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1969 pretty much carried on from the previous year, again with few new acts of a long-lasting nature.  However, from America we had the first hits from Glen Campbell, who had Country music leanings, and a penchant for songs written by Jimmy Webb.  Two new American groups had hits in this year.  Creedence Clearwater Revival, who specialised in the rhythms of the Mississippi Delta region, and Rock band Blood, Sweat & Tears, whose enormous success in the USA did not cross the Atlantic to any great extent.  One of the big successes in 1969 was "Sugar Sugar" by the Archies, which was a cartoon group, so they didn't really exist!  Marvin Gaye, who had several modest hits from 1964 finally hit the big time in the UK with a Number One and two further Top 10 entries in 1969.  But perhaps the biggest news was the return of Elvis Presley who had four hits in this year, two of which reached number two!  This started a consistent run of hits in the 1970s until his untimely death in 1977.

British artist and future superstar, David Bowie, had his debut hit in 1969.  Peter Sarstedt, the brother of early 1960s hit maker Eden Kane, scored a couple of Top 10 hits in this year, but he was unable to sustain the success.  Northern Ireland brought us the voice of Clodagh Rodgers, who enjoyed several hits from 1969 to 1971.  Cliff Richard had four hits in 1969, two of which reached the Top 10, completing his achievement of having Top 10 hits in every year during the 1960s.  Groups the Hollies, the Tremeloes, the Bee Gees and Herman's Hermits all had chart hits, whilst Manfred Mann had a final Top 10 entry before calling it a day at the end of the year.  The Rolling Stones continued to be very sparing with their single releases, having just one in this year, although it was a chart-topper.  The Beatles had their final two Number One hits, before breaking up in the following year.  Solo performers Tom Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck, Cilla Black and Lulu all enjoyed chart success in this year.

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: You Got Soul
Artist: Johnny Nash
Writer(s): Johnny Nash
Entered chart 8 Jan 1969; Highest Position 6; Weeks on chart: 12.

Johnny Nash was born on 19 Aug 1940 in Houston, Texas, USA.  He started recording in the latter part of the 1950s, releasing his debut album in 1958.  He issued numerous albums and singles over the next decade, with modest success in the USA.  He travelled to Jamaica in early 1968, and was impressed by the local Reggae music (sometimes known as Rocksteady at that time).  Nash actually recorded a couple of songs whilst there, and the trip inspired him to write his first UK hit "Hold Me Tight" which had a Rocksteady (Reggae) beat.  This led to a series of UK hits through to the mid-1970s, including his Number One "Tears On My Pillow" in 1975.  He was still recording in the 2000s.
# Nash was next in the charts during April this year with his reworking of the Sam Cooke song "Cupid" (song 29).


Title: Dancing In The Street
Artist: Martha Reeves & The Vandellas
Writer(s): Marvin Gaye, William "Mickey" Stevenson & Ivy Jo Hunter
Entered chart 15 Jan 1969; Highest Position 4; Weeks on chart: 12.

Martha Reeves & The Vandellas was an American girl group, who found fame when they signed with Tamla Motown records in 1962.  Martha Reeves, born 18 Jul 1941 in Alabama, USA, joined an existing group and began making records, although none were successful.  Once signed to Tamla Motown, they changed the group name and began by backing other singers.  They had their first American Top 10 hits from 1963, but those recordings failed in the UK.  Their recording of "Dancing In The Street" reached number two in the USA charts during 1964, which was the group's first UK hit, peaking at number 28.  However, when the single was reissued in 1969, it rose to number four in the British charts.  Unfortunately further releases were were less successful, and disagreements within the group resulted in them splitting up in 1973.
In 1985, the song was recorded as a duet by David Bowie and Mick Jagger.  The recording was made for the Live Aid famine relief fund-raising event, and the accompanying video was shown twice during the Live Aid TV transmission.  The single went to Number One in September 1985 in the UK and number seven in the USA.


Title: I Guess I'll Always Love You
Artist: The Isley Brothers
Writer(s): Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier & Eddie Holland (known as Holland-Dozier-Holland)
Entered chart 15 Jan 1969; Highest Position 11; Weeks on chart: 9.

The Isley Brothers are a Soul and R&B group from Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.  They began by singing Gospel music, but moved to New York City in 1957 and began recording R&B tracks.  In 1959 they had a moderate hit with their song "Shout", which was later a hit for Lulu.  They first appeared in the UK charts in 1963 with "Twist And Shout", although it was only a minor hit for them.  "This Old Heart Of Mine" first charted in 1966, when it peaked at number 47.  However, it became a number three hit two years later.  By the time of this hit the Isley brothers were: Ronald, Rudolph, O'Kelly, plus Chris Jasper.  During the 1970s and early 1980s they enjoyed enormous success in the USA and elsewhere, during which period they were joined by Marvin Isley and Ernie Isley.  In 1984, however,  Chris Jasper and Marvin left the band which was dissolved.  It was reformed in 1991, with Ronald, Ernie, and Marvin.  In 1996 Marvin left due to ill health, leaving Ronald and Ernie as a duo, and the pair have continued performing until the present time.
Like Tamla Motown stable mates, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas above, this recording had two bites at the cherry.  Originally issued in 1966, it stalled at number 45 in the UK.  However, re-released three years later it climbed to number eleven.  In April this year they reached the Top 10 with "Behind A Painted Smile" (song 32).


Title: Soul Sister, Brown Sugar
Artist: Sam & Dave
Writer(s): Isaac Hayes & David Porter
Entered chart 29 Jan 1969; Highest Position 15; Weeks on chart: 8.

Sam & Dave were Sam Moore, born 12 Oct 1935 in Florida, USA, and Dave Prater, 9 May 1937 - 9 Apr 1988, born in Georgia, USA.  They became the most successful Soul music duo, performing together from 1961 to 1981.  They were both originally Gospel singers, but met when they were performing R&B/Soul songs in the same club at Miami, Florida.  They made some records early on, but it was in 1964 when they recorded for the famous Stax record company in Memphis, Tennessee that their act took off.  They had numerous hits on the American R&B charts, but their biggest hit was "Soul Man" which reached number two on the American Pop charts.  They toured the USA and Europe during the late 1960s, and continued recording until 1981, when artistic differences resulted in them going their separate ways.  Prater died in 1988, but Moore has continued solo, and performed in London during 2017.
This was their first significant hit in the UK since "Soul Man" in 1967 (see year 1967, song 89).  It was issued on the Atlantic label rather than Stax as their earlier releases had been.  Unfortunately, this was their final chart hit in the UK.


Title: (If Paradise Is) Half As Nice
Artist: Amen Corner
Writer(s): Lucio Battisti with English lyrics by Jack Fishman
Entered chart 29 Jan 1969; Highest Position 1; Weeks on chart: 11.

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.
This is an Italian song originally titled "Il paradiso della vita" (the paradise of life).  The English lyrics were provided by Jack Fishman who had written English words for three foreign language songs in 1968.  The band had one more Top 10 hit in the summer of 1969, and broke up shortly afterwards.


Title: Move In A Little Closer
Artist: Harmony Grass
Writer(s): Robert O'Connor & Arnold Capitanelli
Entered chart 29 Jan 1969; Highest Position 24; Weeks on chart: 7.

Harmony Grass was a short-lived British pop group formed in Essex, England in 1968.  The nucleus of the band was taken from Tony Rivers & The Castaways.  Tony Rivers (born 21 Dec 1940, County Durham, England) was the leader of this group too.  They recorded this debut single and one album.  The single was a modest hit, but the album did not reach the album chart.  They had no more hits, and they broke up in 1970.  Tony Rivers became a session singer, and appeared on several hit singles for a variety of artists.  During most of the 1970s and the whole of the 1980s Rivers was a backing singer for Cliff Richard, appearing on Cliff's recordings, and joining him on world concert tours.  He was still working as a backing singer in the early 2000s.
# The song was covered by Mama Cass for the American market.  It only reached number 58 in the USA, but was included on her album "Bubblegum, Lemonade, and... Something for Mama", which was a modest success.


Title: Wichita Lineman
Artist: Glen Campbell
Writer(s): Jimmy Webb
Entered chart 29 Jan 1969; Highest Position 7; Weeks on chart: 10.

Glen Campbell (22 Apr 1936 - 8 Aug 2017) was born in Arkansas, USA.  He was the son of a poor farmer, but he was taught to play guitar at a young age by his uncle.  At the age of 17 he joined his uncle's band, and performed at local venues.  A year later he formed his own band.  In 1960 he moved to Los Angeles to become a session musician.  He worked on the hit recording of many stars of the time, and by 1965 he was making records of his own.  His first substantial hit came in 1967, the year that also gave us "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" (written by Jimmy Webb) which was a Top 30 hit in the USA, although it did not reach the charts in the UK.  He finally entered the British charts in 1969 with another Jimmy Webb song, "Wichita Lineman".  This started a run of successful singles and albums in the USA and UK for several decades.  Sadly he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2011.  He decided to go on a final world concert tour in 2012, and to record his final album.  He died in Nashville, Tennessee, USA at the age of 81.
# Although "By The Time I Get To Phoenix" was not a UK hit, it is one of his best-known songs, and appears on his greatest hits compilation albums.
# Wichita is a city in the state of Kansas, USA.   It was incorporated in 1870 and has a population of just under 400,000.


Title: I'm Gonna Make You Love Me
Artist: Diana Ross & The Supremes and The Temptations
Writer(s): Kenny Gamble & Jerry Ross
Entered chart 29 Jan 1969; Highest Position 3; Weeks on chart: 11.

The Supremes was a vocal trio, at the time of this recording, comprising Diana Ross (lead singer, born 26 Mar 1944), Cindy Birdsong and Mary Wilson.  They became so successful in the USA that their first six releases went to Number One, and they ended up with eleven chart-toppers there by 1969.  In the UK they only had one Number One, "Baby Love" (1964, song 89), but amassed 18 hits by the end of the 1960s, seven of which reached the Top 10.  In 1970 Diana Ross left to pursue a solo career.  She was replaced by Jean Terrell, and this version of the trio enjoyed success, with five of their recordings hitting the UK Top 10 from 1970 to 1972.  They remained a popular live act, continuing to 1977, when they performed their farewell concert (in London), and then disbanded.
The Temptations were one of Tamla Motown's most popular and successful groups.  It was a five-piece vocal band which originally included David Ruffin (18 Jan 1941 - 1 Jun 1991) and Eddie Kendricks (17 Dec 1939 - 5 Oct 1992).  They were in the American Top 10 from 1965 with the song "My Girl" which reached Number One in the USA and a lowly number 43 in the UK.  Their first appearance in the British Top 10 was the collaboration with Diana Ross & The Supremes on the song "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me".  This was followed by a series of UK hits until the end of the 1980s.  There were a number of personnel changes during their hit-making period which saw David Ruffin leave in June 1968, and he did not appear on this single, the lead being taken by Ross and Kendricks.  Kendricks left the group in November 1970.  With new members they continued making hit singles and albums, with a new album released in 2018, albeit with a different lineup to the mid-1960s.
# The recording of "My Girl", which had peaked at number 43 in the UK during 1965, was reissued in 1992, when it reached number two in the British charts.


Title: Gentle On My Mind
Artist: Dean Martin
Writer(s): John Hartford (American Country and Folk musician)
Entered chart 5 Feb 1969; Highest Position 2; Weeks on chart: 24.

Dean Martin (7 Jun 1917 - 25 Dec 1995) was born in Ohio, USA into an Italian immigrant family.  In his late teens he began singing with local dance bands.  It was in the early 1940s that he changed his name to Dean Martin, then after world war two he teamed up with comedian Jerry Lewis, and they performed as a singing-comedy duo.  His recording career began in 1948, and his first chart entry in the UK came in 1953, followed by a succession of hits during the 1950s.  In 1965, Martin launched the weekly Dean Martin Show on American TV, which ran until 1974.  By this time he was a major international star with numerous films under his belt as well.  He became part of the so-called 'rat pack' along with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.  The three frequently performed together in Las Vegas and they starred in the movie "Ocean's 11" in 1960.  He continued performing in cabaret until the end of the 1980s, and died from lung cancer in 1995 at the age of 78.
# This was Martin's first Top 10 hit since 1958, although he had reached number eleven in the UK during 1964.  However, it was his last hit in the UK, apart from a couple of reissues in the 1990s, which became minor hits.
# The song had been recorded by Glen Campbell in 1968, and his version was a modest hit in the USA during that year.


Title: Where Do You Go To My Lovely
Artist: Peter Sarstedt
Writer(s): Peter Sarstedt
Entered chart 5 Feb 1969; Highest Position 1; Weeks on chart: 16.

Peter Sarstedt (10 Dec 1941 - 8 Jan 2017) was born in Delhi, India, whilst his British parents were working for the civil service in that country.  The family returned to the UK in 1954, settling in south London.  He formed a family Skiffle group in the late 1950s, but he had little success until his song "Where Do You Go To My Lovely" became a big hit in 1969.  He had a Top 10 follow-up single (song 49) in June 1969, but he had no further hit singles, although he did have a Top 10 album in March 1969.  He continued to perform and in the 1980s and 1990s he toured in sixties nostalgia shows.  He also continued to record and his final album was released in 2013.  He became unwell in 2013 and he spent his final years in a retirement home.  He died in 2017 at the age of 75.
# The song "Where Do You Go To My Lovely" name-checks numerous celebrities in the lyrics.  Some of those named are Marlene Dietrich, German-American actress and singer; Zizi Jeanmaire, French ballerina; and Pierre Balmain, French fashion designer.


Title: The Way It Used To Be
Artist: Engelbert Humperdinck
Writer(s): Corrado Conti & Franco Cassano with English lyrics by Roger Cook & Roger Greenaway
Entered chart 5 Feb 1969; Highest Position 3; Weeks on chart: 14.

Engelbert Humperdinck was born on 2 May 1936 in Madras, India to British parents while his father was serving in the British army in that country.  They all returned to England in 1946 where he completed his schooling.  He began singing in his late teens using the stage name Gerry Dorsey, and had the opportunity to start recording in 1958, but none of his output reached the charts.  In 1965 he changed management to Gordon Mills who was Tom Jones' manager.  Mills suggested changing his name to that of a 19th century German composer.  So as Engelbert Humperdinck, he started a new career.  His breakthrough came in 1967, when having recorded "Release Me", he was able to perform the song on the popular TV show "Sunday Night At The London Palladium", standing in for the unwell Dickie Valentine.  This instantly changed his life.  The record climbed to Number One in the UK charts, remaining on the charts for an amazing 56 weeks, and keeping the Beatles off the top spot in March 1967.  Two more major hits followed in the same year, and by the end he had the top three best-selling singles of 1967.  Success continued through the following decades, and from the mid-1970s onwards he spent a great deal of time performing in the USA, much of it in Las Vegas.  He has continued to perform and record into the 21st century, giving concerts in most parts of the world.  An album celebrating his 50 years in the charts was released in 2017, which reached number five in the UK album chart.  He splits his time between homes in Leicestershire, England and Los Angeles, California.
# This was another Itlalian song with English lyrics added.  It was Humperdinck's seventh Top 10 hit.  All his single releases since January 1967 had reached the Top 10, but his next release in August 1969 stalled at number 15.  However, he was back in the Top 10 in November 1969 with "Winter World Of Love" (song 92).


Title: Surround Yourself With Sorrow
Artist: Cilla Black
Writer(s): Bill Martin & Phil Coulter
Producer: George Martin
Entered chart 12 Feb 1969; Highest Position 3; Weeks on chart: 12.

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.
# This was Cilla's first hit of the year, and her first Top 10 entry for eleven months.  She had two more Top 20 hits before the year was out.
# Songwriters Martin and Coulter
wrote the previous two UK Eurovision Song Contest entries, both of which reached Number One in the UK.


Title: I Heard It Through The Grapevine
Artist: Marvin Gaye
Writer(s): Norman Whitfield & Barrett Strong
Entered chart 12 Feb 1969; Highest Position 1; Weeks on chart: 15.

Marvin Gaye (2 Apr 1939 - 1 Apr 1984) was born in Washington DC, USA.  He joined a Doo-Wop group whilst still at high school, but in 1960 he moved to Detroit, and having been seen singing by Barry Gordy Jr, he was signed to Gordy's record label Tamla Motown.  He had a few smallish hits in the USA from 1962, and his first British hit came in 1964, although it only just entered the Top 50.  His early successes were duets with female performers - first with Mary Wells, then with Kim Weston, and later with Tammi Terrell.  He is probably best remembered for his 1970s and 1980s hits which often contained social commentary and civil rights messages.  Gaye was shot dead by his own father, when Gaye was just 44 and arguably at the peak of his career.
# Marvin Gaye had been in the UK Top 20 in 1967 and 1968 in duets with female singers Kim Weston and Tammi Terrell.  This was his first British Top 40 solo hit, and it went all the way to Number One.  It is now regarded as a classic Soul track from the 1960s.  The recording also reached Number One in the USA.
# The song was written in 1966, and was recorded by Gladys Knight & The Pips in 1967.  Their version was released as a single, reaching the top of the American R&B chart.  Gaye's version was recorded in 1968 and was initially an album track only.  However, after it received considerable airplay on radio stations, it too was released as a single.



Acts with most appearances in this list:

Elvis Presley: 4
Beatles: 3
Cilla Black: 3
Glen Campbell: 3 (1 with Bobby Gentry)
Creedence Clearwater Revival: 3
Marvin Gaye: 3
(1 with Tammi Terrell)
Isley Brothers: 3
Cliff Richard: 3 (1 with Hank Marvin)
Diana Ross & The Supremes: 3 (2 with the Temptations)
Temptations: 3 (2 with Diana Ross & The Supremes)

Composers with most appearances in this list:

John Lennon & Paul McCartney: 3
Burt Bacharach & Hal David: 3
Jack Fishman: 1 (English lyrics to foreign-language song)
John Fogerty: 3 (All for Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb: 3
Ken Howard & Alan Blaikley: 3
Barry Mason: 3 (2 with Les Reed; 1 English lyrics)
Marty Wilde & Ronnie Scott: 3

New Names in 1969
To qualify, new acts must have gone on to have at least three entries in these lists.  One-hit Wonders do not qualify.

David Bowie
Glen Campbell
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Clodagh Rodgers


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Comments and corrections to: mjs@onlineweb.com

Compiled April 2019
Updated 26/03/2019