Seventy-Nine Candles On The Cake
Today is the King's Birthday (thank you, thank you very much) and thousands of his loyal subjects have made the bi-annual pilgrimage to his former palace on Elvis Presley Blvd. in Memphis, Tennessee. HERC's made that trip and chances are you have, too.
To honor the occasion, HERC takes a look back at the last Elvis single to top the Hot 100 chart, 1969's "Suspicious Minds" and counts down the other nine songs in the Top 10 for the week ending November 1, 1969.
#10 - Coming in at Number 10 are The Beatles and "Come Together". Enjoying just its third week on the Hot 100, the single had jumped from 23 to 13 to 10 and was closely followed by "Something", another Beatles tune also enjoying it's third week on the chart, jumping from 20 to 11 in its second week, where it stayed for a third week. The two songs are the opening tracks on the #1 album Abbey Road and both were available as that most desirable of singles, the double A-sided hit. Within four weeks, the single would hit #1 with both songs credited together as they would for the duration of their run on the charts.
#9 - The song at Number 9 is "Tracy" by the Cuff Links, a faceless studio outfit with vocals by Ron Dante. The song peaked at #9 and is an excellent slice of sweet late Sixties pop with that wordless chorus worming its way into your brain tout de suite. If Dante sounds familiar, it's because he is also the voice behind the #3 song in this week's countdown.
#8 - HERC is not a fan of the song at Number Eight though HERC SR, a Rod McKuen fan, probably is. Rod wrote "Jean" and it was included on the soundtrack to The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie. Oliver's version of "Good Morning Starshine" from Hair was his first Top 10 hit, peaking at #3 earlier in 1969. "Jean" reached #2 for two straight weeks in October, held out of the top spot by this week's #3 song.
#7 - "Little Woman" by Bobby Sherman comes in at Number Seven and would eventually peak at #3. The song's lyrics are oppressive and disrespectful to women but HERC is willing to wager that didn't matter one bit to the throngs of young girls who made the cute actor Bobby a pop star with this, the first of his ten Hot 100 singles. (Along with the previous two singles, HERC is compelled to ask: How were the Beatles not dominating this chart?)
#6 - Still on the charts three months after it's release, Sly & the Family Stone's "Hot Fun In The Summertime" had peaked a few weeks earlier at #2, behind this week's #4 song. A laid-back, groovy song about Summertimes past, this is one of HERC's favorite tunes for any time of year. Nostalgia is always in season.
#5 - The song at Number Five is another HERC favorite though he tends to be of the minority opinion. Smith's cover of "Baby, It's You" is funkified white boy (girl?) blues that appeals to HERC, who finds it slinky and sexy. The song, co-penned by Burt Bacharach, had been previously recorded by the Shirelles (#8, 1961) and the Beatles (#67, 1995, seriously) before singer Del Shannon (of "Runaway" fame) rearranged it for Smith, who he had discovered. The rest of the album is mostly similar-style covers but none of them appeal to HERC as much as this one.
#4 - Man oh man, yet another favorite of HERC's - what's that, three in row? "I Can't Get Next To You" by the Temptations is so heavy, so funky and so damn fun to try and sing along to, mimicking all the distinct voices. It's a great performance for sure but it's a great song as well, having been covered by Al Green, Annie Lennox and Edward McCain, who faithfully follows Green's slow blues version. Rightfully, this is a former chart-topper.
#3 - Ron Dante returns as the voice of The Archies and their huge hit "Sugar, Sugar" which spent four weeks atop the survey in September and October. How huge? Over in the U.K., the song was #1 for eight weeks (longer than any Beatles single) and ended up as the Number One single of the entire year both in the U.K. and the US! One can almost get a cavity just from listening to the song.
#2 - The Fifth Dimension dethroned this week's #1 the following week with "Wedding Bell Blues". HERC is a fan of Miss McCoo's voice and the tinkly music of the song. Songwriter and posthumous Rock Hall member Laura Nyro bubbled under for several weeks back in the year HERC was born with a virtually identical arrangement. Good stuff.
#1 - Topping off this week's countdown is long-time HERC favorite "Suspicious Minds" as recorded by Elvis. It is his second favorite Elvis song - "Kentucky Rain", which was released as a single a few months after "Suspicious Minds", holds down the most favorited spot. Songwriter Mark James recorded it himself and Elvis covered it pretty faithfully.(Speaking of covers...) Of course, the song evolved through his live performances complete with false endings, tempo changes and those backing vocals. In the Eighties, the Fine Young Cannibals covered the song with an unmistakable vocal assist from Jimmy Sommerville. Then, in the Nineties, Dwight Yoakam recorded it for soundtrack of Elvisy film Honeymoon In Vegas and began performing it as his concert finale. Elvis' estate revisited Elvis' recorded legacy with Viva Elvis for the Cirque de Soleil show of the same name, recording all new contemporary musical backing for The King's vocal tracks. Fans and the general public almost universally hated it. HERC likes it better than most and in particular digs the Coldplay meets U2-esque stylings of the Viva version of "Suspicious Minds" (below). Let HERC know what you think of it.