Chart Music Through The Years – 1961

Yes! Back thanks to an almost universal lack of demand, I stretch back the scalp of time and feast upon the mushy innards of the past – in this instance I return to the UK music charts. If you’re interested, you can read my original post here – https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/the-uk-top-40/

Greetings, Glancers! Let us twist our heads 180 degrees like a Reagan possessed and see what fell behind us in those heady, innocent days gone by. Hands up if you remember 1961? Not me! I am reliably informed that JFK became President of those United States, that man and chimp ventured off world into space for the first time, The Bay Of Pigs came and went, Catch-22 was released, Ernest Hemmingway died, and Ken first met Barbie. In the world of music, The Beatles performed in The Cabin club for the first time, The Supremes signed to Motown, Mick Jagger met Keith Richards, and rock music continued to challenge the scourge of Swing throughout the year. Indeed, the ten songs featured below suggest a shift in popularity between the old and new, with pop rock upstarts taking the top prizes over the crooners of the past. Looking at the these ten songs, I can’t say that I recognise any of them from the titles alone, but I do know eight of the artists. Lets get stuck in, kids.

  1. The Shadows: Kon-Tiki

The famous twanging guitar, clear and crisp. Yes, it does evoke shimmering images of beach side Caribbean lounging. There’s still a country twist in there too. That this ever made it to Number 1 in the charts is bizarre to me – not because it’s bad, just because. At under two minutes long it doesn’t go very far or ask many questions, but a mild diversion and still sounds good over 50 years later.

2. Billy Fury: Jealousy

Big ass bass and trumpets. String blasts. Sounds like a tango. Certainly a strange collection of tones and styles, offset by the clean, smooth vocals and dark lyrics. Melodies are all over the place though. In trying to go in a hundred directions at the same time, it feels disjointed.

3. Highwaymen: Michael

Whistling. Guitars. Ok, hallelujah. Another bizarre song to ever be in the charts. Nicely sung, has the famous melody, but boring and uneventful – of course plenty of people are into that sort of thing.

4. John Leyton: Johnny Remember Me

Sighing. Cowboy guitars and vocals. Interesting mix of vocals, haunting sound. It frequently feels like the tempo is changing, even though it isn’t. Galloping guitars. This is a good one, even though I don’t like this style of male vocal. This was pretty good, and pretty weird.

5. Shirley Bassey: Reach For The Stars

Scary strings intro. Young Bassey voice… doesn’t sound like the vocals I know her from. Until she hits the bigger notes. It’s a strange song that doesn’t have your typical verse, chorus structure. It’s dreamy and drifting and the melodies don’t have an addictive quality. Difficult to fault the ability of the singer of course, but the vocals at points are too loud and overblown for the music.

6. Elvis: Wild In The Country

Another adventure into Western territory for Elvis, this soothing ballad is straightforward – a soft guitar and humming vocal accompaniment for a gentle Elvis vocal. This feels like a lightweight song that would be easily forgotten if sung by anyone else -even with Elvis singing it feels uneventful, though there isn’t anything inherently wrong with it.

7. Cleo Laine: You’ll Answer To Me

Squealing violin. Stirrings of Stephen King nostalgia. More squealing violins. Suggestive of stabbing, based off the lyrics? Crazy ex or crazy mother? It has a certain charm, and the lyrics are quite funny.

8. Connie Francis: Together

More King nostalgia. Swaying swooning. The complete opposite of the previous song, but retains a certain similar charm. Although the lyrics do become possibly sinister. Spoken part. Not sure if this is happy, creepy, or sad.

9. Del Shannon: Hats Off To Larry

I’ve always liked Del Shannon. More lyrics about lost love. Starts slow, then gets into a ripping tempo with weird blips and Shannon’s trademark high notes. Addictive stuff, angry, but fun, good good.

10. Eden Kane: Get Lost

More funky rock n roll. Strange mix of whispers, growls, and Elvis for the vocals. This is pretty good too, not as instantly catchy as Shannon’s. What was that about a shotgun?

A very good second half of songs, any of which I’d be happy to listen to again. The group of songs are a fair reflection of what was popular and good in 1961, with the year’s top selling songs including other hits by Elvis and Shannon. I’m not even going to attempt to pick an alternate top 10 for 1961, primarily because they wouldn’t be too different from the artists listed above, and also because albums were not really a big deal yet – mostly collections of singles and covers and tracks not good enough to be singles. Feel free to leave a comment about any of the songs or artists from 1961, and let us know what you were up to then!

Chart Music Through The Years – 1963

Yes! Back thanks to an almost universal lack of demand, I stretch back the scalp of time and feast upon the mushy innards of the past – in this instance I return to the UK music charts. If you’re interested, you can read my original post here – https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2015/10/22/the-uk-top-40/

‘I wish it was the sixties, I wish we could be happy, I wish, I wish, I wish that something would happen’. But what did happen in 1963, Mr Spindly Yorke? Things, that’s what! These things – In Asia, there were troubling rumblings in Vietnam, Japan saw it’s first Anime show hit the screens; in Europe Lamborghini was born, James Bond made his first official movie, and Hindley and Brady began terrorizing the Moors, while in the US the Civil Rights movement saw important moments amidst violence and riots with Martin Luther King telling us he had a dream, and JFK being assassinated.

In music, the world was about to be shocked into rock and roll goodness by four lads from Liverpool as The Beatles released their first singles and album, leading to a massive influx of British bands. The Rolling Stones were signed, Patsy Cline died, and both The Beach Boys and Bob Dylan released their second albums. The music industry was still dominated by old school jazz and country artists, each covering and re-recording each others’ songs, but that was all due to change thanks to the British Invasion and numerous cultural shifts across the globe. The times they were a changing. What of October’s Top 10 singles? Read on, my young Padawan.

1. Brian Poole And The Tremeloes: Do You Love Me

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If it was good for Jazz and Country, then why not R’n’B? British Invasion bands were in such demand at this time that most of them supplemented their own material with covers of recent hits, this one being a fairly a standard attempt. It’s energetic and fast, but all of these covers begin to merge into one after a while.

2. Crystals: Then He Kissed Me

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I’ve never heard of the group or the song from the title, but that opening riff sounds familiar. It sounds quite dated, but has a Supremes feel too. Ahh yeah, this was in Goodfellas, that’s where I recognise it from. It’s a nice enough song but pretty twee and non-eventful.

3. The Beatles: She Loves You

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One of my favourites by The Beatles (I don’t think I’ve done a Favourite Beatles Songs post yet, get on that…). Glorious from start to finish, melodies, the howls, the guitar echoing the ‘yeah yeah yeah’ sound, perfect.

4. Roy Orbison: Blue Bayou

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As a guitar player you’d think I’d know more Roy Orbinson songs, but I really don’t. I didn’t recognise the title of this one either, and from the opening verse I don’t think I’ve heard it. It’s a nice enough ballad, not too sure about the backing vocals, but I do like the shift in Roy’s vocals from deep to high.

5. Adam Faith: The First Time

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I was expecting another slow, soft ballad, but this has some thumping percussion and growled vocals. It definitely has a rougher edge which presumably was influenced by The Beatles etc. An okay song, again nothing that is going to become lodged in my memory.

6. Trini Lopez: If I Had A Hammer

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Hmm. Fast, getting something familiar from it. Wait, I thought Trini was a woman. It’s another light, catchy song. A little repetitive, but fun throughout. Seems to be some sort of protest song from the snippets of lyrics I’m picking up.

7. Gerry And The Pacemakers: You’ll Never Walk Alone

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Well, obviously I know this one. As a Liverpool FC fan, we sing this song at every game. This is still my favourite version. It’s a wonderful anthem, regardless of its sporting ties, with great message and powerful melodies to really punch the emotion skywards. And of course any swelling of strings gets top votes from me.

8. The Shadows: Shindig

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As a guitar player, you’d think I’d know more songs by The Shadows, but I don’t. This is good stuff, great guitars, good beat, but isn’t it a bit odd to have an instrumental song in the top 10 – in the 60s at least? Sure with Dance music being all the rage these days, and with pop music being nonsense, words are pretty much an afterthought.

9. Tommy Roe: Everybody

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Another foot stomper with prominent guitar and drums. I don’t believe I know this one either. Pretty catchy again, more oohing, something which has appeared on quite a few of these songs so far. Not bad.

10. Shirley Bassey: I Who Have Nothing

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A dramatic intro, with a little bit of Leone Western to it, though a few years before his big hits. Booming voice. Silence. Haunting string backing. Very nice, though this particular recording I’m listening too is of dire quality. Beast of a voice for those loud moments. There isn’t a lot to the song, and the actual vocal melodies aren’t memorable, but it’s Bassey so you know she’s going to blast it out.

So then, 1963? What do these 10 songs tell us about the year as a whole? We know Beatlemania was on the rise, and as such we have a number of Scouse written or influenced tracks, along with other British artists. We can tell it is a transitional period as many of the songs here are still hanging on to what had come before while trying their damndest to compete with the fresh young upstarts coming from the Mersey. That seems reasonable as The Beatles scored the biggest selling single of the year with She Loves You and a bunch of their other songs and songs which were influenced by them became hits while you still had traditional ballads, Swing, and Country songs stinking up da place. From a quality perspective, are these 10 songs indicative of 1963? Basically, yes – The Beatles released their first two albums which ushered in the aforementioned wave of imitators – with new bands being signed up left, wrong, and centre, and with already established artists covering their hits and trying their hand at the new sound. For an alternative Top 10 songs of 1963, have a gander at these boyos.

  1. The Beatles: From Me To You
  2. The Beach Boys: Surfin’ USA
  3. The Rolling Stones: I Wanna Be Your Man
  4. Johnny Cash: Ring Of Fire
  5. Louie Louie: Kingsmen
  6. Cliff Richard And The Shadows: Summer Holiday
  7. The Miracles: You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me
  8. Boots Randolph: Yakety Sax
  9. Bob Dylan: A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall
  10. The Beatles: It Won’t Be Long

Yes, I know I cheated there with multiple Beatle entries, but what are you gonna do? My list isn’t too different from the actual Top 10 so there is plenty of good music for you to experience if you haven’t already, though as most are established hits I expect 99% of readers will know these songs inside out. As always, let us know what your musical memories of 1963 are by sharing in the comments. Which artists or songs have I missed? Do any of the tracks featured here have a special meaning for you? Let us know below!

Best Original Song- 1961

Actual NominationsMoon River from Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Music by Henry Mancini; Lyric by Johnny Mercer. Bachelor in Paradise from Bachelor in Paradise – Music by Henry Mancini; Lyric by Mack David. Love Theme from El Cid (The Falcon and the Dove) from El Cid – Music by Miklos Rozsa; Lyric by Paul Francis Webster. Pocketful of Miracles from Pocketful of Miracles – Music by Jimmy Van Heusen; Lyric by Sammy Cahn. Town Without Pity from Town Without Pity – Music by Dimitri Tiomkin; Lyric by Ned Washington

Batchelor In Paradise:  Another annoying Mancini, dated, rambling song with lyrics about nothing and a sound straight out of a shopping mall glory hole. It is twee, but surprisingly has some sort of memorable tune.

El Cid: The Falcon And The Dove: This is a different beast entirely, sounding huge with the full orchestra backing, especially when merged with the introduction piece. It does show some aging but it has more of a timeless feel and at least the melody is memorable. It does feel like a bunch of lyrics were thrown in to the epic scoring last minute, but the song still pays off.

Pocketful Of Miracles: The intro may sound like Jingle Bells, and the singing may sound like a group of girl scouts dancing around your garden but it is jolly and has a catchy, advertisement like tune.  After hearing it I feel like I’m being forced into buying a pair of trousers. Or a gun.

Town Without Pity: This is a decent enough song, sung with that late 50s rock drawl with the likes of Elvis and Holly loved to use. There’s a jazzy drunkeness to it and an underlying current of sadness.

My pick from the actual nominations matches the real winner, with Moon River. It’s one of those few movie songs which both transcends the movie and becomes something special in its own right, and also evokes images of the film when its opening notes are heard.

Moon River

My Nominations: Breakfast At Tiffany’s (Moon River). Love Theme (El Cid). The Young Ones (The Young Ones). 101 Dalmations (Cruella De Vil)

My Winner: The Young Ones

My win goes to The Young Ones, mostly due to memories of the TV show. It’s still a great song without these memories and much faster than Moon River.

The Young Ones

Let me know if my ears need a re-tuning, or if I have missed one of your favourites, and have a go at the super-exciting poll!