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Top 40 Hits of 1960 - 1964

Top 40

In the early '60's, the AM airwaves became dominated by the driving rhythms of Detroit's Motown sound, by the polished stylings from the Brill Building scene in Manhattan, and by Phil Spector's L.A.-based derivative, the Wall of Sound. Song-writing teams like Holland - Dozier - Holland in Detroit and Goffin & King or Barry & Greenwich in New York churned out hit after hit. Their success later paled, however, beside that of Liverpool's Lennon & McCartney. When the Beatles began the British Invasion of America at the end of 1963, popular music would never be the same.

Shown below are representative samples of the music of Motown, the Brill Building sound, and the start of the British Invasion. In association with Amazon.com, there are links to CD's of the original recordings (where available) or of those included in "greatest hits" collections. Also shown are two jukeboxes of MP3 clips -- one for #1 - 20 and one for #21 - 40 -- where you can buy many of songs as MP3's, too. Enjoy!

Note: This was also the era when the first Baby Boomers discovered "young love." See our honorable mention section for songs which were huge hits at the time, but which quickly disappeared when the letter jackets or class rings were returned and "going steady" lost its appeal.

No. Title & Peak Popularity Artist or Group CD   Video
1. I Want To Hold Your hand -- 1964 The Beatles Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
The song that ushered in the British Invasion of America in December 1963 is still the top-selling British single of all time, with sales of 15 million copies. Its minor chords, great harmonies, and infectious energy changed pop music forever.
2. Shop Around -- 1961 The Miracles Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
Written by Smokey Robinson and Motown's founder Berry Gordy, this song went to #2 on Billboard's Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart. As Motown's first million-seller, it put Hitsville USA on the map, leading to a decade of top hits.
3. She Loves You -- 1964 The Beatles Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
The "yeah, yeah, yeah" hook and the verse-ending "woo"s made this a British fan favorite in late 1963 and became the most memorable elements of the group's TV performances on the Ed Sullivan shown in early 1964. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah . . .
4. Will You Love Me Tomorrow -- 1961 The Shirelles Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
The first "girl group" to have a #1 single, the Shirelles did it in January 1961. This was also the first big hit for the husband/wife writing team of Gerry Goffin & Carole King. As it turned out, the song was both "a moment's pleasure" and "a lasting treasure."
5. The Twist -- 1960 Chubby Checker Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
The only single to ever hit #1 in two separate chart runs, this one did it in September 1960 and then again in January 1962. With a combined total of 38 weeks in the Hot 100, it led a very persistent dance craze -- first with the teens and then later with the adults.
6. (Love Is Like A) Heat Wave -- 1963 Martha & The Vandellas Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
The first million-seller for Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, it was also the fisrt smash hit for the legendary Motown songwriting and producing team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland. Hit #1 on the R&B chart and #4 on the pop one.
7. Can't Buy Me Love -- 1964 The Beatles Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
At the peak of Beatlemania, this was the third straight #1 for the group. At the start of April 1964, they held ALL of the top 5 slots in the Hot 100 -- followed by the next week, when they had a remarkable 14 of the 100 listed there!
8. Surfin' USA -- 1963 The Beach Boys Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
Part Chuck Berry and part California surf rock, this was the first top 5 hit for the Beach Boys. With Brian Wilson's words set to Berry's melody of "Sweet Little Sixteen," all this needed were the rich Beach Boy harmonies to make it an American classic.
9. Sherry -- 1962 The 4 Seasons Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
On the opposite coast, Frankie Valli's falsetto breathed new life into the dying doo wop style and gave the 4 Seasons their first big hit. A refreshing new sound swept the nation in the fall of 1962 and the group became an overnight success (after many years' effort).
10. Be My Baby -- 1963 The Ronettes Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
The ultimate pop symphony, this one combined the songwriting of Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich with Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. Led by Veronica Bennett (the future Mrs. Spector), this was the Ronettes' biggest hit.
11. The Wanderer -- 1962 Dion Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
Moving from the doo wop sound of the Belmonts to pop/R&B, Dion DiMucci scored a big hit as the tough, cool guy from the Bronx who could love 'em and leave 'em. Even he knew, though, that such a relationship was "going nowhere."
12. Where Did Our Love Go -- 1964 The Supremes Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
After several failed singles, the Supremes finally hit it big with this Holland - Dozier - Holland tune in the summer of 1964. And the rest, as they say, was history, tearing up the charts 'til the end of the decade. Ooh, baby, baby...
13. When Will I Be Loved -- 1960 The Everly Brothers Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
This top country/rock duo from the late 1950's also had a great year in 1960. Although not their biggest hit single, this is perhaps their best-remembered tune, thanks to covers by stars as varied as Reba McEntire and Linda Ronstadt.
14. Stand By Me -- 1961 Ben E. King Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
When the Drifters' lead singer left the group, Benjamin Nelson adopted a new stage name. After writing this song with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, his recording of it made "Ben E. King" one of the most recognized names in the business.
15. Are You Lonesome Tonight? -- 1960 Elvis Presley Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
Combining a song previously recorded by Al Jolson with spoken text derived from Shakespeare's "As You Like It," Elvis continued his winning ways -- and not just on rock stations, but on the easy listening ones, too.
16. Don't Let The Sun Catch You Crying -- 1964 Gerry & The Pacemakers Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
Gerry Marsden and the Pacemakers were one of the most successful early challengers to the Beatles at the start of the British Invasion. Also from Liverpool and managed by Brian Epstein, this was their first big hit in America.
17. Our Day Will Come -- 1963 Ruby & The Romantics Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
This song was recorded in Akron, Ohio native Ruby Nash's first visit to a recording studio. Although this was the group's only top 10 hit, many of their other songs were later successfully recorded by other artists or groups.
18. Big Girls Don't Cry -- 1962 The 4 Seasons Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
The follow-up to "Sherry," this one also hit #1 in 1962. Frankie Valli's falsetto made them the first rock-era act to reach the top with both of their first 2 chart entries. The Italian doo wop sound was dying out, but these Jersey boys were just beginning.
19. Georgia On My Mind -- 1960 Ray Charles Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
Ray's first #1 single was this 1930 Hoagy Carmichael standard. Combining a little R&B with a lot of contemporary jazz, this became a masterpiece and a signature Ray Charles performance. It was named the state song of Georgia in 1979.
20. Love Me Do -- 1964 The Beatles Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
The Beatles' 4th #1 hit was written by John and Paul when they were in high school. Released in Britain in 1962, it never made the top 10 there. That version was notable, however, as the first recording on which Ringo Starr replaced Pete Best as the drummer.
21. I Get Around -- 1964 The Beach Boys Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
On July 4, 1964, this became the first #1 hit by the Beach Boys. It also made them the first American male group to top the charts since the British Invasion had begun. Written by Brian Wilson and his cousin Mike Love, it is still one of their all-time best.
22. One Fine Day --- 1963 The Chiffons Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
Although the group had a bigger hit earlier in the year with "He's So Fine," many feel this Goffin & King tune to be their best. Lead singer Judy Craig stayed with the group until 1968, but they never again repeated their success of 1963.
23. Save The Last Dance For Me -- 1960 The Drifters Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
With Ben E. King as the lead singer, this incarnation of the Drifters was the only one to have a #1 hit. This was at the top in October 1960 and King's first single, "Spanish Harlem," hit the charts in January 1961.
24. Runaway -- 1961 Del Shannon Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
A carpet salesman from Battle Creek, Michigan, Shannon had his only #1 hit with this, his first single to be in the top 40. The song introduced the musitron, an electronic organ and early version of the synthesizer, as played by its co-writer Max Crook.
25. He's A Rebel -- 1962 The Crystals Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
Although credited to the Crystals, Phil Spector actually recorded this Gene Pitney song with just their backing singers, the Blossoms, featuring Darlene Love as lead. The authentic Crystals did have another big hit the following year with "Da Doo Ron Ron."
26. You're Sixteen -- 1960 Johnny Burnette Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
A rockabilly pioneer and childhood neighbor of Elvis in Memphis, Burnette scored his biggest hit in 1960. Ringo Starr took this song to #1 in 1974, 10 years after Burnette died in a boating accident. He was survived by his brother, singer Dorsey Burnette.
27. World Without Love -- 1964 Peter & Gordon Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
After 4 #1 hits by the Beatles, the next British super hit was this Lennon-McCartney tune sung by Peter Asher and Gordon Waller. Asher later became a very successful producer for stars like James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt.
28. The Loco-Motion -- 1962 Little Eva Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
This #1 hit was originally a demo that Gerry Goffin and Carole King had their babysitter Eva Boyd sing for them. The backing singers, the Cookies, followed up later that year with their own hit in the song "Chains."
29. Baby I Need Your Lovin' -- 1964 The Four Tops Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
With this, their first big hit, Levi Stubbs and the rest of the Four Tops joined the ranks of Motown's super groups. This Hollland - Dozier - Holland song had begun as a complete instrumental track, before the lyrics were added.
30. Runaround Sue -- 1961 Dion Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
With a change from doo wop to a more rockin' style, Dion achieved his only #1 hit with this song. Backup singers the Del-Satins were a big help with that shift. After the Crests' Johnny Maestro joined them, they acheived later success under the name Brooklyn Bridge.
31. Leader Of The Pack -- 1964 The Shangri-Las Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
Two sets of sisters sang this Jeff Barry - Ellie Greenwich - Shadow Morton hit. But 16-year-old lead Mary Weiss was too young to tour, so the group often appeared as a trio. Title was later the name of a Broadway play about Greenwich's career.
32. Pride And Joy -- 1963 Marvin Gaye Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
Starting with Motown as a session drummer on songs like "Please Mr. Postman" and "Fingertips, Pt.2," Gaye became one of its biggest stars. This song was his first top 10 hit, recorded the year before he married Motown founder Berry Gordy's sister, Anna.
33. Because -- 1964 The Dave Clark Five Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
Known for energetic melodies and a driving beat, the group achieved one of its biggest hits with this lovely ballad. Touring constantly and also starring in their own movie, they were able to challenge the commercial success of the Beatles for a while.
34. Travelin' Man -- 1961 Ricky Nelson Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
One of the first teen idols, TV youth actor Ricky Nelson had a fantastic hit with this song and its flip side "Hello Mary Lou." Out of his 35 songs in the top 40, this was one of his two #1 hits, along with the earlier "Poor Little Fool."
35. My Guy -- 1964 Mary Wells Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
As one of Motown's first solo stars, Mary Wells made this Smokey Robinson song a #1 hit. At age 21 -- and the peak of her career -- she was also the first star to leave Motown over a royalty dispute. Unfortunately, her records never again hit the top 10.
36. Please Mr. Postman -- 1961 The Marvelettes Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
Before the Supremes and the Vandellas, there were the Marvelettes, with this first #1 for any of Berry Gordy's labels. 2 of the girls later married singers from the Miracles and the Contours, while a third married the road manager for the Temptations.
37. Oh, Pretty Woman -- 1964 Roy Orbison Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
With an impressive 22 songs in the top 40, Orbison was a great success. In fact, when he toured Britain in 1963, his opening act was the Beatles. His all-time greatest song was this 1964 rocker that began as a comment about his wife.
38. Surf City -- 1963 Jan & Dean Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
Brian Wilson gave this song to his friend Jan Berry to finish. Then Berry and Dean Torrence took it to #1, even before any of the Beach Boys' own recordings made it. Their career was cut short in 1966 when Jan suffered a traumatic brain injury.
39. Chapel Of Love -- 1964 The Dixie Cups Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
The first release on Leiber & Stoller's Red Bird label, the Dixie Cups took this Barry - Greenwich - Spector song to #1 as the only American group to do so in the 1st 6 months of '64. This was their only song to ever hit the top 10.
40. She's Not There -- 1964 The Zombies Click to buy at Amazon.com youtube
Noted for its minor-key jazz arrangements and harmonies, this was the debut single for the group. Although not a major success at the time, it has come to be known as a classic of the era. The group's music later influenced the Doors, the Byrds, and others.
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