The year 1968 is one of pop’s most legendary, and to look back on it now is to imagine a continuous stream of genius pouring out of radios and stereos, timeless classics that would stay in the hot rotation for eternity.
Well, yes and no. We recently noted that Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey” did five weeks at the top in that legendary year, and it’s not in anybody’s pantheon, unless it’s the one for the World’s Worst Songs. And during the April week in 1968 that “Honey” first made the Billboard Top 10, it slid in right behind another five-week chart-topper that never made it onto oldies radio: “Love Is Blue” by Paul Mauriat and His Orchestra. In that same week, Mauriat’s album Blooming Hits dropped out of the #1 slot on the Billboard 200 after five weeks of its own at #1.
Mauriat, a Frenchman, had been a professional musician and orchestra leader since World War II. In 1963, his song “Chariot” was retooled with English lyrics into “I Will Follow Him,” a #1 hit in Billboard for Little Peggy March. In 1967, Mauriat and his orchestra recorded “L’amour Est Bleu,” which had been Luxembourg’s entry in the Eurovision Song Contest (and finished second). Released in English-speaking countries as “Love Is Blue,” its harpsichord-driven sound was just exotic enough to make it a smash. By February 1968, it shared the American top 10 with “Spooky” and “Chain of Fools” and “Judy in Disguise” and “Green Tambourine,” and bested ’em all.
Albums featuring instrumental covers of familiar songs still did big business in the late 60s, and Blooming Hits was right in the pocket. Several songs on it were familiar to listeners in the United States including the Frank and Nancy Sinatra hit “Something Stupid” and “Penny Lane.” Other songs were better known to European listeners, including 1967 Eurovision winner “Puppet on a String.” The cover photo didn’t hurt the album’s popularity, either.
Mauriat would chart two more Hot 100 singles in 1968 (neither of which appeared on Blooming Hits), and he would hit the adult-contemporary charts a time or two in following years. In 1976, he would revisit “Love Is Blue” in 1976 with “Love Is Still Blue,” which replaced the harpsichord with electronics and added a light disco feel. He died in 2006 at age 81. “Love Is Blue” was cut by a lot of people in the late 60s and early 70s, including guitarist Jeff Beck, who played it fairly straight and was rewarded with a hit single in the UK in 1968.
In our next installment, a pair of 60s icons hit the top, and then they hit it again.