#1 Singles of 1966: Good Lovin’

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This ad for the Young Rascals single appeared in the March 19, 1966, issue of Record World

We’ve recently introduced another way 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 the year’s #1 pop hits in the U.S.–in this case, 1966–according to Record World, a competitor of Billboard.

Earning a #1 single is an achievement that goes on an artist’s permanent biography. And in the classic rock era, Top 40 radio programmers were still playing rock music alongside pop, R&B, country, and other genres.

In 1966, only one song – and a surprising one at that – stayed at the top for three weeks or more. And thus, no less than 37 singles reached #1 that year. While we’re not going to write about all of them, they’re all listed below. Our recap begins in reverse, and alphabetically by artist, starting with the 22 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 Beach Boys – “Good Vibrations”

It’s a crime that one of the best songs ever recorded didn’t stay on top for more than a week.

The Beatles – “Paperback Writer” and “Yellow Submarine”

The Fab Four continued their excellence and success with two very different styles. “Yellow Submarine” sold 1.2 million copies in the U.S. in its first four weeks, earning the group their 21st Gold record.

James Brown – “I Got You (I Feel Good)”

This slice of funky goodness from Soul Brother No. 1 was the highest charting pop hit of his career. (He scored many #1s on the R&B chart.)

Lou Christie – “Lightnin’ Strikes”

How did the singer, born Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco, hit those high notes?

Petula Clark – “My Love”

The British vocalist was 33 years-old when this became her second #1 U.S. single.

Donovan – “Mellow Yellow” and “Sunshine Superman”

The singer-songwriter from Scotland began a significant run in America with these unique, back-to-back hits.

The Happenings – “See You in September”

The pop music group’s first hit fulfilled its promise by reaching the top on Sept. 17.

Bobby Hebb – “Sunny”

The parents of the Nashville-born, soul singer-songwriter were both blind musicians.

Tommy James & the Shondells – “Hanky Panky”

The Lovin’ Spoonful – “Summer in the City”

One of the anthems of the season did, indeed, hit the top during the dog days of August. Sebastian’s sideburns…

The Mindbenders – “A Groovy Kind of Love”

The British Invasion group enjoyed a big U.S. single following the departure of their lead singer Wayne Fontana.

Related: Read more about the Mindbenders in our feature story

Napoleon XIV – “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!

If this novelty record is somehow not on your radar, you owe it to yourself to give it a listen. Crazy, man… crazy.

Related: Our story of how the song came to be

New Vaudeville Band – “Winchester Cathedral”

? and the Mysterians – “96 Tears”

One of the first garage band hits begins with one of the most memorable riffs in rock history.

Related: Our feature on “96 Tears”

Johnny Rivers – “Poor Side of Town”

The great singer-songwriter earned nine Top 10 singles. This was his sole #1.

The Rolling Stones – “Paint it Black”

Their library is so vast that it’s easy to overlook this gem. Here you go…

Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs – “Li’l Red Riding Hood”

Frank Sinatra – “Strangers in the Night” and “That’s Life”

“The Voice” is represented with two gems from his remarkable repertoire. The former won the Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal. His phrasing on the latter is just jaw-droppingly great. Something we had never seen before: The year’s Dec. 31 chart had two singles at #1: “That’s Life” and the Monkees’ “I’m a Believer.”

Nancy Sinatra – “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'”

A great showcase for the Los Angeles session musicians known as the Wrecking Crew.

2 Weeks

The Association – “Cherish”

The vocal group earned five Top 10 singles in the mid-’60s.

The Beach Boys – “Barbara Ann”

The lead vocals are shared by Brian Wilson and an uncredited Dean Torrence of the surf duo Jan and Dean.

The Beatles – “We Can Work it Out” and “Nowhere Man”

Chronologically, these were their first two #1s of the year. If you were around in 1966, these made listening to Top 40 radio a real treat.

The Mamas & the Papas – “Monday, Monday”

The vocal group had a relatively brief run in the mid’60s but their legacy includes six Top 5 hits including this, their only #1, and a Grammy winner for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

The Monkees – “Last Train to Clarksville” and “I’m a Believer”

In their first year of existence, Monkee-mania dominated the music scene with #1 singles and albums, thanks to their weekly TV comedy series. Both songs featured lead vocals by Micky Dolenz.

Related: Here we come… the Monkees incredible first year

The Righteous Brothers – “(You’re My) Soul & Inspiration”

The duo’s second #1 was again written by the husband-wife songwriting partners Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. (The pair were joined by Phil Spector on 1964’s “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling.”)

Simon and Garfunkel – “The Sound of Silence”

Hello darkness, my old friend… The duo’s first (of three) #1 chart hits was originally recorded in March 1964 for their debut LP which was largely ignored. It wasn’t released as a single until September 1965 after its producer tinkered with the original “Sounds” version.

Listen to the original “Sounds” version from ’64

Percy Sledge – “When a Man Loves a Woman”

The singer was just 24 when he recorded his biggest hit.

The Supremes – “You Can’t Hurry Love” and “You Keep Me Hangin’ On”

Between 1964 and 1967, the trio earned an astonishing ten #1 pop hits, all of which were composed by the songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. Hitsville USA, indeed.

The Troggs – “Wild Thing”

From its bent, distorted, shocking opening note to the ocarina solo to Reg Presley’s distinctive snarling vocal, it was one of the cornerstones of garage-rock.

The Young Rascals – “Good Lovin'”

The first of three #1s from the New Jersey-born blue-eyed soul band.

3 Weeks

SSgt. Barry Sadler – “The Ballad of the Green Berets”

The patriotic song flew up the charts upon its January release, thanks in part to Sadler’s performance on The Ed Sullivan Show. It was the surprise Record of the Year for 1966 on both Record World and Billboard.

Related: Our feature story on Sadler’s big hit

Other notable 1966 hits that were blocked from the very top by these songs include the Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B,” Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” the Hollies’ “Bus Stop,” the Cyrkle’s “Red Rubber Ball,” and Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels’ “Devil With a Blue Dress On.”

Related: Another way of looking at 1966 – See how the songs ranked for the year

Greg Brodsky

3 Comments so far

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  1. Bears Fan
    #1 Bears Fan 23 July, 2020, 09:52

    I remember seeing S.SGT. Barry Sadler on television. It was a moving performance, during a troubled time.

    Reply this comment
  2. Da Mick
    #2 Da Mick 9 May, 2021, 15:43

    Having been at a great age to be living through this incredible musical era, I can say, without a bit of sarcasm, that I feel both, gratitude for having been there in my youth, and also sympathy for the young people of today. Even though this music is there for them to experience and enjoy, if they want it, they’ll never be able to experience the kinetic energy we experienced though this music, as it was happening, as a huge cultural part of of an amazingly transformative time in modern history. This music is, was, and always will be the best ever, but there will never be anything like experiencing it in its “now” moments, as an exciting reflection of who we were as a generation.

    Reply this comment
    • Michael Lee
      Michael Lee 2 August, 2022, 01:17

      Perfectly stated. We were fortunate indeed to experience the evolution of 60’s “AM” rock/motown and 70’s “FM” classic/hard rock in all of its glory.

      Reply this comment

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