(Pictured: the Dave Clark Five. In the early summer of 1964 they were poised to pick up the British Invasion crown the Beatles weren’t going to drop.)
Through the benefit of hindsight, we know that in June 1964, Beatlemania was nothing like over. But at the time, it may have looked that way.
In early April, the Fabs had the top five on the Hot 100 and 12 songs altogether; a month later, they had two in the top 10 and seven of the Hot 100. In the first week of June, they still have two in the top 10 according to Billboard: “Love Me Do” at #2 after a week at #1, and “P.S. I Love You,” which was actually the B-side of the Tollie release of “Love Me Do,” at #10. But the only other Beatles hit on the Hot 100 is “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” falling to #36 from #19. The EP Four by the Beatles, containing “All My Loving,” “This Boy,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” and “Please Mr. Postman,” is bubbling under, and so is “Sie Liebt Dich,” the German version of “She Loves You.” Both will creep into the 90s on the Hot 100 later in June.
Apart from the Beatles, the Dave Clark Five are the hottest British group, with two hits among the top 25 (“Do You Love Me” and “Bits and Pieces”); Peter and Gordon (“A World Without Love”) and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas (“Little Children”) are in the top 10; Gerry and the Pacemakers are on the way up with “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying,” the Searchers with “Sugar and Spice,” and Chad and Jeremy with “Yesterday’s Gone.”
At WOKY in Milwaukee, which we’ve visited in our two previous posts along this line, the British groups are doing fine on the chart dated June 6, 1964. So is Mary Wells, whose magnificent “My Guy” is newly knocked out of the #1 spot by the Dixie Cups’ “Chapel of Love.” At the chart’s very bottom, Johnny Rivers is in his first week on with his first hit song, the future classic “Memphis.” There’s plenty of adult flavor on the chart, with Barbra Streisand’s soon-to-be-iconic “People” alongside records by Nat King Cole, Al Hirt, and Louis Armstrong, whose “Hello Dolly” continues to hang in. And there are a few records nobody remembers 50 years later.
13. “Donnie”/The Bermudas (up from 16). The three Bermudas were 12, 14, and 15 years old in 1964. On this vintage American Bandstand clip, it’s easy to figure out which one is 12, but the other two could easily be 30.
14. “The French Song”/Lucille Starr (up from 17). The official title of this is “Quand le soleil dit bonjour aux montagnes,” which means “when the sun says good day to the mountains.” Lucille Starr grew up speaking French in British Columbia and remained a popular country star in Canada for years thereafter. “The French Song,” as it was known in the English-speaking world, reached #54 in Billboard. (In the spring of 1964, having the last name Starr couldn’t have hurt one bit.) “The French Song” is supposedly the first Canadian million seller, and it was produced by Herb Alpert.
29. “Gonna Get Along Without You Now”/Skeeter Davis and Tracey Dey (down from 27). Two different versions of the same song, charted together—a sprightly pop version by Davis and a big-beat version by Dey, who released a number of unsuccessful singles during the 60s, many of them written and produced by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio, the team behind the Four Seasons. “Gonna Get Along Without You Now” had been a hit for Patience and Prudence in 1956, and their version was a favorite of my mother’s; she had the sheet music (with Patience and Prudence pictured on the front) and played it for us on the piano when we were little.
25. “What to Do (To Forget You)”/Sam McCue (debut). McCue was one of Milwaukee’s first home-grown rock-n-rollers, most famous as lead guitarist and singer of the Legends. “What to Do” likely hit about the time McCue landed a gig as guitarist in the Everly Brothers’ band, a job he would keep until the infamous Knott’s Berry Farm show in 1973 at which the brothers broke up. Between Everlys tours, he continued to play at home with the Legends and other bands.
Beatlemania was about to reassert itself, of course. As June began, they finished filming A Hard Day’s Night, and they would wrap up recording of the album of the same name later in the month. And so the summer would belong to them, just as the spring had.