Friday, January 5, 2001

McQ's Best Of 1967 Vol 4 - 1967's Super Spectacular Singles Superstars

1. Nobody But Me - The Human Beinz
2. Pleasant Valley Sunday - The Monkees
3. Magical Mystery Tour - The Beatles
4. New York Mining Disaster 1941 - The Bee Gees
5. Up, Up And Away - The 5th Dimension
6. Incense And Peppermint - Strawberry Alarm Clock
7. Judy In Disguise - John Fred And His Playboys
8. Simon Says - 1910 Fruitgum Company
9. The Tide Is High - The Paragons
10. Time Has Come Today - The Chambers Brothers
11. Strawberry Fields Forever - The Beatles
12. Heroes And Villians - The Beach Boys
13. It's A Happening Thing - The Peanut Butter Conspiracy
14. The Look Of Love - Dusty Springfield
15. Western Union - The Five Americans
16. I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)  - Tbe Electric Prunes
17. Silence Is Golden - The Tremeloes
18. Carrie-Anne - The Hollies
19. Windy - The Association
20. Massachusetts - The Bee Gees
21. Let's Talk About Girls - The Chocolate Watch Band
22. Can't Take My Eyes Off You - Frankie Valli
23. Spooky - Classics IV
24. The First Cut Is The Deepest - P.P. Arnold
25. Baby You're A Rich Man - The Beatles
26. Daydream Believer - The Monkees

Track List / Mix Write-up / Spotify /
McQ's Favorite Albums Of 1967
McQ's Favorite Songs Of 1967

About The Albums/Songs On This Mix: 

Let's Talk About Girls comes to us courtesy of the excellent, star-crossed San Jose garage act The Chocolate Watchband.

Tales of woe and bad luck amongst recording acts are as ubiquitous as the air we breathe, but there are few acts of the last century that can top the unrelenting string of poor luck, unrelenting line-up changes, bad/crooked management decisions, stolen credits, and bizarre marketing mistakes that defined the initial run of the Chocolate Watchband's career.

One of the most aggressive and dynamic garage acts of the era, with a fantastic punkish frontman in Mick Jagger-voiced David Aguilar, the group seemed poised for a major commercial breakthrough, garnering a strong live reputation in the San Fransisco area as "America's Rolling Stones," and opening for emerging acts like The Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger.  But despite landing a few songs on the charts and in movie soundtracks, overall success would not find the band, and by 1970 things got so crazy the final early-period line-up of the group called it quits.

And in many ways, Let's Talk About Girls, the opening track from the Watchband's debut album No Way Out, is entirely emblematic of their struggles.  It remains the band's biggest hit, and was included in Lenny Kaye's original, highly influential Nuggets compilation, but for some incomprehensible management/label reason at the time, lead vocals on this track were handed over not to Aguilar, but African-American session singer Don Bennett.

However, there is a silver-lining to this story.

Following the break-up in 1970, most of the band's members moved onto to solid, productive careers in other industries. But then, in the early 1980s, as a certain segment of the underground music population circled back to 1960s garage and psychedelia, the band's early records became some of the hottest titles in the used-vinyl world, with copies often selling for over $100.00.  Word of this renewed interest eventually got back to members of the band, and finally in the late 1990s, due to mounting pressures from an ever growing fanbase of new listeners, a lineup comprised of many of the act's original members, including Aguilar, returned to the stage and continue to have fun gigging to this day.

A band that had a much easier go at it career-wise was Australian Rock n' Roll Hall Of Famers The Bee Gees.

Though most now firmly associate the band with the late 70s disco-era, 1967 was actually their international breakout year.

After nearly a decade performing together in Australia, where they had become local recording and television stars, the brothers decided they needed to move back to London where it was all happening musically if they were going to make it big.

Based on the strength of their recent Aussie single Spicks & Specks, the band was quickly signed by British producer Robert Stigwood, and after adding lead guitarist Vince Melouney and friend Colin Petersen on drums, the group quickly penned and recorded their international debut, the Hollies-like psychedelic pop album Bee Gees' 1st. The album was a success, producing three UK hits - To Love Somebody, Holiday, and the first to chart, New York Mining Disaster 1941, which is included in this mix. Interestingly, given the perception of the band today, it was Robin, not Barry, who handled the bulk of the acts' lead vocals at the time.

Later in 1967, while in New York on tour, the band was inspired to write a counter to all the songs of the moment urging people to go to San Francisco.

That idea would morph into Massachusetts, the tale of a boy who does indeed make it out to San Francisco to join the flower power scene, only to find himself painfully longing for home.

Ironically, the band themselves had never been to Massachusetts at the time.  But the song struck a chord with listeners.  It became the band's first song to reach #1 in Australian and the UK, and would go on to become one of the top-selling singles in recording history, moving over five million physical units (an honor actually shared with two other songs on this mix, Simon Says and the Monkees' Daydream Believer).

Up, Up, And Away was the breakout hit for the LA-forged vocal quintet The Fifth Dimension.

The poppiest soul act of their era and definitely among the most camera friendly (both original female members, Marilyn McCoo and Florence LaRue, were ex-beauty contest winners), their songs were often closer in dynamics to the sound of West Coast Sunshine acts like the Beach Boys, The Mamas And Papas, and The Association than anything happening in the soul world at the time.

Formed in 1965, they floundered for a couple of years until they were signed by Soul City label founder Johnny Rivers, who then paired them with budding songwriter Jimmy Webb, who wrote Up, Up, And Away and a significant portion of the band's material over the next few years.

And Up, Up, And Away didn't just do well on the charts (peaking at #7 in the weeklies and #47 on Billboards year-end Hot 100).  It also went on to dominate the 1968 grammies, taking home both Song and Record of the year, as well as also winning in several lesser categories.

In hindsight, given all the remarkable music produced in 1967, it's a distinction that speaks more to the never-ending cluelessness of the Grammy Awards than to the greatness of the song, but I'm sure at that moment it was a tasty bit of professional revenge for an act that had once been rejected by Motown's Berry Gordy.

The 1910 Fruitgum Company's Simon Says (featured here) and The Music Explosion's cover of Little Bit O' Soul (featured on Nancy's Favorites) were two early critical hits for the Buddah Record's bubblegum oriented production team of Jeff Katz and Jerry Kasenetz. For the originally more garage-y Mansfield, Ohio-based Music Explosion, Little Bit O' Soul would be their only hit, peaking at #2 in the weeklies and finishing #11 on Billboard's Year End Hot 100, but it would empower the Katz/Kasenetz team and set them on a path of producing several more bubblegum classics.

Simon Says would be more typical of their actual process, pairing an unknown act, in this case New Jersey's Jeckell And The Hydes, with various anonymous studio musicians to cut the track.

Released in December of 1967, Simon Says peaked at #4 in the weeklys and end up taking the #33 spot in the 1968 Year End Hot 100.  A string of additional hits for the quasi-manufactured act would follow over the next few years.

Spooky was the first national hit for soft southern rock pioneers the Classic IV.

A reworked instrumental originally written by Atlanta saxophonist Mike Sharp to which the band obtained the rights, added vocals, and shifted the arrangement, Spooky actually shouldn't have been the act's first national hit, but their previous breakout single, the Frank Valli-ish Pollyanna, was muscled off of New York radio in 1966 just as it was gaining traction by The Four Seasons' management team, who felt the song offered "unwelcome" stylistic competition.

Following the success of Spooky, the band would split into separate performing and recording lineups arrangement similar to that of some of the other acts on this mix, though in this case, it was a more consensual decision between band and management.

Original guitarist J. R. Cobb, who disliked the stress of touring, stayed back in Atlanta with producer Bobby Buie, began writing songs, and assembled a crack team of Atlanta session musician team that became, for all practical purpose, the band on record, while original drummer Dennis Yost, who held the rights to the band's name, would move up front as lead singer for the touring unit and become the face of the band.  This arrangement would continue until the mid-70s when the Cobb/Buie led session/songwriting team broke away to become The Atlanta Rhythm Section, basically relegating Yost's performing act to the nostalgia circuit for the rest of their careers.

Though it may seem like the most romantic song on this mix, those old enough to remember know that Dusty Springfield's version (the first of many) of Burt Bacharach and Hal David's Grammy Hall Of Fame song The Look Of Love was originally conceived by Bacharach for purely comedic purposes, as the hyper-sexualized score to the over-the-top seduction scene between Ursala Andress and Peter Sellers in the 1967 James Bond spoof Casino Royale (a scene Mike Myers would steal from liberally decades later for his Austin Powers movies).

But despite its comic origins, that didn't stop near every balladeer in existence from wanting to record their version of it, and the song would go on to become one of the most covered of the era. In just the next three years alone, alternate versions were recorded and released by the likes of Andy Williams, Lanie Kazan, Morgana King, Sergio Mendes, The Four Tops, Dorthy Ashby, Son Tres, Issac Hayes, and Nina Simone.

Though not quite one hit wonders (they cracked the top-100 five or six times in the back half of the 60s), Oklahoma-born, Texas-based pop act The Five Americans' had only one major chart topper in their 1965-1969 career, that being their light bubblegum classic Western Union.

Primarily known for their fine Beatles/Hollies-esque vocals and heavy use of electric organ, the band came up with the lyrical concept of Western Union almost on a lark, after band member's suggested an unusual riff lead guitarist Mark Rabon was goofing around with sounded like an old time telegraph key.

Unlike many of the acts featured on this mix, The Five Americans' did not forge ahead on the nostalgia circuit after their peak years.   Rabon and organist John Durrill moved on and found a fair degree of success in other musical songwriting and performing ventures (quite literally in Durrill's case - he was also a member of The Ventures), while the remaining members of the band, bassist Jim Grant, drummer Norman Ezell, and rhythm guitarist Jimmy Wright, left the industry and moved onto careers in education and photography.

Though not widely known in the states at the time, The Paragons were one of the biggest Rock Steady/Ska/Reggae acts in Jamaica during their 1964-1970 heyday, proud owners of many number one hits on the Jamaican charts.  Money issues (or rather, a lack of money received on the heels of all those hits) would tear the group apart, but the act's songs would live on as go-to source material for numerous bands in the 70s and 80s like UB40, Massive Attack, and most notably Blondies, whose reworking of the song we are presenting here, the Paragon's biggest hit, The Tide Is High, became a US chart-topper in 1980.

Judy In Disguise (With Glasses), a spoof written as a lyrical parody of the Beatles Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, was the only number one hit for Louisana-based blue-eyed soul act John Fred And His Playboy Band.

A bit older than most of the one hit wonders featured on this mix, the band had actually scored some significant airplay in the late 1950s with the song Shirley, but failed to generate much momentum at the time, including turning down an invitation to appear on American Bandstand, due to Fred's heavy commitments as a two-sport collegiate athlete.

Unfortunately for the band, that inability to generate momentum after a chart hit would also plague them in 1967.  Following the success of Judy, they were quickly branded a novelty act despite actually being a very tight, long-running performing outfit, and were never able to attract much interest from national listeners again, though they remained well regarded in Louisianan for years to come.

When Columbia Records signed the Peanut Butter Conspiracy, they had high hopes that they had just latched onto the next Jefferson Airplane, and in some regards, they had every right to think this.

Not only was the band a psychedelic folk-rock quintet with a charismatic, counter-culture-channeling female lead in Barbara "Sandi" Robinson, but the band's prior drummer had been Spencer Dryden, who had just left the act to become the drummer guessed it...the Jefferson Airplane.

But the label missed one thing, the Peanut Butter Conspiracy just weren't top-tier talented, especially on the songwriting front, and whatever contemporary edge they did possess was pretty much buried on their debut album by producer Gary Usher's lusher, cleaner, studio-musician augmented touches.

In the end, despite all the high hopes, things never took off for The Peanut Butter Conspiracy. It's A Happening Thing would be the band's only song to make a dent in the charts.

Circumstances were almost completely reversed for another Los Angeles band, The Association.

They would score two monster hits in 1967, the stunning ballad Never My Love (#20 on Billboard's year-end Hot 100), featured on Nancy's Favorites, and the iconic pop song Windy (#4 on the year-end Hot 100), included here. But the success of these songs, coupled with earlier hits like Along Comes Mary and Cherish, would ultimately sew the seeds of the band's undoing.

An extremely talented and ambitious folk-rock sextet with a tight live attack, several prodigy-level multi-instrumentalists, a fantastic production team, and quite possibly the most sophisticated vocal harmonies of the era outside of The Beach Boys or The Byrds, the band was nonetheless never able to prove to the listening public that they were more than just label manufactured, AM-staple soft-rockers, and as listening tastes quickly hardened in the late '60s this became the kiss of death.

By 1969, just two years removed from their peak chart success, despite attempts to harden their sound and a blazing live stint opening the historic Monterey Pop Festival, the band was deemed a nostalgia act by the industry and would never effectively recover.

Everyone's all-time favorite manufactured for television pop act The Monkees had one of their biggest years on the singles charts in 1967, landing four songs in Billboard's year Hot 100.

Shockingly though, given one's hindsighted impressions of the band, the syrupy but undeniable bubblegum ballad Daydream Believer, originally written by folk-singer John Stewart of The Kingston Trio, was the lowest charter of those four hits, finishing #94 in the 1967 year-ends behind the #74 Carole King-penned Pleasant Valley Sunday, the #58 Neil Diamond-penned A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You, and monster 1966 carry-over I'm A Believer (also a Neil Diamond song), which finished #5 in 1967.

That said, it was one of the band's truest efforts from a recording standpoint, with most of the instrumentation being handled in the studio by the four rather than their typical assortment of session hands, and with Peter Tork himself creating that well known piano intro.
The Monkees may have begun as a completely synthetic, manufactured for television act, but when all is said and done, by the end of the sixties, they had emerged as one of the best pop acts of the decade, with a expansive number of huge hits that stand with the best output from any of the decade's other great second tier acts.

But as far as personal Monkees favorites for 1967, I've got to go with Pleasant Valley Sunday.

Originally written by King and Gerry Goffin, supposedly as a subtle dig at the consumerism and status-focus that dominated life in several suburban communities along Pleasant Valley Way in West Orange, New Jersey, Nesmith would later contend the song was actually written about life in a mental institution.

But either way one interprets the song and its gentle lyrical bite, none of this detracts from the song's fantastic, up tempo, folk-rock groove - which I find to be one of the most energized in the band's repetoire.

In 1964, P. P. Arnold was a married eighteen-year-old mother of two working two jobs in Watts, California. By 1967 her life had changed completely. A childhood gospel singer, a chance audition set up by a friend led to her becoming one of Ike and Tina Turner's primary backup singers, which in turn led to a tour of Europe, which in turn led to her becoming great friends with Mick Jagger, which ultimately led to a decision to repatriate to London, which she found to be a far more open and less racially driven than her American home.

Now touring with The Small Faces, and having just started to make a dent as a solo artist under Jagger's tutelage, she was hungry for material, and found her next single in Cat Stevens The First Cut Is The Deepest. Stevens, more focused on his songwriting career than his performing career in early 1967, was happy to see the song recorded, so he sold it to Arnold for a mere thirty pounds. The song, recorded with The Small Faces acting as her backing band, became a huge hit in the U.K., reaching #18 in the British weeklies.  Arnold would go on to have several more U.K. hits, but by the early 70s, had begun to focus most of her attention on a budding career in stage musicals, a career she remains active in to this day.

A pair of harmony driven UK hitmakers of the era also make our Singles Superstars mix.

After a monster 1966, The Hollies continued their winning ways with Carrie Anne, their biggest hit of 1967. Written by Graham Nash, he much later admitted it was directly inspired by his unrequited romantic feelings for Mick Jagger's then girlfriend, singer Marianne Faithful, but he didn't have the courage to use her name at the time.

And scoring the biggest hit of their entire career was the slightly older beat-act The Tremeloes with their cover of the Four Seasons B-Side Silence Is Golden, which would top the UK Charts for three weeks.

A fun fact about The Tremoloes - they can lay claim to being one of the only bands in history to best the The Beatles in anything - back in 1962, when Decca records decided they wanted to add one young beat act to their label, they audition two acts - The Tremeloes, and The Beatles - and yes, The Tremeloes won out, a decision many speculate was purely on geography, as The Tremeloes were based much closer to the label headquarters. Wonder if Decca execs wish they could have that choice back?

Another Nuggets championed 1967 single with a knotty start was The Strawberry Alarm Clock's Incense And Peppermint. At the time it was recorded, the band actually went by the name Thee Sixpence, and had already issued three singles under that moniker.  But in the Peppermint sessions, members of the band objected to the original lyrics by John S. Carter, and as acrimony developed in the studio, vocals were handed over to a friend visiting the session who wasn't even in the band, Greg Munford. Further complicating matters, producer Frank Slay denied fellow band members Mark Weitz and Ed King (who would go on to much greater success as a member of Leonard Skynyrd) writing credits for not coming up with the lyrics or core melody even though the song was primarly built around and instrumental composition of their own making.

Finally released as Thee Sixpence b-side to fourth single The Birdman Of Alkatrash, it was Incense and Peppermint that caught the attention of local DJs, and as it became clear the band was about to have a national hit, they quickly changed their name to The Strawberry Alarm Clock to avoid legal conflicts with another similarly named band. The song peaked at number 1 for one week in the weeklies, and finished 1967 in the #23 year-end spot. The band would produce a few more singles and a couple of albums, but would never have as big of a hit again.

For Taft High School-forged Electric Prunes, songwriting credits were easier to sort through, as most of their biggest songs and a heavy chunk album tracks were written by outside parties at the behest of record label Reprise, who loved the band's sound and commanding take on experimental feedback sonics, but just felt they weren't quite strong enough songwriters to develop enough material on their own.  So the bulk of the songwriting chores fell to the slightly older female team of Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz, who penned both of their biggest hits, the LSD-pun on the classic age-old adage I Had Too Much Too Dream Last Night, featured here, and Get Me To The World On Time.

Frankie Valli's timeless pop standard Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You, cowritten by Bob Crewe and Frankie's Four Seasons bandmate Bob Gaudio, was the biggest solo hit of Valli's solo career, peaking at number 2 on the weekly charts, until My Eye's Adored You became and even bigger hit for Valli in 1974. 

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