The 1960s was a fantastic decade for pop music. Listening to tracks from this time you can hear the influence that they had on decades to come. A lot of the songs from the 1960s have stood the test of time so well and are still played today. Motown acts like The Supremes and Marvin Gaye, bands like The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Kinks, and singers like Dusty Springfield have clearly inspired later artists. Future decades have actually dated worse than the 1960s. It’s an exaggeration to say that every song that made it to the top of the charts was a classic, but it comes very close. Even the novelty hits, like Lonnie Donegan’s ‘My Old Man’s A Dustman’ aren’t that bad.
The big stars of the 1960s UK chart were of course The Beatles, who the topped the charts 17 times, more than anyone else in the decade. Not only that, but a couple of artists like Joe Cocker and Marmalade got to number one with Beatles cover versions.
Towards the end, as there was more experimentation going on in ’60s music, there are some interesting, if a little bizarre songs making it to the top. 1969 has a cartoon band (The Archies), a song about a dystopian future (‘In The Year 2525 (Exordium & Termninus)’ by Zager and Evans), a sexual French language duet (‘Je t’aime… moi non plus’) a song that would come to be associated with werewolves (‘Bad Moon Rising’) and Rolf Harris singing a song written in 1902 about the American civil war. Edit 5th of July 2014 – But after what has since come to light about Harris, that last fact is disturbing now, especially as the song is also about childhood.
I knew about Cilla Black’s ’60s popstar beginnings and that Ken Dodd has a million selling single (‘Tears’), but I was surprised that Des O’Connor had a big number one hit, and that Wendy Richard of Are You Being Served? and Eastenders fame appeared on a number one single before either of those existed (‘Come Outside’).
One of the worst songs is actually an Elvis Presley one. A lot of songs from his back catelogue that are considered classics didn’t make it to number one in the UK, and like any artist that becomes a massive star he recorded his fair share of stinkers, the dreadful ‘Wooden Heart’ definitely counting as one of them.
My favourite track is, strangely enough, the other track that is apparently a contender for Margaret Thatcher’s favourite song of all time, ‘Telstar’ by the Tornados. A gorgeous intrumental track named after the satellite, it also has the honour of being the first US number one by a British group.
My pick of the bunch:
1) The Tornados – Telstar
2) Dusty Springfield – You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me
3) The Beatles – Help!
4) The Beatles – A Hard Day’s Night
5) Rolling Stones – I Can’t Get No Satisfaction
6) Marvin Gaye – I Heard It Through The Grapevine
7) Nancy Sinatra – These Boots Are Made For Walkin’
8) The Animals – The House Of The Rising Sun
9) The Supremes – Baby Love
10) Louis Armstrong – What A Wonderful World