Earlier this month, we published part one of our week-by-week showcase of why 1967 was, in our opinion, the best year in the history of modern music. Today, we conclude with the back half of the year and the hits that just kept on comin’.
“Groovin'” by the Young Rascals
Weeks at #1: 2 (June 17-24) + 2 previous (May 20-27)
No, this is not a mistake. “Groovin'” was, in fact, #1 May 20th and 27th, but the iconic “Respect” knocked it out of the top spot for two weeks. It came back to top the charts for two more weeks in June. Not something you see every day!
“Windy” by the Association
Weeks at #1: 4 (July 1-22)
Perhaps no song illustrates the contrast between the wretchedness of 1974 versus the greatness of 1967 better than this one. While 1974 gave us adult-oriented “rock” acts with number-ones such as Barbara Streisand, Cher, Paul Anka, and Helen Reddy, 1967 gave us a number-one record by a group like the Association.
Maybe on the hipness scale they didn’t rank up there with Stones and Beatles, but they put out some pretty good songs nevertheless. “Windy” was their second and last number-one song, but has been an enduring song which remains well known even today.
“Light My Fire” by the Doors
Weeks at #1: 3 (July 29-August 12)
The Doors seem to fit into an odd niche in music history. While they obviously don’t have the A-list status of some groups such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, or the Beach Boys, they are in that pack that runs a very close second.
Their single releases were hit or miss: immensely popular or kind of out there. In that way, the music is reflective of the charismatic and controversial Jim Morrison — you liked him and what he did and stood for or you didn’t like him at all.
The group included this song on their debut album, and though it wasn’t their first single release (that was “Break on Through,” which didn’t make the Top 100), it was their second. They’d have another number-one a year later (“Hello, I Love You”), and “Touch Me” (1968, #3) would come close. This has probably been their most enduring song, however, as it has been covered countless times and Jose Feliciano’s 1968 version even won a Grammy.
“All You Need is Love” by the Beatles
Weeks at #1: 1 (August 19)
It’s not every day that a song as well-known as this one spends just one week at the top before getting bumped. But the music this year was exceptional, and even the best songs had to fend off the competition. Despite its short stay at the top, this has come to be seen as one of the group’s most meaningful songs, perhaps because it aligned so perfectly with the whole idea of “the Summer of Love” and what that has come to represent since.
First performed live on television, it was seen by more than 400 million people the world over, and the band performed surrounded by a number of their friends; if you look closely, you can see Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Marianne Faithful, Keith Moon, Graham Nash, and others. Interestingly, it also seems a step away from “Penny Lane” in a more socially conscious direction, though it was clear, as you’ll see further down the list, that the Beatles hadn’t quite made a full transition yet.
“Ode to Billie Joe” by Bobbie Gentry
Weeks at #1: 4 (August 26-September 16)
In my mind, one of the most interesting things about music in the late 1960s was the way that songs by artists such as Glen Campbell, Jeannie C. Riley, Frank Sinatra, Paul Mauriat, Henry Mancini — and Bobbie Gentry — could be huge hits in the midst of so many diverse movements in popular music. These artists did songs that might more properly be called country or adult-oriented music, but they succeeded on the charts nevertheless. This song certainly falls into that category, as it’s a lot more like country (even in its subject matter) than pop music, yet audiences ate it up.
“Ode to Billie Joe” was certainly big in its day, garnering eight Grammy nominations which resulted in four wins. As a pop solo artist, Gentry would only have one more song make the Top 40, that being “Fancy” in 1970. Within a few years, she had quit performing and closed the door on the entertainment industry, but her moment in the sun was a big one indeed.
“The Letter” by the Box Tops
Weeks at #1: 4 (September 23-October 14)
In the paragraph below, I’ll note that “To Sir With Love” was the year’s #1 song — this was #2. “The Letter” has become as well known as any song on this list (which is really saying something) and reaped all the accolades in its day including a gold record and more than a million in sales. Not bad for a recording that required more than 30 takes to perfect, the product of 16-year-old lead singer Alex Chilton and his group the Devilles — soon to be renamed the Box Tops. While the group would go on to record classics such as “Soul Deep” and “Cry Like a Baby,” they’d disband just a few years later.
“To Sir with Love” by Lulu
Weeks at #1: 5 (October 21-November 18)
Though Lulu was never as popular in the United States as she was abroad (she only had three more Top 40 songs in the US, while she had 17 in England), this song topped the chart for four weeks. From the movie of the same name, the song was used in a poignant scene where Lulu, as schoolgirl/semi-delinquent Barbara Pegg sang the song in the film to “sir,” her teacher Sydney Poitier.
While it’s a very good song, one wonders how much its integration into the popular film helped push the song to the top of the charts. By the end of the year, one thing was clear — Lulu had the distinction of beating out all the other groups on this list as “To Sir With Love” was the #1 song for 1967.
“Incense and Peppermints” by Strawberry Alarm Clock
Weeks at #1: 1 (November 25)
Without a doubt, Strawberry Alarm Clock is the closest thing on this list to a group that qualifies as a one-hit wonder. The group’s origins and the origins of the song are convoluted and complicated, but with a 16-year-old visitor to the studio singing lead on “Incense and Peppermints” (like I said, it’s complicated) the song went to #1 .
They only had one more forgettable Top 40 chart record after that, and perhaps their only other claim to fame is that guitarist Ed King went on to renown as the bassist and guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Nevertheless, the song and has become one of the most representative examples of American psychedelic rock.
“Daydream Believer” by the Monkees
Weeks at #1: 4 (December 2-23)
I did an article in REBEAT last spring where I stated that I wasn’t nearly as “ga-ga” over the Monkees as most of the other writers on staff, and this song illustrates why. Remember the poll I mentioned above, where the great “I’m a Believer” clocked in at #22? This song was #8 in that poll, and for the life of me I don’t know why. There were so many great Monkees songs, but to me this song is more on par with the David Cassidy/Bobby Sherman/Donnie Osmond teen balladeering that was still a few years down the road.
I’m not sure I was the only one who felt like that either, as reportedly both the We Five and Spanky and Our Gang had turned the song down before the Monkees did it. Even Davy Jones initially didn’t like the song, though he later came to regard it as one of his favorites. I guess all that is to say it has had it’s detractors over the years, but four weeks at number-one clearly showed that someone liked it a whole lot.
“Hello Goodbye” by the Beatles
Weeks at #1: 1 (December 30)
As I stated earlier, the Beatles’ first #1 in 1967, “Penny Lane,” was somewhat neutral and middle-of-the-road in terms of its sound in the Beatles oeuvre, while their second, “All You Need is Love,” was indicative of the direction in which their music would be going over the next couple of years. Oddly enough, their third #1 that year, “Hello Goodbye,” had more of a pop sound and as such was a little of a throwback to their earlier pre-1966 output.
John Lennon apparently wasn’t too fond of the song and wanted the single’s B-side, “I Am the Walrus,” released as the A-side, but he was overruled by McCartney and George Martin. “I Am the Walrus” is clearly a song more fitting with the new Beatles sound as opposed to the old, but then again, I’m not sure that song would have made it to number-one. In any case “Hello Goodbye” did make it there and remained in that spot into the the first couple of weeks of 1968, as well. Perhaps it was fitting to end the year with another Beatles number-one.
So that’s 1967, a year in which some of the most legendary acts in the history of music topped the charts. Ultimately, I think the songs above make my argument as to 1967 being the best year for music fairly sound.
But just as I offered support in my 1974 article with a list of other bad songs that year that reinforced my point, let me close by offering a list of some other great songs from 1967 — all of which made the top 5 on the pop charts, yet couldn’t quite make the top spot:
- “Soul Man” by Sam and Dave
- “Pleasant Valley Sunday” by the Monkees
- “Bernadette” and “Standing in the Shadows of Love” by the Four Tops
- “Georgy Girl” by the Seekers
- “Baby I Love You” by Aretha Franklin
- “I Second that Emotion” by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
- “Don’t Sleep in the Subway” by Petula Clark
- “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum
- “I Say a Little Prayer for You” by Dionne Warwick
- “How Can I Be Sure” by the Rascals
- “Woman, Woman” by Gary Puckett and the Union Gap
- “There’s a Kind of a Hush” by Herman’s Hermits
…and many, many more.
While certainly my claim is arguable, there’s no doubt 1967 produced some of the greatest songs ever to hit #1 on the Billboard Top 40.