233. ‘Silence Is Golden’, by The Tremeloes

It’s been over three and a half years since The Tremeloes scored their first number one hit, a raucous cover of ‘Do You Love Me’. Since then they’ve dropped Brian Poole – or, rather he’s left to pursue a solo career – and mellowed their sound right down.

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Silence Is Golden, by The Tremeloes (their 2nd and final #1)

3 weeks, from 18th May – 8th June 1967

I’m getting a Beach Boys, folky vibe as we start off. ‘Silence Is Golden’ is yet another song I know as being ‘part the swinging sixties canon’, without having ever listened to it properly. It’s a nice melody, the harmonising is nice… It’s a nice song. Oh don’t it hurt deep inside, To see someone do something to her… It’s the song of a watcher, one that either still has feelings for an ex, or that has an unrequited love. He wants to tell her that she’s being taken for a ride: Should I tell her, Or should I be cool…?

In the end he decides that silence is indeed golden, and that he should keep schtum. I like the idea that it’s actually the singer’s conscience singing to him, and that it at one point calls him ‘a fool’, but some time around the second chorus this song starts to get irritating.

It’s the forced falsetto voices, and the cheesy doo-wop backing vocals. It’s the ‘solo’, which is the band converging for a long oooweeeooowaaawaaawooowooow. By the end, when the final note swoops upwards like you’ve changed the speed setting, you’re glad it’s over. Like I said, it’s nice enough… But it’s a bit wishy-washy. It’s trying too hard. If this record were a schoolboy, he’d be getting his lunch money stolen.

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(Can we just take a moment to appreciate that this disc appears to have had an actual picture sleeve, which seems to have been very rare thing indeed in Britain in the ’60s! Maybe that’s why it made it to  #1!)

‘Silence Is Golden’ is actually a cover of a Four Season’s ‘B’-side from a few years earlier. I’ll link to it here, but have to admit that that version also leaves me a bit cold. I dunno. Sometimes songs just don’t connect. It is very impressive, though, that The Tremeloes’ chart-topping career spanned the very middle of the 1960s, a time when pop music was developing at lightning speed. Their contemporaries in 1963 were Gerry & The Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer, who were nowhere near the #1 spot in 1967. (And The Beatles who, to be fair, were still enjoying reasonable success…)

To conclude: file under so-so. The Tremeloes powered on, given a second wind by their second number one, and scored hits right through to the early seventies. They still tour on the oldies circuit, and reunited with Brian Poole for their 40th anniversary. And, since I’m struggling to write much more, I’ll end with a great bit of trivia. The Tremeloes contributed heavily to nineties pop, inadvertently, as the band members’ children included duo Alisha’s Attic and the one and only (gettit?) Chesney Hawkes!

198. ‘I’m Alive’, by The Hollies

Finally, after all the recent gospel, jazz and country, we’re back on track. This is more like it. This is what the sixties were meant to sound like…

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I’m Alive, by The Hollies (their 1st of two #1s)

1 week, from 24th June – 1st July / 2 weeks from 8th – 22nd July 1965 (3 weeks total)

This record is like a ‘Best of the Sixties’ compilation distilled down into a two and a half minute song. Let’s take it step by step… The intro is pure Merseybeat – light, chiming guitars – with a generous side order of Doo-Wop. Doo- doodoodoodoodoodoodoo… Then in comes in a husky, Lennon-ish voice: Did you ever see a man with no heart, Baby that was me… It’s all about a man who had never lived before, until his girl came along. It’s an upbeat and positive song. A song that puts you in a good mood. He’s alive!

The build-up to the chorus is very Beatles-y. Think a milder version of their ‘Twist and Shout’. Now I can breathe, I can see, I can touch, I can feel… Each line ascends ahead of the previous one, until the singer punches the chorus out: I never felt like this… I’m alive! I’m alive! I’m alive! End, and repeat.

Then the solo, which is a bit more hard hitting. Think tinny Kinks’ guitars with a bit of Stones swagger thrown in. And by the end, they’ve gone full on Who – with Keith Moon style drum fills and a frenetic rock-out to the end. Sprinkle the tiniest hint of psychedelica in the guitar reverb, and soupçon of Beach Boys in the backing vocals, and there you have it. I mentioned in recent posts that Jackie Trent and Sandie Shaw’s recent #1s were the most ‘sixties-sounding’ pop hits and now, well, I think we have the rock equivalent. We are slap-bang in the middle of the decade, and the sixties have never sounded sixtieser. It’s the perfect mix of old-style rock ‘n’ roll, Merseybeat and the newer, harder-edged rock. It’s a great little record.

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The Hollies were also, like so many of the bands that they sound like, from the north-east of England, and went through the same Cavern Club circuit as all their peers. Founded by Allan Clarke and Graham Nash (later of Crosby, Stills and Nash), they started out as an Everly Brothers style duo before adding a few more members. Their name is – as you may have guessed – a tribute to Buddy Holly. ‘I’m Alive’ was far from being their first hit; nor was it their last. They would go on to have Top 10s well into the seventies, and were the 9th biggest chart-act of the sixties. Not bad, considering that they were up against Elvis, Cliff, The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks and more in that list.

And I have to admit that they are the one big sixties rock group that have passed me by. I know ‘Just One Look’ – another mid-decade pop classic – and ‘Stop Stop Stop’, as well as their later, mellower hits ‘He Ain’t Heavy…’ and ‘The Air That I Breathe’. But I should know more, and will explore their back-catalogue as soon as I’ve finished writing this post. ‘I’m Alive’ was their only UK #1* and that, given their chart longevity, feels like a surprise.

But, before you give delve into their Greatest Hits, give this record one more spin. A song that sounds like the love-child of every prominent sixties rock ‘n’ roll band, a record that faces both forward and back, a record that did a weird mid-summer’s dance with Elvis’s ‘Crying in the Chapel’ (Elvis was #1, then The Hollies, then Elvis, then The Hollies again) at the top of the charts. A classic, that almost slipped through the gaps.

*(My first ever footnote!) Actually, The Hollies will have one further UK chart-topper, with a re-release in precisely twenty-three and a bit years, for Miller-Lite based reasons that we’ll go into when we get there.

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3sSYyPEUCTyMjMlN55z8SX?si=bb8dN5HuQtSgwGJDFDWTCQ

193. ‘Ticket to Ride’, by The Beatles

In my post on the last Beatles’ chart-topper, ‘I Feel Fine’, I suggested that it announced the arrival of Beatles MK II. The cool Beatles. The detached Beatles. The stoner Beatles.

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Ticket to Ride, by The Beatles (their 7th of seventeen #1s)

3 weeks, from 22nd April – 13th May 1965

This, their seventh chart-topper in two years (!), is definitely mined from the same groove. It could even have been from the same recording session as ‘I Feel Fine’. The intro isn’t as scuzzy – the chiming guitars actually come across like a church bell on a Sunday morning – but that only lasts a second or two. Soon we lurch into a woozy, droney riff, with drums that roll, then thump, then disappear when you least expect. I’m no drummer, but am pretty sure that ‘Ticket to Ride’ should be produced as the first item of evidence when anyone claims Ringo couldn’t drum.

I think I’m gonna be sad, I think it’s today, Yeah…. The girl that’s drivin’ me mad, Is goin’ away, Yeah… Like most of the big Beatles hits, I grew up listening to this and could sing most of the words. But I’d never really noticed how desolate they were… She said that living with me, Was bringing her down… She would never be free, When I was around… Then how threatening they become: Before she gets to sayin’ goodbye, She oughta think twice, She oughta do right by me…  We’re a long way from ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’, Toto.

Going by those lines, it seems as if Lennon & McCartney had been taking notes from the Rolling Stone’s book of romance. It’s the same sort of bruised bravado that we’ve heard in ‘The Last Time’ and ‘It’s All Over Now’. And that’s not the only thing they’d noticed – the clanging, ominous guitars here sound very Stonesy. Except… the lead guitar is also very US folk-rock. Very Byrds-y. And the guitar lick that connects the bridge back to the verses is… a mini-metal solo. Like, seriously.

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‘Ticket to Ride’ is all about the details. Those drum-fills. That guitar lick. The chiming intro and the falsetto outro – My baby don’t care… – reminiscent of the way that they completely changed track for the last five seconds of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’. The Awww before the final She’s got a ticket to ride… It’s all about the details, because it’s an impossible record to categorise as a whole. It’s a beat-pop song at heart, but it’s also folksy, it’s heavy, it’s got bloody Indian sitar-sounding riffs thrown in…

I’m aware that this is going to be a very short post for a song of this stature. But we are seven songs into The Fab Four’s chart-topping run – there’s no need for an intro. And with ten more #1s to come from them we don’t need much of a postscript. I’ll leave you with a realisation that struck me midway through my sixth listen of ‘Ticket to Ride’… The Beatles were really, really good, weren’t they?

A playlist with all the #1s so far….

187. ‘Tired of Waiting for You’, by The Kinks

The 4th chart-topping single of 1965 is a bit of a Ctrl-Alt-Del moment. The first three #1s have felt like a mini revolution in all their Latin-soul, jazzy, glossy-pop glory. You could have been forgiven for asking: Is the Beat movement dead already?

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Tired of Waiting for You, by The Kinks (their 2nd of three #1s)

1 week, from 18th – 25th February 1965

Of course it isn’t. The Kinks are swooping in to save the day for all the boys with guitars out there. A wonky, woozy intro – it feels kind of like you’re floating on a swing on a hot summer’s day – then in comes Ray Davies… So tired, Tired of waiting, Tired of waiting for you… (On a side note, I’ve always thought that Davies sings with a strange accent – as if English wasn’t his first language. Kind of Indian sounding. It’s really noticeable here…)

Anyway, he’s being kept waiting by a girl. And not ‘waiting’ as in she’s late for a movie. Waiting as in waiting. I was a lonely soul, I had nobody till I met you, But you keep-a me waiting, All of the time, What can I do? He might be waiting for a declaration of love; or waiting for you-know-what, like a horny teenager. Who knows?

I mentioned in my post on ‘You Really Got Me’ that that song, while being one of The Kink’s biggest and best known hits, isn’t really indicative of their sound. ‘Tired of Waiting for You’ is much more Kinks-y to me, especially when the band harmonise on the bridge: It’s your life, And you can do what you want… There are hints of ‘Waterloo Sunset’ there – and I can mention/link to that song now as it – unbelievably – won’t be featuring in this countdown. One of the great chart-travesties, that. I’m also getting a Searchers-vibe in the song’s chiming melancholy, too.

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The edge is still there, though. The crunchy guitars that blasted their way through ‘You Really Got Me’ are barking in the background, especially in the build-up to the final chorus, as Davies pleads Please don’t keep me waiting… It’s a song about frustration, albeit politely voiced frustration. It’s like the polite cousin of ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’… (Now there’s a song which we will be meeting on this countdown – hurrah!)

The Kinks will have one more number one, and several more famous songs that don’t make the chart summit. But I’ve enjoyed re-hearing this one. I had a Kinks’ Greatest Hits on CD as a kid, and while I knew this song I’ve never really listened to it in much detail. It’s a nicely forgotten chart-topper from an ever so slightly under-rated band. And coming as it does, in early 1965, as pop music races to evolve and improve at a staggering pace, it already sounds like a bit of a throwback.

183. ‘I Feel Fine’, by The Beatles

And so we hit the mid-point of the swinging sixties. Slap bang in the middle, and The Beatles are knocking The Stones off the #1 spot. How very 1960s. Peak sixties!

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I Feel Fine, by The Beatles (their 6th of seventeen #1s)

5 weeks, from 3rd December 1964 – 14th January 1965

But this is a new version of the Beatles. I mentioned when covering their last chart-topper, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, that that was the sound of the MerseyBeatles being killed off – their last pure pop hit. And, as if to make sure of that, their sixth UK number one enters to the sound of feedback. A deliberately jarring intro, one that’s been done to death by now but at the time must have sounded strange indeed.

Their voices, too, have changed. They’re deeper, huskier… manlier? The mop-top boys have grown up. Baby says she’s mine you know, She tells me all the time you know, She said so… There’s an arrogance to it. The girl doesn’t have a name – she’s just ‘baby’. Tomorrow there’ll be a new one. That’s what happens when you’re in the world’s most popular band. She’s in love with me and I feel fine…

The guitar is rocking – apparently the riff came first when Lennon and McCartney were writing it – and drives the song along. The bridge, though, is still pure bubble-gum. Old habits die hard, I guess. I’m so glad, That’s she’s my little girl, She’s so glad, She’s tellin’ all the world… The relationship doesn’t seem to be built on the strongest of foundations, though – it’s more about buying diamond rings to keep his little girl happy.

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This disc is a world away – both lyrically and sonically – from The Beatles earlier chart-toppers. Think the innocent ‘From Me to You’ and the earnest ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’. It’s a cool record, the first Beatles record that your older brother would have admitted to liking.

There’s been a lot of discussion, for years, over when and where the band first started taking drugs. As far as I know Bob Dylan thought they must have been smoking as early as 1963, as he misheard the ‘I can’t hide’ lyric in ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ as ‘I get high…’ And they definitely were by October 1965, as Paul McCartney admitted to smoking a joint in the toilets of Buckingham Palace when they collected their MBEs.

If I had to guess, I’d narrow it down to the few months between ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and this release. There’s a glazed, detached air to their voices here… They sound pretty stoned. Plus the name of the song just sounds like something you’d say when you’re high… ‘Dude, I feel fine…’ Then there are the mmmmhhs as the song fades out. The Beatles MK II are here.

It’s the perfect way to end 1964 – by far the best year yet in terms of the quality of its #1s. It has felt like walking through Madame Tussaud’s at times – look there’s Diana Ross, and Roy Orbison, and over there, The Kinks and Cilla Black! So to end it with The Stones and then The Fab Four –the decade’s two biggest bands – is perfect. 1965 looks like being a much more eclectic year, though the overall standard of chart-topper might drop off slightly… Onwards!

180. ‘(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me’, by Sandie Shaw

This next chart-topper is a record that you can date pretty much instantly. Pretend, for a second, that you haven’t been following this countdown, and that you don’t know we are currently in October 1964. Just drop the needle, and listen. You know, straight away – it’s just got that mid-sixties vibe…

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(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me, by Sandie Shaw (her 1st of three #1s)

3 weeks, from 22nd October – 12th November 1964

There are soft, warm horns, and a little cha-cha-cha, bossanova beat. The ting of a typewriter reaching the end of a line. And a warm, playful voice… I walk along the city streets you used to walk along with me… Cute and glamorous – it kind of sounds like a French person singing in English (not that Sandie Shaw is French in any way – she’s Dagenham born and bred.)

It’s a song about a lost love, about how small things – streets and cafes – can remind you of the ones that got away. Oh how can I, Forget you, When there is always something there to remind me…? But, at the same time, it’s not a sad song. I’m not really sure what ‘kind’ of song it is…

It straddles lots of borders: it’s a bit of a ballad, a bit of a torch song, a bit of a standard pop song with a rock song looking to burst through. Listen to all the instruments involved: the horns, the orchestral strings, the twangy, Shadows-esque guitars. Plus the way Shaw sings – soft and lovelorn in the verses; shouty for the chorus. And then there’s the woah-waoh-waaaaa! and the cascading piano that bookmark either end of the violin solo.

There’s a lot going on here, but I like it. ‘(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me’ is another song I knew – I could have sung the chorus – but had never listened to in any detail. It’s another Bacharach & David number (they’re starting to rack up) and I love the completely pointless brackets in the title. I like it because it doesn’t know, and probably doesn’t care, what kind of song it is. Everything’s been chucked in and given a good mix, and the end result is a classy little #1 hit.

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The only bit that jars is the I was born to love you, And I will never be free… line, because this might have been the swinging sixties, but girls were still expected to pine after their want-away men. Still, Shaw just about sells it with vocals that are both spunky and a little vulnerable.

Sandie Shaw herself is, to me anyway, super-sixties. Just the name, without knowing anything about her, and its playful alliteration dates it to within a couple of years (her real name was Sandra.) And pictures of her taken in late ’64, when this was sitting atop the charts, show a foxy, mascaraed, chunky-fringed girl (she was but seventeen) in knee-high floral dresses. You can easily picture her racing around swinging London town on the back of a scooter, bouncing from glamorous party to glamorous party, from Carnaby Street to King’s Cross.

But… perhaps this tune is actually a victim its era. It’s a good record – a sad song with an upbeat vibe – and yet it pales a little in comparison to some of the era-defining records that have topped the charts recently. A nice song lost among the greats? Our next post is a recap, and so we’ll be able to wade back through all the recent #1s, and really sort the downright brilliant hits from the simply very good. Until then…

Follow along with this Spotify playlist:

176. ‘Have I the Right?’, by The Honeycombs

What’s that? What’s this? Why, it’s the sound of Merseybeat being fed through an electronic blender…

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Have I the Right?, by The Honeycombs (their 1st and only #1)

2 weeks, from 27th August – 10th September 1964

This is a Beat-pop song, with everything in the right place: verses, choruses, a solo. Lyrics about love. Have I the right to hold you, You know I’ve always told you, That we must never, ever part… Some whoah-oahs. But… Something doesn’t sound quite right. And by ‘not quite right’ I don’t mean it sounds ‘wrong’ – far from it. I mean it sounds… completely unique.

Take the drums for a start. They are deep and bouncy, and echoey. The drummer might well be in a completely different room from the rest of the band. In the chorus, as they pound out on every note, they sound like one of those huge Japanese drums, echoing across a misty forest.

Then there are the jabs of electronic keyboard that pierce the end of every line in the verses, like a ray-gun in a cheapo fifties ‘B’-movie. The guitar too is sharp, and clean as a knife; but again there’s something kooky about it, as if you were listening to pop music from a different but not too distant dimension. These two instruments combine on the solo and then, perhaps midway through, you realise what this song reminds you of: the one and only, the era-defining, blast from the future that was ‘Telstar’.

That particular #1 was produced by the legendarily maverick Joe Meek, and so was this. All three of his chart-toppers – this, ‘Telstar’ and John Leyton’s ‘Johnny Remember Me’ – were recorded in his apartment in Islington. All three are unique songs; but all contain recognisable characteristics. They’re drenched in overdubbing, they’re tweaked and tucked, they twang with reverb, and they are just all a little bit weird.

Here, for instance, is just one of the tales from the recording of ‘Have I the Right?’ Those drums I mentioned earlier? They were enhanced, not digitally, but by members of The Honeycombs stamping their feet on the stairs outside the studio. A tambourine was thumped against a microphone. And then, for the finishing touch, the tape was sped up. So much for the misty Japanese forest…

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This record isn’t quite ‘Telstar’ – how could you recreate one of the most innovative and forward-gazing pop songs ever recorded? But it is still a brilliant #1. And in some ways, maybe, this is actually the more impressive feat. Here, Meek had to use his powers in the confines of a ‘regular’ mid-sixties pop song; while on ‘Telstar’ he was allowed to completely let loose… When we get to the chorus – Come right back, I just can’t bear it, I got some love and I need to share it… The lyrics look normal on paper – a little basic even. It’s the sound, and the propulsive, endearingly home-made feel of this song that makes it what it is.

Joe Meek, while never actually featuring in any of his chart-topping hits, was the main star of all three. From the gothic melodrama of ‘Johnny…’, to the space-age transmission of ‘Telstar’, to this piece of electronically blended Merseybeat. And, as is befitting one of pop music’s greatest innovators, he was an extremely eccentric character. His Wikipedia entry ranges from the bizarre (his belief that he could communicate with the dead, including through the meows of a cat), to the sad (he struggled through long-term drug addiction), to the downright tragic (he shot his landlady, and then himself, in 1967 after a depression brought on by the drugs, impending plagiarism lawsuits and the fear that he was about to be outed as gay.)

Under all this, The Honeycombs – understandably – have to play second fiddle. This was their debut hit and, although Meek produced several of their follow-ups, they struggled to match the success of ‘Have I the Right?’ Their second most successful single could only hit #12, and they broke up in 1967 after several line-up changes. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about them is that their drummer and founding member – Honey Lantree – was a woman.

Let us celebrate, then, this progressive sounding chart-topper, ‘Have I the Right?’, with a progressive bunch of people at the helm: a gay producer, a female-drummer, and a bunch of guys stamping on the stairs…

Follow along here:

175. ‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy’, by Manfred Mann

‘Pop Music’… an ultra-generic term, but hey… What’s the first thing that pops (gettit?) into your head when you hear that term? Feel-good, catchy hits. Bubble-gum and bright colours. Popular songs that sell loads of copies. And yet, many, if not most, pop songs are more complex than that. Look at the songs to have hit #1 in 1964, and you’ll find a lot of bittersweet emotion: ‘Needles and Pins’, ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’, ‘A World Without Love’, two songs titled ‘It’s Over’ and ‘It’s All Over Now’. Plus a song about a boy driven to ruin in a gambling den-slash-whorehouse. Only one – ‘Glad All Over’ – could potentially have filled all the ‘feel-good, catchy, bubblegum’ criteria this year so far. Make that two, now.

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Do Wah Diddy Diddy, by Manfred Mann (their 1st of three #1s)

2 weeks, from 13th – 27th August 1964

There she was, Just a-walkin’ down the street, Singin’… Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy doo…! I forgot to add one more requirement to the ‘Pop Music’ manifesto – a memorable hook. And has there ever been a more memorable hook than Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy doo? Add it to the wopbopaloomas, the ramalamadingdongs and the zig-ah-zig-ahs of pop lore. As usual, I took a pre-post listen to this song, and tried to jot down some notes. But I found I didn’t write very much. I was too busy enjoying what is a great little pop song.

We come to a goofy call-and-response section: She looked good… (looked good…) She looked fine…( looked fine…) And I nearly lost my mind… And then it’s the bridge – another great bridge in an era of absolutely superb middle-eights. Woah-oh-woah, I knew we were falling in lo-o-o-ve… coupled with a twangy, rock ‘n’ roll throwback guitar. And we finish with, of course, a happy ending: with the loved-up couple together every single day, singing… You know exactly what they were singing: Do wah diddy diddy…

Musically, we can still hear the slow disintegration of the Merseybeat sound, now with organs, and maracas, and deep, bouncy, almost synthetic sounding drums. We’re approaching what I would think is peak-sixties, and this is a very sixties-sounding disc. And I’m looking at what I’ve written so far, and thinking it’s a pretty short post for a pretty high-quality song… But at the same time, ‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy’ is pretty close to pop perfection; and pop don’t need no analysing. That’s not really what pop music is for.

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Plus, Manfred Mann will be chart staples for the entirety of the 1960s, managing what many of their Beat contemporaries couldn’t – to adapt their sound and score hits (including two more chart-toppers) all the way through to 1969. So I can’t even pad this post out with a career round-up.

This record made them the first non-Liverpudlian/Mancunian US chart-toppers during the British Invasion of 1964. In actual fact, though, ‘Do Wah Diddy Diddy’ was a cover. US girl group The Exciters had had a minor hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with it earlier in the year. Give that version a listen here. It’s a sign of the song’s strength, I’d say, that it works just as well in the hands of a female vocal group as it does in the hands of a raucous Beat-combo, and sounds as if it was originally written for them both. A stone-cold pop classic.

174. ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, by The Beatles

Has there ever been a more memorable, yet concise, intro in the history of pop? One chord. Literally just one chord. But I’d bet anyone with even a passing interest in popular music would be able to identify it.

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A Hard Day’s Night, by The Beatles (their 5th of seventeen #1s)

3 weeks, from 23rd July – 13th August 1964

I’d also wager that entire theses have been devoted to this chord… (*Edit* Check out a 2004 report entitled “Mathematics, Physics, and ‘A Hard Day’s Night’” if that’s your thing.) As chords go, it’s quite a complicated one, with George Harrison playing an F and a G, while Paul McCartney adds a D on the bass, plus lots of other bits of wizardry from George Martin. Try the Wiki entry on the song for more detail. I didn’t really understand…

To the actual song, then. The intro fades, and we race into the first verse. It’s been a hard day’s night, And I’ve been working like a dog… And what’s that in the background, setting the frantic pace… Bongos?? Sure sounds like it. It’s been a hard day’s night, I should be sleepin’, Like a log…

Coming hard on the heels of two R&B chart-toppers, ‘House of the Rising Sun’ and ‘It’s All Over Now’, this sounds a bit light. Perhaps even a bit dated. So 1963… The But when I get home to you, I find the things that you do… line sounds like the climax to a cheesy sitcom theme. (‘One Foot in the Grave’, maybe…)

But the bridge comes in, and blasts all these doubts away. When I’m home, Everything seems to be right… Insistent cowbell, and the way that Paul half-screams Tight… Yeah! It’s actually a pretty filthy song. When he gets home to his girl, he finds the things that she does, make him feel alright… Who knows, maybe she’s just fetching him his pipe and slippers… Then scream! And solo. I love a scream before a solo. It’s second only to shouting the guitarist’s name in my list of ‘Brilliant Ways to Introduce a Solo’.

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Actually, listening properly to ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ for the first time in years, it feels like this is actually four songs in one. You’ve got the intro, the cheesy verses, the intense bridge, then the outro… The jingly, jangly, echoey outro that sounds as if it’s coming from a year or two in the future. It kills of Beatles Mk I, and suddenly this record doesn’t sound lightweight, or like a re-tread of their previous hits. Those last five seconds basically announce that Merseybeat is dead; but that The Fab Four will continue setting the tone for the next few years. Everyone knows that The Beatles were ‘very good’; but it’s tiny moments like this that confirm it.

This song was, of course, from a film of the same name, all about the boys carousing their way around London, getting up to all sorts of hi-jinks. It was their first feature film appearance and, whaddya know, it’s one of the most influential music-movies ever made. Even their films turned out that way. They simply had the Midas touch.

Interestingly, what with this disc being released at the height of Beatlemania, as part of the soundtrack to the biggest film of the year, it didn’t enter the charts at #1. Entering the chart at the top was a big deal back then – Elvis had done it twice, Cliff once… That’s it. It seems natural to assume that The Beatles would have done so too in pretty short order. But they never did. ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ entered at #3, before climbing. They would have to wait until ‘Get Back’, their penultimate #1 in 1969, to hit the summit in release week… I say ‘interesting’; but maybe it’s just me. A strange quirk, anyway. Onwards.

170. ‘You’re My World’, by Cilla Black

A word of warning. If you listen to this next #1 through headphones, and haven’t checked the volume levels on your device, then the violins that open this song may burst your eardrums. Take it from me. They’re the violins from the shower scene in ‘Psycho’, remixed.

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You’re My World, by Cilla Black (her 2nd and final #1)

4 weeks, from 28th May – 25th June 1964

Once they settle down, though, we head into solid ‘sixties ballad’ territory. Dramatic piano, tumbling drums, a soaring chorus… You’re my world, You’re every breath I take, You’re my world, You’re every move I make… The lyrics are trite, no doubt about it – but does that really matter? It’s an over-the-top record, that requires some over-the-top emoting. As the trees reach for the sun, Above, So my arms reach out to you, For love…

I still can’t shake the feeling I had while listening to her first #1: ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’ – that Cilla was but a second-rate Dusty Springfield. She gives it a good go, and does sing it very well, but her voice just doesn’t have enough behind it – it’s still a little too reedy. It’s harsh, you might argue, to compare a perfectly good singer to the one and only Dusty. And this, after all, is Cilla’s second chart-topper while we are still yet to hear from Ms. Springfield… But. From a 2019 standpoint, the patent on this type of pop-ballad is owned by Dusty, and almost everybody else will fall short of her standards.

Still, when we get to the line that builds up to the chorus – With your hand, Resting in mine… I feel a po-wer, So, divine… I’m completely won over by this song. That’s how you do a chorus. We’re a long way yet from the golden age of the power-ballad; but this is a proto power-ballad. What the V2 rocket was to Apollo 11. It’s a song that manages to cram a lot into it’s three minute run-time. A song that takes you on a journey, and assorted other clichés.

It’s also a song with a bit of a story behind it. It had originally been written the year before, in Italian as ‘Il Mio Mondo’ – which explains the operatic vibe – and translated into English, then French, then Spanish. It was a hit record in whatever language they tried; apart from, interestingly enough, in Italy… George Martin, who had an ear for these kind of things, was the man who spotted its potential and gave it to Cilla…

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And so it was her, and her alone, who could break up these nine months of Merseybeat with two #1 blockbuster ballads. She was a huge star, no doubt about that, though with this her chart-topping career ended quite abruptly. Whatever happened to her…? She lasted throughout the sixties – not something that all of her contemporaries managed – scoring nine more Top 10s (the last of which, the sublime ‘Something Tells Me (Something’s Gonna Happen Tonight)’ is the best.)

Oh yes. And then she became one of the most famous TV personalities in the country, as the face of Saturday night light entertainment shows like ‘Surprise, Surprise’ and ‘Blind Date’. I wasn’t allowed to watch ‘Blind Date’ as a kid; my mum thought it was trash. I mean, it was trash – that was the entire point… Anyway, unresolved childhood grievances aside, Cilla Black was part of the fabric of British live in the eighties and nineties and it was genuinely shocking when she died suddenly in 2015. Her death sent a ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation to the top of the UK Album Charts – the first time she had topped any chart since ‘You’re My World’…

I once spent an enjoyable hour reading a thread by anonymous British Airways cabin crew who had had the misfortune to serve Cilla on flights. She could *allegedly* be, shall we say, demanding… It made me love her even more. A proper diva, the likes of whom we see fewer and fewer of these days. RIP, and onwards.