SWEET TALKING GUY – The Chiffons (2 weeks)
This 60’s harmony-girl-group short-but-bitter-sweet catchy record eventually peaked at 4 in the UK in 1972, but went all the way in my charts, ironically as the lyrics warn young girls not to go all the way with those lying sweet talking guys just trying to…well you know what! A girlie teen anthem at the time, these days it’s much less well known than their other hits, the fabulous Goffin/King “One Fine Day” or the George-Harrison-tune-a-like (copyright infringing My Sweet Lord) He’s So Fine. That’s a shame as it got a fabulous harmony melody going on, but it’s appeal doesn’t have appeared so far to have passed on down the years.
I’M GONNA RUN AWAY FROM YOU – Tami Lynn (2 weeks)
A Northern Soul classic from 1971, that peaked at 4 in the UK charts (and re-issued again in 1975 when it peaked at 1 in my charts), it actually pre-dated that in the States. The northern soul circuit was big in the UK in the 70’s, based around discovering great obscure American soul records of the 60’s and finding them a new audience, especially in the centre of the scene (Wigan. No, honestly. Wigan!). Tami was a one-hit wonder, but it’s a really good singalong popsoul chugger, great tune!
GOOD VIBRATIONS – The Beach Boys (1 week)
The greatest American pop band of the 60’s, the 3 Wilson Brothers (Brian, Carl and Dennis), cousin Mike Love and Al Jardine, were a surfer-harmony-group sensation that evolved far beyond their early surfer hits into mid-period pop classics like California Girls, Help Me Rhonda, Little Saint Nick, and Barbara Ann. Creative genius Brian was really taking the competition (Phil Spector and Lennon-McCartney) seriously and trying to outdo them in the period since the Beach Boys first John-chart-topper in 1964 (Don’t Worry Baby). He managed it with this complex, amazing production (co-written with Mike Love, let’s not forget though) and song, an all-time rock classic that hit the top in the UK and the USA in late 1966. It sounded like nothing before, and the harmonies might be doo-wop-based, but were far more like a symphony than a 3 minute-pop-single! It topped my chart as reissued UK hit single to promote the chart-topping hits collection in 1976, and, well, it’s gone on to be timeless. Awesome is an appropriate word for it.
ELEANOR RIGBY – The Beatles (4 weeks)
Talking of awesome. This is not so much a Beatles record as a Paul McCartney/George Martin production/arrangement, a string section replacing rock guitars and drums, and it’s just gorgeous and sad. The lyrics are all about loneliness, death and other cheerful stuff, but it’s powerful bitter-sweet stuff, and along with Good Vibrations hit the top spot round the world in late 1966 to signpost the rapid movement of pop music into Art with a capital “A”. I was 8, I loved both sides of this double-A-side single, because 8 is a great age to love Yellow Submarine and it’s brass band noisy catchiness. By 1976 and the Beatles singles re-issue campaign, Eleanor Rigby was the track I adored. As re-issued classics proliferated and threatened to swamp my music charts to the detriment of current hits I was forced to set up an oldies chart for a year till the trend for re-issues died down, both in late 1974 and 1976/1977. Nowadays I just limit numbers of oldies in the chart. In any case this would still have hit number one in any combined chart….
GOT TO GET YOU INTO MY LIFE – The Beatles (2 weeks)
A single hit in the States in 1976, but sadly never released in the UK, this Revolver album track was used to promote the “Rock and Roll” album. That was enough for me: got to get you into my charts! Catchy, Motown-y, brassy, it’s not so surprising that Earth Wind & Fire had a UK hit version. Like Eleanor Rigby, a contributing factor towards Revolver being my favourite Beatles album, and arguably their best. With stuff like Here There & Everywhere (a country hit for Emmylou Harris), I’m Only Sleeping (90’s pop hit for Suggs), Good Day Sunshine, Taxman, And Your Bird Can Sing, and the brilliant innovative Tomorrow Never Knows, that’s a convincing argument. Any of them would have been a hit single, and many of them were – for other contemporary covers acts! Fab Fabs.
THIS OLD HEART OF MINE (IS WEAK FOR YOU) – The Isley Brothers (1 week)
By 1966 the three brothers Isley already had a claim to rock n roll immortality, writing and recording million-seller Shout!, these days known to British ears as Lulu’s iconic UK debut hit cover, and having the first hit version of Twist And Shout, as covered definitively by the Beatles. As they were both chart-toppers as covers, then, it’s only fair the Isley’s should have their own – and it’s even better! This (Tamla) Motown classic was a US 1966 hit, and a big UK 1968 hit, the year I started my charting days (when it didn’t quite get to the top). Re-issued in 1976, it had by then became a nostalgic classic Motown frantic dance fave of mine and I bought and charted it. It’s a great Holland-Dozier-Holland song (having survived two differing hit versions by Rod Stewart, one including Ronald Isley himself), the pace never lets up and Ronald’s impassioned vocals are amazing. Their Motown days were short-lived (more to come..) but that didn’t really matter as their then-10-year career was just getting started!
THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKIN’ – Nancy Sinatra (2 weeks)
One of the tracks on an EP re-issue from 1977 that almost made the UK charts, this 1966 worldwide chart-topper is Nancy Sinatra’s ongoing claim to fame. I loved it as a kid and as a teenager, and onwards, it’s quirky, catchy and has attitude, and signalled the start of an awesome duet partnership with songwriter/singer/producer Lee Hazelwood. Lee also guided her solo career, and chipped in to her dad’s recording career (that’ll be iconic crooner Frank, and I may well be alone in much preferring Nancy’s body of work – but I do!). As a solo act Nancy was fabulous, sweet-voiced, attractive and pure 60’s pop dollybird styled. So much so that her career struggled to continue beyond the decade, but as far as I’m concerned this much-covered song was not her only solo chart-topper….
CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ – The Mamas & The Papas (17 weeks)
By 1977, when it grabbed two weeks at the top, the Mamas & papas had become firm classic 60’s faves of mine via a couple of budget albums I bought in 1974 which collectively made a decent Greatest Hits collection. I particularly loved Mama Cass, and the harmonies and the songs: as time passed, especially the great John Phillips songs! By 1997 this record was an acknowledged classic, so much so that it finally went UK top 10 31 years late (a big American hit, but only a minor UK hit in 1966). On the back of that it (and two other tracks on the CD) had a whopping 15 week-run at the top over the summer. The imagery is wonderful (all the leaves are brown and the sky is grey, to set up the premise) and it fitted perfectly in with the hippie-sunshine mood of the times, and Cass Elliot in the vocal mix gave it that extra oomph for the counterpoint male-female group harmonies. That’s not to take away from the lead male vocals either, which are passionate and aggressive. Sheer brilliance.
LAST TRAIN TO CLARKSVILLE – The Monkees (3 weeks)
I loved The Monkees at age 9. I loved the funny TV show, I collected the bubblegum cards, I loved the hit singles, I loved the songs they had on the show, and I loved all four actor/singers/musicians (delete as appropriate). They weren’t supposed to be credible pop stars, but they became just that, two of them writing hit songs for a start. Mike Nesmith was already a musician songwriter, Peter Tork jobbing musician, Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones, the two former-child actors had the great pop singing voices and acting skills. Add in the best pop songwriters of the time, great production and it’s not so surprising that the manufactured pop group had arrived with a bang. 45 years on and the records still sound fresh and exciting. Clarksville was a Boyce & Hart song that became irresistible with Mickey on lead, some great guitar hooks (albeit session) and a manic tempo and frenzied finale. A new Fab Four for my generation, and the perfect original boyband. This would have obviously hit my top spot in 1967, but had to wait for one of the periodic chart re-issues, this one 1980 as part of an EP.
YOU KEEP ME HANGIN’ ON – The Supremes (3 weeks)
The Supremes 8th US number one, and my 4th (as a late 80’s re-issue, and then again in the 00’s), this Holland-Dozier-Holland need-to-break-up masterpiece was also a decent worldwide cover hit for Kim Wilde in the 80’s, but this remains the best version. Chock-a-block with angst and emotion, beautifully constructed and very danceable too into the bargain, both The Supremes and HDH were really on a creative roll by this time. In between their last topper, a run of good singles had popped up (including I Hear A Symphony, My World Is Empty Without You, and the much-covered You Can’t Hurry Love – hello Phil Collins) all of them well-known to me from a Greatest Hits album that our next door neighbours loaned us in Singapore 1970. So good, I recorded most of the tracks onto my dad’s newly-purchased reel-to-reel tape recorder. The sound quality might not have been great, and mono, but it meant that my pocket money started to go towards tapes so I could get copies of all my MANY favourite records to play over and over and over…
They said home-taping is killing music. It didn’t of course, 12-year-olds don’t have disposable income, and they weren’t lost sales at all, they were DELAYED sales: I ended up buying everything I ever taped and wanted good copies of. Record companies should note in these days of downloading (illegal and legal) that singles sales are the highest they have ever been now that we aren’t forced to buy an album for one track.
THE SUN AIN’T GONNA SHINE ANYMORE – The Walker Brothers (5 weeks)
What can I say about this record…? It. Is. Awesome!! A Four Seasons song (so already quality) covered by the three-unrelated-Walkers’ for a second number one. Always bigger in the UK than their home-USA, it has to be said it’s Scott Walker’s vocals and the dramatic, epic-string arrangement that convert this into timeless greatness. If I’m feeling low I put this on and, well, cry bucketloads in a sort of cathartic way. I liked it in the 60’s, loved it in the 70’s and 80’s, adored it in the 90’s, and worshipped it in the 00’s, it just improves with age. Topped my chart in the early 90’s and early 00’s, and pretty much the last great Walker Brothers record (bar No Regrets in 1976), their short career left an impact though, not least from a certain Scott…
MONDAY MONDAY – The Mamas & The Papas (15 weeks)
The 15 week run flatters this great pop record somewhat – it was combined with California Dreamin’ and Dream A Little Dream for the chart run in 1997 – but it would have grabbed a week or two at the top anyway. The hit follow-up to California Dreamin’ had the same great harmonies, song and male/female vocals set up in their debut classic. Not as well known these days, in the 60’s in the UK this was the bigger hit, and it still sounds great. John Phillips was such a good songwriter he rather oddly gave away the all-time Summer Of Love flower-power anthem to Scott Walker: more on that later, and more on the other singles from The Mamas & The Papas that did and didn’t top my charts. Mostly did…
GOD ONLY KNOWS – The Beach Boys (4 weeks)
The Beach Boys finest, most sublime, most sophisticated, most touching and just plain old mostest record. Third chart-topper, it’s criminal it failed to do that in the real world, as it has consistently been rated in the various “Greatest Record Of All-Time” polls since. Carl Wilson’s gorgeous vocals, Brian Wilson’s gorgeous melody, and the gorgeous arrangement are all underpinned by the lyrics and the sentiment which resounds strongly nearly 50 years later: this was my niece’s “first dance” moment after her wedding 2 years ago. It’s an utterly timeless classic, and no-one has ever successfully covered it, not because the song can’t take cover versions, more because it’s difficult to sing and sing convincingly. Did I mention it’s perfect? If it fails to move the listener (and I say this in a non-judgmental “we all like different music, each to his own” frame of mind) said-listener must have a heart of pure concrete. So there, yah boo sucks
SUNNY AFTERNOON – The Kinks (2 Weeks)
A complete change of direction from previous hits, this Ray Davies song is wistful (in a slight breezy blues fashion), sunshine-brimming, and poetic lyrics painting1966 British life (albeit some political tax comments). It’s one I liked as an 8-year-old but grew to love as I got older, largely thanks to the melody and the vocal performance, very quirkily British, and loveable. The previous single Dedicated Follower Of fashion was one I probably liked more at the time, but it hasn’t aged quite as well as this, their second Number One which peaked in the early 21st Century in my charts – but not the last time they would top though…
SLOOP JOHN B – The Beach Boys (1 week)
A traditional sailing chanty rather than a contemporary new classic. Ish. It still sounds like a Brian Wilson song, and a track off the all-time classic Pet Sounds album. While it’s not quite up to the awesomeness of some of the other tracks it almost hit the top of the UK charts – and topped mine in the 2000’s. It has what you might expect, in harmony, production and vocal, for the great band pumping at their peak, and a fourth Number One. In a way, though, it’s the end of their hot creative period…
EBB TIBE – The Righteous Brothers (1 week)
The third and final of their classic Phil Spector-produced chart-toppers, saw an early-50’s standard covered yet again in the definitive version. Even the over-rated Sinatra was over-shadowed by this moody, powerful vocal production, complete with harbour sounds. It took 30 years to top my chart, but I didn’t really hear it until the 90’s on American oldies radio, and it still sounded great to me. Bobby Hatfield sadly died a few years back, but Bill Medley is still touring and keeping the flag flying, as much for his post-Righteous hits like I’ve Had The Time Of My Life from 1987 as for the 60’s hits.
I SAW HER AGAIN – The Mamas & The Papas (1 week)
3rd Chart-topper, this time with a John Phillips/Denny Doherty co-write (they hardly ever wrote together) following the Fleetwood Mac-type fling Denny had with Michelle Phillips, wife of John and the only surviving member of the band. She left the band for a while and they wrote this typically-layered-harmony polished pop gem which charted in the UK and US. It’s not as well known as some of their other classics, but it’s a great pop song anyway, urgent, a bit manic and the melody is just delicious. Along with The Beatles and Beach Boys and Spector, the band was advancing pop into a sophisticated production/art.
PAINT IT, BLACK – The Rolling Stones (1 week)
The second Stones Number One in My-chart world, in the interim they’d had 19th Nervous Breakdown, a great rock track, and shown they were developing well as songwriters with Marianne Faithful’s angelic version of As Tears Go By. This one, though, may well be their best moment, moody, ominous and beautifully-produced, the eastern-flavoured instrumentation hints they had been more than a little impressed by the Beatles albums in 1966. Keeping up with Joneses and doing it with style. Being used in movies since has helped it rechart on several occasions, quite probably becoming their most popular classic track in recent years (it was clearly Satisfaction in the 70’s and 80’s), quite deservedly though.
ELUSIVE BUTTERFLY – Val Doonican (1 week)
The affable laid-back Val was a TV staple back in the 60’s with his Irish charm and likeable singing voice. More of a throwback to Perry Como than contemporary pop, he was nonetheless popular with young kids for his Irish comedy novelty songs and older music fans for his ballads. From early favourites like Walk Tall through to 1971’s Morning, Val popped up in the charts regularly, but this was far and away his best record. A cover of Bob Lind’s American hit, a great record in it’s own right but one which has yet to chart in mine (I’m looking for a reason!), Val’s was the more famous UK version at the time and his tones suited this gorgeous melody and lovely strings arrangement perfectly. A childhood fave that still sounds great, this charted on the back of a Greatest Hits package a few years ago.
RIVER DEEP MOUNTAIN HIGH – Ike & Tina Turner (1 week)
The record that famously caused Phil Spector to retire from record production in a strop, as American radio stations incredibly failed to play it, reducing it to minor hit status. A massive UK hit though, and a bona-fide rock classic, ambitious, epic and passionate singing from Tina. The pedigree all-round is impeccable, from songwriters Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry, the Spector wall-of-sound and Ike & Tina’s r’n’b background. It catapulted them to world fame, an eventual movie based on Tina’s autobiography and a long solo career. Not their last number one in my chart, either, and this also charted following a hits compilation that made the UK chart, having initially failed to top my chart in 1969 when it was re-issued and a hit all over again. It improves with age!
TOMORROW NEVER KNOWS – The Beatles (1 week)
Never a single, this closing album track on Revolver was used on the BBC’s classic radio series 25 Years Of Rock as the signal for the changing of the times as 1966 drew to a close and opened up mind-expanding hippie music into popular culture. It’s high time it was a hit single, it’s ahead of the game on so many levels, the insistent eastern-flavoured repetitive rhythm, borrowed to great effect in the 90’s by The Chemical Brothers Setting Sun dance track, and many modern dance tracks use the same sort of repetition. The John Lennon track used tape loops and experimental-production techniques to get the new sounds, and helped open up pop to new rules: that there are no rules! Classic! Charted on the back of the remixed recharted Revolver album package.
PAPERBACK WRITER/RAIN – The Beatles (2 weeks)
Paperback Writer was probably the forgotten Beatles single until it got used as the theme tune to Read All About It, a TV review programme of the early 70’s, after which it became the 2nd-highest charting of the re-issued Beatles singles in 1976. An incessant riff-based and harmonies, and two minutes of romping Macca delight, but the B side Rain was just as good, a hippie-trippie rock anthem that really should have featured on Revolver, not tucked away on a B Side. Just goes to show that The Beatles B Sides were better than most bands A sides. We’re well into double figures now for Beatles toppers, and these two tracks finally topped in the 21st century.
BUS STOP – The Hollies (3 weeks)
This is a great song, probably The Hollies best single. Written by teenage songwriter Graham Gouldman (later of 10CC) it has great “meeting at the bus stop and turning into love” lyric and a wonderful tune, mature stuff for a pop single. Graham went on to write other fab 60’s hits for other acts, not to mention his co-written classics in 10CC (still touring), and The Hollies got a welcome boost to their already substantial back catalogue – with another 8 years to go! We forget these days how consistent they were. This was, however, the last to top my charts while Graham Nash was still highly visible on harmonies with Allan Clarke, three years on and he’d moved on to Crosby Stills & Nash, and delights like Marrakesh Express, among many.
(I’M NOT YOUR) STEPPIN’ STONE – The Monkees (1 week)
Not a Monkees original, but this B Side to I’m A Believer was pure 60’s garage rock, and a punk influence. The Sex Pistols had a cartoon version hit with it, but the Monkees version is the one that spits venom. Not so much catchy pop, as credible powerful rock, Micky’s vocals bark out passion and vitriol, so not so surprising it wasn’t a single (being as the singles were aimed at kids) but it also shows just how good the B Sides and album tracks of a supposed manufactured band really were. How you get there don’t matter, it’s what’s in the grooves that counts, and the grooves are pure gold.