Ranking #23 singles, U.S. edition: 1969-1972

No sooner had “Hey Jude” had begun its crawl down the carts than Wilson Pickett unearthed the soul gem awaiting the Stax treatment. When Paul McCartney sang it, he stressed his role as uncondescending mentor, freely offering advice provoked by a pal’s misery; Pickett by contrast made it clear he might’ve been Jude, was Jude, or the guy standing in the way of Jude. A devilish performance. What we know about Pickett’s life he followed no Method handbook.

It took Aretha Franklin’s death to remind me of a singles run as impressive as the Beatles’ without the string of #1s. The title track to her best album did not, alas, hit the top ten, but it and “Rock Steady” are my go-to’s when reminding people of her formidable talents as songwriter and pianist.

Other familiar classics whose chart peaks don’t match their status include The Meters’ funk-up-to-its-fingernails “Cissy Strut,” familiar to Jackie Brown aficionados (top YouTube comment: “The people that disliked this song should get covid tests done, because one of the major symptoms is no taste”); Nilsson’s own “Space Oddity” and “Rocket Man,” a grand performance; and one of the Moody Blues’ more persuasive hey-we-can-rock moments.

I do not find George Harrison’s hastily written theme for his Concert for Bangladesh persuasive, however, but more persuasive than “Once You Understand,” a novelty single cobbled together by bizzers to exploit the hippie fear of Nixon’s Silent Majority. The track ends with the parents learning their kid died of an overdose.

The Hague

Think – Once You Understand
Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan – Tennessee Bird Walk


George Harrison – Bangla Desh
Matthews’ Southern Comfort – Woodstock
The Raiders – Birds of a Feather

Sound, Solid

Van Morrison – Blue Money
Bill Deal & The Rhondells – What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am?
George Harrison – Deep Blue
Glen Campbell – Try a Little Kindness
Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose – Don’t Ever Be Lonely (A Poor Fool Like Me)
Jefferson – Baby Take Me in Your Arms
Christie – Yellow River

Good to Great

Aretha Franklin with the Dixie Flyers – Spirit in the Dark
Nilsson – Space Man
Wilson Pickett – Hey Jude
The Isley Brothers – I Turned You On
Sly & the Family Stone – Runnin’ Away
Honey Cone – The Day I Found Myself
The Moody Blues – The Story in Your Eyes
Brenda and the Tabulations – Right on the Tip of My Tongue
Tommy James and the Shondells – She

One thought on “Ranking #23 singles, U.S. edition: 1969-1972

  1. The version of “Hey Jude” here was sampled by Saint Etienne and juxtaposed with a decimalisation promotion. It took me years – until I knew where the sample came from, basically – to understand the full double meaning of that track’s title, but by the time I got to know a similarly-titled John Cale song the poignant double meanings were all too clear.

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