LesleyGore close up 1500

the #1 hit records on the pop charts 1963

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.

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.

 

Medium IMAGE SingingNun 600 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 gov­ernor. In his in­au­gural speech, he ex­horted, “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 codes.

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.

 


 

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 and 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 the 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.” (R.I.P great lady.)

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 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 fine su­perfine 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 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 were pushing.

The plus side was they both gave me all those al­bums they didn’t order so I ended up a with a wider cross-section of ’60s pop music that 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 like 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 who 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. 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:

The Singing Nun’s ‘Do­minique’ was the biggest hit of 1963 on the Cash Box Top 100. Find the other big hits of the year here! Click To Tweet

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%

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neal, if you were buying records for re­sale in VG+ con­di­tion or better from a juker for say 10 cents each which ones on this list would you leave be­hind?