Long before the AMC network brought modern society the hit TV program Mad Men, there was a decade called the 1960s when real people walked the earth and listened to their music on quaint little radios and groovy looking hi-fis that neither streamed nor downloaded a thing.
In order to hear the music you liked when you wanted to hear it, you would visit your local record shop where for a fee they would sell you either a big record with quite a few songs on it or a little record with only two songs with one being particularly good and the other not so hot. Occasionally, you got lucky and both tracks were excellent.
Today, we'll focus on the songs that were #1 on the charts during the summer months of 1964 through 1966, a time when most artists were less concerned with the big record format (the LP, long player) than the little record format (the 45 -- for the speed at which the record turned on the electric turntable).
Doesn't this sound exciting? And, kids, don't forget to keep asking your parents if they were ever caught necking to this music! Or maybe your grandparents! One of these fine songs could even be the reason you're here today!
25) Love Me Do -- The Beatles (1964): By the summer of 1964, Beatlemania was in full swing and anything 'Beatles' was a surefire hit. "Love Me Do" had been their modest debut single in the UK where it fared decently at #17. However, US markets in 1964 took the song to #1 because the Beatles had started running low on new singles.
24) Chapel of Love -- The Dixie Cups (1964): A Brill Building specialty, written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and Phil Spector, "Chapel of Love" was recorded by a number of nice folks, like Darlene Love, The Ronettes, the Blossoms, Bette Midler, the Beach Boys and Elton John. Most recently, it was covered by Holly Beth Vincent for a 2011 episode of American Idol. The Dixie Cups had the hit version that was heard in the film Full Metal Jacket.
23) A World Without Love -- Peter and Gordon (1964): Paul McCartney wrote this song at 16 years old and knew it wasn't good enough for the Beatles so he offered it to anyone desperate enough for a hit. The taker turned out to be Peter Asher, whose sister Jane Asher dated McCartney for years, and with whom Paul "roomed" with for a few years.
22) I Get Around -- The Beach Boys (1964): The Beach Boys' first #1 hit in the US was also their first top ten hit in the UK, where drafty young Brits got their first inkling of sunshine on a faraway coast. The single featured "Don't Worry Baby" as its B-side, being one of those times I spoke about when you got full value for a single. Some may be inclined to say you got more than full value here -- though mathematically that's not possible.
21) Rag Doll -- The Four Seasons (1964): Number one in July 1964, the song was ranked in 2010 as the #1 song of all-time by the listeners of New York City's oldies station, WCBS-FM, who apparently reside in Hell.
20) A Hard Day's Night -- The Beatles (1964): The Beatles were looking to get as much done as they could in their first year of worldwide fame, still thinking they were on an 18-month schedule of fame, with Ringo eyeballing those hair salons!
19) Everybody Loves Somebody -- Dean Martin (1964): The song was written in 1947 and had been recorded by other artists without success until Dino took it up the charts to knock the Beatles out of the #1 slot to spite his 14-year old son who preferred the mop tops to his dad's music. And you think your dad could be a jerk?
18) Where Did Our Love Go? -- The Supremes (1964): The song peaked weeks after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Yes, that Civil Rights Act of 1964.
17) The House of The Rising Sun -- The Animals (1964): Alan Price got the composer's credit on this ages-old folk song since there was "insufficient room" to name all five members on the record label, an issue that rightfully annoyed the other members of the band when they discovered what not ever being paid those publishing royalties meant to hungry young musicians -- and eventually to old musicians, too!
16) Help Me, Rhonda -- The Beach Boys (1964): The single version included on Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!!) is the revolutionary version that captures the magic and the innocence of an era that would be over sooner than anyone could've predicted.
15) Back In My Arms Again -- The Supremes (1965):"Stop! In the Name of Love" had been a hit in the late winter-spring, with this single following to keep people thinking about these three lovely gals and capping off their streak of five straight #1 singles. The remaining #1 hits were "Where Did Our Love Go," "Baby Love" and "Come See About Me."
14) I Can't Help Myself -- The Four Tops (1965): This single was their third to chart and their first #1. Though the group would continue to have many hits, only "Reach Out I'll Be There" would also make it to the #1 slot.
13) Mr. Tambourine Man -- The Byrds (1965): Though music historians have tidied up the narrative over the years, at the time when stuff was happening, some stuff seemed to be happening quicker than other stuff. It sure seems like by the summer of 1965 that the idea of electrifying a Bob Dylan song would've been done many times over. But then Dylan didn't do the electric thing on stage until the Newport Folk Festival of 1965.
12) (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction -- The Rolling Stones (1965): Surely, this sounds less revolutionary today, but if you listen consciously to the track, you can still hear a snarl that most music of the time does not have. Those lips make be trademarked into a corporate logo, but there was a time when it sounded like they were up to no good. What teenager couldn't love that?
11) I'm Henry VIII, I Am -- Herman's Hermits (1965): Just in case you thought the wheels were coming off the bus there, Herman and his Hermits (it says so right there with the possessive apostrophe s) assured us the 1960s were still full of respectable teens fully capable of being polite.
10) I Got You Babe -- Sonny and Cher (1965): Folk rock might seem like a made-up function, but most hyphenated genres are dubious at best. Heck, most genres are dubious. There aren't many of us who would admit to liking "Crap Rock."
9) Help! -- The Beatles (1965): The second film gave them another synergistic push for their second summer of world domination. Surely, someone at Brian Epstein's address kept a calendar around and knew the importance of timing your releases properly.
8) When A Man Loves A Woman -- Percy Sledge (1966): This song became his signature tune and for it he went into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You might think people would care a bit more about a singer who landed such an iconic track, yet whether it was "Out of Left Field," "Take Time To Know Her" or "True Love Travels On A Gravel Road," the results were never the same. Shame on us!
7) Paint It, Black -- The Rolling Stones (1966): Those snarling brats are back. Now they're back demanding someone paint their doors for them. The lesser bands would still rattle around with last year's sounds but the bigger bands led the way to what everyone else would be doing next year. Sir, your marimba!
6) Paperback Writer -- The Beatles (1966): Amp manufacturers and tech wizards deserve much of the credit for the revolutionary sounds of the day. No fuzz boxes, slower progress. Of course, leave it to McCartney to put a pretty smile on it, so everyone could like it and feel safe. In the back of his head, Lennon heard another way to express his anger.
5) Strangers In the Night -- Frank Sinatra (1966): Sinatra himself hated the song and made no secret of this hatred. Yet, it was his first #1 hit in 11 years. It gave non-teens a chance to think they still mattered to the culture in much the same way a new Bruce Springsteen song gives hope to his rapidly aging audience.
4) Hanky Panky -- Tommy James and the Shondells (1966): If you haven't read Tommy James' autobiography Me, The Mob, and The Music, by all means please do so.
3) Wild Thing -- The Troggs (1966): Sometimes the simplest idea is the best idea. Three chords and the truth! Or just three chords. To hell with the truth! The single was issued by two companies in the US, Fontana and Atco, with the Atco single offering up the better value with the B-side "With A Girl Like You," which would be the next single for the Fontana label. This is the only single to reach #1 by combining the sales of two different companies!
2) Summer In the City -- The Lovin' Spoonful (1966): The Spoonful had already had four top ten hits, including two that reached #2, when this became their only #1 hit, surely due in part to being released in time for the summer! Like comedy and sex, music is all about timing!
1) Sunshine Superman -- Donovan (1966): Donovan's only #1 hit in the US only made it to #2 in the UK, likely because it was held up by six months and not released until December, a time when England doesn't see much of sunshine and certainly doesn't need to be reminded that it exists elsewhere.
Interesting to note that the original single version was 3 minutes and 15 seconds, with each version on a Greatest Hits collection getting longer until it's now clocking in at 4 minutes, 41 seconds. If all songs grew like this, it's possible that most Don Henley hit singles are now seven minutes in length. And "Sunshine Superman" will be six minutes itself by 2031. We must stop music from growing in this way! Write your congressman!