The past ten posts on Music History have sampled a run of great instrumentals that livened albums and took over the pop chart in 1968. From early progressive rock through film music and R&B, here’s the rundown:
1. “The Mental Traveler" by David Axelrod
2. “Taurus" by Spirit
4. “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" by Hugo Montenegro & His Orchestra
5. “Hang ‘Em High" by Booker T. & the MG’s
6. “Grazing in the Grass" by Hugh Masekela
7. “Soulful Strut" by Young-Holt Unlimited
8. “The Horse" by Cliff Nobles & Co.
9. “L’Amour Est Bleu (Love Is Blue)" by Paul Mauriat
10. “Classical Gas" by Mason Williams
Was this preponderance of great instrumentals anomalous even by 1960s standards? Maybe. The Billboard Hot 100 chart for the week beginning August 4, 1968, contained three instrumentals in the top eight positions. “Classical Gas” was at its peak position (#2), “Grazing in the Grass” (#4) was just beginning its decent after peaking at #1 the previous two weeks, and “The Horse” was still at #8 after peaking at #2 the first three weeks in July. In fact, for seven consecutive weeks one of these instrumentals was at either #1 or #2 (and the following week had one at #3). I’m not an expert, nor do I have time to scan the whole archive, but I doubt that ever happened before or since.
Throw in that the #2 song of the year (on Billboard’s year-end chart) was a different instrumental (“Love Is Blue”) and the #8 song of the year (“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”) was yet another and we’re looking at quite a rare occurrence.