The #1 Singles of 1965: The British Are Coming

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We continue our series of looking at the most popular music for a given year. The topic, as you know by the headline, is singles and while we have done stories on the biggest hits of the year, this series slices things a bit differently. Here, we look at 1965’s #1 pop hits in the U.S. according to Record World, a competitor of Billboard. It was a great year for singles that we enjoyed while listening to the AM dial on our transistor radios.

This ad for “I Got You Babe” appeared in the July 24, 1965 issue of Record World

In 1965, seven songs stayed at the top for three weeks or more. Just eight more were at #1 for two weeks. Thus, 28 different singles – led by The Beatles with five, among a dozen British Invasion hits – reached #1 that year. (That’s in contrast to 1973, when 36 songs topped the chart.)

Our recap begins in reverse, and alphabetically by artist, starting with the 13 that grabbed the top spot for a single week. (Note: Many of the chart numbers will differ with those compiled by Billboard.)

1 Week

The Beatles – “Help!” and “Ticket to Ride”

We begin with a pair from the Fab Four, both featuring lead vocals from John Lennon. Chronologically, “Ticket to Ride,” described as “psychologically deeper than anything they had recorded before,” came first. “Help!” was released in July, shortly before their film of the same name, in glorious color, arrived in theaters.

The Byrds – “Mr. Tambourine Man”

The recording that topped both the U.S. and U.K. charts was not played by the Los Angeles-based band formed in the wake of the Beatles by folkies Jim McGuinn (later to change his first name to Roger), Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke. Instead, the L.A. studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew backed McGuinn on his Rickenbacker electric 12-string guitar – one of the signature sounds of the track and band alongside the group’s luscious vocal harmonies.

Petula Clark – “Downtown”

One of the finest vocals of this – or any – year, with super instrumentation – that trumpet! – including guitar work from none other than Jimmy Page, then just 20 years old. It won the Grammy for Best Rock and Roll Recording.

Dave Clark Five – “Over and Over”

Yet another British Invasion classic, this was their sole U.S. #1 during their great run from 1964-67. What a great recording.

Related: We talked to Dave Clark about all those great hits

Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders – “Game of Love”

The song is notable for its hard-hitting drumming, bluesy lead guitar line and the assertive lead vocal of Mr. Fontana. However, in the midst of a concert late in 1965, he decided he’d had enough and left the band unceremoniously.

Related: Our feature on how the Mindbenders transitioned after Fontana’s departure

The Four Seasons – “Let’s Hang On!”

Frankie Valli’s commanding lead tenor voice led to an astounding 28 Top 20 singles in his remarkable career.

The Four Tops – “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)”

A Motown classic from the writing and production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, with a great vocal from Levi Stubbs.

The McCoys – “Hang on Sloopy”

The song was co-written by Bert Berns, the same guy who co-wrote “Twist and Shout” and “Piece of My Heart,” among others. That’s 16-year-old Rick Zehringer singing lead on this garage rock classic. You know him as Rick Derringer.

Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs – “Wooly Bully”

We suggest you request this one at the next wedding you attend. The only ones remaining in their seats will be “L7.”

Related: Our feature on the pop culture landmark

The Searchers – “Love Potion No. 9”

Back to the British Invasion for this cover from the Merseybeat group.

The Supremes – “Come See About Me” and “Stop! In the Name of Love”

Two of the dozen chart-topping singles that would make the trio not only Motown’s best-selling act but the most successful “girl group” in the world. Watch them perform both songs as part of a medley on The Ed Sullivan Show the following year.

2 Weeks

The Beach Boys – “Help Me, Rhonda”

Amazingly, “California Girls” didn’t reach #1 that summer, nor did “Barbara Ann” that fall. But this one did in late spring thanks, in part, to Al Jardine’s great lead vocal.

The Beatles – “I Feel Fine” and “Yesterday”

Two more from the Fab Four… “I Feel Fine,” released in Nov. ’64, was the year’s first #1 single. And that feedback at the start of the recording!

Paul McCartney is the only member of the band to appear on “Yesterday.” Tell ’em, George…

The Byrds – “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

Their second chart-topper of the year was a significant re-working of Pete Seeger’s composition from a folk standard to folk-rock.

Freddie and the Dreamers – “I’m Telling You Now”

Back to the British Invasion, this time with a band from the musically fertile Manchester area. Freddie Garrity, who had been a milkman before the group became famous, was known for annoyingly waving his arms and legs while performing. I’m telling you now, Freddie… cut it out.

Gary Lewis & the Playboys – “This Diamond Ring”

The boy-next-door band, led by Jerry’s son, earned seven Top 10 hits in less than two years, none bigger than their first, produced by Snuff Garrett and co-written by Al Kooper.

Barry McGuire – “Eve of Destruction”

The protest song, penned by P.F. Sloan, includes the lyric “You’re old enough to kill but not for votin'” in its first verse.

The Toys – “A Lover’s Concerto”

The single by the female trio from the New York City borough of Queens sold two million copies.

3 Weeks

The Beatles – “Eight Days a Week”

How hot were they? This gem reached the top just four weeks after its release.

Herman’s Hermits – “I’m Henry VIII, I Am” and “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter”

Peter Noone was just 17 years old when he sang these songs, two of their eleven Top 10 U.S. singles.

Record World ranked “Mrs. Brown” as the year’s #2 overall hit.

Related: Noone told us what it was like to tour America for the first time

The Righteous Brothers – “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”

If we’ve done our math correctly, the duo of Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield were each just 24 years old when they recorded this classic, Record World‘s #2 hit for all of 1965.

The Rolling Stones – “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”

Returning for one last time to the British Invasion bands’ dominance of the U.S. singles chart this year, here’s this sonic wonder, which became just the Stones’ third Top 10 hit in America. How cool is this performance from ’65?

Related: The summer of “Satisfaction”

The Supremes – “I Hear a Symphony”

The trio’s third #1 of the year followed the lackluster (for them) reception to “Nothing But Heartaches” which failed to reach the Top 10 over the summer.

4 Weeks

Sonny & Cher – “I Got You Babe”

What a great recording! The duo were 30 and 19 (yikes!) respectively when they cut the track with the Wrecking Crew in Hollywood on June 7. A little over two months later, it hit the top on August 14. It ranked #1 overall on Record World for the year.

Related: Many of these same wonderful artists were back on top in ’66, joined by some new names

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Greg Brodsky
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