The 60s Official Site

 

1964 - The Music Lives On

by David Soulsby, author of the novel "Somewhere in the Distance"

 

Fifty years sure does fly by, but time has been kind to the music from 1964.  It was my final year at school and a year full of classic songs and great bands and solo performers. January set the pace with Glad All Over by The Dave Clark Five and the catchy Needles And Pins by The Searchers. The year closed with I Feel Fine by The Beatles and Little Red Rooster by The Rolling Stones, both memorable and distinctive. These were fitting bookends to the music that came in between.

It was a time when Gene Pitney had two outstanding hits, the Rolling Stones’ composed That Girl Belongs To Yesterday, and the fabulous Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa. Pitney had one of the great voices of pop, a genuine giant of the time. Also, one of my favorite singers, Roy Orbison, hit the heights with the lively Oh Pretty Woman and the operatic It’s Over. The Big O was always guaranteed to come up with superb renditions and these were no exception. I recall eagerly buying all four songs and listening to them many times over the year, never tiring of them.

The year was just a couple of months old when the Beatles made their mark in America with I Want To Hold Your Hand. It was the start of the British Invasion and the immense influence of rock and roll that defined the Sixties. It was also the time when Cassius Clay, as Muhammad Ali was then known, upset all the odds by winning the Heavyweight Championship of the World, triumphing over the red-hot favourite and seemingly invincible Sonny Liston. I recall sitting up in the early hours of the morning to watch as Clay demolished his mean, tough-guy adversary. It really was a case of Beauty and the Beast, with the perceived bad guy biting the dust, or in this case, hitting the canvas.

By April, The Beatles had advanced leaps and bounds and were gigantic in America, dominating the charts with the first five places. It was an achievement that even the Fab Four in all their wildest dreams would never imagined possible. I have clear memories of seeing the newsreel coverage in Britain of the group being mobbed by hordes of screaming girls at airports and concert venues. The group had, of course, been screamed at back home, but there had been nothing quite like this. It was all very weird and wonderful. Meanwhile, back in Britain, The Rolling Stones’ first album emerged and stayed top of the charts in Britain for an astonishing 12 weeks. Tracks included Route 66, Little By Little, I’m A King Bee, Chuck Berry’s Carol and the Rufus Thomas classic Walking The Dog.

In May, The Searchers were riding high with Don’t Throw Your Love Away, a cover version of the song first recorded US group The Orions. They triumphed with the disc, topping the charts for two weeks, confirming their knack of taking other people’s songs and giving them their own individual sound.

Another outstanding group, The Animals, defied the norm in July with their groundbreaking version of House Of The Rising Sun. It played for an incredible four-and-a-half minutes. Usually songs were around half that time. Radio stations didn’t quite know what to do with it. Would listeners stay tuned? Well, yes, they would, and they did, and the record became an instant success. Less is sometimes better but not in this case.

Come August and I was starting out into the big wide world, having left school and looking forward to becoming a journalist. My first job was very junior but al least I was earning money, and with my first week’s wages I remember buying Bob Dylan’s album Another Side Of Bob Dylan. I was big fan of his and the album didn’t disappoint. It contained such brilliant songs, including All I Really Want To Do, Chimes Of Freedom, It Ain’t Me Babe and the one closest to my heart, My Back Pages. The lyrics of that song have always fascinated me. With a nod to Dylan’s sentiments "I think I was so much older then, but I like to think I’m much younger now," even if the body doesn’t always agree!

Released in September, my most-liked Bond film, Goldfinger, took the box office by storm. It featured the soaring Shirley Bassey title song that still sounds as powerful today as it did then. Also in September, The Kinks’ released You Really Got Me. It was a number one hit and put the group on the map. Power chords had come into their own and Ray Davies let it be known that he was a musician and songwriter to be reckoned with.

November saw The Supremes on top form with Baby Love, a joyous addition to the soul canon from the Motown music machine. It had a warmth and zing about it that made you just want to get up and dance.

On a darker note, the great soul singer Sam Cooke was shot dead in December.  He’d raised soul singing to new heights and hits such as You Send Me, Cupid, Chain Gang and Wonderful World brought him high praise. He even added gravitas to the Twist dance craze with Twistin’ The Night Away. Cooke was a superb singer of gospel, R&B and pop as well as soul and It was a big loss to the music world. Yet, half a century on his music still oozes class and quality. No wonder that he is often quoted as their greatest influence by many other singers. 

 

David SoulsbyDavid Soulsby lives in Romford, Essex, England, and is now Somewhere in the Distanceretired after 46 years as a journalist. During his career, he worked on local and national newspapers and magazines, and in the Sixties met many of his musical heroes, including Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Sonny Boy Williamson, James Brown and Mel Torme. He’s now freelancing as a writer and proof-reader, working from home. He’s the author of Somewhere In The Distance, a novel about four friends growing up in the Sixties.