Category Archives: 1969

Today’s Top 5: Curated Classics

Life unfurls like a flag on a windy day. Though it may seem that the cloth never ripples the same way twice, over time certain patterns can be discerned. For example, just like last year about this time, one of my first self-appointed chores of 2017 consisted of digging through the dusty virtual bins of Amazon in search of the perfect CDs to send my niece for her birthday. “Perfect” takes on a double meaning in this context – perfect for her and perfect, overall.

As last year, I used Amazon’s free gift tags to include short notes about each album.

dusty_memphis1) Dusty Springfield – “I Can’t Make It Alone” (from Dusty in Memphis, 1969). I wrote: “Although it didn’t sell well in 1969, this album is now considered a classic. It blends pop and soul in a way that no one had before; and Dusty’s vocals are wondrous.” I’d add: Make that a stone-cold classic; and luscious in addition to wondrous. Rolling Stone ranked it No. 89 on its 2012 list of the Top 500 Albums of All Time; I rank it higher – possibly Top 10. It smolders, yearns and burns, and sounds as fresh to my ears now as it did when I first heard it in the early 1980s.

emmylou_pieces2) Emmylou Harris – “For No One” (from Pieces of the Sky, 1975). I wrote: “Although she’s rarely topped the charts, Emmylou is an integral artist within the modern history of country music. This, her second try at a debut, explains why.” I’d add: Emmylou embraced and made her own the expansive “Cosmic American Music” vision of Gram Parsons, her musical mentor, who passed away in September 1973, on this classic from 1975. In essence, she helped forge the foundation that generations of female country and folk performers, including Taylor Swift and First Aid Kit, have built upon since.

harriet3) Harriet – “Broken for You” (from her eponymous debut, 2016). I wrote: “I discovered this gem on Christmas. Although the songs conjure the Carpenters and pop music of the 1970s, Harriet is a relatively new 20-something singer from London. It should make you smile.” I’d add: This set certainly makes me smile, at least. If I’d been aware of it when I created my Albums of the Year list in early December, I would have ranked it No. 3. It’s everything that’s good about pop music.

rumer_soms4) Rumer – “Aretha.” (from Seasons of My Soul, 2010). I wrote: “This is an atmospheric song cycle that’s teeming with soulful, knowing lyrics & melodies that wrap themselves around the heart. Among its themes: love, longing, loss & acceptance. It’s magic.” I’d add: I borrowed part of that from my first blog post on the Hatboro-Horsham Patch, since moved here; I’ve also written about it here and here. I rank it among my Top Albums of All Time, which I plan to share at some point later in the year.

rumer_vinyl5) Rumer – “This Girl’s in Love With You” (from This Girl’s in Love: A Bacharach & David Songbook, 2016). I wrote: “Burt Bacharach is a legendary songwriter who, with collaborators such as Hal David, crafted some of the world’s greatest songs. This set from Rumer was my Album of the Year for 2016.” For more, see my Album(s) of the Year, 2016 and Today’s Top 5: The Promise of Tomorrow posts. (By the way, that’s Bacharach singing at the start.)

 

Today’s Top 5: October 6, 1969

fullsizeoutput_11c8According to Newsweek, America’s white majority was a troubled lot as the world’s clock prepared to flip from 1969 to 1970: “Fewer than one in three of the working-class group say they are better off now than five years ago; by contrast, 44 percent of the white-collar workers polled feel more prosperous. And the blue-collar group is even less confident about the future. Only 28 percent expect to be better off five years from now.”

They had reason to be apprehensive. While unemployment was low, inflation was on the rise and, as a result, wages – even with decent raises – were stagnant or, worse, slipping. What cost $100 at the end of 1968 cost $105.46 at the end of 1969. That $5.46 difference may not sound like much in and of itself, but when you add together lots of $100 outlays…well, it adds up. Fast. There was also the matter of the never-ending war in Vietnam, where more than 11,000 Americans died this year alone. (As the people were beginning to realize, Richard Nixon had lied when he claimed during the ’68 campaign to have a “secret plan” to end it.)

That said, have no fear: I’m not launching a broadside about how people were directing their wrath at the wrong targets. (That’s an age-old American tradition, after all.) Instead, here are some of the pictures used to illustrate the era’s “forgotten” Americans:

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And, with that, today’s Top 5: October 6, 1969. Here are five songs from the Top 40 chart ending October 4th that have stood the test of time…

1) The Archies – “Sugar, Sugar.” This sweet confection, co-written by Jeff Barry and Andy Kim, was in its third week at No. 1 and was on its way to become the year’s biggest hit.

2) The Youngbloods – “Get Together.” The No. 13 single this week was this Dino Valenti-written song. First recorded by the Kingston Trio in 1964, it was also recorded by (among others) Judy Collins, We Five, Jefferson Airplane and the Staple Singers. As detailed in its Wikipedia entry, the Youngbloods originally released this version as a single in 1967, but failed to make the Top 50 with it. In 1969, however, it was resurrected by the National Conference of Christians and Jews for a radio commercial, re-released as a single and, eventually, made it to No. 5 in the charts.

3) 5th Dimension – “Wedding Bell Blues.” The No. 37 song for the week is this Laura Nyro-penned classic by the 5th Dimension. According to Wikipedia, one reason the group decided to record it was because Marilyn McCoo was due to marry fellow member Billy Davis Jr., which gave the lyrics an added (comic) weight.

4) Peggy Lee – “Is That All There Is?” One of the power-plays for the week is this classic Peggy Lee song, which jumped from No. 76 to 50. It would eventually make it to No. 11, her first Top 20 hit since “Fever” in 1958. (Peggy released a string of very good albums in the late ’60s that are well worth seeking out.)

5) Crosby, Stills & Nash – “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” New this week, at No. 86, is Stephen Stills’ sublime song suite for Judy Collins.

Today’s Top 5: Good Girls Revolt (circa 1969)

Last night, Diane and I veered away from the never-ending Gilmore Girls marathon on Up to give the Amazon Prime series Good Girls Revolt a try. If you’re unfamiliar with it, the polished drama is a fictionalized adaptation of Lynn Povich’s 2012 book The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace. Names have been changed, characters invented and/or combined into one, and the magazine has been retitled News of the Week – but the gist remains the same. As with most professions in 1969 America, which is when the series is set, women were relegated to secondary and supportive roles in most newsrooms. It took a group of brave women to change that.

At essence, then, Good Girls Revolt is sort of a feminist spin on Mad Men. No, it’s not as solid as that series was out of the gate, but it is a step up from the other Mad Men-inspired series I’ve seen. My biggest complaint: the characters are more archetypical than fully formed. For instance, hippie-in-spirit researcher Patti (Genevieve Angelson) – the lead character – sometimes seems little more than a mature Karen Arnold (Kevin’s one-dimensional big sister on The Wonder Years); and her erstwhile reporter-boyfriend Doug (Hunter Parrish) comes across as a cardboard cut-out of a reporter-boyfriend.

I sound a tad harsher there than I intended; the series is a step above most network fare. It peels the gauzy nostalgia from our collective memory and shows that, indeed, not everything in the past was hunky-dory or better than the present. In fact, as most things societal go, the past was worse.

And, for purposes of this blog, it inspired today’s Top 5: Good Girls Revolt (circa 1969). 

1) Janis Joplin – “Work Me, Lord” From The Woodstock Art & Music Fair, 8/17/1969.

2) Jefferson Airplane – “Somebody to Love.” From Dick Cavett’s post-Woodstock episode (8/19/1969) – note David Crosby playing tambourine beside Paul Kantner.

3) Laura Nyro – “He’s a Runner/Save the Country.” From Bobby Darin’s Sounds of the Sixties TV special (though I believe only “Save the Country” aired), which aired Jan. 22, 1969.

4) Roberta Flack – “First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” Not sure where this is from, just that it’s 1969. Great song, under-appreciated singer.

5) Dusty Springfield – “Son of a Preacher Man.” From a rather psychedelic 1969 German TV special.

And three bonus songs…

6) Jackie DeShannon – “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”

7) Joni Mitchell – “Woodstock.” From a 1970 appearance on the BBC.

8) Diana Ross & the Supremes – “Someday We’ll Be Together.” The last No. 1 hit of the 1960s…