Originally posted November 28, 2007
I’ve been staring at the songs included in today’s Baker’s Dozen for a few minutes now, trying to think of what to say about 1962. I have a few vague memories of the year, but the only thing I clearly remember was that President John Kennedy was scheduled to visit St. Cloud that October. His visit was planned in support of a local Democrat who was running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The president canceled. I recall being disappointed, but I don’t remember what forced the cancellation (although I do have vague memories of snow on the ground that day). I found an answer this morning. According to a page at the American Presidency Project, an archive at the University of California, Santa Barbara that has a seemingly extensive online presence, Kennedy’s October 7 trip to St. Cloud was canceled due to inclement weather. Instead, the president spoke by telephone from Minneapolis to a Democratic rally in St. Cloud.
As that’s not a lot to support any kind of discussion of 1962, let’s go the library and find out what people were listening to that year. Here’s a list of the No. 1 hits from the year:
“Peppermint Twist – Part 1” by Joey Dee & the Starliters
“Duke of Earl” by Gene Chandler
“Hey Baby” by Bruce Channel
“Don’t Break the Heart That Loves You” by Connie Francis
“Johnny Angel” by Shelley Fabares
“Good Luck Charm” by Elvis Presley
“Soldier Boy” by the Shirelles
“Stranger on the Shore” by Mr. Acker Bilk
“I Can’t Stop Loving You” by Ray Charles
“The Stripper” by David Rose from the film The Stripper
“Roses Are Red (My Love)” by Bobby Vinton
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” by Neil Sedaka
“The Loco-Motion” by Little Eva
“Sheila” by Tommy Roe
“Sherry” by the Four Seasons
“Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris” Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers
“He’s A Rebel” by the Crystals
“Big Girls Don’t Cry” by the Four Seasons
“Telstar” by the Tornadoes
That’s not an entirely awful list. In fact, it’s a lot better than I thought it would be when I began paging through the year’s entries in The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. Still, any year in which Shelly Fabares, Connie Francis and Bobby Vinton can all reach the top of the chart . . . well, that’s not a very good year.
Leaving aside the novelty of “Monster Mash,” the oddest entry on the list has to be “Stranger on the Shore,” the lilting clarinet instrumental by Britain’s Mr. Acker Bilk. But then, the occasional odd instrumental – “The Stripper” falls there, too – is almost a tradition on the Top 40 chart. I think of 1972’s “Popcorn” by Hot Butter (No. 9), “Keem-O-Sabe” by the Electric Indian in 1969 (No. 16), 1962’s own “Midnight In Moscow” by Kenny Ball (No. 2) and Ferrante & Teicher’s 1969 release of the theme to the film Midnight Cowboy (No. 10). And those are just the ones that came quickly to mind.
That list of No. 1 songs make it very clear that 1962 was a far different musical world. But, even when keeping in mind that pop and rock music was still clearly a singles medium, the list of 1962’s top albums gives one pause:
Holiday Sing Along With Mitch by Mitch Miller & the Gang
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Henry Mancini
West Side Story soundtrack
Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music by Ray Charles
Peter, Paul & Mary by Peter, Paul & Mary
My Son, The Folksinger by Allan Sherman
The First Family by Vaughn Meader
If the singles from 1962 show a different world, then the albums – with the exception of the Ray Charles and, I guess, the Peter, Paul & Mary – show an entirely different universe. But two events that took place on September 15, 1962, however, showed that the universe was about to change:
On that day, the Billboard chart showed the first appearance on the Top 40 of the Beach Boys, with “Surfin’ Safari,” a single that peaked at No. 14. On the same day, the British label Parlophone signed to a recording contract a Liverpool quartet called the Beatles.
As to the world at large, there were also hints of changes to come. On July 10, AT&T’s Telstar, the first commercial communications satellite, went into orbit, and thirteen days later, it relayed the first live trans-Atlantic television signal.
And that’s where we’ll begin our songs from 1962, with “Telstar,” which turned out to be the last No. 1 single of the year.
A Baker’s Dozen from 1962
“Telstar” by the Tornadoes, London single 9561
“House of the Risin’ Sun” by Bob Dylan from Bob Dylan
“Oh, Lonesome Me” by Ray Charles from Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (Vol. Two)
“The Night Has A Thousand Eyes” by Bobby Vee, Liberty single 55521
“The One Who Really Loves You” by Mary Wells, Motown single 1024
“Stone Crazy” by Buddy Guy, Chess single 1812
“Smile” by Ferrante & Teicher, United Artists single 431
“You’ll Never Change” by Bettye LaVette, Atlantic single 2198
“Blue Guitar” by Earl Hooker, Age single 29106
“That’s No Way To Do” by Pink Anderson, from Carolina Medicine Show Hokum and Blues with Baby Tate
“What’s A Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You)” by Timi Yuro, Liberty single 55469
“I Found A Love” by the Falcons, LuPine single 1003
“The Stripper” by David Rose, MGM 13064, from the soundtrack to The Stripper
A few notes on some of the songs and performers:
“Oh Lonesome Me” comes from the second of Ray Charles’ two volumes of country and western music. Backing country songs with horns, strings and a background choir that sounds pretty saccharine today was revolutionary in 1962, and – I think – was the beginning of a trend that today finds the difference between country and pop pretty well gone except for the occasional insertion of a fiddle break. Even without their historical significance, the two Modern Sounds . . . albums are worth finding simply for Brother Ray’s extraordinary vocals.
“The Night Has A Thousand Eyes,” which went to No. 3, is one of the better records by Bobby Vee, who reached the Top 40 fourteen times between 1960 and 1968. Vee’s career is intriguing for a couple of reasons. First, he got his first big break in February of 1959, after Buddy Holly’s plane crashed just outside of Clear Lake, Iowa. Holly’s place on the tour’s next stop – Fargo, North Dakota – was filled by what Wikipedia terms “a hastily-assembled band” called Bobby Vee and the Shadows. The other intriguing thing to me is Vee’s 1972 album, a pretty good singer-songwriter/folky release called Nothing Like A Sunny Day that he released under his birth name of Robert Velline. (As he lives in the St. Cloud area, I’ve been tempted for a while to look Vee up and see if he’ll autograph my copy for me.)
Ferrante & Teicher’s version of “Smile” barely reached the charts, hitting No. 93 in a two-week stay on the Cash Box charts. The song’s melody was written by Charlie Chaplin and used as the romance theme for his film Modern Times in 1936. (The film marked the last appearance of Chaplin’s Little Tramp character.) In 1954, John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added lyrics to Chaplin’s composition and gave the song its title.
Earl Hooker was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1929 and was a cousin of blues legend John Lee Hooker. After “Blue Guitar” was released as a single by Age records in 1962, Muddy Waters used it as the backing for his recording of “You Shook Me,” making Earl Hooker the only slide guitarist besides Waters to ever appear on a Muddy Waters record. (Water’s record was released as Chess 1827.)
Carolina blues performer Pink Anderson is one-half of the answer to one of rock’s great trivia questions: How did Pink Floyd get its name? According to several sources, Syd Barrett noticed the names of Pink Anderson and Floyd Council in the liner notes of a 1962 Blind Boy Fuller album.
When you listen to “What’s A Matter Baby (Is It Hurting You),” pay attention to the drums. When the producer for Yuro’s session bailed for some reason, Phil Spector was brought in. And the drums sound like the work of Hal Blaine to me.