Radio Hits in July 1966: A ‘Wild’ Survey

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The song was written by Chip Taylor. Atco mistakenly switched the author credits for the single’s A and B sides

In late July 1966, host nation England was celebrating its World Cup victory over Germany. Bob Dylan was injured in a motorcycle accident and would remain out of the public eye for a year.

And those listening to New York’s WABC Musicradio 77 this week were getting a great taste of how the pop charts were embracing rock ‘n’ roll hits alongside songs from other genres.

Bubbling under at #38 (and on its way to #6) on this week’s survey was Wilson Pickett with the biggest pop hit of his career, “Land of 1,000 Dances.” (The star had five #1 R&B hits.) One year from now, he would return to the pop Top 10 with “Funky Broadway.”

Jumping all the way from #58 to #21 was the Beach Boys‘ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” (Surprisingly, the song would stall nationally at #8.)

Also enjoying strong airplay this week, side-by-side with rock, pop and R&B hits was music by popular male vocalists. Jack Jones (“The Impossible Dream” at #17) and Frank Sinatra (“Strangers in the Night” at #11) were also in the Top 20.

At #10 was Bobby Hebb with a song he was inspired to write after the stabbing death of his brother several years earlier. “Sunny” would reach #2 nationally.

We hadn’t thought of English pop singer Crispian St. Peters and his hit, “The Pied Piper,” in ages. The song, at #8 this week, would reach #4 nationally. BCB friend and industry veteran Bob M points out that the song was written by Steve Duboff and Artie Kornfeld and they recorded it first, too, as The Changin’ Times. Their (original) version was recorded and released in ’65 and it also hit the charts.

The Mamas & the Papas were enjoying a big hit at #7 with “I Saw Her Again” (the follow-up to their #1 smash “Monday Monday”).

At #6, the Rolling Stones had a hit about how tranquilizers helped housewives get through the day, “Mother’s Little Helper.”

The Lovin’ Spoonful had one of the anthems of the season with “Summer in the City” which would go on to reach #1 in August and stay there for three weeks. We enjoy this clip particularly to admire John Sebastian’s amazing sideburns.

Anyone who listened to Top 40 in the 1960s recalls the popularity of novelty songs like “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” by Napoleon IV, who was a New Yorker by the name of Jerry Samuels. Read our story about the song here.

Also rocking the WABC Top 10 with “Lil’ Red Riding Hood” at #3 were Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs, a Dallas, TX band whose stage costumes were inspired by Yul Brynner in the epic Biblical movie The Ten Commandments.

At #2 is the classic rock anthem “Wild Thing” by the English band the Troggs. The songwriting is mistakenly credited on the 45 to Trogg member Reg Presley but was in fact written by Chip Taylor (the brother of actor Jon Voight). (The song was a #1 smasheroo nationally, this week.)

At #1? That would be “Hanky Panky” by Tommy James & the Shondells, the group’s first of many big hits this decade.

Related: Our feature on all of 1966’s #1 singles

38. “Land of 1,000 Dances” – Wilson Pickett

21. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” – The Beach Boys

11. “Strangers in the Night” – Frank Sinatra

10. “Sunny” – Bobby Hebb (Philips)

9. “Sweet Pea” – Tommy Roe (ABC)

8. “The Pied Piper” – Crispian St. Peters (Jamie)

7. “I Saw Her Again” – The Mamas & the Papas (Dunhill)

6. “Mother’s Little Helper” – The Rolling Stones (London)

5. “Summer In the City” – The Lovin’ Spoonful (Kama Sutra)

4. “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” – Napoleon XIV (Warner Bros.)

3. “Lil’ Red Riding Hood” – Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs (MGM)

2. “Wild Thing” – The Troggs (Atco/Fontana)

1. “Hanky Panky” – Tommy James & the Shondells (Roulette)

(Courtesy of

Best Classic Bands Staff

1 Comment so far

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  1. Chiva Invencible
    #1 Chiva Invencible 30 July, 2023, 09:19

    A mexican cover of this song was made right in the same years -not in 2015- by Crazy Birds and their frontman Luis “Vivi” Hernández and it was called “Napoleón”. I loved it because for me it was a really funny funny song. It’s a pity that, in the US, the crystal generation ancestors had banned the Samuel’s original version from the radio.

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