From a countdown in which I participated, here are my favorite 25 songs since 2000. Although the countdown had no rule, my choices tended to be pop-oriented. Below is the list of my 25 songs. I actually ranked 69 songs, and I’ll try to put the best of the rest in another post.
These are my favorite songs, not necessarily my favorite artists. I have Fergie at number two and I can’t think of another Fergie song that even comes close to my countdown.
1. Yeah! by Usher featuring Lil Jon & Ludacris
2. Big Girls Don’t Cry (Personal) by Fergie
3. Say It Right by Nelly Furtado
4. Crazy by Gnarls Barkley
5. We Are Young by fun. featuring Janelle Monae
6. All Of Me by John Legend
7. Happy by Pharrell Williams
8. Get Lucky by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams
9. F**kin’ Perfect by Pink
10. I Gotta Feeling by The Black Eyed Peas
11. Can’t Fight The Moonlight by LeAnn Rimes
12. Rolling In The Deep by Adele
13. No One by Alicia Keys
14. Royals by Lorde
15. It Feels So Good by Sonique
16. F**k You (Forget You) by Cee Lo Green
17. Viva La Vida by Coldplay
18. Don’t Know Why by Norah Jones
19. Brokenhearted by Karmin
20. Don’t Tell Me by Madonna
21. In Da Club by 50 Cent
22. The Game Of Love by Santana featuring Michelle Branch
23. Grenade by Bruno Mars
24. Family Affair by Mary J. Blige
25. TiK ToK by Ke$ha
Two artists appear twice. Pharrell Williams is at #7 and at #8 while Cee Lo Green is at #4 (with Gnarls Barkley) and at #16.
Welcome to part three Best of the Rest British Invasion Countdown. Songs that are eligible must have hit the US Billboard Top 40. Eligible artists include Brits, except for the Beatles and the Stones–that’s why it’s “Best of the Rest.” I have previously done songs 40-31 and 30-21. Top 10 will be coming soon. The rankings are purely personal preference. Comments welcome.
20. Go Now!, The Moody Blues, London 9726
This might not be the Moody Blues sound of which many are familiar. This is Denny Laine, who would later join Wings, on guitar and lead vocals on this 1965 hit. A different lineup emerged three years later with “Nights In White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon.” “Go Now!” was written by Larry Banks and Milton Bennett. Banks’ wife Bessie recorded a demo in 1962. The prolific producing team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller heard it and decided to have Bessie Banks record it and release it. During the session, the news of Kennedy’s death came. They canceled the session and waited a week. They did record it and released it in January 1964. It was climbing the R&B chart, but then Denny Laine heard it in the middle of Beatlemania and decided that the Moody Blues needed to record and release it. It hit number one in the U.K. in January 1965, and reached its Billboard peak position of number 10 in April 1965. I associate the song with baseball. This was one of the songs that the Baltimore Orioles used at the old Memorial Stadium to “serenade” opposing pitchers when they left the mound after being knocked out of the game. “Go Now!” is also believed to be among the first music videos, as a short film was released to promote the song.
19. Wishin’ And Hopin’, Dusty Springfield, Philips 40207
Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote many songs first recorded by Dionne Warwick. Warwick’s version of “Wishin’ and Hopin'” did not chart for her in 1963. Dusty Springfield recorded it in January 1964. At the time, she had just gone solo and Beatlemania was just beginning to take off. After recording “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” Dusty’s solo career began to emerge when “I Only Want To Be With You” became a worldwide hit. That and several other songs were put together for an April ’64 release of the album Stay Awhile/I Only Want To Be With You, named for her first two singles. “Wishin’ and Hopin'” was the first song on the B side of the album and proved to be the most successful single. It spent five weeks in the top 10 in the summer of 1964, peaking at number six for two weeks. In England, where her first album had a different lineup, Springfield released a different single. The Merseybeats had the hit version of “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” hitting number 13 there that same summer. However, an August 1964 performance on Top of the Pops by both Springfield and the Merseybeats that combined the two versions allowed Dusty to make this one of her signature songs on both sides of the Atlantic. Springfield also released two foreign language versions. In German, it was “Warten Und Hoffen.” The Italian version, “Stupido Stupido” had different lyrics. As far as I know, the song was never played on Mad Men, although given its lyrical content, it would have fit right in.
18. Needles And Pins, The Searchers, Kapp 577
Who sang the definitive version of “Needles and Pins” may simply depend on the country in which you lived. The song started on Jack Nitzsche’s guitar. Sonny Bono made up the words and melody while Nitzsche played chords. Jackie DeShannon released the first version in 1963, and it was a huge hit in Canada but a flop in the United States. Petula Clark recorded “La nuit n’en finit plus,” which was a hit in France. The Searchers recorded it in January 1964 and hit number one in the U.K. Ireland and South Africa and number two in Australia. The British band Smokie, known in America for “Living Next Door To Alice.,” reportedly hit number one in several European countries in 1977, although I have not been able to verify which ones. In America, although Tom Petty & Stevie Nicks had minor success with a live version in 1985, the Searchers’ version, which hit #13 in 1964, is the most familiar one. In Britain, “Needles and Pins” was the second number one hit for the Searchers, who hit the top spot a year earlier with “Sweets For My Sweet,” a Drifters cover. The Searchers hit catalog is pretty much entirely made up of covers. In the United States, “Needles and Pins” marked the first top 40 hit for the band. Their previous release, “Sugar and Spice” stalled just outside the top 40. What makes the song distinct was vocalist’s Mike Pender’s overemphasis of the final consonant in the title phrase, which comes across sounding like “Needles and Pin-zah.”
Donovan was born in Scotland but moved to England when he was 10. Early on, he was thought to be the British Bob Dylan. By the time Donovan went to the top in the United States with “Sunshine Superman,” the Dylan similarities had begun to fade away. “Sunshine Superman” is likely more identified with flower children and the Summer of Love, even though the song was a hit in the previous summer of 1966. It was recorded on December 19, 1965 with Jimmy Page on guitar and John Paul Jones on bass. Contractual negotiations between Donovan and producer Mickie Most delayed the American release until July 1966 and the British release until December. It climbed the Billboard chart very quickly. It was at number 20 the week of August 13 and number 10 a week later. Then number five and finally number one the week of September 3. In Britain, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands, it went to number two. It really helped usher in psychedelia and helped make the hippie movement mainstream. In a February 2014 interview with Howard Stern, Donovan said that “Catch The Wind” and “Sunshine Superman” were among several songs written for Brian Jones’ ex-girlfriend Linda Lawrence. He stated that although “sunshine” was a drug reference, that the song was basically an ode to Lawrence. Donovan later married Lawrence in 1970, a year after Jones’ death. The line, “You’re going to be mine,” was indeed prescient.
16. Green, Green Grass Of Home, Tom Jones, Parrot 40009 Tom Jones exploded onto the music scene in a big way in 1965 with the worldwide hit, “It’s Not Unusual.” Shortly after that success, Jones was asked to record the title tracks of the movies, “What’s New, Pussycat” and “Thunderball.” The release of “Green, Green Grass Of Home” was a foray into American country music for Jones. The song was written by Curly Putnam and recorded by several country artists in 1965. The most notable version was by Porter Wagoner, who took it to number four on the country chart. It was an unreleased track on the Jerry Lee Lewis album, Country Songs For City Folks. Jones bought that album and first heard the song as recorded by Lewis. Released in November 1966, Tom Jones took it to number one in Ireland, Norway, Australia and the United Kingdom. In the United States, it spent five weeks in the top 20, peaking at number 11 in February 1967. It’s a beautiful song, but a sad story of a prisoner on death row. Jones has continued to sing it throughout his long career. In a duet with Dolly Parton on her television show in the 1980s, Parton shouts “so sad” leading into Jones’ final chorus. He performed it with Jerry Lee Lewis for a television special in 2006. There have been many covers, including one by Joan Baez in 1969, by George Jones in 1972 and by Elvis Presley in 1976.
15. Do Wah Diddy Diddy, Manfred Mann, Ascot 2157
Kind of like Blondie, Manfred Mann is both a person and a group. The individual is South African but the band was British. Their breakout hit, “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” was written by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich, who had written hits for 1960s girl groups such as the Crystals and the Ronettes. Originally a minor hit for the Raindrops and the Exciters, Manfred Mann’s version added another worldwide hit to Barry and Grennwich’s credits. “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” hit number one in Britain, Canada and the United States in the fall of 1964. In America it spent four weeks in the top 10 before dethroning Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” as the number one song in October 1964. It spent two weeks at number one and nine weeks in the top 10. It had new life following the success of the 1981 Ivan Reitman film, Stripes. In the movie, Sgt. Hulka’s misfits, played by Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Judge Reinhold and John Candy among others, sing the song while marching in basic training. There have been a few covers, but few as delightfully odd as Sheila’s 1964 French version, “Vous Les Copains, Je Ne Vous Oublierai Jamais.” Sheila was a French pop star who took her name from her first hit, a French cover of Tommy Roe’s “Sheila.”
14. Love Potion Number Nine, The Searchers, Kapp 27
The Searchers’ most successful single in the United States was, like many of their hits, a remake. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote a string of crossover R&B/rock/pop hits in the 1950s, including “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock” and “Kansas City.” The Clovers, an R&B group, recorded “Love Potion No. 9″ and hit #23 on both the pop and R&B charts in 1959. The Searchers were not even the first British Invasion act to cover it. Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders recorded it in 1963. The Searchers had by far the most success with it. It originally showed up on their 1963 album, Meet The Searchers. It was not released as a single in the United Kingdom, and was not released in the United States until later in 1964. It was the sixth chart hit in the states for the Searchers, following previous releases from later albums. “Love Potion Number Nine” (the Searchers used the longer title) was a clever comedic story of unintended consequences. The potion worked, but the poor guy ended up kissing a policeman on a public street corner. The Searchers’ version climbed the charts at the end of 1964, and cracked the top 10 for the first week of 1965. It spent six weeks in the top 10, peaking at number three for two weeks. It was the only top 10 hit in America for the Searchers.
13. I’m A Man, The Yardbirds, Epic 9857
“I’m A Man” is clearly a Bo Diddley jam. Originally, it was the B-side of Diddley’s signature hit, “Bo Diddley” in 1955. The Yardbirds recorded several times, using different über-famous guitarists. A live version with Eric Clapton on guitar was included on the 1964 album, Five Live Yardbirds. The single released late in 1965 was done in studio with Jeff Beck on guitar. Live versions with Beck from 1965 and with Jimmy Page from 1968 were released on live albums years later. The studio version that featured Beck peaked at number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 the week of December 11, 1965. The song’s influence transcended its peak position. Very avant garde for its time, “I’m A Man” was ignored by some AM pop stations of that era. In a 1969 interview, Diddley called the Yardbirds version “beautiful.” Of the British bands who helped continue Diddley’s and other Americans’ legacies, he said, “We started it, they copied it and threw it back in our faces.” Originally, this one went unreleased in the U.K., but finally did become a single in 1976.
12. You Really Got Me, The Kinks, Reprise 0306
Some call “You Really Got Me” the first heavy metal hit. It certainly influenced many who later inhabited that musical genre. It was the second recording of the song that really took off. Dave Davies played the lead guitar on this song that really propelled the band to superstardom. The story is that he cut his amp with a razor blade to achieve an effect referred to as fuzz-tone. A similar riff was used for the band’s follow-up smash, “All Day And All Of The Night.” Both songs pioneered the use of power chords in pop and rock music. Written by Ray Davies, “You Really Got Me” spent two weeks atop the British chart in September 1964. The song climbed the American charts a bit more slowly, entering the top 20 in early November 1964. It spent five weeks in the top ten as 1964 came to a close, peaking at number seven for three weeks. Although rumors persisted that Jimmy Page played lead guitar on this classic record, all involved including Page have emphatically insisted that Dave Davies played lead guitar and Ray Davies sang vocals and played rhythm guitar. Page was used on some Kinks’ records, but on rhythm guitar, freeing Ray Davies to just sing lead. The influence of “You Really Got Me” should not be understated–this was a landmark song. Van Halen cracked the top 40 with a 1978 cover. Rap group Salt N Pepa sang the famous two lines of the chorus at the end of their breakthrough hit, “Push It,” in 1987.
11. What Have They Done To The Rain, The Searchers, Kapp 644
Well, the Searchers were known for covers, and knew how to pick the right songs. “What Have They Done To The Rain” was originally titled “Rain Song.” Malvina Reynolds wrote the folk tune about acid rain and nuclear fallout and recorded it herself in 1962. It has been since covered by many in the folk music scene, but the Searchers’ version, with rich harmonies, has been the most successful in both the United States and Great Britain. Still, it was a modest hit, reaching number 13 in the United Kingdom in 1964 and number 29 on the U.S. Billboard chart in 1965. The success of the Searchers’ version was likely aided by the group’s previous smash, “Love Potion Number Nine.” Although Reynolds and Joan Baez had released versions before, and Pete Seeger sang it regularly at his appearances, the Searchers’ drew the attention for future rock and folk artists who later covered it, notably the Seekers and Marianne Faithfull. The song’s message sneaks up on the listener. By the final verse, the boy and the grass have disappeared.
This post is pieced together from Facebook posts from November 2013. I decided to post the Billboard top ten songs from that fateful week that President Kennedy was killed. Beatlemania was only weeks away and the music sounded nothing like what was to come. So here is a look.
Billboard Top 10 Hits, Week Ending November 23, 1963
10. Maria Elena, Los Indios Tabarajes, RCA Victor 8216
We’ll be hearing a lot about 1963 this week. What was the music like? The Beatles would come in about 12 weeks. The #10 song this week was an instrumental version of an old Spanish song, recorded in 1958, released in 1962 but popular in November 1963. YouTube link
9. Dominique, The Singing Nun, Philips 40152
The #9 song (and climbing fast) this week in 1963 was “Dominique” by the Singing Nun. It spent four weeks at number one following the Kennedy assassination, without any obvious connection beyond the Belgian nun’s Catholicism. YouTube link
8. Bossa Nova Baby, Elvis Presley, RCA Victor 8243
Continuing with the top 10 from this week in 1963, at #8 is a movie song by Elvis. YouTube link
7. Everybody, Tommy Roe, ABC-Paramount 10478
Continuing the 1963 countdown, the number 7 song this week was “Everybody,” by Tommy Roe, who hit the top 10 six times between 1962 and 1969. YouTube link
6. She’s A Fool, Lesley Gore, Mercury 72180
It’s her party and she can cry if she wants to. “She’s A Fool” was #6 this week in 1963. For Lesley Gore, it was her third in a string of four top five hits. She continued to chart for the next four years, but never hit the top 10 after the Fab Four’s arrival. YouTube link
5. It’s All Right, The Impressions, ABC-Paramount 10487
The Impressions, with Curtis Mayfield, held the #5 spot this week in 1963. This song was #1 on the R&B chart and has been covered many times. YouTube link
4. Sugar Shack. Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs, Dot 16487
The #4 song this week in 1963 was the biggest hit single of the entire year, which had previously spent five weeks at #1. Quite curiously, R&B radio picked it up after it first hit #1 on the pop chart–“Sugar Shack” was #1 on the R&B chart this week 50 years ago. YouTube link
3. Deep Purple, Nino Tempo and April Stevens, Atco 6273
Slipping from #1 to #3, brother & sister act Nino Tempo & April Stevens had the #3 song this week in 1963 with a song written in the 1930s. The duo had three more hits, none of which hit the top 10. YouTube link
2. Washington Square, The Village Stompers, Epic 9617
You might not recognize the title but you might recognize the music if you listen. The Village Stompers were #2 this week in 1963 with “Washington Square.” YouTube link
1. I’m Leaving It Up To You, Dale & Grace, Montel 921
The #1 song 50 years ago this week was “I’m Leaving It Up To You,” by Dale & Grace. The duo happened to be in Dallas that Friday for a performance later that evening, and were on a street corner waving to the president shortly before he was killed. Dale & Grace were singing partners who never came close to matching the success of this song. YouTube link
Interesting group of songs, but pretty weak on staying power. The one song you might hear on oldies radio is “It’s All Right.” Music was about to change significantly in a couple of months.
This is part two countdown of my personal favorite of a Best of the Rest British Invasion Countdown. Songs that are eligible must have US Billboard Top 40, and be performed by any British act other than the Beatles and the Rolling Stones (we all know they were good). I have previously done songs 40-31; here are songs 30-21. Look for the top half of the countdown in April.
30. Pretty Flamingo, Manfred Mann, United Artists 50040
I was not familiar with this song prior to prepping for this countdown. It was only a minor hit in the U.S., peaking at number 29 in August 1966. In the U.K., it was a number one hit in May of that year. In Ireland, it spent four weeks at the top. The songwriter’s story is even more interesting (to me anyway). Mark Barkan did reasonably well as a songwriter in the 1960s and was the musical director for The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. As a kid who watched the Banana Splits back then, I can never forget his composition, “The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana).” As for “Pretty Flamingo,” it seems to me that it should have been bigger here. My theory regarding why it did so much better in the British Isles has to do with language. In Britain, “bird” refers to a young woman, used much like “chick” is used in the United States. “Pretty Flamingo” simply makes more sense to a British bloke.
29. I’m Into Something Good, Herman’s Hermits, MGM 13280
In Britain, Herman’s Hermits debut single was its only number one song. In the United States, “I’m Into Something Good” missed the top ten, but introduced the Hermits to an American audience at the height of the British Invasion. For the rest of the decade, Herman’s Hermits had more success in the American than in Britain. Gerry Goffin and Carole King wrote “I’m Into Something Good,” allowing them to continue their hit making success even after the Beatles arrived. Some may know the song for its use in the film The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! That was lead singer Peter Noone’s solo version of the song. In the early 1970s, Noone alienated himself from several original band members. The band continued to tour as “Herman’s Hermits,” but without Noone. The result is rather sad. One group is touring as Herman’s Hermits but features only the drummer from the original lineup. Noone continues to tour under a similar but not exact band name.
28. Glad All Over, The Dave Clark Five, Epic 9656
Here is a song whose sound screams British Invasion. “Glad All Over” was the first number one hit in the U.K. for the Dave Clark Five, who rivaled the Beatles for some time. Released late in 1963, “Glad All Over” replaced “I Want To Hold Your Hand” atop the British charts in January 1964. Clark wrote it with pianist/vocalist Mike Smith, who sings lead on the track. The song features a call and response vocal style, alternating Smith’s lead with the band singing in unison. Clark was the group’s drummer, usually placed front and center on stage and not in the background where many drummers reside. In the United States, “Glad All Over” quickly climbed the charts in the midst of Beatlemania. When it hit the top 10 the week of March 28, four Beatles songs sat in the top four positions. When it peaked at number six four weeks later, the Beatles had three songs in the top seven and the DC5 had two (Louis Armstrong and Terry Stafford had the other two). In America, it was just the beginning for the Dave Clark Five.
27. My Love, Petula Clark, Warner 5684
You may not think of Petula Clark as a British Invasion artist, but she was among the most successful British artists on the American charts in the mid-1960s. “My Love” was Clark’s second number one song, spending two weeks at the pole position in February 1966. “My Love” ended the Beatles’ three-week run at the top with “We Can Work It Out.” For Clark, its was the first song she recorded in America. It’s also believed to be the first number one song written on a transatlantic flight. Clark was on the plane from London to Los Angeles in November 1965 with writer-producer Tony Hatch, who finished most of the song on the flight. She recorded it in L.A. and hit number one within three months. It was an international hit, reaching number one in Canada and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and the top 10 in the U.K. and elsewhere. Petula Clark was a child star in England dating back to the mid-1940s. Her singing career was slow to take off, and it is perhaps fortunate that her breakthrough happened to occur around the time of the British Invasion. Had the timing been different, she may have been a star only in the British Isles. Sonny James topped the country charts in 1970 with a cover. Florence Henderson covered it and sang it on Tonight to celebrate the famous wedding of Miss Vicky and Tiny Tim.
26. Silence Is Golden, The Tremeloes, Epic 10184
When I was a kid, I thought this was a 4 Seasons song. When I was a bit older, I learned it was the Tremeloes, and thought, “Who are the Tremeloes?” Well, the Tremeloes hit the Billboard Top 40 three times in 1967 and never again after that. They are, however, still active. Their second hit peaked at number 11 in August 1967, and well, there’s a reason I thought it was the 4 Seasons. It was the B side of the 4 Seasons smash hit, “Rag Doll,” and the Tremeloes version was a successful cover that is a little faster in tempo. With guitarist Rick West taking the Frankie Valli role by singing lead, the Tremeloes’ cover of “Silence Is Golden” was a huge hit in the U.K., where it spent three weeks at number one in May 1967. They recorded an Italian version, but to my knowledge, it was not a hit in Italy. The band’s success was much bigger in Britain, where they had 11 top 10 hits between 1963 and 1970, including two number ones.
25. I Can See For Miles, The Who, Decca 32206
The Who produced memorable songs across several decades. “I Can See For Miles” was their only Billboard Top 10 hit. While “I Can See For Miles” was a breakthrough for The Who in America, the band was very well-known back in England. They had already racked up six Top 10 hits by the time they released their third studio album, The Who Sell Out, in 1967. Having already hit number two twice in the U.K., The Who had high hopes for “I Can See For Miles,” the last track on side one of the album. Songwriter Pete Townshend was reportedly very disappointed that it peaked at number 10 in Britain, thinking it would be their first number one. In America, it achieved one spot higher, spending two weeks at number nine in November/December 1967. It barely made this countdown, as only songs released between 1964 and 1967 are eligible. The recording and harmonies were quite complex, and were compiled from several sessions. The complexity makes it difficult to replicate on stage.
24. Wild Thing, The Troggs, Atco 6415 & Fontana 1548
“Wild Thing” was the first number one song to have been released widely on two labels. Apparently there was a distribution dispute and each record had the same recording on the A side but different songs on the B side. It was written by Chip Taylor, brother of Jon Voight, and an American band released it to little fanfare in 1965. The simplicity made it a song that young guitar players learned early on. Taylor later admitted that at the time, he didn’t know a lot of chords. The Troggs took it to number one in America the following year. It was their first top 40 hit in the United States. It almost didn’t happen. The band’s manager, Larry Page, wanted “Wild Thing” to be the B side of the song he envisioned to be the Troggs’ single. The intended A side was a cover of “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind,” which had been recorded by the Lovin’ Spoonful. The Spoonful later released it and hit #2 in June 1966. The Troggs lobbied for “Wild Thing” and apparently made the right call. “Wild Thing” rocketed into the top 10 as the Spoonful were falling down the charts. It spent two weeks at number one, and oddly enough, was replaced at the top by “Summer In The City,” by the Lovin’ Spoonful. “Wild Thing” has a baseball association, cemented by its use in the Major League franchise. The movie recording was by a band called X and was used as a crowd singalong to greet relief pitcher Rick Vaughn (Charlie Sheen). Some MLB teams took note. It was played most famously for the Phillies’ Mitch Williams and to a lesser extent for the Orioles’ Gregg Olson.
23. A Summer Song, Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde, World Artists 1027
Chad & Jeremy will never be confused with Cream or Led Zeppelin. They were able to ride the British Invasion wave to release a string of easy listening folk hits. Since folk music was better established in America than in Britain, Chad & Jeremy were more successful in the U.S. and in Canada than in Britain, where they had but one chart hit. Both the sound and the lyrics are pretty light. Both summer and a relationship are coming to a close with a mood of wistful remembrance. Having said all that, why does this song work? It just has a refreshing sound and the vocals underscore that. “A Summer Song” was released in July 1964 on both sides of the Atlantic. It flopped in Britain. In American, it climbed slowly, finally reaching the top 20 at the end of September, when as they sang, “autumn leaves must fall.” It spent two weeks at its peak position of number seven in mid-October. In Canada, “A Summer Song” matched that peak position, reaching number seven there. For me, the song made a bit of a comeback in the mid 1980s, when a completely different song reminded me of this Chad & Jeremy hit. The Nails originally recorded “88 Lines About 44 Women” in 1982, but it became a minor hit in America in the 1984-85 winter. The hummed part that separates the verses has a melody that strongly resembles “A Summer Song” (video link below).
22. She’s Not There, The Zombies, Parrot 9695
Oh, the things you learn from Wikipedia. The electric piano sound on the Zombies hit, “She’s Not There,” comes from a pianet. The pianet appeared more than just occasionally on some of the bigger hits of the 1960s and early 1970s. Made by Hohner in what was then West Germany, used stainless steel reeds and transmitted the sound output electronically. Back to the Zombies. Band member Rod Argent, who plays pianet on this record, wrote the song to fit the vocal range of Colin Blunstone. It has a jazzy mood with a hint of early British Invasion coming on the chorus. It hit number 12 in the United Kingdom, but was a far bigger hit in North America. In Canada, “She’s Not There” peaked at number two. In the United States, it was a slow-rising hit that took off into the top 10 in November 1964, following a July release. Once there, it spent eight weeks in the Billboard top 10, including one week at number two behind Bobby Vinton’s “Mr. Lonely.” The Zombies did hit number one on the rival Cash Box chart. There were many covers, but perhaps the most notable was by Santana in 1977, who had a minor hit in Canada with it. It is in current use in a commercial for Chanel.
21. I Go To Pieces, Peter and Gordon, Capitol 5335
Peter and Gordon became famous by recording songs written by Paul McCartney. “I Go To Pieces” was written by the American rock star Del Shannon. Shannon wrote it with R&B singer Lloyd Brown in mind. Brown’s version was not picked up by a record label. It would up with Peter & Gordon during a tour of Australia late in 1964. Del Shannon took it to the Searchers, who decided not to record it. Peter and Gordon overheard Shannon sing it to the Searchers and asked if they could have it. So before the end of 1964, Peter and Gordon recorded “I Go To Pieces” at the Abbey Road Studio. Its November release flopped in the U.K. but a December release in the states proved far more successful. “I Go To Pieces” has a bigger sound than many of their previous hits. It hit the Billboard top 10 the week of February 13, 1965. It spent the rest of February in the top 10, peaking at number nine. There have been many covers, notably one by Nils Lofgren in 1981 that featured vocals by Del Shannon. An Italian version was released as a single by Camaleonti in 1967. Peter Asher continues to perform it even after Gordon Waller passed away in 2009. “I Go To Pieces” was reportedly Waller’s favorite Peter and Gordon song.
My Facebook/Twitter Friday question asked what is your favorite family act of all time? Got some great diverse answers, and even what constitutes a family act. On Twitter one response pointed out that Ray and Dave Davies of the Kinks are family. Around the same time on Facebook, Sly and the Family Stone were mentioned. Other “partials” to be mentioned include the Beach Boys.
The question was inspired by Taylor Hanson’s 31st birthday today. As much as I would love to put Hanson in this poll, I’m going to stick with more successful groups. What is your favorite family act of all time? I decided to stick with more pure family acts, not the partial family groups.
This is a countdown of my personal favorite of a Best of the Rest British Invasion Countdown. The countdown is of the top 40 British hits that hit the U.S. Billboard Top 40, minus the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Here are songs 40 through 31 on the list. More to come.
40. Ferry Cross The Mersey, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Laurie 3284
Like the Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers hailed from Liverpool and were managed by Brian Epstein. After the success of A Hard Day’s Night, Epstein followed that up with a similar movie starring Gerry Marsden and his group. Ferry Cross The Mersey, the film, was widely seen as a copy of A Hard Day’s Night and has all but disappeared from public consciousness. If the Beatles scared an older generation in America, Gerry and the Pacemakers did their part to sugarcoat it. Far more easy listening than rock and roll, Gerry and the Pacemakers hit the American top 10 twice in 1964. “Ferry Cross The Mersey,” the song, was their third and final top 10 hit. It spent four weeks in the Billboard top 10, including two weeks at its peak position of number six in March 1965. George Martin produced the song and Marsden’s vocals work well with this light ballad. The song would prove to have multiple lives. In 1989, following a tragedy at a Liverpool soccer game at Hillsborough in which 96 fans were killed, Marsden re-recorded a charity version of the song. Joining him were Paul McCartney and other artists from Liverpool. The remake spent three weeks atop the British charts. Several years later, a musical was written about Gerry and the Pacemakers during their heyday. The musical was called, you guessed it, Ferry Cross The Mersey. From Top of the Pops in 1965: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=08083BNaYcA
39. Tell Her No, The Zombies, Parrot 9723
The Zombies only had three hits in America, but all three hit the top 10. “Tell Her No” was the second of the three and was a far bigger hit in the states than it was in the UK. Written by bandleader/keyboardist Rod Argent, Tell Her No had a bit more of a jazzy feel than most British hits of that time. “Tell Her No” spent two weeks in the top 10 early in 1965, and it proved to be the last Zombies hit until Time Of The Season, which was a hit in 1969 after the band had broken up. Rod Argent went on to form the band Argent, who had a 1972 hit with “Hold Your Head Up.” As for “Tell Her No,” Juice Newton covered it in 1983 with some success on the country and pop charts. I’ve always liked Newton’s version, but the original is still a classic. Here is a lip-synched Zombies performance from the NBC series, Hullabaloo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezSMbQKQEJI
38. I’m Henry VIII, I Am, Herman’s Hermits, MGM 13367 “Second verse, same as the first.” This placement is primarily based on early childhood nostalgia. It’s a classic novelty song and at the time, it set a record for fewest weeks in the Billboard Top 40 for a number one single. Released in June 1965 right in the middle of the British invasion, it was aimed primarily at American artists that were eating up anything British. It was written in 1910 for the British music hall scene, which essentially was their equivalent to American vaudeville. So, how do you get American audiences to buy a record? Have Peter Noone exaggerate the British accent and don’t even try to be subtle. The result was the fastest selling song in American music history at that time. After two weeks at number two behind “Satisfaction,” “Henry VIII” climbed to the number one spot for the one week ending August 7, 1965. By September, it was already gone from the Top 20. It’s a pretty simple, repetitive song. Easy to learn the words quickly. Very easy to see how a young child might like this song. Here is a clip from an episode of All in the Family that features the song (begins around 11:40): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zehWqkz1tU. Here are the Hermits from a television show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4OS17lqHiE.
37. Mellow Yellow, Donovan, Epic 10098
Donovan followed up his only number one song, “Sunshine Superman,” with a song that fell just short of the top spot. “Mellow Yellow” spent two weeks at number two in December 1966, stuck behind the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” for the first week, and behind the New Vaudeville Band smash, “Winchester Cathedral” for the second week. It’s a bit slower than “Sunshine Superman” but has that same classic Donovan sound. While “Sunshine Superman” charted higher, I would say that Donovan is most known for “Mellow Yellow,” at least in the United States. So what does it mean and just why is he mad about saffron? One thing we do know: the electrical banana is indeed a reference to a vibrator. And Paul McCartney sings backup on the record, but is not the one who recites “quite rightly.” Donovan would go on to have two more top 10 songs and continued charting through 1973. Younger fans may associate his daughter with a Peter Gabriel song. Ione Skye played Diane in Say Anything and was memorably serenaded by John Cusack holding a boom box blasting “In Your Eyes.” Here is Donovan from 2007 in Los Angeles, joined by his daughter and Mike Love: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lT0mZWo-g_0.
36. There’s A Kind Of Hush, Herman’s Hermits, MGM 13681 From 1965 through 1967, Herman’s Hermits had far more success in the United States than in the United Kingdom. Many of their U.S. hits were not even released in Britain, but “There’s A Kind Of Hush” was and it hit the top 10 there. What I did not know is that it had already been recorded by the New Vaudeville Band, a group which strangely is ineligible for this countdown. When Herman’s Hermits released their version, the New Vaudeville Band re-released theirs and both versions were were simultaneous hits in South Africa and Australia. There is even more to that story. In between the New Vaudeville Band recording in 1966 and the Herman’s Hermits release in February 1967, an Ohio band called Gary and the Hornets covered it. It was a fairly big regional hit in January 1967, but Herman’s Hermits cover proved to be the bigger hit nationwide. Almost a decade later, Carpenters covered it and hit number one with it in 1976 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart (#12 Pop). While it’s hard to compare any song to a Carpenters version, Peter Noone did a fine job singing on the Herman’s Hermits version. It spent four weeks in the Top 10 in March/April 1967, including two weeks at its peak position of number four. Gary and the Hornets (audio only): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyypvokNjnI. Herman’s Hermits on BBC in 1970: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9oH1-9hgXo. Carpenters live: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJDvhNszkRc.
35. For Your Love, The Yardbirds, Epic 9790
The Yardbirds’ first and biggest hit was the one that drove Eric Clapton away from the band. While many band would find a guitarist like Clapton irreplaceable, they did manage to plug in Jeff Beck and later Jimmy Page. “For Your Love” was written by Graham Gouldman, who would go on to fame in the 1970s with 10cc. The song begins with the sound a harpsichord, highly unusual for 1960s pop music. Legend has it that American jazz musician Dave Liebman wrote what was supposed to be an organ intro, but they could only find a harpischord in the studio. The serendipitous formula worked–“For Your Love” hit number one in Canada and number three in the U.K. In America, it spent three weeks in the top 10 in the summer of 1965, including two weeks at number six, its peak position. For Clapton, who played guitar on “For Your Love,” selling out for pop success meant that it was time to move on. Here is a clip of with Beck performing in Clapton’s place: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HU5zqidlxMQ.
34. Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Laurie 3251
By the time Gerry and the Pacemakers hit the U.S. market with “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying,” they had already set a record in the U.K. by having their first three releases all hit number one. Hailing from Liverpool, managed by Brian Epstein and produced by George Martin, they along with the Beatles were dominating British music. Lead singer Gerry Marsden shared writing credits on “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” along with his band mates. They gave it to British singer Louise Cordet, who released it in February 1964. Gerry and the Pacemakers released their own version in April and it peaked at number six on the U.K. chart. However, with Beatlemania hitting America, the time was right for this group’s fifth single to be released in the states. On May 3, 1964, Gerry and the Pacemakers appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and performed what was their current U.K. hit. Their easy sound and proper look made them seem far less threatening to American adults than the edgier Beatles. “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” spent five weeks in the Billboard top 10 in the early summer of 1964, peaking for two weeks at number four. Cordet’s version in French: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxTKgx-YXjU. Gerry and the Pacemakers on The Ed Sullivan Show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryRQkWYXHIE.
33. Here Comes The Night, Them, Parrot 9749 Them followed up their seminal hit “Gloria,” with “Here Comes The Night.” Although Van Morrison’s 1960s group is best known for “Gloria,” that song barely charted in America, so “Here Comes The Night” was the first U.S. hit for Them. The song was written by Bert Berns, an American who also wrote “Twist And Shout” and “Hang On Sloopy.” Tragically, Berns died at 38 of a heart attack in 1967. The guitarist on the record version of “Here Comes The Night” was Jimmy Page, who often played on many British groups’ records during that era. It was meant to be an album track for Them, and the first single release came from Lulu in November 1964. Them did eventually release it as a single in the U.K. in March 1965 and shortly after that in the states. The U.K. version hit number two and the U.S. version peaked at number 24. It’s a nice mix of British pop/rock and a soulful vocal, provided by Morrison. The Lulu version (audio only): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=In7ieVRP3zg. Them performing live: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnY84iaxV_g.
32. I Only Want To Be With You, Dusty Springfield, Philips 40162
Trivia buffs could take a few notes. The long running British television show Top Of The Pops premiered January 1, 1964, and on that episode, Dusty Springfield sang her first solo hit, “I Only Want To Be With You.” On the American side of the pond, Springfield was the second British Invasion artist (after The Beatles) to hit the Billboard chart. “I Only Want To Be With You” hit number two in the U.K. and peaked at number 12 in America. It probably would have been a Top 10 hit but for The Beatles hogging the top three spots on the charts of March 1964. Springfield’s original version of “I Only Want To Be With You” features a strong percussion track arranged by co-writer Ivor Raymonde. There have been several notable covers, the most successful by The Bay City Rollers, who matched Springfield’s #12 peak in 1976. In 1979, The Tourists, a group with Annie Lennox, hit the U.K. top five. Samantha Fox had a minor hit with it in 1988, and Luis Miguel recorded it in Spanish a year prior and hit number one on the Billboard Latin chart. As for foreign language versions, Dusty Springfield recorded a German version as well. Dusty in a black-and-white television performance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6d_2ucCnkA. Dusty in German (audio only): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNA_I_7JJqk. The Bay City Rollers in 1976 on Countdown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0oSHtxdPus.
31. A Well Respected Man, The Kinks, Reprise 0420
The Kinks had their biggest success with some of their earliest singles, that featured electric guitars and helped give rise to hard rock and heavy metal. They took a different turn with the recording of Ray Davies’ “A Well Respected Man,” from the British EP Kwyet Kinks. In the U.S., they added a few tracks to make the full-length album, Kinkdom. Sounding more like a pop standard than a rocker, “A Well Respected Man” on its surface is an ode to a conservative financial sort of fellow, but the tribute is far from sincere. Because it was part of the EP release in Britain, it did not chart in the U.K. In America, “A Well Respected Man” was released as a single in October 1965, but it did not catch on immediately. It spent five weeks in the Top 20 beginning in late January 1966, peaking at number 13. They stuck with the theme and took it even further on their next release, “Dedicated Follower of Fashion.” Here are the Kinks on black-and-white television: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WsmSgBRUe4.