Category Archives: The 5th Dimension

Today’s Top 5: July 22, 1967

Fifty years ago today as I write, the Summer of Love was in full bloom. It was, in many ways, a pleasant Delaware Valley Saturday: the temperature topped out at 84 degrees (Fahrenheit) and fell back into the low 70s overnight – far from perfect, but expected. Humidity, always a factor in this neck of the woods, felt like a wet blanket.

On the other side of Pennsylvania, in Allegheny County (home to Pittsburgh and a few other cities), 16-year-old Wendy D. was navigating life’s oft-unexpected highs and lows during what had quickly turned into a personal summer of love. The previous evening, her main beau, Tom, totaled his car. He was shaken up, but not – thankfully – seriously injured. 

I say “main” beau because Wendy was also dating – behind Tom’s back, no less – a college man, Scott, who took her to a stock car race this very night. Vroom, vroom!

Meanwhile, across the country in California, younger Valerie S. had a good day, too: eating watermelon, painting, and making hamburger for dinner.

Here’s the day’s headline in the Chicago Tribune:

On the surface, life was good: unemployment ticked down .1 percent to 3.8 percent; inflation crept up .3 percent to 2.8 percent for the year; and America, as a whole, was intrigued by the Summer of Love headquartered in San Francisco. At the same time, however, large swaths of the nation were peering into the abyss of hopelessness; thus, race riots spread like wildfires that summer through many cities. During early-morning hours of the 23rd, a police raid on an unlicensed bar in Detroit sparked a five-day riot that resulted in 43 deaths, more than 1189 injured and $40-45 million worth of property damage.

On the entertainment front, one of history’s oddest pairings came to an end earlier in the week when the Monkees lost their opening act, Jimi Hendrix.

The No. 1 album in the land was an LP sans a hit single on the charts: the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was in its fourth week in the top spot, and would remain there through October 7th.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: July 22, 1967, based on the charts at Weekly Top 40.

1) The Association – “Windy.” Enjoying its fourth week at No. 1 is this breezy song.

2) Frankie Valli – “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” A years-long effort by Valli, Bob Gaudio and Bob Crewe to launch a successful solo career culminated with this classic, which hit No. 2 in the pop charts this week.

3) The Doors – “Light My Fire.” Rising to No. 3 (from 8) is the debut single by Jim Morrison & Co. This performance is from the Jonathan Winters Show.

4) The 5th Dimension – “Up, Up and Away.” Holding steady at No. 7 is this Jimmy Webb-penned tune, which was the first Top 10 hit by Marilyn McCoo, Billy Davis Jr. & friends.

5) Janis Ian – “Society’s Child.” Also this week, Janis Ian’s debut single – written when she was 13 and released when she was 15 – celebrated its second week at No. 14. This spot, on a Leonard Bernstein TV special, was its introduction to a wide audience.

And a few bonus tracks…

6) The Hollies – “Carrie Anne.” This infectious single from the Manchester-born pop group, which was on its way to the Top 10, rises to No. 23 (from 28).

7) The Bee Gees – “To Love Somebody.” One of the week’s power plays is this now-classic song, which jumped from No. 79 to 42.

8) and 9) The Monkees – “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and “Words.” The Prefab Four click on all cylinders with Goffin-King’s “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” which enters the charts at No. 51. The flip side, the Boyce-Hart ode “Words,” notched its own spot at No. 78.

10) Dusty Springfield – “The Look of Love.” And, finally – entering the charts at No. 98 is this Dusty Springfield gem, which was penned by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

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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: The Promise of Tomorrow (circa 1970 & Billboard)

Thanksgiving night, after a wonderful get-together with family, Diane and I continued our trek through Good Girls Revolt. One episode centered on New Year’s Eve of 1969: As the ‘60s came to an end, Patti (Genevieve Angelson) and editor Finn (Chris Diamantopoulos) concluded that the decade had been about suppression and repression; the ‘70s, they predicted, would be about expansion. Then, at about 10:50pm, I received a message from iTunes: Rumer’s This Girl’s in Love: A Bacharach and David Songbook was available for download.

It’s a lilting and lush set; the music possesses the grace of Audrey Hepburn, soul of Dusty Springfield and vocal finesse of the 5th Dimension, if that makes sense, and evokes the era in which the songs were born while remaining firmly rooted in the present. While one can imagine Rumer singing, say, “One Less Bell to Answer” on The Tonight Show in 1969, one can also imagine her swaying to the same music on The Tonight Show next month. At its best, music transcends time and space; and this set does just that.

Anyway, the juxtaposition of Good Girls Revolt and This Girl’s in Love (and, perhaps, too much turkey) led me to reflection – and to the realization that Patti and Finn, in their rush to pass judgment on the ’60s, were wrong. The decade was not a time of suppression or repression. To the contrary. It was a time when the collective American mindset pushed past a centuries-old prejudice (race) and began to do the same with another (gender). That’s not to say prejudice was eliminated; far from it. But the majority of folks realized it was wrong.

Consider this clip from Petula, a TV special starring British pop singer Petula Clark that aired on NBC on April 2, 1968:

The moment near the end, when Petula puts her arm on Harry Belafonte’s? Believe it or not, it spurred a controversy. A vice president of Chrysler, which was sponsoring the show, demanded that another take be used due to the “interracial touching.” Petula Clark and her husband, the special’s producer, said no; NBC sided with them; and the special, when it aired, was a hit. But if that touch had occurred a decade earlier? NBC likely would’ve cut the song or, if not, many TV stations, primarily in the South, would’ve refused to air the show.

That said, despite the decade’s advances, life wasn’t great. Two days after that special aired, for example, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated; two months later, Robert Kennedy was killed; four months later, the Democratic National Convention in Chicago turned violent; six months later, Richard Nixon was elected president; and, all the while, the Vietnam War raged – more than 16,592 American soldiers died and 87,388 were wounded that year.

When we strip the gauzy nostalgia from the reality of any time, we’re left with this: What often made the time wonderful was less day-to-day life and more the promise of what had yet to come. It’s why succeeding generations continue to embrace the music of the ‘60s and ‘70s, I think – despite the tumult of the ‘60s and woes of the ‘70s, the messages that powered much of the music were hopeful. And, by and large, we’re a hopeful lot.

Which leads to today’s Top 5: The Promise of Tomorrow, circa 1970 and Billboard. These are the year’s top singles…

1) Simon & Garfunkel – “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

2) The Carpenters – “(They Long to Be) Close to You”

3) The Guess Who – “American Woman”

4) B.J. Thomas – “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”

5) Edwin Starr – “War”

6) Diana Ross – “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

And a few singles that didn’t make the year’s top 100:

7) The 5th Dimension – “One Less Bell to Answer”

8) Elton John – “Your Song”

9) Dusty Springfield – “A Brand New Me”