Top 5: Put Your Bell Bottoms On

I’ve noted before (almost five years ago, which is an eternity in blog-time) that “Someday We’ll Be Together” by Diana Ross and the Supremes, the last Number-One song of the 1960s, seems like the perfect way for the decade to end: the 60s generation grown to adulthood as the 70s begin, dispersed on the four winds, yet forever conscious of their shared identity and convinced that they will continue to change the world. But that’s only the way it looked in Billboard and Cash Box—and for only four days at that, starting the week of December 27. The top song on both charts for the last full week of the 1960s (the charts dated 12/20/69) was “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul and Mary—also appropriate, I suppose, if not quite so poetic. And around the country on various radio-station charts, other songs reigned as 1969 turned to 1970.

WIFE, Indianapolis:
1. “Venus”/Shocking Blue
2. “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”/B. J. Thomas
3. “Someday We’ll Be Together”/Diana Ross and the Supremes
4. “Whole Lotta Love”/Led Zeppelin
5. “Holly Holy”/Neil Diamond

Comment: Pretty close to canonical. “Venus” leapt to Number One from Number 12 the week before, just as it had gone to 19 from 31 in Billboard.

KGB, San Diego:
1. “Venus”/Shocking Blue
2. “Whole Lotta Love”/Led Zeppelin
3. “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”/B. J. Thomas
4. “Going in Circles”/Friends of Distinction
5. “Don’t Cry Daddy”/Elvis Presley

Comment: “Going in Circles” is a fine and soulful record that nobody plays anymore, while “Don’t Cry Daddy” might be the most unlistenable record Elvis ever made. (“Someday We’ll Be Together” is at 14.)

WSGN, Birmingham, Alabama:
1. “Whole Lotta Love”/Led Zeppelin
2. “Wonderful World, Beautiful People”/Jimmy Cliff
3. “La La La (If I Had You)”/Bobby Sherman
4. “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head”/B. J. Thomas
5. “Mind, Body and Soul”/Flaming Ember

Comment: And at Number Six, “What a Beautiful Feeling” by California Earthquake. Eclectic, or schizophrenic? (“Someday We’ll Be Together” is at 21.)

WSCR, Scranton, Pennsylvania:
1. “Put Your Bell Bottoms On”/Mel Wynn Trend
2. “Holly Holy”/Neil Diamond
3. “Eli’s Coming”/Three Dog Night
4. “Someday We’ll Be Together”/Diana Ross and the Supremes
5. “Jam Up, Jelly Tight”/Tommy Roe

Comment: The Mel Wynn Trend was apparently an R&B band from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, that also recorded under the name Mel Wynn and the Rhythm Aces. Beyond that, I know nothing. But I do know this: “Jam Up, Jelly Tight” is one of the most subversive records ever made. It would be years before anything quite so obscene charted quite so high, yet millions of listeners never caught it. 

WKLO, Louisville:
1. “Groovy Grubworm”/Harlow Wilcox and the Oakies
2. “Whole Lotta Love”/Led Zeppelin
3. “One Tin Soldier”/Original Caste
4. “She Belongs to Me”/Rick Nelson
5. “La La La (If I Had You)”/Bobby Sherman

“Groovy Grubworm” is a rockabilly instrumental that takes about two minutes to do absolutely nothing. And for radio stations looking for something to fill the light country-pop slot in their playlists, “She Belongs to Me” is approximately a thousand times better than “Don’t Cry Daddy.” As for “One Tin Soldier,” this is its original chart run and its original recording. A 1971 cover by the group Coven was featured in the movie Billy Jack. Three years later, it was the Number Four song for the entire year at WLS in Chicago, apparently on the wings of the wide re-release of Billy Jack. (“Someday We’ll Be Together” was not charted at WKLO that week.)

(You probably missed it, but I wrote about Rick Nelson at last weekend.)

Just as “Someday We’ll Be Together” seems like a perfect way to end the turbulent 60s, “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,” which topped Billboard for the week of January 3, 1970, seems like a perfect way to start the mellow ’70s. But like “Someday We’ll Be Together,” it wasn’t tops everywhere. In Detroit and Boston, Number One belonged to “Venus”; in Orlando, “Whole Lotta Love”; in Columbus, it was “I Want You Back” by the Jackson Five, in Syracuse it was Mark Lindsay’s “Arizona”—and in Des Moines, “Jam Up, Jelly Tight.” Way to go, Iowa.

That’s it for 2009 at this blog, where I thank you for your patronage, as always. I’ll have one more New Year’s post early next week, in which a holiday blizzard confounds a young couple, and other stuff happens.

“Going in Circles”/Friends of Distinction (buy it here)
“Jam Up, Jelly Tight”/Tommy Roe (buy it here)

4 thoughts on “Top 5: Put Your Bell Bottoms On

  1. Yah Shure

    In looking at the actual Billboard Hot 100 charts, B.J. Thomas had the last #1 of the ’60s *and* the first #1 of the ’70s, since “Raindrops” headed the Hot 100 for the week **ending** January 3, 1970. “Someday We’ll Be Together” ruled the roost for the week ending December 27th, so it’s actual number-one reign ran from December 21st through 27th. Instead of ringing out the decade all fuzzy and warm together, we ended up all wet in the December rain. Someday we’ll have pneumonia.

    XM’s ’60s channel used to count down the top six songs of a given year at the end of every hour. Problem was, they were always off by one week, because they misinterpreted the “for the week ending” chart dates as “for the week beginning” dates. Many chart compilers make this same mistake.

    Happy New Year, jb!

  2. jb

    I have done this deliberately—ignoring the “week ending” designation on various record charts—for years, because back-figuring the calendar makes me head hurt. And in the pre-Soundscan era, the charts were always a couple of weeks behind the sales and airplay reality anyhow. But even the radio stations that issued charts saying “week ending” would spend the whole next week calling “Someday We’ll Be Together” or “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” the number-one song for the current week, not “the number one song for last week.”

    Shorter: Point taken, but I can live with the anomaly.

  3. whiteray

    The 1969-70 school year was when listening to Top 40 became my mission. I’ll forgive myself for missing “Put Your Bell Bottoms On” by the Mel Wynn Trend, but I wish I’d heard anything by a group with the name of the California Earthquake. Was “What a Beautiful Feeling” great or was it lame? In the meantime, I’m going to go listen to Led Zeppelin and Neil Diamond back-to-back.

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