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MIKE SMITH’S HOT HUNDRED UK HITS

1968

After 1967, 1968 was a bit of a disappointment.  There were no new trends in music, and few new stars arrived on the scene with real lasting success.  Two solo performers emerged in 1968: sweet-voiced Mary Hopkin had her first (Number One) hit in this year, and gravel-voiced Joe Cocker started his chart career, also enjoying a chart-topper.  The new bands that arrived on the charts in this year included Marmalade, who had hits into the early 1970s, and Status Quo, who began as a Psychedelic group but turned to Rock, and had enormous success in the 1970s and throughout the 1980s.  Most other new bands did not last any where near as long.  The group Love Affair, with lead singer Steve Ellis, had three Top 10 hits in 1968 including a chart-topper.  Only two hits followed in 1969 and that was that.  Amen Corner, with Andy Fairweather-Low at the helm, followed their smaller hits of 1967 with a couple of Top 10s each in 1968 and 1969, but they also came to an end at the close of the decade.  The Equals had a great start with a Number One in May, and they did manage to get into 1970 for their final hit.  From America, Union Gap featuring Gary Puckett enjoyed three hits in this year, but no more came their way.  Several one-hit wonders lit up the charts briefly in 1968, but it was largely down to the existing groups and artists to carry on making the hits.

Of the established groups it was Manfred Mann who had the most success in the UK charts, with three Top 10 hits, including a Number One.  The Beatles only issued two singles in 1968, but predictably they both went to the top of the charts.  The Rolling Stones only issued one single in the UK, and that too climbed to Number One.  The Hollies managed one Top 10 plus another that reached eleven, whilst Herman's Hermits had four Top 20 hits with two of those reaching the Top 10.

Of the solo artists Tom Jones continued his success from 1967 with two Top 10 hits, and Lulu, who had been brought back to hit-making ways by producer Mickie Most, enjoyed two Top 10s and a number 15 hit.  Cliff Richard, who celebrated ten years in the charts during 1968, hit Number One with the aptly named "Congratulations" which he performed at the Eurovision Song Contest, coming second in that event.  Elvis Presley was finishing off his series of poor films, and made headlines with his televised "Comeback Special" shown on American TV, which re-launched his career.  It was not until the next year, however, that he returned to the British Top 10, no less than three times!  

These are my personal favourite recordings from this particular year, listed in the order in which they entered the UK hit singles chart.  You may not agree with my choices, but these were UK chart hits* that had plenty of air play on the music radio stations of the day, such as BBC Radio 1 and Radio Luxembourg.

 


1

Title: Walk Away Renee
Artist: The Four Tops
Writer(s): Michael Brown, Bob Calilli & Tony Sansone
Entered chart 13 Dec 1967; Highest Position 3; Weeks on chart: 10 (reached its peak on 10 Jan 1968)

The Four Tops are a vocal quartet from Detriot, USA.  The original members were Levi Stubbs (1936-2008), Abdul "Duke" Fakir (born 1935), Renaldo "Obie" Benson (1936-2005) and Lawrence Payton (1938-1997).  They remained together for over four decades, performing from 1953 until 1997 without a change in personnel, until the death of Lawrence Payton.  They began as the Four Aims, but changed the name to the Four Tops in 1956 when they signed with Chess records.  No hits were forthcoming until they joined Tamla Motown in 1963, following which they enjoyed a string of hits through the 1960s.  They left Motown in 1972, but the success continued into the 1980s and beyond.  Their first Number One in the USA came in 1965 when "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" topped the charts there.  Motown, as a music genre was not established in the UK at that time, and the recording stalled at number 23 in the UK.  Their first major hit in Britain, and Number One, arrived in 1966 with "Reach Out I'll Be There", followed by more Top 10 entries in 1967 and 1968.  In the end they had more Top 10 hits in the UK than in the USA - eleven to seven - the last British entry coming in 1989.  The members who have passed away have been replaced, and the group continues to perform, with Abdul "Duke" Fakir the only original member.
# Unusually for a Motown act, this song was a cover of the recording made by American Pop band the Left Banke, which had been a USA Top 10 hit in 1966.


2

Title: The Ballad Of Bonnie & Clyde
Artist: Georgie Fame
Writer(s): Mitch Murray & Peter Callander
Entered chart 13 Dec 1967; Highest Position 1; Weeks on chart 13 (reached Number One on 24 Jan 1968)

Georgie Fame was born on 26 Jun 1943 in Lancashire, UK.  He is a keyboard player and vocalist, mainly in the R&B genre of music.  He went to London at just 16 and was able to get a contract with impresario Larry Parnes, who put him on tour with Marty Wilde, Joe Brown and others, playing in the backing band.  He then played piano in Billy Fury's backing band which was called The Blue Flames.  They were sacked by Fury in 1961, so Fame took the lead and the band toured the UK as Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames.  They played mostly American R&B material and became big enough to get a recording contract with EMI.  The first successful recording was "Yeh! Yeh!" (see year 1965, song 2), and this was followed by a series of hits through to 1971.  He continued performing, but also played organ on all Van Morrison albums from 1989 to 1997.  His two sons now play with him on concert tours, and he most recently toured in 2017.
# This recording was his first substantial hit since "Sitting In The Park" at the end of 1966.  It was also his last major hit until 1971 when he dueted with Alan Price on "Rosetta" which peaked at number eleven in that year.
# The song was written after the film "Bonnie and Clyde", starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, had been on general release.  The recording features sound effects of gun battles, car chases, and police sirens.
# Bonnie and Clyde were a male and female pair of bank robbers and murderers in early 1930s America.  They were shot dead by police in an ambush in 1934. 


3

Title: Gimme Little Sign
Artist: Brenton Wood
Writer(s): Alfred Smith, Joe Hooven & Jerry Winn (Alfred Smith is Brenton Wood's real name)
Entered chart 
27 Dec 1967; Highest Position 8; Weeks on chart 14 (reached its peak 7 Feb 1968)

The Move was a five-piece band formed in Birmingham, England in 1965, comprising the former members of other Midlands bands.  The main members were Roy Wood (born 8 Nov 1947) and Carl Wayne (18 Aug 1943 - 31 Aug 2004).  Wood wrote most of their hits and Wayne was the lead vocalist, although from 1968 Wood often performed the lead vocals instead.  In 1966 they signed a contract with Decca's Deram label, and their first release, "Night Of Fear" climbed to number two in the UK charts early in 1967.  Two further Top 10 hits graced the UK charts during 1967, and they eventually scored ten hits by 1972.  In 1968 their original bassist departed, and the band continued as a quartet, and some other personnel changes took place.  Wayne left in 1970, and Jeff Lynne joined the group that year.  After their final hit in 1972, Wood and Lynne evolved the band into the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO).  However, Wood left after the release of ELO's first album, and he went on to form the band Wizzard, which is most famous for the 1973 Christmas hit "I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday".  That recording reappears every December on radio and in shopping centres.  Jeff Lynne went on the have enormous success with ELO through the 1970s and 1980s.
# The main riff and the bass line in the chorus of "Night Of Fear" is derived from Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.


 


MORE TO COME


 

Acts with most appearances in this list:

Love Affair: 3
Lulu: 3
Manfred Mann: 3
Tremeloes: 3

Composers with most appearances in this list:

Holland-Dozier-Holland: 5
John Lennon & Paul McCartney: 4
Neil Diamond: 3
Roy Wood: 3
(all for the Move)

New Names in 1968
To qualify, new acts must have gone on to have at least three entries in these lists.  One-hit Wonders do not qualify.

Amen Corner
Joe Cocker
Love Affair
Marmalade
Mary Hopkin
Status Quo


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Comments and corrections to: mjs@onlineweb.com

Compiled November 2018
Updated 12/10/2018

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