1963 – Who was top of the Pops? Best Albums Review

So who were the musical winners in 1963 and 1964?  There was plenty of money spent on albums and singles, but the big sellers were not necessarily the best or the most enduring.  We’ve had over half a century to think about this, and we are talking about popular music – hear today and gone tomorrow.  Let’s look first at 1963 the year of transition.

According to BestEverAlbums.com the Top10 albums released in 1963 are:

Rank Who Album Title
1 Bob Dylan The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
2 Charles Mingus The Black Saint And The Sinner Lady
3 The Beatles Please Please Me
4 James Brown Live At The Apollo
5 The Beatles With The Beatles
6 Sam Cooke Night Beat
7 Charles Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus
8 Phil Spector A Christmas Gift For You
9 Thelonious Monk Monk’s Dream
10 The Beach Boys Surfer Girl

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The top ten selection, compiled from extensive surveys, provides some surprises including His Bobness at No 1, and several jazz albums, which would not sold all that well in 1963, whilst the poppier side of life – The Beatles and the Beach Boys cleaned up in the charts and the market.

There are many albums of interest in the next 100 albums listed on BestEverAlbums including the older and newer artists we talked about in our earlier chapter – The Searchers, Gerry & the Pacemakers, The Surfaris, The Trashmen, Dusty Springfield and Barbra Steisand.  Sinatra appears at No.13 but there is not another crooner in sight.  Tragedy – no Dino!  Jazz is well represented in 1963 with about 35 albums in the top 120.  There are no soundtracks or stage shows from Broadway, Hollywood or the West End in the rankings, and this is probably because the albums of the shows in the charts were released well before 1963, and do not qualify in the BestEverAlbum reckoning.

Check out the BestEverAlbum site.  http://www.besteveralbums.com

Another reference which discusses best albums includes the hefty 1001 Albums you must hear before you die (edited by Robert Dimery and published first in 2005). The selections (in the 2005 ed) for 1963 list only seven albums but there is some consistency with the BestEverAlbum outcome:

Who Album
The Beatles With the Beatles
Bob Dylan The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
Phil Spector A Christmas Gift for you
Sam Cooke Live at the Harlem Square Club (not released until 1985)
Charles Mingus The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
James Brown Live at the Apollo
Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto Getz/Gilberto

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Rolling Stone Magazine in their RollingStone 500 Greatest Albums of All Time book (2005) – a well nigh impossible claim – also list only a few albums from 1963. The list was developed from choices made by over 200 rock musicians and a statistical weighting method devised by consultants Ernst & Young. Writing in USA Today newspaper, Edna Gundersen described the list as predictable and “weighted toward testosterone-fueled vintage rock”. The Rolling Stone 500 has also been criticised for being male-dominated, outmoded and almost entirely Anglo-American in focus.  Notwithstanding RollingStone’s choices from 1963 are:

Rank Who Album
25 James Brown Live at the Apollo
39 The Beatles Please Please Me
98 Bob Dylan The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
142 Phil Spector A Christmas Gift for you
435 Sam Cooke Live at the Harlem Square Club

The fact that nearly all the selections so far list male groups or artists, excluding Phil Spector’s girl groups, Mary Travers from PPM, and hidden on the Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto album is Astrud Gilberto (The girl from Ipanema songstress), confirms Edna Gunderson’s view.  Billboard has been around since 1894 and is “The Authority” when it comes to the Who’s Who in the Music Business.  And Billboard certainly does not rock the boat on the gender issue.  In their marvellous but short book The Billboard Book of Top 40 Albums (published 1987), there are on some real surprises about what was top in 1963, but you must remember it’s all about the money.  The position of an album in the Billboard charts reflects sales in the US, and the broad market appeal of diverse music and entertainment.  1964 will see a different story.  Who’s Allan Sherman you might ask?  Will he be in Greil Marcus’ The Dustbin of history?  (1997). Check out “Hello Muddah Hello Fadduh here I am at Camp Granada”.  But there is another woman on top in the charts– The Singing Nun!!

Who Album
Allan Sherman My Son, the Celebrity
Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd Jazz Samba
Frank Fontaine Songs I sing on the Jackie Gleason Show
Andy Williams Days of Wine and Roses
Stevie Wonder Little Stevie Wonder: The Twelve Year Old Genius
Allan Sherman My Son, The Nut
Peter Paul & Mary In the Wind
Singing Nun The Singing Nun

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Virgin’s All Time Top 1000 Albums, (second Ed 1998) compiled by Colin Larkin, creator and editor of the Encyclopaedia of Popular Music was first published by Guiness Publishing in 1994. The list presented is the result of over 200,000 votes cast by informed music lovers and ranked in order. The list includes some oddities, but there is a concensus with the earlier lists.

Rank Who Album
168 The Beatles With the Beatles
196 Bob Dylan The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan
333 The Beatles Please Please Me
489 Charles Mingus The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
564 Charles Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus
604 Phil Spector A Christmas Gift for you
684 Patsy Cline The Patsy Cline Showcase
798 Dexter Gordon Our man in Paris
924 John Coltrane Impressions

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The Grammys (originally called Gramophone Award) operate in a parallel universe or so it would seem. Their awards are extensive and “an accolade by the National Academy of Recording Artists & Sciences of the USA to recognize outstanding achievement in the music industry”.  In 1963, 41 separate categories were considered.  For the record, the ‘Pop’ album of the year was awarded to Barbra Streisand for her self titled debut album.  The cover of the album also received an award.  The best Rock & Roll recording was awarded to April Stevens and Nino Tempo for Deep Purple (good name for a rock band you might say), but the song – a steamy romance of a tune, hardly any rock and definitely no roll.

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Our most recent reference, Jeff Gold’s 2012 book, 101 Essential Rock Records, lists simply:

The Beatles        Please Please Me

Bob Dylan            The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

The cover of the Beatles album Please Please Me is also refreshing, four smiling young men cheekily leaning from a modern building, nobody suspecting they were on the brink of huge artistic and monetary success. Fame and riches discreetly beckon.  Bob Dylan, pictured walking arm in arm with Susie Rutolo – the world is their oyster – and lookin’ freewheelin’.  We all knew who Bob Dylan was but who was his paramour and is she?  Yes even the album covers hit you in the face as new and different.

And maybe we should leave it there.  1963 – a new popular music direction with The Beatles and a young folk singer Bob Dylan leading the game.  After all The Beatles dominated the charts until the early 1970s and have never stopped selling albums, and Bob Dylan has never stopped touring and releasing albums. His recently released Bootleg No 11 – The Basement Tapes, is testament to his longevity and brilliance.  An entourage of acts followed these leaders successfully.  In the past three years Beatles box sets in stereo and mono, UK and US album releases, have been re-released to popular acclaim, keeping in mind the original boxed collection was released on vinyl in 1978.

In the wash-up for 1963, it is interesting to note that jazz has a strong representation in the early 60s by artists who had been around for some time, and also the soul and RnB of the late Sam Cooke and irrepressible James Brown are highly respected.

My favourites from 1963 are also the break through debut Beatles album and the second album With the Beatles – almost never off the HMV radiogram, although The Surfaris’ debut album Wipeout and The Chantays’ Pipeline gave the newcomers a run for their money. It did not get more dangerous than that – the moptops from Liverpool and the bleached boys from California.

In our next episode we will explore 1964’s winners when the changing of the guard takes full effect.  British Pop music takes over the world.



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