Top 21 By Year


bob_dylan_-_highway_61_revisited#1 – Bob Dylan – “Like a Rolling Stone” – (1965)

Well if Rolling Stone magazine rates a song as the greatest song of all time, it’s hard to argue that it shouldn’t at least be the top song from the year in which it was released. But part of me thinks they just did that because it has the title of their magazine in the song title. I will say, when I came up with the rankings for 1965, I did not know that Rolling Stone had ranked this #1. This is Dylan’s signature song – and probably the best thing he ever recorded himself (let’s be honest, sometimes his songs are best covered). This song sort of encapsulated an era – it was the beginning of the unrest that was channeled through America’s radio and record players. Music before this was much… happier, and simple. This was the start of the turbulence – and you can hear it in his voice (even though the song isn’t about Vietnam or any of the social upheaval of the era, but a woman).

220px-do_you_believe_in_magic#2 – The Lovin’ Spoonful – “Do You Believe in Magic” – (1965)

So why is this the second-best song of 1965? Because it’s simple and sweet. John Sebastian wrote a near-perfect song here. It’s one of only a handful of songs I can think of where I know every lyric and can sing it upon command without even having the tune in my head. This band is highly underrated today and this song was in 1965, when it peaked at only #9 on the Hot 100.

summerdaysandsummernights-album-cover#3 – The Beach Boys – “California Girls” – (1965)

Who said drugs are bad? Brian Wilson came up with this song while tripping on acid – and it’s one of the best songs they ever recorded. Peaking at #3 on the Hot 100, “California Girls” is one of their best-known songs and it really holds up. Listen to those backing vocals – they’re like an instrument unto themselves. Every time I really listen to a Beach Boys song, I appreciate Brian Wilson just a little more…

220px-marthadanceparty#4 – Martha & the Vandellas – “Dancing in the Street” – (1965)

Man, this song is fun. Martha Reeves doesn’t get the credit that she deserves. As the leader of a successful girl group of the 1960s, she’s always overshadowed by Diana Ross. But this song (which was co-written by Marvin Gaye and later covered successfully by Van Halen) is awfully good. Somehow it only reached #2 on the Hot 100, which seems like a crime.

220px-turnturnturncover#5 – The Byrds – “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)” – (1965)

So the thing with The Byrds is, Roger McGuinn is decades older than I am, but the music that this band put out always seemed so… old. McGuinn might be in his mid-70s now, but he wasn’t always. It just seems like a member of the Byrds has always been older than you. Roger was only 23 when they recorded this song. If I think of 23-year-old musicians today, I think Justin Bieber. Who could never in a million years record a song like this. Even if he had Pete Seeger writing for him! Makes me feel like a failure, really. Some of the lyrics are straight from the bible, giving this song the weird distinction of being the #1 hit with the oldest lyrics.

220px-tempts-sing-smokey#6 – The Temptations – “My Girl” – (1965)

“I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day” just might be the signature line from any Motown song ever. Co-written by Smokey Robinson, this was The Temptatons’ first U.S. #1 hit. And it remains their best.

r-2808425-1386532393-7201-jpeg#7 – Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders – “The Game of Love” – (1965)

Originally, this was much farther down the list, but I’ve been hearing it on the radio a lot recently (that’s right, on an AM oldies station) and discovered that it is in fact an awesome tune. Fontana (whose real name is Glyn Ellis) is from England and this song, with really cool vocal delivery, was a #1 in the U.S.

secondalbum#8 – The Four Tops – “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” – (1965)

Who doesn’t love this song? Another Motown classic from Holland-Dozier-Holland, this was a #1 hit for The Four Tops. 1965 was a great year for Motown – they had really hit their stride and were releasing great record after great record. The Four Tops stand as one of the best male vocal groups of all time with hits like this.

help#9 – The Beatles – “Yesterday” – (1965)

“Yesterday” is widely considered one of the best Beatles’ songs and it was famously titled “Scrambled Eggs” as a placeholder before more serious lyrics could be written. It was a #1 and was later used in the brilliant film Once Upon a Time in America. It’s weird – everyone loves the Beatles or whatever, but their music is so rarely used in film (other than Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, I guess).

the_righteous_brothers_-_youve_lost_that_lovin_feelin#10 – The Righteous Brothers – “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” – (1965)

It’s pretty incredible how low the opening lines of “You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips” actually are. Co-written by Phil Spector, this is one of the greatest love songs ever recorded. Used spectacularly in Top Gun, the song has remained quite famous since its release as a single in late 1964 (the album came out the next year). It was a #1 in the U.S. and the U.K. It was a top ten hit in the U.K. again in 1969 and cracked the top 50 again in 1977. That’s  some serious staying power for two serious vocalists.

220px-more-hits-supremes#11 – The Supremes – “Stop! In the Name of Love” – (1965)

This is one of Motown’s most famous songs. Written by Holland-Dozier-Holland and performed by the greatest girl group of all time, this #1 hit is probably the most recognizable song by the Supremes – at least in title. 

2597710#12 – The McCoys – “Hang on Sloopy” – (1965)

The McCoys – which were led by Rick Derringer – are basically a one-hit wonder and this was that hit. It reached #1 on the Hot 100 and has since become (annoyingly) closely associated with the Ohio State University football team. That’s one way to ruin a classic song.

220px-miraclesgoingtoagogo#13 – Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – “The Tracks of My Tears” – (1965)

1965 was the year that The Miracles became “Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.” And it was also the year that Motown (okay, Tamla) put out one of their greatest records ever: this one. It only managed #16 on the Hot 100, but hit #2 on the R&B chart.

220px-the_boy_from_new_york_city_ad_libs#14 – The Ad Libs – “The Boy From New York City” – (1964)

This top ten hit – a non-album single – was by The Ad Libs, a soul group from Bayonne, New Jersey. The lead singer was female and the male vocalists backed her in a doo-wop style. Couple that with the uptempo music and you get a really cool sound. This was the groups biggest hit (and yes, it came out in December of 1964).

220px-hermanhermitsalbum#15 – Herman’s Hermits – “I’m Into Something Good” – (1965)

Herman’s Hermits, one of the top bands of the British Invasion of the mid-1960s, made this song famous, but it was originally recorded by someone else. In fact, it was co-written by Carole King (!). Who knew? It was the band’s first single and remains their best.

junior_walker_and_the_all_stars_-_shotgun#16 – Junior Walker & the All Stars – “Shotgun” – (1965)

As I’m listening to it, it occurs to me that this song should be rated higher on this list. It’s a great soul record (produced by Berry Gordy for Motown sister-label “Soul Records”) with a killer organ and awesome sax from Mr. Walker himself. It peaked at #4 on the Hot 100.

220px-rollingstonesoutofourheadsalbumcover#17 – The Rolling Stones – “(I Can”t Get No) Satisfaction” – (1965)

I would call this the Rolling Stones’ signature song. It was a #1 hit in the U.S. (their first) and a #1 in a majority of European countries with their own charts. I think at this point you’d have to live under a rock to have never heard this… like you’d have to go way out of your way to avoid it.

jay__the_americans_-_blockbusters#18 – Jay and the Americans – “Cara Mia” – (1965)

“Cara  Mia” was a hit for David Whitfield in 1954 and Jay and the Americans released a version in 1965 that went to #4 on the Hot 100. This band was from Queens and this song is Italian and it has a very nostalgic feel to it. My favorite Jay and the American fun fact: the group has had three different singers of the years, and all were named Jay.

marvin-how-sweet#19 – Marvin Gaye – “You’re a Wonderful One” – (1965)

This is a highly underrated Marvin Gaye classic. Written by the wonderful trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland, it ran up to #15 on the Hot 100 in 1964 (and was released on Gaye’s ’65 album How Sweet It Is To Be Loved By You). Guess who is one backing vocals. Yeah, that’s the Supremes.

220px-my-generation-2#20 – The Who – “My Generation” – (1965)

The Who released My Generation (the album) at the tail end of 1965 in the U.K., hence its inclusion here. It’s one of their most iconic hits and one of the great songs of the British Invasion – and one that set the tone for rock and roll for the rest of the 1960s.

9452250jpg#21 – Wilson Pickett – “In the Midnight Hour” – (1965)

This song has been covered by seemingly everyone, but Wilson Pickett rocks it best. A #1 hit on the R&B charts, it only made it to #21 on the Hot 100 it is probably Pickett’s best-known song. It’s an R&B classic for sure and a great example of that Memphis soul sound.

220px-straight_shooterBad Company – “Shooting Star” – (1975)

“Shooting Star” wasn’t even a single from Bad Company’s 1975 album Straight Shooter. But it has received plenty of airplay on U.S. radio stations over the years and was actually written about the deaths of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison.

220px-foreigner_-_double_visionForeigner – “Hot Blooded” – (1978)

Here is one of Foreigner’s signature songs, a top five hit from 1978’s Double Vision (it actually peaked at #3). It may be more well-remembered, but this wasn’t even the highest charting single from the album, yet it’s appeared all over the place on TV and in commercials.

journey_infinityJourney – “Wheel in the Sky” – (1978)

From 1978’s Infinity we have “Wheel in the Sky,” the album’s first single. It was the band’s first song to chart on the Hot 100, peaking at #57. The song was co-written by Robert Fleischman, the band’s singer prior to Steve Perry. But it’s Perry’s vocals (he replaced Fleischman prior to recording this album) that really put Journey on the map.

220px-themamasandthepapas-ifyoucanbelieveyoureyesandears#1 – The Mamas & the Papas – “California Dreamin'” – (1966)

Here it is – the song that defines the entire decade. Originally recorded by Barry McGuire, it was actually written by members of this group. This song marked the arrival of the entire counterculture movement and announced California as its home. It was a top five hit and has been used in numerous other works… it just has that ability to set you in a time and place like very few other songs can.

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