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by Matthew Dixon
1969 will be remembered for several classic novelty hits. The year started with one of those, Scaffold's "Lily The Pink". It battled out with Marmalade's rendition of the Beatles' "Ob La Di Ob La Da" for No. 1 before Marmalade were succeeded by Fleetwood Mac's most famous single, "Albatross". Hits by the Move and Amen Corner followed at the top whilst Donald Peers' "Please Don't Go" and Dean Martin's "Gentle On My Mind" had to settle for top three places. Along came another easy-listening hit next at the top, in the form of Peter Sarstedt's "Where Do You Go To My Lovely?". This was toppled, however, by one of the year's classic hits.
The greatest charting artist of 1969 was soul legend Marvin Gaye, and he started his successes of the year in spectacular style with the timeless classic "I Heard It Through The Grapevine". Desmond Dekker and the Aces followed with "Israelites", probably the first proper reggae hit ever to top the chart but it was rather quickly deposed. Whilst the Beatles had a massive career, songs by them entering at the top of the chart were rare. With the help of Billy Preston, however, they had one of their biggest charting hits ever, "Get Back". It went straight to No. 1 and remained there for an amazing six weeks. The Who's classic hit "Pinball Wizard" couldn't quite top the chart, a feat they never managed to do.
Throughout the charts so far, we have seen a massive charting career for Frank Sinatra. This was far from his whole career, as he predates the UK charts by a good many years. By 1969, he realised he was winding down, and released his swansong. Little did he know that it would end up being by far his most famous hit. It started its impressive 125 week chart career (to date) in 1969, but believe it or not, it never ever got higher than No. 5. The song of course is "My Way" and it was whilst the Beatles were hogging the top of the chart, that it achieved its highest placing.
Tommy Roe managed to squeeze in a chart topper with "Dizzy" that was later to be covered by acts such diverse as Vic Reeves and the Wonder Stuff, and Bob the Builder! However, after one week it was deposed, by another Beatles song! This time round, it was "The Ballad of John and Yoko" that was to top the chart for them, and give them another three weeks at the top of the chart. As well as the Beatles having a good year in 1969, Elvis saw a spectacular return to form with arguably one of his finest moments, the incredibly moving song "In The Ghetto". However it was never to top the chart as one hit wonders Thunderclap Newman beat him to it with their hit "Something In The Air".
The Rolling Stones managed one of the year's biggest hits with "Honky Tonk Woman", giving them an impressive five week stay at the top of the chart as part of a 16 week run in the top 40 alone. Among those denied the top spot at this time was Bee Gee Robin Gibb, with his debut solo single "Saved By The Bell" and a far more famous debut solo single, "Give Peace A Chance" by John Lennon. Zager and Evans managed to give the year another novelty No. 1 with their hit "In The Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)". Not even the year's biggest star, Marvin Gaye could top the chart, his hit "Too Busy Thinkin' Bout My Baby" having to settle as runner up to the next chart toppers, Creedence Clearwater Revival with their hit song "Bad Moon Rising". However, as the year drew to a close, there were two phenomenal novelty hits waiting in the wings.
First up came a British girl called Jane Birkin who teamed up with Frenchman Serge Gainsbourg to provide probably the most controversial release ever. So controversial was it that even after it debuted at 2, the record company dropped it, and they had to find a new record label (which they did pretty easily) to continue releasing it. The hit was called "Je T'Aime, Moi Non Plus" and basically consisted of some slow seductive music with Jane and Serge simulating the moans and groans of sexual intercourse over the top of it. Naturally there was a public outrage that anyone could release such a shocking single, but shocking it was, and they always say that sex sells. In this case it did, shifting over 1 million copies and becoming the third best charting single of the year. Surprisingly after only one week at the top of the chart it got deposed by Bobby Gentry. Unsurprisingly, Bobby Gentry also got deposed after only one week.
Throughout all time, there have been many novelty hits, and if the act is not actually real then you have a prime candidate for one. The Archies were just such. Rather like current favourites the Gorillaz, the Archies were all cartoon characters. However their song has become a true sixties classic. "Sugar Sugar" will always be remembered as a massive hit and probably quite rightly it becomes the greatest charting hit of 1969. It managed eight weeks at the top, more than anyone else in the whole year.
Before we finish however, let us not forget the many classic hits that were stuck in lower positions behind these two massive novelty hits. A singer called Karen Young had a very long running hit with "Nobody's Child", although it never made the top 5. Neither did Max Romeo's "Wet Dream". Fleetwood Mac, Joe Bolan and Lou Christie all performed slightly better, each making the top 5, but none of them managed to top the chart. Stevie Wonder's "Yester-Me Yester-You Yesterday" stopped at No. 2. Even the Hollies classic "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" only made No. 2, and the Beatles also missed out with their hit double A-side "Something / Come Together".
What could possibly topple the Archies from the top of the chart? It would have to be a truly spectacular hit. In the end, they were toppled by yet another novelty hit... Starting out as an old American folk song in the 1920s, it would seem a bizarre choice for a single, but "Two Little Boys", the haunting tale of two young men going out to war, was the song that saw the end of the sixties, and was also the song to give Rolf Harris his biggest hit. He's now better known as a general entertainer, an artist, and as an animal lover, and people think of his music as # joke songs like "Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport", all with his famous vocal noises, but Rolf Harris really did this song justice, and it was a really good song to end the decade on.
Here are the 20 best charting singles of the year:
Here are the ten most successfully charting artists of 1969: