Features

Chart toppers

1968 | Four No. 1 Albums from 1968

Issue: "Summer of '68," Aug. 9, 2008

The Beatles

The Beatles

Style: A lot of rock 'n' roll and a little bit of everything else, with almost all of its 30 tracks an FM-radio classic; the best-selling Beatles album and one of the top-10 best-selling albums of all time (aka The White Album).

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Cautions: "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" (Paul McCartney's tribute to the casual copulation habits of monkeys in India).

Worldview: "When you talk about destruction, / don't you know that you can count me out" ("Revolution").

Overall quality: An enduringly fascinating "helter skelter" pop-music tabula rasa.

Magical Mystery Tour

The Beatles

Style: A late-1967 release whose eight-week run atop Billboard's chart extended into 1968; half a soundtrack to the experimental film of the same name and half previously ungathered singles.

Worldview: Alexander Pope-ish pseudo-wisdom ("Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be") and its nonsensical variants ("There's nothing you can do that can't be done") ("All You Need Is Love").

Overall quality: Like every other Beatles album from Rubber Soul onward, a greatest-hits package unto itself; ace comic relief: the deliberately obfuscating "I Am the Walrus."

Bookends

Simon & Garfunkel

Style: A folk-rock -staple that in tandem with The Graduate soundtrack found Simon & Garfunkel atop the Billboard chart for 16 consecutive weeks in 1968.

Worldview: "And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson, / Jesus loves you more than you will know. / God bless you, please, Mrs. Robinson, / Heaven holds a place for those who pray."

Overall quality: The "sensitive" songs have aged badly; the fun songs have aged as well as "I Am the Walrus" (with which, coincidentally, "Mrs. Robinson" shares the lyric "Coo coo ca-choo").

Blooming hits

Paul Mauriat

Style: Featuring "L'amour Est Bleu (Love Is Blue)" plus easy-listening versions of The Beatles' "Penny Lane," Herman's Hermits' "(There's a) Kind of Hush," and Frank & Nancy Sinatra's "Somethin' Stupid"; the best-selling album in the U.S. throughout March 1968.

Worldview: "Mauriat's artistry is on an entirely -different wavelength. "Listen! And you'll hear the new sound for the now -generation" (from the -original liner notes).

Overall quality: Actually, the "old sound for the then generation" would have been more accurate, but Mauriat's "Love Is Blue" remains definitive.

Spotlight

Unless Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass' The Beat of the Brass (which hit No. 1 five months later) counts, the five chart-topping weeks of the late Paul Mauriat's 1968 album Blooming Hits marked the end of an era-not the era of novelty instrumental hits (Mason Williams' "Classical Gas" appeared later in 1968, and the 1970s would yield Hot Butter's "Popcorn," Walter Murphy's "A Fifth of Beethoven," and Frank Mills' "Music Box Dancer") but the era of scoring mass success with albums consisting of easy-listening -versions of recently popular songs.

While Blooming Hits wouldn't have sold nearly as well without "L'Amour Est Bleu (Love Is Blue)," each of its 10 songs gives off a similar jaded elegance that even now is not without its charms. And, if "Love Is Blue" hadn't sated the appetite for such stuff, "Seuls Au Monde," "Inch Allah," or "Adieu a la Nuit" might well have become equally well-known examples of musical Art Deco.

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