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Sep 06

Popular ’68

Popular121 comments • 2,432 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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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 97
    Tommy Mack on 23 Aug 2012 #

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

  8. 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…

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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

  12. 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.”

  13. 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.

  14. 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

  15. 105
    punctum on 24 Aug 2012 #

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

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 108
    enitharmon on 24 Aug 2012 #

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

  19. 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.

  20. 110
    Jimmy the Swede on 24 Aug 2012 #

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

  21. 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

  22. 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)

  23. 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).

  24. 114
    JonnyB on 26 Aug 2012 #

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

  25. 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).

  26. 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.]

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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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