And now for a song that’s brainless on purpose. “Hang On Sloopy” is just as derivative and opportunistic as “Eve of Destruction,” but with the benefit of working in a genre where eloquence and sincerity trail distantly behind the goal of getting kids dancing. Instead of ripping off Bob Dylan’s protest songs, “Hang On Sloopy” draws from the British Invasion — or, more specifically, the American garage rock bands trying to pass for imported beat groups. The record reworks co-writer Bert Berns’s own “Twist and Shout” (conveniently, a then-recent hit for The Beatles), steeps it in the rhythm of “Louie Louie” and slaps on a “Rag Doll”-esque class-divide storyline. With that genetic material, how could it not be a hit?
Like “Twist and Shout,” the song was an R&B smash (as “My Girl Sloopy” by The Vibrations) before finding mainstream success in a rock/pop remake. The McCoys were the lucky band of Indiana teenagers recruited to cover the song by producers Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer, who, as The Strangeloves, were riding the crest of their own pseudo-garage/proto-bubblegum hit “I Want Candy.” (They were also the team responsible for “My Boyfriend’s Back” two years earlier.) “Sloopy” is a little heavier on the bass than “Candy,” but otherwise replicates its formula: bright and hooky enough to be teen-pop friendly, but with just enough grit — especially in the thudding intro and Rick Derringer’s scruffy guitar solo — to lend it a bit of rock and roll credibility. Never mind that there’s scarcely an original thought in the whole record. “Hang On Sloopy” might not be authentic garage rock, but it understands what made the genre so exciting: originality doesn’t matter, so long as what you’re ripping off is good and the band’s got energy. 7
Hit #1 on October 2, 1965; total of 1 week at #1
145 of 1014 #1’s reviewed; 14.30% through the Hot 100