the #1 hit records on the pop charts 1963

Estimated reading time is 30 minutes.

THIS IS THE FOURTH in a series of ten articles listing and addressing the #1 records of the year as they appeared on Cash Box magazine’s Top 100 chart from 1960 through 1969. It was originally published as “Walk Right In And Go Away Little Girl” on my publication Tell It Like It Was on Medium on March 13, 2019. The article below is identical to that one.

Please read “Introduction To The #1 Records On The Cash Box Pop Chart Of The 1960s” before reading this article. It will explain the nature of this project, introduce you to the writers whose opinions follow, and will make everything easier to understand.

The opinions expressed below are those of John Ross, Lew Shiner, and me. John is the talent behind the Round Place In The Middle website where he opines about rock & roll, western movies, and detective novels. John is my favorite writer writing about rock & roll. He is currently working on his first novel.

I have removed the links between song titles and their corresponding YouTube pages that were originally included in this article as many of the pages have been deleted.

Lew is one of the finest novelists in America. Since you’re reading his name here, start with his novel Glimpses, which combines time travel with fantasy and the milieu of ’60s rock music. Follow that with Deserted Cities Of The Heart (time-travel and psychedelic mushrooms!) and then his latest, Outside The Gates Of Heaven, which also takes place in the ’60s.

If you want to skim through this article and skip around from record to record or comment to comment, that works and you’ll have fun. But this article will make more sense if you read it from beginning to end.

One of the first things you will notice is that each of the articles opens with a calendar of events that reflect the zeitgeist of the era. Hopefully, these will give you some background and some context in which the #1 records of that were made.

 

SingingNun guitar 1000 crop

FEATURED ARTIST: The Singing Nun was born Jeanne-Paule Marie Deckers in 1933. At the age of 25, she joined a Dominican convent in 1959. A talented musician who played guitar and sang and wrote songs, in 1963, she recorded a song she wrote to raise money for the convent. Dominique was released as a single credited to Soeur Sourire (“Sister Smile”) in Europe and to the Singing Nun in the US.

It sold millions of copies worldwide, and Deckers remains the only Belgian to have ever had a #1 record in the US. Dominique won the Grammy Award for Best Gospel or Religious Song, but she was a one-hit-wonder with none of her subsequent records receiving much attention.

In 1966, Deckers left the convent and tried to pursue a career as a pop singer. Unfortunately, the rest of her life was one of desperation (the French tax authorities pursued her for years), depression (along with a nervous breakdown and psychotherapy), and personal and religious dissonance with her sexual orientation (homosexuality was not only a sin but a crime in many countries).

This led to years of alcohol and prescription drug abuse. In 1985, she committed the unforgivable sin of committing suicide, a joint action taken with her longtime partner, Annie Pécher.

Two movies have been made about Sister Smile: in 1966, Debbie Reynolds starred as Deckers in the highly fictionalized The Singing Nun. In 2009, Cécile de France played the lead in the more realistic bio-pic Sœur Sourire.

1963

January
The people of Alabama elected George Wallace as governor. In his inaugural speech, he urged, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever!”

February
W.W. Norton & Company published Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, which launched the women’s liberation movement.

March
Patsy Cline was killed in an airplane crash in Tennessee along with fellow performers Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas.

April
Marvel Comics published Strange Tales #110 (cover-dated July), which introduced Dr. Strange by Stan Lee (writer) and Steve Ditko (artist).

May
Thousands of black citizens, many of them children, were arrested for protesting segregation in Birmingham, Alabama. The police used high-pressure fire hoses and dogs on the demonstrators. This was broadcast on television news shows, the first time many people outside the South saw just how bad it was to be black in America.

June
In Saigon, Buddhist monk Thích Quảng Đức publicly and ceremonially set fire to himself to protest the oppression of Buddhists by the Diệm administration.

July
The United States Postal Service introduced the Zone Improvement Plan code or ZIP code.

August
Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. With 250,000 people in attendance, it is the single largest protest in American history.

September
The Ku Klux Klan planted bombs in the all-black 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four children.

October
The Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapon Tests in the Atmosphere, in Outer Space, and Under Water, took effect, prohibiting all test detonations of nuclear weapons except for those conducted underground.

November
President Kennedy was assassinated and the lone gunman and probable patsy Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested and accused of the murder. Two days later, Oswald was murdered.

December
Capitol Records began a massive promotion of the Beatles in the United States, bringing Beatlemania and the so-called British Invasion to regain the colonies.

‘Nuff said? On to the #1 records of 1963.

 


 

1963

 

Medium 45 1962 Tornados Telstar 600

January 5–January 12

The Tornados
Telstar
London 45-9561
(2 weeks)
This record spent one week at #1 on December 29, 1962, for a total of three weeks at the top. Refer to that date for more information.

 

Medium 45 1963 SteveLawrence GoAwayLittleGirl 600

January 19–January 26

Steve Lawrence
Go Away Little Girl
Columbia 4-42601
(2 weeks)

Go Away Little Girl was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. While many of us would like to pretend they hadn’t, it has been a very successful song for several artists. Aside from Steve Lawrence’s chart-topping reading, the Happenings’ version with a rather more creative arrangement reached the Top 20 in 1966.

John: Pop, sure, but the production’s a weird one. The spirit of rock & roll often forced even the most conservative artists to reach a little further to stay relevant. Also, the first song of the rock & roll era to become #1 for two different artists: Donnie Osmond took Go Away Little Girl to the top in the early ’70s, where it was replaced by Rod Stewart’s Maggie May, just in case you think the ’70s weren’t weird.

Naturally, Goffin and King wrote it. Who else’s song would you want to have that distinction? And one last note of interest: Bobby Vee recorded the original version (which Lawrence copied pretty closely). No evidence he released it as a single, which seems borderline destabilizing.

In any case, he must have considered it a mistake, because he later had his last big hit with the very similarly themed Come Back When You Grow Up.

Neal: In 1968, Gary Puckett & the Union Gap would resurrect the theme of this song with the far less innocent Young Girl, which (unfortunately) would also reach #1 on Cash Box.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew :
Neal:

 

Medium 45 1963 RooftopSingers Walk RightIn 600

February 2

The Rooftop Singers
Walk Right In
Vanguard VRS-35017
(1 week)

The late 1950s and early ’60s was a golden period for folkie-type pop music, but as it appealed to an older audience most of the big sales figures were racked up on the LP charts: the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul & Mary were selling millions of albums annually but the only #1 either scored on the pop charts during this time was the Trio’s Tom Dooley in 1958.

The Rooftop Singers took the folk-pop of Walk Right In to #1 in a year favoring a lot of easy-listening music. Of course, serious folkies looked askance at most of this pop-oriented music, including Walk Right In.

Lew: It would be a couple of years yet before Bob Dylan himself would make the charts (denting them with Subterranean Homesick Blues, going Top 10 with Like A Rolling Stone and Positively 4th Street) but the folk “explosion” that started with the Kingston Trio was peaking in 1963.

The Rooftop Singers had a bit of a confectionary sound, but they were the real thing—one of the trio, Erik Darling, had done some time in a version of the 1940s and ’50s folk institution, the Weavers, and the song was originally from 1929. The big, booming sound of the record was due to both guitarists playing 12-string guitars.

The folk movement would mutate into folk rock with Dylan’s BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME and the Byrds’ MR. TAMBOURINE MAN albums in the spring of 1965.

It’s interesting to note how many of the “psychedelic” musicians of the later ’60s emerged from the folk boom, including members of the Dead, the Airplane, and Country Joe & the Fish. For a more sustained version of this argument, see the great book Turn! Turn! Turn! by Richie Unterberger.

John: A big favorite of my late, great, Aunt Boots, who played piano like Boots Randolph played sax even if she mostly played it in church. She really dug the line, “Daddy let your mind roll on.”

Neal: The sound and look of groups like the Rooftop Singers were lovingly mocked in the 2003 movie A Mighty Wind.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1963 PauPaula HeyPaula 600

February 9–March 2

Paul & Paula
Hey Paula
Philips 40084
(4 weeks)

Paul was Ray Hildebrand while Paula was Jill Jackson. They changed their stage name to Paul & Paula so singing a song titled Hey Paula made sense. In 1963, the duo placed four sides in the Top 100, including sappy Young Lovers, which was a Top 10 hit.

John: This was a sneaky good year for the female voices that, coincidentally or not, started getting dumped down the memory hole when the Beatles crashed the party the next year. Jill Jackson (Paula) redeems a pretty sappy concept with a pretty terrific vocal which I’m sure a lot of teenagers dug.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (3 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (February 26, 1963)
• Accumulated sales: 2,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1963 FourSeasons WalkLikeAMan 600

March 9–March 16

The Four Seasons
Walk Like A Man
Vee-Jay VJ-485
(2 weeks)

Walk Like A Man was the Jersey Boys’ third #1 record for Vee-Jay Records. All million-sellers, the group saw little in terms of royalties from their accomplishments. By the end of 1963, they had signed with Philips Records, where they would place ten sides in the Top 10 over the next few years.

John: I won’t lie, my pick for the greatest #1 record of this 1960-1963 period. (Dick & Dee Dee’s The Mountain’s High which fell just short would give a run for my greatest overall—I’d hate to have to choose.) It’s certainly the hardest. Fifteen years later, I broke a lot of rulers drumming on various things to that beat.

Lew: And let us not overlook the irony of Frankie Valli singing “Walk like a man” in a high falsetto. John is right to point out the fabulous, over-the-top drumming here (see my remarks about Sherry in the September 8, 1962, entry).

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (3 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1963 RubyRomantics OurDayWillCome 600

March 23

Ruby & the Romantics
Our Day Will Come
Kapp K-501x
(1 week)

Ruby & the Romantics reached the top of the charts with their first record, Our Day Will Come. While they are thought of by many as a one-hit-wonder, their second record, My Summer Love, reached the Top 20. They seemed like the next big thing.

When their third record, Hey There Lonely Boy, made the Top 30, it was the highest they would ever get on the charts again. (In 1970, Eddie Holman changed a few words to that third hit single and had a worldwide smash with Hey There Lonely Girl.)

Lew: Even the R&B in 1963 sounded like easy listening. Don’t get me wrong, I like the record anyway.

John: Not much production-wise, but Ruby Nash’s vocal was a landmark of the emerging concept of Supper Club Soul. Dionne Warwick had a lot greater support, but even she didn’t sing better.

Neal: Good to know that someone besides me likes this record and appreciates this fine singing. 

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: No
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1963 Chiffons HesSoFine 600

March 30–April 20

The Chiffons
He’s So Fine
Laurie 3152
(4 weeks)

The girl group sound continued in popularity with He’s So Fine. The Chiffons placed One Fine Day in the Top 10 later in ’63 then never came close to the top of the charts again.

John: 1963 was peak girl group (in both quantity and quality), as our list shows. The quality didn’t get better than this. The Chiffons were the most anonymous of the really top-flight girl groups but they were as great as anyone vocally. Judy Craig was fantastic and got even less credit than usual.

Ironic that Phil Spector, who worked harder at giving his singers as little credit as possible than anyone else, ended up making Ronnie Spector and Darlene Love more famous than the competition simply by virtue of intriguing people like Tom Wolfe and Greil Marcus so much they at least had to mention the singers once in a while.

Life’s funny sometimes.

Neal: In 1970, George Harrison brought He’s So Fine back to life—and everyone’s attention—by regurgitating it as My Sweet Lord, which also topped the charts.

Lew: George did get sued for copyright infringement, and lost, though he claimed it was “unconscious.”

Neal: While unconscious plagiarism is a fact of life in the creative world that occurs all the time, George’s co-producer on the ALL THINGS MUST PASS project was Phil Spector. I have always had a difficult time how the master of the girl-group record—and one of the most intense competitors of one of the most competitive periods in pop music history—didn’t notice the more than striking similarity between his project and a record that he competed with for airplay and sales in 1963.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (4 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1963 AndyWilliams CantGetUsedToLosingYou ps 1 600

Medium 45 1963 AndyWilliams CantGetUsedToLosingYou 600b

April 27

Andy Williams
Can’t Get Used To Losing You
Columbia 4-42674
(1 week)

Back in the ’60s, I had a couple of relatives who joined record clubs to get the great upfront deals (“Be our guest! . . . Any 5 albums—only 97¢!”) and then uniformly failed to fill out the monthly form and order records they actually wanted and instead received a couple of LPs that the record company was pushing. 

The plus side was they both gave me all those albums they didn’t order so I ended up with a wider cross-section of ’60s pop music than most kids. And I kinda liked Andy Williams’ DAYS OF WIN AND ROSES album, which included this single. Andy had an almost perfect singing voice and sang in an almost perfect singing style—devoid of soul and zest appeal. Not that there isn’t an allure to perfection.

John: Another example of rock & roll aesthetics forcing a traditional pop singer out of his comfort zone—with glorious results. Not a term I often associate with Andy’s records.

Lew: There was more to Andy Williams than meets the eye. His TV show had a lot of crazy stuff, including Ray Stevens and a guy in a bear costume, and when he let Stevens replace him in the summer of 1970, it got positively surreal. He was also pals with Bobby Kennedy, though he swerved to the far right in his dotage.

This is a fine piece of material (as the [English] Beat proved in 1980), but Williams’s delivery doesn’t do much for me. It was written by the great team of Pomus and Shuman, who wrote This Magic Moment, Little Sister, and lots of other well-deserved hits.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1963 PeggyMarch IWillFollowHim 600

May 4–May 18

Little Peggy March
I Will Follow Him
RCA Victor 47-8139
(3 weeks)

Interesting record: the verses to I Will Follow Him are straight pop and would sound comfortable in a Steve Lawrence or Andy Williams record. The choruses are more rock & roll and would sound so fine in a contemporary girl-group record. 

John: A thumping rock & roll record with a wailing vocal that knocks the top of your head off. Granted, this was the year I turned 3 years old.

Lew: The first of two teenagers on the list with the sobriquet “Little” and an invented stage surname, the other being Stevie Wonder.

Neal: I agree with John that this is a thumping rock & roll record with a thumping great arrangement and production but I find Lil’ Peg’s wailing vocal to be grating.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (3 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1963 JimmySoul IfYouWannaBeHappy PS 600

Medium 45 1963 JimmySoul IfYouWannaBeHappy 600

May 25

Jimmy Soul
If You Wanna Be Happy
S.P.Q.R. 45-3305
(1 week)

First man: “Say, man!”
Jimmy Soul: “Hey, baby!”
First man: “I saw your wife the other day.”
Jimmy Soul: “Yeah?”
First man: “Yeah, and she’s ugly.”
Jimmy Soul: “Yeah, she’s ugly but she sure can cook, baby!”

How does one argue with that? (Those lines are actually in the song!)

John: We’re in a good stretch here. Marianne Faithful once said she bought the whole “rock & roll was dead until the Brits saved it” narrative until the ace arranger Jack Nietzsche sat her down and played her a lot of records that had been big hits just before Beatlemania. Hard to believe he wouldn’t have included this one (or that it didn’t make his old boss Phil Spector put a contract out on everyone involved).

Lew: If the sound of this record is familiar, it’s because it was originally intended for Gary U.S. Bonds (see Quarter To Three as the July 1, 1961, entry), with whom Soul shared writer/producer Frank Guida. Guida created “the Norfolk sound” for Bonds and Soul and a handful of other less successful artists. In my rating below this record loses a star for sexism above and beyond contemporary mores.

John: I do find it weird that I’ve known pretty and not-so-pretty girls who were offended by it but, in an era where tastes were driven by the record-buying habits of teenage girls and the boys who wanted to at least be on speaking terms with them come Friday night, it still made #1.

Neal: Snowflakiness had not infected our generation.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1963 LesleyGore ItsMyParty PS2 600

Medium 45 1963 LesleyGore ItsMyParty 600b

June 1–June 8

Lesley Gore
It’s My Party
Mercury 72119
(2 weeks)

Lesley Gore topped the chart with It’s My Party, a record that should have had a girl-group sound behind her lead vocal. Lesley followed this with her own answer song, Judy’s Turn To Cry, which picks up where It’s My Party left off.

John: Lesley Gore was her own girl group.

Lew: I love Lesley Gore. What a voice. But a lot of credit for her hit singles has to go to her producers, Quincy Jones (later to hit the stratosphere producing Michael Jackson) and Bob Crewe (Four Seasons).

For more on Lesley Gore, see the photo and text about her at the end of this article.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1963 KyuSakamoto Sukiyaki.600

June 15–July 6

Kyu Sakamoto
Sukiyaki
Capitol 4945
(4 weeks)

The Japanese title of this song has nothing to do with food: it is Ue O Muite Aruko, which translates as “Walk With Your Chin Up.” Kenny Ball recorded the song as an instrumental, inexplicably changing the title to Sukiyaki. When Capitol Records chose to issue Sakamoto’s vocal version, they kept Ball’s ridiculous title.

Lew: I always loved this song because of the irresistible melody and the way it found sadness in what was rhythmically an upbeat song. It was a huge hit in Japan, which says a lot about the universality of music. Why can’t we have more of that?

The US title, which refers to a Japanese beef dish and was used because it was easy for Westerners to pronounce, has nothing whatsoever to do with the song; per Wikipedia, “a Newsweek columnist noted that the retitled song was like issuing ‘Moon River’ in Japan under the title ‘Beef Stew’.”

Neal: Had Capitol issued this with the correct English title of Walk With Your Chin Up instead of Sukiyaki would it have been anywhere near as big a hit?

John: No.

Lew: But it could have been if you called it Hold Your Head Up, as Argent proved in 1972.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (3 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal:

 

Medium 45 1963 Essex EasierSaidThanDone 600

July 13–July 20

The Essex
Easier Said Than Done
Roulette R-4494
(2 weeks)

The members of the Essex were all active members of the US Marine Corps, including lead singer Anita Humes. They recorded Easier Said than Done in a few minutes as the flip-side to the song they thought would be the hit side of their first record, Are You Going My Way.

John: Catchy. Humes’s vocal is the closest thing to a distinctive quality on the record and it’s not all that distinctive. I suspect its appeal lay partly in an essential rock & roll quality, though—the idea that anybody might get lucky and make a breakout record!

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1963 JanDean SurfCity PS 1 600

Medium 45 1963 JanDean SurfCity 600

July 27

Jan & Dean
Surf City
Liberty 55580
(1 week)

Beach Boy Brian Wilson wrote most of Surf City but gave it to his buddies Jan Berry and Dean Torrance. Jan finished the song and Surf City became the only vocal record about surfing to reach #1 on either Cash Box or Billboard. Brian’s father and Beach Boys manager Murry Wilson supposedly blew a gasket when he found out.

John: I first heard this in the late ’70s when I was about 16 or 17 years old. Two girls for every guy sounded pretty good to me. Not long after, I decided one girl was plenty! I think that’s called growing up. By the way, I can’t imagine the Beach Boys making it any greater, and that’s saying something.

Neal: When this was a hit, I was 11 years old, so the refrain, “Two girls for every guy” didn’t quite register with me. A few years later and I got it. A few years after that, I moved to California.

Lew: The membrane between the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean was very porous. This is a Beach Boys song in all but name. Dean was a guest on the BEACH BOYS PARTY! album. Jan & Dean used the original SMILE backing track for Vegetables for their version of the song. Et cetera.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1963 StevieWonder Fingertips PS 600

Medium 45 1963 StevieWonder Fingertips 600

August 3–August 24

Little Stevie Wonder
Fingertips – Pt 2
Tamla TM-54080
(4 weeks)

Berry Gordy’s vision of black pop music found its way to the top of the Cash Box survey when Little Stevie Wonder’s Fingertips – Pt 2 was #1 for four weeks.

Lew: Stevie turned 13 years old in May 1963, and was already an accomplished pianist, drummer, and harmonica player. His prowess on the chromatic harmonica is on ample display here. Stevie is also the second of two teenagers on the list with the sobriquet “Little” and an invented stage surname, the other being Peggy March.

John: A one-of-a-kind record. Based on this he might have been a one-hit-wonder (unforgettable as that one hit would have been) or some kind of genius. We all know how that turned out.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (3 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1963 AllanSherman HelloMudduh PS 600

Medium 45 1963 AllanSherman HelloMudduh 600

August 31

Allan Sherman
Hello Mudduh, Hello Fadduh! (A Letter From Camp)
Warner Brothers 5378
(1 week)

“Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! Here I am at Camp Grenada. Camp is very entertaining and they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining. I went hiking with Joe Spivey; he developed poison ivy. You remember Leonard Skinner? He got ptomaine poisoning last night after dinner.”

Yup, a million people bought this single, and then a few hundred thousand more went out and bought the album, MY SON, THE NUT. Go figure.

Lew: In the great tradition of pop music swiped from classical sources (see Elvis Presley’s It’s Now Or Never in 1960 and the Toys’ A Lover’s Concerto in 1966 for a couple of prominent examples), the melody here is from Dance Of The Hours from Amilcare Ponchielli’s opera, La Giaconda.

John: It’s funny as long as I don’t hear it more than once every few years. What possessed people to want to hear it over and over I’ve always failed to grok.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No
• Grammy Award: Best Comedy Performance 1963

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮
Neal:

 

Medium 45 1963 Angels MyBoyfriendsBack 600

September 7–September 14

The Angels
My Boyfriend’s Back
Smash S-1834
(2 weeks)

First, My Boyfriend’s Back is arguably the best girl-group record ever with a dynamite lead vocal by Peggy Santiglia—which is amazing given that most of the Angels’ recordings are rather mediocre.

Second, My Boyfriend’s Back was written and produced by Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein, and Richard Gottehrer. This trio was also responsible for the McCoys’ Hang On Sloopy reaching #1 (see the October 2, 1965, entry) and also had three Top 40 when they pretended to be three brothers from Australia who went by the name of the Strangeloves.

John: The Chiffons covered My Boyfriend’s Back and killed it. It could have been #1 itself. But I’m glad the Angels did it. I wouldn’t want to be without this. Richard Gotteher, who was involved in writing and producing this record later produced breakout hits for Blondie and the Go-Go’s. (If the Go-Go’s hadn’t broken out, I probably wouldn’t be here.) This alone would assure anyone’s place in Rock & Roll Heaven.

Neal: Instead of Rock & Roll Heaven, why don’t we try for something a wee bit more secular and argue for his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?

John: I’d be fine with that, too. As, I’m sure, would he.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (3 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1963 BobbyVinton BlueVelvet PS 1 600

Medium 45 1963 BobbyVinton BlueVelvet 600

September 21–October 5

Bobby Vinton
Blue Velvet
Epic 5-9614
(3 weeks)

After Bobby Vinton’s Blue On Blue peaked at #3 in July ’63, the singer decided on doing a themed album, BLUE ON BLUE. Each of the twelve songs had “blue” in the title from which Epic issued Blue Velvet as a single. After it went to #1, Epic changed the title of the album to Blue Velvet.

John: Now the pop singers were starting to reach back to R&B oldies the way R&B singers had reached back to Tin Pan Alley in the ’50s. On the whole, I think the earlier reach was the more life-affirming.

Neal: Anyone who has seen David Lynch’s 1986 movie Blue Velvet will probably never hear this record or Roy Orbison’s In Dreams in quite the same way. (By the by, one of the creepiest movies ever made. In this case, that’s a compliment.)

John: I’d agree in general, and only add that Roy’s records were already weirder than David Lynch movies. Worth noting that, in one of his last interviews, Orbison compared the effect of the movie Blue Velvet to the first time he saw Elvis. Lynch should probably make a movie about that—the day Roy Orbison saw Elvis predicting David Lynch.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (3 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮
Neal:

 

Medium 45 1963 Ronettes BeMyBaby 600

October 12

The Ronettes
Be My Baby
Philles 116
(1 week)

Phil Spector reached #1 with the Ronettes’ Be My Baby, his first since he wrote, arranged, produced, and even sang on the Teddy Bears’ chart-topping To Know Him Is To Love Him from 1958. Whereas the early record was somewhat tentative, Be My Baby is a full-blown masterpiece—arguably the best #1 record of the year.

(If I could get Brian Wilson to contribute one comment on this project, he’d probably read what I wrote and say, “Did you say ‘Arguably the best record of the year?’ It’s the greatest record ever!”)

Lew: No argument here.

John: Ronnie Spector’s voice redirected the lives of Phil Spector, Brian Wilson, and John Lennon (who called her The Voice). Not their musical careers. Their lives. The music followed along naturally enough. The drummer’s not half-bad either.

Lew: Since you brought up Hal Blaine, let’s say his name. You could certainly make an argument that he’s the greatest drummer of all time. Not just his perfect time-keeping and his faultless taste, but his distinctive sound—the booming bass, the stuttering high tom fills, and most of all his love of cut time, where he hits the snare on every count rather than just 2 and 4, adding just that much more drive to the beat.

Among my prized possessions is the letter Hal wrote me when I sent him a copy of my novel Glimpses (in which he appears). In addition to being a great drummer and the class clown of the Wrecking Crew, he’s a hell of a nice guy.

John: Co-sign to everything about his drumming and it’s good to hear he has personal qualities to match!

Neal: Johnny Sneed’s portrayal of Blaine in the 2004 movie Love & Mercy showed him sympathetic and encouraging to the young Brian Wilson. In other words, he came across as a nice guy, something Brian could have used more of in the studio and in his life back then.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1963 JimmyGilmer SugarShack 600

October 19–November 2

Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs
Sugar Shack
Dot 45-16487
(3 weeks)

In the ’60s, coffeehouses that served espresso coffee were rather rare in the United States and usually associated with beatniks in Greenwich Village or San Francisco. In the song, the singer is enamored of “this cute little girlie” who works at the sugar shack and wears “a black leotard and her feet are bare.” That sounds like a beatnik chick.

Lew: The Fireballs were tied up with Norman Petty, whose studio was in the small town of Clovis, New Mexico. Petty produced Buddy Holly’s early records as well as hits from Buddy Knox, Roy Orbison, and others. The Fireballs had instrumental hits in 1959 with Torquay and Bulldog, then added Petty’s studio pianist, Jimmy Gilmer, to record the vocals on Sugar Shack.

The Fireballs had one more big hit in 1967 (sans Gilmer) with the Tom Paxton song, Bottle Of Wine, which sounded like more than one bottle had been consumed during the recording.

An oddity in their history is that they provided backing tracks for some Holly demos that Petty released after Holly’s death in 1959.

John: I’ve known people to basically define the whole lost era of the pre-Beatles ’60s by dumping on this record. Really, it’s not that bad. It’s been a lot of years since I played it on purpose. But it doesn’t sound like a reason to start a revolution. Maybe other things were happening as well, along about November of ’63.

Neal: Believe it or not, the Surfaris recorded Sugar Shack for their HIT CITY ’64 album.

John: I actually don’t believe that. And hearing it will not convert me.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (5 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (November 29, 1963)
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1963 NinoTemple DeepPurple 600

November 9–November 16

Nino Tempo & April Stevens
Deep Purple
Atco 45-6273
(2 weeks)

Believe it or not, Deep Purple was issued as the flip-side of a song titled I’ve Been Carrying A Torch For You So Long That It Burned A Great Big Hole In My Heart. Could I make something like that up?

Lew: Actually a brother and sister act (Antonino and Carol Vincinette LoTempio). The fact that this song, though moderately pretty, won a Grammy for Best Rock & Roll Record of the Year says more about the advanced age of the Grammy voters than it does about the song.

John: On the other hand, 1963 really did close out on a rather soft-spoken note. These last two months put us in the longest streak of records that could have been hits if rock & roll never happened in at least four years. I don’t think that’s the main reason the Beatles happened when they did. But it was probably a force multiplier.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No
• Grammy Award: Best Rock & Roll Recording 1963

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1963 DaleGrace ImLeavingItUpToYou 600

November 23

Dale & Grace
I’m Leaving It Up To You
Montel 921
(1 week)

Slightly hokey country & western remake of the rhythm & blues version by Don & Dewey from 1957. Why the original version was ignored and a million people bought Dale Houston and Grace Broussard’s version is one of life’s ineffable mysteries.

John: On November 22, 1963, Dale and Grace were with Brian Hyland and Bobby Vee on Main Street in Dallas, Texas, all touring as part of Dick Clark’s Caravan and scheduled to perform that evening. The show was canceled for well-known reasons. The singers had waved to President Kennedy and then returned to their hotel.

They did not hear about the assassination until several hours later. The next day, they hit #1 with I’m Leaving It Up To You. Talk about the end of an era.

Don & Dewey’s version is nice and so is this one, but I’ll risk the charge of sacrilege and admit I like Donnie and Marie’s later version best (it was a Top 10 hit in 1974). This may mark me as a pure product of a more cynical age.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew : ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1963 SingingNun Dominique PS 600b

Medium 45 1963 SingingNun Dominique 600b

November 30–December 28

The Singing Nun
Dominique
Philips 40152
(5 weeks)

The biggest hit of the year was by a Catholic nun! Jeanne Paule Deckers, also known as Sœur Sourire (“Sister Smile”), was a member of the Dominican Order in Belgium. I think this record sold millions in the US alone and I’m surprised that Philips didn’t have it certified by the RIAA for a Gold Record Award.

John: At this point, there must have been at least a few people in the recording industry who thought, “Aha—we now have things firmly back in our control.” Feel free to insert maniacal laughter here.

Neal: The Singing Nun’s life is the stuff of legend: she left the order, came out as a Lesbian, used drugs, and committed joint suicide with her long-time partner.

For more on the Singing Nun, see the photo and text about her at the beginning of this article.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (4 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No
• Grammy Award: Best Gospel or Religious Recording – Musical 1963

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew :
Neal:

 

LesleyGore close up 1000

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is Lesley Sue Goldstein, better known as Lesley Gore. Her big year was 1963 when her first single, It’s My Party, topped both the Billboard and Cash Box charts. She released three more singles that year, each reaching the Top 5: Judy’s Turn To Cry, She’s A Fool,  and You Don’t Own Me. She had an up-and-down career as a hitmaker after that, with five more Top 20 hits spread out over the next three years. But because all her big hits were in her first year, she’s often perceived as a bit of an underachiever.

Had those four big hits been spread out over her first four years (1963–1966) with one per year, the effect would be that we would see her in a different light—probably a better light. Her initial chart-topping success would appear sustained, rather than freakish and would probably elevate her in the perception of historians, fans, and maybe even tho blindered Rock & Roll Hall of Fame voters.

Following her death in February 2015, Time magazine featured a tribute by Richard Corless titled “Remembering Lesley Gore, a ’60s Queen of Teen Angst”:

“The nice Jewish girl matriculated directly from the Dwight School for Girls in Englewood, N.J., to Sarah Lawrence College. She never took a year off in her education because, as she sensibly noted at the time, ‘It would be very foolish of me to leave school to go into such an unpredictable field on a full-time basis.’ Lesley Gore’s part-time field was pop singer, and in her brief but urgent prime she was the Queen of Teen Angst.”

Year-end observations

Twenty-two records reached #1 on the Cash Box Top 100 chart in 1963. Here is the breakdown of #1 records based on how many weeks they spent at the top of the chart:

8 weeks: 0
7 weeks: 0
6 weeks: 0
5 weeks: 1
4 weeks: 3
3 weeks: 3
2 weeks: 7
1 week:   8

The year before the British Invasion blew everything wide open and changed the way the world thought about rock & roll (that would be 1964), the top of the American charts were dominated by relatively tame pop. Steve Lawrence, Ruby & the Romantics, Andy Williams, Kyu Sakamoto, Allan Sherman, and Bobby Vinton all made #1 on the Cash Box Top 100 with records that had absolutely nothing to do with rock & roll or rhythm & blues or much of anything else we associate with the people who supposedly bought all the 45s—teenagers.

In England, things were different: beat groups were everywhere! In fact, it sometimes seemed like groups were all that was happening on the British music scene. Aside from the Beatles reaching the toppermost of the poppermost, other successful groups included Gerry & the Pacemakers, Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas, Freddie & the Dreamers, the Searchers, and the Dave Clark Five.

This is not to say that things weren’t happening: Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys were redefining West Coast pop and rock with infectious, energetic records about surfing and hot rods and lots and lots of girls.

In Detroit, Berry Gordy was redefining the sound of black pop music with infectious, energetic records with his Motown and Tamla artists. And a bunch of folkies looked askance at the whole enterprise of commercialized Top 40 radio fare and instead played their guitars and learned Woody Guthrie songs.

But the times they were a-changing.

Gold Record Awards

Of the twenty-two records that reached #1, Joseph Murrells lists twenty-one of them as million-sellers. Yet the artists, their management, and their record companies thought so little of the RIAA Gold Record Award that only two companies sought “official” certification: Philips for Paul & Paula’s Hey Paula and Dot for Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs’ Sugar Shack.

RIAA certification rate: 1%

 


 

2 thoughts on “the #1 hit records on the pop charts 1963”

    • J

      I would think more than twice about these:

      Go Away Little Girl
      Hey Paula
      Our Day Will Come
      Can’t Get Used to Losing You
      Sukiyaki
      Easier Said Than Done
      Hello Muddah
      Blue Velvet
      Sugar Shack
      Deep Purple
      I’m Leaving It Up To You
      Dominique

      N

      Reply

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