(Pictured: the Rolling Stones, circa 1964. Keef already looks a bit sketchy.)
Hey, remember the Beatles? They were pretty hot there for a while. Whatever happened to those guys?
On July 4, 1964, the single act that had dominated record charts all year like none other in history, not just at WOKY in Milwaukee but around the world, were nowhere to be found on the WOKY chart. The two-sided hit “Love Me Do”/”P.S. I Love You” had charted for a final week on June 20th, but unlike every other Beatles hit that spring, nothing came blazing up behind it. The WOKY chart for June 27th was Beatle-free, and so was the one for July 4.
The Hot 100 was similarly light on Fabs 50 years ago this week: “Love Me Do” was the last Beatle hit remaining on the chart, sitting at #19—if you don’t want to count the Boston Pops recording of “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” which debuted at #74. This wasn’t going to last, of course. On July 4, 1964, hype surrounding the forthcoming film A Hard Day’s Night must have been intense, with its pending release in the UK on the 6th and its American premiere set for August, and within a week or 10 days, there would new Beatles music on the radio again. But as Americans picnicked and partied and looked up at the fireworks in the sky on this particular Fourth, the current hits playing on their little transistor radios were coming from other stars.
Lots of them were from Britain. On July 4, Gerry and the Pacemakers (“Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying”), Peter and Gordon (“A World Without Love”), Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas (“Bad to Me”) and the Dave Clark Five (“Can’t You See That She’s Mine”) were all in the top 10 on the Hot 100 (and “A World Without Love” had been #1 the week before, the first British act other than the Beatles to scale the heights). All were in the top 15 at WOKY, which was also charting the Searchers (“Don’t Throw Your Love Away”), Cliff Richard (“Bachelor Boy”), and another Peter and Gordon hit (“Nobody I Know”) in the lower reaches of its chart. And at the very bottom of its top 35, WOKY debuted a new British band, the Rolling Stones, with “Tell Me (You’re Coming Back).” WOKY had not charted the Stones’ earlier “Not Fade Away”; “Tell Me,” which debuted on the Hot 100 the same week, would eventually become their first Top 40 hit.
Pre-Beatles pop styles were doing just fine yet, though: Barbra Streisand is at #5 with “People,” and there are records from Terry Stafford, Chubby Checker, Bobby Vinton, Louis Armstrong, Al Martino, and Jack Jones farther down the chart. (And the Boston Pops’ Beatles cover, too.)
And here are five other records that jump out as I browse the WOKY chart dated July 4, 1964:
1. and 2. “Memphis” Johnny Rivers (up from 2) and “I Get Around”/Beach Boys (up from 6). The British were invading, but the American defenders were holding the line. These iconic recordings still sound fresh a half-century later.
9. “Rag Doll”/Four Seasons (up from 18). As I have mentioned here before, The Mrs. and I don’t go to the movies much. Jersey Boys is the first film in a long time that’s even tempted us, but I can’t remember another movie for which critical opinion is so badly split. Every time I read a review that makes me think we should go, I read another one that scares me off. As for “Rag Doll,” it might be the loveliest thing the Seasons ever did.
28. “Every Little Bit Hurts”/Brenda Holloway (holding at 28). Surely Motown’s next foray onto the Top 40 in the pivotal year of 1964, after Mary Wells’ “My Guy,” must have been a Supremes hit, because there were so many, or “Dancing in the Street,” or something by Marvin Gaye. But it’s “Every Little Bit Hurts,” a record more soulful and less beat-heavy than Motown would be in its glory.
32. “Farmer John”/Premiers (first week on). The record that graced a million frat parties and inspired as many garage bands, “Farmer John” was probably not recorded live at a club even though it sounds like it. Journalist Richie Unterberger says the producers brought in a bunch of girls to provide ambiance in the studio, and they damn well did. (So it was live in the studio, at least.) Watch a performance and interview from American Bandstand here.