Category Archives: 1965

150) The Dave Clark Five – “Over and Over”

The Dave Clark Five were the first UK group to challenge The Beatles’ dominance of the US pop charts, launching “Glad All Over” into the Top 10 in March 1964. Nearly two years and 12 singles later (all but one of which went Top 40), the group finally scored their only number-one hit. Their solid chart run befits a band who built their career on steady quality and moderate talent rather than on surprise or innovation. They could sometimes bust out a great hook like the “DUN DUN” in the chorus of “Glad All Over,” or break out in a thrash as on “Bits and Pieces.” But even with their trademark “big beat” (not for nothing was the band named after the drummer), the group’s genial blandness always kept them a step or two below the thrilling highs of bands like The Beatles or the Stones.

In a way, The Dave Clark Five were the quintessential British Invasion group, schooled in vocal harmonies and Lennon-McCartney chord changes but without the distinctive personality and arty streak of the more enduring acts. Yet there was also a certain retro quality that set the band apart from the rest of the Invasion. While their peers were starting out in afterschool skiffle or blues bands, the group then known as The Dave Clark Quintet toured London-area military bases, playing lite jazz and dance pop in officer’s clubs. Even after the band switched to beat music, their prominent use of saxophone and commitment to unambitious rock and roll tied them to the ’50s long after most of their compatriots retired their Chuck Berry covers.

Fittingly, the group’s sole US number-one was a cover of a song first released in 1958, the flipside of Bobby Day’s hit “Rockin’ Robin.” The Dave Clark Five’s “Over and Over” sticks relatively close to the original, apart from adding a harmonica break and changing Day’s line “everybody went stag” to the stupid-brilliant “everybody there was there.” Instead of boogie bounce and Day’s nuanced delivery, though, their version emphasizes the bash of Clark’s drums and the blast of Mike Smith’s voice. What this take on “Over and Over” gains in rock and roll power, it loses in personality. Which, contradictory as it may seem, makes it the ideal choice for The Dave Clark Five’s number-one: it’s a perfectly competent, somewhat unexciting record by a perfectly competent, somewhat unexciting band.

With “Over and Over,” The Dave Clark Five became the last of the original run of British Invasion groups to score a number-one. Meanwhile, American garage bands were reclaiming the movement’s back-to-basics approach, while the more ambitious UK acts began expanding into harder, folkier or psychedelic strains of rock. Even as “Over and Over” became a hit, it also felt vaguely like an anachronism. The Dave Clark Five wouldn’t return to the Top 10 for another year and a half, scoring one last big hit with “You Got What It Takes” (another ’50s cover) before disappearing from the US charts altogether. Like the other British Invasion acts who wouldn’t or couldn’t keep up with the decade’s rapidly-shifting tastes, The Dave Clark Five found themselves left behind by the ’60s rock culture they had helped create. 5

Hit #1 on December 25, 1965; total of 1 week at #1
150 of 1015 #1’s reviewed; 14.78% through the Hot 100

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Filed under 05, 1965

149) The Byrds – “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)”

After the success of “Mr. Tambourine Man,” The Byrds stuck to the Bob Dylan songbook, releasing  “All I Really Want to Do” as their second single and covering “Spanish Harlem Incident” and “Chimes of Freedom” on the Mr. Tambourine Man LP. To allay charges that they leaned too heavily on Dylan for material, they scrapped plans to release “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” as their third single. Instead, they replaced it with a song penned by folk revival patriarch Pete Seeger, whose “The Bells of Rhymney” had also appeared on the band’s debut album. “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)” became an even bigger hit than “Mr. Tambourine Man,” swept along by the gathering momentum of the folk-rock boom that The Byrds themselves had launched. The record’s flowery 12-string guitar, campfire vocals and gentle optimism (“a time for peace, I swear it’s not too late”) offered an appealing alternative to Barry McGuire’s apocalyptic Vietnam nightmare, even as the line “a time for war and a time for peace” implied the necessity of both states.

“Turn! Turn! Turn!” finds The Byrds fully settled in their element, polishing and embellishing the genre hybrid of “Mr. Tambourine Man” into a seamless, finely-wrought piece of musical craftsmanship. (It helps that the whole band are playing their instruments this time around.) The biblically-derived lyrics share the vague mystical profundity of Dylan’s work, but their comparative straightforwardness avoids competing with the band’s ornate arrangement. The extended length (nearly four minutes) allows more space for the song to unwind, giving it the shape and direction of a complete statement rather than the forced brevity of their debut.

But as with their earlier singles, there’s a formality to the band’s pristine vocals and unmussed instrumentation that renders it opaque, holding the listener at arm’s length. It isn’t that The Byrds were incapable of genuine feeling – look at anything Gene Clark wrote – but that they often prioritized aesthetics over emotion. This wasn’t always the case: the melancholy of the band’s next single, “Set You Free This Time,” would be the first ripple the tranquil pond, while the disparity between the exquisite harmonies and searing guitar in “Eight Miles High” resulted in one of the decade’s greatest records. But “Turn! Turn! Turn!” remains a masterpiece in a different sense: a piece of art you can appreciate for its skill and admire for its beauty, even if you can never quite make your own. 7

Hit #1 on December 4, 1965; total of 3 weeks at #1
149 of 1015 #1’s reviewed; 14.68% through the Hot 100

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Filed under 07, 1965

148) The Supremes – “I Hear a Symphony”

After “Nothing But Heartaches” broke The Supremes’ run of number-one records – failing to even scrape the Top 10 – it was time to rethink the formula. “I Hear a Symphony” offered a more complex take on the Supremes sound, even more than “Stop! In the Name of Love” had been. “Symphony” may have been inspired by fellow girl group The Toys’ “A Lover’s Concerto,” a record pairing an adaptation of the Minuet in G Major from Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach with lyrics about the ecstasy of falling in love. “Symphony” attempts the same sort of pop-classical fusion but in reverse, dressing a simple pop melody in an elaborate, faux-orchestral production.

While “I Hear a Symphony” retains some of the Supremes’ trademarks (vibes, heartbeat bass, Flo and Mary’s cries of “baby, baby”), the stomping rhythm that had dominated all their previous hits is replaced with a sprightlier backbeat. “Symphony” also adds strings to the mix – first, just as an accent when the girls sing the word “symphony,” then a constant, if subdued, presence from the second chorus on. There are no fewer than three key changes over the course of the song, beginning in C and rising by semitones till it reaches E-flat. Together, the key changes, syncopated rhythm and soaring strings help the song maintain a degree of lightness, even as the record swells in its second half. This light touch extends to the song’s lyrics, the purest, sweetest declaration of love that had appeared on a Supremes number-one to date. When Diana Ross cries here, her tears are not over an unsteady boyfriend, but out of sympathy “for those who’ve never felt the joy we’ve felt.”

In a way, “I Hear a Symphony” can be considered as The Supremes’ “Yesterday,” and not just because of the strings. Both records find their respective groups moving forward by looking backward, cutting their respective genres (R&B and rock) with MOR pop and crossing over to a wider audience in the process. (Incidentally, The Supremes’ version of “Yesterday” appears on the I Hear a Symphony LP, alongside their take on “A Lover’s Concerto.”) But while The Beatles were free to indulge their eclectic streak, The Supremes began catering more and more to the mainstream, performing in supper clubs and stocking their LPs with Top 40 covers and easy listening standards. Surprisingly, the group would take their biggest artistic leaps on their singles.  After “I Hear a Symphony,” Supremes songs no longer had to fit a narrow definition, freeing them to trade consistency for greatness. 8

Hit #1 on November 20, 1965; total of 2 weeks at #1
148 of 1014 #1’s reviewed; 14.60% through the Hot 100

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Filed under 08, 1965

147) The Rolling Stones – “Get Off of My Cloud”

When an artist scores a big hit, typically the aim is to try to replicate that success on some level. Often this replication is quite literal, with the follow-up expressly geared to trigger fond memories of its predecessor. One approach is to hew as closely to the previous hit as possible, changing just the minimum number of variables to qualify the new record as a separate song (see The Supremes). The other option follows the Hollywood sequel formula: everything you liked about the original but kicked up a notch, resulting in a record that is bigger and (theoretically) better. “Get Off of My Cloud,” then, is the big-budget redux of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” with a busier arrangement and an even headier attitude.

The two songs adhere to the same basic template – Mick Jagger drawls out a few anecdotes about things that are pissing him off, interspersed with a refrain emphasizing how pissed off he is – but “Cloud” ups the stakes. Whereas the Jagger of “Satisfaction” was griping about his own inability to be satisfied (“I can’t get no”), in “Cloud” he’s directing his anger outward to encompass anyone daring to get in his way (“hey, you, get off of my cloud”). The detergent salesman from “Satisfaction” is no longer just on TV; now he appears in person (and loud clothes) at Jagger’s apartment. Jagger’s reference to the man’s “Union Jack” suit suggests his role as avatar of consumerism in the previous song has expanded to include governmental interference as well. The political references resurface in the third verse, where Jagger isn’t even free to sit in his car without getting swamped in parking tickets (described as “flags stuck on my windscreen”). As with “Satisfaction,” though, Jagger doesn’t really concern himself about the meaning behind what’s holding him down. He’s more interested in describing the feeling of being young and disaffected – and, in the case of “Cloud,” asserting himself in opposition to a world that seems set against him, even if he knows it’s ultimately useless.

The bigger-and-more mentality of the lyrics also turns up in Andrew Loog Oldham’s production, where each member of the group seems to be playing on their own cloud, oblivious to what their bandmates are doing. It sounds under-rehearsed and poorly mixed, especially in comparison with the previous hit, but the sloppiness actually works in its favor. The lean meanness and repetition of “Satisfaction” emphasized its single-minded frustration; the churning, overcrowded “Cloud” reflects the busyness of the world Jagger’s trying to escape. Only Charlie Watts’s drums have enough force to punch through the sonic murk. His intro, like Keith Richards’s “Satisfaction” riff, encapsulates the song’s exasperation, bouncing discontentedly in place before accelerating into a fury, like fists punching a wall in frustration.

Often the problem with sequels is that the surface extras are meant to mask a shortage of ideas. But while “Get Off of My Cloud” isn’t quite the bolt from the blue that its predecessor was, the Stones’ antisocial shtick and songwriting craft are still strong enough to delay the onset of diminishing returns. Nevertheless, the Stones recognized the danger of repeating themselves. The week “Cloud” went to #1, it shared the Top 10 with Bob Dylan’s even nastier “Positively 4th Street,” while a procession of vicious garage rock singles bubbled up below. For the follow-up, then, the band played against type by releasing the strings-laden “As Tears Go By,” a gentle, wistful ballad that couldn’t have been further from their two prior singles – a sign that their ambitions extended beyond endless reiterations of the same formula, no matter how good they were. 8

Hit #1 on November 6, 1965; total of 2 weeks at #1
147 of 1014 #1’s reviewed; 14.50% through the Hot 100

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Filed under 08, 1965

146) The Beatles – “Yesterday”

The Beatles have been ubiquitous for so long that it’s easy to take their best-known songs for granted. “Yesterday” in particular has reached saturation point, regularly topping “best song” polls and logging among the most recorded cover versions of any song. Its gentle acoustic style and backwards-looking lyrics place it among the handful of Beatles songs that even non-rock fans can like (Grandma included), fairly or not tinging it by association with the musty air of MOR boringness. It conforms to neither the band’s early rock and roll image nor their later reputation as musical innovators. Unlike the similarly overplayed “She Loves You” or “A Hard Day’s Night,” it’s not even danceable. The record wasn’t even released as a single in the UK, partly because Paul McCartney was the only Beatle to actually play on the record, but also because you suspect the rest of the band were embarrassed by how soft it sounded. It even has violins on it, for goodness sake. What is this – Mantovani?

But to listen to “Yesterday” with fresh ears — to hear it just as a song, without the associated baggage  — is to be surprised by its grace and ease. It’s almost certainly less saccharine and stodgy than you remember. The melody, despite its overfamiliarity, is still quite pretty, and George Martin’s production is smartly subdued. For all that’s been written about Bob Dylan’s influence on John Lennon during this period, at the time it was “Yesterday” that Billboard referred to as “a Dylan-styled piece of material.” And while Dylan himself had yet to release anything this pop-friendly, it does bear a loose similarity to his minimalist take on folk: vibrato-less vocals accompanied by a simple, repetitive pick-strum pattern on acoustic guitar. The strings are there, of course, but just a quartet, not a full strings section, and they are judiciously used – a few legato sighs, not unlike the harmony vocals that John and George would be singing, if the presence of other voices wouldn’t detract from the atmosphere of loneliness.

“Yesterday” isn’t too far from Lennon’s “Help!” either, which also idealizes a past free from the present’s troubles. But where “Help!” reflects Lennon’s tendency toward forthrightness and aggressive neediness, “Yesterday” is circumspect and insular. Instead of explicitly stating that he’s “not so self assured,” McCartney never gets more direct than “there’s a shadow hanging over me”; rather than pleading for help, he chooses to retreat (“I need a place to hide away”). Lennon complained that “Yesterday” was vague and lacked resolution, but its open-ended lyrics complement the music’s restraint. McCartney’s sorrow is all the sadder for not being spelled out, for hinting at hidden depths of melancholy without crossing into self-pity.

The gloom is also tempered by the interplay between major and minor keys. Each verse begins and ends in F major on the word “yesterday” or “suddenly,” situating McCartney in happier times, while the present is reframed in the relative key of D minor. In addition to detailing the narrator’s emotional rise and fall, the key-switching also gives “Yesterday” the lightness that keeps it from growing too dirgelike.

As The Beatles’ previous singles had helped reinvigorate rock and roll, “Yesterday” expands the band into pre-rock pop without going schmaltzy. In its own way, it’s just as experimental as the group’s later material by breaking away from what rock was supposed to be. It’s unfortunate, then, if unsurprising, that the “Yesterday” of today is simultaneously vaulted to warhorse status and dismissed with a yawn. “Yesterday” exists in a strange dimension where it’s both overplayed and underheard. It deserves a second (or ten-thousandth) listen to discover its gentle, melancholy beauty. 8

Hit #1 on October 9, 1965; total of 4 weeks at #1
146 of 1014 #1’s reviewed; 14.40% through the Hot 100

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Filed under 08, 1965

145) The McCoys – “Hang On Sloopy”

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

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Filed under 07, 1965

144) Barry McGuire – “Eve of Destruction”

Even compared with the epochal hits of 1965, Barry McGuire’s apocalyptic proclamations in “Eve of Destruction” must have come as a shock to the pop charts. There had been big politically-themed singles before — Peter, Paul & Mary’s reading of “Blowin’ in the Wind” (#2, 1963), Trini Lopez’s Latinized take on “If I Had a Hammer” (#3, 1963) — but the messages were subtle enough to not scare off the apolitical pop fan. In contrast, “Eve of Destruction” was angry, graphic (“even the Jordan River has bodies floatin’”) and decidedly unoptimistic. Released just a few months after the civil rights marches in Selma and the onset of the American ground war in Vietnam, it enumerated the fears of the changing Sixties more blatantly than any pop hit yet. As a result, right-wingers accused McGuire and songwriter P.F. Sloan of being treasonous, blasphemous communists intent on perverting the youth of America and trashing the morale of troops overseas. The single’s success spurred pro-military answer records (including one that became an even bigger hit) and attempts to ban the song from the airwaves. Whether or not McGuire and Sloan intended it, “Eve of Destruction” helped launch open political debate, an impressive achievement for a three-and-a-half minute pop single.

But for all its (small-d) democratic bona fides, “Eve of Destruction” is an awfully turgid piece of pop. Phil Ochs defined a protest song as “a song that’s so specific that you cannot mistake it for bullshit,”* but “Eve of Destruction” traffics in generalities, hopscotching from one supposed sign of the apocalypse to the other in hopes that the sheer number of references cited will distract from the lack of insight. It nicks the trappings of Bob Dylan ca. 1963 – the politics, the ragged vocals, the harmonica – but misses the craft. Sloan’s literal, didactic lyrics lack allegory or mordant humor (unless you count risible lines like “my blood’s so mad, feels like coagulatin’”). At the same time, they’re too morbid and overblown to have artless earnestness on their side. Even the folk-rockish accompaniment, gamely played by members of the Wrecking Crew, can’t prop up the clumsy lyrics. The stripped-down arrangements and traditional melodies of Dylan, Ochs et al marked them in opposition to commercial pop and made their songs sound like transmissions from a purer past. “Eve of Destruction,” though, is too conventional and polished to evoke that sort of gut credibility. Then there’s the ever-gravelly McGuire himself, trying so hard to imbue every syllable with righteous anger that his constipated delivery verges into parody. It would be easy to accuse he and Sloan of manufacturing protest and cynically chasing trends. By their own accounts, though, they sincerely believed “Eve of Destruction” made serious political points that needed to be addressed. Regardless, their good intentions can’t make up for the song’s graceless, unfocused bluster. To quote Phil Ochs again: “As bad as it may sound, I’d rather listen to a good song on the side of segregation than a bad song on the side of integration.”** 3

*Quoted in the liner notes of the compilation album The Broadside Tapes 1.
**Quoted in James Perone, Songs of the Vietnam Conflict.

Hit #1 on September 25, 1965; total of 1 week at #1
144 of 1013 #1’s reviewed; 14.22% through the Hot 100

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Filed under 03, 1965