Rocktology! Top Singles of 1968 Tourney Results

June 14, 2020 by

There’s a quote often attributed to Mark Twain, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” 1968 sets the bar pretty high for social upheaval, but 2020 could be its new rhyming couplet. 2020’s comparisons to 1968 seem to grow stronger every day. In 1968, there were mounting casualties in a war that few understood and many felt disconnected from; there was political polarization along racial, economic, and generational lines. Many institutions failed to deliver on the trust that was invested in them. But the push for change that began during protests and riots had an impact for the next 50 years.

Through it all, the songs that were the most popular were ones that weren’t protest songs or “freedom rock” (thanks 1988), but songs that were comfortable and distracting. We don’t yet know what songs (or TikTok videos) will come out of 2020 as reminders of the many challenges this year is presenting, but there are many songs from 1968 that still give our weary minds a break today.

For this tournament, we decided we would stick to the top 16 Billboard singles of 1968. While we found songs like #5 “People Got to be Free,” #9 “Mrs. Robinson,” and #11 “Harper Valley PTA” that reflected our changing culture, we mostly found timeless melodies laced with melancholy. Understandable.

That final chart of 1968 was based upon the Hot 100 charts from the dates 6 January through 14 December. We don’t normally seed our tourney participants, but since these songs were already ranked we used chart position for seeding.

Macca say don’t be afraid

The top half of the bracket was dominated by the top seed, The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” which spent nine weeks at #1 in the autumn of 1968. Penned and sung by Paul McCartney, this track is still a perennial contender for the top spot in those holiday rock countdown shows on FM radio. That was no different in this tournament; “Hey Jude” rode its four minutes of na-nas into the Final 4 and eventually hoisted the trophy as our favorite single of 1968.

“Hey Jude” took down one of my sentimental favorites, #16 “Cry Like a Baby” by the Box Tops, which peaked at #2 in April. “Jude” also dispensed with Simon & Garfunkel’s theme from the film The Graduate, #9 “Mrs. Robinson,” which spent three weeks at #1 in June. Otis Redding’s classic soul ballad #4 “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay” (four weeks at #1) also made the Final 4 and got much love, but was no match for Macca.

They’ve been waiting so long

The bottom half of the bracket featured a showdown of classic rock classics. Cream’s #6 “Sunshine of Your Love” peaked at #5 (but spent 26 weeks on the chart) and surprisingly manhandled The Doors’ #14 “Hello, I Love You” to reach the Final 4. The Doors were American counterculture darlings and spent two weeks at #1 in August, but couldn’t lay a glove on Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton or Ginger Baker. “Sunshine” then eliminated my underdog darling, #10 Archie Bell & the Drells’ “Tighten Up,” in the Final 4. Archie spent a couple weeks at the top in May.

It was a gas to revisit some AM-radio favorites that were part of the soundtrack of my childhood, and still echo in my memory. Paul Mauriat’s haunting instrumental #2 “Love is Blue,” Bobby Goldsboro’s #3 “Honey” and O.C. Smith’s #12 “Little Green Apples” (my dad had the Tom Jones version) all transported me back to our split-level ranch on Elmdale Avenue in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. And I was bummed that “Judy in Disguise (with Glasses)” by John Fred & His Playboy Band, despite spending two weeks at #1 in January, did not crack the top 16.

So congratulations to Sir Paul, who incidentally also won our Beatles Solo #1 Hits tourney. We appreciate and thank everyone who took a little time out to cast a vote while we’ve all been pondering the fate of our nation. It’s good practice for November 3rd…

Final Four

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  • 1) "Hey Jude" - The Beatles 64
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  • 4) "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay" - Otis Redding 36
  • 1) "Hey Jude" - The Beatles
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  • 6) "Sunshine of Your Love" - Cream 84
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  • 10) "Tighten Up" - Archie Bell & the Drells 16

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