The Beatles and ‘From Me to You’ was the UK #1 on this day in 1963 (it was Little Peggy March and ‘I Will Follow Him’ in the US). It was indeed the year of the Liverpool mop-tops, who enjoyed great coverage as Beatlemania swept the globe.
They had their first hit single with ‘Please Please Me’, from their debut album of the same name, earlier in the year. The Rolling Stones released their first single, ‘Come On’. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Dylan’s second album, from which so many epic songs came; includes the inspirational opener, ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, and my personal favourite, ‘A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall’, through his biting ‘Masters of War’ and the touchingly poignant ‘Bob Dylan’s Dream’, with its mournful ending to which I’m sure we can all relate:
“I wish, I wish, I wish in vain
That we could sit simply in that room again
Ten thousand dollars at the drop of a hat
I’d give it all gladly if our lives could be like that”
Dylan’s naked rage and truculence, though, is tempered by the time of the album’s close with delightful puckishness. The record must truly be a contender for Best Ever Side One, but that can be a blog for another day.
There were three albums by the Beach Boys in this year – Surfin’ USA, Surfer Girl and Little Deuce Coupe – boasting songs now embedded irremovably in the soul of any music aficionado of worth. From the second of these comes quite possibly the most beautiful of songs ever written, with a tenderness and harmonies unsurpassed, included in the below list.
It was another year of guitar instrumentals, from not only The Shadows (‘Foot Tapper’) and Surfaris (‘Wipe Out’), but also The Spotnicks (‘Just Listen To My Heart’) and Tornados (‘Robot’). You have got to see the video to the latter.
Granted, there were some stinkers. Another song I (thankfully) forgot and thus omitted from even my second list of tunes with a girls’ name in the title is the turgid ‘Hey Paula’ by Paul and Paula, a song made up of two singers telling each other that they want to marry. Horrible. See for yourself, here.
It is but a minor flaw in an otherwise fine year, though. Here are six of my favourite songs from 1963, several of which have been covered by The Beatles, which I leave to you to spot. Not included is Buddy Holly’s ‘Brown-Eyed Handsome Man’, also from 1963 and more recently included on Paul McCartney’s Run Devil Run album, which of course featured our David. Neither is ‘You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me’ by The Miracles, but that’s because it’s not from 1963, but 1962.
You can blithely and correctly assume a fondness for the Beatles and Bob Dylan, as I may have mentioned a preference for them once or twice previously, so I leave them out here. I think that, even in their absence, it’s a respectable list of strong tunes representing another victory for Sixties over Seventies. What say you?
– Beach Boys, ‘In My Room’
– The Big Three, ‘Some Other Guy’
– The Chiffons, ‘He’s So Fine’
– Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas, ‘Do You Want To Know a Secret’
– Martha and The Vandellas, ‘(Love Is Like a) Heatwave’
– Roy Orbison, ‘In Dreams’
Also on my list for future blogs, by the way, to be written whenever the mood takes me, is sounds in song; from the “oomph pah pah” of ‘My Little Baby’ by Mike Berry and The Outlaws to The Crystals’ ‘Da Doo Ron Ron (When He Walked Me Home)’. Yes, 1963 sure was a great year for silly noises.
As it was for falsetto. The Four Seasons and ‘Walk Like a Man’, covered by David’s Jokers Wild, springs to mind. The most impressive of them all, however, has to be Lou Christie’s very admirable and unlikely-to-be-impersonated-with-honour-on-too-many-occasions ‘Two Faces Have I’.
So, for all you ascetics and dreamers, have a look back at 1963: a time when you could sing about staying in your bedroom without sounding like a pervert or a geek. The girls had undoubted class, the boys had a certain vulnerability that made them relatively harmless. Doesn’t it almost make you long for a return, even only momentarily, to the innocence and folly of youth?
Anyway, if you can’t find at least half a dozen songs that you like from this year, I don’t know what’s the matter with you.
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