Our survey brings us now to 1968, which, in the year-end charts, is one of the most rock-heavy we’ve seen, with the psychedelic sound beginning to give birth to heavy metal, along with a little bit of country, soul, and some other mixed gems. No need to dig deeper down the chart this time, as we’re left with 27 songs after the #1s have been eliminated.
I chose ‘Fire’ over Cream. Both were great albums of their time, but Arthur Brown was such an unusual artist that I have a soft spot for the guy and that album. C’mon, the dude was lowered by a cable to the stage, sporting a horned helmet shooting fire. He managed to set fire to the stage curtains and the metal helmet burned his scalp. How cool is that?
Very tough choice. In addition to Born To Be Wild and Fire, I also loved Midnight Confessions – even had one or two DJs in local clubs trained to play it as soon as they saw me coming. But I ended up going with Born To Be Wild because it seemed most emblematic of the era. Gotta say though that I was surprised to see Fire on the list and to see that it got votes. I rarely heard it on the radio, although I loved it when I did.
Smapti: I’m not sure how these lists are determined, but why have I not seen Hendrix on any of them? While Purple Haze incredibly only hit #65 in 1967, All Along The Watchtower was in the top 20 in 1968.
What we’re using here is the year-end chart, which averages sales and airplay over 52 weeks, and Hendrix never charted on it. Going through every song to reach the Top 40 on the weekly charts would just make these polls way too bloated - in 1968, for example, there were 97 songs that charted just in the Top 10.
I picked Sly & the Family Stone over Cream and Steppenwolf but I couldn’t find the song I really wanted to vote for: the Stones’ “Jumping Jack Flash”. I knew that song hit the Top 5 in 1968 and thought for sure it would make the Top 40 for the whole year.
I am torn in a bunch of different directions. Among them:
Sunshine of Your Love - an excellent song by one of Clapton’s best bands.
Stoned Soul Picnic - one of the Fifth Dimension’s best. (But I don’t see “Sweet Blindness,” which is my favorite Fifth Dimension song. That was in 1968.)
Midnight Confessions - of all the more schmaltzy pop groups of the sixties, the Grass Roots may have been the best. I still find more than a few of their songs worth listening to.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - this one probably won’t get much love, but dammit, I like it.
Angel of the Morning - same deal.
I Wish It Would Rain - the Temptations. 'Nuff said.
Born To Be Wild = there are a fair number of songs that evoke The Sixties. This one is near the top.
A Beautiful Morning - I know this one’s been overplayed, but I love The Rascals. Side 2 of their Time Peace collection (yeah, I still have it on vinyl) is a thing of joy, and this is the capstone.
And I left out “Cry Like a Baby” (I like the Box Tops a lot too) and “Fire” which is a bit too novelty-type of a song to be the best of this group, even though I like it.
It only made #50. The fact that it was outsold by “Simon Says,” “1-2-3- Red Light,” “I’m a Girl Watcher,” and “Yummy Yummy Yummy,” not to mention friggin’ *“Honey,” *tells you all you need to know about our society.
Anyway, how can you *not *vote for the God of Hell Fire?
Got it. For some reason, I never copped to the fact that Hendrix was so poorly regarded by most listeners in his own time. I was so blown away by his brilliance at the time, I guess it never occurred to me that others thought he was an outlier of some sort; although the guy in the cubical next to me in 'Nam once asked me, incredulously, “So, you actually like that stuff?”. I mean, the single “Purple Haze” had “The Wind Cries Mary” on the B side, for cripes sake! If he ever thinks about that time, he probably thinks that I was ahead of my time, musically.
I went through the same dilemma many of the rest of you did - Cream vs. Steppenwolf vs. Arthur Brown. These are three great songs that really encapsulate the way rock was changing by the end of the '60s, where we’re beginning to see psychedelia, electric blues, and power pop come together to form heavy metal.
I ultimately went with Steppenwolf, because it’s a great song to rock out to on the highway, and for its historical influence (in fact, it contains the earliest known use of the phrase “heavy metal” in reference to music).
“Mony Mony” and “Spooky” also get honorable mentions in my book.