought it for them as a Christmas present when I was at college.

    (I suspect the main “re-assessors” WL is thinking of are actually all-too-regrettably Bunnyable musicians. But there were also huge CD reissue programmes going on then, and several magazines devoted all too many pages to “which classic rock albums you should replace first”, and so on.)

  69. 69
    Jimmy the Swede on 22 Aug 2012 #

    #57 – This is the first time I’ve seen this review of “Not A Second Time” and bloody hell, Doris, bloody hell! We had both “Please Please Me” and “With The Beatles” in our house back in the day and I was thus familiar enough with all the tracks from a very early age. I really like NAST but will be listening to it with a very different set of ears when I next slip the album on again. We also had “She Loves You”, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “I Feel Fine” in our record rack, as well as the Stones’ album “Out Of Our Heads”. All of this wonderful stuff was thus available to me before I toddled off to school aged five. My groover mum was responsible, bless her. My Edwardian father, meanwhile, always regarded it all as “bloody rubbish” and always said so. Indeed, many years later, the old sod came in to my room when I was playing Carole King’s “Tapestry” and cursed that too. Says everything. He was a little more tolerant about the Jim Reeves album we also had in the house, if not “The Unforgetable Nat King Cole”, which I adored and caused me to sing “Straighten Up And Fly Right” in my primary school playground. Probably the start of my problems.

    #64 – I personally think that it is far easier sponsoring the “halving” of “The White Album” than it is to decide what goes in order to accomplish this. I would thus, after mature consideration, leave it alone, even the ridiculous Rev 9, which Lennon insisted on including, despite the others and George Martin recognising it as garbage.

  70. 70
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 22 Aug 2012 #

    I am losing it in my dotage obviously, or else huffed too much paint fumes and turps while redecorating the last few weeks, but I was reading only a few days go a technical discussion of why exactly William Mann describes it as an Aeolian Cadence, and why he’s actually wrong!

    But I can’t think where: punctum, it wasn’t you, was it?

  71. 71
    wichita lineman on 22 Aug 2012 #

    Re 67: Revolver was brilliant and groundbreaking from 1966 onwards, that wasn’t in question. But you had to have heard it to know that.

    For a slightly younger generation, too young to have known the Beatles as new, the Red and Blue albums were the Beatles everyone knew, and Revolver barely got a look in (just Eleanor Rigby and Yellow Submarine). Unless you had lots of pocket money, or had hip parents/older brother/sister, Revolver could easily slip through the net.

    The other reason for its 80s/90s ‘reassessment’ was that I think in the seventies it was seen as a brilliant, groundbreaking collection of songs rather than a “brilliant, groundbreaking album”, which Sergeant Pepper certainly was – artwork, concept, segues, slight returns, the works.

    Sergeant Pepper was always ‘the best album ever made’ when I was growing up, it was a given. In the late eighties Pet Sounds and, then, Revolver usurped it in polls.

  72. 72
    enitharmon on 22 Aug 2012 #

    Mark @68

    Ok, so I get what you are saying is that Revolver (and many other things) were actually given a retrospective appraisal by a new generation not previously familiar with them? Is that right? Rather than writers who had dismissed them at the time having a Damascene conversion? I can live with that.

    Having grown up with these things one wants to weep when younger people aver that the Beatles were overrated, rather like people saying that Hamlet is full of clichés.

    But I would still maintain that the proper answer to “what classic rock album should I replace first?” is “the you enjoy listening to most”, and not what somebody else tells you is the best. Talk of Mahlerian harmonic progressions goes way over my head even now but I knew when I was 10 that what the Beatles did was different and more interesting that the other stuff that was around. And of course I’m delighted when new generations learn to love it too.

  73. 73
    tm on 22 Aug 2012 #

    I think it’s hard to know what you’d cut from the White Album: all of it is worth hearing, little of it feels essential to me. Most of the musical ideas (heavy blues, folk pop, sound collage) feel like they’ve been done better by other people before or since or both.
    On my iPod I have: USSR, Prudence, Glass Onion, While my guitar…, Happiness, I’m So Tired, Julia, Sexy Sadie, Helter Skelter, Long Long Long, Rev 1, Cry Baby Cry and Goodnight.

  74. 74
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 22 Aug 2012 #

    My kind of reappraisal

  75. 75
    Jimmy the Swede on 22 Aug 2012 #

    #74 – That’s one of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long while.

  76. 76
    tm on 22 Aug 2012 #

    “Now it looks like a very hairy monkey in an ill fitting tunic”

  77. 77
    tm on 22 Aug 2012 #

    WL @ 71: Seems like Pet Sounds got critically downgraded over the last ten yearsn I remember lots of people calling it overrated. It then seemed to be ‘rehabilitated’ in time for last year’s lavish reissues. Personally, I’m a big fan: not my favourite Beach Boys album, but a beautiful sounding, airy, uplifting, almost hymnal set of songs.

  78. 78
    wichita lineman on 22 Aug 2012 #

    Here’s a fun parlour game. Pull a face and have people guess which Beatle you’re meant to be in this Revolver reappraisal.

    TM, that’s a pretty strong Single White Album. I love Mother Nature’s Son, Blackbird, Martha My Dear and I Will, but the end result is mine always ends up a bit Paul heavy. Intrigued to know what you’re fav Beach Boys album is.

  79. 79
    Ed on 23 Aug 2012 #

    As a teenager in the late 70s and early 80s, with no parents or siblings with any interest in music, it was remarkably easy for me not to hear the Beatles. When I finally did, it was the White Album, lent by a friend who had borrowed it from a cool uncle, and it blew me away. “Oh, so that’s what all the fuss is about!”, I thought.

    For me, then, the groundbreaking aspect was every bit as accessible as it would have been to the original listeners in 1968. Maybe even more so, because I hadn’t heard Revolver and Sergeant Pepper to prepare me. And although I have heard most of the others since, and many of them are great, the White Album is still the Beatles record I love best, because of that shock of the new.

    At the time I would have been listening to The Jam and The Beat on the radio, and Rush and AC/DC round at friends’ houses. In that context, it was not really the case that The Beatles had just become part of the landscape. The Who and Led Zeppelin seemed much more known quantities when I discovered them.

    tm @77: Yes, i have been intrigued by the rise and fall of Pet Sounds in the canon. I’d always put it down to the rise and fall of a generation of critics whose tastes were shaped by E’d-up Second Summer of Love culture – something about the bittersweet mood, and the sense of innocence – but maybe that’s wrong.

  80. 80
    swanstep on 23 Aug 2012 #

    @ed. Pet Sounds arrived on cd in 1990, beautifully packaged and mastered to a very high standard. People tend to forget how harsh-sounding ’80s cds were, but at the time of its release Pet Sounds was, by way of contrast, one of the best-sounding things around. It was a revelation to me. Just as (Wichita has it right on) for me, at least until college, the Beatles had been the Red and Blue albums+Sgt Pepper, the Beachboys were down-a-notch from that and so had been boiled down to just a singles/greatest hits compilation (Bowie had covered God Only Knows on Tonight so I knew from the discussion around that that Pet Sounds was special and should be checked out, but I hadn’t done that yet).

    Anyhow, E and the summer of love may have influenced Pet Sounds ascent in polls and general awareness in the early ’90s, but I think it’s the cd release pattern that explains most of it.

    As for The White Album’s length. It’s funny how a whiff of baggy indulgence can sometimes really get ones goat (perhaps especially when it comes from a former fave). I recall being indignant at/incensed by Malick’s Thin Red Line (1998) when it came out because it was as long as Badlands and Days of Heaven *combined* yet seemed to have about half the ideas of either of those. I’ve come round on TRL a bit since but mainly I just can’t quite grasp why I was so exercised by its long-windedness (just skip, chill former-self dude!). Was my time really so precious then? Surely not. But something about my very high expectations for the film combined with the film’s meandering to elicit a toxic response from me at the time. Somewhere out there, there’s someone who penned a poison review of 69 Love Songs on the grounds that only 30 or so tracks are genuinely great.

  81. 81
    wichita lineman on 23 Aug 2012 #

    Regarding the reception Beggars Banquet got in ’68. Not only did Nik Cohn think the Stones had missed their chance, but I just picked up a Disc & Music Echo from Jan ’69 which has Peter Green on the cover and the headline “Fleetwood Mac: the new Stones?” suggesting the old Stones were over.

  82. 82
    Mark G on 23 Aug 2012 #

    .. whereas each successive “New Stones” designate, resembled the “Exile/MainSt” ‘falling over’ Stones

  83. 83
    Tommy Mack on 23 Aug 2012 #

    Ed @ 79 – Good point about hearing the White Album shorn of the Baggage of Revolver/Pepper; much of the critical reaction to it must have come from disappointment that it wasn’t another giant leap forward (more like lots of small moves in many directions: the Beatles’ dandelion has dried out in the sun, but now the seeds scatter and blow hither and thither), whereas The Stones’ Beggars Banquet came after what were seen as two fairly weak albums* and so was seen as a return to form.

    (*Between The Buttons and …Satanic Majesties’… – haven’t heard either all the way through myself so can’t really say if that’s fair, certainly most of the stuff off Satanic Majesties that I’ve heard is interesting and fun enough to deserve better than the ‘OMG, what were they thinking’ mauling that’s been handed out to it over the years, but listening to my Stones Singles Collection, the Satanic Majesties stuff gets weaker and weaker (In Another Land/Lantern being the last – The Stones first double B-side?) until Jumping Jack Flash cuts through like a force of nature and you can understand the critics’ rockist approval of The Stones’ back-to-basics return-to-form)

    Regarding Pet Sounds, I reckon it’s lack of peer probably counts against it: it doesn’t even really sound like other Beach Boys albums. It was the first Beach Boys album I bought (aged 16) and at the time, I was pretty disappointed with what I saw as the lack of pop hooks outside of the singles (which include my favourite Beach Boys song, Wouldn’t It Be Nice). I’ve grown to really love it since, especially after hearing the eight preceeding Beach Boys albums – If the first Miles Davis album you heard was Bitches Brew, I think you’d struggle to make sense of it, but if you listen to the progression of his music throughout the 50s and 60s, it starts to make more sense.

    Also, I figure a lot of critics find Pet Sounds less obviously progressive than Revolver/Pepper with their backwards-taping, Indian instrumentation and phased/compressed/echoed/sped-up/slowed-down bits of production cleverness. A lot of Beach Boys fans, like Keith Moon, probably find it too ponderous and rock/indie fans, I imagine, would go for The Beatles or Stones whose echos they can more readily hear in their favourite bands. As for the chamber-pop music more obviously influenced by Pet Sounds; it’s fans are probably just too indie-hipster to include something so canonical on their faves list!

  84. 84
    Tommy Mack on 23 Aug 2012 #

    WL @ #78: There is a distinct lack of Paul on that list! Looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t include Rocky Racoon or John’s Bungalow Bill either!

    My favourite Beach Boys album is probably Today!, Kiss Me Baby, being my joint favourite BBs song with Wouldn’t It Be Nice. All Summer Long is pretty great too, though a couple of filler tracks on there. Probably the only thing that stops Pet Sounds being my favourite now is that on a lot of the tracks, the harmonies seem to be pushed down in the mix; I might one day shell out for the box set that has the a capella version of the album. I’ve not really explored post-Pet Sounds Beach Boys, though I reckon I will; I love Dennis’ Pacific Ocean Blue. My Dad had Wild Honey which I found pretty ho-hum, The Beach Boys White Album really: interesting, eclectic, casual, low key and, to these ears, fairly inessential.

  85. 85
    Tommy Mack on 23 Aug 2012 #

    Mark @ #82: yes, if we say something sounds Stones-y now, we mean Tumbling Dice, we don’t mean Get Off Of My Cloud!

  86. 86
    Tommy Mack on 23 Aug 2012 #

    Swanstep @ #80: Personally, I never had a problem with the White Album’s length until the advent of MP3 players (or more specifically, the low capacity iPod nano-type players) where anything you include is to the exclusion of something else. Does anyone else have any former favourites that have suffered from pruning in the iPod-era? I suppose this will become irrelevant in a few years when Wi-Fi is everywhere and you stream either your own music from a cloud service or pay a monthly subscription to a global jukebox like spotify.

  87. 87
    wichita lineman on 23 Aug 2012 #

    Re 82/85: I’m guessing F Mac as the ‘new Stones’wasn’t even Get Off Of My Cloud, more I’m A King Bee. Luckily Peter Green took them somewhere entirely different in ’69, then Jeremy Spencer turned them into Buddy Holly impersonators in ’70, and THEN Danny Kirwan/Bob Welch made them sound like a brisk walk on a windy sunday afternoon beside the sea. Maybe near Fleetwood, Lancs.

    Re 84: You’re in for a treat if you’ve never heard Sunflower, on which all the other B Boys realise they better pull their fingers out as Brian really has gone part time. Beautiful, full production. I’m also very fond of the low-key Friends from ’68, effectively Brian’s private Chill Out.

  88. 88
    wichita lineman on 23 Aug 2012 #

    My Single White Album for what it’s worth, 46 minutes long, slight re-jig of the running order…

    Back In the USSR, Dear Prudence, Glass Onion, Blackbird, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Happiness Is A Warm Gun, I Will, Julia, Martha My Dear, Wild Honey Pie, Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey, Mother Nature’s Son, Sexy Sadie, Helter Skelter, Long Long Long, Good Night.

    The rest of the tracks, in my parallel universe, became the most famous bootleg album in history.

  89. 89
    tm on 23 Aug 2012 #

    I guess nowadays the ‘other’ tracks would be free downloads for signing up to a mailing list or some such. In the 90s they’d have been B-sides on overpriced CD singles.

  90. 90
    Dan Quigley on 23 Aug 2012 #

    Even with all its willful throwaways, is the White Album that much more patchy than any other Beatles LP? Heresy I know, but I think I could quite happily cut Revolver down to an eight-track EP.

    Isn’t it now the done thing to say that Please Please Me is the best?

  91. 91
    Dan Quigley on 23 Aug 2012 #

    Re 84, 87 – All the albums you both mentioned are great. Glad to see mention of All Summer Long – the pre-Today albums don’t seem to exist in some fans’ estimations.

    Side two of Carl and the Passions is highly recommended if you like Pacific Ocean Blue – ‘Make it Good’ and ‘All This is That’ are about as oceanic as the boys ever got.

  92. 92
    wichita lineman on 23 Aug 2012 #

    More love here for All Summer Long and Today, plus most of Summer Days & Summer Nights, but most of the early B Boys albums are a bit too theme-heavy (cars’n’surf) for me to listen to in one sitting. The lack of attention those albums receive in the Pacific Ocean Blue-focused age we now live in means songs as wonderful as Farmers Daughter are a little overlooked these days.

    Cuddle Up from Carl & the Passions makes my heart do crazy things.

  93. 93
    a tanned rested and unlogged lørd sükråt wötsît on 23 Aug 2012 #

    WA should have been a one-sided two-hour alb, with just one track = all of the so-called “song” songs on WA inserted as intended as edit-clips Faust-Tapes style WITHIN Revolution 9. Rendering the second side of Abbey Road unnecessary. A very hairy glass onion inside an ill-fitting savoy truffle, as it were.

  94. 94
    Tommy Mack on 23 Aug 2012 #

    That’d be brilliant – the original mixtape! Mind you, it’d have to play at about 8rpm: flies could use it as a Merry Go Round!

  95. 95
    Tommy Mack on 23 Aug 2012 #

    Dan and WL – Wise words indeed: I’ll check out your reccomendations once I’ve worked my way through the mountain of CDs I bought in HMVs clearance (3 Trojan comps, Prince, Gene Vincent, Jackie Wilson and Public Enemy Greatest Hits and The Slits’ Cut if you’re interested!)

    I love all The Beach Boys early albums except perhaps Surfin’ Safari which is mostly too throwaway (and they hadn’t really nailed the harmonies yet) and Surfin’ Safari which has too many filler instrumentals (note for note rerecations of Dick Dale’s Misirlou and Let’s Go Trippin’ for example – an important income stream for him pre-Pulp Fiction, I’d reckon) although it does also have the gorgeous Farmer’s Daughter and Lonely Sea. Even hits as well worn and lyrically carefree as Fun Fun Fun or Little Deuce Coupe have all sorts of unusual harmonies on. I even like evil Mike Love’s bass vox.

    Dan, I can’t think of much I’d skip on Revolver – maybe George’s songs apart from Taxman – they feel like a bit of a warm up for the superior Within You Without You on Pepper. I’m not always in the mood for Yellow Submarine, but overall it gets a thumbs up. Please Please Me is a fine album; very little I’d skip on that one. Early Beatles albums tend to get overlooked almost as much as early Beach Boys albums. I suppose for the same reason there’s been a great preponderence of gloomy, self-serious bands infesting the airwaves for the last ten years or more.

  96. 96
    punctum on 23 Aug 2012 #

    About the Aeolian cadences; yes I have written something somewhere about the RONGness of that (it was yer old Dorian mode) but can’t remember where.

    Pecking orders, rankings – is this pop or the Royal Marines (or public school oh hang on a min…)? It is quite purposive that I am using the ultimate populist example of pecking orders and rankings, viz. the album charts, with a view to demolishing all pecking orders and rankings and therefore *CONTROVERSIAL SECRET BLOG AGENDA EDIT* because:

    (a) what NikC proves is that “classic rock writers” are generally useless when trying to write about THE BIG ONES (as opposed maybe to obscure ones to ensure they don’t get found out?);

    (b) I am actually getting to NCohn HIMSELF with an EPIC number one album which is essentially based on a fallacy.

  97. 97
    Tommy Mack on 23 Aug 2012 #

    #95 – Second Surfin’ Safari should be Surfin’ USA!

  98. 98
    Tommy Mack on 23 Aug 2012 #

    Punctum @ 96 – I don’t think pecking orders and rankings have much worth in and of themselves but as a stimulus to chat, they can be useful: if you have to pick your favourites, then you have to think about what it is that you like about the music you like. Wow, that sounded clunky…

  99. 99
    wichita lineman on 23 Aug 2012 #

    Punctum, wasn’t Awopbopaloobop pretty much all The Big Ones up to the time it was written? Besides PJ Proby, it was all about the biggest names and the biggest records, so I can’t see what Cohn was hiding behind.

    He was a singles fan who never really took to the album era and quickly lost touch – his “big names of ’68” were Julie Driscoll and Arthur Brown who, whatever the quality of their recordings, barely sold a record after 1968. He thought Crosby Stills & Nash were laughably bad and spent the early 70s listening to country. I’ll stick an interview with him on my blog soon.

    Looking forward to the Cohn-related TPL entry, for various reasons.

  100. 100
    Elsa on 23 Aug 2012 #

    I’m disappointed about Mary Hopkin not cracking 50%. To me that’s an all-time classic. It must be one of the most often covered of this list, for what that’s worth. I wonder what about it rubs people the wrong way.

  101. 101
    Ed on 24 Aug 2012 #

    The greatest of classic rock writers on another 1968 album:

    ‘“Astral Weeks,” insofar as it can be pinned down, is a record about people stunned by life, completely overwhelmed, stalled in their skins, their ages and selves, paralyzed by the enormity of what in one moment of vision they can comprehend. It is a precious and terrible gift, born of a terrible truth, because what they see is both infinitely beautiful and terminally horrifying: the unlimited human ability to create or destroy, according to whim. It’s no Eastern mystic or psychedelic vision of the emerald beyond, nor is it some Baudelairean perception of the beauty of sleaze and grotesquerie. Maybe what it boils down to is one moment’s knowledge of the miracle of life, with its inevitable concomitant, a vertiginous glimpse of the capacity to be hurt, and the capacity to inflict that hurt.’

    From a lovely piece about Bangs in the New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/08/how-lester-bangs-taught-me-to-read.html#ixzz24Q3YmEIg

    Apologies for my failure to master that new-fangled html business

  102. 102
    punctum on 24 Aug 2012 #

    #98 – The word “favourites” shouldn’t be in any critic’s vocabulary.

    #101 – LB would have hated being called a “classic rock writer.” Almost as much as he hated “classic rock.”

  103. 103
    ottersteve on 24 Aug 2012 #

    Hmmmm…Lady Madonna getting more votes than Hey Jude.

    Could this be a “freshness issue”?
    LM has had little airplay over the past 30 years or so c/f HJ.

    For me Lady Madonna was the worst of the Beatles No.1’s and is down on record as having the lowest sales figure of all their 17 top singles.

    HJ has been played to death for many people – not so with LM.

  104. 104
    lonepilgrim on 24 Aug 2012 #

    re #74 That is Ray Dorset from Mungo Jerry and I claim my £5

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/cumbria/content/image_galleries/tj_stars_gallery.shtml?29

  105. 105
    punctum on 24 Aug 2012 #

    #103: it could be down to more people voting for Lady Madonna than Hey Jude.

  106. 106
    wichita lineman on 24 Aug 2012 #

    Maybe if they’d both been double A-sides, Hey Jude/Revolution would be polling better than Lady Madonna/The Inner Light.

    But then I thought EVERYONE loved Legend Of Xanadu, not just me, Tom, and the Queen Mother.

  107. 107
    punctum on 24 Aug 2012 #

    Last Night In Soho is much better. See also Wreck Of The Antoinette where they invent Stereolab, and Snake In The Grass, which is worthy of Throbbing Gristle.

  108. 108
    enitharmon on 24 Aug 2012 #

    My recollection is that Hey Jude/Revolution was a double A-side.

  109. 109
    Elsa on 24 Aug 2012 #

    Note how Nik Cohn uses the term “classic rock” in his White Album commentary, presumably meaning 1950s-style rock.

  110. 110
    Jimmy the Swede on 24 Aug 2012 #

    #106 – The Swede also loves LOX, Hamlet’s whips and scorns an’ all.

  111. 111
    wichita lineman on 24 Aug 2012 #

    Re 108: It wasn’t listed as one on any chart I’ve seen, but I’d have thought any Beatles b-side must’ve picked up a fair bit of airplay.

    Re 109: Classic Rock was the title of the 50s R&R chapter in Pop From The Beginning, so yes.

    Re 110: I love LOX and Last Night In Soho AND Wreck Of The Antoinette – John Cale Bubblegum innit. They were a very odd group, maybe the UK equivalent of Paul Revere & the Raiders in that they seem to be regarded as machine-made 60s pop when they were nothing of the sort; both made some tuff, weird 45s (though DDDBM&T’s were certainly weirder than the Raiders’). One of my favourites right here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pz8vjqewSfk&list=AL94UKMTqg-9CpSXWKJXB6wrkgDczcNk5X&index=23&feature=plpp_video

  112. 112
    ottersteve on 25 Aug 2012 #

    # 105
    Mr. facetious. I’m putting forward a possible reason for more people voting that way. Lady Madonna only sounds fresh BECAUSE Hey Jude has been overplayed. Were it the other way round I’ll bet Hay Jude would be the bigger vote winner.

    (Totally agree with you at #107 though)

  113. 113
    swanstep on 25 Aug 2012 #

    @112, ottersteve. One thing to keep in mind is that there’s kind of a house preference/prejudice against stately songs on freaky trigger. Tom’s scores for things like Bridge Over Troubled Water, Imagine, Hey Jude are quite low and commenters have largely concurred with those assessments. Comparably overplayed, up-tempo stuff and ballads that don’t have that particular slightly churchy stateliness tend, by way of contrast, to be relatively charitably received.

    Also, I just finally got around to watching Tarantino’s Death Proof… and whaddaya know: DDDBM&T features in a dialogue (jokes are made abut Pete Townshend joining them to form DDDBMT&P), and their ‘Hold Tight!’ is played leading up to and over the big horror moment in the film (on youtube here).

  114. 114
    JonnyB on 26 Aug 2012 #

    Swanstep – Bridge Over Troubled Water got a low mark?!? *heads over to check, with some concern*

  115. 115
    ottersteve on 27 Aug 2012 #

    OOps – can of worms opened here?

    Fair point there swanstep!
    I can’t help but think that if what you say is true, then it suggests very shallow thinking along the lines of “if everybody else loves this song then I HAVE to hate it” kind of reasoning.

    I’m may be generalising here because Tom gave Bo Rhap an 8 so it doesn’t apply to him (all hail to the Chief – I have an uncanny ability to predict most of his scorings +/- 1).

  116. 116
    swanstep on 28 Aug 2012 #

    @ottersteve. Right (to your final suggestion) – Tom’s not an iconoclast as such, he just has his specific taste that’s receptive to some things rather more than others (and the core group of commenters effectively does too). Tom’s a good writer, as are most commenters here, so any disagreements (from one’s own perspective) are generally a lot of fun to hear and read through though. I wouldn’t have believed it possible for anyone to think that Imagine is one of the worst #1s ever, but it was still worthwhile for me to think over that discussion. [It actually led me to learn how to play Imagine (which uses, I discovered, twice as many chords as the average U2 slowie does) in part to get a handle on why it didn’t bug me as much as it does so many others here.]

  117. 117
    john c on 31 Aug 2012 #

    A friend of mine told me that Tommy James & the Shondells’ song “Mony, Mony” was inspired when the band was driving on Route 81 through Syracuse, New York, USA, and saw the “Mutual of New York Building.” The building had the word “MONY” in bright lights at the top, on each of the four sides.

    I believed him for many years. If you think about pop music and rock & roll songs too much, like I do, your brain can go bad.

  118. 118
    Elsa on 1 Sep 2012 #

    Your brain is not to blame in this case. Tommy James has said the song was indeed inspired by the sign atop the Mutual of New York Building, albeit the one in Manhattan not Syracuse.

  119. 119
    Conrad on 11 Sep 2012 #

    116, I found my moaning about Imagine quite cathartic, and since then have been able to enjoy listening to it – a bit. I’d give it a 5 now, and try not to blame it for all the ponderous oasis/verve ballads of the mid 90s.

    I also think some of my irritation was directed at my parents’ generation for bigging it up so much.

    Anyway, I recently bought Double Fantasy and am really enjoying it.

  120. 120
    Tom on 30 Jun 2013 #

    This is a very old discussion which I didn’t read that the time but worth mentioning –

    1/ In a lot of cases when I give an ‘iconoclastic’ low mark there’s an “OK, commenters, persuade me” impulse behind it. Marks are in the moment, tastes change (and broaden – my music listening is studded with things I used to hate). So I’d now definitely go higher on Hey Jude, I’ve been won around to Bridge in its context (rather than Popular’s), and I still don’t think much of Imagine but loved the discussion on it. My fondest memory of the Belfast Child discussion was reading Lena’s defense of it. And so on. I never go back and change marks unless it turns out I was listening to the wrong track (ahem) so my opinions probably seem rather more fixed than they are.

    2/ Strangely – well, not really – I’ve never been put OFF a song after handing it a very high mark.

    3/ I definitely have a thing against stateliness and the hymnal mode in pop. Some of this is down to personal taste and circumstances: I’ve simply never found much use for those songs in my life. Some of it – and this is the bit that can be easily eroded by good argument – is chippiness: a feeling (borne out to some extent by the presence of Imagine, Bridge, Jude, E.Hurts etc on all-time song polls) that the public and critics rate stateliness very highly indeed as a pop virtue, and as I don’t, my knee jerks harder the other way.

    4/ The White Album – I’ve never tried to reduce it to a single LP, but what I have done – and I recommend this for Beatles fans if they’ve not tried it – is use Revolution In The Head to put together a macro-playlist of all their songs in recording order. The shift after Peppers – loss of focus? tensions in the group? differences in direction? whatever – is really startling, and obviously The White Album doesn’t do anything to restore coherence. Hindsight is always a devil, but listening in that way makes it feel like this was the only thing they could have done at the time.

  121. 121
    IJGrieve on 6 Mar 2015 #

    My capsule reviews and rates for the #1s of 1968…
    GEORGIE FAME – “The Ballad Of Bonnie And Clyde”
    A peculiar year for #1 hits gets off to a suitably offbeat start. Before and since, film tie-ins have been a reliable route to the top spot but most of the time these have been songs that were used in the film or used to promote it. Not “Bonnie and Clyde”, which rather was inspired by the controversial gangster movie of the previous year. This is one of the few late 60s number ones I’d never knowingly heard before embarking on this project and on listening it’s not hard to discern why that is – it sounds clunky and gimmicky nowadays, and lacks charm to offset its stridence. Purely of historical interest 3

    THE LOVE AFFAIR – “Everlasting Love”
    I did, on the other hand, have a passing familiarity with this song before this. It can’t have been any more than that, as for some reason I thought it was by the Bee Gees – I did check, they’ve never even covered it. “Everlasting Love” was, however, the subject of quite a bit of negative comment in its time for not having been performed by the credited group (only the vocalist, Steve Ellis, performed on the recorded track). It didn’t matter all that much to the record buyers of 1968, and indeed this brassy Motown-styled pop anthem was one of the stronger songs to top the singles chart in this mixed-up year 8

    MANFRED MANN – “Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)”
    Bob Dylan never had a UK #1 in this own right, but not for the first time one of his songs reaches the top spot under someone else’s name. Manfred Mann had already proven their mastery of the ‘all together now’ sing-along with 1964’s “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” and, though Dylan may not have realised it at the time, “Quinn The Eskimo” could have been tailor-made as a follow-up to that song 7

    ESTHER AND ABI OFARIM – “Cinderella Rockefeller”
    Eurovision meets music hall. The Ofarims, an Israeli husband and wife, finished 2nd in the Song Contest for Switzerland in 1963 (this preceding the debut entry of their country of origin by a decade) and went on to score hits across Europe for the remainder of the decade. “Cinderella Rockefeller” carries on in a similar light-hearted male-female call-and-response vein to 1962’s “Come Outside”. However, where that record feels slightly grubby this one overdoes the cutesiness such that one can’t help but cringe 4

    DAVE DEE, DOZY BEAKY MICK AND TICH – “The Legend Of Xanadu”
    Xanadu: the setting of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, a fabled place of exotic wonder. The perfect subject for a fabulous piece of late-60s pop excess. Its unabashed effervescence, whip-cracks and all, make what could have been an insubstantial fluff-piece into something quite spectacular. It should be noted that Dave Dee and co are no one-hit wonders, though this is their only #1 and the only song of theirs I was familiar with before this – “Bend It”, “Zabadak” and “Last Night In So” all deserve a listen if this style of pop doesn’t completely pass you by 9

    THE BEATLES – “Lady Madonna”
    Despite having no chorus to speak of and an unconventional subject matter, “Lady Madonna” is a thoroughly engaging two-and-a-bit minutes of great pop. Scurrying piano, urgent riffs and nursery rhyme-referencing lyrics combine so well to portray the mother of the title, rushed off her feet. After “Penny Lane”, this is right up there with Paul’s best 9

    CLIFF RICHARD – “Congratulations”
    Last year’s UK Eurovision victory inevitably resulted in heightened interest in the Contest this year, and Cliff’s performance as the representative of the host nation is suitably jubilant. So nearly did “Congratulations” give the UK back-to-back wins, but instead it was denied by just one vote, Spain’s “La La La” taking the prize. While both songs are kitsch that has not aged well, for me the joyous bombast of “Congratulations” is far preferable to Shaw’s flimsy winner 6

    LOUIS ARMSTRONG – “What A Wonderful World”
    Well-meaning as it may be, particularly when expressed as sincerely as it is here, but I recoil from the sort of stodgy sentimentality represented by the likes of “What A Wonderful World”. We’ll go on to hear some far worse examples of that, of course, but few quite so ponderous as this 3

    GARY PUCKETT AND THE UNION GAP – “Young Girl”
    Proof, as if it were needed, that the past is a foreign country where things were done differently. While we’ll continue to encounter dubious sexual ethics in chart-toppers well into the 2010s, Puckett’s portrayal of a repulsive lothario’s struggle to restrain himself in the face of the charms of an underage temptress (“’cause I’m afraid we’ll go so far”) is surely unthinkable in a modern hit single. Unlike, say, “Sunny Afternoon”, there’s no hint in “Young Girl” that its audience is invited to do anything other than identify with the song’s narrator; so, compelling as the melody may be, it is ultimately a disagreeable listening experience 3

    THE ROLLING STONES – “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”
    “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” sounds like the Stones’ own answer record to 1965’s “Satisfaction”: where that song’s Jagger was thwarted at every turn, this one’s is carefree having overcome his struggles: “but it’s all right now”. The title remains a topic of debate, not all fans believing the ‘official’ story of its having been inspired by a gardener named Jack Dyer. Likewise, the “it’s a gas” refrain, which may or may not refer to nitrous oxide (laughing gas). Like “Satisfaction”, this song doesn’t bowl me over the way it does some. It’s just a bit too laid-back to really get the pulse racing 7

    THE EQUALS – “Baby Come Back”
    Musically, this is one of the more straightforward #1s of the year, with its repeated six-note riff and marching drumbeat there’s little to shout about here in terms of innovation. At the same time, with the benefit of hindsight, we’re being treated here to a taste of things to come as Caribbean influenced music will go on to have an increasing impact on the charts. This is pop at its most basic, and most effective for it – so much so, of course, that the song would go on to receive a new lease of life during the 90s reggae boom 7

    DES O’CONNOR – “I Pretend”
    Like Ken Dodd three years earlier and many more subsequently, the beloved TV star turning his hand to song was a good bet to top the charts no matter how awful the record. They do get more awful than this, which is rather about as middle-of-the-road as it gets. Good only for nodding off to 2

    TOMMY JAMES AND THE SHONDELLS – “Mony Mony”
    Fortunately, you won’t be slumbering for long, as Tommy James et al shake it up with one of the most vigorous rockers to hit the top spot for some time, a real dancefloor stomper. The 1981 Billy Idol cover is probably the more familiar recording to the modern listener, but that synthed-up version doesn’t match the raw energy of the original 7

    THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN – “Fire”
    The dawn of a new kind of rock showman. Hendrix may have set fire to his guitar the previous year, but when Arthur Brown announced his presence in shocking style, hair aflame, as the God of Hellfire, few could have guessed where it would lead. For the first time, the performance was paramount; the song itself – beyond that momentous opening – a distant second, a soundtrack for the theatrics on stage. Perhaps that’s why Brown was never able to replicate its success, “Fire” a true one-hit-wonder but one whose importance is undeniable 8

    THE BEACH BOYS – “Do It Again”
    The fun, fun, fun couldn’t last forever. The familiar Beach Boys motifs are audible in “Do It Again”, the handclaps, the harmonies, the chugging surf guitar, but the lyric is one of nostalgia tinged with regret. Their name, in combination with the themes of their best-known singles (“Good Vibrations”, “Surfin’ USA”) might lead one to think the Boys one-dimensional. “Do It Again” is a creditable counter-example without ever threatening to become a classic 6

    THE BEE GEES – “I Gotta Get A Message To You”
    In a way, a continuation of a theme. But while the Beach Boys perhaps needed to shake off an image, the Bee Gees were still to find the niche that would go on to define them. The cumbersome melodrama “I Gotta Get A Message To You” therefore sounds atypical through the distorted prism of hindsight. It’s not a style I typically hold in high regard and, regardless, I’m aware of many more stirring examples than this overdone effort 3

    THE BEATLES – “Hey Jude”
    “Hey Jude” has to be among the most divisive songs in the Beatles’ canon. There are many who cherish it, whereas for others it is among the worst songs ever. For those who are fans, I’m afraid I identify much more with the latter camp than the former. At over 7 minutes in length, this is one of the longest songs ever to reach #1 and it doesn’t have anywhere near the substance to justify it. Sweet as its back-story may be, on record it’s the sound of a band who are the biggest in the world and don’t half know it. Self-importance is seldom admirable, and this, for me, is one of the most objectionable examples in pop history. By a long chalk, the Beatles single I dislike the most 2

    MARY HOPKIN – “Those Were The Days”
    For six weeks this occupied the top spot (admittedly in the face of not a lot of competition unless you count Leapy Lee), yet even in comparison to most of ’68’s other #1s it’s surely one of the least-remembered today. “Those Were The Days” ought to be exhibit A for anyone making the case that reality TV pop is no 21st century phenomenon – it achieved its remarkable singles chart success following Hopkins’ winning 1st prize on Hughie Green’s Opportunity Knocks. Undoubtedly kitsch, the song nevertheless has a certain quaint charm. I’m sure if I was around in ’68 I’d have become thoroughly fed up with it, though! 5

    JOE COCKER – “With A Little Help From My Friends”
    It’s received wisdom in pop commentary circles that covers of Beatles songs are generally unworthy. If a counter-example to that proposition is required, I’m unaware of a better one than this version of a song that originally appeared on Sgt Pepper’s. Cocker slows down and jazzes up “With A Little Help…”, borrowing heavily from gospel, and in doing so turns this Lennon/McCartney piece into the anthemic celebration of togetherness it deserved to be. Though it’s certainly overblown in places, the uncredited female vocals go a long way to offsetting any over-exuberance, providing a crucial counterpoint to Cocker’s gruff fervour 8

    HUGO MONTENEGRO AND HIS ORCHESTRA – “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly”
    Of all the records so far encountered, this is by some distance the most enigmatic. With no affinity whatsoever for the genre from which this film score-inspired single is derived, it sounds like a foreign soundscape that somehow fits together despite its disparate elements. Most prominent, at least for me, among these are the clipped and indistinct vocals which I discovered only through reading actually recite the name of the composer. All in all, a puzzling listening experience but it obviously struck a chord with plenty back in ’68 4

    SCAFFOLD – “Lily The Pink”
    There are many records that I have a newfound or regained appreciation for as a direct result of this project, and not a lot which have gone down in my estimation. Here’s one that has, though. I discovered “Lily The Pink” late – unlike the one that will kick off next year’s post, and of course unlike the youngsters of late ’68, I’m not aware of having heard it until adulthood – and I always had a degree of admiration for its wacky creativity. The Scaffold were certainly capable of such: behold their top 5 hit “Thank U Very Much” from the previous winter. However, “Lily The Pink” is a direct imitation of a much older folk song, its title a corruption of ‘Lydia Pinkham’, whose vegetable compound was renowned as a cure for women’s ills in particular. It’ll continue to be the song I begin to hum whenever I encounter the word “efficaceous”, though 4

    Other hits worth a mention

    The Foundations – ‘Build Me Up Buttercup’
    The first of two examples of groups whose finest hour wasn’t their #1. “Build Me Up Buttercup” was denied by “Lily The Pink” but is deservingly the Foundations’ most enduring hit. Its use in 1998’s There’s Something About Mary gave it a new lease of life, and it remains a party favourite.

    The Small Faces – ‘Lazy Sunday’ – I love the tongue-in-cheek British humour of “Lazy Sunday” – it’s impossible to imagine a songwriter of any other nationality coming up with something like this. It’s a tricky call between this and “Itchycoo Park” for the Small Faces’ greatest single – one thing’s for sure, both are far greater songs than their only #1.

    OC Smith – ‘The Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp’ – From everything I’ve said so far, I guess you wouldn’t expect me to hold a song like this in any regard at all. Instead, this affectionate ballad (in the original sense of the word) is one of my favourite hits of 1968. It seems an unlikely one, a plainspoken song by a US musician with no prior UK chart record that tells the story of a single mother who turned to prostitution after the father of her children abandoned her. It’s a song that deserves to be heard more often than it is today.

    Honeybus – ‘I Can’t Let Maggie Go’ and Reparata & The Delrons – ‘Captain Of Your Ship’ – Two songs that are probably best known for soundtracking TV adverts: the former for Nimble Bread in the 70s and the latter for Muller Rice in the 90s. I also chose “Captain Of Your Ship” as the best representative of the US bubblegum pop trend that saw several such records make appearances in the ’68 charts; other examples included the 1910 Fruitgum Company’s “Simon Says” and Ohio Express’ “Yummy Yummy Yummy”.

    The Bonzo Dog Doo-dah Band – ‘I’m The Urban Spaceman’ – The Bonzos were a one-of-a-kind band, and hits as gloriously iconoclastic as this don’t come along very often. A wonderful parody of the psychedelia of the time, it’s a must-listen even if it struggles to stand up to repeat play.

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