British Invasion Countdown: 20-11

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

Denny Laine was with the Moody Blues early on long before joining Wings.
Denny Laine was with the Moody Blues early on, long before joining Wings.


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.

Moody Blues video from 1964
Bessie Banks audio only
Wings live in 1976 with Paul & Linda backing

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.

Springfield & the Merseybeats, Top of the Pops, August 8, 1964
Dusty Springfield in 1967 (intro by Bacharach)
“Warten Und Hoffen,” audio only
“Stupido Stupido,” audio only

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.”

Jackie DeShannon version
Petula Clark en français in 2009
The Searchers in 1964 on The Ed Sullivan Show
Smokie in 1977
Tom Petty with Stevie Nicks — audio only

17. Sunshine Superman, Donovan, Epic 10045

"Sunshine Superman" U.S. record sleeve
“Sunshine Superman” U.S. record sleeve

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.

Donovan’s original recording – audio only
Jimmy Page and Donovan performing it live in 2011
Donovan at SXSW in 2012

Donovan interview with Howard Stern, February 2014

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.

Porter Wagoner on TV, presumably 1965
Tom Jones on TV in a fake jail cell, year unknown
Joan Baez performing on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
Elvis in concert, audio only
Dolly Parton and Tom Jones on her ABC variety show, aired January 23, 1988

Jerry Lee Lewis and Tom Jones on a TV special in 2006

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.”

Manfred Mann on television in 1964
Sheila performing the French version in 1964
Tony Roman et les Dauphins with a more literal translation, Quebec 1964

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.

The Clovers original hit from 1959 – audio only
The Searchers’ live televised version, year unknown
The Searchers lip-synch the original recording
American Idol contestant James Durbin performing in 2011

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.

The Yardbirds live with Jeff Beck in 1965
The Yardbirds with Jimmy Page in Hamburg, Germany, March 15, 1967

Bo Diddley on stage in Italy in 1989
Bo Diddley interview on “The Pop Chronicles” in 1969

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.

The Kinks’ studio version – audio only
The Kinks on The Midnight Special in 1974
Van Halen cover version

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.

The Searchers’ video clip
Marianne Faithfull cover version
Melanie on Good Morning Britain in 1989
The Searchers perform live in Denmark in 2007