For reference, here are the last five entries I’ve covered in my Billboard Hot 100 challenge:
– Teen Beat: Billboard’s Hot 100 of 1959
– Alley Oop: Billboard’s Hot 100 of 1960
– I Like It Like That: Billboard’s Hot 100 of 1961
– Twistin’ the Night Away: Billboard’s Hot 100 of 1962
– It’s My Party: Billboard’s Hot 100 of 1963
In an continuing trend through this Billboard challenge, the year-end Hot 100 of 1964 is only an improvement from its predecessors, most of which aren’t particularly bad years in music at all. I’d say that I found about 75% of the songs on this list completely, perfectly enjoyable, compared to an average of about 50-60% in previous years’ lists. It’s also definitely the one year in which I’ve hated the least amount of songs. In comparison to past years, which were (with some exception) mostly steeped in Teen Idols and pop-fused rock singles, 1964 brought in a whole bunch of new musicians, songwriters, and producers to the table, with unique styles unparalleled by anything of the past. As a result, this year sounds genuinely fresh, fun, and a sure sign of much more exciting things to come.
One of the major musical trends that erupted this year was what has come to be known as the British Invasion. Distinct from the rock ‘n’ roll scene in the states, which was always based in middle-class rural suburbia, rock music from the UK possessed more urban and industrial roots. Rather than the clean-cut performers that played American music, British rock was a bit closer to American pop and R&B music, in that its interests lay in melodies and performing music to dance to. In fact, many hit R&B singles featured on American charts were frequently covered by these groups – examples including The Dave Clark Five’s “Do You Love Me” (#91) and The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” (#40). Also influenced by “skiffle” music – such as that played by Lonnie Donegan, these British musicians found much appeal in the rebellious tone of US rock ‘n’ roll, appropriating this genre as a whole for their own and running with it completely.
In total, there are thirteen British Invasion bands and solo musicians on this Hot 100, presented across twenty-eight entries – over a quarter of the list! It’s clear to see that dubbing this change in musical climate an “invasion” is no exaggeration. But in order to understand the reasons for this music’s sudden burst in popularity, it’s important to comprehend the unprecedented influence of the band that started it all. I’m talking about The Beatles, of course. In truth, the Beatles craze had already begun in the UK a year earlier, with the success of their singles “Love Me Do” (#14) and “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (#1). Their popularity only skyrocketed when they made their way to the states, for a history-making appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show that stands as the quintessential bridging of music right into the TV generation. Soon, Beatles records made up a full 60% of the singles market, so the reports say. Beatlemania was in full gear, which led for a desire by the general public for anything British, hence the onslaught of the British Invasion. This was also the start for a more melody-driven, fresh, invigorating form of rock ‘n’ roll, a sound that would come to define the 60s music scene in later years.
Beatlemania is not a force to be taken lightly. At one point in ’64, they had occupied all top five spots in the Hot 100; during this same period, they held fourteen singles on the chart overall, beating out Elvis Presley’s previous record of nine. This year-end list contains nine Beatles singles itself, with two of them – “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” – occupying the top two positions. Three more – “A Hard Day’s Night” (#13), “Love Me Do” (#14), and “Please Please Me” (#16) – can be found in the top twenty. However, it should be noted that their other songs found on this list – “Twist and Shout”, “Can’t Buy Me Love” (#52), “Do You Want to Know a Secret” (#55), and “I Saw Her Standing There” (#95) – were still some of the most wildly popular singles from this year. The fact that one band alone makes up nearly 10% of the list as a whole, especially in a year full of exciting singles and performers, should indicate their importance and influence.
Now that the mandatory Beatles portion of this post is out of the way, I’d like to shed some light on the second of two British bands that attained great amounts of popularity in the states. While the Beatles are still honored, appreciated, and celebrated up until this very day, significantly less fuss has been made about The Dave Clark Five. I’m really perplexed as to why this is; although their visibility on this Hot 100 does not stand up to that of the Fab Four, they still occupied five spaces on this list which is more than most artists accomplish in a single year. What’s more is that these are all great, terrific, fun songs, driven by some of the coolest keyboard riffs imaginable, so their fame isn’t incomprehensible in the slightest. Some of my personal favorites include the R&B-tinged “Can’t You See That She’s Mine” (#67), the lovely ballad “Because” (#63), and the way-too-catchy “Bits and Pieces” (#45); the highest-ranking on this list, however, is “Glad All Over” (#23). The strengths of their singles in the US meant that they were more popular here than in their home country. Nonetheless, my guess is that their strengths were overlooked by Beatlemania; moreover, I can see that non-stop comparisons to the Beatles would prevent their unique musical personality from being totally evident by the public as a whole. Still, I find them to be just as fun and prolific as anyone else, and they’ve certainly got a new fan in me.
As mentioned earlier, there were a large number of other British bands that passed through the airwaves this year. Some of the best singles on this year’s Hot 100 from other bands of the British Invasion include Peter and Gordon’s “A World Without Love” (#30) (written by Paul McCartney), Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas “Bad To Me” (#97) (written by John Lennon), The Searchers’ “Don’t Throw Your Love Away” (#87), The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” (#78), Chad & Jeremy’s “A Summer Song” (#50), The Animals’ “The House of the Rising Sun” (#38), and Manfred Mann’s “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” (#15). With just a brief listen to each of these tracks, all with much variation in style and content, it’s apparent that a new landscape of rock music is just around the corner.
Despite this emergence of talented, exciting figures onto the pop and rock music scene, there are some inevitable drawbacks to 1964’s music scene. One of the more troubling issues is the utter lack of women on this year’s Hot 100, certainly in comparison to some of the past years which have recently come across vast improvements. In total, there are only twenty-eight women present on the list, across only nineteen entries. It’s been a few years since women have occupied so little visibility in comparison to their male counterparts, but this further demonstrates that the gender inequality in the music industry is something very real and has never really been “fixed”. This particular instance also specifically indicates that the British Invasion is very much a “boy’s only” club, as Dusty Springfield’s “Wishin’ and Hopin'” (#35) is one of the only entries from a female British musician. Sure, The Honeycombs’ “Have I The Right?” (#31) feature a female drummer and were certainly one of the few bands at the time who did so, but that’s hardly a compromise.
The good news is that almost every single one of the entries from women on this list is absolutely wonderful. Lesley Gore makes a particularly notable comeback, with her powerful proto-feminist tune, “You Don’t Own Me” (#36). It’s also hard denying the power and emotion behind Dionne Warwick’s classic, “Anyone Who Had A Heart” (#71). One of my favorite girl groups, The Shangri-La’s, makes a couple of appearances on this list as well, with their classic, “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” (#53), as well as their campy subversion of the usually-insufferable “teen tragedy” genre, “Leader of the Pack” (#68). Nancy Wilson’s unique style of singing in “(You Don’t Know) How Glad I Am” (#85) is hard to forget, as is the cute, poppy charms of Millie’s “My Boy Lollipop” (#46), one of the best-selling ska singles of all time. Finally, the inclusion Barbra Streisand’s beautiful, timeless, “People” (#11) reminds us that ladies always do it much better and are always a force to be reckoned with.
Just like the previous year, this year features some artists and songs that indicate the rise in influence of the Motown label and its performers. After a year of absence from the Hot 100, the “Queen of Motown” Mary Wells makes a reappearance with her soulful hit, “My Guy” (#7), which was written by Smokey Robinson and quite possibly her most definitive single. Robinson’s group The Miracles is nowhere to be found this year, but a good number of other influential Motown groups are introduced, such as Four Tops with, “Baby I Need Your Loving” (#57), The Temptations with, “The Way You Do the Things You Do” (#70), and The Supremes with “Baby Love” (#33) and “Where Did Our Love Go” (#10). Finally, Martha & The Vandellas continue with their sparkling winning streak with the super classic, “Dancing in the Street” (#17). These songs are frequently mentioned as some of the greatest of all time, perfectly definitively of the blues-and-soul-infused sound that Motown groups perfected so well.
With the monumental success of these Motown artists also came a great number of R&B artists who also competed for a piece of fame and fortune as well. Besides Dionne Warwick, Betty Everett also stands as the only other solo female performer on this chart with two singles: “Let It Be Me” (#34), a rousing cover of the Everly Brothers classic (performed with Jerry Butler), and “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)” (#44), a truly fun song that has been covered numerous times since. There are a great number of other songs present that have been considered bonafide 60s R&B classics, including Tommy Tucker’s “Hi-Heel Sneakers” (#88), The Drifters’ “Under The Boardwalk” (#20), The Impressions’ “I’m So Proud” (#80) and “Keep On Pushing” (#56), and The Dixie Cups’ “Chapel of Love” (#21). While most of the fuss surrounding this year has been made about British groups – The Beatles, overwhelmingly so – it goes to show that there is absolutely no shortage in the quality of other genres as well.
In general, there have been many singles from the past couple of years that seemed to follow a steady trend of containing certain lyrics or just possessing a style that overall signified an admiration and adoration for sun, surf, and summer. Nat King Cole’s “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer” is a notable example of this from 1963. Examples from this year include Gale Garnett’s “We’ll Sing in the Sunshine” (#8), “Under The Boardwalk”, “A Summer Song” , and “Remember (Walking in the Sand)”. It seems that the music industry was finally starting to cash in on the appeal that teenagers held for summer-themed music; this is most prominently seen in surf music, which continued to proliferate in ’64. This year, the big surf pop-rock hit of the Hot 100 is The Beach Boys’ “I Get Around” (#5). Prominently led by the notable vocals of Mike Love and Brian Wilson, this song is probably one of the most definitive of the surf-pop that the Boys released in their early days. The B-side to this song, the melancholy ballad “Don’t Worry Baby”, is also probably one of the best songs the group ever recorded in their career.
However, unlike last year, which seemed to enjoy its proliferation of rock instrumental bands as unique and cool as The Chantays and The Surfaris, ’64 seems more enamored with churning out what feel like blatant imitations of The Beach Boys. One of the more obvious of these groups is Jan & Dean, especially with “The Little Old Lady From Pasadena” (#48), which practically copies the baritone-falsetto juxtaposition found in “I Get Around, as well as other Beach Boys hits. A much more fun, distinct, surf rock copycat can be found with Ronny & The Daytona’s “G.T.O.” (#39) – still with the falsetto, but salvaged by a truly awesome melody and hook. Also notable are The Rip Chords’ “Hey Little Cobra” (#43) and The Hondell’s “Little Honda” (#61) – the latter of which is a funky ditty about cars, but probably really about sex. It wouldn’t surprise me if Bruce Springsteen took a few notes from all of these car songs.
- In case it hasn’t been noticed yet, I did mention in my 1963 post that I found a strange lack of The Kingmen’s “Louie, Louie” in that list. This was my mistake, as the song actually gained popularity late enough into ’63 that it was included in the year-end Hot 100 of 1964 instead, at #99. Out of all the songs on this list, this one probably has the most interesting history. During the height of its airplay, many conservative officials were concerned over the nature of its lyrics, since in the original recording the vocals are nearly undecipherable. Soon, it became subject of an FBI investigation over the supposed obscenity of its lyrics – a trial that ended without prosecution, as the obscenity is plainly nonexistent. I don’t want to go too much into detail over the accusations, but this site sums it up pretty well.
- Bobby Vinton’s “There! I’ve Said It Again” (#98) may seem relatively unimportant; frankly speaking, it’s one of the weakest songs I’ve heard of his thus far. However, it’s frequently noted as the last true hit single of the pre-Beatles era of pop music, as the week following its rise to #1 was cut short by the success of “I Want To Hold Your Hand”. Could this be the end of the Teen Idol phase? We’ll just have to wait and see.
- One of the most plainly amusing musicians to be found on this list is novelty country artist Roger Miller. He has two songs on this year’s Hot 100 – “Dang Me” (#83) and “Chug-A-Lug” (#82). I’m still not completely sure what “Dang Me is about, but the chorus and scat-infused hook are something rather unique and fully welcome. “Chug-A-Lug”, on the other hand, is a humorous anecdote on teen drinking, something that I never would’ve thought to come out of this era! In either case, they’re both great and warm additions to this list.
- I’ve already mentioned the use of falsetto vocals, popularized by Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, further integrated into songs from The Hondells, Jan & Dean, Ronny & the Daytonas, and The Rip Chords. However, it’s also very prominently used by the vocalists of The Four Seasons (e.g. “Ronnie” (#74)) and The Newbeats (“Bread and Butter” (#26)). Long story short, I’m a pretty huge fan of this trend as a whole, and I hope it continues for many more years.
- This year’s Hot 100 features the least amount of instrumental tracks thus far, with only five. I have a feeling that this number is only bound to get smaller, but the good news is that all of these singles are absolutely wonderful. In relative dominance here is Al Hirt, whose “Java” (#12) and “Cotton Candy” (#84) exemplify his own unique brand of trumpeteering boogie. The Marketts’ “Out of Limits” (#60) is simply like nothing else I’ve heard before; it’s what would play in the background if James Bond decided to take up surfing. The Ventures make a reappearance here with “Walk, Don’t Run ’64” (#90), a revamp of their classic proto-surf rock hit, just as sharp and fresh as the first. Finally, Robert Maxwell’s “Shangri-La” (#92) is absolutely, perfectly sumptuous and sexy – it’s title perfectly fitting for its sound.
- Two of the more unusual entries in the top ten of this year’s list are Dean Martin’s “Everybody Loves Somebody” (#6) and Louis Armstrong’s “Hello Dolly!” (#3). During a time when the airwaves were flooded with musicians in their 20s or younger, Martin and Armstrong were much older (forty-seven and sixty-three in ’64, respectively) and, in general, stood as signifiers of much older genres of music, relatively unappealing to the rock ‘n’ roll crowd. Still, the success of these two singles – widely considered among their most popular hits – show that there’s always room for traditional pop and jazz among an ever-changing musical landscape.
And now for my top six songs of this year. Overall, this was a really terrific year and I had a really hard time narrowing it down to just six (I’m limiting myself to no more than 5-6 a year). Therefore, here’s a really long list of honorable mentions!
Honorable mentions: “I Saw Her Standing There” (#95), “Dang Me” (#83), “Baby I Need Your Loving” (#57), “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” (#53),“My Boy Lollipop” (#46), “You Don’t Own Me” (#36), “Dancing in the Street” (#17), “Love Me Do” (#14), “A Hard Day’s Night” (#13), “Where Did Our Love Go” (#10), “My Guy” (#7), “I Get Around” (#5), “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (#1)
6) “The Girl From Ipanema” (#51)
Since Getz/Gilberto is one of my very favorite albums from the 60s, it should be no surprise that this full-bodied classic would end up on my top six this year. The combination of João Gilberto’s sultry Portuguese verse with Astrud Gilberto’s lovely lyrics sung in English is for the ages. Stan Getz’s legendary saxophone playing is the icing on the cake; there’s certainly no questioning how this has become a bonafide classic in the art of bossa nova.
5) “Surfin’ Bird” (#75)
On the other side of the spectrum, we have one-hit-wonder-band The Trashmen’s only really recognizable hit. Thankfully, it’s an awesome one. It’s one of the weirdest, most nonsensical songs to come upon any of the Hot 100 lists thus far. In fact, though, it’s actually a combination of lyrics from two already-existing songs, done at a more quicker pace and much less sharper production. Still, as an admirer of punk rock (and The Cramps, who were definitely inspired by this band), it’s hard for me to not get up out of my seat once those first lines pop up: “Well, everybody’s heard about the bird”.
4) “Under The Boardwalk” (#20)
I’ve sang my praises for The Drifters in past posts, but I do believe that “Under The Boardwalk” marks their peak as musicians and vocalists. In days where doo-wop seems to be losing its luster and popularity among the younger crowds, they come in with this beautiful song that squeezes just a bit of life back into the genre. I think this song is one of the most definitive of the hot, nostalgic days of summer romance out there. Plus I just love the line, “your shoes get so hot, you wish your tired feet were fireproof”. Johnny Moore may not be as vibrant a lead vocalist as Ben E. King was, but he’s still mighty talented, and with a song as wonderful as this, I do believe that’s enough.
3) “You Really Got Me” (#78)
I already sang the praises of The Beatles enough to go without adding them to any part of my top six; instead, my focus should go towards other British Invasion bands. Out of all the songs from British musicians on this list, The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” has got to be one of the plain coolest. Taking cues from Link Wray, Dave Davies really takes the power chord to its full potential; unusual for most songs, the lyrics and melody are actually built around this guitar riff, not vice versa. The words themselves aren’t really anything to marvel at, nor is the vocal performance of Ray Davies. But boy, this song is so damn catchy, I can’t help but love it.
2) “The Way You Do the Things You Do” (#70)
Show me a cute, catchy, cleverly-written love song and I’ll almost guarantee to sing my praises for it until the sun goes down. The Temptations’ “The Way You Do The Things You Do” is exactly this, with songwriting credit once again given to Smokey Robinson. The first verse alone is perfect: “You’ve got a smile so bright / You know you could have been a candle / I’m holding you so tight / You know you could have been a handle / The way you swept me off my feet / You know you could have been a broom / The way you smell so sweet / You know you could have been some perfume”. It’s clear to see now that everything this man touches turns to gold, and the awesome vocal stylings from this “fab five” doesn’t hurt as well. It’s the song that every teenager who’s been in love (including myself) could have written to their crush or S.O. It’s just so delightful.
1) “The House of the Rising Sun” (#38)
I remember some years ago, I took a History of Rock ‘n’ Roll class in high school. Our teacher taught us that The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club album marked the first time that rock music was produced specifically for listening to, rather than dancing to. If I could go back in time, or somehow just reunite with him, I’d show him The Animals’ “The House of the Rising Sun” as a counterexample – and a strong one at that. The lyrics are as harrowing and dark as Eric Burdon’s powerful, gravelly singing voice, and I definitely can’t picture anyone properly “dancing” to this song. As a matter of fact, every single aspect of this song contributes to its undying power and forward thrust, from Burdon’s vocals, to Hilton Valentine’s legendary guitar work, to Alan Price’s superb, driving organ solo. As it is actually a rearrangement of a legendary folk song, the lyrics detail a dreary life of depravity and drunkenness, the likes of which haven’t really been exposed so vividly in pop music. As such, this is one of the darkest songs to appear onto the Hot 100 thus far; as it demonstrates the potential depth that rock music could attain, the song also serves as a valid prediction of much more complex, interesting music to come in the near future.