Big Hits Of 1968 - The Good, The Bad & The Cleaning Lady!

Big Hits Of 1968 - The Good, The Bad & The Cleaning Lady!

monkees 1968 big hits
Davy Jones, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith on the set of the television show The Monkees in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

1968. The year after the Summer of Love and the Monterey Pop Festival. The year before Woodstock and Altamont. A year in which the hippies were on the ascent and the squares were losing ground. Well that’s how it seemed at least. But the charts tell a different story…

With the exception of The Doors, Cream, Rolling Stones, Small Faces, the Beatles of course and maybe a few others, the 1968 Best Sellers lists in Australia, the US and the UK were strictly Squaresville. Sure there were a couple of soul classics – Otis and Aretha were obviously huge presences, and the Supremes’ socially challenging “Love Child” perhaps surprisingly cut through – but what little psychedelic stuff included was pretty light weight (Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men”, Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man”), Vanilla Fudge’s “You Keep Me Hanging On” and Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild” was as heavy as it got, and iconic names of the era, like Jimi Hendrix, the Byrds and the Who didn’t have that much or any impact. Old school country with pop appeal was still cutting through (Jeanie C. Riley’s fabulous “Harper Valley PTA”, the Fireballs’ “Bottle of Wine”), as was, in Australia at least, sort-of traditional Irish music; The Irish Rovers had two of the top ten best-selling singles here according to Go-Set.  Pop was either bubblegum oriented (the Monkees, the 1910 Fruitgum Company and the vaguely psychedelicised sounds of the Lemon Pipers and the Cowsills), or very conservative and middle of the road (Tom Jones, Mama Cass singing “Dream A Little Dream Of Me”,  Gary Puckett & The Union Gap, Bobby Goldsborough). Worst of all, the actual middle of the road – Des O’Connor, Engelbert Humperdinck, Andy Williams, Paul Mauriat, Herb Albert - still ruled the roost!

A major hit in Australia, England and the States was Hugo Montenego’s unforgettable theme music for the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”, and that title pretty much summed up the year music-wise. Let’s sample a few from the whole spectrum...

Aretha Franklin “I Say A Little Prayer”

It only came in at #93 for the year in the Billboard best-sellers, but it has endured more than many of the records that outsold it. Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for Dionne Warwick who took it to #4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart in late 1967, “I Say A Little Payer” is now likely to forever be associated with Aretha.


Vanilla Fudge “You Keep Me Hanging On”

When Led Zeppelin first toured the United States in early 1969, they did a few shows opening for Vanilla Fudge, a slick New York club act who took hits of the day and turned them into preposterously overblown organ-driven epics. ‘Preposterously overblown’ worked in their favour; not only did they have a massive hit with this Supremes cover, but they went onto influence early heavy metal, especially early Deep Purple. “You Keep Me Hanging On” was #40 in the end of year 1968 Australian singles chart according to the Kent Report.


The Doors “Hello I Love You”

A lot of artists who appeared in the late 60s would have an ongoing influence, but very few were able to combine profound influence with commercial success like The Doors. “Hello I Love You” came in a #14 on the Billboard Top Sellers list for the year.


Tommy James & The Shondells “Mony Mony”

One of America’s seemingly forgotten great hitmakers of the 60s, Tommy James & The Shondells were responsible for giving the world such classics as “Hanky Panky”, “Crimson & Clover” (later a hit for Joan Jett), “I Think We’re Alone Now” (later a hit for Tiffany) and this one, which Billy Idol fans know and love.


The Monkees “Daydream Believer”

Davey Jones tended to represent the more middle of the road end of things for the Monkees, so of course, this John Stewart composition became one of the Monkees’ biggest hits. It was #21 on The Kent Report’s end of year chart here in Australia (#28 on Go-Set), and their last #1 hit in the US.


Paul Mauriat “Love Is Blue”

#3 for the year in Australia according to both the Kent Report and the Go-Set chart and #2 in the US according to Billboard, “Love Is Blue” made it clear that in an age when pop was apparently top, easy listening still had a huge audience. This instrumental version by French orchestra leader Paul Mauriat, of a French song (“L'amour est Bleu") that was first performed at the Eurovision Song Contest on 1967, is the only number-one hit by a French lead artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 in America.


Hugo Montenegro “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly”

Absolutely as cool as it gets, and it’s not even rock’n’roll. Sergio Leoni’s “The Good, The Bad & The Ugly” is one of the great Westerns and helped make Clint Eastwood the icon that he is, and the theme, by Leoni’s regular guy, American composer and orchestra leader Montenegro was in the best ten sellers of the year in both the UK and US, and ranked #12 on the Go-Set chart here.


Manfred Mann “The Mighty Quinn”

A fantastic Bob Dylan cover from the band who’d already hit with the likes of “Do Wah Diddy Diddy”,  “Pretty Flamingo” and another Dylan tune “If You Gotta Go, Go Now”. Of course, Manfred Mann was a band, but Manfred Mann was also their keyboard player and leader.


The Irish Rovers “The Unicorn”

Okay, we are not kidding. According to the Go-Set charts, this was THE FOURTH BEST SELLING SINGLE here in 1968. Australia, what were we thinking?


Johnny Farnham “Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)”

How could we go past this one? A couple of decades before he was Whispering Jack, John was Johnny and he was somehow lumped with this little Music Hall-type number. How or why someone thought a song about a cleaning lady was going to work we don’t know, but that person was obviously a genius, as Johnny made “Sadie” the second-best selling single – second only to “Hey Jude” - in Australia in 1968.

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