I think I can understand what older people mean when they say that music was better in “their day”. For one thing, it’s human nature. Everyone tends to believe that the culture they grew up with was THE best. But listening to the number one singles of the 1950s I can see what they mean on another level. However, it’s more because I can empathise with them rather than because I agree with them. It’s a completely different world to what I’m used to, I’m not sure how much I can relate to it and the only songs I recognise are ones that were used in adverts or from films.
Overall, they are a little… dull. I feel churlish dismissing it in such a way, especially as we’re talking about a time when my parents weren’t even born until the last few years of it, but just as a personal opinion the 1950s is the decade that I’ve always found the least appealing as far as pop music is concerned. But it would be very wrong to dimiss it outright. After all this was the birth of the pop singles chart as we in the UK would come to know it. It has some Early Installment Weirdness. For one thing, at the start it was normal for different to artists to record the same song and release it at around the same time, competing for who would have the bigger hit with it. There are also a few occasions where there was a joint number one, meaning two songs were tied for the top spot some weeks. In one case these two things overlapped, when Frankie Laine and David Whitfield’s versions of ‘Answer Me’ were at the top at the same time. It was also kind of a primordial soup stage for pop music, with rock’n’roll being the evolutionary shift that ended up setting the standard for most of what was to come.
The rock ‘n’ roll songs here are among the ones I like best from this decade, and surely everyone has room in their heart for Doris Day singing ‘Secret Love’ and ‘Que Sera Sera’. As for my least favourite, I have to go with the horribly cutesy ‘How Much Is That Doggie In The Window’ by Lita Roza. Liza Roza herself hated it and only sang it once to record it and never again. It’s apparently a contender for Margaret Thatcher’s favourite song of all time though.
My pick of the bunch:
1) Bill Haley & The Comets – Rock Around The Clock
2) Elvis Presley – Jailhouse Rock
3) Jerry Lee Lewis – Great Balls Of Fire
4) Connie Francis – Stupid Cupid
5) Perry Como – Magic Moments
6) Doris Day – Que Sera Sera (Whatever Will Be Will Be)
7) Doris Day – Secret Love
8) Vic Damone – On The Street Where You Live
9) Kitty Kallen – Little Things Mean A Lot
10) Perez Prado – Cherry Pink (And Apple Blossom White)