Tag Archives: british invasion

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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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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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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143) The Beatles – “Help!”

Earlier in 1965, “Ticket to Ride” had introduced a new page in the Beatles songbook: an anti-love song alternating between dejection and sarcasm with an unsteady, lumbering beat to match. “Help!” at first blush seems a throwback to the snappy pop and three-part harmonies that had defined the group’s early singles, with just enough of the post-Hard Day’s Night folkiness to fit comfortably among the 1965 pop landscape. Closer inspection, however, reveals John Lennon focused as ever on his personal anxieties. “Help!” is the cry of a once-confident man who’s suddenly found the ground pulled out beneath him — by fame, marriage or neurosis — and is clawing at anything or anyone who might save him. Unlike the other Dylan-influenced hits of that summer, it skips the poetic language and politics but embraces the confessionalism, even if Lennon presents himself as a far more vulnerable figure.

Lennon had intended to record “Help!” at a slower tempo to express his anguish, but commercial concerns called for an upbeat theme tune to promote its namesake film. If anything, though, the faster pace makes the record far more panicked and intense. Paul McCartney and George Harrison’s backing vocals frequently beat Lennon to the lines he’s about to sing, as if he’s struggling to keep up with his own song. In both the intro and the chorus, the lead guitar continually descends in three note phrases, as if slowly pressing down on him, before ending in a swiftly repeating arpeggio that seems to reflect his swirl of anxious thoughts. Lennon gets a brief respite in the third verse (actually a retread of the first verse), when the drums let up and he gets a few peaceful moments to recall his independent younger days. But as soon as he admits to feeling “not so self-assured,” the drums start up again insistent as ever, escalating into a desperate pounding on the transition into the chorus. From then on, there’s no letting up until all the instruments drop out at the end, leaving just a meld of three voices crying “help me – ooh” as one falsetto. There’s no resolution or rescue imminent, and the bleak ending suggests it’s too late anyway. Perhaps not coincidentally, the next Beatles number-one primarily written by Lennon wouldn’t arrive for two more years. As Lennon pursued darker, more personal avenues of songwriting, McCartney (as we’ll soon see) also expanded the Beatles’ sound — and the band’s audience. 8

Hit #1 on September 4, 1965; total of 3 weeks at #1
143 of 1013 #1’s reviewed; 14.12% through the Hot 100

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141) Herman’s Hermits – “I’m Henry VIII, I Am”

One of the things that makes the pop charts more fascinating than carefully curated lists of “important” records, like Rolling Stone‘s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, is all the junk that filters through. That’s not an insult — junk may not be particularly well-written, and it’s often annoying, but at its best it embodies the careless vitality that makes rock and roll so exciting. The very fact that junk hits aren’t so-called timeless classics makes them snapshots of the transient tastes of a lost age. And for one week in 1965, the single that best captured the state of American pop taste was a 17-year-old English kid and his beat group covering an old music hall hit. Less than two minutes long, consisting of little more than three choruses and a time-killing guitar solo, “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” feels barely substantial enough to pass for a B-side. Like “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” before it, the single didn’t even merit release in Herman Hermits’ native country. (Unlike “Mrs. Brown,” this doesn’t feel like an oversight.) But the record’s exotic Cockneyisms, old-timey flavor and unshakeable chorus were enough to buoy it to the top of the US charts in August. What better time for a nice repetitive song that takes no effort to learn quickly than the mind-dulling heat of late summer? It’s cheerful and a bit funny and tailor-made for group singalongs. Eventually it’ll wear out its welcome, but it’s so slight that it can be cast aside without guilt.

Certainly there are better records — better Herman’s Hermits records, even — more deserving of the number-one spot. But compared with the horrors of past novelty chart-toppers, “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” is downright pleasant. The band is charming enough, Peter Noone doesn’t oversell the joke, and the whole thing ends quickly. Better a tossed-off piece of junk than a record that’s ponderous or bloated or a self-serious attempt at social relevance. Squint and you can maybe even detect the seeds of punk in its stripped-down insouciance — after all, the Ramones did quote “second verse, same as the first” in “Judy is a Punk.” But is “Henry VIII” a good record? Even the band probably thought of it as nothing more than a bit of filler that got lucky. 5

Hit #1 on August 7, 1965; total of 1 week at #1
141 of 1011 #1’s reviewed; 13.95% through the Hot 100

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140) The Rolling Stones – “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”

The Rolling Stones arrived relatively late to the British Invasion. Most of the band’s compatriots scored major hits almost overnight after “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” often on their first or second US single. With the exception of “Time is on My Side” (#6, Dec ’64), though, the Stones’ blues and R&B covers that made up the bulk of their early material mostly failed to move US record buyers. The band’s luck improved stateside when they began focusing on their own poppier material: “Tell Me” (the first Jagger/Richards A-side and the group’s Top 40 debut, Aug 1964), “Heart of Stone” (Top 20, Feb ’65), “The Last Time” (Top 10, May ’65). By the time the band netted their first US chart-topper, though, they weren’t just contending with The Beatles and Herman’s Hermits. The Byrds’ success with “Mr. Tambourine Man” heralded the first real threat to the British Invasion: soft, sunny folk rock, pop that was supposed to have a message.

But while The Byrds were dressing Dylan’s ragged clown in a fringe vest and a vacant smile, The Rolling Stones were topping the charts with a more potent kind of protest music. The hero of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” rails against everything around him, from TV advertising and “useless information” on the radio to his inability to get off with a girl. But “Satisfaction” is too sharp-witted to be mistaken for a litany of grievances. A line like “he can’t be a man ’cause he does not smoke/ the same cigarettes as me” seems to parody the self-righteous folkie moralist, while the sneering vocals frame the complaints in quotation marks, as if to acknowledge the absurdity of a rock star whining about how hard he has it. The Rolling Stones didn’t just score a hit with an anti-establishment message; they mocked the self-indulgence of it, made it seem as solipsistic as moaning about not getting laid.

Of course, all suggestions of social critique and irony are secondary to the song’s shocking-for-1965 salaciousness (“tryin’ to make some girl”!), and all lyrics period are secondary to that guitar riff, as fuzzy and unshakeable as a hangover headache. It’s the first sound you hear on the single, and it’s pushed to the front of the mix, dominating the rest of the record. The riff cycles without changing, heavily syncopated as if scoffing at the confines of the beat. Even when it knocks off for a bit, the bass keeps circling in place, the snare drum snaps on every beat, the tambourine gets its three shakes in at the end of each measure. There barely needs to be a verse or a chorus, and there barely is; the song wants to be a 12-bar blues, but it never gets to resolve itself. There’s no middle eight or guitar solo to churn up the monotony — and at nearly four minutes long, it does get monotonous. You don’t need to hear the lyrics to tell you the song’s about being stuck in a rut without release or escape.

Nor do you need them to understand Mick Jagger’s chewy, drippy, overly-underenunciated drawl, simultaneously a frank come on and a caricature of our narrator’s sexual/societal frustration. The real Mick Jagger may want satisfaction, but he certainly doesn’t have trouble getting it; the real Mick Jagger will write a song bemoaning advertising, then spend the royalties on a Bentley. Perhaps it’s this duality that’s helped the song withstand decades of over-exposure. “Satisfaction” is pro-hedonism and anti-consumerism, social commentary and a mockery of social commentary, an ain’t-got-no blues for middle class white kids self-aware enough to know they don’t have real problems but are going to complain anyway. That, and it’s got a massive guitar riff. 9

Hit #1 on July 10, 1965; total of 4 weeks at #1
140 of 1010 #1’s reviewed; 13.86% through the Hot 100

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135) The Beatles – “Ticket to Ride”

Desolation and self-flagellation gnawed at the edges of Beatles for Sale, but it wasn’t until “Ticket to Ride” that the band tried crafting an arrangement to match the darkness of the subject matter. And certainly, compared with A Hard Day’s Night‘s thematically similar “I’ll Cry Instead” (John Lennon gets rejected, vacillates between despair and contempt), “Ticket to Ride” is depression in audio form. The lead guitar sketches the same figure over and over; the bass refuses to shift from the note where it’s gotten comfortable; the drums lumber sideways and crooked, anything to avoid taking a single step forward. But for a song that’s supposed to be such a drag, “Ticket to Ride” is remarkably buoyant. The brightness of the 12-string Rickenbacker and the countryish harmonies shine through the fog of self-pity and gloom, and even the off-kilter rhythm section manages a danceable groove. Surely part of this peppiness was with an eye to the charts – dirges don’t make for good number-ones, especially when they’re meant to be promoting frenetic comedies. Yet The Beatles weren’t afraid to go full-downbeat on fellow Help! track “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” and they’d top the charts again a few months later with a record even more melancholy and decidedly un-rock and roll.

More likely, then, is that the tension between lethargy and dynamism is intended to cover all the emotions that come with the end of a relationship, especially one that’s lasted far longer than it should’ve. Lennon’s first line is the tentative “I think I’m going to be sad,” and he probably is, at least at first. But it isn’t long before that sadness revs up into self-righteous self-pity (“and she don’t care!”). He then spends the second verse puzzling over his girlfriend’s stated reasons for leaving, unsure of whether to feel remorse for his behavior or to scoff at her unreasonableness.  The more he thinks about it, the more his blood starts to boil, and the music follows suit, swapping out the lopsided drums for the frantic pulse of the tambourine. The bridge is the angriest part of “Ticket to Ride” – “she oughta think twice, she oughta do right by me” sounds suspiciously like a veiled threat – but the surge in tempo and the glee in Lennon and McCartney’s voices also make it the liveliest. (There is some perverse pleasure in feeling like the one wronged.)  Then it’s back to the verses, only this time around, the musical repetition feels less like the numbness of depression than a reminder of the grind of a romance gone stale.  Lennon’s re-examining his earlier sentiments from a different perspective: “I think” is now a stifled laugh; “she says that living with me is bringing her down” sounds more wry than resentful. When the coda kicks into double-time, Lennon’s falsetto cries of “my baby don’t care!” are self-mocking, as if unable to believe he could have ever cared either.

Not all of the emotions Lennon courses through in “Ticket to Ride” are attractive, but the frankness is astonishing. No longer did the band seem concerned with adhering to whatever The Beatles were supposed to sound like. Instead, they showed a willingness to branch out into darker subject matter and sonic experimentation. (Lennon would later jokingly claim “Ticket to Ride” as the first heavy metal song, but the droning bass and clattering, off-kilter percussion sound more like a precursor to the band’s flirtation with raga rock.) “Ticket to Ride” doesn’t just feel like a dividing line for The Beatles, though, but for the British Invasion as a whole. The chipper rock and roll revivalism of the first wave was falling from favor; bluesy hard rock and baroque pop were on the horizon. It would be nearly two months before another British single topped the Hot 100, this time by a band much tougher and rawer than any of the early comers. Even so, “Ticket to Ride” proves The Beatles were more than capable of surviving the transition. 9

Hit #1 on May 22, 1965; total of 1 week at #1
135 of 1009 #1’s reviewed; 13.38% through the Hot 100

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