For reference, here are the last five entries I’ve covered in my Billboard Hot 100 challenge:
– 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
– Glad All Over: Billboard’s Hot 100 of 1964
Although the year-end Hot 100 of 1965 indicates that it wasn’t nearly as game-changing as the phenomenon of ’64, it’s still a perfectly solid, rather terrific year in music. The most visible trend this year still remains the large importing of British bands into the American airwaves – although this year is not quite as Beatles-heavy as the last. In fact, compared to their nine songs in last year’s chart, they only have three songs present this time around: “Eight Days a Week” (#55), “Ticket to Ride” (#31), and “Help!” (#7). This does still indicate that Beatlemania is still very much in swing, but perhaps the public has slightly eased on the band’s foreign antics. This also offers a little more room for more British acts to make the list, as UK performers still compose a full quarter of the chart. The most visible of these artists (and the most visible on the list overall) is Herman’s Hermits, with five songs, their strongest being “Silhouettes” (#22), “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” (#19), and “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat?” (#8). They’re a rather fun band, up in the vein of early Beatles’ singles, so it’s no surprise how they’ve risen so high. What does come as a surprise is the absence of their first single, “I’m Into Something Good”, which is widely thought of as their most famous song. My guess is that it was obscured by the flurry of other upcoming British artists and singles at the time, gaining the crux of its popularity only as time went by.
Many other new and returning British performers are also shiningly evident in the ’65 Hot 100. While The Dave Clark Five aren’t having as great of a year as the last, “Catch Us If You Can” (#54) and their cover of “I Like It Like That” (#80) are both still pretty great. The Animals also reappear, following up their legendary “House of the Rising Sun” with the Vietnam War anthem, “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” (#86). The Kinks also make probably the strongest follow-up of any of the British bands, with both “All Day and All of the Night” (#62) and “Tired of Waiting For You” (#60) being absolutely fantastic. Peter and Gordon are still hanging on – with the Buddy Holly cover, “True Love Ways” (#82) and “I Go To Pieces” (#75) – as are Gerry and the Pacemakers, with the poignant “Ferry Cross the Mersey” (#43), and The Searchers, with the classic, “Love Potion No. 9” (#70).
There are also a few notable new acts that have made their way onto the charts, both UK- and US-based. Out of the British Invasion bands, the most notable newcomers here are The Yardbirds, The Moody Blues, and The Rolling Stones. Notable for starting the careers of Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck, The Yardbirds’ talent is immediately evident through the psychedelic sound of “For Your Love” (#48) (a sound that is repeated to a greater extent in The Byrds’ cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” (#25)). The Moody Blues would perfect their rock-classical fusion in later years, but their breakout single “Go Now” (#50) features a lush instrumentation and waltz-like style unmatched by anything else of this year. Although The Rolling Stones had debuted in ’64, it is not until this year did they really begin to carve out an identity for themselves, with both “The Last Time” (#88) and their revolutionary “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (#3).
One of the more notable factors of the new American bands on this list is that a good number of them seem to interested in incorporating elements of British rock into their music, probably in hopes to grab a piece of the pie themselves. The Lovin’ Spoonful, for example, with their debut single “Do You Believe in Magic?” (#89), incorporate a more melodic, percussion-based sound found in the singles of many British acts of this era. Dino, Desi, & Billy (with “I’m a Fool” (#97)) and The Turtles (“It Ain’t Me Babe” (#73)) both aim to capture both the soulful and the gritty vocals of The Beatles, respectively. A little more blatantly, The Sir Douglas Quintet, by their name alone, could easily be mistaken as a British band by those who wouldn’t know better, although their single “She’s About a Mover” (#65) possesses a clearly blues-and-soul-based American sound only slightly influenced by the British Invasion. But that’s not to say that rock music from the states isn’t genre-defining in itself – Beau Brummels also make their debut this year, with “Laugh, Laugh” (#87) and “Just A Little” (#56). This group is renown for creating the aesthetic of what is to be known as the “San Francisco Sound”, a trend that would flourish later on into the decade.
Disappointing (as always) is the presence of women on the Hot 100, and this year isn’t particularly hopeful. Overall, there are only nineteen women credited here, over the course of nineteen entries; this is the worst it’s been since 1961. To compare, there are a total of 189 men present on this chart, spread across eighty-six entries. This, once again, comes as absolutely no surprise, but perhaps it’s reflective of a possible backlash toward the progression women had made with the visibility of girl groups a couple of years back. Maybe this is why the British Invasion was so welcomed by the public, yet so unwelcoming toward women as a whole, except as screaming fans. Though it’s nothing that could be fixed now, it’s important to look back on these trends and see how they are reflected – and repeated – all the way to the modern day, a major reason why I track the presence of women in these charts.
Nonetheless, it’s hard not be won over by the charms of some of the spectacular women performers on this list. The most evident debut here is from pop icon Cher; most of her singles are as one half of the folk-pop duo Sonny & Cher, namely “Baby Don’t Go” (#72) and “I Got You Babe” (#16). While both of these songs are absolutely terrific and the chemistry between the two are timeless and unmatchable, her solo hit “All I Really Want To Do” (#90) is also an excellent demonstration of her prowess as a musical figure on her own. Also found on this list are whom I like to call “the two Barbaras”: Barbara Mason, with her lovely girlish vocals demonstrated on “Yes, I’m Ready” (#27), and Barbara Lewis, singing the absolutely beautiful, heartfelt “Baby, I’m Yours” (#38). Petula Clark makes her debut here, with two awesomely catchy hits, “Downtown” (#6) and “I Know A Place” (#36), while Shirley Bassey burns and sizzles as she belts out the James Bond theme, “Goldfinger” (#51). However, women aren’t only great as solo performers, as We Five’s Beverly Bivens’ powerful voice kicks into high gear throughout the positively infectious, “You Were On My Mind” (#4), as does The Seekers’ Judith Durham’s unique vocals stylings on the beautiful, “I’ll Never Find Another You” (#23). With such brilliant talent that all these ladies bring to the table, it goes to show that although women seem to be disappearing from the music charts, their sound and presence is, altogether, too cherished for them to ever disappear completely.
Just like last year, the reign of R&B music produced from Motown returns, perhaps even stronger than ever. A fine number of new and returning Motown-produced musical acts make waves throughout 1965’s Hot 100, bringing along another batch of hits, many of which are considered some of the greatest pop songs of all time. The songwriting trio at the heart of many of these songs are Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland, and Eddie Holland, collectively known as Holland-Dozier-Holland. Truth be told, they’ve had a presence in the Motown landscape since as early as ’62, but truly started to make their mark on the scene throughout subsequent years. Among others, 1963 gave us Martha and the Vandellas’ “Come and Get These Memories” and “Heat Wave” and The Miracles’ “Mickey’s Monkey”; among others, 1964 gave us The Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go”, “Baby Love”, and “Come See About Me” and Four Tops’ “Baby I Need Your Loving” – all of these written, composed, and produced by the Holland-Dozier-Holland team.
While ’64 is widely considered their strongest year – and understandably so, given how ingrained the songs listed have been in pop culture – I think that their compositions from ’65 could stand in close competition. Sure, they were a huge part in bringing The Supremes into the limelight the previous year, but the success of “Stop! in the Name of Love” (#20) led this song to being one of the most definitive songs of the group. The follow-up single for the group, “Back in My Arms Again” (#37) was also penned by the creative group, as was Martha and the Vandellas’ follow-up, “Nowhere to Run” (#68). In continuation with their involvement with the Four Tops’ monumental success, they also composed the super-successful hits “It’s The Same Old Song” (#83) and “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” (#2), the latter becoming one of the most recognizable tunes to ever come out of Motown. Lastly, their production of Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” (#100) was a huge triumph for the artist, ending up being his most successful single up until that point.
Overall, 1965 has got to be one of the best years in Motown in general. This year garnered the furthering winning streak of The Miracles, with two rather good entries here: “Ooo Baby Baby” (#93) and “The Tracks of My Tears” (#78). The list of ’65 was also reinvigorated by The Temptations, who followed up last year’s adorable love song with another – “My Girl” (#10), yet another of Motown’s most renown songs ever. Finally, this year introduced the electrifying Junior Walker with the All-Stars, performing “Shotgun” (#15) – here’s a musical act I truly hope to see in further charts throughout the years. While not Motown, it’s also important to note the debut of the “Godfather of Soul” James Brown onto the year-end Hot 100, with his legendary, ass-kicking work of art, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” (#33).
The rock music from the year 1965 is notable for the evident shift in its sound, specifically to that of a more psychedelic nature, both in sound and in lyrical content. There are two notable reasons for this change in the landscape, the first being the introduction of pot and LSD to the culture of rock musicians. It’s been noted that ’65 marked the first time that The Beatles were introduced to psychedelics, undoubtedly contributing to the complex, structured sound that the latter parts of the band’s career is famous for, culminating with Sgt. Pepper’s a couple years later. Moreover, marijuana was introduced to The Beach Boys’ mastermind Brian Wilson in 1965 to help him overcome the repercussions of a nervous breakdown. The two albums the group released throughout ’65 – The Beach Boys Today! and Summer Days – demonstrated a markedly more unique sound than the surf-pop, Berry-influenced material they produced in their early days. As heard with “California Girls” (#49) and “Help Me, Rhonda” (#11), a more layered, orchestral approach to their songs began to flourish; Wilson would perfect this technique in the masterful Pet Sounds a year later.
The second aspect of the culture of 1965 that contributed to a shift in musical stylings is the rise in issues in politics and social justice that began to raise their heads – mainly that of the Vietnam War draft of ’65 and the comeuppance of the Civil Rights Movement. The rise in prevalence for these social issues led to a rise in songs with more topical lyrics, for the purposes of connecting to listeners on this level. This is especially true for American rock music, where many singles demonstrated both a fusion with folk music, complete with a jangle sound, and profoundly more intellectual lyrics. One could listen to with The Byrds’ cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr Tambourine Man”, as well as the prolific “Like A Rolling Stone” (#41) from Dylan himself. Surprisingly, although The Impressions had been present in Hot 100 lists of past years, their most renown, important hit “People Get Ready” is nowhere to be found on this year’s chart, often thought of the one song that best defines the Civil Rights era. Instead, we’ve got Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” (#29), noted for its controversial, politically-charged lyrics, marking itself as an example of the protest song. The dawn of the “60s sound” is truly upon us and is one that is bound to flourish tremendously with each passing year through the decade.
- It’s interesting to note which older musical acts are still hanging on for dear life, amongst all of the new, changing sounds. Last year’s songs from Louis Armstrong and Dean Martin were pretty fantastic, yet the performers here that had their peak just a few years prior are relatively lackluster. Brenda Lee’s “Too Many Rivers” (#79) is forgettable, as is Patti Page’s “Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte” (#40). Elvis Presley’s “Crying in the Chapel” made the top ten (#9), but his moody baritone sound may have overstayed its welcome. Del Shannon, once again, manages to find his way with the surprisingly catchy “Keep Searchin'” (#99), while Little Anthony & The Imperials remain one of the only classic doo-wop groups of the 50s to remain successful, with their single “Take Me Back” (#91).
- The number one song from this year is an unusual one: Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs’ “Wooly Bully”. Its unusual for a few reasons, the first being that it’s the first American song to sell a million records during the height of the British Invasion. Secondly, all of the group’s members originated from Texas, thereby incorporating into the song a unique, bouncy rhythm akin to Tex-Mex/Tejano music. However, it’s also hard to ignore the blatant cultural appropriation going on with their album’s cover – along with the general “theme” of the band as a whole. Lastly, the song makes absolutely no sense, as the verses only mildly refer to each other in some invisible thread of context. What is “wooly bully”? A creature or a dance? The world may never know.
- Speaking of bands pretending to be bred from another culture, one of the flat-out weirdest bands on this list (well, besides Sam and The Pharaohs) are The Strangeloves, whose “I Want Candy” (#92) is probably better recognized by the Bow Wow Wow cover. The Strangeloves, however, are a New York-based band who, for some reason, based their entire personas off the fictional story that they were three brothers who grew up on a sheep farm in Australia. They even had an entire backstory and costumes to match. It’s sometimes rather interesting noting what kind of bands tend to capture the public imagination – and here we are.
- One important debut I forgot to mention is that of Tom Jones. Both “It’s Not Unusual” (#64) and “What’s New Pussycat?” (#28) have become so ingrained in various forms of pop culture, it’s hard to ignore their influence. The former is certainly one of my go-to songs to help me cheer up from whatever’s bringing me down.
- There aren’t nearly as many awesome instrumental tracks here as there have been in recent years, but the two best ones are really, really good. The first is Horst Jankowski’s “A Walk in the Black Forest” (#47), which feels like something out of a classic Disney movie with how fun, bright, and magical it sounds. The string arrangements on this one are especially awesome. The second is Ramsey Lewis Trio’s “The In Crowd” (#18). Originally recorded by Dobie Gray as a R&B song with lyrics, I can’t help but say that I enjoy Lewis’ uptempo, jazzy cover quite a bit more. Its album of the same title certainly seems like one of those classic jazz album I would certainly enjoy if I gave it a listen.
- I’ve been trying to find out the name and/or origin of the bass riff that plays through Wayne Fontana and The Mindbender’s “Game of Love” (#34), translated as a guitar riff in The McCoy’s “Hang On Sloopy” (#30) and a piano riff in both the final bridge of The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” (#5) and the song “Summer Nights” from the musical Grease some years later.
And now for my top five of the Hot 100 of 1965.
Honorable Mentions: “Baby Don’t Go” (#72), “It’s Not Unusual” (#64), “Shotgun” (#15), “My Girl” (#10), “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (#3), “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” (#2), “Wooly Bully” (#1)
5) “Like A Rolling Stone” (#41)
I love Bob Dylan, don’t get me wrong. However, Highway 61 probably wouldn’t be in my top five albums of his, even though it is solid as hell. “Like A Rolling Stone” also wouldn’t be in my top ten Dylan songs – but given that it is Dylan, it’s still better than most singles to come out this year. These lyrics are partially sympathetic, partially harrowing, and completely poetic through and through. His iconic voice is at full display here, powered by a legendary organ riff that’s hard to beat. “How does it feel”? Like the voice of a generation.
4) “You Were On My Mind” (#4)
I enjoyed my first listen of We Five’s only major hit, but never really thought much of it. Soon, it became clear that this was one of those songs that only gets better and better with subsequent listens. The meek simplicity of the first verse is in direct opposition to the soaring complexity of the last; the progression that the arrangement takes makes this transition seem absolutely seamless. It’s hard to resist jumping up and down, belting this song out at any chance possible. Much like healing after a broken relationship, this song instills a sense of hope that there are much brighter, more interesting things to come. And boy does it deliver.
3) “I Got You Babe” (#16)
Once again, cute love songs are my Achille’s heel. Also once again, the chemistry that Sonny & Cher had encapsulated within the early days of their career together is absolutely magnificent; thankfully, it’s here to enjoy via recorded content. Partially an answer song to Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe”, this song turns the sentiment toward a more positive edge. What young, middle-class couple can’t relate to issues such as familial disapproval or money issues? Through the thick and thin of it all, the song reassures that love is always here to stay. Another one of my favorite things about “I Got You Babe” is that it seems to have about three different endings; I’m always a fan of songs with fake endings to confuse the radio DJs.
Most people would cite “Unchained Melody” (#21) as the quintessential Righteous Brothers song, but personally, I’d take the sincere sadness of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” over sappy, romantic interludes any day. I think it also best demonstrates the beautiful vocal stylings of both Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley, working against and with each other to create some of the most sumptuous harmonies on this list. It’s one of the greatest songs about tragic love, with heartbreaking lyrics that are just so honest: “It makes me just feel like crying / ‘Cause baby, something beautiful’s dying”. And once again, it has a pretty cool fake ending – a slight fade-out, before coming back with the chorus once more. Almost like reaching for the last good bits of a relationship before it withers away forever. Absolutely beautiful.
1) “Goldfinger” (#51)
Perhaps this is a bit of an unusual choice for number one of this year, but I stand by it wholeheartedly. No one on this list even comes close to rivaling Shirley Bassey, as far as vocal power and magnetism is considered. Although I utterly failed on my James Bond challenge earlier this year (I only went up as far as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), one thing I can say is that it’ll be really hard to find another Bond song that comes close to the magnificence of the theme for Goldfinger. The production for this is just so magnificent, with the horns, tambourine, and echo to Bassey’s voice adding to a slightly chilling atmosphere that sends chills down my spine with every listen. Its climactic finish is also one for the books, ending on a note of such extravagance, such grandiose energy (especially that final note she holds – wow!), it’s hard not to feel ready and willing for whatever’s bound to come next. But just remember, “Pretty girl, beware of his heart of gold / This heart is cold”.