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Any Major Hits from 1961

November 25th, 2021 Leave a comment Go to comments

 

One last anniversary mix before we leave the Year 2021, a date which must have seemed like the calendar of science fiction 60 years ago, when all the songs on this collection were hits. Where are those flying cars we were promised?

Unlike the Any Major Hits from 1971 mix, which drew from both US and UK (and European) charts, the 1961 selection is very US-centric, though some of these songs charted in Britain, too. It was a strange time for pop music, it seems — an interregnum after the frenzy of Rock & Roll and the advent of the British Invasion, the innovation of bands like The Beach Boys, the rise of soul music and Motown, the anarchic power of garage rock. Within five years, there’d be The Beatles’ Revolver album and Brian Wilson’s Good Vibrations (five years ago, in our money, is 2016). Within six years, there’d be Jimi Hendrix and Pete Townsend doing violence to guitars on stage at Monterey. In 1961, you didn’t see Dick Dale smashing his Fender or Duanne Eddy setting his Gretsch on fire!

But let the record also show that the music of 1961 was the context in which Lennon & McCartney and their cohorts were consumers. In don’t dare to guess how many of these featured songs they knew, but they certainly listened to early Motown, represented here by Smokey Robinson and The Miracles, and other R&B records. And Ricky Nelson’s featured Everlovin’, a cover of a record by the Australian band The Crescents, has all the hallmarks of the early Beatles sound. Did George Harrison know the song? Well, it did reach #23 in the UK. And even 35 years later, Van Morrison based his song Days Like This on The Shirelles’ 1961 hit Mama Said.

Of course, at the risk of stating the blatantly obvious, the 1960s were a time of rapid epochal change in the West. But 1961 doesn’t seem part of the 1960s. And some of the music here illustrates this. The musical Grease is generally accepted to be set in 1959, the movie in 1958 (both set at the fictional Rydell High School, named after Bobby Rydell, one of the artists on this mix). Almost any of the tracks here could have featured among the covers on the soundtrack of Grease, the movie.

And one track here was virtually copied for the closing number of Grease, We Go Together, with its doo wop-inspired nonsense lyrics. Barry Mann’s Who Put The Bomp set a template for the Grease song, with its “Boogity boogity boogity” and “Bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop”.

Both songs include the line “Rama lama ding dong” (slightly adapted in the Grease number). That was, of course, the title of the hit for doo wop band The Edsels. I don’t know whether Mann borrowed from the Edsels or they from Mann (who’d become one of the great Brill Building songwriters with his wife, Cynthia Weil). Either way, it sounds more 1950s than 1960s.

Doo wop was still big in 1961, and now black artists actually had hits with their songs, rather than white artists cashing in on their talent. By 1961, the US charts were far more integrate than they had been in the 1950s. On this mix, about half the acts are black. Among them are The Pips, featuring the young Gladys Knight on lead vocals.

I’ll leave you with an observation about vocal styles on two tracks on this mix:  When the UK singer Helen Shapiro recorded her international mega-hit Walkin’ Back to Happiness, she was 14 but sounded twice her age. But when the recently late Sue Thompson had a hit with Sad Movies, she was 36 but sounded like she was 14.

In other words, Thompson was old enough to be Helen’s mother — and in 1961, pop music has something of a mother obsession. On this collection, we have Mama issuing sound counsel to Smokey Robinson and The Shirelles, is lied to by Sue Thompson, provides Kenny Dino (in the bonus tracks) with guilt-inflicting information, and Ernie K-Doe has trouble with his mother-in-law. Still, the CD-R length mix ends with daddy coming home.

So, yes, there are two playlists: the CD-R length one and another with the 18 bonus tracks. I won’t list them, but I’ll point out one: The Impressions’ Gypsy Women, which in its original version already captures the sound of ’60s soul, and so is very much ahead of its time. Other acts among the bonus tracks include Farts Domino, The Shadows, Roy Orbison (with a song that sounds like Only The Lonely recycled), Elvis, Bobby Darin, and a young Tony Orlando.

The mix is timed to fit on a standard CD-R and includes home-ramalamadingdonged covers. The text above is included in an illustrated PDF booklet. PW in comments.

1. Chubby Checker – Let’s Twist Again
2. Bobby Lewis – Tossin’ And Turnin’
3. Chris Kenner – I Like It Like That (Part 1)
4. The Drifters – I Count The Tears
5. Eddie Cochran – Weekend
6. Ray Peterson – Corinna Corinna
7. The Everly Brothers – Walk Right Back
8. Don Gibson – Sea Of Heartbreak
9. Patsy Cline – I Fall To Pieces
10. Sue Thompson – Sad Movies (Make Me Cry)
11. Brenda Lee – Emotions
12. Connie Francis – Where The Boys Are
13. Helen Shapiro – Walking Back To Happiness
14. The Jive Five – My True Story
15. The Shirelles – Mama Said
16. Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry – (I Don’t Know Why) But I Do
17. LaVern Baker – Saved
18. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – Shop Around
19. Sam Cooke – That’s It-I Quit-I’m Moving On
20. Bobby Rydell – Good Time Baby
21. Del Shannon – Runaway
22. The Edsels – Rama Lama Ding Dong
23. The Chimes – I’m In The Mood For Love
24. Ricky Nelson – Everlovin’
25. Barry Mann – Who Put The Bomp (In The Bomp, Bomp, Bomp)
26. The Dovells – Bristol Stomp
27. Bobby Vee – Run To Him
28. Curtis Lee – Pretty Little Angel Eyes
29. The Pips – Every Beat Of My Heart
30. Ernie K-Doe – Mother-In-Law
31. The Belmonts – Tell Me Why
32. Shep and The Limelites – Daddy’s Home

GET IT! or HERE!

Previously in Any Major Hits:
Any Major Hits From 1944
Any Major Hits From 1970
Any Major Hits From 1971
Life In Vinyl 1981

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  1. amdwhah
    November 25th, 2021 at 08:53 | #1

    PW = amdwhah

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