Researched and written by Sharon Mawer

After 13 different artists reached the top of the album charts in 1968, there were 12 in 1969. It appeared that the stability at no.1 during the mid 1960s was well and truly over. The longest run at the top and the best seller of the year was yet again, an album by The Beatles. Abbey Road entered the chart at no.1 on the first week of October and remained there until the end of January 1970, except for one week break in December, a total of 17 weeks, their 10th number one album and the fourth time they had achieved the years' best seller. In March they released the soundtrack to the animated film Yellow Submarine, but this was not a great success, peaking at no.3 and spending just seven weeks in the top 10.

Abbey Road was the final Beatles album to be recorded although Let It Be was actually released later. Another album that showed the musical differences between John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Lennon influencing side one of the original disc which consisted mostly of individual tracks including Come Together, Maxwell's Silver Hammer and the harmonious Because. Also on side one were the two major contributions to the album by George Harrison, Something and Here Comes The Sun, and Ringo Starr's Octopus's Garden. Side two, devised by Paul McCartney begins with You Never Give Me Your Money and is followed by a long suite of songs, all segued together as a medley, all quite short at around one and a half minutes each and finishing with The End, although there is also a 23 second song Her Majesty tagged on the finale of this. The cover photo taken of the four members walking across a zebra crossing in Abbey Road sparked debate as to whether Paul was still alive, the clues from the album cover, being extremely tenuous at best. Unlike the other Beatles, Paul is walking across the road barefoot with his eyes closed and is out of step with everyone else. John was dressed as a priest all in white, Ringo in black as the mourner and George as a grave digger in denim. But the main clue was the Volkswagon Beetle in the picture with the number plate LMW281F, reputedly standing for Linda McCartney Weeps and Paul would have been 28 IF he were still alive. It later turned out that the band originally wanted the car moved before the picture was taken, but the owner had been away on holiday.

It was fitting that Abbey Road closed out the decade at no.1 as the 1960s album charts had been so dominated by The Beatles. They had the biggest selling album of the whole decade with Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and in the list of the top sellers of the whole decade, they occupied 7 of the top 10 places with only the three soundtracks to The Sound Of Music, South Pacific and West Side Story breaking up a complete monopoly. To complete this domination, they took the next three places too with all ten of their number one albums during the 1960s among the best selling 13 albums.

Apart from A Collection Of Beatles Oldies, rush released for Christmas 1966 and the Magical Mystery Tour LP which was not officially released in the UK, every Beatles album had reached no.1, but when Yellow Submarine stopped at no.3, this was no great surprise. It wasn't really a new album anyway, with only four new Beatles tracks, Only A Northern Song, Hey Bulldog, All Together Now and the psychedelic six minute track, It's All Too Much. The title track, Yellow Submarine had already been a hit single three years previously and had already been a track on the Revolver album, while All You Need Is Love was also two years old. The rest of the album consisted of the George Martin orchestral score of the animated film of Yellow Submarine.

The album that interrupted Abbey Road's run at no.1 was The Rolling Stones' Let It Bleed, their fourth number one album but their first for three years since 1966's Aftermath. Let It Bleed also entered the chart at the top but remained there for just one week. Earlier in the year, they had also charted with a Greatest Hits compilation, Through The Past Darkly Big Hits Volume 2 which hit no.2 for one week in October. Let It Bleed, the album with the picture of the cake baked by Jane Asher, was the Rolling Stones back to their best, even without Brian Jones who had killed himself, several months before its release. He did in fact play on a couple of the tracks, Midnight Rambler and You Got The Silver before being replaced by Mick Taylor. Opening with the driving rock of Gimme Shelter and ending with the seven and a half minute track You Can't Always Get What You Want, with track three being the most unusual Country Honk, a country music remake of their no.1 hit from the summer, Honky Tonk Woman. Through The Past Darkly was the second volume of Greatest Hits, following Big Hits High Tide And Green Grass and concentrated on the 1966-1969 era including the three number one singles, Paint It Black, Jumpin Jack Flash and Honky Tonk Woman as well as She's A Rainbow and 2000 Light Years From Home from Their Satanic Majesties Request, Ruby Tuesday and Let's Spend The Night Together from Between The Buttons and Street Fighting Man from Beggars Banquet.

The second best selling album during 1969 and spending six weeks at the top between January and May was The Best Of The Seekers. Having come close the previous year with 11 weeks in the runner up position, including the whole of December with this Greatest Hits LP, behind the Beatles White album, The Seekers, always threatening to be big album sellers, spent a further 7 weeks as runner up as well as the six at the very top. This, the first of their best of collections included every one of their hit singles from the extremes of their first number one, I'll Never Find Another You to their final number 50 hit, Emerald City, considerably less successful than the original upon which it was based, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

Jethro Tull had arrived in the top 10 the previous year and in 1969 they achieved their only no.1 album, Stand Up which entered the chart at no.1 in August and had five weeks at the top, but disappeared just as quickly with just eight weeks inside the top 10. Before the release of their second album, Mick Abrahams had quit Jethro Tull, citing musical differences with Ian Anderson as the reason. He was replaced by Martin Barre and Jethro Tull moved towards a folk rock sound as opposed to the blues favoured by Abrahams, especially on the tracks Jeffrey Goes To Leicester Square, Back To The Family, Reason For Waiting and Bourie, an instrumental based on a piece by Johann Sebastian Bach. A lavish 3D pop up sleeve was on the original vinyl album with the band standing up away from the background, but in the CD age, this artform was lost.

Several albums achieved four weeks at no.1 during 1969. In February, Diana Ross & The Supremes recorded an album with The Temptations, Diana Ross & The Supremes Join The Temptations, the second no.1 for the Supremes but the first time in the top 10 for the Temptations. A different album collaboration of theirs topped the charts in the US as TCB hit no.1 in February. An idea to pair up two of Motown's biggest groups, but it wasn't always like that. If The Supremes took several years to register their presence in the big time with constant help from Berry Gordy, it took The Temptations even longer. Formed in Detroit as early as 1961 when two vocal groups, The Primes and The Distants merged. Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams joined together with Otis Williams (no relation), Elbridge Bryant and Melvyn Franklin. It took several years and the sacking of Bryant who was replaced by David Ruffin, before the hits started coming. In Britain, it took even longer, the band unable to break into the top 10 with any of their singles, despite some classic Motown tracks in the USA. David Ruffin was also fired after a non appearance at a concert in 1968 and was replaced by Dennis Edwards who had a rougher, less polished soul voice, ideal for the period of political statements the group were about to make in their songs. The breakthrough in the UK came with the collaboration with The Supremes on Diana Ross & The Supremes Join The Temptations and its hit single, I'm Gonna Make You Love Me. They re-create some of Motown's hits on the tracks I Second That Emotion, Aint No Mountain High Enough and A Place In The Sun.

In May, Bob Dylan achieved his fourth number one album Nashville Skyline. As the title suggests, it is a fully fledged country album, complete with finger pickin guitar and steel slide guitar on the tracks Nashville Skyline Rag, One More Night and Country Pie. He revisited a track from The Freewheelin Bob Dylan, opening the album with Girl From The North Country as a duet with Johnny Cash and also had an organ backing on Tell Me That It Isn't True and the hit single from the album, Lay Lady Lay.

After three years together as Cream, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker decided to call it a day. Their farewell album, Goodbye was their only number one spending four weeks at the top in March and April. They released a Greatest Hits Best Of Cream in November which reached no.6, but by then, the members of Cream had already moved on, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker forming Blind Faith, together with Steve Winwood, formally of The Spencer Davis Group and Traffic, and Rick Grech and they topped the charts for two weeks in September with their only LP release. Jack Bruce meanwhile hit no.6 with his solo album Songs For A Tailor.

Goodbye was released after Cream had already split up featured three live tracks and three new studio recordings, including Badge co-written by George Harrison, but it was the live tracks for which this album and Cream the band are best remembered, a nine minute I'm So Glad, Sitting On Top Of The World and Jack Bruce's Politician.

The next Eric Clapton project was Blind Faith as he and Ginger Baker joined with Steve Winwood who had also split up his band Traffic. Clapton had originally wanted a different drummer for his next band, but nobody proved as good as Ginger Baker, so despite Clapton's misgivings, he found himself working with one of his old partners just seven weeks after the break up of Cream. Blind Faith made their debut appearance in public at Hyde Park with 100,000 fans seeing no break between the demise of Cream and the resurrection of two thirds of them in their new guise. This trio was eventually joined by Rick Grech, formally of Family, another group who had released just one album to date and would break through to the top 10 in 1969. The Hyde Park gig was a great success with the fans although Clapton was less than happy with the quality of music and fearful of a complete tour that had already been booked. This was also a time when a new musical force was being built, but in the boardroom rather than anything much to do with the music itself as Steve Ross, president of The Kinney Corporation had already bought Warner Brothers and were in the process of buying Atlantic Records, Cream (and Blind Faith's) record label in the USA, although they were on Polydor in the UK. For a while it seemed unlikely that Ahmet Ertugun, the musical brains behind Atlantic Records would remain with the company, but was persuaded by Steve Ross, who although knowing nothing about current rock music, spoke enthusiastically about the label's plans for Blind Faith and another new rock group who had just been signed, Led Zeppelin. One of the problems with the tour which eventually transferred to Blind Faith's one and only album was that less time was spent on the music than should have been considered necessary for a supergroup. They had less than 45 minutes of music in total to record and just six tracks made it onto the album which concluded with the 15 minute track Do What You Like which was a showcase for various instruments, a one and a half minute organ solo, two minute guitar solo, three minute bass guitar solo and finally a four minute drum solo, all in the same song. The cover of the album was also controversial, featuring a topless, early teenage girl, although she may have been as young as 11, playing with an toy aeroplane, an image that was replaced by a photo of the band in the USA, but only after the album had already sold more than half a million copies.

Meanwhile, the third member of Cream decided on a solo career and released the album Songs For A Tailor. Having played in various bands with Ginger Baker, including a spell in John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and then for a brief while in Cream, Jack Bruce was finally free to pursue his own personal musical vision which included the Horn driven Never Tell Your Mother She's Out Of Time and Ministry Of Bag and To Isengard, the ballad that transformed itself halfway into the song into a bass funk track.

What a comeback. It had been three years since Elvis Presley had enjoyed a top 10 album and seven years since his last no.1 but in 1969 he achieved 3 top 10 albums, 2 number twos and his 8th number one, all in the space of four months. In May, Elvis The NBC TV Special spent one week as the runner LP, in July, Flaming Star was the runner up for three weeks and in August the album From Elvis In Memphis, spent one week at the top and just five short weeks in the top 10. The NBC TV Special features several medleys including one 14 minute medley with live versions of a few of his biggest early hits, Heartbreak Hotel, Hound Dog, All Shook Up and Can't Help Falling In Love, Jailhouse Rock, Don't Be Cruel, Blue Suede Shoes and Love Me Tender. Flaming Star the film dated back to 1960 but at that time, the soundtrack was not released. Now riding a new popularity, it was finally released and would have topped the charts had it not been for the budget priced Jim Reeves According To My Heart album. The NBC TV Special was a great success and this prompted Elvis to return to his Memphis roots and record an album of songs that had been sitting in his repertoire without being exploited in any way, but songs that Elvis actually wanted to sing, all original recordings although Only The Strong Survive had become a hit for Jerry Butler It Keeps Right On A Hurtin was a country hit for Johnny Tillotson and Gentle On My Mind was the song that provided Dean Martin with his comeback. The album ended with one of his biggest hits for five years, the no.2 single, In The Ghetto.

Another chart comeback, although he had never really been away, was achieved by Frank Sinatra. The song My Way, became the longest ever runner in terms of number of weeks in the singles charts and it's parent album of the same title reached no.2 in the LP charts, spending 3 weeks as runner up in June, featuring mostly cover versions, Yesterday, Hallelujah I Love Her So, For Once In My Life, If You Go Away, Mrs Robinson and Paul Anka's My Way. He also charted at no.8 on the very first week of the year with yet another Greatest Hits collection. Actually enjoying his first top 10 album was Dean Martin who hit no.7 with Gentle On My Mind and no.9 with Best Of. Along with Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin was one of the members of the Ratpack, bright young things from the 1940s and early 1950s, but unlike Sinatra, although he had had many hit singles in the 1950s, he had not broken through to the top 10 of the album charts until this year. Born Dino Paul Crocetti in Ohio in 1917, the son of immigrant Italians, he worked in a steel mill, as a boxer, as a croupier in a speakeasy and as a delivery man of bootleg alcohol which brought him into contact with the underworld club owners. His early singing career was as one of the front men for Sammy Watkins big band, teaming up in a double act with comedian Jerry Lewis. As a solo singer, he had nine top 10 hit singles in the 1950s, including one number one, Memories Are Made Of This and three number twos, That's Amore, Return To Me and Volare, all of which appeared on the Best Of Dean Martin in 1969. Apart from these four hits however and the track Sway, all the other tracks were fillers and not UK hits at all. Doing slightly better in the album charts was Gentle On My Mind, with MOR cover versions of country pop hits, By The Time I Get To Phoenix, Honey and original songs written for him or picked up by his management, That Old Time Feelin, That's When I See The Blues In Your Pretty Brown Eyes, Not Enough Indians and Rainbows Are Back In Style. One of their contemporaries was also back in the chart as Nat King Cole's Best Of hit no.5 in January. And like the Dean Martin Best Of, there were very few of his many hit singles to be found, only When I Fall In Love and Ramblin Rose although many of the tracks were from the pre chart days, Mona Lisa, Too Young, Route 66 and Unforgettable.

Since the mid 1950s, the dominant record format was the single, one song, usually with a rather less known B side. It wasn't until 1968 that albums began to outsell singles, and even then, only just. There was however another format throughout the 1960s that was very popular. The EP, usually four songs and more often than not, samplers from the artist's LP at the time. It wasn't that albums were that expensive, in fact they were on average about six times the price of single, the price for most of the 1960s for a single being 6/8 (33p) and an album 30/- (£1.50) but EPs were a way for artists to get some of their less commercial songs noticed without the record buying public needing to spend so much on an LP. From 1959 to 1967 there were even separate EP charts compiled. However from the mid 1960s onwards, a new phenomenon was conceived that almost entirely killed off the EP which was the mid price and even budget price LPs. With ten songs on an album at a price little more than double the cost of a single, even if they weren't the current product from the specific artist, made the releasing of a four track EP unnecessary and virtually every record company stopped it.

Without too much discussion in the industry, these cheaper LPs were deemed ineligible for the main album charts but from the 15th of February, a separate chart was produced for budget titles priced at 15/- (75p) or more. There were LPs that were even cheaper still but these were still not eligible, therefore making the budget charts rather more a mid price section. During 1969, these charts were the domain of two genres of music, either MOR standards from established artists, The Four And Only Seekers, World Of Mantovani and Herb Alpert's America, all of which topped the budget chart this year, or record label compilations, known in 1969 as samplers which served as introductions to the artists on the label's roster. CBS's Rock Machine I Love You, Island's Nice Enough To Eat, Studio Two's Ultimate Stereo Presentation and Trojan's Tighten Up vol 2 were also four number one budget albums during 1969. Rock Machine I Love You featured tracks from Blood Sweat & Tears, Laura Nyro, Grace Slick, Electric Flag, Leonard Cohen and Taj Mahal. Nice Enough To Eat introduced tracks by Fairport Convention, Spooky Tooth, Blodwyn Pig and King Crimson. Ultimate Stereo Presentation featured Ron Goodwin, Manuel & The Music Of The Mountains and Woot Steenhuis and Tighten Up had tracks by by The Pioneers, The Upsetters, Dandy, Clancy Eccles and The Kingstonians, none of which were renowned for selling many singles, nor even solo albums in the majority of cases. So they were ideal as samplers for people who would not necessarily hear these artists tracks.

By the third chart on the 1st of March, the Decca World Of series occupied 6 positions in the top 10 with Val Doonican, Max Bygraves, Mantovani, Frank Chacksfield, Johann Strauss and one of the samplers, World Of Hits. A decision was taken however to allow this price band of LPs into the main chart and the budget chart was discontinued at the end of May. On the 14th of June, Decca became one of the first record companies to benefit and take advantage of this new situation and hit the top 10 with four of their previously excluded albums in the World Of series, Val Doonican, Mantovani, Charlie Kunz and The Bachelors, the most successful being the Val Doonican title, reaching no.2 and even ending the year as the 7th best seller overall. Later in the year they also charted with a second volume of Mantovani tracks and a second sampler of various artists, specifically to advertise the entire series, The World Of Hits Volume 2 with tracks by Cat Stevens, Them, Lulu and Small Faces. The Val Doonican album included his hit singles, Walk Tall, Elusive Butterfly, What Would I Be and a few of his traditional Irish songs Delaney's Donkey, The Jersey Was A Leprechaun and Paddy McGinty's Goat. Mantovani had only ever had three top 10 singles and none of them were on either of the volumes of his World Of albums. Volume one featured Some Enchanted Evening, Hava Nagila, Cara Mia Jealousy and Fiddler On The Roof while Volume 2 included Those Were The Days, Lara's Theme, Hernando's Hideaway, Secret Love and Exodus. The World Of The Bachelors featured five of their top 10 singles, Charmaine, Diane, No Arms Could Ever Hold You, Marie and The Sound of Silence.

By far the most successful of these mid price LPs in chart terms were the two albums released by CBS and RCA, by Ray Conniff and Jim Reeves respectively. Ray Conniff, without a top 10 album since 1960 released His Orchestra His Chorus His Singers His Sound and saw it enter the chart at no.1, replacing Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline which no doubt would have been set for a longer run had the price restrictions not been lifted. The Ray Conniff album which included MOR cover versions in an even more MOR style of Memories Are Made Of This, I've Got You Under My Skin, Volare, Greenfields, Spanish Eyes, Somewhere My Love and Up Up And Away and continued the trend of the budget albums, begun by the Hallmark's Top Of The Pops series of albums the previous year of having highly colourful album sleeves with a scantily clad model on the cover. It remained at the top for three weeks until mid July when it was replaced at no.1 by Jim Reeves' According To My Heart which was Jim Reeves only no.1, five years after his death and three years since his last top 10 album featuring the tracks Poor Little Doll, Don't Tell Me, You'll Never Be Mine Again and I've Lived A Lot In My Time.

On the 11th October, the experiment was over and the mid price albums were yet again excluded from the charts and shunted off to their own separate section. On the previous week of the 4th of October, five mid price titles were inside the top 10, both volumes of The World Of Mantovani, World Of Val Doonican, the Ray Conniff and Jim Reeves albums and the following week they were all gone, still selling well, but not included in the weekly main LP charts. On the first new mid price chart, Decca continued where they had left off in May with seven titles out of the top 10, along with the Ray Conniff and Jim Reeves titles and an old Elvis Presley re-issue, Flaming Star.

By now, The Beatles Abbey Road was number one and selling better than all of them put together anyway. The majority of the budget and mid price LPs were from Middle Of The Road artists, either those whose catalogue material had not sold well previously or whose older material leant itself to a cheaper price. It would seem that this genre was competing with rock for dominance in the charts, based purely on the number of titles and their highest positions reached, but rock was most certainly the music that was getting the most attention both in the music media and also in terms of albums released and bought.

Another unusual phenomenon that had not been seen since the first few years of the album charts was that the top 10s were not exactly top 10s. On the 26th April, among the top 10 positions, there were three albums at a joint no.7, nothing at nos.8 or 9 and two joint no.10 albums (11 titles in total). A similar unusual chart occurred on the 24th of May with four joint no.4 albums and nothing registered as nos.5, 6 or 7.

The Moody Blues enjoyed their first no.1 album On The Threshold Of A Dream. The follow up at the end of the year, To Our Childrens Childrens Children reached no.2.After the success of the previous album In Search Of The Lost Chord, The Moody Blues were at last financially stable enough to take time in the studio recording an album without the need to go on tour. The familiar harmonies are still there on tracks such as Lovely To See You and So Deep Within You which also utilises the flute prominently. The concept running through this album was the exploration of dreams and it had its softer side with the tracks Are You Sitting Comfortably, Have You Heard, Lazy Day, Send Me No Wine and even a spoken word passage in The Dream. To Our Children's Children's Children was inspired by the moon landings and was the first album recorded on the newly created Threshold label, named after the band's previous album with the joint themes of space travel on the tracks Higher And Higher and Floating and children on Eyes Of A Child and I Never Thought I'd Live To Be A Hundred/Million. Another album that would be impossible to recreate live as the multi layers of instruments would take more than the members of the band to play outside the studio environment. For the second consecutive album running, no singles were released as like Pink Floyd, The Moody Blues began to think of albums as entities in themselves, not a disparate collection of songs.

Fleetwood Mac, more a blues band than a rock band had their third top 10 album during 1969, Then Play On reached no.6 in October but they were moving away from the blues. Pink Floyd had two ten 10 albums this year, the music from the film soundtrack More and the double album Ummagumma. Adding Danny Kirwan to the line-up as a second guitarist took nothing away from Fleetwood Mac's raw blues sound as typified on the hit single Oh Well which on the album lasted over 9 minutes and a Latin style of the album's opening track Coming My Way. Danny Kirwan wrote five of the thirteen tracks including the instrumental My Dream which could easily have been on a Shadows album played by Hank Marvin and also the folk song When You Say which ran out of lyrics even before the first verse was over going into a series of La la las.

The obscure French film More provided Pink Floyd with their third top 10 album and was the first to be recorded with no involvement from Syd Barrett. The plot of the film involves Klus Grunberg travelling from Germany to Paris, meeting up with a group of hippies, especially Mimsy Farmer, an American girl who is hooked on heroin. Despite his anti drug warnings, they both end up taking large amounts of LSD. The album opened with Cirrus Minor, five minutes of organ chords with birdsong and most of the tracks are either acoustic folk songs or drug influenced instrumentals. Ummagumma is a double album that became Pink Floyd's fourth successive top 10 album. The album begins with four tracks from previous albums, Astronomy Domine, Careful With That Axe Eugene, Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun and A Saucerful Of Secrets, all recorded live in Birmingham and Manchester and in extended versions from the originals. The studio recordings were written by each member of the band, Sysyphus a four part keyboard instrumental by Richard Wright, The Narrow Way, a three part guitar instrumental by Dave Gilmour, The Grand Vizier's Garden Party, another three part showcase of Nick Mason's talents and Roger Waters contributing Granchester Meadows and Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict.

What was considered Rock music was becoming very difficult to categorise however, The Who hit no.2 with the Rock Opera Tommy. The Rock Opera was not a totally new concept, beginning possibly with The Pretty Things SF Sorrow album, but The Who brought it into the mainstream with the double album Tommy released with a fold out sleeve and included a booklet of artwork and the lyrics and it became the Who's most successful album to date. Tommy tells the story running through every song beginning with Overture/It's A Boy when Mrs Walker gives birth to a son after hearing the news that her husband is reported missing in action during World War 1. The next track 1921, moves seven years into the future when Captain Walker returns home to find his wife has a new lover. In a rage, he murders the lover and to cover up the crime, both his parents tell the boy Tommy that he didn't see anything, didn't hear anything and will never say nothing to no one ever in his life. Tommy take this literally and becomes deaf, dumb and blind and thus is the premise for the whole story as his parents attempt to cure him. In Eyesight To The Blind, they take him to a cult religion, Acid Queen, when they leave him with a woman who attempts a cure with LSD. The dark theme of child abuse ran throughout the story, on cousin Kevin, Tommy is left in the care of a babysitter who bullies and tortures him and Do You Think It's Alright/Fiddle About when his Uncle Ernie takes the opportunity to sexually abuse him without fear of anybody finding out. If the music does have any lighter moments, it is only when Tommy is discovered to have a talent for Pinball (Pinball Wizard) and Smash The Mirror/ Sensation/Miracle Cure when the smashing of a mirror breaks Tommy out of his unresponsive state and he is cured and free in the song I'm Free.

The charts were full of rock acts having their first taste of chart success this year. Leonard Cohen hit no.2 in May with Songs From A Room, his follow up to Songs From Leonard Cohen. Ten Years After charted with the album Undead in 1968 and this year hit the top 10 with both Stonedhenge and Ssssh. King Crimson also hit the top 5 with In The Court Of the Crimson King, as did The Nice with their self titled album. Family broke into the top 10 with their second album, Family Entertainment, as did Chicken Shack with OK Ken and from the ashes of the split in Jethro Tull came Blodwyn Pig who hit no.9 with Ahead Rings Out.

Leonard Cohen, born in Montreal in 1934 was first and foremost a poet and novelist and indeed, published several books of poetry in the early 1960s. Had it not been for Bob Dylan, he may never have considered putting his poetry to music for it was dark and depressing and his voice, a gravely baritone, was not the type of voice that sold records in the early 60s. One of his books, The Spice Box Of Earth sold well enough to allow him to live comfortably and travel the world, eventually settling as a recluse on the island of Hydra in the Aegean sea. When Judy Collins recorded Suzanne, one of his compositions, his songwriting skills came to public attention and he made his singing debut at the Newport Folk Festival in 1967. He appeared on television singing and reciting poetry and this led to Columbia records releasing an album called The Songs Of Leonard Cohen with an acoustic guitar backing and Cohen singing in his virtual monotone. The second album, Songs From A Room provided more of the same, dark brooding tracks with emotional depressing themes. The album included The Story Of Isaac, an anti war song based on the bible story of Abraham being ordered by God to sacrifice his only son, Partisan, based on the French poem La Complainte Du Partisan by Bernard Emmanuel D'Astier, a resistance fighter in the war and Seems So Long Ago Nancy, telling the story of Nancy Challies, a young woman from Montreal who committed suicide when her family forced her to put her son up for adoption.

Ten Years After are Alvin Lee, famed for playing the fastest guitar in the world, Chick Churchill, Leo Lyons and Ric Lee. They were signed to the new experimental label offshoot of Decca, Deram and for the time and genre of music, quite a stable band, releasing several albums throughout the late 1960s and into the 1970s with the same line-up. Their debut album, the eponymously titled Ten Years After was not a success. It was their second album, Undead, recorded live, that brought them into the charts and the third album, Stonedhenge that finally cracked the top 10. Opening with the brooding track Going To Try, this is more of a jazz album in the style of a small combo, especially on the tracks Woman Trouble, Skoobly Oobly Doobob and A Sad Song. Stonedhenge gave an opportunity to showcase Chick Churchill's piano on I Can't Live Without Lydia and even Ric Lee's drumming on a solo of Three Blind Mice. The follow up album Ssssh was an altogether different type of album. Nothing even closely resembling a small jazz combo, but in the main was an all out axe attack with Alvin Lee doing what made Ten Years After famous, playing a very fast guitar on the tracks Bad Scene, Stoned Woman, the blues song I Woke Up This Morning and a cover version of Sonny Boy Williamson's Good Morning Little Schoolgirl.

King Crimson grew out of the trio Giles Giles and Fripp, Michael & Peter Giles with Robert Fripp. They were later joined by Ian McDonald and Peter Sinfield. After Deram records had invested their Deramic sound and unveiled the Moody Blues album, Days Of Future Passed, they were looking for anything similar, any band who could play progressive or psychedelic rock and Giles Giles & Fripp fitted this bill perfectly. As they Began recording the first album, Peter Giles was unhappy with the direction and was replaced by a friend of Fripp, Greg Lake. The band changed their name after Sinfield had written the lyrics to a song, The Court Of The Crimson King and this became the final track and title track on the album. A big break came when they played at a gig in Hyde Park in London as one of the support bands to The Rolling Stones who were mourning the death of Brian Jones and introducing their new guitarist, Mick Taylor. In The Court Of The Crimson King had only five tracks playing for nearly three quarters of an hour. It opened with 21st Century Schizoid Man, a seven minute, hard driving cross between jazz and classical and before the final epic title track were two ballads, I Talk To The Wind and Epitaph, both with long instrumental breaks and meandering vocals that would become the hallmark of progressive rock music in the future and the experimental Moonchild. Greg Lake was also unhappy though and began talking to Keith Emerson of The Nice about the possibility of starting a new band together. It was debatable whether there would be a second album as Robert Fripp was also talking to Jon Anderson and Chris Squire about joining their new band, Yes.

The Nice consisted of guitarist Davy O'List, Lee Jackson on drums, Brian Davison on bass and a keyboard player by the name of Keith Emerson who was the driving force behind the band's sound as well as the most flamboyant member, playing his keyboard by jamming knives into the keys and setting it on fire in the style of Jimi Hendrix with his guitar, They became a bridge between late 60s psychedelia, classical and the new genre of progressive rock. Their debut album called Thoughts Of Emerlist Davyjack, named after the band members, was delayed for nearly a year, during which there was a complaint from Leonard Bernstein that he never gave permission for them to record his track America. This was a typical late 1960s psychedelic album although there were signs that the band were moving in a rather new direction especially on the extended instrumental, Rondo. The second album, Ars Longa Vita Brevis confirmed this, with the band now down a trio after the departure of Davy O'List, with a complete symphony with four movements based on Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and another piece, a rendition of Intermezzo from the Karelia Suite by Jean Sibelius. Just as the third album was becoming a hit, peaking at no.3 in September, the band became caught up in the demise of the record company Immediate, who declared bankruptcy, owing the band virtually all the royalties for the album. This financial embarrassment for the band with a hit album and a new sound kept them touring relentlessly when, had they stayed in the studio, they may have developed further. But that would have to wait until The Nice had run its course and Keith Emerson moved on. The self titled album originally consisted of just six songs including reworkings of Tim Hardin's Hang On To A Dream and Bob Dylan's She Belongs To Me which one would hardly recognise the original songs among Emerson's swirling organ sounds. They also reworked two tracks from the first album, Azrael and Rondo, even more extravagantly than the originals.

The band called Family were guitarist John Charlie Whitney and Roger Chapman with a distinctive rasping voice, who met while still at college in the mid 1960s. Both were into the blues, but Family were more a rock band than blues. They added Ric Grech, Jim King and Rob Townsend to the lineup and released the album, Music In A Dolls House and then hit the top 10 with its follow up, Family Entertainment. This album opened with The Weavers Answer, a song about a dying man's final wish, with the old man dying at the end of the song to a violin solo by Ric Grech and continued with the anti war song, Hung Up Down and included three Ric Grech songs, How Hi The Li, Second Generation Woman and Face In The Cloud with a sitar taking the lead instrumental role, but two months after its release, Grech had left to join Blind Faith.

The main influence behind Chicken Shack was blues guitarist Stan Webb, but they are best remembered for the vocals by Christine Perfect, later to become Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac, and Chicken Shack had a lot in common with early Fleetwood Mac, also being signed to the Blue Horizon label. Their debut album which nearly hit the top 10 was 40 Blue Fingers Freshly Packed And Ready To Serve and was followed quickly by the album that did creep into no.9 in February, OK Ken with Christine singing on Get Like I Used To Be, I Wanna See My Baby, Mean Old World and Stan Webb singing on all the others except the instrumentals Remington Ride and Pony And Trap

One of the reasons given for the split in Jethro Tull between Mick Abrahams and Ian Anderson was musical direction, but when Abrahams unveiled his new band, Blodwyn Pig, with Andy Pyle, Ron Berg and Jack Lancaster who not only played the saxophone which would get a lot of use in the new band, but also the flute which, owing to the Jethro Tull connotations, wouldn't. Ahead Rings Out was the resulting debut album with guitar and sax breaks in the songs which moved along with loads of energy, no ballads here or anything that could remotely be called English folk music, although slower numbers like Dear Jill and The Change Song owed a lot to the blues. It's Only Love, Sing Me A Song That I Know, Up And Coming and Backwash however were pure Rock n Roll.

In April, a new band appeared in the charts with a sound that defined heavy metal and hard rock for a generation. Led Zeppelin's debut album peaked at no.6 and by the end of the year Led Zeppelin 2 had entered the chart, but this would go on to much better things the following year and would become the start of something very big throughout the 1970s. A band that relied on live performances and let their music do the talking. They rarely gave interviews and notably refused to release singles, claiming their albums should be taken as a whole entity or not at all. Led Zeppelin evolved from the Yardbirds, originally calling themselves The New Yardbirds with Jimmy Page on guitar, John Paul Jones on bass, Robert Plant the vocalist and John Bonham on drums. The new line up fulfilled the Yardbirds tour obligations and then within 30 days they recorded their debut album as Led Zeppelin names after Keith Moon predicted they would go down like a lead zeppelin. The group spelt their name without an 'A' on the suggestion of their manager Peter Grant who wanted to avoid Americans pronouncing it 'leed". It was still 1969, but here was a new sound for a new decade. Heavier guitars than Jimi Hendrix and Cream with riffs the Rolling Stones used to invent, but hadn't done so for a while even on tracks that weren't originally their own on the debut album such as the Willie Dixon songs You Shook Me and I Can't Quit You Baby. This self titled album featured the iconic image of the burning Hindenburg airship going down like a Led Zeppelin. What was different about Led Zeppelin was that they knew when to slow down the tracks and when loud crashing guitars was called for. Babe I'm Gonna Leave You, Good Times Bad Times and Dazed And Confused are a mixture of the two, beginning with a soft acoustic guitar and transforming mid song with a crash of the drums and a shriek by Robert Plant.

All sorts of music sold well enough to reach the LP charts in 1969. The third best seller of the year was the country LP by Johnny Cash, recorded Live At San Quentin, his second album recorded live inside a prison specifically for the inmates and included the tracks, I Walk The Line, Wanted Man and his biggest hit single, A Boy Named Sue. Glenn Miller made a comeback with The Best Of Glenn Miller, although strictly speaking this was an LP released by RCA to commemorate 25 years since his death. Even an album by The Massed Welsh Choirs called Cymanfa Ganu reached the top 5.

The mid 1960s crooners were still out in force in the album charts of 1969. Tom Jones hit no.2 with This Is Tom Jones and also charted at no.4 on the first week of the year with Help Yourself, Engelbert Humperdinck peaked one place lower at no.3 with Engelbert, and no.5 with the album called Engelbert Humperdinck. Scott Walker hit no.3 with Scott 3 and also charted in the top 10 with Songs From His TV Series. This is Tom Jones was an MOR album with the singer trying his hand at contemporary pop, Little Green Apples, Witchita Lineman, Sittin On The Dock Of The Bay and Hey Jude, but with Tom Jones' big voice dominating the production. There were no hit singles taken from the album. Help Yourself, contained two hits, beginning with the title track and ending with Without Love There Is Nothing. There were also no hits at all taken from the eponymous album from Engelbert Humperdinck, which featured Engelbert singing some oldies including Mona Lisa, You'll Never Know and Quiereme Mucho and as with Tom Jones, Engelbert's second top 10 album of 1969, Engelbert included two hit singles, Les Bicyclettes De Belsize and The Way It Used To Be. Scott 3 contained 13 tracks, 10 written by Walker and 3 by Jacques Brel whom he had turned to for compositions before, whereas Scott 4, also titled Songs From His TV Series was totally filled with Scott Walker songs. Virtually all minor key ballads and the lyric content had been toned down a little although there was Big Louise, a song about a prostitute, Funeral Tango about dying, The Old Man's Back Again about Josef Stalin and there was We Came Through, a fast moving song and Sons Of evoking a fairground at night.

The Bee Gees just scraped into the top 10 with the album Odessa, and also released a Best Of LP which reached no.7 in November. Other Greatest Hits packages to hit the top 10 in 1969 included Cliff Richard, Mamas & Papas and Gene Pitney. Although only temporary, Odessa was the album that caused the split in the Bee Gees as the brothers argued over the production of Odessa, its recording and ultimately which track was suitable to release as a single, eventually deciding on First Of May which was used in the film Melody along with Melody Fair and Give Your Best. The title track was The Bee Gees attempt at Prog Rock with a little of everything thrown in, but the album was also filled with folk songs and ballads such as Sound Of Light and Lamplight, the instrumentals With All Nations, The British Opera and Seven Seas Symphony and the Bee Gees sounding even more like The Beatles on Whisper Whisper. Gene Pitney's Greatest Hits was a sixteen track compilation which began with Town Without Pity, one his early singles that was not a big hit in the UK but went on to include 8 of his top 10 hits to date from 24 Hours From Tulsa through to Somethings Gotten Hold Of My Heart.

The Beach Boys had another top 10 album with 20/20 and last years' Herb Alpert US no.1 album, Beat Of The Brass hit no.4 in April. At the time that Nashville Skyline was no.1, the Hollies released an album called Hollies sing Dylan, a self explanatory title which featured the Hollies singing Bob Dylan tracks. The Beach Boys 20/20 featuring the singles Do It Again, I Can Hear Music and Cottonfields and was so titled as the 20th album by the band, including the three volumes of Greatest Hits. Three old recordings from Brian Wilson, Time To Get Alone, Our Prayer and Cabinessence , made it onto the album as well as an instrumental by Bruce Johnston, The Nearest Faraway Place and most controversially a track called Never Learn Not To Love, credited as written by Dennis Wilson, but the original was actually a song called Cease To Exist, written by a struggling musician, Charles Manson who instructed Wilson that the words of his original be maintained in tact, although Wilson could do what he liked with the melody. When Wilson changed the words as well as the melody, Manson threatened to kill him, which frightened the band, in the light of the crimes that later transpired in 1969.

The music of Herb Alpert never really caught on in Britain as in the US and Beat Of The Brass was only his third top 10 album and second to peak at no.4. No wonder he mainly recorded instrumentals if a typical example of his singing was on the track Talk To The Animals with the children's chorus background. A better example of a Herb Alpert vocal track was the album's closing song and one of his most famous tracks of all, the Bert Bacharach song, This Guy's In Love With You. The way the Hollies interpreted Bob Dylan songs, one would be hard pushed to know they were indeed originally by Bob Dylan. Two very different styles met on this album, the original songs, very sparsely produced with political and social comment in the lyrics the most important part of the song and the other full of jangly guitars and harmonised pop singing. Some of the tracks, I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, This Wheel's On Fire, Just Like A Woman, All I Really Want To Do and The Mighty Quinn had already been covered by pop artists and there were also a couple of tracks, Blowin In The Wind and The Times They Are A Changin which were so quintessentially Dylan that The Hollies versions don't really add anything to the songs, however it was their fourth top 10 album and the first since the massive no.1 Greatest Hits the previous year.

The second volume of British Motown Chartbusters hit no.8 in January and at the end of the year, volume 3 was released. By Volume 3, the series was established enough to drop the British in the title and it entered the chart, the last week of October and spent six weeks at no.2 during the biggest sales period of all. It would spend a further five weeks as runner up in 1970 but would also go one place better to no.1. Volume 2 was a strange mix of tracks with only three top 20 hits from the many giant singles that the Motown label was enjoying, Diana Ross & Supremes' Reflections, R Dean Taylor-Gotta See Jane and The Four Tops-If I Were A Carpenter. They seemed to be deliberately choosing the lesser hits from the label, but that was the point of the series at this juncture, to highlight just how good Motown tracks were, even the ones that didn't make it big on the singles charts and therefore might otherwise go un-noticed. Every one of the 16 tracks were hits of sorts, although Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell's If I Could Build My Whole World Around You at no.41, Stevie Wonder's Shoo Be Doo Be Doo Da Day at no.46, The Temptations' I Could Never Love Another After Loving You and Gladys Knight & Pips original version of I Heard It Through The Grapevine both at no.47 and Smokey Robinson & Miracles' If You Can Want at no.50 would only have been noticed by true Motown fans before this album.

One Motown act not featured on either of the first two volumes was The Isley Brothers who hit no.8 in January with This Old Heart Of Mine. The four brothers, Ronald, Rudolph, O'Kelly and Vernon Isley formed a gospel singing quartet in Cincinatti in the early 1950s but were cut back to a trio after the death of Vernon in 1955. Initially signed to RCA as a straight R&B act, they cut several classic songs including Shout, Lonely Teardrops and Twist And Shout, but even signing for Motown in the mid 1960s did not bring success and none of their singles reached the top 40. One of these failed singles was This Old Heart Of Mine which was re-issued at the end of 1968 to become their biggest ever hit. This was quickly followed by the album with 10 of the 12 tracks written by Holland Dozier Holland, already having been hits for competing Motown artists, it was a almost like a cover versions album with the Isley's versions of Nowhere To Run, Stop In The Name Of Love and I Hear A Symphony. The Isley Brothers did get there first however with several of the in-house written songs, I Guess I'll Always Love You, Put Yourself In My Place and the title track.

For the first time since 1964, The Sound Of Music was not the years best selling soundtrack, ending up as the sixth top seller. Its long run at number one in any of the weekly listings was also over, managing three weeks at no.2 in February and March. Ahead of it was the soundtrack to Oliver, the film version of the 1960 show starring Mark Lester and Jack Wild as Oliver and the Artful Dodger, Ron Moody as Fagin, Shani Wallis as Nancy and a brooding, menacing Oliver Reed as Bill Sykes. Other film soundtracks in the charts in 1969 ranged from the classical, 2001 A Space Odyssey which peaked at no.3 to the children's film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang adapted from the Ian Fleming novel. The fourth best selling LP of the year was the London cast recording of Hair which peaked at no.3 in April. The Broadway version did even better in the USA, spending 13 weeks at no.1. Just like The Sound Of Music which had been a big hit album from the time of the stage cast version, when Oliver was made into a film, all the familiar songs were there form Oliver's plaintiff Where Is Love and Who Will Buy to the Artful Dodger's Consider Yourself, Fagin's classics Pick A Pocket Or Two and Reviewing The Situation and Nancy's Oom Pah Pah and the show's big ballad As Long As He Needs Me.

The stars of the film 2001 A Space Odyssey were Keir Dullea, Gary Lockhart and William Sylvester or perhaps it was Stanley Kubrick's direction of space stations dancing in time with the music, or perhaps it was the music from Richard and Johann Strauss itself, Also Sprach Zarathustra and The Blue Danube being the main themes showcased. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a children's film, adapted from a children's book written by Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond novels. A fantasy tale of a car that comes to life when cared for lovingly by inventor Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke), Sally Ann Howes as Truly Scrumptious and the two children Jeremy & Jemima (Adrian Hall and Heather Ripley). The music was written by the Sherman Brothers who had also worked on Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book. As a children's fantasy, it is however one of the darkest productions with Benny Hill as the Toymaker who needs to go into hiding and the most evil Robert Helpmann as the Child Catcher. The songs, although seemingly memorable at the time, fade from memory quite quickly, Truly Scrumptious, Toot Sweets, Hushabye Mountain, Me Ol Bamboo, You Two and Doll On Music Box, only one song really sticks and that's the title track, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The perfect rebellious musical for its time, love, peace, dropping out, letting it all hang out, growing long hair and even sexual freedom as depicted in the nude scene that closes act one, Hair was a revelation at the theatre which had just opened its doors to such productions after the Theatre Act of Parliament in 1968, abolishing censorship on the live stage. And there were hit singles from this show too, Aquarius/Let The Sunshine In, Aint Got No I Got Life, Hair, Easy To Be Hard and Good Morning Starshine, but the Cast recording versions seemed considerably less substantial in their production than the singles versions.

On the back of number one singles, Peter Sarstedt hit no.8 with his self titled LP and Mary Hopkin's debut album, Postcard, peaked at no.3. The Move however, could only reach no.15, Amen Corner no.19, Bobbie Gentry no.21, Desmond Dekker & Aces no.27 and Marvin Gaye no.40, but there was no LP chart entries at all for Marmalade, Tommy Roe, Thunderclap Newman, Zager & Evans, Jane Birkin & Serge Gainsbourg, The Archies or Rolf Harris.

Peter Sarstedt's Where Do You Go To My Lovely was so distinctive, set to a French accordion waltz, telling the story of a young jet setting, fashion conscious dandy with Sarstedt's unusual song phrasing, adding a throwaway afterthought to every line of the song, he was able to follow it up with a top 10 album, but most of the other tracks are bland songs, even though the appeared to be trying to be weird, as with No More Lollipops which speeded up near the end of the song and Blagged and Mary Jane with their heavy production which could have been from a Scott Walker LP. Mary Hopkin was discovered by Paul McCartney, or at least it was Twiggy who alerted him to her talent and suggested she should be signed to the Apple label. He also agreed to produce her debut album, Postcard and it was probably this association as well as the melancholy single, Those Were The The Days that were instrumental in its success. Although she was able to chart a few more singles, this was her only foray into the album charts. The album opened with the hit single and included three Donovan tracks, Lord Of The Reedy River, Happiness Runs and Voyages Of The Moon, Nilsson's Puppy Song, a Welsh folk ballad, Y Blodyn Gwyn and several show tunes, Love Is The Sweetest Thing, Someone To Watch Over Me, the twee Inchworm from Hans Christian Andersen and even There's No Business Like Show Business.

As for the US number one albums not previously mentioned, Blood Sweat & Tears reached no.15 with Blood Sweat & Tears and Creedence Clearwater Revival hit no.20 with Green River. Other top 5 American LP hits just reaching the UK charts included The Temptations-Cloud Nine, and Puzzle People and Santana by Santana. However there was no room in the UK charts at all for Glen Campbell's Galveston, the Soundtrack to Romeo & Juliet, Fifth Dimension-Age Of Aquarius, Sergio Mendes & Brasil-Fool On The Hill, Iron Butterfly's Ball and In A Gadda Da Vida, Association-Greatest hits, Donovan-Greatest Hits, Henry Mancini-Warm Shade Of Ivory and Janis Joplin's I Got Dem Ol Kozmic Blues Again Mama


Top albums of 1969
1 Beatles - Abbey Road
2 Seekers - Best Of The Seekers
3 Johnny Cash - Johnny Cash At San Quentin
4 Original London Cast - Hair
5 Soundtrack - Oliver
6 Soundtrack - Sound Of Music
7 Val Doonican - World Of Val Doonican
8 Bob Dylan - Nashville Skyline
9 Diana Ross & Supremes with Temptations - Diana Ross & The Supremes Join The Temptations
10 Beatles - Beatles (White)

Top Albums of The Decade: 1960s
1 Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
2 Soundtrack - Sound Of Music
3 Beatles - With The Beatles
4 Beatles - Abbey Road
5 Soundtrack - South Pacific
6 Beatles - Beatles For Sale
7 Beatles - A Hard Day's Night
8 Beatles - Rubber Soul
9 Beatles - The Beatles (White Album)
10 Soundtrack - West Side Story

(c) 2007 Text: Sharon Mawer / Contact: Sharon Mawer
(c) 2007 All chart information: The Official UK Charts Company

Top of the page