The second half of 1964 saw the breakout from the bridgehead established by The Beatles and the first wave of British artists. The music also gets more interesting as it quickly evolves.
Once again, it starts with The Beatles. On July 6, the movie and the song, A Hard Day's Night, premiered and by August 1 it was #1 in the U.S. With its unusual opening chord and sharper guitar sound it was a step forward for the band. Here's the song over the opening credits of the movie.
The next big British song was really different, The House Of The Rising Sun by The Animals which hit #1 in early September in the United States and was a global smash becoming one of the top five selling records worldwide for the entire year. A reworking of an old American folk song (click here to hear the first recorded version from 1933), there were several unusual aspects of the record:
- The length of over four minutes at a time when a three minute song was considered long. Many AM stations played an edited version that was less than three minutes.
- The subject matter, considered very racy for the time.
- The raw vocal by Eric Burden. There may have been singing like this on some of the Chicago blues records of the 50s but those were not being played on mainstream AM radio and no white singer had sounded this way.
- The swirling, relentless organ arrangement by Alan Price which added to the feverish atmosphere of the recording.
A great record then and now. A couple of years later, the bass player, Chas Chandler, discovered a guy named Jimi Hendrix playing in a London club and went on to produce his first three albums.
Replacing The Animals on top of the American charts was a native-born son, Roy Orbison, with Oh, Pretty Woman. In an interesting twist from August 1963 to December 1964 Roy Orbison was the only American artist to top the British charts and he did it twice.
Meanwhile The Stones were still trying to break through with It's All Over Now. They didn't.
Next up was one of the great novelty songs of the year, Do Wah Diddy by the band Manfred Mann. The man, Manfred Mann, was a South African jazz pianist who played keyboards with the band Manfred Mann while the over the top vocal on the song is by Paul Jones who, two years earlier, turned down Keith Richards and Brian Jones when they asked him to be the lead singer in the band they were forming (Paul is currently President of the National Harmonica League of Britain - seriously). The tune was written by Americans Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich who also composed Da Doo Ron Ron, Be My Baby, River Deep, Mountain High and Leader of the Pack.
The next two big singles were groundbreaking and still sound great decades later.
You Really Got Me by The Kinks (for more than you will ever want to know about the band see Kinkdom) was an out of control rocker built around power chords and considered by some to be the first punk or heavy metal song. Despite persistent rumors that Jimmy Page played the guitar solo it was Dave Davies, brother of composer and lead singer Ray Davies, who performed the spasmodic, fractured and frantic solo.
Then there was She's Not There by The Zombies. All of a sudden we have a jazzy electric piano and syncopation. Where did that come from? And the breathy vocal. Very cool song.
Late in the year, The Rolling Stones finally scored their first top 10 in America with Time Is On My Side but their real breakthrough would not be until the release of Satisfaction in May 1965.
The year closed with three notable events. First was The Kinks followup hit, All Day And All Of The Night, essentially a reworking of You Really Got Me.
Second, the emergence of the third British wave with I'm Into Something Good by Herman's Hermits. Unfortunately, this third wave was not as innovative and pop definitely triumphed over rock as Herman's Hermits had a string of hits in 1965 and were joined by bands like Freddie & The Dreamers and Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders.
The third was the release of the first Beatles single since A Hard Day's Night, an innovative recording called I Feel Fine, which starts with guitar feedback (the first hit single to feature it) and then slides into a snappy guitar riff, great harmonies and some good drum work by Ringo in the break. It reached #1 during the last week of 1964 while the B side, She's A Women also became a top 10 hit. During 1964 The Beatles had 30 different singles on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.