The Hit Parade Charts in 1963 were in transition, only we did not know it. From our last RockBlogster, we saw that Surf Music was having its one and only year of ascendency, with local lads The Atlantics and the booming Bombora on top, sharing the charts with The Chantays, the legendary Surfaris and Jan & Dean. Everyone else was in the undertow (for a while).
The balance of the charts in Australia was dominated by US singers and groups; Elvis, it seemed, was hanging in there forever, with Roy Orbison an evergreen performer and the odds and sods – Jimmy Gilmer and The Fireballs popped up with Sugar Shack, and of course Paul and Paula with Oh Paula. Oh Dear! Even Al Martino made the grade with Painted Tainted Rose – a song of a doomed damsel – there was still room for the crooners in the early 60s charts.
From the UK, the ever pleasant Cliff Richard and the Shadows populated the charts along with Helen Shapiro who was not not not responsible! and Frank (I’m from Orstralya) Ifield yodelled to the top. 1963, it seemed, started out as just a normal year in UK. But on 11 April, Gerry & The Pacemakers had their first Number 1 with How do you do it, beating the Beatles to the top of the pops by three weeks. On 2 May 1963 the Beatles hit paydirt with From me to you. Gerry had his second number one – I Like it – on 20 June. Things were on the move. From August 1963 to the end of the year in UK, the charts were dominated by newcomers from Merseyside and Liverpool (Gerry Marsden and The Pacemakers, The Beatles and the Searchers), Brian Poole & The Tremeloes (Dagenham, East London), Billy J Kramer (Lancashire). Frank Ifield and Elvis got a look in and they were the only foreign intruders into the UK charts.
But in Australia and America we slept on or surfed on and swung to Elvis or the crooners; Sukiyaki by Kyu Sakamoto, It’s my party by Lesley Gore, or Dominique by The Singing Nun or Bobby Vinton and Blue Velvet, or even Johnny O Keefe and Move baby Move. We were so cool that we may have been holidaying at Mawson Station in Antarctica and probably had less idea of what was yet to come as the brave residents of Mawson – the great thawing of the hit charts.
1964 – Wham bam thank you maam – no more “A-wop-bom-a-loo-mop-a-lomp-bom-bom!!”
Our time had come as Ruby and The Romantics had fortold a few months before. Our very own music, almost defined by our parents, who seemed to have a lower tolerance of disk jockeys overnight, and a distinct distaste for that “infernal noise on the radio”. The charts were filled with newcomers singing our songs. It was magic. Where had they come from? What planet? Of the 25 biggest hit-makers in Australia in 1964, only five were not from England – including Elvis, Roy Orbison, Mary Wells and one hit wonders New Zealanders Ray Columbus and the Invaders – the latter whom we claimed as our own in any case, and an ex-pom and our own new rock hero, Billy Thorpe and the Axtecs, pulling off Poison Ivy a bigger hit in Australia for Thorpie than the Rolling Stones version.
The Beatles dominated the charts all over the English speaking world and into many other countries. Australia and America caught up to the English charts rapidly. In Australia the Beatles bombarded the charts continuously in 1964.
12 songs rang out across the airwaves in 1964:
I saw her standing there
Love me Do
Can’t buy me love
You can’t do that
I feel fine
She’s a woman
A hard day’s night
Things we said today
I should have known better
If I fell
Roll Over Beethoven
Hold me tight
It was raining Beatle songs. By June 1964 the Beatles had released three albums in Australia – Please Please Me (1963), With The Beatles (1963) and A Hard Day’s Night (1964). For the most part we were all still at school, without meaningful pocket money, and singles or EPs were what we purchased when we could, often sharing the records between friends. But someone always brought an album to our cute teenage parties, and we sang along as we sat in dimly lit lounge room floors playing “spin the bottle”, and wondering who’ll be kissing me next!
More excitement was on its way. 1963 and 1964 changed our small worlds forever and we were never ever quite ready for what followed – but who is?
Melbourne was in a state of revolution on Sunday 14 June. And I was there with a few mates. We caught the No 10 tram from West Preston and ventured towards the Southern Cross Hotel on the corner of Bourke and Exhibition Streets. Needless to say we could not get close to the precinct, and the the Beatles appeared as distant dolls waving to the chanting surging crowd. Mindless Beatlemania took control of Australian teenagers. Check out the following YouTube panorama of the Beatles in Australia in 1964.