Top 21 By Year

R-6630753-1423461946-5592.jpeg#14 – Tommy Roe – “Sheila” – (1962)

Tommy Roe got his first big hit in 1962, with this #1 hit. It sounds like something Buddy Holly would’ve done and is very teen pop sounding. He had another big hit in 1969 with another bubblegum pop song, but the thing is, most artists couldn’t make the transition from the pop-fueled early 60s to the more psychedelic late 60s. Tommy Roe did it.


hqdefault#15 – David Rose & His Orchestra – “The Stripper” – (1962)

As we go backward in time with these countdowns, this marks the first appearance of the words “and his orchestra” on a song’s artist. This is the norm in the 1940s and even somewhat into the 1950s, but kind of odd for a #1 hit from 1962. Then again, this song is called “The Stripper” – something probably more appropriate for the 60s than the 50s or 40s.

220px-Ppm#16 – Peter, Paul and Mary – “If I Had a Hammer” – (1962)

Folk music was alive and well in 1962. This song was originally recorded by Pete Seeger’s The Weavers in 1950. Peter, Paul & Mary rode this track into the top 10 on the Hot 100, winning two Grammys in the process. The song is confusing, because it talks about wanting a hammer but then, once a hammer is acquired, performing many acts where the hammer is completely superfluous and unnecessary.

600x600#17 – Gary U.S. Bonds – “Quarter to Three” – (1961)

Well this song was from the summer of ’61, but you get the point. This #1 hit was actually derived from an earlier, instrumental hit, called “A Night With Daddy G” by the Church Street Five (which Mr. Bonds calls out lyrically in this song). If this song sounds like it’s being played on a worn-out record, that’s because it was recorded with sub-par sound quality on purpose. If you listen closely, you’ll notice that this has a bit of a “Runaround Sue” vibe to it – which is because Dion wrote that song after hearing this one. Look for “Runaround Sue” in our 1961 countdown where it belongs.

BabyItsYouAlbum#18 – The Shirelles – “Soldier Boy” – (1962)

The Shirelles were an early girl group (founded in 1957) that made it huge just prior to Phil Spector arriving on scene and dominating the sub-genre of female pop groups. The pre-dated Motown as well. “Soldier Boy” was a #1 hit.

61riIKCEnDL._SY355_#19 – Rene Touzet – “Baby Elephant Walk” – (1962)

Why am I featuring Cuban bandleader Rene Touzet’s version of Henry Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk?” Good question. I have no idea. Mancini wrote it in 1961 for use in the 1962 movie Hatari!, of which, I’ve never heard. It won Mancini a Grammy and is fairly recognizable across generations.

220px-Williams-Best.jpg#20 – Andy Williams – “The Bilbao Song” – (1961)

I had this one as from ’62 but it was actually released a year earlier (hey, we’re getting way before my time here). This was a top 40 hit for Andy Williams. While it has bits that are kind of dated (the female background singers singing some nonsense), it still has a good beat and catchy lyrics.

Quincy_Jones_-_Big_Band_Bossa_Nova#21 – Quincy Jones – “Soul Bossa Nova” – (1962)

Getting pretty far back, musically, at this point. Most everything from here on back is completely foreign to modern FM radio. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t a big radio smash in its day, but probably made most famous by its inclusion as the theme for the Austin Powers films. It’s incredibly catchy.

Rod_Stewart_-_Blondes_Have_More_Fun_(album_cover)Rod Stewart – “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” – (1978)

This Billboard #1 hit from Rod Stewart incorporates strong disco themes – that is to say, a synth-heavy dance beat. Of all of Rod’s hits, this is among those that I can tolerate most. Strange fact, he donated the royalties from this song (about him asking someone if they think he is sexy) to the United Nations Children’s Fund. Interesting.

Ronettes#1 – The Ronettes – “Be My Baby” – (1963)

This song is the epitome of the Phil Spector sound that dominated the early 1960s. It’s one of the greatest songs of all time and was released as a single in the fall of 1963 (even through this ridiculously-titled album wasn’t released until the end of 1964). Spector’s process for creating this song influenced music for decades to come. It was the song that gave Brian Wilson the inspiration for pretty much everything he did after he heard it. And the stuff Brian Wilson was doing in the 1960s influenced pretty much everyone after him, including The Beatles, who themselves were, I guess, kind of influential.

220px-TheKingsmenInPerson#2 – The Kingsmen – “Louie Louie” – (1963)

This might be the earliest popular example of that dirty, garage rock sound. A cover of a cover, Portland-based The Kingsmen ran this version up the charts and it’s become a classic. It achieved controversy in its day because apparently the lyrics are naughty, but I’m not sure how anyone could tell because the singer basically slurs half the song. The Kingsmen split into two rival bands before this reached maximum fame and a long legal battle ensued. Wikipedia has a borderline hilarious entry on this song… it’s like someone is writing their senior thesis on it. It’s pretty weird.

IfYouWannaBeHappy45#3 – Jimmy Soul – “If You Wanna Be Happy” – (1963)

While I appreciate Jimmy Soul’s attempt at advice, it seems a little rude doesn’t it? There’s no rule that says ugly women can cook. I love the tempo of this song, especially considering it was 1963, just three years after Bert Kaempfert had a #1 hit. 

220px-The_Angels_LP#4 – The Angels – “My Boyfriend’s Back” – (1963)

This #1 hit was originally written for the Shirelles, but was released by the Angels instead, becoming their biggest hit and making them a one-hit wonder. It’s a good example of the early-60s girl group sound.

Ring_of_Fire_-_The_Best_of_Johnny_Cash#5 – Johnny Cash – “Ring of Fire” – (1963)

This has to be one of Johnny Cash’s signature songs, if not the signature song. It’s at least his most widely known. It’s one of his biggest hits, topping the country charts for seven weeks, something this is nigh impossible these days with country music turning over hits on a weekly basis. Gotta love any song with Mariachi-style horns!

PleasePleaseMe_audio_cover#6 – The Beatles – “Love Me Do” – (1963)

In their early days, the Beatles were excellent at writing simple, catchy pop songs. This exemplifies that nearly as well as any song they recorded. This was their first single in the U.K. (it wasn’t a single in the U.S. until 1964, when it went to #1). Interestingly, the earliest recordings of this track, because of their age, are in the public domain in Europe.


5099994834659_1300x1300_300dpi#7 – Jan & Dean – “Surf City” – (1963)

Surf music strikes again in ’63. Surf City sounds like a great place as there are two girls for every body – good enough anyway to take this to #1. Let’s talk about how this might be the weirdest album of all time. Surf City an Other Swingin’ Cities. Literally every track on this album is about a specific place in the U.S… from “Honolulu Lulu” to “Tallahassee Lassie.” Yep.

Meet_the_Searchers#8 – The Searchers – “Love Potion No. 9” – (1963)

Recorded by a number of artists (including, originally, The Clovers in 1959), “Love Potion No. 9” was the biggest hit for Liverpool, England’s The Searchers. The song also charted best when recorded by these guys: it went to #3 in 1963. 

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).

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