Saturday, September 13, 2014

1964 - Britain Invades the US Music Charts

The British Invasion - That time in 1964, when the US began to be flooded with acts from the UK, acts that didn't just come over, test the water, and then retreat to their little island off of continental Europe, but who came, saw, and conquered the hearts and minds of the American listening public. Who brought with them music that started appearing on the charts, even reaching the coveted number one spot on Billboard magazine's Hot 100 Singles chart. Who changed the face of popular music forever.

Nine singles by British acts hit number one during the first year of the British Invasion, out of 23 songs that reached the top of the chart in 1964 (if I counted correctly). Among those 23 chart-toppers were a variety of musical styles by a variety of artists. Dean Martin had a number one that year with "Everybody Loves Somebody", on the week of August 15. So did Louis Armstrong and the All Stars, when "Hello, Dolly!" reached to top spot during the week of May 9. "Chapel of Love", by the Dixie Cups, spent three weeks at number one in June. The Shangri-Las' "Leader of the Pack" was the number one song in the US during the week of November 28. A mostly spoken-word single by actor Lorne Greene, something called "Ringo" but having nothing to do with The Beatles' drummer, spent a week at number one at the beginning of December. The Supremes got to number one twice during the year, with "Baby Love", which spent the last week of October and the first three weeks of November at number one, and with "Come See About Me", which was the number one song in the US for the week of December 19. Bobby Vinton charted twice in 1964, at the beginning of the year, when "There! I've Said It Again" spent all of January at number one, and again near the end of the year, when "Mr. Lonely" hit number one during the week of December 12. The Beach Boys spent the first to weeks of July at number one with "I Get Around". You can look here for the full list of number one singles from 1964.

Here is just a sampling of the US-based artists who managed to get a song to number one in 1964:

This is Dean Martin and "Everybody Loves Somebody". This is a real indication, compared to some of the other music released in 1964, of how music was changing at the time:

Here is "Leader of the Pack", by The Shangri-Las:

And, The Beach Boys, in a live performance of "I Get Around":

Of the nine singles by British artists that rose to the top of the charts in the US in 1964, six of them were by The Beatles. It's difficult not to add "of course" to that statement. It was the Fab Four, after all, who led the invasion of UK acts into the United States and around the world. The songs the Beatles took all the way to number one were "I Want to Hold Your Hand", "She Loves You", "Can't Buy Me Love", "Love Me Do", "A Hard Day's Night", and "I Feel Fine". It was the beginning of a track record that saw 20 singles by the band hitting number one in their career, the most of any artist in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart. "I Want to Hold Your Hand" stayed at the top the longest of any of The Beatles' 1964 number ones, topped only by "Hey, Jude", with a 9-week run at number one in 1968. In order, "She Loves You" was at number one for two weeks, while "Can't Buy Me Love" was number one for five weeks, "Love Me Do" for one week, "A Hard Day's Night" for two weeks, and "I Feel Fine" for three weeks".

This live performance of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" comes along with some British humor at the end:

And this is one of my favorite Beatles' songs:

Of the three other singles by British artists that hit number one in 1964, "A World Without Love", by Peter and Gordon, spent a week at number one in June, The Animals' "House of the Rising Sun" spent three weeks at number one in September, and "Do Wah Diddy Diddy", by Manfred Mann, spent two weeks at the top of the chart in October.

Peter and Gordon's "A World Without Love" was billed as a Lennon/McCartney composition, but it was McCartney's song:

As a bit of trivia, "A World Without Love" was one of only two Lennon/McCartney compositions taken to number one by other artists on the US charts. The other was Elton John's cover of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds", in 1974.

"House of the Rising Sun" is a traditional folk song that had been recorded as early as 1934, but The Animals' version was the most successful of many covers and went to number one not only in the UK and the US, but also in Canada, Sweden, and Finland:

The version of "Doo Wah Diddy Diddy" by Manfred Mann that went to the top of the charts in the US and in the UK is a cover of a song first recorded in 1963 by The Exciters, an American band:

It is interesting, I think that, while non-UK artists' singles spent much more time that did British Invasion artists at the top of the US charts in 1964, four of the five top-charting singles of the year, the songs that reached the highest point on charts worldwide, were from British Invasion artists. The only artist and song in that top five was Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman", at number two. The Beatles held the number one spot with "I Want to Hold Your Hand", the number four spot with "A Hard Day's Night", and the number five spot with "I Feel Fine". The Animals had the third-highest charting single worldwide in 1964 with "The House of the Rising Sun".

By 1968, British influence at the top of the US singles charts had fallen back to pre-Invasion levels, with The Beatles' "Hey, Jude" being the only single by a British act to reach number one, although it did manage to stay at number one from the week of September 28 through the week of November 23, the longest run at the top for any of The Beatles' singles. British influence on the US singles charts had peaked in 1965 with twelve number ones from British artists, four of them by The Beatles and two each from The Rolling Stones and Herman's Hermits. The only other act that hit number one in both 1964 and 1968, as a side note, was The Supremes, by then billed as Diana Ross & The Supremes, an indication of how much turnover there had been in popular musical acts, no matter where they were from, between 1964 and 1968. Further indication of the changes that had come about in such a short time is that in 1964, The Beatles had been singing about holding hands, while The Supremes' song that hit number one in 1968 was "Love Child".

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