As the late fifties gave way to the early sixties, the rockabilly stars of the previous decade (the Everlys, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison) were still having hits, but the older pop-music stars were fading away as they struggled to find material that would click with this new and energetic generation of kids. Pop music gradually became controlled by new young "vocal"-groups, taking their power from a combination of the performer's charisma along with the songwriting talents of the production team, who operated behind the scenes. Eventually rock artists came to be expected to write and even produce their own songs, becoming responsible for everything about how their records sounded - but that would have to wait for Marvin Gaye, Brian Wilson and Lennon & McCartney.
In general there were four main pockets of early 60's pop:
The US East Coast DooWop and girl groups were singers and groups whose origins are in the streetcorner a cappella groups found in many urban centers. With very rare exceptions, these groups did not write their own songs, but relied on their handlers to set up the recording sessions, pick the material, and produce the records. In fact, many of these behind-the-scenes people eventually became stars in their own right in the seventies.
The R&B and Soul scene included many talented people who often didn't receive the popularity of less-talented white groups, because of barriers and prejudices against buying "race" records. Later in the decade, after the British groups acknowledged their debt to soul music, and as the civil rights movement inspired black pride, the general American public rediscovered these performers.
the California scene was first dominated by instrumental surf groups like the Surfaris, the Crossfires, and Dick Dale & the Del-tones. Dale, the "King of Surf Guitar," in particular helped define how modern rock guitar solos would sound. Then the Beach Boys added vocal harmonies to the surf sound. This surf-&-drag, fun-in-the-sun sound was so popular that the style showed up all over the place, even in tv theme songs such as the Munsters and Hawaii Five-O. But the real important stuff was happening in the recording studios, where young studio wizards like Brian Wilson, Phil Spector, and the team of Sloan & Barri began turning the studio itself into their instrument, looking for new sounds in a quest not for records but for productions. There were studio svengalis back east, too, including Bob Crewe and the team of Burt Bacharach & Hal David. Modern artists like Prince, Lindsey Buckingham, and Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis who use synths and samplings, are rather like the spiritual descendants of those white suburban teenagers, taking their distinctive sound with them regardless of the particular artist they happen to be working with.
The Motown record label in Detroit was founded by Berry Gordy Jr., and while its recording stars were all black, still you couldn't necessarily call this totally black or "soul" music. Instead, Gordy controlled the performing styles, clothes, even hairdos of his artists, grooming them for success in the wider mainstream (read white) American audiences. The label's slogan, "the sound of young America," and their nickname, "Hitsville USA" point to the wide net that Motown attempted to cast. Among the many successful performers who recorded for Motown, one ought to mention Marvin Gaye, who was first to take control of his own career and insist on artistic control over his recordings. Later Stevie Wonder and Smokey Robinson would also prove to be outstanding writers and producers, but Marvin Gaye was the first at Motown.
Top 20 Singles of 1960
1. It's Now Or Never - Elvis Presley (right)
When Elvis was in the US Army, he was stationed in Germany and heard 'O Sole Mio', an Italian melody which was first recorded by Giuseppe Anselmi in 1907. Mario Lanza popularized the song, and Tony Martin released the first English translation as 'There's No Tomorrow' in 1949. When he was discharged, Elvis asked his record company to write an English translation for him, a task that went to songwriters Aaron Schroeder and Wally Gold. The result was this Elvis classic which stands as his best selling International hit. Because the song is so well-known, invoking in many the beauty and romanticism of Italian culture, many hotels and restaurants have been named after it. A common stereotype abroad sees the song as something usually sung by Venetian gondoliers, while they raft their boats. This view ignores the fact that Naples and Venice are many hundreds of kilometres apart. It is also considered a cliché in movies about the Italian Mafia. Another famous tale surrounding the song is its playing in the 1920 Olympic Games, in Antwerp, Belgium, when the music to the Italian national anthem could not be found.
2. Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport - Rolf Harris (right)
Rolf Harris has the honour of being the first Australian performer to have charted in the US - he did it with this novelty song in 1963. In writing it, Rolf was influenced by 'The Dying Stockman', a ballad by Howard Flowers published in 1885 and anthologised by A. B. 'Banjo' Paterson in Old Bush Songs (1905). In it, a dying stockman props himself up and gives his last instructions. Rolf Harris cites the Harry Belafonte's 1954 version of the calypso song, 'Hold 'Em Joe', as a further influence in the wake of Belafonte's success with 'The Banana Boat Song' and other calypso-style songs. 'Hold Him Joe', based on a traditional Jamaican work song, was recorded as long ago as 1926. The line "Don't tie me donkey down there, let him bray, let him bray" inspired Rolf Harris to attempt "an Australian calypso"; which explains why the song was first called Kangalypso. A version by the Horrie Dargie Quintet also charted in Melbourne and Adelaide.
3. Just A Closer Walk With Thee - Jimmie Rodgers
This is a traditional gospel song that was recorded by more artists in the 1950s / early 1960s than any other song. Jimmie Rodgers was fortunate to be the one whose version topped the record sales charts. 'Just a Closer Walk With Thee' is 100 year-old-plus gospel song of unknown origin that resurfaced in 1940 and in a year swept the country.
4. North To Alaska - Johnny Horton (right)
The title song from the 1960 movie, North To Alaska, an action drama starring John Wayne, Stewart Granger and Ernie Kovacs, about the goldrush days of Alaska. Singer Fabian also starred in the film and sang one song, but the task of singing this one, which played over the credits, was given to country singer Johnny Horton. The song was written by Jimmy Driftwood, an Arkansas high school principal and history teacher who loved singing and writing songs. He often wrote songs to help students learn about historical events like this battle, many of which Horton recorded. Horton was an American country music singer who was most famous for his semi-folk, so-called "saga songs" which launched the "historical ballad" craze of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Horton was also a rockabilly singer, and was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. British skiffle star Lonnie Donegan had a No.2 hit in the UK in 1959 with his live version recorded at Bristol Hippodrome. His version was originally banned by the BBC as it contained the word "Ruddy." Once Donegan substituted the word "Blooming," the BBC started playing it
5. Clap Your Hands - The Beau Marks
The Beau Marks were a Canadian group hailing from Montreal that had a couple of hits between 1959 and 1962. They were the first Canadians to have a rock hit in the USA with a Canadian-produced recording, though they recorded all their material in America. They were originally called the Del Tones but copyright hassles led to their name being changed. The group disbanded in 1983. Lead singer Ray Hutchinson joined Dave and the Coins before settling in as a North American lounge act, but had to retire from music after sustaining serious injuries in a 1988 car accident. Mike Robitaille became successful in video production; Gilles Tailleur died of a cerebral hemorrhage at age 35. Joey Frechette was the head of Capitol Records' April Blackwood publishing, then a program director at CHOO radio on Ajax, Ontario, before re-recording his own version of "Clap Your Hands" in 1987 under the name Joey Conrad.
6. Peter Gunn - Duane Eddy & the Rebels Peter Gunn was an American private eye television series which aired from 1958 to 1961. The show's creator (and also writer and director on occasion) was Blake Edwards. Its use of modern jazz music, ably rendered by Henry Mancini and his orchestra (which then included John Williams), at a time when most television shows used a generic, uninspired orchestra for the background, was a distinctive touch that set the standard for many years to come. Most memorable of all was the show's opening (and closing) theme, composed and performed by Mancini. A hip, bluesy, brassy number with an insistent piano-and-bass line, it became an instant hit, earning Mancini's version an Emmy Award and two Grammys, and became as associated with crime fiction as John Barry's James Bond theme is associated with espionage. The harmonies fit the mood of the show, which was a key to its success. The Peter Gunn Theme has been covered by a multitude of jazz, blues, and rock artists, including The Blues Brothers, Brian Setzer, The Cramps, Aerosmith, ELP and many, many others.
7. Yes Sir, That's My Baby - Ricky Nelson / Col Joye & the Joy Boys (shared)
Eric Hilliard "Ricky" Nelson (right) was one of the first American teen idols. The son of a band leader, he had music in his veins and used both his talent and good looks to advance his career and produce a string of hits between 1957 and 1963. So sure of being onto a good thing, Decca Records signed Nelson up on a 20-year contract, unaware of the Britisn pop invasion that was about to change the face of popular music forever and turn teen idols like Nelson into has-beens. Though he continued to star on television, Nelson had only one more big hit - 'Garden Party' - in 1972. He was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and also to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He died in a plane crash under mysterious circumstances in 1985. Australian group Col Joye & the Joy Boys enjoyed success at home with their cover version. The song, by Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson, dates from 1926, when Lee Morse was the first to record it.
8. He'll Have To Go - Jim Reeves
Singer Jim Reeves enjoyed two decades of success as a recording artist, his smooth, velvety voice wooing audiences and record buyers around the world. Initially recording country sounds, he switched to that of crooner in the 1960s, a style which suited him and brought him hit after hit. This cross-over helped usher in a new style of country music, using violins and lusher background arrangements, soon to be called The Nashville Sound. 'He'll Have To Go' is a classic example of that style.
9. Are You Lonesome Tonight - Elvis Presley
A quiet, almost hushed ballad written by Roy Turk and Lou Handman in 1926, that became a bridge from rockabililly to balladeer that the King would cross back and forth throughout his career. Back when this was recorded on 4th April 1960 at RCA Nashville studios, reportedly at the request of Colonel Parker, Elvis was known only as a rocker and it was unthinkable that this number could or would ever become his signature song. A number of artists recorded their own version of the song in 1927 alone. Composer Lou Handman himself played piano while his sister Edith provided the vocals on the Gennett label. Vaughn DeLeath (also known as The Original Radio Girl) recorded the song twice as vocalist for The Colonial Club Orchestra. Around August 1927, another version was released by famed tenor Henry Burr. The first charting version was done by Blue Barron in April 1950. Al Jolson recorded a version of the song in the same month. Elvis' manager Colonel Parker persuaded Elvis to record his own rendition of this song, which was one of his wife's favorite songs. Elvis' version was based on the Blue Barron Orchestra in 1950 and the spoken part of the song was loosely based on Shakespeare's As You Like It using Jaques' speech on Act II Scene VII: "All the world's a stage, and all men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts." On 26th August 1969, Elvis performed the song at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, where he messed up the lyrics and laughs uncontrollably. That recording was released in 1982 in England and 1983 in the United States and was a top 10 hit once again.
10. My Old Man's A Dustman - Lonnie Donegan
Lonnie Donegan was the key figure in the skiffle craze that swept the UK during the 50's. Donegan was widely acknowledged as the King Of Skiffle. It was a situation that came about more by chance than design for Donegan did not invent the music nor was he responsible for its introduction onto the British music scene. However, he was responsible for its popularisation and it is beyond doubt that he was the greatest influence on those musical performers who would follow him in the 1960s to bring about the 'beat boom'. This comedy song was his best selling song and the one by which he his most often remembered.
11. Little Boy Lost - Johnny Ashcroft (right)
Australian country & western singer Johnny Ashcroft co-wrote this song with sydney DJ, Tony Withers, about an actual news item in January 1960 involving a lost schoolboy who was subsequently found after an intensive search. The song was released in the US as well as being covered in Britain by Tommy Steele.
12. Walk Don't Run (instrumental) - The Ventures
The Ventures were a Northern American group who enjoyed huge success with this recording. The story behind their selection of "Walk Don't Run" provides some insight into the distinction between technical virtuousity, versus the essential elements of a wildly successful Pop-Music hit. Bob Bogle, original lead guitarist, bought the Chet Atkins LP, Hi Fi Guitar, which featured Atkins' fingerstyle rendition of a song originally written by the great jazz guitarist, Johnny Smith. Within Atkins' elaborate and laid-back delivery of "Walk Don't Run", Bogle found inspiration. He stated years later there was no way his "pedestrian" guitar skills would allow him to play it the same as Chet Atkins did, so he and Wilson worked out a highly energized, very much simplified arrangement, and a rock 'n' roll classic was born. Another Chet Atkins inspired guitarist, Steve Howe, covered "Walk Don't Run" on his 1998 album, Quantum Guitar.
13. Save The Last Dance For Me - The Drifters
Having invented the pop-soul genre with '59's 'There Goes My Baby', the Drifters and Lieber/Stoller when on to perfect it with this gorgeous yet emotionally resonant ode to biding one's time. The recording session in which this song was put down was the last in which Ben E. King would sing with the group; he went solo and refined the sound even further with 'Stand By Me' and 'Spanish Harlem'. The song was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. After its release, an answer record by Damita Jo entitled "I'll Save the Last Dance for You" gained popularity. The Drifters also had a hit with "This Magic Moment" in 1960. There's a very interesting story behing this song, that was written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. It appears that Pomus had sufffered from polio when young; his legs had limited stamina and spent most of his time in a wheelchair. His beautiful wife, on the other hand, loved to dance. So they'd go out and he'd dance the first and last dances with her, and she'd be danced by all the young bucks in between. She loved her husband and always saved ... well, you get the idea. He wrote the song for her after such night of dancing.
14. I Found A New Love - Lonnie Lee & the Leemen
Australian rock 'n' roll star Lonnie Lee, born David Lawrence Rix in western New South Wales in 1940, had his first hit in 1959, 'Ain't It So', which he had written with Johnny O'Keefe. With his backing band The Leemen, Lee followed this with a number of national hits. In Sydney, for example, he charted eight times from 1959 to 1962, notably with 'I Found A New love'. Like many early Aussie rockers, he moved on to country music, and remains active to this day.
15. C'mon And Take My Hand / Don't You Know - Johnny O'Keefe
In the spring of 1959, Johnny toured Australia as a support act for Ricky Nelson and with his fee bought a return ticket to the United States. Investing practically every dollar he owned into the trip, he right in October, hoping to crack the big time there. Johnny signed up a five-year deal with Liberty Records, then returned to Australia. In April 1960, Johnny returned to the US for a promotional tour, in which he was dubbed the 'Kangaroo Boy'. Unfortunately, the tour did not sell many records and he returned to Australia, unable to organise a US concert tour. Short on finances and somewhat depressed, he released three singles he had recorded while in Los Angeles which sold well. 'Come and Take My Hand / Don't you Know' was one of them. It reached No.1 and charted for 19 weeks.
16. Running Bear - Johnny Preston
This happy little number was written by J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper), who died in a plane crash with Buddy Holly in February 1959. A few months earlier, Johnny Preston was working with a group called The Shades in a club in Beaumont, Texas. Richardson and record producer Bill Hall heard Preston, were impressed and asked him if he wanted to cut a session for Mercury Records in Houston. Richardson played a demo of "Running Bear", a song partly inspired by a Dove soap commercial on TV. Johnny wasn't too impressed with the song because it was nothing like the songs he performed in clubs, however, Richardson assured Preston that the song had hit potential. Preston recorded "Running Bear", with the Indian chant in the background sung by Richardson, Bill Hall, George Jones and Pappy Daily. Mercury Records was about to release the record when news of the deaths of Richardson, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens came through. As a mark of respect, they held back the release of the single for almost a year.
17. Apache (instrumental) - The Shadows Cliff Richard's first backing group was originally called The Drifters, but as there was another group by that name recording successfully in the US, they became The Shadows. Not long after their name change, the band was offered this instrumental tune written by Jerry Lordan. It has since been covered many times. The record is considered influential, both in its time and in following years. The Shadows' recording was put down at the famous EMI Abbey Road Studio in London in June 1960. Hank Marvin was at the time just developing the Shadows' sound. Singer/guitarist Joe Brown had just bought an Italian-built guitar echo chamber. He didn't like it and gave it to Marvin who then developed a new sound using it coupled with heavy vibrato and the tremolo arm of his Fender Stratocaster. Bruce Welch borrowed an acoustic Martin guitar from Cliff Richard. By adding a heavy melodic bass line by Jet Harris, they created a revolutionary sound. Percussion on this recording was provided by Tony Meehan (drums) and Cliff Richard, who plays a Japanese drum at the beginning and end to provide an "Amertican Indian" atmosphere. The tune's name reflects the source of Lordan's inspiration for the song: the 1954 American western film Apache. The Shadows version was considered to be revolutionary at the time for its twangy use of guitar and its innovative tribal rhythms. It has been cited by a generation of guitarists as inspirational and is widely considered one of the most influential singles of the pre-Beatles era.
18. What A Mouth - Tommy Steele (right)
Tommy Steele was undoubtedly Britain's first great rock 'n' roll idol. Like many who followed him, Steele started his musical career playing in a skiffle group. He was also the first of the London based artists who would precurse their fame by singing at the Two-'I's Coffee Bar - a venue which later hosted the then unknowns, Adam Faith and Cliff Richard. Tommy Steele had talent and his rise as a teenage star was probably attributable to charisma rather than simply sex appeal. By the end of the 1950s Steele had been urged to move away almost completely from his rock'n'roll beginnings and instead concentrate on recording novelty songs and his stage act. He soon became established as a family entertainer, broadening from and thereby dispensing with his original teenage following. He became a master of the stage musical and an archetypal performer of the British pantomime, from which this recording came (it featured in the musical, Half A Sixpence).
19. Swinging School - Bobby Rydell (right)
An American teen idol of the 1950s, Bobby Rydell (real name Robert Louis Ridarelli) recorded over 40 hits in the late 50s / early 60s. This was one of them, as was 'Wild One', also released in 1960, which Australian rock and roll pioneer Johnny O'Keefe covered with great success, turning it into his signature tune. 'Swinging School' was Rydell's only No. 1 hit in Australia and one of two singles that reached the US top 10 in 1960, they being 'Ding-a-Ling' (it was the flip-side of 'Swingin' School) plus 'Volare'. Rydell was considered one of the teen idols alongside Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Johnny Tillotson, Jimmy Clanton and Bobby Vee. In 1963, he portrayed Hugo Peabody in the movie version of Bye Bye Birdie with Ann Margret and Dick Van Dyke. Like so many of his contemporaries, Rydell's star faded when the British Invasion hit the popular music scene.
20. She's My Baby - Johnny O'Keefe & the Dee Jays
There was little or no rock music scene in Australia, and certainly no Australian rock recordings, prior to 1957, when Bill Haley toured the country. A local band, the Dee Jays with vocalist Johnny O'Keefe, was chosen as the supporting act. A series of hit records and performances on Lee Gordon's "Big Shows" supporting overseas artists (who often were greeted with chants of "We want Johnny") led to Johnny being given his own national TV show, Six O'Clock Rock, in 1959. When Johnny returned for an unsuccessful promotional tour of the US, he was short on cash, so he released three singles he had recorded in Los Angeles, 'She's My Baby' being one of them. It made No.1 and stayed in the charts for 19 weeks.
7. Starlight, Starbright - Lonnie Lee & the Leemen
Written by American songwriter, John Marascalco (b.1931), whose work includes Little Richard's hits 'Good Golly Miss Molly' and 'Rip It Up' (both written with Robert 'Bumps' Blackwell); Fats Domino's hit 'Be My Guest 'with Fats and Tommy Boyce. Lee's version is a cover of a recording produced by Marascalco, which was the B-side of the 1957 US hit 'Teen Age Riot' by Portuguese Joe With The Tennessee Rockabillys. Hear the song online
8. Yes Indeed I Do - Lonnie Lee & the Leemen
With the assistance of Johnny O'Keefe, Lee had signed a five-year recording contract and formed his own band. He began making appearances on Bandstand and Six O'Clock Rock and released his first single, 'Ain't It So', during a tour as a support act for US singer, Fabian. In the wake of this successful tour, Lee recorded and released three singles, all of which charted. 'Starlight Starbright' (see above) made No.1; 'Yes Indeed I Do' reached No.13. The third single, 'Defenceless', reached No.18. Hear the song online
9. Barefoot Boy - Noeleen Batley
This original single was released on the Rex label by the Sydney pop singer, who was known as 'Australia's Little Miss Sweetheart'. The song was written by Helene Grover, then aged about 16, in her Sydney eastern suburbs home. "I wrote 'Barefoot Boy' sitting on top of a ladder in my hallway, where I used to love singing up there," recalls Grover. She won a talent quest with the song and wanted to record it herself, but a record company persuaded her to let the then unknown Noeleen Batley record it. Other Helene Grover compositions include 'Ice Cream Man' by Noeleen Batley (1961), and 'Alice (In Wonderland)' by Dig Richards (1961). "The period when it was written and recorded was one of early rock music in Australia and local composers were fairly sparse, so part of the popularity was the fact that I was a young Australian (actually born in France, Helene came here when I was 9) and so was Noeleen, a year or two older," recalls Grover. Hear the song online
10. Beach Ball - Jimmy Hannan
Jimmy Hannan is best known as a television compere and entertainer, and was seen on numerous programs from the early 1960s. He made a few records but their lack of sales caused him to abandon the practice. This song, his first and most popular single, was written by Frank Gari and Roger McGuinn, future member of The Byrds, who performed on the original version by The City Surfers. This studio band consisted of McGuinn on guitar, Bobby Darin on drums, and co-writer Frank Gari singing. The Bee Gees provided the vocal backing for the Jimmy Hannan version.
Other Hits of 1960
Everybody's Somebody's Fool - Connie Francis
Back in 1960, young female singers like Connie Franics, Connie Stevens, Little Peggy March, Diane Renay, Brenda Lee and Leslie Gore were all the rage. Their songs about teen romance and broken hearts were snapped up by male and female teenagers alike and these girls enjoyed hit after hit with similar sounding songs that were rushed recorded and released to satisfy an eager public. 'Everybody's Somebody's Fool' was written by Howie Greenfield and Jack Keller who were employed by Aldon Music, Don Kirschner's publishing company. They were part of a stable of young pop songwriters that also included Gerry Goffin, Carole King and Neil Sedaka and wrote most of the popular songs of the early 1960s between them. Keller and Greenfield also wrote 'My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own', another No. 1 hit for Connie Francis in 1960, 'Venus in Blue Jeans' for Jimmy Clanton and the theme songs for the TV shows Bewitched and Gidget. Keller died in April 2005, age 68. Greenfield died in 1986. During the 1960s, Greenfield and Neil Sedaka wrote many of the latter's hits, including 'Love Will Keep Us Together', 'Breaking Up Is Hart to Do', 'Little Devil', 'Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen' and 'Calendar Girl'.
Though their songs had a simple backing back then - this one featured only a Hammond organ, drums played with brushes and a strummed acoustic guitar - these songwriters were quite skilled in writing about innocent teenage emotions and the singers sang clearly and with enough emotion to convince their audience that they were singing from the heart. Connie Francis melted even the hardest stony heart with her melancholy delivery of this song. Showing her versatility, she then gave a bubbly performance singing 'V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N' two years later. Though 'Everybody's Somebody's Fool' sounds quite dated these days, Connie's voice has sufficient charm and charisma to keep me listening forty five years on. She continues working the United States concert circuit as a classy and very popular performer. Hear the original recording of the song online | Video the video online
Only The Lonely - Roy Orbison
This is the song The Big O used to make the transition from rockabilly artist to pop-opera stylist extraordinaire. The Texan with the greatest voice of heartbreak, the man who made wearing sunglasses cool, was reluctant to change direction, but fans loved it and he never looked back. Hear the song online
The Twist - Chubby Checker
Chubby Checker (real name Ernest Evans) set in motion a decade-long dance craze with this song, an adaptation of a Hank Ballard And The Midnighters' B-side song. The Twist was kept alive by the release of a follow-up, the almost identical Checker hit called 'Let's Twist Again', a year later. Teenagers loved to dance The Twist but many parents were against it. For the rest of the decade, teens went through dance craze after dance craze, the next one being the Loco-Motion. Checker re-recorded the song numerous times. In the late 1970s he recorded a new version that, except for the sound mix and some minor arrangement changes, was identical to the 1960 original; as a result this later version is often mis-identified on compilations as the original recording. In 1988 he recorded the song with The Fat Boys and it became a No.1 hit again. An updated 1982 recording was retitled "T-82", and in the 1990s he recorded a country-and-western version. View the video online
(What A) Wonderful World - Sam Cooke (right)
Herb Alpert of Tijuana Brass fame wrote the greater part of this ode to troubled teens who struggle with school work but find love in the companionship of a good friend. Herman's Hermits would take the song back into the Top 10 nearly a decade later. Songwriter and performer Sam Cooke was one of the most popular and influential black singers to emerge in the late '50s. He successfully synthesized a blend of gospel music and secular themes and provided the early foundation of soul music. Cooke's pure, clear vocals were widely immitated, and his suave, sophisticated image set the style of soul crooners for the next decade. Cooke's star was extinguished when he was shot and killed at the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles allegedly by 22 year old Elisa Boyer in December 1964. He had met her at the Hacienda; the motel's manager, Bertha Franklin, claimed Cooke had tried to rape Boyer, and then turned on her. The Coroner's office ruled the death as justifiable homicide. Over thirty five years later there remain questions about the circumstances of Cooke's death and there has been talk about reopening the investigation. Also released by Cooke in 1960 was the Top 10 single "Chain Gang", a song he wrote himself. Hear the song online
Cathy's Clown - The Everly Brothers (right)
The distinctive martial drum roll and two-chord progression of this Everly Brothers standard was inspired by Classical composer Ferde Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite. It took Don Everley just 15 minutes to turn the idea into the hit song that we know and love today. Country music artist Reba McEntire covered the song on her album, Sweet Sixteen, in 1989. It was covered by Dee Dee Ramone for his solo album Greatest and Latest in 2001. It can be heard in the movie The Commitments (1991). View the video online
Alley Oop - The Hollywood Argyles
Written by Dallas Frazier, the song was heavily inspired by the V. T. Hamlin-created comic strip of the same name. The Hollywood Argyles were the first of many to record this song. It was produced by Gary S. Paxton. The song was then covered by Dave Van Ronk and the Hudson Dusters on their self-titled album, also released in 1960. It was then recorded by The Beach Boys and was released on their 1965 album, Beach Boys' Party. Hear the song online
Tell Laura I Love Her - Ray Peterson / Ricky Valance
A teenage tragedy song written by Jeff Barry and Ben Raleigh, it was an American top 10 hit for singer Ray Peterson. Later that same year, the song was recorded and released by Ricky Valance in the UK and Australia, where it went all the way to the No.1 spot. Peterson's version was originally to be released by RCA/Decca Records but they refused, and even destroyed thousands of copies of the single. It was only after Valance's version became a hit that the original was revived. Numerous version have been recorded since. Hear the song online
Beyond The Sea - Bobby Darin (right)
"Beyond the Sea" is the English language version of the song "La Mer" by Charles Trenet. The English lyrics were written by Jack Lawrence. It has been recorded by many singers, but Bobby Darin's version is the best known. "Beyond the Sea" is a popular tune for inclusion in soundtracks and has been heard in numerous movies and television productions. Some of these, such as Apollo 13, Austin Powers, Goodfellas, Black Rain and The X-Files, have simply used the Bobby Darin version, while others have recorded new versions. View the video online
Theme from A Summer Place - Percy Faith Orchestra
A song with lyrics by Mack Discant and music by Max Steiner, it was written for the 1959 movie, A Summer Place, which starred Sandra Dee and Troy Donahue. Its structure is somewhat of a rarity since it is a single-melody song with no chorus. The song was a number-one hit instrumental for Percy Faith in 1960 and was the best-selling single of the year worldwide. Faith re-recorded the song twice; first in 1969 as a female choral version, then in 1976 as a disco version titled "Summer Place 76." Interestingly, Percy Faith's version was not the one in the movie, which was recorded by Hugo Winterhalter. It was the first movie theme to win a Grammy Award for Record of the Year (1961). It still stands as America's longest-running No.1 instrumental hit. View the video online
I'm Sorry - Brenda Lee (right)
American country-pop singer Brenda Lee was just 14 years old when she recorded this ballad. It peaked at No. 1 in the US and Australia towards the end of 1960. Allmusic guide writes that it was Lee's "definitive song", and one of the "finest teen pop songs of its era". It was written by Dub Albritton and Ronnie Self. View the video online
Puppy Love - Paul Anka
The song was written by Anka in 1960 for Annette Funicello, when they fell in love during a package tour. Anka's manager insisted that their relationship be low-key and kept out of the press, if possible, so Anka obliged by expressing his feelings in song. After the tour, Funicello cut an LP, Annette Sings Anka, but ended up marrying Anka's manager. Funicello, like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake, was a very popular member of Disney's Mickey Mouse Club of her time. Twelve years later the song was revived by Donny Osmond, who took it to No.3 in Australia in July 1972. Hear the song online