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T.G.I.F. – Ten Rocktober Chart Toppers

Since it’s Rocktober, I thought I’d revisit the charts.

When I was growing up in New York City, the local stations made a big deal about their weekly countdowns, and every week music fanatics (like me) were glued to the radio, ready to jot them down as they were played and guess which songs finished where. Forget Dick Clark and Casey Kasem, in NYC it was all about WABC and WMCA. At the end of the year they’d do their annual countdown and even mail you the final list if you sent in an envelope. Somewhere in a dusty attic box, I still have a few that I treasured as a kid.

I guarantee that when pop culture historians look at the tail end of the 1960s, they will rate that period as important to music history as the Industrial Revolution was to Western Civilization. Living through it was amazing. But even looking back on how the charts morphed over a decade, it’s obvious that a seismic shift had occurred.

So this week I give you Ten Rocktober Chart Toppers – the Number One hits from the first week of October. It’s only going to get stranger each Friday.

1963) Blue Velvet (Bobby Vinton) – The early 60s was crooner heaven, as well as a haven for single-named teen idols. Four lads from Liverpool changed all that the year prior, but you don’t build Rome in a day. I can’t listen to this song anymore without picturing Dennis Hopper.

1964) Pretty Woman (Roy Orbison) – I still can’t believe that voice came out of that head. Orbison’s growl on the bridge just made a cool song even cooler – even Van Halen couldn’t ruin this gem.

1965) Hang On Sloopy (The McCoys) – The Ohio State National Anthem, this garage rock chestnut featured a teenage Rick Derringer and still sounds great. A very underappreciated band who cut some great pop sides and then morphed into Johnny Winter’s best band. (This rare version has the extra verse)

1966) Cherish (The Association) – Not quite rock, I know, but you must have that slow grind song for the prom, and this was it – plus it covered the pain of unrequited love! And if you want to punish this great vocal group for being wimpy, you have to give them props for “Along Came Mary”.

1967) The Letter (The Box Tops) – Teenage Alex Chilton hooked up with Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham and cut one of the gruffest, blusiest vocals ever recorded. Absolute killer stuff, in and out in under two minutes and always sounds fresh when you hear it.

1968) Hey Jude (The Beatles) – Beginning its nine week run atop the charts, an instant sing-along classic and one of the longest tracks in chart history. Whatever happened to those guys?

1969) Sugar Sugar (The Archies) – If he could make a gazillion dollars with four actors, how much could Don Kirschner make from four cartoon characters who wouldn’t insist on playing their own instruments? This was the song that dethroned “Honky Tonk Women”…I am not making that up.

1970) Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (Diana Ross) – Motown ruled the charts in the 60s but this version pales in comparison to the 1967 version by the great Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell – a hit three years earlier.

1971) Maggie May (Rod Stewart) – Single and album simultaneously blew up and made rooster head a star. For a couple of years he and The Faces made the best music on Earth and then Rod followed the money, which he is still doing forty years later.

1972) Baby Don’t Get Hooked On Me (Mac Davis) – And you wonder why people said “rock is dead”? Other 1972 chart toppers included “Candy Man” from Sammy Davis Jr., Michael Jackson’s turgid “Ben” and Melanie’s screeching “Brand New Key”. The year was so lame that Gilbert O’Sullivan’s nasal “Alone Again Naturally” spent four weeks at the top, lost its place and then floated up again like a dead fish for two more.

Thankfully, album rock was there to save the day.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Rousing Rockers

It’s involuntary, almost Pavlovian.

You’re somewhere – anywhere – and that song comes on. You find yourself smiling no matter what the discussion is about…the hips start to shake a little bit…the air guitar is sitting there in the case ready to go. And sure enough, whether you’re bellowing out your car window or softly singing the words under your breath in the store, you’re all in. If you’re in a lively pub, you join in with several other people you don’t even know, as all inhibitions disappear and you bond in the most common language this planet has…music.

I thought about this the other day when I was howling out the car window with Warren Zevon as “Werewolves of London” was blasting out of the speakers. Some songs just…resonate. They don’t have to be very lyrical (“Hang On Sloopy” isn’t exactly Shakespeare); in fact you might not even understand a word you’re saying (“Louie Louie“). But the best ones are usually a song that was massively popular but also resonates with some feeling of angst – lost love, alienation, rebellion.

Lots of people sing along with the final chorus  of “Hey Jude“, but not with as much passion as they will when”What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace Love And Understanding” or  “Rockin In The Free World” comes on the jukebox (at least not where I hang out!)…and if the song was a monster when you were in your prime bar-trolling years, so much the better.

So here are Ten Rousing Rockers will release your inner teenager and break the ice in any social situation as you raise your glass, throw your arm around a stranger and share a moment. And since it’s Friday, why not start right this minute? Life’s too short to wait for five o’clock.

01)Brown Sugar” (The Rolling Stones) I said yeah..yeah..yeah…whooooo!

02)Born To Run” (Bruce Springsteen) Tramps like us, baby we were born to run.

03)Love Shack” (The B-52s). I got me a car as big as a whale!

04)Rock and Roll All Night” (KISS) And party every day!

05)Maggie May” (Rod Stewart) Maggie, I wish I never seen your face!

06)You Shook Me All Night Long” (AC/DC) She was a fast machine, she kept…what clean?

07)Sweet Home Alabama” (Lynyrd Skynyrd) Southern Man don’t need you around anyhow.

08)We Gotta Get Outta This Place” (The Animals) If it’s the last thing we ever do!

09)Love Stinks” (J. Geils Band) And so it goes ’til the day you die.

10)Wild Thing” (The Troggs) You make everything…groovy.

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