Saturday, November 25, 2017

That Was a Year, That Was

In late January 1967, the Beatles released the double-A-sided single, "Strawberry Fields"/"Penny Lane." Interestingly, the singles chart doesn't conclude that both singles reached the No. 1 spot on American radio, instead, "Strawberry Fields" made it to No. 8, while only "Penny Lane" hit the top spot.  The Beatles would go on to hold the spot for 2nd, 4th, 6th and 10th highest charting singles of the year, with "Whiter Shade of Pale" the top seller and The Monkees' "I'm a Believer" holding down No. 3. Sgt. Pepper would end the year the top-selling LP, followed closely by Headquarters.

By the end of January, The Byrds would release "So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star," a cynical look at "manufactured" bands; The Monkees, of course, at the top of that list.  In defense of The Monkees, by Headquarters, the Monkees were self-produced and had established themselves among the ranks.

A reminder of the state of conservative affairs, The Rolling Stones appeared on Ed Sullivan in January, forced to change the name of their hit single from "Let's Spend the Night Together" to "Let's Spend Some Time Together."  Although The Stones acquiesced, later that year, The Stones' bad-boy image was re-cemented when in February the police raided Keith Richard's home in Sussex, arresting Keith and Mick on drug charges.  Simultaneously, Keith's "Ruby Tuesday" was the No. 1 hit in the States.

Late in February 1967, The Doors' "Break on Through to the Other Side" would be their first charting single. In April, "Light My Fire" would reach No. 1 in the U.S. and No. 7 in Britain. The Doors eponymous first LP would reach No. 1 in both countries.

The Jefferson Airplane's first LP with Grace Slick would generate two stellar hits, "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit," and a No. 3 LP in Surrealistic Pillow, produced by Jerry Garcia (The Grateful Dead's first debut LP would be released later in the year).

1967 was Rock's stellar year.  But Rock's stranglehold on AM radio wasn't enough to defeat The King of Cool, Frank Sinatra, whose "That's Life" was one of the year's biggest hits and one of Ol' Blue Eyes' top sellers (in a 4 decade span of top sellers).  The song, by the way, would nearly keep "Good Vibrations," rock's ultimate single, from the top slot.  While "Good Vibrations" deserves post after post of its own (as does "That's Life"), follow-up single, "Heroes and Villains" recorded in the same scrupulous manner, wasn't completed until June 1967, with work on the single beginning in May 1966.  More than any other factor, the failure of "Heroes and Villains" to reach the same pinnacle of success as "Good Vibrations" was the downfall of SMiLE.

Another rock Anthem, Sonny and Cher's "The Beat Goes On" was released on January 14th. "Drums keep pounding rhythm through my brain."

"La-de-da-de-dee..."

Of the top selling singles of the year, The Beatles would have the 2nd, 4th, 6th and 10th most popular songs of the year worldwide, with "A Whiter Shade of Pale taking the top spot. Respectively The Beatles reigned with "All You Need is Love," "Hello Goodbye, "Penny Lane," and "Strawberry Fields." The Monkees would go on to have the third best selling single of 1967 with "I'm a Believer" and end the year with the No. 1 single, "Daydream Believer," but there is no doubting that from a singles' perspective, 1967 was the greatest year in rock history with dozens of songs, from Aretha Franklin's "Respect" to The Doors' "Light My Fire, that would shape rock music for decades to come. This was the year of "Groovin'," "Windy," "The Rain, the Park and Other Things," "The Letter," "Ode to Billie Joe," "To Sir With Love," and "Incense and Peppermints." And these hits only scrape the surface. 1967 also claimed the VU's "I'm Waiting for the Man," "Sunshine of Your Love," "For What It's Worth" and "Purple Haze." There isn't a song on the list that doesn't deserve a post of its own.