1964 Album Charts – UK and US and DownUnder – A Change in the Weather for the Better!

Starting in Liverpool

In 1964 the Beatles also brought in their wake the Mersey Sound from Liverpool and hundreds of British Beat Groups from London, the garden suburbs and the north of England.  The charts were populated by new names and Fabulous magazine published weekly showed all the new lovelies.

Fabulous Magazine April 1964 - Beatles

Fabulous Magazine
April 1964 – Beatles

The Charts had been changing the guard since the Beatles first appearance in May 1963.  By December 1963 the British Chart’s top ten albums included two Beatles albums With the Beatles and Please Please Me, Gerry & The Pacemakers – How do you like it, Freddie and The Dreamers and their self titled album, and Kathy Kirby – already on the way out – with Kathy Kirby sings 16 hits from Stars and Garters.  “Stars and Garters” was a TV variety show run in UK between 1963 and 1965 and obviously popular with the record buying public.  If you are desperate you can still buy the album from Discogs from $1.50 – some nice old tunes there!

gerry & the pacemakers  kathy kirby

Aside from Kathy Kirby’s album, there were still some odd albums in the top ten including Mrs Mills Party and On tour with the George Mitchell Minstrels, which I am sure we all know and love.  New British Beat had not conquered all.

But 1964, in UK, nearly put an end to any other competition if it could be called that at all.  The Hollies and the Searchers hit the album charts in February with the albums Stay with the Hollies and Meet the Searchers.  By April The Rolling Stones with their self titled debut album stormed the charts knocking the Beatles off the # 1 perch they had held since May 1963.  A Girl called Dusty and Session with the Dave Clark Five also appeared in April.  The album titles all sounded as if they were introducing unknown performers in a hope that the fickle record buying public might acquire their latest songs.  And we did.

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Soundtracks to US movies West Side Story and South Pacific stubbornly hung around the top of the Charts noting the former had originally been released in 1961 and the latter in 1958.  Fantastic longevity.

south pacific lp  WestSideStory(soundtrack)

Dance with The Shadows made an appearance in June.  Along with a second Searcher’s album titled unbelievably It’s the Searchers – their marketing guys were really earning their money!   But by July the Beatles had rolled everybody again with A Hard Day’s Night sitting at # 1 until December when Beatles for Sale their fourth album took over at the top.  But a few other UK groups made the charts in the latter half of 1964 – The Merseybeats with a self titled album in July made # 7; The Bachelors – # 2.  In September Five Faces of Manfred Mann and Wonderful Life by Cliff Richard and the Shadows were at Numbers 4 and 6 respectively.  Manfred Mann’s debut album was an R&B beauty – great versions of Smokestack Lightning, Got my mojo working and Bring it to Jerome – plenty of great Manfred keyboards, vocals and harmonica – Paul Jones, flute and sax – Mike Vickers, Mike Hugg’s vibes and Tom McGuinness on bass guitar – one of the first supergroups, strongly influenced by early 60s jazz styles.

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Manfred Mann – I’ve got my Mojo working

Surprisingly outdoing everybody, Jim Reeves had five albums in the top ten between August and October – Gentleman Jim, A Touch of Velvet, Good ‘n’ Country , God be with you, and Moonlight and Roses – Whoa what’s going on.  Is Mersey beat over!!  No just another plane crash and a star selling more records in the afterlife.  There’s hope for everyone in the long run on that fatal downhill ride.

Also in October there were first up albums by Georgie Fame titled Fame at last, the Kinks self titled album and on the cover the immortal shot of four red horsemen, and a second Hollies Album – In the Hollies style.  The soundtrack from Goldfinger hit # 9 on October 1964.  The Animals debut followed quickly in November and perennial Cliff Richard and the Shadows with Aladdin and his wonderful lamp.  Both of the Cliff Richard albums were from musical stage shows or films.

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The only interlopers to the British Charts, other than Texan Jim Reeves, were Elvis with a best of and the film soundtrack Kissin’ Cousins, Roy Orbison – In Dreams and Oh Pretty Woman – which never seems to have gone away, The Supremes – Meet the Supremes (another intro!), Dionne Warwick – Presenting Dionne Warwick (definitely an intro!), and Bob Dylan – The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan in October and Another side of Bob Dylan in November.

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On crooners’ boulevard, Frank Sinatra had two albums in the top ten during the year – Sinatra’s Sinatra, It might as well be swing, Frank Ifield – Born Free and Blue Skies, Frank Ifield’s Greatest Hits, and Tony Bennett – I left my heart in San Francisco.

And folk and funk were taken care of by Peter Paul and Mary – In the Wind and Trini Lopez with Trini Lopez at PJs and More Trini Lopez at PJ s.  If it sells once it‘s sure to sell again, saves on marketing.  If you’re on a good thing stick to it.

And with all the British Beat Groups doing Chuck Berry covers, especially the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, there were two Chuck Berry albums in the mix also – The latest and greatest Chuck Berry and More Chuck Berry – motivatin’ album titles!

The Land of the Free – not so swinging USA

In America after knocking off The Singing Nun – metaphorically of course, it was all Beatles with three albums dominating the charts for most of the year – Meet the Beatles, The Beatles Second Album, and A Hard Day’s Night.  The Beatles albums released by Capitol in the US had a different playing sequence and covers to the English releases.  We will talk about the different Beatle US album releases in another episode.

At the start of 1964 the American charts were home to folk music, crooners, surf and drag, stage and screen, some jazz and generally music that could be called adult contemporary, and most definitely easy listening.

Peter Paul & Mary had three albums in the Top 15 in January – In the Wind, Peter Paul & Mary, and Moving; Barbra Streisand –two albums – named without creative thought – The Barbara Streisand Album and the Second Barbra Streisand Album – great voice, classy albums – overproduced – and not cool and groovy.  The Queen of Folk Music, Joan Baez had five albums in the Top 50 – Joan Baez in Concert, Joan Baez in Concert Part 2, Joan Baez Vol 2, The Best of Joan Baez and Joan Baez Vol 1 – marvellous and original titles all.  The Kingston Trio, the Chad Mitchell Trio and the New Christy Minstrels each had multiple albums in the Top 100 albums, with folk music making up about 15% of the charts.

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Joan Baez – Battle Hymm of the Republic

Stage and Screen almost peaked in popularity in the album charts with fourteen albums including – West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, Camelot, Oliver, Lawrence of Arabia, Charade, The Great Escape, It’s a mad mad mad mad world, Oklahoma, South Pacific, and not forgetting the Sound of Music.  Some of these albums had been in the Top 100 for four years, comprising about 12% of albums in the charts.

By far the most numerous albums were the adult contemporary music of crooners and old smoothies from Frank Sinatra to Perry Como, Jerry Vale, Tony Bennett, Al Martino, Johnny Mathis, Andy Williams, Jack Jones, and a new upstart protégé Trini Lopez signed to Frank Sinatra’s Reprise label.  Surprisingly in January 1964 Dean Martin was absent.

The American rockers were dramatically under represented by Elvis (from one of his forgotten films – Fun in Acapulco), Roy Orbison – two albums in the Top 100 – Roy Orbison’s Greatest Hits and In Dreams; a posthumous Buddy Holly album The Buddy Holly Story, Paul Anka – Paul Anka’s 21 Golden Hits (did he have that many?), and Gene Pitney at # 71 with Gene Pitney Sings World-Wide Winners- whilst not an all out rocker the album has many memorable tracks including Hello Mary Lou, The man who shot Liberty Valance – written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach, and the stratospheric Town without Pity.

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Gene Pitney – Town without Pity

Surf and Drag were represented by the Beach Boys, the Trashmen – you never forget the Surfin’ Bird! – the Surfaris and Jan & Dean.

Soul and Rhythm and Blues accounted for The Impressions with their self-titled debut album, Sam Cooke – Night Beat, James Brown – Prisoner of Love and The James Brown Show at # 31.

Girlie groups were sitting low in the charts with the Angels – My boyfriend’s back and the Shirelles with their Greatest Hits.

All in all the charts in the USA in January 1964, whilst covering a lot of musical territory, were pretty tame.  Something had to happen soon.  And it did.  The Beatles landed at John F Kennedy Airport New York on 7 February 1964 and were cheerfully greeted by about 4000 young fans.  One week later the Beatles are on the front cover of Billboard Magazine and head the album charts with Meet the Beatles, and also sit at # 22 with Introducing the Beatles.  Of interest the single new rock group of US origin, with a red star at # 58, are the Kingsmen, from Portland Oregon, with the daunting Louie Louie – a song to be played by nearly every young garage rock band of the mid sixties.  The lyrics of the song were investigated by the FBI for two years, eventually declaring that the song was not obscene.  Surprise surprise but the lyrics are a little demented.  For interest a copy of the FBI report is attached. FBI Report_Louie Louie_ The Song

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 The Kingsmen – Louie Louie

By April the Dave Clark Five entered the US Charts at # 31 with Glad All Over.  May 1964 saw another UK group drop into the US charts with a red star at # 56 for two albums Meet the Searchers and Needles and Pins.   There were a few new US albums – The Ventures in Space and several soundtracks but no new young pop acts were charting.  But by June middle America had taken over Hello Dolly and Funny Girl – both with Barbra Streisand and the former with Louis Armstrong held the top two spots in the charts and Barbara Streisand The Third Album was sitting comfortably at # 10.  The Beatles had three albums in the Top 11.  Bob Dylan’s new album The times are a-changin’ creeps in at # 139 – a prophecy of biblical proportions.

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July 1964 and another soundtrack hits # 1 – A Hard Day’s Night by the Beatles.  The Rolling Stones join the party with their self titled debut album charting in its first week at # 21.  Soon followed by Billy J Kramer with Little Children (# 59), Gerry & the Pacemakers – Don’t let the sun catch you crying (# 91) and Dusty Springfield – The Dusty Springfield Album (a la Streisand album titles?) at # 99 – just on the playing field.  Stateside, Johnny Rivers scoots into # 13 with a red star and his debut live album Johnny Rivers at the Whiskey A Go Go.  Rivers was asked to open the legendary Whiskey A Go Go nightclub in Los Angeles while making this album.  With the help of producer Lou Adler, Johnny helped introduce the “Go Go sound” to rock and roll.  The album reached # 12 on Billboard’s Pop Albums chart, and became Johnny’s first gold album.  The album also gave Rivers his very first big hit, a cover version of Chuck Berry’s 1959 hit Memphis. Rivers’s version went to # 2 on Billboard’s Pop Singles chart in the summer of 1964, and became his first gold single.

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Johnny River – Memphis

September 1964 and Beatles novelty albums were swarming up the charts – depressing as that sounds – The Beatles Songbook  by The Hollyridge Strings – an American studio orchestra; The Chipmunks sing the Beatles Hits – big loud groan; The American Tour with Ed Rudy; Off the Beatle Track – George Martin & His Orchestra – at least he had a connection.

Other UK groups joined the US Charts – The Animals with their debut self titled album; a third Searchers album with the fantastic title This is Us and The Bachelors and their album Presenting the Bachelors – never to be heard of again.

October and the Beatles were still sitting at # 1 with A Hard day’s night.  The Dave Clark Five were sitting at # 66 with a second album The Dave Clark Five Return! And Chad & Jeremy entered low in the Charts with Yesterday’s GoneAnother Side of Bob Dylan appears with a red star at # 97.  Gale Garnett, folk singer, enters the Charts at # 108 with We’ll sing in the sunshine, as the northern winter approaches, a song that is three years ahead of its time, announcing the Summer of Love.  One rung behind are the Newbeats with Bread & Butter.  Thank goodness they only had one hit!

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 Gale Garnett – We’ll sing in the sunshine

Come November everything is almost back to normal in America.  Barbra Streisand tops the album charts with People (aka The Barbra Streisand Fourth Album – only joking), followed by Dino – yep little ole wine drinkin’ Dean Martin back at the top with Everybody loves Somebody – also three years ahead of the Summer of Love!  Dean is also at #20 with Dream with Dean – back with a vengeance.  And The Pink Panther is cruising down the charts – 32 weeks in and falling to #29 from a high of # 11.  The soundtrack album was released on RCA Victor, comprising music written by Henry Mancini, performed by his orchestra, and featured in the film.  The blurb on the album was written by the infuriating Inspector Clouseau in a franglais accent ” I’ve never written record notes before and I’m sure I will  be never asked again.  The poor fools they don’t know what they are missing.”  In 2001, the soundtrack album was accorded a Grammy Hall of Fame Award  In 2005, the score was listed at # 20 on AFI’s 100 Years Film Scores.  And the Kingsmen were still clinging to life at # 42 with the demented Louis Louie – 44 weeks in.  The Rolling Stones with a red star launch into # 115 with their second album The Rolling Stones 12 X 5 – simple mathematics.

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 Henry Mancini – The Pink Panther Theme

December and the invasion from UK appears to have cooled.  The Rolling Stones might sit at # 3 with 12 x 5, but the Beach Boys – home grown heroes – sit at # 1 with The Beach Boys Concert.  Elvis, the King, sits at # 2 with Roustabout, Barbra with People at # 4. Dino has another album at # 9 with a red star – The door is still open to my heart (and my wine cellar for that matter); the Supremes sit at # 7 with Where did my love go , the first of a run of multi-million dollar sellers for Motown and the Supremes.  The rest of the albums clogging the top of the charts are contemporary stage and screen blockbusters.

But life would always remain interesting noting the Kinks –  with a red star – popped into # 121 with the pounding You really got me – at the very least the equivalent of Louie Louie.

So 1964 was a happening year for British groups and the US Charts were certainly challenged, but by December the US Charts were still adorned with Broadway and Hollywood stage and screen shows, easy listening, folk, 1950s rock, surf and drag, and some stand out jazz with Dave Brubeck, Stan Getz, Miles Davis, and Oscar Peterson.  Probably another way of looking at it is that the US market was big enough to take all this and the new stuff from Britain.

What was happening in Australia?

In our little world Downunder what was happening in 1964?  Well we know the Beatles came, saw and conquered in June. (See Rockblogster – July 2014).  Album charts were not kept in those days.  The top selling singles were almost all Beatles and other British pop groups – The Searchers, Hollies, Animals, Manfred Mann, Kinks, the Pretty Things, Yardbirds, Rolling Stones, Brian Poole & the Tremoloes, and that American folk singer Bob Dylan.  The Australian market reflected what was selling internationally and primarily what came out of UK or the USA.  In 1964 new Australian rock had yet to emerge but it would be getting into gear in 1965.

In 1964 I was still at school and with enough pocket money to buy singles or that value for money item the EP.  My small collection and my friends’ collections were full of the Shadows and rocking Cliff Richard and the new British invaders.  We swapped records between us as we started to hear more and more of the new British Beat groups, and could read about the new comers in Fabulous Magazine, cutting out pictures of smirking smiling bands and sticking them on our bedroom walls.  And we started to grow our hair – it was the very least we could do.  We stopped wearing white T-Shirts, white socks or sneakers, and started to button up the top button on our shirts just like the Kinks and the Rolling Stones. Yep we were getting there.

So whilst we knew change was in the wind, it was small time in 1964.  The big time would come next year when we were unleashed from school days and hit the streets, the office, the city, the pubs and discotheques – fantasy palaces of darkness and bright lights, high voltage noise and mini-skirts.

But at this stage of our lives we were stuck with the Delltones and we were Hangin’ Five.  And we didn’t mind.  Things would change come the revolution.


The Best Top 100 – Take your pick

After all the rush and bubble of the new music in 1964, now half a century away, what perspective can we bring to that time and the music?  Many lists have been proposed in the ensuing 50 years.  In our next episode we will visit the playlists of the critics – in the broadest sense – noting that we are all critics of this shared heritage.  What were the best albums?  Are they still the best albums?  Whatever we discover it is sure to raise some eyebrows and maybe even cause you to crank up the stereo to remind oneself of that particular track.  Happy Listening.

The Beatles – Things we said today


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