Fifty years ago today the fabled Summer of Love was still months away, but make no mistake: Life was groovy. Unemployment clocked in at 3.8 percent; inflation at just under three percent; and the median income per household was $7200 ($52,513 in 2017 dollars, or about $6K less than it is now). The average house cost homebuyers $14,250 ($104K in 2017 dollars, which is about $80K less than the present average). Gas cost 33 cents a gallon.
Lyndon B. Johnson was president; and, although his approval ratings weren’t super high, common wisdom held that he’d run for re-election in 1968 and win. What few foresaw: that the opposition to the Vietnam War, which at this stage was supported by most Americans, would grow as more and more soldiers were sent to fight in Southeast Asia and more and more died. As a result, almost a year later to the day – March 31st, 1968, to be specific – LBJ announced that he would not seek, nor would he accept, the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.
At the local cinemas, Thoroughly Modern Millie and In Like Flint were attracting eyeballs; and, on TV, The Andy Griffith Show and Bonanza were tied at the top of the TV ratings chart, followed by The Red Skelton Hour, Dean Martin Show and Lucy Show. On the nightstand: Elia Kazan’s The Arrangement, a novel about a Greek-American WWII veteran who has a nervous breakdown and Ira Levin’s Rosemary Baby, which inspired the classic movie.
The hippie scene was beginning to flower, too.
The generation of teenagers featured in Newsweek the year before was another year older, after all – and, if we believe the popular press, pushing even more boundaries than before. (See the above report.) And while that was true, to an extent, another generation of kids was leading a much more traditional life.
Valerie S. of South Pasadena, for instance, was all of 13 and change on this Sunday. She woke late – 10:30am! – as she did most weekends, ate breakfast, read the comics in the Sunday paper and, along with her brother, picked up fallen oranges from the backyard. She and her family then spent the afternoon and evening with friends, where they had dinner and played games. All in all, it was a good day. Her father even mowed then lawn! (Side note: It’s amazing what one can find on Ebay.)
Anyway, enough of my lead-in – onward to today’s Top 5: 50 Years Ago Today (4/2/1967) via my favorite chart site, Weekly Top 40. One note: the chart actually ended the day before.
1) The Turtles – “Happy Together.” Holding at No. 1 for the second week in a row is this feel-good song that’s never gotten old.
2) The Mamas and the Papas – “Dedicated to the One I Love.” Holding strong at No. 2, also for a second week in a row, is this cover of the classic Shirelles song.
3) The Beatles – “Penny Lane.” The Fabs have two songs in the Top 10: This at No. 3 and its flip side, “Strawberry Fields Forever,” at No. 8.
4) Petula Clark – “This Is My Song.” The No. 6 song this week was penned by Charlie Chaplin (yes, that Charlie Chaplin), who gave it to Petula to sing. It went on to top the charts in the U.K. and hit No. 3 in the U.S. She’s since said it’s one of the least-favorite of her hits.
5) Buffalo Springfield – “For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey, What’s That Sound).” The first Buffalo Springfield single, “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing” in 1966, went nowhere fast, as did its album home, the Springfield’s self-titled debut. Then the infamous Sunset Strip riots in L.A. inspired Stephen Stills to write this song, which went onto hit No. 7 in the charts – exactly where it is this week. (The track was then added to their album, fueling its rise into the Top 100, where it peaked at No. 80.)
And four bonuses:
6) Harpers Bizarre – “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy).” The No. 13 song is this, the first single from this odd duck of a group. One of its members, Ted Templeton, would go onto become a major music producer. Among his credits: the Doobie Brothers’ self-titled debut; Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey and Saint Dominic’s Preview; and six albums by Van Halen.
7) Aretha Franklin – “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You).” The No. 14 song is this, Aretha’s first big hit.
8) Martha and the Vandellas – “Jimmy Mack.” There’s so much good music on this week’s chart that it’s kind of ridiculous. This is No. 18.
9) Arthur Conley – “Sweet Soul Music.” Jumping from No. 45 to 30: This classic homage to soul music, which was written by Conley and Otis Redding and based on Sam Cooke’s “Yeah Man.”