1965 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

It’s the “Eve of Destruction” and young Boomers “(Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” as Vietnam widens the generation gap and Motown hits become Civil Rights anthems.

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Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we do a dive deep into a year in Pop music and culture and count down the top ten songs of the year according to our exclusive recap of the weekly Pop charts that were published at the time in the music industry’s leading trade publication and chart authority, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush it’s 1965.

“I guess the ’50s would have ended in about ’65,” said none other than Bob Dylan. Beatlemania swept in in ’64, and after seeing the Beatles movie A Hard Day’s Night in the Summer, Folkie Roger McGuinn went out and got himself a 12-string Rickenbacker electric guitar like George Harrison’s in the movie, and started playing Beatle hits and Rock versions of Folk songs at L.A.’s top Folk club, the Troubadour. By the end of the year he had a band, The Byrds (with a “y”), and their debut single, a cover of Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”  went all the way to #1 in June. A month later Dylan himself was plugging in with a full Rock band for his set at the Newport Folk Festival: sacrilege to traditional Folkies, who only approved of acoustic instruments and booed Dylan. But Dylan doubled down on his all-electric Highway 61 Revisited album in the Fall.

The advance single was his opus, “Like a Rolling Stone,” which Columbia Records didn’t want to release because of its length, over six minutes. But after Dylan’s people leaked it to New York’s hot new society discotheque, Arthur, Columbia relented under pressure, and it became Dylan’s first top ten single. And just like that, a generation of screaming Teen Beatle fans were now plumbing the depths of Dylan’s psychedelic imagery and oblique social commentary, hanging on every word and expecting the same literary IQ from all their Pop stars.

Those kids of course were Baby Boomers: America’s largest-ever generation, and the first wave born in the late ’40s were aged 15 to 19, raised in affluence, comfort and modernity by parents who’d lived through the Depression and War, didn’t take much for granted, and took their responsibilities very seriously. Thousands of new schools built in the ’50s, Disneyland, Howdy Doody, Captain Kangaroo, and (speaking of Disney) Davy Crockett and The Mickey Mouse Club. And Hula Hoops and Slinkys and Mr. Potato Head and Barbie. And board games like the Game of Life to set them on the right path.

Get drafted and go to Vietnam though? Not a square on those board games. So when the U.S. put boots on the ground in March of ’65 and draft notices went out, it didn’t compute. No wonder Barry McGuire’s growly “Eve of Destruction” was an oddball #1 hit. “You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’,” right in the first verse! Now there was a generation gap. Just like that!

The values and norms and hard-nosed, ruthless pragmatism that’d won the War and built the so-called Affluent Society: was it all still necessary? Or was it all just relics of a harder world when their was no time to ponder nuances and deeper meanings or question authority? Either way it persisted, as deeply ingrained values and norms tend to do. Especially in advertising. “One-dimensional thought,” hostile to critical thinking and protest” was how counterculture philosopher Herbert Marcuse put it.

#10 The Beatles – Yesterday

Well, after a summer of big hits prying open the generation gap, our #10 song as we kick off our 1965 edition of The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show expressed a wistful, nostalgic yearning for simpler, less troubled times. A first for the band: just one member on the record with a string quartet added later by Producer George Martin and nearly issued as a Paul McCartney solo single. But it had the now requisite lyrical depth and intimacy to resonate with fans just turning on to Dylan, so it was a Beatle record, and it topped the chart for four weeks in October. “Yesterday.”

The Beatles’ “Yesterday” at #10 as we count down 1965’s top hits here on this week’s edition of Chartcrush.

Adult, or “Middle of the Road,” a top radio format in the mid ’60s, but unlike other eras, it didn’t have a lot in common with Top40: a bastion of pre-Rock Era artists and sounds that wanted nothing to do with The Beatles. You’d think “Yesterday” might’ve broken the ice, but not even a lush, orchestrated version by tuxedoed English Crooner Matt Monro arranged and produced by Beatles producer George Martin did. But The Beatles’ original sure soothed a lot of frayed Boomer nerves in the Fall with draft notices going out, troops in Vietnam nearing 200,000 and just weeks after the deadly Watts race riots in L.A.

#9 The Beatles – Help!

“Yesterday” of course, from The Beatles’ second feature film, Help!, but a single-only release in the U.S., not on the soundtrack album. The advance single from the movie and album though, “Ticket to Ride,” with George’s Rickenbacker 12-string electric guitar had topped the chart in May, a month before The Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man” upped the ante on 12-string jangle, and then just before “Yesterday,” in September when the film was in theaters, its title song topped the chart for three weeks, and that’s our #9 song!

Yes, a Beatles two-fer leading off our 1965 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. “Yesterday” at #10; “Help!” at #9. John Lennon with the vocal on “Help!,” a song he dashed off after the group decided last minute to change the title of the movie from Eight Arms to Hold You. Up to then, Lennon had been the singer on 10 of The Beatles’ 13 top ten hits, but starting with “Yesterday,” Paul McCartney became more dominant, singing on over half the band’s next 17 top tens up to their split in 1970.

#8 The Byrds – Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)

Next up, the L.A. band I’ve been talking about that launched Folk Rock with their first record in the Spring of ’65, their #1 version of “Mr. Tambourine Man.” The follow-up was another Dylan cover, “All I Really Want to Do,” but Cher’s punchier version beat it on the charts in tandem with Sonny & Cher’s #1 hit “I Got You Babe” in the Summer, and for a minute it looked like they’d relinquished the Folk Rock torch. But they got it back with their second #1 in the Fall; not a Dylan song, but verses from the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, set to music by Folk pioneer Pete Seeger. At #8 it’s The Byrds with “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

“Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season),” #8 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1965. Roger McGuinn went way back with that song. He played on the first recorded version in ’62 by The Limeliters and did the arrangement for Singer Judy Collins’ in ’63. Neither of those charted, but his own version with The Byrds was the group’s second #1 of ’65 after “Mr. Tambourine Man” in the Spring.

Despite peaking in December, “Turn! Turn! Turn!” still wasn’t the last word in Folk-Rock in ’65. Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sounds of Silence” made the top 10 the very last week of the year.

#7 Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs – Wooly Bully

At #7 is the song that Billboard named #1 on the year, even though it never topped the weekly chart. Not the first or last time that’s happened, but it was more likely in ’65 because Billboard‘s method for ranking the songs at the end of the year was a simple inverse point system. One point for #100, 100 points for #1 and so on. Add up the points for all the weeks and that’s the ranking. And this song logged more weeks on the chart than any other, 18.

They were a gimmicky Mexican-American Garage band that performed in robes and turbans and drove around in a 1952 Packard hearse. Front man Domingo “Sam” Samudio got his nickname for his shuffling dance while singing and playing his red Farfisa Compact electric organ. He wrote the song about his cat. At #7, Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs “Wooly Bully.”

“Wooly Bully.” Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs, the #7 song of 1965 by our ranking here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Again, Billboard‘s published year-end Hot100 has it as the #1 song of the year using their simple ranking method that tends to reward songs with long chart runs. Our more modern method, similar to Billboard’s in the 1980s, accounts for the fact that as a song approaches #1, its popularity based on sales, airplay etc. increases exponentially, more like a hockey stick graph than a straight line, so six other songs that did hit #1 beat out “Wooly Bully.”

#6 Herman’s Hermits – Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter

Now The Beatles may have introduced the whole cutesy, goofy, long-hair mop top thing, but it’s not called the British Invasion for nothing. 21 British acts in ’65 combined to score 40 of the 119 songs that cracked the top ten during the year. Six of those were Beatles records, but another six were by our act at #6, who faded from the U.K. charts after just a couple hits, but were hot on the Fab Four’s heels in the U.S. in ’65 as an export-only group, doubling down on cute with exaggerated accents and a singer who was just 17. It’s Herman’s Hermits, their first #1 hit, “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter.”

Herman’s Hermits, “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” at #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1965Herman’s Hermits notched nine more top tens over the next two years and were in three MGM movies (MGM, also their record label).

#5 The Four Tops – I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)

At the end of 1963, Billboard decided it didn’t need an R&B chart anymore after over 20 years of publishing one. Martin Luther King’s dream of racial integration was a reality as far as the charts were concerned. And you can see why they’d think that glancing at the R&B and Hot100 charts from ’63 side-by-side: half the top 20 on both, week-to-week, give or take: the same songs by the same artists! And it wasn’t just R&B crossing over to the Hot100. White acts like The Four Seasons, Dion, Lesley Gore, Little Peggy March and even Folk group The Rooftop Singers scored top five hits on the R&B chart too.

But all that all changed when The Beatles hit just weeks after Billboard’s last R&B chart. As obsessed with R&B and Black culture as a lot of the British bands making the Hot100 were, that love affair only went one-way. Black America was at best indifferent to Beatles and Brits. One Black woman who did like The Beatles, quoted in a book about Chicago in the ’60s, recalled being shunned and bullied and called a “White girl” in sixth grade by her Black classmates. And when Billboard asked the Program Director of a major R&B radio station at the height of Beatlemania why they weren’t playing The Beatles, she told them: “We’ve already got enough of a menagerie.”

It would’ve been nice if Billboard’s readers at the time could’ve flipped to the R&B chart to investigate that, but instead they had to flip to Billboard’s competitor, Cashbox magazine, to see that not a single Brit cracked the top 20 on an R&B chart throughout 1964. Even after Billboard about-faced and re-instated its R&B chart in early ’65, it was months before any British act appeared on it.

Of course, the “menagerie” was the Motown and Soul music that was soundtracking the Civil Rights Movement, and at #5 in our countdown, the record that spent the most weeks at #1 on the R&B chart during that time: nine in the Summer ’65. And it topped the Hot100 for two weeks as well. It’s The Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself.”

The Four Tops had honed themselves into a polished, experienced Detroit supper club attraction over their decade together, but couldn’t score a hit record until they landed at Motown. The difference? Songwriter/Producers Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian and Eddie Holland, Holland-Dozier-Holland. Their songs, of course; but they also pushed lead singer Levi Stubbs to strain the upper limits of his baritone range to get that urgent desperation that became The Four Tops’ trademark, first on their breakthrough, ’64’s “Baby I Need Your Lovin’;” then on their first #1, “I Can’t Help Myself,” #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 1965.

#4 The Supremes – Come See About Me

When the dust cleared from the first wave of Beatlemania in ’64, Billboard speculated that a sudden surge for R&B radio was because R&B stations, by avoiding Beatles records, had given listeners something other than wall-to-wall British Invasion on the airwaves. Well no label benefitted more from that than Motown. Of the 27 #1s in ’65, six were on Motown, and Motown’s most successful group in ’64 repeated in the top ten on the year in ’65. It was their third consecutive #1, the #4 song of the year, also written and produced by Holland-Dozier-Holland, it’s The Supremes’ “Come See About Me.”

Supremes, “Come See About Me” at #4 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1965’s biggest hits. By the end of ’65, after three more #1s with “Stop! In the Name of Love,” “Back in My Arms Again” and “I Hear a Symphony,” The Supremes were headlining New York’s bastion of oldskool midtown respectability, The Copacabana, where they recorded a live album.

Some have criticized Motown for its detachment from Civil Rights while Martin Luther King, Jr. was leading marches from Selma to Montgomery and Congress was debating the Voting Rights Act. White Folkies, after all, were going straight at it in their protest songs. But could a literal airing of inner-city grievances have been as potent a street anthem as, say, Martha & The Vandellas’ 1965 Motown hit “Nowhere to Run” was during the Watts Riots?

As with any novel interpretation of a work of art that resonates, there was ownership and empowerment in claiming and repurposing Gospel songs and hits about love and relationships. But more broadly, Motown and R&B/Soul reflected and created a new sense of Black pride as Civil Rights dominated the news. The lyrics and subject matter were almost beside the point; it was the attitude that came across and made the difference.

#3 Petula Clark – Downtown

At #3 we have another head-scratching omission from ’65’s Adult-MOR charts. Unlike The Beatles, this Brit was a 30-something Female, and it was a record done the old-fashioned way: live in a studio with a big brassy orchestra just like Sinatra! It should’ve been sonic catnip for an over-30 set enjoying its own British Invasion with Princess Margaret’s U.S. visit, Oscar sweeps for Mary Poppins and My Fair Lady. Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison, Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton, Michael Caine and Peter Sellers. James Bond! Triumphs, MGs, Minis and Jaguars on the highways. Twiggy, Mary Quant and Carnaby Street in the fashion mags. And Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Julie Rogers, Marianne Faithfull and even Chad & Jeremy on the radio and showing up on the MOR chart. So what happened? Well first, let’s have a listen at #3, to Petula Clark’s “Downtown.”

Petula Clark’s “Downtown” at #3 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of 1965’s biggest hits. It shot up the Hot100 over the holiday season in ’64 and was #1 the last two weeks in January, but that was before Billboard relaunched its Easy Listening chart in June of ’65 as a full-blown survey-based ranking of songs on so-called “conservative” music stations. Before that it was just an “MOR programming guide:” hits that weren’t Rock ‘n Roll or Teen records cherry picked off the Hot100 by Billboard staff. For whatever, they reason didn’t see fit to include “Downtown” in the category. But the very week the more scientific survey-based Easy Listening chart was unveiled, Clark’s follow-up hit, “I Know a Place” was #16 and her next two singles in ’65 both cracked the top five. So who really knows with “Downtown?”

The song was written by British Songwriter Tony Hatch about New York. He’d just arrived, first time in the city, and standing on a corner in Times Square the melody and title just popped into his head, and it was the first U.S. #1 by a British female since Vera Lynn’s “Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart” in 1952.

#2 The Righteous Brothers – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’

So back at #5, I mentioned The Four Tops’ breakthrough in ’64, “Baby I Need Your Loving.” Well that was the record that inspired our #2 song by the Southern California duo the phrase “Blue-Eyed Soul” was coined to describe. But it was also a milestone for its Producer, Phil Spector, already famous for his so-called “Wall of Sound” on Girl Group hits. Spector signed the group to his Philles label, flew A-list Brill Building Songwriters Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil out to L.A. to write the song for them, and spent countless hours and $35 grand making the record. At #2, The Righteous Brothers, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”

Proof that Black music fans in the ’60s didn’t care if an act had blue eyes (or white skin) as long as a record had Soul. The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” spent nine weeks in the top ten on the R&B chart peaking at #2. So whatever R&B radio’s problem with The Beatles was, it didn’t apply to Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield, who weren’t really brothers. They got their name when a Black Marine shouted at one of their shows: “That was righteous, brothers!”

#1 The Rolling Stones – (I Cant Get No) Satisfaction

And as it turns out, it didn’t apply to the act at #1 in our 1965 Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown either. And they were British! The only British Invasion act to crack the top 20 on the R&B chart before 1967. On the chart we’re counting down the top ten from this hour, though, the Hot100, it was the group’s first #1, and the first four-week #1 since The Supremes’ “Baby Love” in the Fall of ’64. The #1 song of 1965 is The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

The Rolling Stones had made the top ten in ’64 with “Time Is on My Side” and earlier in ’65 with “The Last Time.” They had three albums out and had toured the U.S. twice, but were still in the third-tier of British Invasion bands on the charts, behind groups like The Searchers and Gerry & The Pacemakers… until what Newsweek later called the “five notes that shook the world:” Keith Richards’ fuzzed out guitar setting up Mick Jagger’s sneering putdown of America’s relentless advertising barrage. The riff came to Richards in a dream and Jagger fleshed out the words in ten minutes poolside at a Florida motel. In his memoir, Richards credits its success to the Maestro FZ-1 fuzztone pedal he used as a placeholder for a planned horn part, but before that could happen, the single was out, as it, and racing up the charts.


So there you have ’em, the top ten hits of 1965 according to our exclusive Chartcrush ranking that, as I mentioned earlier, uses a more advanced algorithm than Billboard had in 1965. We also count every song’s entire chart run, which Billboard can’t do having to get their year-end issue out before New Years. So if you look at the top ten that Billboard published at the end of ’65, some songs are missing. The Beatles’ “Yesterday” and The Byrds’ “Turn! Turn! Turn!” hit too late in the year, and The Supremes’ “Come See About Me” straddled ’64 into ’65, so those didn’t make Billboard’s year-end Hot100, let alone the top ten. And Herman’s Hermits “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” they had at #19 due to its short chart run, just 11 weeks.

So what are the four songs that made Billboard’s year-end top ten but not ours?

At #10, they had the song that was #1 on their R&B chart the first week they reinstated it, January 30. It was a Motown record, the group’s first top ten and first #1: The Temptations’ “My Girl.”

The Temptations’ “My Girl” notches in at #16 on our Chartcrush ranking, co-written and produced by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White, whose own group The Miracles charted four hits themselves for Motown in ’65, including “Tracks of My Tears” and “Going to a Go-Go.”

Billboard’s #9 song of ’65 was an outtake from a Gospel album recorded in 1960, dusted off and issued as an Easter Special single in ’65. Nevertheless it was Elvis Presley’s biggest hit since “Return to Sender” in ’62.

Elvis still had a massive fan base in ’65 despite being almost completely disconnected from the music scene and focusing on his movie career.

Billboard’s simple inverse point method of ranking the songs in ’65 put a different Herman’s Hermits hit in the top ten on the year at #8. They had “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” down at #19 despite its three weeks at #1. This one only got to #2, but was on the chart four weeks longer. It’s “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat.”

Herman’s Hermits’ “Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat” shakes out at #32 on our Chartcrush ranking.

And finally, Billboard’s #4 year-end song: another one that ranked high due to chart longevity: 15 weeks in a year when the longest chart run was 18 weeks, peaking for a week at #3. It’s #20 on our Chartcrush ranking. Again, no Byrds or Beatles on the Adult/MOR chart in ’65, but this Folk-Rocker was one of the biggest hits of the year on the radio format that evolved into Adult Contemporary, five weeks at #1 on that chart. It’s “We Five’s “You Were on My Mind.”

We Five were based in San Francisco and scored one of the earliest and biggest Folk-Rock hits of the ’60s just as the Hippie counterculture was coalescing. But being on MOR radio, doing ads for Coca-Cola and sprinkling their repertoire with show tunes and standards put them on the wrong side of the generation gap, and the ship sailed without them.

1965, what a year, huh? Unfortunately that’s all the time we have for our 1965 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. For more, go check out our website, chartcrush.com for a full transcript of today’s show, plus a link to stream the podcast version on Spotify and fab extras like our full top 100 chart and interactive line graph of the actual chart runs of the top ten songs we heard this hour. We do that for every year, 1940s up to now, and it’s all on the website, again, chartcrush.com. Thanks for listening, and tune in again next week, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

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