Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Party Like It's Almost 1969

As you prepare for this year's New Year's Eve festivities, here's a little party music for you from 1968, courtesy of the fine folks at WCOL, AM 1230, in Columbus, Ohio.

Someone (whose tapes I bought at least three decades later) made the wonderful choice to record much of that station's year end countdown of the biggest hits of the year. Unfortunately, some of the DJ chatter is cut out, as are all of the commercials. And not all of the songs are represented here (many from lower down on the list are cut). But what's here is great stuff, if you're into top 40 radio recordings.

For example, while the number one song is quite predictable (it was the biggest hit record of the era), several of the top 15 hits of the year came nowhere near that lofty finish on any nationwide charts - for example, who would expect "Dock of the Bay" to be sitting outside of the top ten, pushed out by the likes of "Bottle of Wine" by the Fireballs? And the year end number FIVE hit - well it's a song which only got to number 17 in its regular chart run in Billboard. And in other spots on the chart there are similar regional hits, much bigger here than they were nationally.

Oddly, after playing the number five song, the DJ cuts back to two songs from much lower down in the countdown, which apparently were skipped for some reason. We get to hear those, but sadly, there's not even a moment of song number three, which was skipped entirely, by whoever recorded the countdown, so I guess we'll never know what that song was..

The tape contained the majority of the countdown on the first side of the tape, and that is the first segment here, running about 94 minutes. It ends with the celebration of the new year, 1969, as it arrives, with an idiosyncratic version of Auld Lang Syne (heard during most of the last 90 seconds of segment one) which is worth hearing. The remainder of the countdown (36 minutes) is on side two, and that is the second segment (it starts with a few seconds of a news broadcast, which was then erased).

(Not included is the remainder of side two, which features an aggressively uninspired Tom Jones album, a few tracks from Elvis movies, and some of Glenn Miller's biggest hits, in what sound like hi-fi note-for-note recreations of the originals. Bleah.)

Put on your funny hats and Welcome-1969 glasses, and enjoy the broadcast!

Download: WCOL, AM 1230, Columbus Ohio, Top Hits of 1968 - Part One

Download: WCOL, AM 1230, Columbus Ohio, Top Hits of 1968 - Part Two

UPDATE, 1/7/16: Frequent commenter and general wonderful helper to this site Timmy has shared both a link to some history of WCOL, which you can find here, and also a copy of the station's Top 100 of 1968, in which we can see that the #3 song of the year was "Lady Madonna", which barely made the top four in it's regular Billboard run, nationally, in the early part of that year.

Thanks, Timmy!


  1. Bob, did you get the scans I sent you of the complete 100 songs they played?


  2. Bob, I keep coming back several days after you've made another significant post. I need one of those special watches that alerts me whenever you're making another post on this blog!

    This sounds like a priceless recording. You're right, the commercials and topical DJ banter would offer so much more color to this period recording, but what are you gonna do? The music and occasion ought to be enough info, anyways. Thank you for this ingenious recording!!

  3. This is wonderful, Bob. I can't wait to listen to it in toto. I'm pretty sure that at some point you recorded (or your brother did) a lot of the 1968 WLS top 89 as well...

  4. And how the HELL did "Sometimes You Just Can't Win" by Mouse & the Traps end up a bigger hit than "MacArthur Park"?!?

  5. Great to be made aware of this - I just sent the link to Lou Henry. Get the book on Columbus Radio

  6. Hi Bob (and professor Adams),

    Glad I ran across this.

    I wonder if I listened to this when it was live on air.

    I grew up with WCOL and actually worked there while I was in high school.

    Best to you.