The #1 Albums: Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Times Three

Written by Music, The #1 Albums

While the kids were buying Beatles records, their parents were buying Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.

Detail from the cover of Herb Alpert's "Going Places," 1966 (Shout Factory/A&M Records)

In 1966, two acts each had three #1 albums. The Beatles with Rubber Soul, Yesterday and Today, and Revolver and  . . . who? Who else was big in 1966? The Beach Boys? The Supremes? Yes, but the other act with three #1 albums in that blazing-hot year of the 1960s was neither of ’em. It was Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.

Wait, what?

The success of Alpert, a trumpeter/impresario with a Latin-tinged sound, provides insight into the way consumers purchased music in the middle of the 1960s. Although albums by top pop acts—your Beatles, your Beach Boys, your Rolling Stones—moved big numbers, the golden era of the rock album had yet to begin. Kids were still mainly buying singles; apart from those hits by the biggest stars, adult sales largely powered the album chart. Evidence for this includes the success of film soundtracks from the decidedly non-rock The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins, which reached #1 in 1965 without the benefit of hit singles. Alpert’s instrumental sound, accessible pop without the rock ‘n’ roll flavor that still annoyed the hell out of many older listeners of the mid 60s, became the sound of adult contemporary radio, and his albums swept to the top of the charts.

Alpert’s Whipped Cream and Other Delights did eight weeks at the top in two separate chart runs at the end of 1965 and in the spring of 1966, powered by “A Taste of Honey,” which topped the AC charts for five weeks and was so popular that it became a top-10 hit on the Hot 100. Alpert’s next album, Going Places, actually displaced Whipped Cream and Other Delights from the #1 position in March 1966. (The Beatles never displaced themselves at #1 on the album chart.) Weeks later, in late May, Alpert’s What Now My Love would ascend to the #1 position and stay there for eight weeks. It would return to the top in September for another week, between #1 runs by Yesterday and Today and Revolver.

No, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass did not need to fear the Beatles juggernaut.

A couple of the songs on Going Places are among the most identifiable pieces of music ever recorded by Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, “Tijuana Taxi” and “Spanish Flea.” Here’s a marvelous Scopitone video made for “Tijuana Taxi,” which piles on the Mexican stereotypes and provides a gig for several attractive dancers. I am guessing that many amongst the readership might know this song, even without knowing its name.

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