Radio Hits November 1968: Fantasy Will Set You Free

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Derek Cinnamon

Who is Derek? (Answer is below)

In late November 1968, The Beatles released the double album usually referred to as the White Album. USC running back OJ Simpson was awarded the Heisman Trophy.

And on San Francisco’s Top 40 KFRC, it was an incredible week for lots of songs that would stand the test of time.

Bubbling under and entering the chart at #30 (on its way to becoming a #5 hit nationally in early 1969) was B.J. Thomas‘ terrific “Hooked on a Feeling.” What a great vocal! )And that iconic sitar on the song was performed by guitarist Reggie Young, who played on an estimated 150 Top 40 hits. Read more about Young’s legacy here.)

Related: We talked to Thomas about the song in 2020

Debuting at #28 was blue-eyed soul singer Dusty Springfield with “Son of a Preacher Man.” The song would ultimately reach #10. Check out that attitude…

Canned Heat‘s “Going Up the Country” began its run at #26. (We told you this was a great week…) The blues-rock band would earn their highest-charting hit at #11.

This is crazy: Joe Cocker‘s cover of “With a Little Help From My Friends” jumped this week from #19 to #15. But KFRC was way ahead of everyone else: despite the song going to #1 in the U.K., it would stall in the U.S. at #68. That certainly didn’t prevent him from earning a signature moment at Woodstock in August 1969.

Leaping to #11 (from #22) was Marvin Gaye‘s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” which would become the first of his three #1 pop hits.

Onto the Top 10: at #8 was Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride.” Earlier in the year, the hard rock group had scored a #2 hit with “Born To Be Wild.” They quickly followed it up with another amazing song that truly helped define the era and whose lyrics were filled with wild imagery. To wit: “Why don’t you tell your dreams to me/Fantasy will set you free.” A crime it didn’t reach #1, peaking at #3.

Raise your hand if you’ve heard the #7 song “Cinnamon” lately, which was credited to “Derek.” The performer was, in fact, a singer, songwriter and producer named Johnny Cymbal (which itself was a stage name for John Blair). Confused? Well, we are too. Want more? Johnny’s brother’s actual name was Derek. A good song regardless of who sang it.

By November 1968, Stevie Wonder was earning his 18th Hot 100 hit of his career at – get this – the age of only 18 with “For Once In My Life.” It was #4 this week on its way to #2 nationally.

Here’s another example of how radio audiences and radio station programmers differ throughout the country: while Creedence Clearwater Revival’s cover of the Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ 1956 composition “I Put A Spell On You” was at #3 in San Francisco this week, the song only peaked at #58 nationally.

Judy Collins recorded Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides, Now” in 1967. It was released as a single in October 1968 and her gorgeous rendition became the highest charting single of her career, reaching #8 on the Hot 100, her only Top 10 chart hit.

At #1? Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman,” one of many Jimmy Webb compositions that the singer recorded. (Others prominently include “Galveston” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.”) Though “Lineman” would only reach #3 on the Hot 100, it topped the Country and Adult Contemporary charts.

30. “Hooked on a Feeling” – B.J. Thomas

28. “Son of a Preacher Man” – Dusty Springfield

26. “Going Up the Country” – Canned Heat

15. “With a Little Help From My Friends” – Joe Cocker

11. “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” – Marvin Gaye

10. “Lo Mucho Que Te Quiero” – Rene and Rene

9. ” The Straight Life” – Bobby Goldsboro

8. “Magic Carpet Ride” – Steppenwolf

7. “Scarborough Fair” – Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66

6. “Who’s Making Love” – Johnny Taylor

5. “Cinnamon” – Derek

4. “For Once in My Life” – Stevie Wonder

3. “I Put a Spell on You” – Creedence Clearwater Revival

2. “Both Sides Now” – Judy Collins

1. “Wichita Lineman” – Glen Campbell

Best Classic Bands Staff

4 Comments so far

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  1. recordhound
    #1 recordhound 29 November, 2017, 05:43

    While I always enjoy reading these articles, I must point out something that is extremely inaccurate (historical). Nixon was not President in November 1968, but he was elected then (first time), so there is no way there could be an 18 1/2 minute gap in the White House Tapes when he wasn’t even in office yet.

    Reply this comment
    • Greg Brodsky
      Greg Brodsky 29 November, 2017, 08:24

      Thanks for pointing that out! Due to an editing error, the setup included some events from November 1973.

      Reply this comment
  2. Willydog
    #2 Willydog 29 November, 2017, 05:56

    Richard Nixon wasn’t elected President until November 1968. The famous “I am not a crook” quote came after Watergate (1972). Believe me…I am old enough to remember!

    Reply this comment
  3. GG
    #3 GG 18 November, 2019, 11:00

    “Johnny Cymbal” had an earlier catchy hit with “Hey Mr. Bassman”…..”I want to be a Bassman too!”

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