Yesterday I wrote an article about how The Beatles hits of 1964 compared to the other hits of that year. But I think it makes even more sense to take a look at what was popular in the US the year before.
My point in doing this is to bring context to The Beatles guitar rock invasion of 1964. It’s not to necessarily say all of the non Beatles/Beatles influenced hits of this time period necessarily suck (although many of them do) but that they are of a very restrained and polished nature. The point is that The Beatles hits of ’64 were quite rock n roll at the time. Quite a revelation in fact.
They burst onto the scene as a self contained rock band that wrote their own songs and played their own instruments in a time of fabricated pop singers & girl groups.
Some of the #1 US hits of 1963:
The Tornados – “Telstar”
This is quite a weird song actually with a strange sound effect intro that I like. But it definitely doesn’t rock. It sounds like something that should be heard at the World’s Fair rather than on the pop radio station.
Steve Lawrence – “Go Away Little Girl”
The Rooftop Singers – “Walk Right In”
This is a very cute song with some nice guitar riffs but it most certainly does not rock.
Paul & Paula – “Hey Paula”
The Beatles rendered stuff like this absolutely ridiculously lame.
The Four Seasons – “Walk Like A Man”
I think the equation goes something like this: As Nirvana was to Poison, The Beatles were to The Four Seasons.
The Chiffons – “He’s So Fine”
Little Peggy March – “I Will Follow Him”
Jimmy Soul – “If You Wanna Be Happy”
Another very cute song that I think ages a bit better than most of the other songs from this era.
Leslie Gore – “It’s My Party”
Kyu Sakamonto – “Sukiyaki”
I find it almost impossible to believe this song was #1 in 1963 in America. WTF?
The Essex – “Easier Said Than Done”
Jan & Dean – “Surf City”
This sort of “surf rock” was probably the closest thing on the charts in ’63 to what The Beatles would be bringing in ’64.
The Tymes – “So Much In Love”
I actually really like this song for some reason. I get the feeling Boyz II Men were influenced by this one. But I have no proof for such a declaration.
Little Stevie Wonder – “Fingertips Pt. 2″
It shows the state of popular music in 1963 that a 13 year old rocked harder than anyone else on the charts.
The Angels – “My Boyfriend’s Back”
I think this song may be the best example of the sort of musical environment The Beatles burst into in ’64. Sure it’s a cute catchy song. If you’re 8 years old.
Bobby Vinton – “Blue Velvet”
David Lynch later named a movie after this song (it’s a great movie by the way, check it out if you haven’t seen it) that ups it’s cred quite a bit. And it is a cool song for what it is. But I think it is a good example of the kind of song The Beatles would render history.
Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs – “Sugar Shack”
This song is crazy cheezy. It’s hard to believe it was #1 for 5 weeks.
Nino Tempo and April Stevens – “Deep Purple”
A little bit of trivia for you: This was the #1 song when JFK was assassinated.
The Singing Nun – “Dominique”
This was the #1 song for the last 4 weeks of 1963.
In fact the final two #1′s before “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (The Beatles first #1 in the US) were “Dominique” & Bobby Vinton’s absolutely dreadful “There I’ve Said It Again” which you can hear below:
Now listen to “I Want To Hold Your Hand”
It may sound quite tame when heard next to much of the rock music that’s come since but compared to the easy listening that was popular at the time, it’s heavy metal.