August 2016

Led_Zeppelin_-_Led_Zeppelin_II#8 – Led Zeppelin – “What Is And What Should Never Be” – (1969)

“What Is and What Should Never Be” is from Led Zeppelin’s second album – and second album of 1969 (yes, they put out their first two albums in the same year). This was the first song Led Zeppelin recorded that gave Robert Plant writing credit, as it was written by Plant and Jimmy Page. It’s one of the best songs the band ever made. 

220px-The_5th_Dimension_-_The_Age_of_Aquarius#9– The 5th Dimension – “Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In” – (1969)

This is one of those songs that just screams “1969.” It’s actually a medley of two songs written for the Broadway musical Hair and it was a #1 hit in 1969. It’s pretty fantastic all around, from the vocal harmonies to the musicianship. 

220px-Joe_Cocker-With_a_Little_Help_from_My_Friends_(album_cover)#10– Joe Cocker – “With A Little Help From My Friends” – (1969)

It takes some serious balls to cover The Beatles (Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles at that) and think you can better one of their tracks. But that’s just what Joe Cocker did. It’s one of the best covers of all time and that’s partly because he dissected the song, and rebuilt it to suit his style, bringing in other musicians to help re-arrange it. It’s brilliant – and so was his performance of it at Woodstock which became quite famous on its own.

220px-Living_the_Blues_-_Canned_Heat#11– Canned Heat – “Going Up The Country” – (1968)

I’m really sucking it up. I promise at least five of the songs from “1969” will actually be from 1969. This delightful and airy tune is from blues rock band Canned Heat. A band that, for some reason, I always felt was like the grandfather of Blues Traveler. Maybe it’s because Bob Hite looks kind of like John Popper. Fun fact, this was kind of considered the “theme song” for Woodstock and was performed there. And you can’t beat that flute!

220px-Jefferson_Airplane-Volunteers_(album_cover)#12– Jefferson Airplane – “Volunteers” – (1969)

Now we start getting into it. Vietnam. Turbulence in American culture. 1969 was the year of Woodstock, after all. The music from this era is so politically charged that you almost don’t notice it (because it is so prevalent). Jefferson Airplane was one of the most popular rock bands in the late 1960s and this is their best song.

1525119#13– Pacific Gas & Electric – “Staggolee” – (1970)

“Staggolee” can trace its roots back to 1911 when it was a song about a real life man’s murder. It was first recorded in 1923 as “Stack O’ Lee Blues” by Fred Waring’s Pennsylvanians. The most well-known version is that of Lloyd Price (“Stagger Lee”) from 1958. It was a #1 in 1959. This altogether differently-titled version is my personal favorite. Blues rock at its best.

tdn1#14– Three Dog Night – “One” – (1968)

This song, off of Three Dog Night’s self-titled debut album released in 1968, was a top five single for the band in 1969. It was originally written and recorded by Harry Nilsson. It’s probably good that this song never made it to #1… because that is the loneliest number.

220px-Elvis_presley_suspiciousminds#15– Elvis Presley – “Suspicious Minds” – (1969)

Here is one of Elvis’ best songs – the song that marked his comeback. While Elvis was huge in the 1950s, the 60s weren’t as kind as music was changing. But that all changed when Mark James wrote this song and recorded it and failed at selling it. So Elvis gave it a shot and took it to #1. It revived Presley’s career and remains one of his best songs.

220px-LittleGreenBag#16– George Baker Selection – “Little Green Bag” – (1970)

This song was written and recorded in 1969 (and may have been released as a single that year?) but the album came out in 1970. The very beginning of this song is absolute gold. It was used in Reservoir Dogs, which really helped its popularity 20+ years after its initial release. But it did hit #21 in 1970.

220px-Santana_-_Santana_(1969)#17– Santana – “Evil Ways” – (1969)

Santana had our #1 song of the 1990s. And it was an even bigger hit in the 2000s. That’s some serious staying power. This was actually a cover, having originally been recorded in 1967 by Willie Bobo. It was the band’s first top 40 hit, reaching #9. With that wailing organ, it’s one of the best examples of jazz-infused latin rock.

More_Today_Than_Yesterday_Spiral_Starecase_Album#18– Spiral Starecase – “More Today Than Yesterday” – (1969)

Here is the biggest hit for Sacramento, California-based Spiral Starecase. It has appeared in movies and TV and isn’t a song you hear much on the radio anymore, other than oldies stations maybe. This is a shame because it’s really good. It reached #12 and I think that if this band would’ve continued doing this sort of thing on this sort of level they would’ve rivaled Chicago their entire careers.

At_Home_Shocking_Blue#19– Shocking Blue – “Venus” – (1969)

The Shocking Blue were a Dutch band that scored their biggest hit with “Venus” – a Hot 100 #1 that would be a #1 again in the 1980s when Banarama covered this song. This has appeared in commercials and movies all over the place and is one of those songs that nearly everyone knows but probably has no idea who sang it.

b.j._thomas-raindrops_keep_fallin_on_my_head(2)#20– B.J. Thomas – “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” – (1969)

This Academy Award-winning song, co-written by Burt Bacharach, was originally from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – one of the greatest westerns ever made. It was a Billboard Hot 100 #1 hit and the biggest hit of B.J. Thomas’ career.

220px-Johnny_Cash_At_San_Quentin#21– Johnny Cash – “A Boy Named Sue” – (1969)

And we’re back. We’ve counted down the 2000s, 1990s, 1980s, and for the 1970s, we did the top 21 songs of each year. Which is what we’re going to do all the way back to 1950 (hopefully). This Shel Silverstein-written song is the first entry on the list for the 1960s. The original version of this, from At San Quentin, featured prisoner cheers in the background, which is pretty weird. Also, Carl Perkins is featured on guitar. This was Johnny Cash’s only top 10 hit on the Hot 100.