Welcome back to Turntable Talk! As by now, regular readers know, that’s when I have several interesting guest writers sound off on one topic related to the music that we look at here daily. This is our eighth round of it, and if you’re new here, I recommend taking a look back at some of the earlier topics we’ve covered like why the Beatles are still relevant, or “did video kill the radio star?” or the one dealing with one hit wonders we ran at the start of last month.
This month, a simple category…but one which is challenging and should bring up some interesting memories : Those Were The Days My Friend. Simply put, we’re asking the contributors to write about “music’s best year.”
Obviously, that’s a pretty subjective choice. A few executives might try to look at sales charts and give a statistical answer based on album sales or concert grosses, but to most it comes down to the year that seemed to be when the best music was played, or when the most really good records came out. We’ve not limited it but I would expect that most are going to pick a year from the ‘rock era’ in the second half of the 20th Century. But if someone opines it was 1804 because that was when Beethoven started working on his 5th Symphony, that’ll be interesting to read about. Today we have Keith from Nostalgic Italian, where he documents his interesting life with a growing family as well as memories of bygone pictures and tunes. He worked on air in radio in the ’80s and ’90s… will that decide his pick? :
Once again, Dave from A Sound Day has asked some of us music lovers to participate in another round of Turntable Talk. This time around was a bit of a challenge for me.
This particular blog will be one of the last ones to be featured and I do not know if my year will be or has been featured. I plan on writing this KNOWING that the year I have chosen very well may be one that comes up in another post. Before I tell you the year I picked, let me tell you that I had a very difficult time narrowing it down.
My first thought was to go with 1956/1957 because those years were always so unique. You had the birth of rock and roll mixing with pop standards. When I worked at Honey Radio, I loved doing the Top 12 at 12 show when those years popped up because there was such a big variety in what was played. You could go from Elvis or Jerry Lee Lewis to Pat Boone or Nelson Riddle. When I looked at the list of songs, however, were they really the BEST? No.
The same thing can be said for some of the years in the 70’s. I looked through many lists and while there were many great songs, there were also a lot of really crappy songs! I just couldn’t really come up with the conviction to pick a year in that decade as the BEST.
One year kept coming up every time I started thinking about it – 1964.
I want you to know before I continue that I was dead set AGAINST 1964 when I read Dave’s e-mail. Why? Well, I felt that it would just be too Beatle-heavy and loaded with British Invasion stuff. And it is. On the Top 100 Chart, The Fab Four nabbed 9 spots. 18 spots were held by other British Invasion acts. In total 27% of the Top 100 were British acts. When I really looked at the chart, the more and more I felt like this WAS the year.
1964 really was the year of the Beatles, so let’s discuss them first. They were present almost right from the start as their Introducing … The Beatles album was released in America on January 10th of that year.
This album preceded Capitol Records “Meet the Beatles” by 10 days and there was a lawsuit surround that whole issue. Capitol Records won an injunction and Vee-jay Records was not allowed to put out any more Beatles recordings.
In February of 1964, the Beatles arrived in the U.S. and appeared on Ed Sullivan’s show three times (2/9, 2/16, and 2/23). In March of 64, Billboard magazine stated that the Beatles were responsible for 60% of all single record sales! In a feat that has yet to be matched, on April 4, 1964, the Beatles held the Top 5 spots on the Billboard chart!
A week later, the boys held 14 spots on the Hot 100 Chart! That broke the previous record of 9 spots held by Elvis Presley in 1956.
In May, The Beatles Second Album was released and in July, they would release A Hard Day’s Night in theaters. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” wound up being the #1 song for the whole year of 64 (“She Loves You” was #2) To say that they played a small part in the music of 1964 would be a huge understatement.
Among the other artists that came over from “across the pond” in 64 were Manfred Mann (“Do Wah Diddy Diddy”), Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas (“Little Children” and “Bad to Me”), The Dave Clark Five (“Glad All Over”, “Because”, “Do You Love Me”), Peter and Gordon (“A World Without Love”), The Animals (“House of the Rising Son”), The Honeycombs (“Have I The Right”), Dusty Springfield (“Wishin’ and Hopin’”), Gerry & The Pacemakers (“Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” and “How Do You Do It”), Chad and Jeremy (“A Summer Song”), The Kinks (“You Really Got Me”), and the Searchers (“Don’t Throw Your Love Away” and “Needles and Pins”). It is interesting to note that the Rolling Stones debut album was released this year, but no songs appear in the Top 100 for the year.
Once you move away from the British artists, the chart has a nice variety of pop, rock, folk, country, soul, and even a few novelty songs. I think that is what made me ultimately choose this particular year.
It was nice to look over the Top 100 and see Motown represented with some classics. The Supremes hold two of the six Motown songs (“Where Did Our Love Go” and “Baby Love”), Motown was female heavy as Mary Wells (“My Guy”) and Martha and the Vandellas (“Dancin’ In The Street”) grabbed the next two spots, and the male gender was represented by The Four Tops (“Baby I Need Your Loving”) and The Temptations (“The Way You Do The Things You Do”).
While they were not “oldies” at the time, there were some classic songs that are still in hot rotation today on the oldies stations across the country. Roy Orbison had a smash with “Pretty Woman” in ’64, and also had a hit with “It’s Over”. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons grabbed three of the Top 100 with “Rag Doll”, “Dawn” and “Ronnie”. The Beach Boys only entry in the Top 100 was “I Get Around”.
1964 brought us classics like The Drifters “Under The Boardwalk”, “Chapel of Love” by the Dixie Cups, “Suspicion” by Terry Stafford, “It Hurts to Be In Love” from Gene Pitney and “Come A Little Bit Closer” by Jay and the Americans. Johnny Rivers had a hit with Chuck Berry’s “Memphis”, Bobby Freeman invited us to “C’mon and Swim”, Detroit’s Reflections offered up “Just Like Romeo and Juliet” and the Shangri-Las told us the story of the “Leader of the Pack”.
Car songs were well represented in ’64! Ronny and the Daytonas had “GTO”, while the Rip Chords sang “Hey Little Cobra”, and the Hondells had “Little Honda”. Jan and Dean told us the stories of “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” and “Dead Man’s Curve”, while J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers told us the tragic story of a “Last Kiss”.
Soul music is represented by The Impressions (“I’m So Proud” and “Keep on Pushing”), Joe Hinton (“Funny How Time Slips Away”), The Tams (“What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am”), Jimmy Hughes (“Steal Away”) and Nancy Wilson (“How Glad Am I”). If you throw Blues into the “Soul” mix, the great Tommy Tucker song “Hi Heel Sneakers” was out in 1964.
Instrumentally, Al Hirt had a monster hit with “Java”, The Ventures had “Walk Don’t Run”, The Marketts had “The Outer Limits”, and Robert Maxwell had the incredibly cheesy lounge version of “Shangri-la”. While novelty songs included Jumpin’ Gene Simmons (“Haunted House”), The Trashmen (“Surfin’ Bird”) and Roger Miller (“Chug-a-Lug”).
While Rock was dominant in 1964, there were still some pop (and even folk) songs that made the Top 100 – one of them, doing the “impossible.” Two of the biggest pop hits of the year couldn’t be more different from each other. The third biggest hit of the year belonged to Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong and his Dixieland hit “Hello, Dolly!” Barbra Streisand (who won Album of the year at the 1964 Grammy Awards) had the 11th biggest hit of the year with “People.”
Pop/Folk was also represented by Gale Garnett (“We’ll Sing in the Sunshine”), The Ray Charles Singers (“Love Me With All Your Heart”), Dionne Warwick (“Walk On By”), Al Martino (“I Love You More and More Every Day”), and Andy Williams (“A Fool Never Learns”). But the biggest surprise came from an artist who hadn’t had a top 40 record since 1958!
Dean Martin didn’t care for Rock and Roll. With the British Invasion in full swing, there was very little chance of him ever having another hit. His kids loved the new artists. His son, Dean Paul, loved the Beatles. Dean told his boy, “I’m gonna knock your pallies off the charts!” On August 15, 1964 – he did just that with a song that became his NEW theme song, “Everybody Loves Somebody.” (It replaced “That’s Amore” as his theme song.)
The song knocked the beloved Beatles “A Hard Day’s Night” out of the number 1 spot! It went on to stay at #1 on the Pop Standards Singles Chart for 8 weeks. It also became the theme to his weekly television show in 1965.
I picked 1964 for a few reasons. Despite my initial worry about it being British act heavy, it was the year that introduced us to the Beatles (who changed the music scene forever!). It is also the year that one act held the top 5 spots on the charts (a record that remains in place). It is also the year that my favorite singer of all time bumped the biggest group in music out of the top spot.
It is also a year that encompasses such a vast variety of music. While there may be better songs that appeared before and after 1964, it truly represents a unique time in history. America was still recovering from the loss of a beloved president, there were still Civil Rights issues, and a war in Vietnam. The music of 1964 was a welcome escape from so many things.
Was it all good? No, and that is true of every year. However, as I look at the 100 biggest songs of the year, there are a lot of great songs that have gone on to become classics. There are so many songs that are still looked at as pivotal in the music scene. The fact that many of these songs are still getting airplay today is a statement to just how good they are.
Thanks again to Dave at a Sound Day for allowing me to be a part of this feature. I can only hope that my contribution is worthy of an invite to participate in the next round.