50 Year Flashback: 10 Big Songs From June 1968

It may seem as if we are living in a time of madness these days, but we should all be thankful that it’s not June 1968. Like today, the streets were filled with protest and unease, but that was the easy part. The Vietnam War was at its murderous peak, taking 1,310 American lives in June 1968 alone, bringing the American death toll to more than 10,000 for the first six months of 1968 alone. Now that’s madness. On top of all that, the senseless assassinations of RFK and MLK ripped away a handful of hope from the lives of millions of people. The Summer of Love already seemed like a distant memory because 1968 was shaping up to be the Summer from Hell.

People needed to find ways of coping and luckily the Rock revolution was in full swing, taking music in weird and wonderful new directions and giving full voice to the feelings and the world view of the new generation. Since FM Rock radio was still in its infancy, Top 40 was still the main medium for new music, and in June 1968 it definitely reflected both a desire for escapism and a need to stay relevant and current. So for your dining and dancing pleasure here are some of the big Top 40 hits from June 1968, in no particular order. If you were alive back then, be warned that listening to these songs in one sitting may induce a paisley haze in the brain.


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Mrs. Robinson – Simon And Garfunkel

It’s hard to separate this song from The Graduate, the generation-defining movie in which it played a central role, a conflation that surely enhanced the song’s appeal among all the boring, self-centered and disaffected Benjamin Braddocks and Elaine Robinsons of the day.


MacArthur Park – Richard Harris

In 1992 humorist Dave Barry conducted a readers’ poll that named this the Worst Song of All Time, but we think there are plenty worse. Sure it’s ridiculously overblown and overwrought, but songwriter Jimmy Webb deliberately set out to make it that way in the name of artistic innovation, since overblown and overwrought were still fresh Rock concepts back then.


Yummy, Yummy, Yummy – Ohio Express

Haven’t heard this one in years and it’s not quite as bad as we remembered it, although the lead singer still sounds like a goat. You’ve got to figure that 50+ years of hearing crappy bubblegum music tends to inure one to its horrors.


Tighten Up – Archie Bell & The Drells

By the time this reached #1 Archie Bell had been drafted into the Army and was already seriously injured overseas. Neither he nor anyone else could have predicted that this simple song – the whole thing is like a two-minute intro – would top the charts, but like all huge hits it had that inexplicable something that people find irresistible.


Jumpin’ Jack Flash – Rolling Stones

The Stones were at a creative and a career crossroads, coming off the LSD-addled mediocrity of Their Satanic Majesties Request and needing to re-establish their standing on the Rock scene. This song did a lot more than that. If Mick and Keith were sons of the Blues, then Jumpin’ Jack Flash – the character – became the holy spirit of the Rolling Stones, and God saw that it was a gas, gas, gas.


Tip Toe Thru’ The Tulips With Me – Tiny Tim

A lot of people badly needed an escape from the troubles of the day, and Tiny Tim provided a departure as far away from the norm as you could possibly get. More proof that when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.


Sky Pilot – Eric Burden And The Animals

Anti-war songs were common by this point, but a wicked guitar solo fading into the real sounds of war was a wrinkle that gave and still gives this song a powerful punch. This was the last we would ever hear from the Animals, and it was a pretty great way to make an exit.


Mony Mony – Tommy James and the Shondells

I remember one night around this time in 1968, I was just a little kid and my amazing big sister Peggy let me tag along in the back seat on a run with her boyfriend to the local burger shack. He was driving a 1966 white Chevy Impala convertible with red interior, top down on a beautiful warm starry night when this song came on the radio, cranked up loud, and I was never the same after that, in a good way.


Reach Out Of The Darkness – Friend & Lover

The husband-and-wife team of Jim and Cathy Post threw three song fragments together and somehow managed to catch the zeitgeist of the day – well it was groovy that people were finally getting together – but many people thought they were singing “freak out in the darkness”, which would have been even groovier.


I’d Like To Get To Know You – Spanky And Our Gang

This one is a real cultural artifact, it’s almost as if 1968 is the only year it could have been made. They called it “sunshine pop”, and it is certainly that (Spanky McFarlane could really sing), but the real highlight is the semi-psychedelic breakdown in the last part of the song, because in 1968 even the poppiest of pop songs wanted to be just a little bit trippy too.


Other Big Hits In June 1968 Include:

It’s A Beautiful Morning — Rascals
Think — Aretha Franklin
This Guy’s in Love — Herb Alpert
Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing — Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Angel Of The Morning — Merrilee Rush
Love Is All Around — The Troggs
Stoned Soul Picnic — The 5th Dimension
The Horse — Cliff Nobles & Co.

2 comments to “50 Year Flashback: 10 Big Songs From June 1968”
  1. MacArthur Park is really a good, moody song.
    It obviously tells a story of sorts which is a lost love/time situation, yet it has an uplifting message-that you can move on and still have happiness and so forth.
    Jimmy Web is quite talented and creative.
    Songs like -Up, Up And Away- were/are fun to listen to.
    And,Richard Harrison did a good rendering of the words, it was heartfelt. Webb deserves good credit and…you know…I could use an uplifting message, to feel good and
    optimistic, so I will now play Up Up And Away, how baout that.

  2. Ah, sorry I said ‘Harrison’ instead of Harris.
    I had just read a piece about George Harrison so that was that.

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