CHART ATTACK!: 9/20/69

Written by Chart Attack!, Meta, Music

One of the questions I am occasionally asked by readers, other than “Are you sure you’re straight?,” is “Why don’t you write more?” (This is also the question I am asked most often by our Editor-in-Chief.) Without giving you the long lame-ass explanation about the various balls I’m juggling on a daily basis (yes, I’m sure), I’ll just say that I happen to be a very slow writer. CHART ATTACK! and other posts, like last week’s Earmageddon entries, take me days and days to write. I imagine they’d take even longer if I was actually funny.

And this is just one of the reasons why Jeff is my personal hero, folks. Not only does the man write articles of substance, but he churns ’em out like babies on a polygamist compound. This week’s guest writer punked out with less than two days to spare; Sir Jefito came to my rescue and turned in this entire post in just over two hours. Yes, his kids went hungry, but that’s just the kind of guy he is — anything for Popdose.

So those of you who have been clamoring for another oldie chart, I’m happy to present this one to you. Enjoy, because we’ll be hovering around the ’80s until November. Give thanks to Jeff as he presents us with September 20, 1969! -JH


When Jefitos Attack!

10. I Can’t Get Next to You — The Temptations Amazon iTunes
9. Little Woman — Bobby Sherman Amazon iTunes
8. Jean — Oliver Amazon iTunes
7. Get Together — The Youngbloods Amazon iTunes
6. (It Looks Like) I’ll Never Fall in Love Again — Tom Jones Amazon iTunes
5. Easy to Be Hard — Three Dog Night Amazon iTunes
4. A Boy Named Sue — Johnny Cash Amazon iTunes
3. Green River — Creedence Clearwater Revival Amazon iTunes
2. Honky Tonk Woman — The Rolling Stones Amazon iTunes
1. Sugar, Sugar — The Archies Amazon iTunes

Howdy, gang! Good to see all of you hungry Chart Attackers again — it’s been awhile, hasn’t it? I didn’t mean to be away for so long, but Jason’s got the CA! schedule booked pretty solid, and whenever I volunteer to take over for one of his weeks, he waves me away for some reason. I can’t figure it out. (It’s usually because you’ve just farted. -JH)

But this week? This week, Jason had no choice. Our old buddy Kurt — who you might remember from his on-again/off-again blog, Kurt’s Krap, and his appearances at Chartburn — was scheduled to lead you through this chart, but he slipped and sprained his vagina, forcing him to punk out cancel at the last minute. Never one to pass up an opportunity to attack a chart, I quickly agreed to take over, at which point I realized I was -5 years old when these songs were popular. Shit!

10. I Can’t Get Next to You — The Temptations

If Jason had had the decency to wait a few weeks before taking us back to 1969, “I Can’t Get Next to You” would have been our #1 song — which would probably have changed the overall tone of this week’s entry considerably, as you’ll soon see — but we make the best of what we’re given, right? Anyway, this funky little Norman Whitfield-produced number kicked off what’s commonly referred to as the Temptations’ “psychedelic soul” period (and somewhat less commonly referred to as their “ripping off Sly Stone” period). It wasn’t just the Temps that caught the fever for the flavor of some paisley, either; pretty much the whole Motown roster jumped on the bandwagon, helping to extend Hitsville’s commercial relevancy (and giving us some of Marvin Gaye’s best music, but that’s neither here nor there).

We — or I, anyway — tend to think of 1969 as being past the Temptations’ sell-by date, but “I Can’t Get Next to You” was actually only the second of their four Number One hits, and they were fixtures at the top of the R&B chart well into the ’70s. In fact, this ended up being their top-selling single, which is sort of incredible, given that we’re talking about the group responsible for “My Girl” and “Get Ready” — but hey, this isn’t a bad song, and what with all the drugs everyone was on at the time, maybe people just ended up buying two or three copies of the 45 without realizing it.

Speaking of drugs, holy shit, would you look at the wardrobe on these guys?

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(I love the Eddie Kendricks shots the most. No, you can’t get next to her, Eddie. You know what else you can’t do? Lip-synch worth a good goddamn.)

9. Little Woman — Bobby Sherman (download)

Oh, Bobby Sherman. How hard must it be to notch five Top 40 hits and still go down in history as the poor man’s David Cassidy? Don’t weep for Bob, though — even if he did fail to parlay his television career into long-lasting musical stardom, he’s still led a long and fascinating life away from the spotlight. According to his Wikipedia entry, Ol’ Sherm went on to become a deputy sheriff of San Bernardino County, CA, and — I am totally not making this up — has “built a one-fifth scale model of Disneyland’s Main Street, made entirely by hand in his yard at home.” (Holy shit! -JH)

Not bad for a guy who spent the prime of his career looking like John Davidson crossed with a llama, right? I thought so. Anyway, “Little Woman” was Robert’s first hit, and it’s every bit as condescending as it sounds — in the first line, right off the bat, he tells the object of his caveman love, “You’ve got to come into my world and leave your world behind.” Oh my God, you guys, I would totally love to hear Akon or Lil Wayne cover this song — all they’d have to do is slap some Auto-Tune on it, and wham! Instant ho anthem.

But whoever covers it has to promise to put his tie on upside down, just like Bobo did in this video clip:

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8. Jean — Oliver

Nope, we didn’t wander into the wrong year by mistake — this really was a hit in 1969. Rod McKuen wrote it as the theme song for the film adaptation of Muriel Spark’s novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which is a book so bizarre that I can only imagine it being popular in the ’60s, let alone spinning off an Oscar-winning movie. I won’t bother going into detail about the storyline here; if you really want to know more, check out the book’s Wikipedia entry, and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Anyway, speaking of things that could only have been popular in the ’60s, wow, would you get a load of this cat Oliver? He looks like he could be Bobby Sherman’s cousin, doesn’t he? I’m pretty sure he wasn’t, but they do seem to be wearing the same beads in their respective videos, and can you tell I’m rambling about Olivier’s wardrobe because there’s really nothing interesting to say about this syrupy ballad?

Well, wait. That isn’t entirely true. First of all, if you’ve never seen this clip before, try taking a swig from a glass of something around the :45 mark. Do you have any Windex? Because you’re going to need to wipe off your screen. Also, I’m pretty sure I heard Oliver sing at one point that he’d be waiting for Jean until the sheep come home, which strikes me as an odd and somewhat inappropriate thing to say, even for the “free love” ’60s. You heard it here first: Oliver was a deviant.

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7. Get Together — The Youngbloods

You know this song. Matter of fact, if you’re anything like me, you’ve heard “Get Together” so many times that you actively hate it, and possibly once even had a dream about making Jesse Colin Young eat his mustache, one hair at a time.

What? Just me? All right, fine. Look, I’m not saying this is a bad song. It’s actually very nice — it’s easy to hear why the National Conference of Christians and Jews used it in their PSAs in 1969, thus sparking interest in what was, at that point, a two-year-old failed single. The Youngbloods are the band most strongly identified with “Get Together,” possibly because it was the only thing they ever recorded that remotely resembled a hit — but they were the sixth act to cover it, following the Kingston Trio, the Byrds, We Five, Judy Collins, and the Jefferson Airplane. And since then? Shit, it’s been re-recorded by damn near everyone, and used in a bunch of commercials besides. I don’t think a month of my life has gone by when I haven’t unwillingly heard at least a portion of “Get Together.”

After the 9/11 attacks, Clear Channel flagged “Get Together” as one of its no-no songs on the grounds that it was “lyrically questionable,” thus simultaneously making me happy about the song’s decreased presence on the airwaves and outraged over yet another ass-backwards decision from the company that put the final nail in terrestrial radio’s coffin. These conflicting emotions have somehow made me hate “Get Together” even more. Take it away, middle-aged Youngbloods!

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6. (It Looks Like) I’ll Never Fall in Love Again — Tom Jones

We often talk about the rock era as if it simply started one day in 1955, but really, the charts have always been more complicated — throughout the ’50s and ’60s, throwback vocal pop acts continued to land hits on the radio on a semi-regular basis. Some artists, like Peter, Paul, & Mary, openly expressed disdain for rock (their ’67 single “I Dig Rock and Roll Music” fairly drips with sarcasm); others, like the perpetually horny Tom Jones, simply did their thing, and every so often, enough fogies got behind a song to push it into the public consciousness. Like, for instance, “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” which is not, much to my dismay, a cover of the Bacharach/David classic, but instead a three-minute excuse for Jones to draw out every fourth goddamn syllable.

But at least he can sing! Take that, you dirty hippies!

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5. Easy to Be Hard — Three Dog Night

Heh, heh, heh. Get your minds out of the gutter, perverts — Three Dog Night isn’t talking about that kind of hard. No, this is your standard-issue peace, love, and happiness anthem, pulled from the Hair soundtrack. They’ve sort of been swept under the rug over the last 20 years, partly because of the horrifically lame decisions they’ve made since fading from the charts (case in point: 1983’s “ska-inspired” EP, It’s a Jungle), but mainly because they focused on covering other people’s material instead of writing their own. (Kids, think of them as being sort of like the Backstreet Boys of their day, only with better songs and lower personal grooming standards.)

Anyway, they may not have been particularly prolific or talented songwriters, but the band knew how to interpret a song — they recorded the definitive versions of “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” and Hoyt Axton’s “Joy to the World,” and helped fatten the bank accounts of occasionally sales-starved writers like Laura Nyro, Harry Nilsson, and…Alan O’Day?

All that said, I’ve never really understood the appeal of “Easy to be Hard” — or anything else from Hair, for that matter — although I have to admit that this promotional clip is pretty much the coolest music video of the ’60s:

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4. A Boy Named Sue — Johnny Cash

Okay, so it’s a novelty song, but Johnny Cash was no Ray Stevens — and although it’s a little galling that this went on to become Cash’s biggest hit on the pop charts, it’s still a damn sight better than, say, “My Ding-A-Ling.” For one thing, it was recorded live at San Quentin; for another, Cash didn’t even know the song when he performed it — he’d only recently been handed it by its writer, Shel Silverstein. (Yes, that Shel Silverstein.)

There isn’t a whole lot to say about the song — I mean, really, it’s just sort of a limerick recited in front of music you could play after your first 30-minute guitar lesson — but there’s nothing wrong with it, and it’s still a lot of fun to watch the inmates’ reactions in the video. Let’s say it all together now: Johnny Cash was one badass mofo. (Johnny Cash was one badass mofo. -JH)

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3. Green River — Creedence Clearwater Revival (download)

They’ve been so firmly ensconced in the rock & roll firmament, for so long, that it’s easy to think of Creedence Clearwater Revival as a band that came up slow, released a ton of records, and faded away gracefully — but they were actually successful from the get-go, released a mind-boggling seven albums in five years (take that, Prince!), and dissolved in a toxic cloud of lawsuits and hurt feelings. It’s one of rock’s saddest stories, really, even if you don’t take into account the pointless postscript that is Creedence Clearwater Revisited — but the music they made while they were together is so damn good that the bad stuff is easy to forget.

“Green River” (from the album Green River, natch) is prime CCR — which is to say it’s terrific, albeit phony, bayou rock, with tight, sinewy guitars, punchy drums, and John Fogerty’s unmistakable strangled drawl floating like a pissed-off ghost over the whole thing. I can think of nothing even moderately snarky to say about the song, the band, or the album, so just turn up your speakers and swim, baby, swim.

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2. Honky Tonk Women — The Rolling Stones

More cowbell, motherfuckers!

Yes, yes, I know — as Jason put it, that joke “would have been funnier in the year 2000,” but whatever; not many songs start off with a cowbell, and that’s the first thing I thought of when I heard it, so blow me, all right? (See what a dick I am, readers? Jeff steps in, suggests a joke, and I shoot him down. Don’t ever offer to write a CHART ATTACK! You’ll regret it. -JH)

Where were we? (The Stones. -JH) Oh, right. The Stones. Here’s a band I’ve never cared much about — a byproduct, as I’ve often noted, of my formative listening years coinciding with their terrible mid-’80s output — but even I can’t deny the greasy goodness of their mid-to-late ’60s albums. “Honky Tonk Women” is the Stones doing what they did best — namely, appropriating the sounds of an American genre and folding them into their own basic ingredients. It’s ersatz country, just as much of their other stuff is Xeroxed blues, but we’re well past the point of purist quibbilng now, aren’t we? I mean…now that we’ve heard Dirty Work and Bridges to Babylon, early Stones sounds damn close to flawless.

For Stones fans, “Honky Tonk Women” has the distinction of being one of the first songs to feature the lead guitar work of Mick Taylor, who replaced Brian Jones in the band after the basic tracks had been recorded — and also for being a bone of contention between the Stones and guitarist/superhero Ry Cooder, who has accused the band of ripping him off. Me? I just like it for the cowbell.

1. Sugar, Sugar — The Archies

Please join me in sending a hearty “FUCK YOU” out Jason’s way. Of all the weeks in 1969 he had to pick, he chose this one? Bastard. (I am so happy right now. -JH)

If you’ve ever sat down to take a nice, long shit, and stood up to notice that one of your turds was floating, then you’ve got a terrific visual analogy for the Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar” — and this particular turd floated all the way to or near the top of the charts for most of ’69. (This somewhat absolves Jason of blame here, but we’ve already cursed at him, and there’s no taking it back now.) In fact, “Sugar, Sugar” was the number one song of the year — the first and only time that a fictional band has accomplished that feat.

Remember what we were saying awhile back about people taking a lot of drugs in 1969?

I know I’m not alone in my scorn for this stupid song — in fact, I’ll be surprised if any of you seriously try to defend it — but here’s a list of reasons to hate “Sugar, Sugar,” all taken from the song’s Wikipedia entry:

  1. Ray Stevens performed the hand claps on the song
  2. Someone talked Wilson Pickett into covering it
  3. Ditto Bob Marley (download)
  4. It’s one of George W. Bush’s favorite songs
  5. Now it’s fucking stuck in my head

And then, of course, there’s the song itself, which is the longest 2:38 you’ll spend today. I stand in complete agreement with commenter CelesteK, who asks, “Jesus toe tapping christ when is this going to be over?”

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And so we’ve come to the end of another CHART ATTACK! — and as always, it’s been my pleasure to be your guide. Let’s meet up here again in a couple of weeks, when … uh … someone else (Me! -JH) will count down the Top 10 of…um…some other week. (1985! -JH) Deal? See you then!