Top 21 By Year

Ricky_nelson_-_cover_is_21#13 – Ricky Nelson – “Travelin’ Man” – (1961)

If you listen, you can tell that this song was written for Sam Cooke (whose manager rejected it). It even has that chord progression that “Another Saturday Night” has (so much so that I thought that one of them ripped the other off and am still convinced of it). It hit number one and still  is a favorite of mine on oldies stations.


R-2395162-1459710174-7309.jpeg#14 – Bruce Channel – “Hey! Baby” – (1962)

This #1 hit, released as a single in December of 1961, has become a popular song among collegiate marching bands. It’s got great harmonica and could be heard in the movie Dirty Dancing.

R-3031020-1312499893.jpeg#15 – Jorgen Ingmann – “Apache” – (1960)

Released in November of 1960, this song hit #2 on the Hot 100 in 1961. Written by Jerry Lorden, the song was originally recorded by Bert Weedon and later The Shadows, but Ingmann (who is Danish), had the biggest hit with it. It was later heavily sampled by The Sugarhill Gang and then their song was sampled by Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Jump on It.” This is the rock instrumental that keeps on giving.

R-2777265-1342084633-6089.jpeg#16 – Neil Sedaka – “Calendar Girl” – (1960)

Neil Sedaka released this single at the tail end of 1960. It climbed the charts, peaking at #4 and becoming his first top five single.

R-4051077-1353605320-5137.jpeg#17 – The Church Street Five – “A Night With Daddy ‘G'” – (1960)

If this sounds pretty familiar, it’s because Gary U.S. Bonds pretty much straight took it and turned it into “Quarter to Three” – but he was nice enough to leave a lyric in there about dancing with “the Church Street Five.” It’s a funky, upbeat instrumental. This band is relatively obscure compared to Bonds.

R-1523495-1396522381-8451.jpeg#18 – The Highwaymen – “Michael” – (1961)

This #1 hit was by a folk group from Wesleyan University – not the country supergroup from the 1980s. “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” is a traditional hymnal that dates back to the Civil War. Good luck charting a traditional hymn nowadays.

220px-Patsy_Cline-_Original_Showcase#19 – Patsy Cline – “Crazy” – (1961)

Patsy Cline took this song to #2 on the country charts in 1961 (and the top ten on the Hot 100). It’s a straight-ballad, but did you know it was written by Willie Nelson (how long has Willie Nelson been around!?). It’s a great vocal performance and sounds like some of the great country vocals of the 50s.

220px-Blue_Moon_(The_Marcels_album)#20 – The Marcels – “Blue Moon” – (1961)

“Blue Moon” was written originally in 1934 and was a hit upon release by Billy Eckstine and later Mel Torme. The Marcels covered it in full doo wop style in 1961 and added some sound effects of their own to really make a standout version. It went to #1, making this version the biggest of them all.

little-caesar-and-the-romans-those-oldies-but-goodies-remind-me-of-you-delfi#21 – Little Caesar & The Romans – “Those Oldies But Goodies (Remind Me of You)” – (1961)

Welcome to 1961, when doo wop was still alive and well. Strangely, this song reminisces about older songs and looking back on it (what we consider “oldies”, i.e., songs that sounds like this) it’s like they are reminiscing about the genre they are singing, which was dying out.

220px-Bk_dontplaythatsong#1 – Ben E. King – “Stand By Me” – (1962)

The album that “Stand By Me” was released on came out in 1962. But the song itself was a #1 hit in 1961. It’s one of the greatest songs of all time, with one of the best vocal performances you’re likely to ever hear. King co-wrote it with the Leiber/Stoller team and wanted the Drifters to record it. But they passed… so he sung it himself and the rest is history.

FourSeasons-Sherry&11Others#2 – The Four Seasons – “Sherry” – (1962)

This #1 hit was written by Bob Gaudio in about 15 minutes. And it’s one of the all time great vocals. You can learn everything you need to know about how awesome Frankie Valli’s voice was just by listening to this. It was The Four Season’s first national single and, to me, remains their signature song.

117614483#3 – Little Eva – “The Loco-Motion” – (1962)

The cool part about this song, which was co-written by Carole King, is that it has charted into the top five on the Hot 100 in three different decades by three different artists. This is the original, but it was also done by Grand Funk Railroad and Kylie Minogue. Fun fact, this song was written for Dee Dee Sharp, who turned it down. So Little Eva recorded it… who at the time was Carole King’s babysitter.

BookerT.&theMG'sGreenOnions#5 – Booker T. & the M.G.’s – “Green Onions” – (1962)

Here is one of the great pop music instrumentals. This song is a staple in films, especially those that take place in the early 1960s… it’s just one of those tunes you instantly recognize.

Palisadespark45#6 – Freddy Cannon – “Palisades Park” – (1962)

This might seem like a throwaway pop song (though it did peak at #3), but it’s just so damned catchy that I can’t help but include it. Plus any song that manages to work in “I gave that girl a hug… in the tunnel of looove.” Also, it was written by Gong Show host Chuck Barris.

R-5163300-1386222628-8072.jpeg#7 – Gene Chandler – “Duke of Earl” – (1962)

“Du, Du, Du, Duke of Earl.” Probably best remembered for the way the song begins with the stuttering repetition of the title, this is a song with amazing vocals as you get into it. The doo-wop backing vocals are just the basis for Chandler really belting out some quality stuff.

220px-The-contours-do-you-love-me#8 – The Contours – “Do You Love Me” – (1962)

“Do You Love Me,” which was later covered successfully by The Dave Clark Five, is a song about what is quite possibly the most shallow woman ever. This poor guy is singing about getting dumped because he can’t dance and, apparently, she will only love him if he can dance. Which is pretty terrible. But at least at makes for a catchy song.

Surfin'SafariCover#9 – The Beach Boys – “409” – (1962)

Surf rock strikes yet again. This time it’s The Beach Boys with a song about cars. Okay, so I guess this is more Hot Rod Rock than Surf Rock. It’s about Chevy’s 409 engine, famously used in the early Impala SS cars.

220px-Breaking-up-is-hard-to-do-neil-sedaka#10 – Neil Sedaka – “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” – (1962)

Neil Sedaka got his start in the late 1950s and was still releasing big pop hits in the mid-1970s. But this #1 hit from 1962 is the one song that anyone who knows the name Neil Sedaka knows. It’s proof that doo-wop was still kickin’ in ’62.

Surfer's_Choice#11 – Dick Dale and His Del-Tones – “Miserlou” – (1962)

Here is a surf rock classic. It just might be the best example of surf guitar you’ll ever hear. Dick Dale, who is still around, absolutely shreds on this track, which is based on an Eastern Mediterranean folk song. This was from Dale’s debut album and it stands as possibly his greatest work.

R-2746670-1299184306.jpeg#12 – Bobby Vee – “Take Good Care of My Baby” – (1961)

This was actually a hit in 1961 (oh well) and, did you know, it was written by Carole King and her writing partner and husband Gerry Goffin. This was Bobby Vee’s biggest hit and it’s a great example of early-60s pop.

Twistin'_the_Night_Away_(album)#13 – Sam Cooke – “Twistin’ The Night Away” – (1962)

Sam Cooke is one of the all-time greats. A phenomenal voice who died way too young (at age 33). This was a top ten hit in the U.S. and across the world. This song has a screaming sax and trumpet, recorded with some of the best session musicians available in 1962.

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.

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