Saturday, August 07, 2010

The early 60s revisited: the top 10 as it should have been

20/20 hindsight is a wonderful thing. Most Woodies, being of a certain age, have fond memories of the late 50s and early 60s as the era when rock and roll, doo wop and R and B reached a peak of perfection. Soul was stirring and the music scene was red hot.
The world was changing and changing fast. Rock and roll was here to stay. Elvis wriggled his pelvis. Jerry Lee outraged 'decent' society. Classic hits came out almost daily. Or so it seems to us now.
Yet the reality was that there were never more than a handful of great records in the top 20 at any one time and by 1960 the revolution had apparently burned itself out. Raw rock and roll had been replaced by bland pop songs. The charts in the UK bore this out, dominated as they were by the likes of Adam, Cliff and the Shads, Shirley Bassey and Acker Bilk.
But of course the charts did not tell the whole story. Great music hadn't died at all. It had just gone underground.
Even as a thirteen year old I realised that the top 30 charts were mostly rubbish. And so in March 1960 I set up my own personal top ten, a list (don't we Woodies just love lists?) of my favourite records of the moment. I continued this once or twice a week for nearly six years, completing my 408th and final top ten in December 1965.
Access was a problem, reliant, as we all were in these days, on Radio Luxembourg. But although my top ten was far from perfect - some wonderful singles failed to appear - I like to think that it's a better representation of the music of the early sixties than the charts in the NME, Record Mirror and Melody Maker ever managed.
Looking back, I see that well over 90 per cent of all entries during the years that my top ten spanned were American. The only UK artist to appear regularly was Billy Fury, and even he disappeared when his records became increasingly pop-orientated.
My first number one was Sweet Nuthin's by Brenda Lee, and there were many entries during 1960 by Elvis, Fats Domino, Marv Johnson, Jimmy Jones, Eddie Cochran, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Bobby Vee, Neil Sedaka, Johnny Burnett and Roy Orbison.
Obscure (at the time) 45s by the likes of James Brown (Think), Ron Holden (Love Her so), the Ivy Three (Yogi), Shirley and Lee (Let The Good Times Roll), Mickey and Sylvia (Sweeter As The Day Goes By), Joe Jones (You Talk Too Much), Tracey Pendarvis (Is It Me?) and Paul Evans (Hushabye Little Guitar) also entered my top ten.
My top five hits for the year (based on ten points for number one down to one point for number ten) were:
Wonderful World - Sam Cooke
I just go for you - Jimmy Jones
Only the Lonely - Roy Orbison
You Gotta Move Two Mountains - Marv Johnson
Alley Oop - Hollywood Argylls
Of those, only Roy Orbison's Only the Lonely made it big (and I remember nagging my local record shop for weeks before I could get hold of a copy).
On to 1961, and my top ten was beginning to separate from the regular one still further. Entries included Angel Baby by Rosie and the Originals, Shop Around by the Miracles (a number one), Once in a While by the Chimes (my top record of the year), Gee Whiz by Carla Thomas, All In My Mind by Maxine Brown, Ernie K-Doe's Mother in Law (also a number one) and Te Ta Te Ta ta, Those Oldies but Goodies by Nino and the Ebbtides, I Like it Like That by Chris Kenner ( a number one), Nag by the Halos, Please Mr Postman by the Marvelettes and several by the likes of Dion and U S Bonds.
My top five for 1961 probably didn't reflect the diversity of the chart as a whole. Here it is:
Once in a While - The Chimes
2= Running Scared - Roy Orbison
2= Crying - Roy Orbison
4. Girls - Johnny Burnett
5. Sad Mood - Sam Cooke
In 1962 there was one UK record that made it into my top ten - the Beatles' Love me do reached number ten for one week in October - but apart from that it was very much a US dominated chart once again.
The Crystals, Del Shannon, the Shirelles, Chris Montez, Dion and my two top artists in terms of points scored over the six years - Sam Cooke and Roy Orbison - all scored big. And again there were number ones for less well known artists such as Benny Spellman (Lipstick Traces), Don and Juan (What's your name), the Showmen (It will stand) and the Cookies (Chains).
Other entries included Lee Dorsey's Do re mi, Barbara George's I know, If you gotta make a fool of somebody by James Ray, What's so good about goodbye by the Miracles, Clyde McPhatter's Lover please and Little bitty pretty one, Dr Feelgood's record of the same name, Down in the valley by Solomon Burke, Life's too short by the Lafayettes, Green Onions by Booker T and the MGs, Do you love me by the Contours, Chuck Jackson's I keep forgettin' and the Routers football chant Let's go.
Top five for the year were:
1. Nothing can change this love - Sam Cooke
2. Palisades Park - Freddy Cannon
3. Hey baby - Bruce Channel
4. Lipstick traces - Benny Spellman
5. Hey little girl - Del Shannon.
On to 1963 and musically things were picking up. Phil Spector was at his peak, surf music had arrived and Chuck and Bo had re-emerged. The real charts were dominated by UK beat groups, but not my alternative top ten.
Relative obscurities included That's life by Gabriel and the Angels, Wild weekend by the Rockin' Rebels, Let's stomp by Bobby Comstock, The Rocky Fellers' Killer Joe, Ronnie Hawkins great version of Who do you love, Ask me by Maxine Brown, Road Runner by the Count Victors, The Bird's the word by the Rivingtons, Shake a Tailfeather by the Five Du-Tones, Lonnie Mack's Memphis, Just one look by Doris Troy and Talk to me by Sunny and the Sunglows.
Top five for 1963 were:
1. Sandy - Dion
2. Da Doo ron ron - Crystals
3. He's sure the boy I love - Crystals
4. He's so fine - Chiffons
5. Little town flirt - Del Shannon
By 1964 the number of great records being released was huge. Soul music was taking off, via Detroit and Memphis, the blues was booming and classics abounded. Not that the mainstream charts reflected that of course.
Lesser known artists who made it into my top ten included Jerry Butler, Major Lance, the Impressions, the Tams, the Rivieras (California sun), Inez and Charlie Foxx, the Reflections (Just like Romeo and Juliet), Arthur Alexander, the Jelly Beans, Tony Clarke, Earl-Jean, Jackie Ross, Ronnie and the Daytonas, Don Covay, the Hondells, Bobby Parker (Watch your step), the Larks and Little Anthony and the Imperials.
Old favourites like Sam Cooke, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee (Lewis Boogie) and James Brown continued to score well, as did many Tamla Motown artists and of course the Beach Boys.
Top five for 1964:
1. I get around - Beach Boys
2. Baby I need your loving - Four Tops
3. My guy - Mary Wells
4= Shoop shoop song - Betty Everett
4= When I grow up - Beach Boys
Finally to 1965, when my top ten sadly ended as other interests began to take up more of my time (and I started receiving free singles to review for the Croydon Advertiser). What a fantastic year 1965 was - absolutely littered with classic tracks. Among those that made it to number one in my chart were the Righteous Brothers' You've lost that loving feeling, Bobby Bland's Yield not to temptation, Sam Cooke's Shake, Voice your choice by the Radiants, two versions of My girl (the Temptations and Otis Redding), People get ready by the Impressions, It's wonderful to be in love by the Ovations, Arthur Prysock's It's too late baby and Treat her right by Roy Head.
Smaller hits included Twine time by Alvin Cash and the Crawlers, Baby baby baby by Anna King and Bobby Byrd, Don't mess up a good thing by Bobby McClure and Fontella Bass, Wilbert Harrison's Let's stick together, Little Milton's Blind man, Woolly Bully by Sam the Sham, Nothing can stop me by Gene Chandler, I do by the Marvelows, Go now by Bessie Banks and O V Wright's You're gonna make me cry.
Top ten for 1965 (it was such a good year):
1. Hold what you've got - Joe Tex
2. In the midnight hour - Wilson Pickett
3. People get ready - Impressions
4. Shake/A change is gonna come - Sam Cooke
5. Mr Pitiful - Otis Redding
6. Treat her right - Roy Head
7. Respect - Otis Redding
8. Voice your choice - Radiants
9. You've lost that loving feeling - Righteous Brothers
10. I can't help myself - Four Tops
In terms of points over the period covered by my top ten the winner by a mile was Sam Cooke, proving the consistency of his single releases up until his tragic death. The rest of the top ten point scorers (just to finish with one more list!) were:
Roy Orbison
Del Shannon
Everly Brothers
Elvis Presley
Freddy Cannon
Bobby Vee
Neil Sedaka


At 8:37 am , Blogger Private Beach said...

I guess I'm a few years younger than you. You seem to have been listening to much of that same stuff that influenced the Beatles, Stones, Animals etc. I was listening to those British artists as a teenager and only discovered later where much of their inspiration came from.

Yes, the charts have always included a lot of rubbish, but they only reflect the fads of the moment. In the long run great records survive and are remembered better than the trash. It would be very interesting to have a chart made up of long term sales figures instead of just spanning one week. We tend to forget that some now acknowledged classics sold poorly when first released.

At 7:00 pm , Anonymous Alan said...

A lot of my favourites in there. I've always wondered why Roy Orbison's "Crying" became "Cryin'" in the UK.

At 5:26 pm , Blogger Nick said...

You raise an interesting point about Cryin' (or Crying). The single, released on the London label, was Cryin'. But the LP, also on London, was called Crying and the title track had no apostrophe. Why, I have no idea.

At 9:50 pm , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your list was fantastic. (Even for someone who's not a "Woodie", I love lists). I enjoyed how detailed you were about compiling such a list. Although I don't have much or really any ties to the era, my parents raised me around this music and there's a bit of nostalgia for my childhood each time I play a tune from artists like the Marvelettes, Dion, Johnny Burnett, the Beach Boys and of course Elvis Presley. Because I wasn't alive during this time I would have never guessed that artists from the UK were drowning out rock and roll but I'd have to stand mutual in the debate because of my likes of UK pop.
The late 50s and early 60s seemed to have been the highlight of rock and roll, as you said "peak of perfection", it's unfortunate I have to read rather than re-tell stories from this time, which is why I enjoy your blog.


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