Friday, January 17, 2014

50 Years Ago Today

In the scheme of things, it's kind of scary to think that many of us can look back and recall in vivid detail the events we experienced 50 YEARS AGO!!!  Has it REALLY been 50 years?!?!  Where did they go???  (Suffice to say, we're all getting old!!!) 

But I wouldn't trade these memories for the world ... look at what we had the chance to experience first-hand in our lifetimes! 

That being said, the 50 Year Anniversaries kick off this week as The Beatles made their first significant U.S. Chart appearance this weekend in 1964.  

We'll be looking back all year long at significant dates and events ... The Beatles may have opened the door (or, more appropriately, kicked it down!), but soon an entire wave of new artists invaded our shores ... and The British Invasion had begun.   

We'll retrace those steps chartwise each week.  (For the purpose of this series, actual Billboard and WLS chart dates are being used, regardless of issue dates or "week of" or "week ending" dates ... from what I've seen so far, they seem to coincide pretty accurately, reflecting the advancement of British Rock on both the national and local level, as we witnessed here from Middle America.) 

So today we look back at January 17th / 18th, 1964 ...  

The Beatles debut at #45 with "I Want To Hold Your Hand" on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart, the highest debut of the week (and their first "OFFICIAL" U.S. chart showing)   

As we all know by now, WLS first charted The Beatles in March of 1963 when "Please Please Me" (by "The Beattles") made an appearance near the bottom of the WLS Silver Dollar Survey for two weeks.  It never rose above #35 … but WLS is credited with being the first radio station in America to play a record by this hot new quartet from Liverpool.
The Beatles wouldn't make another appearance on the WLS Silver Dollar Survey until January 17, 1964 … when "I Want To Hold Your Hand" premiered at #40.

Top Ten Hits this week include "There! I've Said It Again" by Bobby Vinton (#1 on both charts), "Drag City" by Jan and Dean, "Surfin' Bird" by The Trashmen", "Popsicles And Icicles" by The Murmaids and "Hey Little Cobra" by The Rip Chords.  These five tunes were Top Ten Hits common to both charts.  A week later The Beatles would join these hits in The Top Ten.

Surprises on the WLS Chart -- "California Sun" by The Rivieras was at #4 ... it wouldn't even premier in Billboard until a week later.  Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me" held down the #5 spot ... the following week it would reach #1.  (It remains one of my favorite songs and recordings of all time.)  A novelty hit "Dumbhead" by Ginny Arnell was at #8 ... it was at #59 in Billboard and never reached their Top 40.  Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs were at #9 with "Daisy Petal Pickin'", their follow-up hit to the chart-topping "Sugar Shack" and "Java" by Al Hirt was already a Top Ten Hit here (at #10), something it wouldn't become in Billboard for another four weeks.  (Imagine that ... WLS LEADING the pack instead of just following the crowd like they do today.)

Ironically, the dates in January and February of 1964 coincide exactly with the dates THIS year ... so January 17th and 18th fall on Friday and Saturday just like they did way back when.

This all comes to an end on February 28th, however, as 1964 was a leap year ... and 2014 isn't ... but it's still kinda cool to see these dates fall EXACTLY 50 years later!!!

More to come, ideally throughout the year, as we retrace The British Invasion as it unfolded.  You'll see the full impact these artists had on the charts ... and how even long-established artists here in The States struggled to get their songs played on the radio.