Radio Hits in August 1968 Were a Gas

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In mid-summer 1968, Richard Nixon had just been nominated to be the presidential candidate at the Republican National Convention. The soap opera One Life to Live premiered on ABC where it would remain for 43 years.

And classic rock songs dominated the Top 10 in the Windy City this week 50 years ago on WLS Chicago, long a sister station of WABC New York. The two stations shared the Musicradio moniker but were programmed separately. But getting your song played on either influential 50,000 watt clear channel station, meant you had a crack at really breaking through nationally during their heyday when AM Top 40 was king.

Bubbling under at #22 was the Beach Boys‘ “Do it Again.” While it would hit #1 in the U.K., it only reached #20 on the Billboard U.S. singles chart.

The Mamas & the Papas‘ “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” with a great vocal by Mama Cass, was at #20.

At #18, was the Vanilla Fudge‘s cover of the Holland-Dozier-Holland song “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” A tip of the cap to BCB reader “Chatterdj” who points out that the single became a hit a year after the Fudge had originally released it.

At #10, “Sunshine Of Your Love” was one of Cream’s two biggest hits. Since we’re always trying to help Best Classic Bands‘ readers win bar bets, here’s a wild fact: the song peaked at #5 in the U.S. but only #25 in the U.K.

The Doors are loved two times on the chart. Once with “Hello, I Love You” (at #4), which would become their second #1 pop hit following 1967’s “Light My Fire.” José Feliciano covered the latter and completely transformed it in ’68, ultimately earning the blind guitarist a Grammy.

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“People Got To Be Free,” a timely song for a turbulent era, was the third (and final) #1 hit for the New Jersey-based The Rascals.

Mason Williams’ day job was as an Emmy Award-winning writer for the hit CBS-TV variety show The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. But he’s perhaps best known for this week’s #2, his instrumental hit, “Classical Gas.” Click on the video and listen to how beautiful the guitar playing is. And that musicianship? None other than the L.A. studio musicians known as The Wrecking Crew.

The much-covered “Born To Be Wild” was the biggest hit of Steppenwolf’s career, peaking at #2 nationally and the perfect song for the Easy Rider opening credits.

With “Sunshine Of Your Love” as a bookend on the Top 10 with “Born To Be Wild” on this survey, it’s a reminder of how hard the Top 40 rocked in the late ‘60s.

22. “Do it Again” – The Beach Boys (Capitol)

20. “Dream a Little Dream of Me” – The Mamas & the Papas (ABC/Dunhill)

18. “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” – Vanilla Fudge (Atco)

10. “Sunshine Of Your Love” – Cream (Atco)

9. “Stay In My Corner” – The Dells (Cadet)

8. “Light My Fire” – Jose Feliciano (RCA)

7. “1, 2, 3 Red Light” – 1910 Fruitgum Co. (Buddah)

6. “Turn Around Look At Me” – The Vogues (Reprise)

5. “Sealed With A Kiss” – Gary Lewis (Liberty)

4. “Hello, I Love You” – The Doors (Elektra)

3. “People Got To Be Free” – The Rascals (Atlantic)

2. “Classical Gas” – Mason Williams (Warner Bros.)

1. “Born To Be Wild” – Steppenwolf (ABC/Dunhill)

Best Classic Bands Staff

5 Comments so far

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  1. RevDek
    #1 RevDek 25 August, 2021, 02:08

    Which “Classical Gas” was this. He made two versions of this number, but the second which seems to be played more often on radio, is not a patch on the original in my view.

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  2. Rock N Roll Rick
    #2 Rock N Roll Rick 25 August, 2022, 18:26

    Some of the greatest hits came out between 1967 to 1969!! Could you imagine being 9 to 11 Years old and hearing such great music!!I listen to this music to this day.ROCK ON!!!!!

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  3. Norm
    #3 Norm 19 August, 2023, 01:14

    I was listening to a lot of these songs in the summer of 1968 and some of these singles was often on my record player, but where are these great 45s of my summer of 68: Hurdy Gurdy Man of Donovan, Sky Pilot of Eric Burdon & The Animals, Journey to The Center of The Mind by The Amboy Dukes and, above all, Jumpin’ Jack Flash by you know who… probably between numbers 11 and 17, I guess 😉

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  4. Budman
    #4 Budman 19 August, 2023, 14:37

    I thought Hush got to #4 in ’68….or not til ’69 ?

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    • Greg Brodsky
      Greg Brodsky 19 August, 2023, 15:12

      Budman… “Hush” did reach #1 in the U.S. in late September ’68. This particular chart is from WLS in Chicago.

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