It’s Your Thing

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(Pictured: the Rascals. Clockwise from top left: Felix Cavaliere, Dino Danelli, Eddie Brigati, and Gene Cornish.)

I have another reader question to answer, from Bean Baxter, former morning guy at KROQ in Los Angeles, now in London: “What’s the greatest Top Ten Billboard chart of them all?”

My official answer is: “I don’t know.” It would take a vast amount of time and effort to look at and rank every one of them. But Bean pointed in the right direction when he observed, “Gotta be one of those Stones, CCR, Supremes, Aretha, etc. lists from the sixties, right?” I should think so. I can think of one off the top of my head that’s a pretty good candidate: September 24, 1966. Take a look at this:

1. “Cherish”/Association
2. “You Can’t Hurry Love”/Supremes
3. “Sunshine Superman”/Donovan
4. “Yellow Submarine”/Beatles
5. “Bus Stop”/Hollies
6. “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep”/Temptations
7. “Black Is Black”/Los Bravos
8. “96 Tears”/? and the Mysterians
9. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”/Beach Boys
10. “Reach Out I’ll Be There”/Four Tops
11. (bonus track) “Eleanor Rigby”/Beatles

But the thing is, you can grab any week practically at random from the last half of the 1960s and see something similar. Here’s August 17, 1968:

1. “People Got to Be Free”/Rascals
2. “Hello I Love You”/Doors
3. “Classical Gas”/Mason Williams
4. “Born to Be Wild”/Steppenwolf
5. “Light My Fire”/Jose Feliciano
6. “Stoned Soul Picnic”/Fifth Dimension
7. “Turn Around, Look at Me”/Vogues
8. “Sunshine of Your Love”/Cream
9. “Grazing in the Grass”/Hugh Masekela
10. “Hurdy Gurdy Man”/Donovan

October 9, 1965:

1. “Yesterday”/Beatles
2. “Hang on Sloopy”/McCoys
3. “Treat Her Right”/Roy Head
4. “Eve of Destruction”/Barry McGuire
5. “The ‘In’ Crowd”/Ramsey Lewis Trio
6. “Catch Us If You Can”/Dave Clark Five
7. “You’ve Got Your Troubles”/Fortunes
8. “Baby Don’t Go”/Sonny and Cher
9. “You Were on My Mind”/We Five
10. “Do You Believe in Magic”/Lovin’ Spoonful

July 1, 1967:

1. “Windy”/Association
2. “Groovin'”/Young Rascals
3. “Little Bit o’ Soul”/Music Explosion
4. “San Francisco”/Scott McKenzie
5. “She’d Rather Be With Me”/Turtles
6. “Respect”/Aretha Franklin
7. “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You”/Frankie Valli
8. “Let’s Live for Today”/Grass Roots
9. “Come on Down to My Boat”/Every Mother’s Son
10. “Don’t Sleep in the Subway”/Petula Clark

Regarding 7/1/67, whether you agree with the greatness of the list might come down to how you feel about “Don’t Sleep in the Subway,” which I happen to like, even as I acknowledge it’s not in the same league with “Windy,” “Groovin’,” and “Respect.” And as I go randomly poking around amongst the charts, I frequently find instances in which one song unbalances an otherwise exceptional list, as on April 19, 1969:

1. “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In”/Fifth Dimension
2. “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy”/Blood Sweat and Tears
3. “It’s Your Thing”/Isley Brothers
4. “Hair”/Cowsills
5. “Only the Strong Survive”/Jerry Butler
6. “Twenty-Five Miles”/Edwin Starr
7. “Galveston”/Glen Campbell
8. “Time Is Tight”/Booker T and the MGs
9. “Dizzy”/Tommy Roe
10. “Sweet Cherry Wine”/Tommy James and the Shondells

“Dizzy” had been in the Top 10 since February, and it kept “Proud Mary,” “Traces” by the Classics IV, and “Time of the Season” from getting to #1, so it’s got a lot to answer for.

Similarly, September 25, 1971, which is a punchbowl with something floating in it:

1. “Go Away Little Girl”/Donny Osmond
2. “Maggie May”-“Reason to Believe”/Rod Stewart
3. “Ain’t No Sunshine”/Bill Withers
4. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”/Joan Baez
5. “Spanish Harlem”/Aretha Franklin
6. “Uncle Albert-Admiral Halsey”/Paul and Linda McCartney
7. “Smiling Faces Sometimes”/Undisputed Truth
8. “Superstar”/Carpenters
9. “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get”/Dramatics
10. “I Just Want to Celebrate”/Rare Earth

(Digression: It is hard for me to judge weeks in the 1970s because I can’t always separate the quality of the songs from the quality of the associations I have with them. On that basis, I nearly chose July 10, 1976, as the answer to Bean’s question, but that ain’t right and I’m not doing it.)

Similar to that 9/25/71 chart is this one from June 16, 1984, with one song that fouls it up. You’ll have to guess which one.

1. “Time After Time”/Cyndi Lauper
2. “The Reflex”/Duran Duran
3. “Let’s Hear It for the Boy”/Deniece Williams
4. “Oh Sherrie”/Steve Perry
5. “Sister Christian”/Night Ranger
6. “The Heart of Rock ‘n’ Roll”/Huey Lewis and the News
7. “Self Control”/Laura Branigan
8. “Jump (For My Love)”/Pointer Sisters
9. “Dancing in the Dark”/Bruce Springsteen
10. “Borderline”/Madonna

I could go on pulling charts like this all day, but it doesn’t have to be me. If you have sufficient time on your hands to get into it, nominate some other week for all-time-best-top-10, in the comments. (Billboard‘s Hot 100 site can be searched by date.)

Weekend Listening: If you were interested in Kent Kotal’s Top 3333 Most Essential Classic Rock Songs list when it was unveiled back in March, you may be interested in hearing a series of programs about it this weekend. They’ll be right here starting this afternoon (Friday 5/22) at 3PM US Central.

One Last Thing: Check the comments on yesterday’s post for stories about ways radio stations used CB radio back in the day.

9 thoughts on “It’s Your Thing

  1. mikehagerty

    Normally, I’d say something about not being sure I’m good enough to be reading the same blog as Gene Baxter, but I read this week that he’s battling Coronavirus. Gene, I’ve been a fan since you were at KZZP and I was at NewsChannel 3. Get well soon!

  2. Wesley

    This is a great topic for a Memorial Day weekend. And again, you have nothing to apologize for nominating the week of July 10, 1976, jb.

    I’ll approach this from the other end and consider the best contenders since Billboard inaugurated the Hot 100 in August 1958. To me, the first best since its start occurred on Nov. 14, 1960:
    1. “Georgia on My Mind” / Ray Charles
    2. “Poetry in Motion” / Johnny Tillotson
    3. “You Talk Too Much” / Joe Jones
    4. “I Want to be Wanted” / Brenda Lee
    5. “Save the Last Dance for Me” / The Drifters
    6. “Stay” / Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs
    7. “Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go” / Hank Ballard and the Midnighters
    8. “Last Date” / Floyd Cramer
    9. “A Thousand Stars” / Kathy Young with the Innocents
    10. “Blue Angel” / Roy Orbison

    Moving more into the pre-Beatles 1960s, how about this lineup from April 7, 1961?
    1. “Tossin’ and Turnin'” / Bobby Lewis
    2. “I Like It Like That” / Chris Kenner
    3. “Last Night” / The Mar-Keys
    4. “Dum Dum” / Brenda Lee
    5. “Hats off to Larry” / Del Shannon
    6. “Together” / Connie Francis
    7. “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” / Curtis Lee
    8. “Let’s Twist Again” / Chubby Checker
    9. “Wooden Heart” / Joe Dowell
    10. “Michael” / The Highwaymen

    Or maybe Aug. 10, 1963?
    1. “Fingertips – Part 2” / Little Stevie Wonder
    2. “Wipe Out” / The Surfaris
    3. “(You’re the) Devil in Disguise” / Elvis Presley
    4. “Blowin’ in the Wind” / Peter, Paul and Mary
    5. “So Much in Love / The Tymes
    6. “Judy’s Turn to Cry” / Lesley Gore
    7. “Surf City” / Jan and Dean
    8. “Candy Girl” / The Four Seasons
    9. “Easier Said Than Done” / The Essex
    10. “More” / Kai Winding

    I know, there’s a couple of clinkers in there, but the his are so magnificent I feel they more than compensate for the few that come up short. That’s enough for now. I don’t want to make this scroll forever.

  3. T.

    I say this every time: Look at the quality of these records from random weeks and random years
    and compare them to today’s charts. Even the weakest songs are better than today’s hits. The hit songs of today are godawful FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER !!!!!!

    My hope is that Trump will go down in flames and that will usher in a new golden age of hit records. I have a $5 bet with the Easter Bunny.

  4. spinetingler

    ” this one from June 16, 1984, with one song that fouls it up.”

    I think you meant: this one from June 16, 1984, with one song that is still listenable 30+ years later.

    1. To a certain degree I come at this from a radio programmer standpoint. All of these songs are strong 80s library cuts in my opinion. I’m no fan of “The Reflex,” however, and “Self Control” seems to me a cut below the others as well.

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