MIKE SMITH’S HOT HUNDRED UK HITS
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.
Title: Walk Away Renee
The Four Tops are a vocal quartet from
Detroit, 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.
Title: The Ballad Of Bonnie & Clyde
Georgie Fame was born on 26 Jun 1943 in Lancashire,
England. 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.
Title: Gimme Little Sign
Brenton Wood was born on 26 Jul 1941 in Shreveport, Louisiana, USA. He moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was a child. After high school he began songwriting and learning piano. Early singles he recorded failed to reach the charts, but he had his first small hit in 1967. Late 1967 saw him enjoy a substantial hit with "Gimme Little Sign" which reached number nine on the USA charts. In the 1970s he formed his own record label, and he has continued to record and perform up to the present time.
Title: She Wears My Ring
Solomon King (13 Aug 1931 - 21 Jan 2005 was born in Kentucky, USA. He studied classical music as a teenager, but started singing popular music in 1952. Recordings he made in the 1950s did not enter the charts, but in 1968 he had a hit in the UK with "She Wears My Ring", which was also a hit in some 40 other countries, but did not reach the charts in the USA! King had one more (small) hit in the UK, and relocated to England where he lived with his family until 1980. He then returned to the USA and continued as a supper club singer for the next couple of decades.
Title: Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)
John Fred (8 May 1941 - 14 Apr 2005) was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA. Fred formed this band when he was just 15, and they had some success with minor charting singles and TV appearances. They did not have any impact in the UK until 1968 when this, their only British hit, reached the Top 10. The recording was a Number One in the USA, but they were branded a novelty act, and follow-up singles failed to reach the charts. However they remained popular in their hometown area, and Fred even hosted a radio show there.
Title: Everlasting Love
The group Love Affair was formed in 1966 with lead singer Steve Ellis (born 7 Apr 1950, Greater London, England). A single released in 1967 failed to chart, but in early 1968 the band reached Number One with "Everlasting Love", which began a two-year chart career. They enjoyed two more Top 10 hits in 1968 (see song 35), with their final hits coming in 1969. This recording became somewhat controversial when the press revealed that only Ellis performed on the single, all instrumentation and backup vocals being provided by session musicians. This did not detract from their popularity, and all band members played on live performances. Ellis decided to leave at the end of 1969, and although some more recordings were made, there were no more hits.
Title: Bend Me, Shape Me
Amen Corner was formed in Cardiff, Wales in 1966. The lead singer and front man was Andy Fairweather Low (born 2 Aug 1948 in south Wales). They gained a recording contract with Decca's Deram label and had a couple of small hits in 1967. In 1968 they scored with a cover of the American hit "Bend Me, Shape Me". This started a run of Top 10 hits until mid 1969 when the band broke up. Low quickly formed a new band called Fair Weather which had one Top 10 hit in 1970. Low then embarked upon a solo career, and he enjoyed a couple of Top 10 hits in the mid-1970s. Low has continued performing into the 2010s.
Title: Suddenly You Love Me
The Tremeloes is a beat music group formed in Dagenham, Essex,
England in 1958. Originally the group included vocalist Brian Poole, and they had several hits from 1963 to 1965 as Brian Poole and The Tremeloes. Poole decided to leave for a (unsuccessful) solo career in 1966. Although there were personnel changes both before and after, at the time of this hit the members were Len "Chip" Hawkes and Dave Munden, who shared the lead vocals, Rick Westwood and Alan Blakley. Their first couple of singles failed to chart, but "Here Comes My Baby" in 1967, written by Cat Stevens, set them off on a successful chart career up to 1970. They have continued to perform on 1960s revival tours with other bands of the era, although Dave Munden is now the only original member.
The Beach Boys are an American band formed in California, USA, in 1961. The group's original lineup comprised brothers Brian (born 20 June 1942), Dennis (4 Dec 1944 - 28 Dec 1983), and Carl Wilson (21 Dec 1946 - 6 Feb 1998); their cousin Mike Love (born 15 March 1941); and their friend Al Jardine (born 3 Sep 1942). They began as a Surfing Rock group on the west coast of America, with vocal harmonies that promoted the Californian lifestyle of surf, cars and romance in the sunshine. But with the increasingly complex writing and production of Brian Wilson in the mid-1960s, they became one of the the leading innovators of popular music. Their first recordings from 1961 did not score in the UK, and many were not even released in Britain. But in 1963, they had their first hit ("Surfin' USA"), although it peaked at a lowly number 34. Even their now-regarded classic hits of late 1964 to the end of 1965 only achieved Top 30 status. They were in the Top 10 from 1966, and regular hits continued until 1970, with sporadic entries in the following decades.
Title: Mighty Quinn
This group had the same name as the founder and leader of the band. Manfred Mann was born on 21 October 1940 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He studied music at University in South Africa, and worked as a jazz pianist at a number of clubs in Johannesburg from 1959 to 1960. In 1961 he moved to the UK and began work as a music journalist, as well as helping form a jazz band, in which he played keyboards. This evolved into the pop music five-piece which was named after Mann. In 1964 the group was asked to provide a new theme tune for the TV pop music programme "Ready Steady Go". This resulted in the song "5-4-3-2-1" which rose to number five in the UK charts. From 1964 to 1969 they enjoyed 17 hits, 13 of which were Top 10 entries, which included three number ones. The lead singer from 1964 to mid-1966 was Paul Jones, and from mid-1966 to 1969, the lead vocals were taken over by Mike d'Abo. Mann decided to disband the group in 1969, so that he could move on to other projects. He had hits in the 1970s with a group named Manfred Mann's Earth Band.
Title: Pictures Of Matchstick Men
Status Quo found fame as a Psychedelic band, but had lasting success through the 1970s, 1980s and beyond as a Rock band, sometimes referred to as a Boogie band. The origins of the group go back to 1962. They performed under different names for five years, but became Status Quo in 1967 with members Francis Rossi (born 29 May 1949, south London), Rick Parfitt (12 Oct 1948 - 24 Dec 2016), Alan Lancaster (born 7 Feb 1949), and John Coghlan. They had a deal with Pye Records and had their first hit, "Pictures Of Matchstick Men", in early 1968. They followed that with similar releases and accrued five hits by the end of 1970. There was then a gap of two hitless years until they emerged as a Rock band in 1973 with the hit recording "Paper Plane" on the Vertigo label, where they remained for a couple of decades. Their first Number One came in 1974 ("Down Down"), and they have had over sixty hits in the UK singles charts, continuing well into the 2000s. They became a major Rock act in the UK and opened the "Live Aid" fund-raising event in 1985. They have continued with recording and live concert work into the 2010s despite forced personnel changes.
The Bee Gees were brothers Barry Gibb (born 1 Sep 1946, Isle of Man), and twins Robin Gibb (22 Dec 1949 - 20 May 2012) and Maurice Gibb (22 Dec 1949 - 12 Jan 2003), also born on the Isle of Man. The three brothers grew up in Manchester, UK, but in the mid-1950s the family moved to Australia. They began performing at a young age, and by 1960 they were appearing on TV. After achieving their first chart success in Australia as the Bee Gees with "Spicks and Specks", they returned to the UK in January 1967, when producer Robert Stigwood began promoting them to a worldwide audience. In 1967 they had their first UK hit, the somewhat morbid song "New York Mining Disaster 1941", which reached number twelve. Hits continued through the remainder of the 1960s, when they enjoyed success in the USA as well. Things went quiet in the early 1970s, but in the mid-1970s they jumped on the Disco bandwagon and became superstars. They wrote several songs for the 1977 film "Saturday Night Fever" which starred John Travolta, and singles as well as the soundtrack album were worldwide hits. Their success continued through the following decades, and they also wrote and produced many hits for other artists. Their final new album came in 2001, but with the death of Maurice two years later, the other two embarked on solo projects apart from a couple of charity events where they performed together. Robin died in 2012, and Barry has since performed and recorded solo.
Title: Fire Brigade
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.
Title: Green Tambourine
The Lemon Pipers were a group from Oxford, Ohio, USA which included guitarist Bill Bartlett who had been born in Harrow, England in 1946. They formed in 1966 and played a mixture of Blues and Rock in local venues. They made a record and came second in a band competition. They gained a contract with Buddah records in 1967 who steered them towards 'Bubblegum' Pop music. Their recording of "Green Tambourine" was a major hit, reaching Number One in the USA and selling two million copies worldwide. However follow-up singles fared badly and the band left Buddah in 1969, breaking up shortly afterwards.
Title: The Legend Of Xanadu
This five-piece group came from Wiltshire, England. They formed in 1961, and played the same Hamburg club that the Beatles appeared in. In 1965 they were seen by songwriters Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, who decided they would like to write for the group. A recording contract with Fontana records was signed, and during the next three years, a series of Top 10 hits were produced, including the chart-topper "Legend Of Xanadu" in 1968. Their last (minor) hits came in 1969. Dave Dee decided to leave in 1969 for a solo career but it was not particularly successful. He became a record producer, but reunited with the others a few times for concerts. A later new career mostly took him away from music, and he died from cancer in 2009 at age 67. The other four members continued after Dee's departure, calling themselves D, B, M & T, and they had a small hit in 1970. With and without Dee, they continued performing for many years.
Title: Cinderella Rockefella
Esther & Abi Ofarim were an Israeli husband and wife singing duo. Esther (born 13 Jun 1941) was originally a solo performer who began singing as a child. In 1963 she sang at the Eurovision Song Contest, representing Switzerland, and coming second. She began singing with Abi (5 Oct 1937 - 4 May 2018) in 1966, and they enjoyed several hits in Germany with most songs sung in the German language. 1968 brought them fame in the UK with the novelty song "Cinderella Rockefella" which topped the charts for three weeks. They did not have lasting success in Britain, but they embarked upon a world tour in 1969. They divorced in 1970, and Esther resumed her solo career, with most of her output aimed at Germany. Abi also performed solo, but began artist management in Germany.
Title: Jennifer Juniper
Donovan was born on 10 May 1946 in Glasgow, Scotland. His simple Folk music style became popular in the mid-1960s, and some commentators dubbed him as Britain's Bob Dylan. He and his family moved to southern England when he was 10, and he developed an interest in music, particularly Folk music. He learned to play guitar and spent some time busking during 1964, as well as writing songs. He was offered a recording deal by Pye records late in 1964 and his first single, "Catch The Wind" was a Top 10 hit. As time went on his songs turned more to "flower power" and Psychedelia, which were popular movements of their time. From 1965 to 1968 he enjoyed nine hits, seven of which reached the Top 10, and he had much success in the USA as well. Hit albums reached the chart until 1973. He continued performing and occasionally recording through the following decades, and still makes some appearances in the 21st century.
Title: (Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay
Otis Redding (9 Sep 1841 - 10 Dec 1967) was born in Georgia, USA. He became an iconic singer and songwriter of Soul music. He quit school at 15 and began performing in talent shows in Macon, Georgia. In 1962 he signed a contract with Stax records in Memphis, Tennessee. He began performing in larger venues and released several albums and singles. He wrote this song on a houseboat in California, and recorded it late in 1967. He was touring with others in the USA during December 1967, and took a flight in a small aircraft to Wisconsin for a concert. The plane crashed into a lake four miles short of the destination airport, killing all including Redding, except for one passenger. The single was released in the USA during January 1968, and it reached Number One in the charts there.
Title: Me The Peaceful Heart
Lulu was born on 3 Nov 1948 near Glasgow, Scotland. She started singing at a young age and by the time she was 13 she had a manager and was singing with a band around Glasgow. Her manager took her to London in early 1964 and arranged a recording deal with Decca Records. Her debut single, "Shout", was an American R&B song written by the Isley Brothers. It was an instant hit, and Lulu's career took off from there. However, some of her recordings with Decca did not sell as well as was hoped and she missed the charts completely in 1966. So, in 1967 she moved to EMI's Columbia label, and producer Mickie Most. This gave her a new start, with hits for the rest of the 1960s. Lulu was given her own BBC TV series in 1968, which ran annually until 1975. In 1969 she represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest where she came joint first with three other countries. She continued to record and tour in the following decades, and in 1993 achieved her first chart-topper when she duetted with boy band Take That on "Relight My Fire". She was in the Top 10 again in 2002 when she duetted with Ronan Keating with the song "We've Got Tonight". Recording and touring continued, and she embarked on another concert tour of the UK during the autumn of 2017
Tom Jones was born on 7 Jun 1940 in Pontypridd, Glamorgan, Wales. For over six decades he has been an international star with TV series in the UK and USA, and seasons in Las Vegas. In his seventies he continues to perform and act as a judge on a TV talent contest. He began singing with a group called Tommy Scott & the Senators in the early 1960s. They performed in local venues and even made a couple of records. Then in 1964 Jones was spotted by artist manager Gordon Mills. He took Jones to London and arranged a contract with Decca Records. Jones' first hit, "It's Not Unusual", started a life-long career in showbiz. In 1966 he recorded the theme to the James Bond film "Thunderball", and had his second Number One "Green Green Grass Of Home". 1967 saw him jet off for his first of many seasons in Las Vegas. The big hits continued through the 1960s, but chart entries were thinner after that. Nevertheless he remained immensely popular on both sides of the Atlantic, and in 1999 he released an album of duets, "Reload", which went to Number One in the UK album chart. Several singles were released from the album, including "Sex Bomb" which peaked at number three on the singles chart in May 2000 when he was almost 60 years old. He continues to perform on TV, issue albums, and since 2012 has been a judge/coach on the UK version of the talent show "The Voice".
Title: Kiss Me Goodbye
Petula Clark was born on 15 Nov 1932 in Surrey, England. She became a child star at the age of nine when she broadcast on radio for the first time. This led to numerous singing opportunities on wartime radio. In 1944 she was given her first film role, and she had appeared in 14 films by 1950. In the early 1950s she began making records, and her first hit came in the summer of 1954 when she was 21 years old. Clark went on to become a major international star with numerous world-wide hits, particularly in the 1960s with songs written and produced by Tony Hatch. In the 1990s and 2000s she went into stage musicals, both in the UK and America. She was still recording and performing in the 2010s, and issued a new album in 2016.
Here In My Heart
The Paper Dolls were a female vocal trio, formed in Northampton, England, and with lead singer Susie Mathis (born 29 Apr 1947 in south London, England). They had this one hit, and made many appearances on TV, but further releases failed to reach the charts and they split up in 1970. Susie Mathis eventually became a radio presenter in Manchester, and was involved in charity fund raising for a local hospice.
Take My Eyes Off You
Andy Williams (3
Dec 1927 - 25 Sep 2012) was an easy-listening crooner, who issued
several songs during the 1960s and 1970s that entered the UK charts,
three of them making the Top 10 during the sixties. He was
born in Iowa, USA, but he and his family moved to Los Angeles while
he was at high school in 1943. He and his three brothers
formed a vocal quartet in the 1940s, and they soon found themselves
in demand from record producers and film makers. They had
parts in several musical films, and in 1947 they made their debut in
Las Vegas. However, in 1953 the brothers went their separate
ways and this gave Williams the opportunity to start a solo career.
He began appearing on TV, and by 1957 he was at the top of the UK
charts with his recording of "Butterfly". He hosted
his own TV variety show, The Andy Williams Show, from 1962 to 1971,
and recorded over forty albums. He continued recording and
performing until he was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, and he died
from the disease in 2012 at the age of 84.
I Only Had Time
John Rowles is a
New Zealander, born 26 Mar 1947. He became a professional singer and
achieved considerable success in his native New Zealand, as well as
Australia, and then began seasons in Las Vegas, and other locations
in the USA. He is known in the UK for this sole Top 10 hit,
although his follow-up did reach the Top 20. No more hits came
his way in the UK.
Cilla Black (27 May 1943 - 1 Aug 2015) was born in Liverpool and
joined the Merseybeat scene along with the many groups coming from that city in 1963, although she remained a solo
performer. She got a job in the Cavern Club in the early 1960s, where the Beatles and others were performing
and soon was able to get singing jobs in different venues in Liverpool. John Lennon introduced her to the
Beatles manager Brian Epstein, who duly signed her up and arranged a recording contract with EMI and producer George
Martin. Her first release peaked at a rather modest number 35 in the UK charts during autumn 1963.
However, her next two releases both went to Number One, and she enjoyed several Top 10 hits throughout the 1960s.
In 1968 she began a TV variety show called "Cilla", which ran for eight series until 1976. In the 1980s
and 1990s she was a TV game show host, and became one of the most popular personalities of the era. She died
following a fall at her holiday home in Spain, aged 72.
On 16 January 2017 a bronze statue of Cilla Black was unveiled on Mathew Street in Liverpool,
outside the entrance of the Cavern Club where Black was discovered.
I Were A Carpenter
This was the
group's follow-up to "Walk Away Renee" (song 1), and was
another composition from outside of the Motown corporation,
following the departure from Motown of the Holland-Dozier-Holland
writing and production team. This was the band's final Top 10
hit in the UK during the 1960s, although they did reach number
eleven in September 1969, and had three Top 10 hits in 1970.
This group was
formed in New Jersey, USA in 1966, under the name of Jeckell and The Hydes.
They signed with Buddah records in 1967 and changed their
name. Their first release was this Bubblegum Pop song which
reached number four in the USA. They soon began touring,
opening for big acts such as the Beach Boys. The band recorded
five albums over the next couple of years and had three Top 5
singles in the American charts. This was their only entry in
the UK charts. They disbanded in 1970, but in 1999 they
reunited for sixties nostalgia shows.
Like A Baby
The Box Tops was a Rock band formed in Memphis, Tennessee, USA in 1967. It was a five-piece band with lead vocalist Alex Chilton (28 Dec 1950 - 17 Mar 2010). They had started under a different group name, but as the Box Tops they recorded the song "The Letter" which went to Number One in the USA and number five in the UK. The follow-up, "Neon Rainbow" was not as successful (failed to chart in the UK), but in spring 1968 they were in the American Top 10 and UK Top 20 with "Cry Like A Baby". They had one further minor UK hit in 1969. In the USA subsequent releases were only moderately successful, and the band was dissolved in 1970.
MORE TO COME
Acts with most appearances in this list:
Love Affair: 3
Composers with most appearances in this list:
John Lennon & Paul McCartney: 3
New Names in 1968
One-hit Wonders in 1968
There are a large number of One-hit Wonders included in the listing for this year.
Brenton Wood: one Top 10 hit only.
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