The_Animals_(American_album)#16 – The Animals – “The House of the Rising Sun” – (1964)

First off, I didn’t realize that The Animals were actually British. Maybe it’s because their signature song is an original take on an American folk song about New Orleans. In fact, it’s such a folksy song that the credited writer is “Traditional” – meaning it’s so old no one gets credit for it. It hit #1 and is sort of thought to be the first folk-rock smash hit. 

51QlIRrWf3L#17 – The Four Seasons – “Rag Doll” – (1964)

Not many things are better than songs by the Four Seasons. This #1 hit is one of their best and it would be their last #1 hit until their comeback in 1975. The pacing and tempo of the song is very similar (I think) to “Walk Like a Man.” 

220px-At_the_Whisky_à_Go_Go_cover#18 – Johnny Rivers – “Memphis” – (1964)

The song “Memphis” was originally written and recorded by Chuck Berry in 1959. Johnny Rivers did a live version of it – which was really his own take on it – in 1964 and this version made it to #2 in the U.S. After this, Chuck Berry’s live versions of the song resembled this version more than the original, which says something about how good this version is.

220px-downtown_warner_bros#19 – Petula Clark – “Downtown” – (1965)

Just like #20, this was released as a single in ’64 with the album following the next year. This #1 hit means we are finally into “Oldies” territory! When was the last time you heard this on the radio? I can only find it on AM stations, which is kind of sad. We’ll continue to lament the death of true oldies radio throughout the remainder of the years we run through.

220px-begin_here_decca#20 – The Zombies – “She’s Not There” – (1965)

Released as a single in mid-1964 (the album came out in early 1965), “She’s Not There” is among the catchiest songs from The Zombies. “Time of the Season” gets all the love but this song was a #2 hit in the U.S. It’s good stuff – before all of the psychedelia took over.

bob_dylan_-_the_times_they_are_a-changin#21 – Bob Dylan – “The Times They Are a-Changin'” – (1964)

In 1964 the times certainly were a-changin’. Socially, politically – and musically. If you look at the lists we’ve done from 1965 through 1969, the songs were heavier, more politically charged. But this song was sort of the turning point. Everything from here back is just… simpler. Compare #1-20 in 1964 to 1966 and you’ll likely notice a big difference in tone.

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-BeatlesforsaleThe Beatles – “No Reply” – (1964)

Okay, it’s apparently hard to find Beatles songs on YouTube. The video below sort of has the song, broken up by a bunch of weird, racist 60s cartoons. It’s not The Beatles’ best work, but it’s not terrible and is kind of underrated. 

BBXmasCoverThe Beach Boys – “Frosty the Snowman” – (1964)

Gotta love the Beach Boys. They were able to define summer and winter. There are many version of this song, but this is among the best. Why? Because of those vocals! Plus, Christmas music from the 1950s and 1960s is just better. There’s no denying that. And like every Beach Boys song, this song is short – coming in under two minutes.

The Beach Boys – “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” – (1964)

If you love vocal harmonies, then you better love the Beach Boys. This album is soooo good, this song being among the best on it. It has classic Beach Boys harmony but it also has a very 1960s Las Vegas feel to it with light backing brass for most of the song, punctuated by big brass hits here and there. It you want a nostalgic take on an already classic Christmas tune, then this is your song.

#11 – Shirley Bassey – “Goldfinger” – (1964)

This is one of the more well known Bond themes. I have no idea why. Shirley Bassey’s voice is so nerve-grating here that it’s almost unbearable. But you can’t help but keep listening. It’s Shirley Bassey’s signature song and whenever someone mentions this film, I just think of her saying “Golddd fingaaa!”

Vince Guaraldi – “Linus and Lucy” – (1964)

This isn’t technically a Christmas song but the only airplay it gets is every year around Christmastime. It’s famous for this because it appeared in the television special, A Charlie Brown Christmas and also on that soundtrack, in 1965. It’s a well-known piece of music and every time I hear it I picture Schroeder sitting at a mini-piano playing it while all the Peanuts characters dance around him. Some people think that this is the “Peanuts theme” but that’s not really true either, even though it did appear in most of the TV specials. Technically or not, in my mind, this is the song when it comes to Peanuts.

The Beach Boys – “The Man with All the Toys” – (1964)

Gotta love the harmonies here. “He’s the man – bop – with all – bop – the toys – bop.” Or at least I think they’re saying “bop,” I don’t really know. Since its St. Nick’s Day I thought I’d go with “Little Saint Nick” from the same Beach Boys Christmas Album but that song was already posted in our Christmas countdown. This is a nice little, original, song from the Beach Boys and one people seem to like.

#20 – The Beach Boys – “Little Saint Nick” – (1963 – rest of album in ’64)

The Beach Boys’ Christmas Album is one of the better all-Christmas albums ever released by a pop band. That may seem over-qualified, but it’s true – especially if you consider that two of the bigger hits are originals. The other was “The Man With All The Toys.” Their version of “Frosty The Snowman” is quite excellent as is their circus-like version of “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.” Note: the videos linked to are all new and very few views, which makes me believe that whoever controls the Beach Boys catalogue is very stringent on the use of their songs – so if you want to hear them, you’d better be quick – they won’t be there for long (if they even still are).