Remembering 1968: The Music of 50 Years Ago!

By Carolyn Bower | October 1st, 2018

Do you remember these Billboard hits?

Music_1960s records

Flower Power, Haight-Ashbury, Psychedelic Vibes, Protest Songs and yes, even Bubblegum Pop. Those were the sights and sounds of 50 years ago – 1968. Music was changing and diversity was ever present. Do you recall these Billboard hits from that year and the artists who sang them?

  • “Reach Out of the Darkness” climbed to #10 on Billboards’s Top 100 in 1968. The tune was sung by Friend & Lover, aka husband and wife folk-singing duo Jim and Cathy Post. The tune was written by Jim Post and was the only major hit for Friend & Lover. The couple later divorced and each remarried. Cathy died in July 2018 at the age of 73. Jim Post, now 78, has continued in music, recording albums for Flying Fish Records and Fantasy Records. He has also done one-man shows, performing as Mark Twain. Post has also written several children’s books with his wife Janet. His website details his diverse songwriting and performing history.
  • “Pictures of Matchstick Men” topped the charts at #12 that year. It was the first smash single for the British group Status Quo. The band eventually moved from psychedelic to heavy rock and recorded on the Vertigo Label, where they had several chart toppers in the UK. Status Quo has seen many changes in band members, as several have passed away and some have gone on to other endeavors. The current band members include: Francis Rossi, the last original member, John Edwards, Andy Brown and Leon Cave. According to their website , they are actively touring throughout Europe. Status Quo has sold over 110 million records worldwide.
  • “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight” peaked at #8 in the Top 100. The song, written, produced and performed by Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart, sold over a million records. The duo wrote songs for The Monkees, Jay & The Americans, Paul Revere & The Raiders and many more. As partners, Boyce & Hart sold over 42 million records. After parting ways as a duo, Boyce went to England where he produced hit records for Darts, a UK doo-wop revival band. Eventually, Boyce returned to Tennessee, where he taught songwriting. Sadly, in 1994, Tommy Boyce committed suicide at the age of 55. Bobby Hart, aka Robert Luke Harshman, co-wrote music for the TV shows Scooby-Doo, Josie & The Pussycats & The Partridge Family. In 1980, The First Bobby Hart Solo Album was released, but only in a few markets. 7A Records reissued this album in 2016. Hart, now 79, also co-wrote with Glenn Ballentyne, a memoir titled Psychedelic Bubble Gum, published in 2015 by SelectBooks, Inc. Hart’s website details his career with photos and information.
  • “Master Jack”, sung by the South African folk-rock group Four Jacks & A Jill, hit #18 in 1968. The group included Clive Harding, Till Hannemann, Bruce Bark, Tony Hughes and Glenys Lynne. They are the only South African group to have had three songs enter Billboard’s Top 100, “Master Jack’ being the most successful. They later recorded songs for charities in their native country. The group disbanded in 1983, when Harding and Lynne married and changed their focus and commitment to gospel music. After many requests from the public, the group decided to re-form in 2000. They’ve since recorded over 30 CD’s. Today, Four Jacks & A Jill maintain a website, which includes a history, information and photos.
  • “Simon Says” was #4 in 1968 and “1-2-3 Red Light” hit #5. Those chart toppers were performed by the New Jersey group, The 1910 Fruitgum Company. The band formed in 1966 and according to legend, took its name from a discovered gum wrapper. “Simon Says” sold more than 3½ million records and “1-2-3 Red Light” sold over 1 million. The group disbanded just two years later in 1970. In 1999, original member Frank Jeckell and Mick Mansueto put the band together again. Other current members are: Glenn Lewis, Keith Crane and Bob Brescia. They tour and perform at various venues throughout the U.S. Their website lists tour information, news and photos.

Long before CD’s, MP3 players and streaming, in 1968 these hit songs were listened to on transistor radios and vinyl records. Today, these musicians and their 60’s performances can be viewed on YouTube and the songs listened to on iTunes, Spotify and Pandora. Many of these artists remain active in music, whether performing, songwriting or producing; music remains a part of their lives. As Louis Armstrong once said, “Musicians don’t retire: they stop when there’s no more music in them.” And so for many, 50 years later, the music plays on.

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