December 31st 2012
Final instalment of my imaginary Festive Fifty from 1962. This is my idea of what might have been included in a listeners’ Festive Fifty chart if John Peel, or similar, had been working for the BBC in 1962.
Hope you’ve enjoyed it – you may or may not agree with the selections, which is perfectly fine by me. Happy to chat about any glaring omissions / ridiculous inclusions.
Here’s the Top Ten, followed by a full rundown of the entire Festive Fifty.
10. ROY ORBISON – Dream Baby
An example of how the right singer can transform a song.
Writer Cindy Walker, a prolific sountry singer in her own right, was not happy with this song until she heard the The Big O’s take on it, which transforms it from a fairly standard yearning ballad into a sleazy bar-room wail.
9. THE CRYSTALS – He Hit Me And It Felt Like A Kiss http://bit.ly/Vc1QMj
One of the most controversial songs of the year, this was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King after hearing that singer Little Eva (“The Locomotion”) was being regularly beaten by her boyfriend. When asked why, Eva replied that his actions came out of love for her.
The song comes across as a simple slice of life story, told without judgment.
It’s pretty shocking and it’s hard to find any hint of irony in it.
I reckon John Peel would have played it in the face of criticism from his employers, and his listeners would have picked up on it and voted it in here as a rebellious action.
But feminism and equal rights for women were a very long way away in 1962, and it is perhaps fanciful to imagine him, or any other male DJ (and I’m not sure there was any other kind of DJ then) playing it as a political statement.
8. THE CONTOURS – Do You Love Me
Written by Berry Gordy (well, that’s what it says on the label but there’s a whol can of worms there, perhaps a topic for another day) for the Temptations, who, like the Contours at the time, had no hits to their name, but, incredible as it sounds, the Temps were unaware that Gordy had a song for them to record and had disappeared to undertake another paid engagement.
So the Contours gratefully recorded it and it became a huge hit for them – indeed, their only hit.
It’s a great record, but something of a one-off novelty without a great deal of depth to it, so it may well be that the Temptations had a lucky escape. Who knows, if they hadn’t found a gospel music showcase gig when Gordy was looking for them, it could have been them who were introduced to the world with this dance cash-in rather than the sensitive, meaningful “My Girl”. On such events do our lives change.
7. DION – The Wanderer
Another record from the simple era that was the early sixties.
Sung completely without irony it is basically a celebration of shagging around that is difficult to resist.
Always wondered what precisely he meant by the “two fists of iron” line though, in the context of a song about a womaniser. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it?
6. TONY SHERIDAN AND THE BEAT BROTHERS – My Bonnie
The first big hit, at least locally on Merseyside, for the Beatles (credited here as the Beat Brothers and backing club singer Tony Sheridan.
Legend has it that this is the song that alerted future manager Brian Epstein to the band’s existence when a teenage boy came into his record shop and asked for it.
Epstein had never heard of the record or the band. Intrigued, he began to investigate the band and ended up managing them.
This record had come out the previous year but, in this alternative Peel history, would have achieved a huge head of steam during 1962, and would have gained plenty of votes from those in the know.
5) DICK DALE – Misirlou
The origins of this tune are unclear, but it was written in the late twenties by an unknown Greek writer.
It became popular throughout the Middle East in various tempos, styles and even lyrics being added.
In 1962, Dick Dale was challenged by a fan to play a song on one string of his guitar. Dale’s family was a Lebanese-American musician, and he remembered seeing one of his uncles play “Misirlou” on one string of the oud.
Speeding up the song to a rock and roll tempo and adding the crashing drums, cinematic strings and the crazed closing piano figure, the record became a massive hit, and would be covered by pretty much all the surf bands of the era.
4) DEL SHANNON – So Long Baby
This could well have struck a chord with the listeners.
Possibly the greatest “We’re through and I’ve moved on” song ever recorded, the protagonist begins by putting a brave face on it but it soon becomes clear that he is on no way over the relationship.
The minor key and oddly plaintive horn solo bring this out further.
And all this is done in just a shade over two minutes.
3) HOWIE CASEY & THE SENIORS – The Fly
1962 was undoubtedly the Seniors’ year.
Slightly ahead of the other Mersey groups in terms of making records and tightening up their live sound, this dancefloor classic captures the feel of Merseybeat 1962 in two and a half minutes.
Things would change once the Beatles started hitting their stride though.
2) BOOKER T & THE MGs – Green Onions
Organist Booker T Jones and his band were the house band for Stax Records during the sixties.
This simple 12-bar blues tune with a soulful Hammond organ lead line that pretty much defined the sound of sixties R and B.
1) THE TORNADOS – Telstar
Named after the Telstar communications satellite, which was launched into orbit in July 1962, this was written and produced by the legendary British produced Joe Meek.
It still sounds like an alien thing today, so God only knows what effect it had in 1962.
It was a ground-breaking record in many ways. Firstly, the futuristic lead line played on the clavioline, an early electronic keyboard. Secondly, it was the first record by a British band to reach Number One in the USA, very much the shape of things to come over the next couple of years during the British Invasion.
Most of all, though, all the futuristic-sounding effects were created in Meek’s recording studio, which was a flat above a shop in North London.
I’ve really enjoyed putting this imaginary Festive Fifty together and I hope you’ve enjoyed it too.
I’ll most likely do one for 1963 next Christmas. There would be a good argument for including about 20 Beatles tracks but we’ll see …
Meantime, here’s the full rundown.
FESTIVE FIFTY OF 1962
1. THE TORNADOS – Telstar
2. BOOKER T & THE MGs – Green Onions
3. HOWIE CASEY & THE SENIORS – The Fly
4. DEL SHANNON – So Long Baby
5. DICK DALE – Misirlou
6. TONY SHERIDAN & THE BEAT BROTHERS – My Bonnie
7. DION – The Wanderer
8. THE CONTOURS – Do You Love Me?
9. THE CRYSTALS – He Hit Me (And If Felt Like A Kiss)
10. ROY ORBISON – Dream Baby
11. DUANE EDDY – The Avenger
12. HOWIE CASEY & THE SENIORS – I Ain’t Mad At You
13. ISLEY BROTHERS – Twist And Shout
14. MARVIN GAYE – Hitch-Hike
15. MARY WELLS – Operator
16. DUANE EDDY – The Ballad Of Paladin
17. BOB DYLAN – Song To Woody
18. THE RIVINGTONS – Papa Oom Mow Mow
19. THE SHADOWS – Wonderful Land
20. THE TOKENS – The Lion Sleeps Tonight
21. BOBBY “BORIS” PICKETT AND THE CRYPT-KICKERS – The Monster Mash
22. THE BEACH BOYS – 409
23. DEL SHANNON – Cry Myself To Sleep
24. DUANE EDDY – Dance With The Guitar Man
25. BOB DYLAN – You’re No Good
26. ELVIS PRESLEY – Good Luck Charm
27. EVERLY BROTHERS – I’m Here To Get My Baby Out Of Jail
28. HOWIE CASEY & THE SENIORS – Twist At The Top
29. MARY WELLS – I’m Gonna Stay
30. MARVIN GAYE – That Stubborn Kind Of Fella
31. LITTLE OTIS HAYES – I Out-Duked The Duke
32. BOB DYLAN – Talking New York
33. ELVIS PRESLEY – Return To Sender
34. GENE CHANDLER – Duke Of Earl
35. RAY CHARLES – Half As Much
36. THE VENTURES – My Bonnie Lies
37. EVERLY BROTHERS – I’m Not Angry
38. GINO PARKS – Fire
39. JET HARRIS – The Man With The Golden Arm
40. LORD BLAKIE – Maria
41. THE BEATLES – Love Me Do
42. RAY CHARLES – It Makes No Difference Now
43. THE TORNADOS – Jungle Fever
44. BOB DYLAN – Fixin’ To Die
45. BYRON LEE – River Bank Jump Up
46. DAPHNE ORAM – Four Aspects
47. EVERLY BROTHERS – How Can I Meet Her
48. GINO PARKS – For This I Thank You
49. LITTLE STEVIE WONDER – Wondering
50. SAM COOKE – Bring It On Home To Me