Soundtracking ’65

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(Pictured: I could have chosen any of the top artists of 1965 to head this post. I picked Soupy Sales, seen here on the TV show Hullabaloo, because of course I did.)

Continuing my obsession with round numbers, and our culture’s obsession with 50th anniversaries, let’s dig into the Top 100 hits of 1965, as ranked by New York’s legendary Top 40 station, WABC. As you might expect, it reads like its own rock ‘n’ roll hall of fame. Here’s the top 10:

1. “Satisfaction”/Rolling Stones
2. “Help”/Beatles
3. “I Can’t Help Myself”/Four Tops
4. “Downtown”/Petula Clark
5. “1-2-3″/Len Barry
6. “A Lover’s Concerto”/Toys
7. “Let’s Hang On”/Four Seasons
8. “I Got You Babe”/Sonny & Cher
9. “Come See About Me”/Supremes
10. “Stop! In the Name of Love”/Supremes

True, Petula Clark, Len Barry, and the Toys haven’t endured quite like the others, but if you don’t like them, swap in “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “I Feel Fine,” “I Hear a Symphony,” or “Hang on Sloopy” from positions 11 through 20.

It’s necessary to dig a bit to find some less well-remembered hits, but we will, on the flip.

30. “Cara Mia”/Jay and the Americans. The melodramatic “Cara Mia” was Jay and the Americans’ biggest Billboard hit, a broad-based nationwide smash on the radio all through the summer of 1965. Fifty years later, however, “Come a Little Bit Closer” (1964) and “This Magic Moment” (1969) are better remembered. Quintessential pop radio hits all, which makes it all the stranger that Jay and the Americans briefly employed a couple of young, out-of-their-element musicians in their touring band: Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. (“Let’s Lock the Door” also appears on the WABC year-end survey at #85.)

43. “I’m a Happy Man”/Jive Five. Yer basic New York street-corner doo-wop outfit, formed in Brooklyn in 1959 and better known for “My True Story,” a hit in 1961. “I’m a Happy Man” was a smash on New York radio stations before breaking elsewhere. It was a mid-level hit in many places and a Top 10 hit in Providence and Boston. After bass singer Norman Johnson died in 1970, the group changed its name to the Jyve Fyve, which is one of the most 70s things ever.

58. “Darling Take Me Back”/Lenny Welch. You may already have conjured up the name of Welch’s most famous song, “Since I Fell for You” (1963). “Darling Take Me Back” was another New York radio smash, but made only #72 in Billboard.

60. “The Mouse”/Soupy Sales. A ubiquitous TV personality from the 60s through the 80s, Soupy Sales was seen on variety shows, game shows, and his own children’s shows. On New Year’s Day 1965, hosting a kids’ show in New York, he told his viewers to look in their parents’ pocketbooks and wallets, find the green papers with pictures of presidents, and mail them to him. Sure enough, kids did, and Sales ended up suspended from the air for a couple of weeks. His notoriety couldn’t have hurt “The Mouse,” which he performed on Hullabaloo.

67. “Keep Searchin'”/Del Shannon. Oldies radio, with its limited number of playlist slots, has skewed our perception of many artists, turning them into one-hit wonders when they aren’t. Del Shannon’s 1961 #1 hit “Runaway” is the song of his everyone knows. But another 1961 hit, “Hats Off to Larry,” reached #5 on the Hot 100, and “Keep Searchin'” made it to #9.

WABC in 1965 was one of America’s greatest radio stations, with Herb Oscar Anderson in the morning, Dan Ingram in the afternoon, and Cousin Brucie Morrow at night, along with other names less well-known but fondly remembered: Ron Lundy, Charlie Greer, Chuck Leonard. As great as they were, however, none of them could have known at the time that they were soundtracking an era that would still capture the imagination a half-century in the future.

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