Okay, I can’t resist doing another of these. This is what music was like half a century ago, kids.
Petula Clark was constantly on the charts in the 1960s, scoring a total of 13 top-30 hits in the United States. By the time she made it big, she was already in her thirties, and had been a singer for nearly 20 years, as she started off as a child entertainer singing on the BBC during World War II in order to entertain the troops. This song is much like many of her other chart hits – pleasant, brassy, but not anything even remotely resembling rock and roll. She is now 83; Wikipedia tells me that she divides her time between Geneva, the French Alps, and London. And why not?
You’ve probably heard this. Everybody’s heard this. Ba-ba-ba! This is a cover of The Regents’ version from 1961. I like this song, but I wonder whether this was the start of the rift between Brian Wilson and the rest of the Beach Boys: he wanted to explore new sounds, whereas some of the other guys realized that they could make good money sticking with the formula.
This catchy instrumental, which is about halfway between surf music and the old girl group sound, is apparently based on an old Alka-Seltzer commercial. It was recorded by members of The Wrecking Crew, a collection of Los Angeles based studio musicians. A group of completely different musicians was hastily recruited to tour as the T-Bones; three of these five T-Bones later went on to form Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds, who had a couple of hits in the early 1970s. I swear that I must have heard this on at least one movie or video soundtrack from that time.
You know all about the Beatles, of course. What I noticed when listening to this song was that it doesn’t seem dated at all except for the mid-1960s production values. (Mind you, I am a bit dated myself.) Perhaps this is just because we’re so used to their voices, or perhaps it’s just because they were so freaking good at what they did. Needless to say, this went to #1, as it should have. It was one of twenty #1 hits that they had in the U.S.
Lou Christie (born Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco) had a couple of million-selling hits in the early 1960s before being drafted into Uncle Sam’s Army. “Lightnin’ Strikes” was his first hit after being let out; it eventually reached number 1. It’s okay, I think. Did he and Frankie Valli ever have a falsetto contest?
So far, I have liked or at least tolerated all of the songs on this chart. This came to an abrupt end with this song. Mr. Douglas has a little trouble reaching the highest notes in the song’s intro, and then goes into a narration. At which point, dear reader, I had to hit Pause. There are some things I just cannot listen to. This was music for an older generation, and specifically for that part of the older generation that was into sentimentality instead of, say, jazz.
Not one of my favourites either. The lead singer (not sure whether this is Gary Lewis) sounds nasal and annoying. Nice suits, though. Gary Lewis is the son of Jerry Lewis, but apparently got his band a gig at Disneyland without telling them who he really was. Good for him! Wikipedia says that his mother wanted to name him Cary, after Cary Grant, but a clerical error led to his being called Gary. Couldn’t they just have gone and changed that or something?
This song is just an ordinary 1960s pop song except for that backing vocal, which sounds like a cross between somebody on a chain gang and somebody with a hiccup. Maybe it was both.
I could be snarky and say that this title is self-explanatory, but let’s not be so obvious.
Lead singer Peter Noone’s primary qualification for his job was his rather remarkable smile, which was large and flawless. This was unusual in the mid-1960s in Britain – many performers hadn’t had the time or money for advanced dentistry, so they rose to fame with less than perfect teeth. The Hermits and their startlingly bland sound scored eleven top-10 hits in the United States between 1965 and 1967. Oddly enough, their two best-known songs in North America, “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter” and “I’m Henry VIII, I Am”, were not released as singles in Britain. A touring version of the band still exists, but without Noone, which seems to miss the point somehow. (Random factoid: the WordPress editor on which I am writing this wants me to autocorrect “Noone” to “Boone” or “no one”.)
This song is more syrupy and sentimental than the songs that Ray Charles later made his name with, but he has a soulful enough voice that he could get away with it. The man had it. I’d still rather listen to “What’d I Say”, though.
Okay, that’s it. That’s enough Billboard songs. Unless I get the urge to write about yet more of them. Watch this space!