How culturally relevant is our popular music? Is it truly a diary of our present, a crystal ball into our future and a commentary on our past? Is some music popular simply because it is an earworm that infects us without our permission? Or does the music on the charts reveal anything about our society? What was the creative incubator behind these hits?
Let’s look at the Billboard Top 10 hits for August 22, 1964.
1. Where Did Our Love Go – The Supremes
2. Everybody Loves Somebody – Dean Martin
3. A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles
4. Under The Boardwalk – The Drifters
5. The House of the Rising Sun – The Animals
6. C’Mon and Swim – Bobby Freeman
7. Because – The Dave Clark Five
8. Walk – Don’t Run ‘64 – The Ventures
9. Wishin’ and Hopin’ – Dusty Springfield
10. How Do You Do It? – Gerry And The Pacemakers
The Gulf of Tonkin incident had just occurred earlier that month with North Vietnamese torpedo boats firing on the USS Maddox. The bodies of three civil rights workers who had disappeared in June were found buried on a Mississippi farm. James Bond creator Ian Fleming died of a heart attack at 56 years old. President Johnson accepted the Democratic party’s nomination for President and a few days later Johnson signed into law the first food stamps program. The U.S. and U.S.S.R. were busy launching weather satellites and The Beatles Hard Day’s Night film was doing gangbusters business around the U.S. and U.K..
# 1: Where Did Our Love Go – The Supremes
Ironically, this first number one single by The Supremes was first offered to another Motown group, The Marvelettes, who turned it down The hit Motown songwriting team of Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland wrote this song and originally scored it in a lower key for Gladys Horton, The Marvelettes lead singer. When Horton said she didn’t like the song and would not record it, the songwriting team was desperate because Motown policy was that the songwriters had to pay for any tracks cut if it didn’t get recorded. In desperation, they turned to The Supremes who were then known around the studio as “the no-hit Supremes” because the group’s first eight singles had failed on the charts.
Lamont Dozier recalled that amazingly the group initially refused to record the song before the songwriters finally persuaded them to do it. When the group recorded the song, reportedly Diana Ross was upset because the tune was in a key lower than she was comfortable with and Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard didn’t take to the intricate vocals the songwriters had devised so eventually they were told to just sing, “baby, baby, baby.”
Ultimately, The Supremes the song became their first number one hit and the female group ended up with more Billboard number one hit singles in the 1960s than any other artist or group.
# 2: Everybody Loves Somebody – Dean Martin
Just like with The Supremes, this song was written by songwriters Sam Coslow, Ken Lane and Irving Taylor in 1948 for an artist other than Dean Martin. Actually, the songwriters saw it as perfect for Martin’s friend and fellow Rat Pack member, Frank Sinatra. Released in 1948, Sinatra’s version didn’t attraction much attention. After that release, It was recorded in the '50s by Peggy Lee and Dinah Washington, but both these talented singers still failed to find an audience.
In 1964, Dean Martin was finishing up recording his Dream with Dean album and had completed 11 songs. Albums always had 12 songs in the U.S., so Martin had asked his conductor and piano player Ken Lane if he had something else for him. Ken said he had an old song he had written - "Everybody Loves Somebody." Martin liked it and recorded it with just Ken, a bass player, a guitar and drums. The reaction to the cut on the album was so great that Martin went back into the studio and re-recorded it for a single release with a full orchestra and background singers.
It was such a hit that it knocked "A Hard Day's Night" out of its number one spot on the charts and it became Dean's theme song for his TV show the next year in 1965. For the rest of Martin’s career, this song would be his signature piece, played often when he guested on TV shows or whenever he appeared at live shows.
In a bit of irony, the song was released on Reprise Records, which was founded by Frank Sinatra, and it was the record label’s first number one hit.
The success of the song also illustrated that even though Rock N’ Roll and the British Invasion had dominated the record charts, there was still room for a singer in his mid-40s to appeal to an older generation of listeners.
In fact, when the song knocked "A Hard Day's Night" off the top of the U.S. charts, Martin reportedly sent a telegram to Elvis Presley that read, "If you can't handle the Beatles, I'll do it for you, pally."
# 3: A Hard Day’s Night – The Beatles
It’s been Beatles folklore that the song title came from one of Ringo’s twists of the tongue, but John Lennon had also used that phrase in a short story he had written years ago. What makes this song stand out is the oddity of its origins for one of the greatest pop hits of all time actually had its roots in medieval folk music. Written by John Lennon, the song’s melody reportedly resembles the Irish folk song "Donall Og," with the same pentatonic, and small glissandos. A glissando is a continuous upward or downward movement between two notes.
Albert Goldman wrote in his 1980 book The Lives of John Lennon, "The whole composition is written in mixolydic key, an old key which was abandoned in the beginning of the seventeenth century, but is maintained in English and Irish folk music."
This song was the last to be written and recorded for the movie soundtrack. Walter Shenson, the movie’s producer, told John Lennon that the movie needed a song that incorporates the movie’s title. Shenson thinking this creative leap by Lennon would take weeks, was amazed when Lennon showed up the next morning with the song, fully-formed with melody, verse, bridge and lyrics.
# 4: Under The Boardwalk – The Drifters
This song captures the definition of a summer song with its beachy lyrics that teased with a hint of naughty teenage fun.
The first verse and chorus encapsulate the dopamine-rich images that both calm and titillate.
Oh when the sun beats down and burns the tar up on the roof
And your shoes get so hot you wish your tired feet were fire proof
Under the boardwalk, down by the sea, yeah
On a blanket with my baby is where I'll be
(Under the boardwalk) out of the sun
(Under the boardwalk) we'll be havin' some fun
(Under the boardwalk) people walking above
(Under the boardwalk) we'll be falling in love
Under the boardwalk, boardwalk!
The session to record this song was scheduled for May 20, 1964, but The Drifters lead singer Rudy Lewis was found dead that morning. The session was then rescheduled for the next day, and Johnny Moore was called in to replace Lewis. Moore was with The Drifters in 1958 when their manager fired everyone in the band and brought in new members. Moore stayed after the recording session and became their main vocalist.
Like The Supremes, The Drifters originally didn’t want to record this song but were “persuaded” to change their minds by Atlantic Records' head Jerry Wexler who came across the song at Resnick and Young's publishing company, and decided that The Drifters should record it.
The song had been written by Arthur Resnick, who also penned Good Lovin by The Rascals, and Kenny Young, who wrote songs for Herman’s Hermits.
When Moore replaced Lewis on the recording session the end result wasn't just one song, but two different versions of the same song. There are subtle differences in the lyrics. For example, the first version contains the lyric, "we'll be falling in love" but the second version contains that lyric in addition to, "we'll be making love."
# 5: The House of the Rising Sun – The Animals
This song still has music historians puzzled because they are two competing theories about the song’s origin and meaning:
1) The song is about a brothel in New Orleans. "The House Of The Rising Sun" was named after its most famous occupant, Madame Marianne LeSoleil Levant (which means "Rising Sun" in French) and was open for business from 1862 until 1874, when it was closed due to complaints by the neighbors.
2) It's about a women's prison in New Orleans called the Orleans Parish women's prison, which had an entrance gate adorned with rising sun artwork. This would explain the "ball and chain" lyrics in the song. Even though the melody is a traditional English ballad, the song became popular as an African-American folk song. It was recorded by Texas Alexander in the 1920s, then by a number of other artists including Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Josh White and later Nina Simone. It was her version The Animals first heard. No one can claim rights to the song, meaning it can be recorded and sold royalty-free. Many bands covered the song after it became a hit for The Animals.
While touring England with Chuck Berry in May 1964, The Animals performed this song and the reception was so enthusiastic that The Animals recorded it between stops on the tour. In our 2010 interview, Animals lead singer Eric Burdon explained: "'House of the Rising Sun” is a song that I was just fated to. It was made for me and I was made for it. It was a great song for the Chuck Berry tour because it was a way of reaching the audience without copying Chuck Berry. It was a great trick and it worked. It actually wasn't only a great trick, it was a great recording."
The U.K. version of the song runs 4:29 minutes, which was longer than any other number one hit in Britain to that point, with most hit singles in the 1960s clocking in under three minutes. The Animals' British record label, Columbia, didn't want to release it as a single because of its length, but the group's producer Mickie Most fought for it.
In the U.S., however, the song was edited down to 2:59 minutes. After The Animals split up, lead singer Eric Burdon went through a long period where he wouldn't perform “The House of the Rising Sun,” saying he "regarded the song as an embarrassment." After many years, Burdon changed his attitude about the song and began regularly performing it in various styles.
# 6 – C’Mon and Swim – Bobby Freeman
Although Bobby Freeman isn’t a household name like many others on this top 10 list, Freeman in 1964 seamlessly tapped into a vein of an existing dance craze that was sweeping the nation and he made the most of it.
Freeman had hit the charts in 1958 with a top five hit “Do You Want To Dance” and followed it up with a top 40 song "Betty Lou Got A New Pair Of Shoes," but had dropped of the radar after that.
What Freeman did was to capitalize on the massive popularity of the Twist dance craze and create The Swim as a dance. The dance itself is simple - just act like you're swimming, but out of the water. Like many dance songs of its time, it mentions other dances in the lyric for reference: the Hully Gully and the Twist.
Freeman always claimed he invented the dance on January 27, 1962 when he was one of several performers at the "Twist Party" concert headlined by Chubby Checker at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.
At that time, "The Twist" was the number one song in the country. In a story he told many times throughout his career, Freeman said he got called back on stage after his set, but didn't have any more songs ready, so he made up some dances. After doing some Twist variations, Freeman started shaking his butt and moving his arms in a swimming motion and “The Swim” was born.
The song itself was actually co-written by Sly Stone, who played organ and guitar on the track. Stone, a songwriter / producer at Autumn Records, which had released “C’Mon and Swim” found his way to musical success just a few years later as the leader of Sly & The Family Stones.
# 7 – Because – The Dave Clark Five
Although most people assume that The Rolling Stones were the only British group to rival The Beatles in popularity and hit record success in the 1960s, it was The Dave Clark Five who represented a challenge to The Beatles’ domination in the first few years of The British invasion.
The Dave Clark Five had worked hard to cultivate a cleaner image than The Beatles and the group – although part of that Mersey Sound – had a distinctly jazzier, more up tempo, drum-centric style than the Fab Four.
Drummer Dave Clark was the first prominent Rock drummer to lead his own band, as well as the first to manage his own band, and one of the first musicians to produce his own band. Sometimes forgotten because of The Beatles TV appearances, The Dave Clark Five actually appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show a remarkable 12 times. The band’s first appearance came on March 8, 1964, a month after The Beatles historic performance. It was the band's first visit to America, and while they didn't reach Beatlemania-level hysteria, The Dave Clark Five were greeted by 30,000 screaming fans at Kennedy Airport.
“Because" was written as the group’s fifth U.S. single, but the band's label, Epic Records, was not satisfied with the band’s song choice, believing the ballad strayed too far from the hit-making formula that had proven successful with the band's previous upbeat singles.
Because of the record label’s reticence, “Because” was released in May 1964 in the U.K. as the B-side to "Can't You See That She's Mine". In the U.S., however, Clark insisted that "Because" be released as an A-side and Epic reluctantly agreed. The single entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart at number sixty in August, and peaked six weeks later at number three, becoming the band's fifth U.S. single to sell more than one million copies.
# 8 Walk – Don’t Run ‘64 – The Ventures
Amazingly, this song by The Ventures originally hit the Billboard Top 10 in September 1960 and was back in the Top 10 – in a slightly altered form – only four years later.
"Walk, Don't Run" is an instrumental composition written and originally recorded by jazz guitarist Johnny Smith in 1954. Recorded by guitar legend Chet Atkins in 1956, that version became the inspiration for the version then recorded by The Ventures in 1960. The song went on to be regarded by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.
In 1960, “Walk Don’t Run” peaked at number two, being blocked from the top spot by Elvis Presley’s “It’s Now or Never.” The song was essentially the beginning of the band’s career. In fact, the band was so new that it didn’t even have a drummer when “Walk Don’t Run” was recorded in 1960. In a decision he would probably regret later in life, Skip Moore, who was listed as the drummer for the track, was given the choice of $25 or 25 percent of the revenues from the record. Moore chose the $25.
With “Walk Don’t Run ‘64” the band became the first group to score two top 10 hits with different versions of the same song. In fact, with more than 100 million records sold, The Ventures are currently the top-selling instrumental band in the pop music era.
The Ventures have been closely identified with “surf” music, which blossomed in the early 60s and was epitomized by The Beach Boys.
Between the four years of the release of versions of “Walk Don’t Run” The Ventures are also famous for their version of the quintessential surf song originally performed by The Safaris, “Wipe Out.”
# 9. Wishin’ and Hopin” – Dusty Springfield
Like several other songs on this top 10 list, this song wasn’t written for Dusty Springfield. Written by the pre-eminent songwriting team of the 1960s, Burt Bacharach and Hal David, “Wishin and Hopin” was written for Dionne Warwick, who had released it as the B-side of her 1963 single "This Empty Place." At the time, Bacharach and David had experienced success with Warwick with several Billboard hits by August 1964, including Warwick’s top 10 hit earlier that year, “Walk On By.”
Dusty Springfield recorded the song later in1963, after Warwick had recorded it earlier that year as a B-side. The song moved up the charts in the summer of 1964 and it became Springfield’s first top 10 hit.
In an interview in later years, Burt Bacharach told Record Collector magazine: "I remember talking Dusty into putting the record out. Dusty was always very insecure, about what to release, about her voice. What a great singer. Powerful. She was a great girl. 'Wishing And Hopin'' was great and it was a big hit."
Springfield, often thought to be an American by the U.S. audience, was actually British and had great success with her blue-eyed soul sound. After “Wishin’ And Hopin’ Springfield scored six more top 20 hit singles on the U.S. Billboard charts.
In 1995, the song had a resurgence in popularity when Ani DiFranco recorded the song for the opening credits of the film My Best Friend's Wedding.
In later years, some have objected to the subservient lyrics in the song as the singer is trying very hard to please her man. Springfield always responded to those criticisms by saying she never saw the song in those terms and was amazed that anyone would think that way.
10. How Do You Do It? – Gerry And The Pacemakers
Again, this song is famous for who didn’t release it. In September 1962, EMI record producer George Martin though that this song – written by Mitch Murray – was perfect for a new, up and coming group called The Beatles. Even though the Fab Four recorded “How Do You Do It” they had made changes to the tune by adding a new intro, changing the instrumental interlude and small tweaks to the lyrics. Ultimately, Martin and The Beatles decided to release “Love Me Do” as a single instead.
Gerry and the Pacemakers were an English group prominent in the 1960s that also came from Liverpool. The group was also managed by Beatles manager Brian Epstein and their records were produced by Beatles producer George Martin.
“How Do You Do It” became a number one hit in the U.K. and made it to number nine on the U.S. charts. As newcomers, Gerry and Pacemakers had tremendous success the first two years of recording music. One of the group’s most famous songs, “Ferry Cross The Mersey,” refers to the River Mersey that flows past Liverpool.
They are most remembered for being the first act to reach number one in British singles chart with their first three single releases: "How Do You Do It?", "I Like It" and "You'll Never Walk Alone".This record was not equaled for 20 years until the mid-1980s success of fellow Liverpool band Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
By late 1965, the group’s popularity was rapidly declining on both sides of the Atlantic. The band officially disbanded in October 1966, with much of their later recorded material never released in the U.K. Gerry Marsden, the lead singer of the group, later became a popular cabaret and children's TV entertainer.
About the Creator
I am a South Jersey-based author who is a writer for the Pod-Alization podcast blog on Substack, Ear Worthy on Medium, Podcast Reports on Blogger, Auditorily on Vocal and The Listening Post on Tealfeed.