A music fan who wasn’t alive in 1965 has heard about what an important year that was in rock and pop music history. As a means of teaching himself what that year was all about, he decides to study the year by writing about each of 1965’s #1 singles one by one chronologically. He asks his uncle, who was then a teenager, for assistance, and his uncle happily helps by going down to his basement, combing through his old box of 45s, and, upon finding the ones he’s looking for, coming up with a complete stack of all the 1965 chart toppers. The kind-hearted uncle then goes online to get the dates that each disc took over the top spot, and applies a small piece of masking tape to each one’s label, on which he writes the relevant date. Having done that, he puts all the records in an old 45-carrying case and gives it to his nephew.
Now, having everything he needs, the young(er) scribe is ready to examine and discover the wonderful musical year of 1965 and write his piece.
Below is the result. As readers shall see, he did a fine job of summing up an exciting time by noting the musical diversity of the year, catching on to the various styles all fighting for the coveted #1 slot, recognizing coming and going musical trends and the changes in the air. He caught onto all the essentials and did a nice job in his summation and he came to some interesting conclusions, and accurately captured the gist of 1965, simply by looking one by one at all of the year’s top sellers.
Well, except for one little thing…
With that, I’ll turn this over to his report:
The magical musical year of 1965 began on a fine note for the Beatles with a continuation of the three-week run at the top with their classic “She’s a Woman,” a bluesy rocker ultimately dislodged by the very record it had knocked out to take top honors in the first place…
…the Supremes’ passionate “Always In My Heart,” which came back to see one more week at #1.
The charts remained female reigned when Diana and her friends passed the torch to Petula Clark, who grabbed the #1 spot with her million-selling “You’d Better Love Me.” But Ms. Clark, who really went to town on that song, would go down two weeks later when the amalgamation of Phil Spector’s Wall Of Sound and the trademark blue-eyed soul of the Righteous Brothers assured a first place price for their “There’s a Woman.”
But even a disc of such feeling ultimately lost to the power and muscle of Hollywood production and promotion working in cahoots, which guaranteed Gary Lewis and the Playboys, led by the son of entertainment legend Jerry Lewis, a ride to the top of the charts.
Sure enough, in February, “Tijuana Wedding,” opening as it did with guitar feedback (an idea even the Beatles hadn’t dared use on a topside, only on a flip) became the best-selling single in America, occupying that slot for two straight weeks. Gary was shining brighter than a diamond.
But Motown, of course, never went too long in the mid ’60s without having one of its acts in first place, and in early March 1965, the millions of copies sold of the Temptations’ “(Talking ‘Bout) Nobody But My Baby” made it only the latest of the label’s long line of #1s.
But after only a week, Motown’s sunshine was turned into a cloudy day by “I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party” by those Liverpool lads, settling in at #1 with a song that hadn’t even been a single in their home country.
But two extra-long weeks later in late March, and for the second time in 1965 alone, the Supremes stopped the Beatles’ party, and they were #1 again, in the name of a disc entitled “I’m In Love Again.”
However, being 1965, the British Invasion that began the year before still packed a lot of punch, and it would be almost two months before another American act would top the chart. In April, the clown princes of the genre, Freddie and the Dreamers rather tellingly saw their “What Have I Done To You” leap into #1, staying for a fortnight until replaced by Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders’ classic “Since You’ve Been Gone.”
But gone it was after a week, and Wayne’s game was over when the vastly popular Herman’s Hermits no longer had to dream on about scoring a #1 in America, as the lovely “I Gotta Dream On” did just that. The record featured the haunting yet intriguing sound of a guitar played through a volume/tone pedal…
…as did the record that removed it from the top spot in late May, the latest Beatles #1, “Yes It Is,” which began its ride as the #1 song in America on May 22nd.
A week later on May 29th, Capitol’s other big “Bea” group, the Beach Boys, continued 1965’s great 6/8 invasion when “Kiss Me Baby,” neither the first nor the last chart-topper of the year in a waltzable time, replaced the Beatles’ own 6/8 offering. The beautifully produced “Kiss Me, Baby” helped give a hint of where the amazing mind of Brian Wilson was going as a producer.
On June 12, the Supremes were back on top again with a bouncy new one entitled “Whisper You Love Me Boy.” Tracks like this proved that Motown showed no signs whatsoever of slowing down their high-quality output.
In fact, far from slowing down, Motown, on June 19th, had their first instance of knocking themselves out of #1, when the Four Tops lived up to their name and topped the charts with their gorgeously-melodic and sweeter-than-sugar ode to remnants of a failed romance, “Sad Souvenirs.”
The song held in first place for two non-consecutive weeks, temporarily turning over the honor to a new band with a new sound. From Los Angeles, the Byrds brought the world something labeled “folk-rock,” taking elements of music more traditionally associated with acoustic guitars and coffeehouses and amplifying this music with a beat sound with jingle-jangle 12-string guitar at the forefront. It brought a new approach to rock and roll, and their smash “I Knew I Want You” demonstrated this superbly. In addition to bringing folk-rock to the penthouse suite of the Top 100 on June 26th, “I Knew I Want You” also continued the 1965 wave of 6/8 ditties.
The Rolling Stones made their American debut in 1964, but by the first half of 1965 still hadn’t yet become a force to be reckoned with. That changed on July 10 when their latest 45, “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man” began a four week run at #1. A faction of teens of 1965 no doubt identified with the lyrics of being trapped in a white-collar world, some lyrics of which were prone to censorship. The mammoth importance and influence of this single cannot be overstated. The Beatles may still have been in the lead, but after the release of this 45 it was clear which group proved to be their biggest threat.
Still, no single can hold at the top forever, and with the power comparable to an English king of centuries ago, Herman’s Hermits conquered, reigning the charts for their second time of the year, this time with yet another 6/8 number, their soft and gentle cover of Skeeter Davis’s “The End of the World.”
But their reign ended with rain only a week later with Hollywood’s hottest new musical couple of the day, Sonny and Cher declaring “It’s Gonna Rain.” So popular was the mystique of this hip twosome — a strange-looking mop-topped guy and his Cleopatra-style singing partner — that the song stormed the charts for three consecutive weeks. This mostly one-chord song wasn’t in 6/8, but its decent flipside was.
There was only one group to help bring Sonny and Cher down, and of course it was the Beatles, and on September 4th their “I’m Down” went up to #1. “I’m Down” was their own personal “Long Tall Sally,” the Little Richard classic they had recorded the previous year and which had been part of their live act for years before that, and a wonderful concert closer, which it became on their American tour of that summer.
The times they were a-changin’, and popular songs were beginning to get a little more topical, but Barry McGuire brought it to a new level with his 1965 smash single, which was anything but a boy-girl love song. Instead, McGuire took a hard look at the state of the world and questioned its values without sugar-coating his words (actually, the words of songwriter P.F. Sloan.) His frankness combined with his rough growling and frustrated voice made more a real ear-opener with the immortal “What Exactly is the Matter With Me,” which caused destruction to everything else on the pop chart the week of September 25th.
Perhaps it was too hot for the times, because after only one week Barry’s song was replaced by a much simpler more straight-ahead pop rocker, this time from newcomers the McCoys. The quartet, led by future rock guitar notable Rick Derringer who also sang lead, managed to hang on to the top spot on October 2nd with the bouncy “I Can’t Explain It.” All the problems with the world described in Barry McGuire’s bumped disc were nowhere in sight in Rick’s declaration of being in love.
And yet the charts took another unexpected turn on October 9th, when the Beatles made it to the top once again, but with a song not quite like anything they’d done previously. In fact, the track was a mere album track in England, not released on 45 there, but Capitol Records in America recognized its strengths and believed in it. They were correct, because “Act Naturally,” in which the rock band took on a completely different style — straight ahead country (the song was originally recorded by Buck Owens) — stayed on top a total of four weeks, tying with “The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man” as 1965’s record with the most number of weeks at #1. Musically, it was quite a departure from their sound of yesterday, and proof of the band’s ability to take on many different styles successfully.
The Beatles were not the only band of the day adept at tackling styles markedly different from their “standard” sound. The usually rough-rocking Rolling Stones proved this with their Autumn 1965 single. Not only was it a great song, but its title offered a ready-made catchphrase to young folk disenchanted with the modern world: “I’m Free.” Featuring a slightly-restrained instrumental track compared to their previous singles, “I’m Free” had the Stones singing about their ability to escape the clouds of rules and regulations others may try to force on them. Teens everywhere wanted to declare the title in their own life, so it was no surprise when “I’m Free” occupied the highest region of the chart for two weeks beginning November 6th, their second record of the year to rule the charts. It would take a mighty strong record to make the Stones get off of their peak position.
But as always, Motown was up to the task, what with their endless stream of pocket symphonies, and the Supremes were on a roll in 1965, and on November 20th they earned their fourth #1 single with “Who Could Ever Doubt My Love” which rightfully stayed in that position for two weeks.
Yet another band who had scored their first #1 earlier in 1965 came back for another round before the year was out. The Byrds, who had brought folk-rock into national consciousness in the summer season, got another turn at topping the chart in the autumn season. This ditty was a dandy number about the true value of time: “She Don’t Care About Time,” which featured the band’s trademark 12-string kicking off the proceedings. The track was truly a gem that fully deserved its three weeks in first place — beginning December 4th — proving that in December 1965, record buyers preferred this record to… well, everything.
The final single to get to the coveted #1 spot in 1965 came from a very popular British Invasion band whom had been scoring high-charting hits over and over for almost two years but had not yet gone all the way to the top in America: the Dave Clark Five. On Christmas Day they received a present of finally doing so, when “I’ll Be Yours (My Love)” finished first. Mike Smith’s soulful vocals over a plaintive but powerful beat-driven ballad helped make it a perfect song to end such a diverse year of music.
Were you able to spot this young music scholar’s mistake? Hope you all got and enjoyed the intended amusement of this piece. In a month or so, we’ll look at the flips of another year, without the fan-fiction approach.