October 2017

220px-Surfin'USACover#9 – The Beach Boys – “Surfin’ U.S.A.” – (1963)

“If everybody had an ocean… across the USA” – the opening lyrics to this song are so iconic that this song has become synonymous with the Beach Boys. And I love the Beach Boys… but this song is slightly problematic. It reached #3 in 1963 (and #36 in 1974, strangely) – but it’s just lyrics. The music is “Sweet Little Sixteen” by Chuck Berry. Like, they didn’t sample it, they just used it an Weird Al’d their own lyrics in there. The result is great, as is Berry’s original, but Chuck deserves some credit here.

60171#10 – Freddie and the Dreamers – “I’m Telling You Now” – (1963)

We’ll call this “early British invasion.” It sounds a lot like the stuff the Beatles were putting out circa 1963. And it was good enough to propel this song to #1 in the U.S. (albeit on a re-release in 1965). So maybe this was “too early” British invasion.

e9f7ef69d0183afa2de7ffb3e63206ae#11 – The Surfaris – “Wipe Out” – (1963)

Surf rock was in in 1963. This was a #2 hit for the cleverly-named Surfaris. It’s a rocking instrumental with just two words spoken at the beginning in a creepy, laughing-like way: “Wipe out!” The drumming here is particularly excellent.

220px-Bob_Dylan_-_The_Freewheelin'_Bob_Dylan#12 – Bob Dylan – “Blowin’ in the Wind” – (1963)

If you think of it in terms of career longevity, this might be the “newest” song on this 1963 list. While most of the top songs of 1963 are the sort of the end of their era, this was a beginning. This is from his second studio album and wasn’t necessarily a big hit in its day, but has quite a legacy, being named #14 on Rolling Stone‘s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list.

MI0000810841#13 – The Four Seasons – “Walk Like a Man” – (1963)

Man, listen to Frankie Valli hit those high notes at the beginning of this song. This was the third #1 hit for the Four Seasons. Whenever I hear it, I can only think of the Broadway, play Jersey Boys and the weird in-sync, in-place marching they do when they sing this. Apparently walking like a man means doing it in place and rigidly moving your arms.

220px-Then_He_Kissed_Me#14 – The Crystals – “And Then He Kissed Me” – (1963)

Before Motown’s girl groups there was Phil Spector. While not a number one hit, this is one of The Cyrstals best-remembered songs, perhaps because it was famously used in the legendary tracking shot from Goodfellas

The_Rooftop_Singers_-_Walk_Right_In#15 – The Rooftop Singers – “Walk Right In” – (1963)

Folk music definitely had its place prior to Bob Dylan and the quite political folk scene of the mid-1960s. Originally recorded in 1929, this version went to #1 for the Rooftop Singers, a folk trio who formed specifically to record this song. This is one of those songs most people know or can at least recognize the melody, even if they don’t realize it was a big hit from the 1960s.

220px-Elvis_Devil_in_Disguise#16 – Elvis Presley – “(You’re the) Devil in Disguise” – (1963)

We’re getting back to that point in time where Elvis was still churning out hits (prior to his late-60s revival). This #3 hit and was Elvis’ last top ten single on the R&B charts (who knew he had so many R&B singles?). 1963 was sort of the end of the road for Elvis’ unstoppable chart success. It would be years before he had another, memorable, smash hit (Christmas music not included).

Peggy_March_-_I_Will_Follow_Him#17 – Little Peggy March – “I Will Follow Him” – (1963)

This song was originally an instrumental track, but luckily lyrics were added – because it only makes it catchier. It was recorded by a lot of artists, but this one is the best. And the charts prove it: it went to #1 in April of 1963.

Bluevelvet#18 – Bobby Vinton – “Blue Velvet” – (1963)

Immortalized by David Lynch’s movie of the same name, Bobby Vinton’s 1963 #1 hit is one of the best vocals of 1963. Lynch, correctly, points out that the mood of this song matches the mood of his film, and it does. This song has a certain mood about it and it still holds up 50+ years later.

R-5778530-1402408918-7949.jpeg#19 – The Chantays – “Pipeline” – (1963)

Imagine someone trying to release a hit single that is an instrumental in today’s world. Not gonna happen. Surf rock was huge in the early 1960s and had enough steam to put this into the top five. Over time it’s become one of the classic surf rock tracks.

51WRNaxdynL#20 – Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs – “Sugar Shack” – (1963)

This light rock song from New Mexico-based Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs was a #1 hit in 1963. Strangely, the guy who wrote the song gave the rights to his aunt as a gift. I like to imagine this being done prior to it becoming a big hit and the guy trying to wrestle the rights back after the fact.

The_Tymes_-_So_Much_In_Love#21 – The Tymes – “So Much In Love” – (1963)

Well, we’re officially in Oldies territory. Before rock and roll really got heavy, doo-wop was still an alternative popular music style. Doo-wop really hit its stride in the 50s, but had some staying power because this classic was a #1 hit in 1963.