By John Surgenor.
Irvine Beat FM Presenter.
Let me lead you through a brief journey into the golden year of 1969. The journey will take us through the music, the entertainment, the happenings, the memories and some trivia of the year.
I’ll start by introducing myself. I’m John Surgenor and I do a golden hour show on Irvinebeat FM 107.2 and the website irvinebeat.com every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday between 11.00 and 12.00hrs. I was asked if I could contribute something to our webpage and I decided I’d do a little escape into our pasts like I do on my show. I usually keep between 1960 and 1989 so this time it’s 1969.
What do you remember if anything about 1969?
To me 1969 was about music. The last album made by the Beatles “Abbey Road” was immense, their best in my opinion and what a way to finish a chapter of your career. Maybe a little late but George Harrison’s contribution helped lift it up. As far as the singles market went it was all about “Space Oddity” and Mr Bowie with his single coinciding with man’s walk on the Moon. So the end of the Beatles as an entity was compensated by the emergence of David Bowie the chameleon who was still significant at the age of 69 as he would be in his breakthrough year of 69. Then Woodstock not that I appreciated it so much back then but over the years have grown to appreciate it from Richie Havens right through to the end.
Music – UK No.1s of 1969
Singles chart in 1969
This was one of the rare years when the new chart day fell on the 1st of January and a new number one welcomed the year in and that would be the first Scottish band to make number one with a song written by the number one all time chart busting band, The Beatles. Ob-la-di-ob-la-da would cement Marmalade into a significant place in Scottish music history.
Lily the Pink
The 8th of January would see the Scaffold get to number one with their second top ten hit “Lily the Pink”. Like Marmalade they would only stay number one for one week this year and their chart topper would have a link to the Beatles although more tenuous as Peter McCartney brother of Paul was a member of the band calling himself Mike McGear.
Marmalade would get back to top spot on the 15th January and this time stay for two weeks until the 29th January when Fleetwood Mac would spend their only week at number one with their instrumental “Albatross” which would get back to the top ten in the seventies reaching number two.
January saw three bands get to number one for the only time and this would continue when on the 5th February the Move would have their one week only at number one with “Blackberry Way” and like the year so far another band this time from Wales, Amen Corner would spend two weeks at number one with “Half as nice”.
Up until 26th February the number one spot was a band but Peter Sarstedt would end that run with his only number one hit, the Ivor Novello award winning “Where do you go to my lovely”. Peter’s two brothers would enjoy chart success as well. Peter would stay top for four weeks until 26th March.
Like some acts that went before him this year Marvin Gaye would have his only UK singles chart number one when “I heard it through the grapevine” would rule the chart for the next three weeks until 16th April.
Marvin would make way for Desmond Dekker and the Aces to spend their sole week on the chart at number one with their massive hit “Israelites”.
It would be 23rd of April before someone would have a further number one and that would be the Beatles although you could say as the single is Beatles with Billy Preston that it’s different but I’m not buying that. This would be the Beatles 16th number one. The song I’m referring to is “Get back” which would spend six weeks at number one until the 4th June.
It had been almost six year since American Tommy Roe had been in our singles chart but he came back with his only number one which kept up the re-occurring trait of one week at the top was your lot. His track “Dizzy” would get to number one again in the nineties for Vic Reeves but this year his hit was there until 11th June.
The Beatles 17th and final number one “Ballad of John and Yoko” was similar to “Get back” in the fact that the personnel on the track were not actually just the Fab Four. George was on holiday when the track was recorded and Ringo was filming “The magic Christian” along with the likes of John Cleese, Spike Milligan and Raquel Welch. Get Back was also number one in America but the Beatles would have a further three number ones over the pond. This track would stay at the top three weeks until the 2nd July.
The band Thunderclap Newman who were together for a short time only had one hit in the top forty and it was produced by the Who’s Peter Townsend who couldn’t get a number one hit for himself but managed having a hand in “Something In The Air” which stayed number one for three weeks taking us up to 23rd July.
Like the Beatles the Rolling Stones would have their last number one this year with “Honky Tonk Women” which was their eighth and like the Beatles they would have a further three US number ones. A five week stay at the top of the charts would end on 30th August.
Next incumbent of the number one slot were a duo Zager (Denny) and Evans (Rick) who would be the purist’s idea of one hit wonder being an act that would never have another chart hit at all. They initially pressed 1,000 copies but ended up selling 5million copies of “In the year 2525” which would remain at the top for three weeks until the 20th September.
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Another band to only reach the top once was Creedence Clearwater Revival whose track “Bad moon rising” would stay there for three weeks until the 11th October when Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsboroug would replace them with the oft banned track “Je taime…Moi non plus”. The track was banned in several countries for it’s assumed sexual content but not by the BBC so managed to get the top spot in the UK where it stayed for one week until 18th October.
Bobby Gentry would spend the next week until 25th October at number one with “I’ll never fall in love again”. This would be Bobby’s (Roberta Streeter) only UK number one but she had previously been number one in America with “Ode to Billy Joe”.
The big seller of the year “Sugar sugar” would take over the number one slot for the next eight weeks. Don Kirschner the man behind the Monkees gave us the Archies. The Archies were a band of session musicians playing the role of some American newspaper cartoon characters. Lead singer Ron Dante would also be front man for the Cuff Links who would get to number four in early 1970. Rolf Harris with “Two little boys” would be number one over the Christmas period and well into 1970.
Album chart 1969
The Beatles “White album” would be at the top of the charts until the 25th January after a seven week residence only to be knocked off the top by the Seekers with their “Best of the Seekers” for one week residency.
The best of the Seekers would include all the Seekers nine chart hits including their number ones “I’ll never find another you” and “The carnival is over”. The band would have six weeks altogether at the top by the end of the year.
Diana Ross/Supremes join the Temptations was the collaboration between Motown’s two best-selling groups. The Supremes had 12 US number one singles and five number one albums while the Temptations had four number one singles and over a dozen R&B number one albums. This album would be the first time Temptations new singer Dennis Edwards, who took over from David Ruffin, would appear on a record. Diana Ross was on vocals for each track with one or more of the Temptations. “I’m gonna make you love me”, “I second that emotion” and “Aint no mountain high enough” are just three of the highlights from the album. It would last four weeks at the top.
Goodbye Cream 2wks
Cream’s fourth and final album only had six tracks, three live and three done in the studio. The A side only had two live tracks “I’m so glad” lasting over nine minutes with Clapton and Bruce sharing vocals with Bruce doing them on “Politician”. The first track on the B side was also live. The next track “Badge” co-written by Clapton and George Harrison was released as a single and made the charts. The album took a bit of criticism for the quality of the live tracks. After this it was goodbye from Cream, as like the Beatles this year they would quit at the top.
After Cream would come a further two weeks at the top for the Seekers before another week for Cream and the Seekers, Cream, Seekers, Cream and then again the Seekers before the Moody Blues halted this monopoly.
The Moody Blues fourth album would be their first number one and their last on the Deram label as they would be on their own label “Threshold” after this, although like Deram it would be a subsidiary of “Decca”. “On the threshold of a dream” stayed at the top of the album chart for two weeks but would not give a chart single. The classic line up of Hayword, Lodge, Thomas, Pinder and Edge would all have massive influences on this
well received album from the Birmingham lads. They would follow this with another album release this year when “To our children’s children’s children” would reach number two.
The Master, Bob Dylan would regain the UK number one album spot for the fourth time with “Nashville skyline” continuing the country theme of his previous album “John Wesley Harding” which had also reached the number one spot. Another legend Johnny Cash would contribute liner notes and join Bob on “Girl from the north country”. Dylan would headline the Isle of Wight festival this year after which “Lay lady lay” from the album would give him his last UK top ten single but far from his last number one album.
American bandleader and arranger Ray Conniff would spend the next three weeks at number one with Ray Conniff and his Orchestra his chorus his singers his sound. His easy listen style of covers sold many albums over the sixties and seventies reaching the pinnacle with this number one album.
Easy listening Ray Conniff would be knocked off the top by easy listening Jim Reeves who would spend four weeks at the top with his 1960 released album “According to my heart”. Gentleman Jim had died in 1964 and this would be the first of two albums of his to reach the top in the UK.
Blackpool band Jethro Tull would be at the top for three weeks when their second album “Stand up” reached the peak. The band were invited to play at Woodstock but declined the invite although they did go to America to back Led Zeppelin. The band had a massive hit this year with “Living in the past” which never appeared on an album. They would be knocked off top spot for one week by Elvis before having another two weeks at the top.
Elvis was back with his “From Elvis in Memphis” recording in Memphis for the first time since 1955. His previous album was a gospel album and he was now being seen in America as country but this album did do better over here than back home. The gem in this album was “In the ghetto” written by Mac Davis who was a big star in Vegas. With many strong songs and superb backing the King was back and on top.
Cream had dominated the chart at the start of the year with the Seekers and now two thirds of the band come back with Mr Winwood and again top the chart. Their eponymous Blind Faith debut album would spend two weeks at the top. Unfortunately for fans this would also be their only album. There was a bit of controversy over the cover picture of a topless young girl but it never halted sales. My favourite track is the Stevie Winwood penned “Can’t find my way home”. The album stayed at the top for two weeks.
Then along came the Beatles with their Master class album Abbey road, even the cover of the album with the lads on a zebra crossing in St John’s Wood has been analysed and imitated and become iconic on its own. A couple of super tracks by George Harrison, “Something” on the A side and “Here comes the sun” on the B side strengthened the album. McCartney dominates the B side which is wonderful. My favourite album by the boys and it was their last. What have we missed? Was their best still to come? Like Cream they would quit at the top. The album would stay at the top for eleven weeks and would be toppled just before Christmas but return to the top for New Year.
Who knocked them off for one week at Christmas? No other than Jagger and co with their fourth number one album, “Let it bleed.” The album went straight to number one on release but only stayed for one week with the all conquering “Abbey road” spending another six weeks at the top. Let it bleed opened with “Gimme shelter” and finished with the over seven minutes “You can’t always get what you want”. There is much to like about this “Let it bleed” and it would have ruled the chart much longer if not for the mighty Beatles.
Some music chit-chat in 1969
Martha Reeves and the Vandellas reached the top five with “Dancing in the street” which had been released in 1964 barely reaching the top thirty. First time around the track had been by Martha and the Vandellas. This would be the only top ten for the Tamla Motown trio.
Led Zeppelin would break into America with their first tour backed by Blackpool rockers Jethro Tull. This would lead to them topping the American album chart with “Led Zeppelin II” as they would back in the UK. This would be the year when Led Zepellin’s eponymous album would enter the chart.
The album “Goodbye Cream” meant exactly what it said as Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker were planning a new band Blind Faith with Steve Winwood.
Elvis was recording in Memphis for the first time since 1955 with the session producing “Suspicious minds” and “In the Ghetto” with both reaching number two in the UK. In the ghetto was kept off the top by Thunderclap Newman while “Suspicious minds” was thwarted by Rolf Harris and his “Two little boys” but did make number one in America.
Not long after marrying Maurice Gibb Lulu would jointly win the Eurovision song contest with “Boom bang a bang” which like Elvis would also reach number two on the chart. Lulu would be outdone by Marvin Gaye’s “I heard it through the grapevine. It would be nearly another five year before she would reach the top ten again.
The rock musical “Hair” was performed for the first time this year and another nude extravaganza “Oh Calcutta” would also be a big hit.
Elton John and Bernie Taupin started their song writing collaboration this year with Elton doing the music while Bernie was the lyricist on so many of Elton’s hits including “Rocket Man”, “Crocodile rock” and “Candle in the wind” to name just three of the countless number of hits.
Record producer Mickie Most founded RAK records this year, a label which would be synonymous with the singles chart in the seventies with acts like Mud, Hot Chocolate, Kim Wilde, Suzy Quatro and Smokie to name but a handful.
Two of the Beatles got married this year. Paul McCartney married Linda Eastman and John Lennon married Yoko Ono.
Like the Beatles the Rolling Stones would have an eventful year. Mick Taylor would replace Brian Jones in the band. Only a month after leaving the Stones Brian was found drowned in his swimming pool. And their first US tour in three years was marred by the death of a fan at the gig at Altamont.
This would also be the year of the Woodstock music festival. Although this festival was in his backyard Bob Dylan signed up for the Isle of Wight. Our own Joe Cocker opened the final day on the main stage. Joni Mitchell who wrote the song “Woodstock” had been due to appear but cancelled for a TV date. The line up of the acts that declined was as impressive as the ones who appeared on the day.
New Kids On The Block 1969
Singer/Songwriter David Jones, not of Monkees fame but known as David Bowie would chart for the first time when his “Space oddity” reached number five. Although he had been around since 1964 and even had three songs penned by Tony Hatch which still did nothing. This chameleon like character with one green and one blue eye changed from decade to decade from Bowie to Ziggy to Aladdin sane to the thin white duke. Although I think of him as a seventies artist he only had one number one in the seventies with the re-release of “Space oddity” in 1975. He had his other four number ones in the eighties. David was the only act to reject induction into the Rock’n’roll hall of fame although I think he is there now.
In 1983 he would have 10 albums in the top 100 at the same time which had no equal and no British male can equal his eight number one albums. He would be one of the most influential artistes in British music breaking through just as the Beatles were leaving us.
Glen was a top session guitarist and singer who broke through as an artist of his own in 1964 but only made the UK singles chart in 1969 with “Wichita Lineman” which went top ten. He was one of America’s biggest selling artists of the sixties and would follow up his first hit over here with “Galveston”. Born in Arkansas he was of Scottish descent and the seventh son of twelve children. He had been a part-time member of the Beach Boys briefly replacing Brian Wilson in 1965 and one time vocalist with the Crickets and starting off with The Champs. Glen would also do a bit of acting most notably (for me) alongside John Wayne in “True Grit” He would never make number one over here but had two number one singles in the US billboard chart as well as being very popular in the country charts with many number ones.
Entertainment in 1969
1969 on UK TV
Let’s now see what was yielded for the first in the TV in 1969.
On the buses
Situation comedy “On the buses” was first broadcast this year with Reg Varney as Stan Butler the bus driver and his conductor (Clippie) Jack Harper played by Bob Grant. The other main players were Blakey (Stephen Lewis) the Inspector always trying to get the lads sacked leading to dire consequences for him. Olive, Stan’s sister played by Anna Karen and her husband Arthur played by Michael Robbins and mum played by Doris Hare. On the buses ran for seven series until 1973.
Doctor in the house
Another sit com starting this year was Doctor in the house which would lead to a series of Doctor television sit-coms and films based on the books of Richard Corton. The shows were based on the adventures of a group of medical students at St Swithins hospital. The series starred Barry Evans, Richard Nedwell, Jeffrey Davies, George Layton and Martin Shaw.
It was a golden time for sit-coms and another debutante was the Liverpool based Liver birds. A pilot episode was shown on the BBC’s breeding ground Comedy playhouse. The show was about two pretty girls sharing a flat in Liverpool and their dealings with friends and family. It starred with Pauline Collins and Polly James with Nerys Hughes replacing Pauline Collins from the second series onwards. It was so popular there were ten series made between 1969 and 1979.
Dennis Spooner and Monty Berman who had been the men behind “The Champions” in 1968 and “Randall and Hopkirk” which was also screened for the first time this year gave us “Department S”. The department investigated cases which baffled every other level of investigation. It starred Peter Wyngarde who would go on to have his own series “Jason King”, Joel Fabiani and Rosemary Nicols. Department S lasted one series of 28 episodes completed in 1970.
Scooby Doo hit our screens in 1969. The super sleuths were Fred, Daphne, Wilma, Shaggy and the star a Great Dane called Scooby Doo. The gang would solve supernatural problems getting into many situations along the way. The franchise was a big success with the calling card “Scooby Doo where are you?” which was the name of this first series from 1969-70 with spin offs after that.
BBC2 introduced us to Pot Black. Although colour TV had been introduced two year previously it was still black and white in my house which gave it a whole different perspective. My dad loved snooker and at that time Irvine had two snooker halls and dad was quite tidy at the game. Top names Fred Davis, John Pullman and John Spencer played in the first series. The ties were always over one frame which made it more exciting.
Current Affairs programme Nationwide started this year and ran until 1983. It was on Tuesday to Friday after the early evening news. It covered consumer issues, politics, sport and entertainment. Michael Barrett was anchor for the first eight year but after that some luminaries like Esther Rantzen, Valerie Singleton, Richard Stillgoe, Frank Bough, Sue Lawler and David Dimbleby took the helm.
Other TV Debuts of 1969
Some other shows that made their debut this year were Jokers wild, Marcus Welby MD, Sesame street, Wacky races, Up Pompei, the Clangers, High Living and Monty Python.
I love cowboy films and three top films this year were cowboys with the top film Midnight Cowboy but as I restrict myself to seven films I couldn’t really choose three so I have left out the critics top film as I can’t not have John Wayne in the mix. So we’ll start there.
John Wayne played Rueben J Cogburn (Rooster) a sort of anti-hero compared to his usual hero-hero but what a fine job he did aided and abetted by Glen Campbell and a young Kim Darby. Glen Campbell is the Texas Ranger he works with to capture a fugitive Tom Chaney (Jeff Corey) who killed the young headstrong Kim Darby’s father. The hard drinking and toughest Marshall in Oklahoma and Glen Campbell did their badges proud. John Wayne won an Academy award for the best actor for his portrayal of Rooster Cogburn.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance kid
This film starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Katherine Ross and again Jeff Corey won the Oscar for best original screenplay. Butch (Paul Newman), Sundance (Robert Redford) and Sundance’s lover (Katherine) flee to South America to more safely go about their outlaw tendencies as an elite posse are making it very difficult for them in the States. The film also won an Academy award for the song “Raindrops keep falling on my head” written by Bacharach and David.
On Her Majesty’s secret Service
The one and only time George Lazenby would play James bond was this film after Sean Connery decided to retire from the role. The Bond girl in this film was Countess Teresa de Vicenzi played by Diana Rigg (Emma Peel). A thoroughly enjoyable romp with George (Big Fry) Lazenby playing a good James Bond up against SPECTRE and Blofeld played by Telly Savalas. George Baker was also in the film and he had been touted for the James Bond role along with Sean Connery at the start of the franchise.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (CCBB)
CCBB had a bit in common with the James Bond films in that it was based on an Ian Fleming book and produced by a long time Bond collaborator in producer Albert R Broccoli. It was a super children’s movie with Dick van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes and the superb Lionel Jeffries in the main parts with James Robertson Justice playing his film self more or less. Jeremy and Jemima Potts the children of Caractacus Potts (Van Dyke) eventually get their father to buy this old car and he turns it into a flying car. On the beach one day in the car Caractacus and his new friend Truly Scrumptious and the children start an adventure which takes them to Vulgaria where they have an adventure with among others the Toymaker (Bennie Hill) and the Child catcher (Robert Helpmann)
The Italian Job
This comedy caper was based on a bullion robbery in Italy and starred Michael Caine, Noel Coward and Bennie Hill again. Robert Powell who would later have the role as Jesus of Nazareth made his film debut as part of the gang. A re-make of the film was made in 2003.
Where Eagles dare
Alistair McLean wrote the book and the screenplay for this World War II action film starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood.
A brigadier General played by Canadian actor Robert Beatty was kidnapped and held in a mountain fortress accessible only by cable car. A crack team of seven allied soldiers are dropped into the area dressed as German soldiers led by Major John Smith (Burton) and Lieutenant Morris Schaffer (Eastwood).
Some other films this year were Hello Dolly (The first film to be released on VHS or Betamax), The Love Bug, Funny girl, Keep on Camping, Easy Rider and the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
Sport in 1969
The European Athletics Championships were held this year in Athens. Great Britain managed six gold medals among their seventeen medals. They were:
John Whetton 1500m
Ian Stewart 5000m (Alan Blinston won bronze)
Ron Hill Marathon (Jim Alder bronze)
Paul Nihill 20k walk
Lillian Board 800m
Woman’s relay 4x400m (Rosemary Stirling Pat Lowe Janet Simpson and Lillian Board)
Highland Wedding ridden by Eddie Harty won the Aintree Grand National on his third attempt at 100/9 a price you don’t hear anymore. The favourite was the winner from the previous year Red Alligator which fell this time.
American jockey Diana Crump became the first woman to win an official open race against male jockeys.
1969 in Football
Newcastle United won the Inter Cities Fairs Cup beating Hungarian side Ujpest Dosza 6-2.
The Bolivian football team died in a plane crash in La Paz.
Matt Busby retired as manager of Manchester United with Wilf McGuiness taking his place. The only United manager more successful than the Scot was another Scotsman in Alex Ferguson.
Tony Jacklin won his first major golf championship when he won the Open at the Royal Lytham and St Anne’s golf club. He won by two strokes from Bob Charles of New Zealand.
The 18th Ryder cup this year was the first ever tie at 16-16 with the USA retaining the cup. Jack Nicklaus conceded a three foot very missable putt on the last green to Tony Jacklin to tie the event. A very sporting gesture indeed from Jack. Team Great Britain consisted of two rookies from Scotland in Brian Barnes and Bernard Gallagher.
Ann Jones won the woman’s Wimbledon final for Britain after losing the first set when she beat Billie Jean King of the USA 3-6 6-3 6-2. The men’s final was an all Australian affair with Rod Laver beating John Newcombe 6-4 5-7 6-4 6-4 to win his 4th Wimbledon singles title. Australians would have had a clean sweep this year if Ann had not won the singles as they won the Men’s and Ladies doubles and Australian Fred Stolle and Ann won the mixed doubles.
American tennis champion Mo Connolly the first female grand slammer died this year. Rod Laver won his second grand slam and last Wimbledon this year.
Motor Racing 1969
Jackie Stewart won his first F1 title beating Belgian Jackie Ickx best known for his exploits in the 24 hour Le Mans event which he won six times into second place.
News Events of 1969
Voting age was reduced to 18 from 21.
The average house price was £4,640
A gallon of petrol cost 6/2d (31p)
The Kray twins were found guilty of murder.
Irvine’s Ravenspark Academy was opened and the writer of this spent his last school year right there right then.
The Raleigh Chopper went on sale for the first time.
British Troops were deployed to Northern Ireland.
The 50 pence piece replaced the ten bob note.
The death penalty was abolished.
Richard Nixon became the 37th President of the United States.
Charles De Gaulle stepped down as president of France.
Bernadette Devlin became the youngest MP at the age of 21.
The Austin Maxi went on sale.
Swansea was given City status.
The QEII made its maiden voyage.
A handful of arrivals in 1969
Michael Schumacher (F1 multi champion) 3rd January
Stephen Hendry (Multi Snooker champion) 13th January
Dave Grohl (American musician) 14th January
Jennifer Aniston (TV star) 11th February
Catherine Zeta-Jones (Actress) 25th September
A handful of departures in 1969
Boris Karloff (Actor) 2nd February
Dwight D Eisenhower (American president) 28th March
Judy Garland (Actress) 22nd June
Brian Jones (Rolling Stone) 3rd July
Rocky Marciano (Champion boxer) 31st August
That Was 1969
That’s my subjective brief journey through 1969. I hope you enjoyed yourself. Many thanks for joining me, good health, good fortune and God bless. Bye for now.
Other Years Featured In This Series