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.