When Freddie and the Dreamers first had a UK #2 hit with “I’m Telling You Now” in 1963, no one bothered pressing copies for the U.S. market. Cut to two years later, the middle of the British Invasion, and suddenly the record’s bright guitars, close harmonies and prominent use of the bVII chord made for passable filler between Beatles singles. The Dreamers lacked The Beatles’ muscle and groove, though, much less their musical complexity and ambition. Instead, Freddie and the Dreamers drew inspiration from the simple melodies, broad humor and professionalized merriment of the English music hall tradition. This theatrical element carried over into the band’s ridiculous appearance: a puckish young (but not that young) man in Buddy Holly glasses, flailing with loopy energy, backed by what appeared to be a gang of Mancunian wide boys (or mysterious shadow people, depending on what clip you’re watching). Freddie Garrity’s stage routine – spastic leaps, maniacal cackling, a “dance” called the Freddie (see video above) – evinced a desperation to entertain that was sort of winning, if a little exhausting. This was a group that made no pretentions to hipness or sex appeal. Beneath that guitars-bass-drums set-up – an inevitable byproduct of the beat era – lurked the souls of Christmas panto performers.
Freddie and the Dreamers had a brief but fruitful career in the UK, banking four top 10 hits in just over a year, but were unable to duplicate this success in the U.S. The follow-up single, “Do the Freddie,” topped out at #18 in June. By the time the group released “Send a Letter to Me” three months later, they had fallen out of the Hot 100 for good. Never the most versatile of bands, the Dreamers were swiftly elbowed aside by their tougher, more innovative compatriots. Even their niche as kings of the Northern-vowelled music hall revivalists would soon be usurped by a band with stronger material and a teen idol frontman. Of all the records that topped the Hot 100 in 1965 (admittedly, an exceptionally good year), “I’m Telling You Now” has sustained the least amount of cultural endurance. The Dreamers’ true legacy is as a foil for the “real” British Invasion rockers, the kind who went on to create critically beloved albums and show up from time to time on the cover of Mojo. But while Freddie and the Dreamers were a cut-rate rock band, their strong visual identity and catchy songs opened them up to listeners who might otherwise have been indifferent to the British Invasion. For older listeners, Freddie and the Dreamers were a throwback to the golden age of vaudeville. For kids, they were an elementary education in rock and roll. 5
Hit #1 on April 10, 1965; total of 2 weeks at #1
132 of 1008 #1’s reviewed; 13.10% through the Hot 100