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Number 36

Bobbie Gentry - Ode to Billie Joe (Capitol CL 15511 - 1967)

During the so-called Summer of Love, 1967 saw the charts dominated by everything from Scott Mckenzie advising us to go to San Francisco and to be sure to wear flowers in our hair, the Beatles told us that all we really needed was love and Procol Harum confused us all with the lyrics on A Whiter Shade of Pale, whilst the more middle of the road easy listening audience were sending songs like Release Me, Georgie Girl and Puppet on a String to the upper reaches of the UK charts. One of the unexpected hits of '67 was by an up to then little known country singer from Chickasaw, County Mississippi, who that year released a single called Mississippi Delta, the B Side being the much more interesting bluesy ballad Ode to Billie Joe, which soon became known all over the world. What made this Southern Gothic tale so appealing was the way in which the narrator almost stoically relayed the story of an apparent suicide whilst a family sat around the dinner table casually chatting about it. A few years ago I sat in a bar in Nashville and heard the song once again and decided then that Ode to Billie Joe deserved a place in the little orange box.