Pop Music History

Great Hit Singles of 1969/1970

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Without a doubt the two year period of 1969 and 1970 was a magical one for pop and rock music. Many of the great songs and groups that we now associate with classic rock came out during this period. There were also many one-hit wonders and the sounds of those times offer a time-machine like glimpse into what many consider they heyday of the counter culture.

The Age of Aquarius

To many DJ’s and AM Radio listeners the 5th Dimension single ‘Age of Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In’ was the top hit of 1969. A #1 hit for 6 weeks in the US, this magical sounding medley of songs from the Hair broadway show contains all the elements of bubble gum pop music: upbeat lyrics, rubbery basslines and a happy singalong ending that has a long fade out.

It’s hard to communicate the optimism that many people felt (however briefly) in 1969 but this song does a good job…despite the Vietnam War still ongoing people were looking toward the future with anticipation….Man was about to land on the moon (which was in the 7th house)….peace, love and understanding was starting to be contemplated by the man….long hair was in, uptight was out..tune in, turn on and drop out was at its peak…

One of the important new bands of 1969 was Chicago Transit Authority who soon were forced to simplify their name to Chicago. Their first album was recorded in January of 1969 and three short months later is was issued to great fanfare by Columia Records, headed at the time by Clive Davis. Although they would soon have a ton of hit singles Chicago’s1969 singles were not big hits in the US.
‘Questions 67 and 68’ was their first US single but it was not too snappy and only reached #71. ‘Beginnings’, now recognized as a classic fared even worse and failed to break the Hot 100 when issued in October. The double album debut however was a sizable hit and climbed as high as #17.

Chicago did have a hit single in 1969…in the UK…where their snazzy cover version of ‘I’m A Man’ climbed to #8 on the BBC chart. They never looked back and had 3 Top 20 hits in the US in 1970.

Santana was another band that issued their first records in 1969. ‘Evil Ways’ was released on the heals of their stunning Woodstock performance and remains a top played song on classic roack stations. While the LP version of ‘Evil Ways’ clocks in at an even 4 minutes and features a spectacular Carlos Santana guitar solo at the end….the 45 was edited to a mere 2 minutes and 35 seconds….but the kids didn’t mind and it climbed to #9 in early 1970. Santana would have 7 more US Top 40 hits in the 1970s under various lineups.

Of course 1969 was also the breakout year for Berkeley’s Creedence Clearwater Revival. Led by John Fogerty CCR had 7 hits in 1969 alone, the first being the now standard ‘Proud Mary’, a million selling single in April of 1969. Other big hits for them in ’69 included ‘Green River’, ‘Down On the Corner‘, ‘Bad Moon Rising’ and ‘Fortunate Son’, all classic rock staples to this day. (To Be [happily] continued…)

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