Top Radio Hits 1966: What a Year For Singles!

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Looking back at the biggest radio hits of 1966, it was an era where popular vocalists were still finding room on Top 40 playlists alongside British Invasion bands, soul hits and the occasional novelty smash.

Some of the songs on Miami’s WQAM year-end survey remain fresh more than 50 years later, a testament to the songwriting, production and singing talent.

Manchester, England’s the Mindbenders had the second of their two huge hits with “Groovy Kind of Love,” which was #40 for the year. (The song reached #2 and was topped by Phil Collins’ 1988 cover, which was a #1 chart hit.)

Related: Our feature story on the Mindbenders

The Rascals earned three #1 singles in their career, one of which was the timeless “Good Lovin,'” and those great lead vocals by Felix Cavaliere. The year’s #36 hit.

Paul Revere & the Raiders scored 11 Top 20 singles. The first was “Just Like Me,” which reached #11 in 1966, and the 35th biggest of the year.

You probably knew that “Red Rubber Ball” was The Cyrkle‘s biggest hit, reaching #2 (and #32 for all of 1966). Raise your hand if you knew it was co-written by Paul Simon (with Bruce Woodley of the Seekers). “I’ve bought my ticket with my tears, that’s all I’m gonna spend…”

Related: Our feature on the Cyrkle and their big hit

The Rolling Stones‘ “Mother’s Little Helper” is one of those songs where you wonder if the Top 40 Program Directors were paying attention to the lyrics because it’s hard to imagine how a song about housewives popping pills could become a hit. But it did, reaching #28 for the year. (Their “Paint it Black” was #30.)

So, Paul Simon actually had three huge 1966 hits… Simon and Garfunkel had the year’s #33 with “I Am a Rock” and #26 with the still-classic “Homeward Bound.”

The Monkees‘ first two releases, 1966’s “Last Train to Clarksville” and “I’m a Believer,” both shot to #1. They were the year’s #9 and #25 hits, respectively.

The Mamas and the Papas also snagged a pair with “California Dreamin'” (#43) and “Monday, Monday” (#24). The folk rock quartet scored seven Top 5 singles in a two-year period from 1965-1967.

“Strangers in the Night” was the last of Frank Sinatra‘s biggest solo hits. The #1 chart hit was the year’s #22 biggest and was just one of “The Voice”‘s great vocals that can be described as his signature song.

We wouldn’t be doing our jobs if we didn’t present at least one novelty hit from 1966. That would be “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” credited to Napoleon XIV, #20 for the year. The song is spoken from the point-of-view of a man who’s gone crazy over the loss of a girlfriend. We present the B-side which was the song played backwards.

Related: Our feature on that unlikely hit

At #19 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’ve written an entire tribute to “96 Tears” by Question Mark & the Mysterians, the year’s #17 song. The Troggs had a handful for mid-Sixties hits. Their cover of “Wild Thing” was at #16.

Percy Sledge earned four Top 20 pop singles in his career. But his #1 smash, “When a Man Loves a Woman,” is certainly the one for which he’s best known. It was 1966’s 12th biggest.

The Lovin’ Spoonful had two #2 hits in 1966. Their sole #1 was that year’s great “Summer in the City,” #11 for the year.

At #8 for the year: the Beach Boys‘ masterpiece “Good Vibrations.”

Donovan‘s only U.S. #1, “Sunshine Superman,” was the year’s #7 biggest hit. Tommy James and the Shondells enjoyed seven Top 10 singles. Their first release, “Hanky Panky,” was one of two career #1s and the #5 song for the year.

The Beatles released double-A-sided singles. Their “Day Tripper”/”We Can Work It Out” and “Yellow Submarine”/”Eleanor Rigby” were #4 and #3 for 1966. The Fab Four’s updated 1962-1966 collection is available here.

The year’s top two took us by surprise: Nancy Sinatra‘s amazing “These Boots are Made For Walkin'” was the year’s #2 biggest hit.

And we’ll admit we never saw this coming… The Association had 1966’s biggest hit with “Cherish.”

Related: 40 classic rock albums of 1966

40. “Groovy Kind of Love” – The Mindbenders

39. “Sweet Talkin’ Guy” – The Chiffons

38. “Lady Godiva” – Peter and Gordon

37. “Talk Talk” – Music Machine

36. “Good Lovin'” – The Rascals

35. “Just Like Me” – Paul Revere and the Raiders

34. “Poor Side of Town” – Johnny Rivers

33. “I Am a Rock” – Simon and Garfunkel

32. “Red Rubber Ball” – The Cyrkle

31. “The More I See You” – Chris Montez

30. “Paint it Black” – The Rolling Stones

29. “Lightning Strikes” – Lou Christie

28. “Mother’s Little Helper” – The Rolling Stones

27. “Somewhere My Love” – Ray Conniff

26. “Homeward Bound” – Simon and Garfunkel

25. “I’m a Believer” – The Monkees

24. “Monday, Monday” – The Mamas & the Papas

23. “Little Girl” – Syndicate of Sound

22. “Strangers in the Night” – Frank Sinatra

21. “You Can’t Hurry Love” – The Supremes

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

19. “Sunny” – Bobby Hebb

18. “Psychotic Reaction” – Count Five

17. “96 Tears” – ? and the Mysterians

16. “Wild Thing” – The Troggs

15. “Elusive Butterfly” – Bob Lind

14. “Ballad of the Green Berets” – Sgt. Barry Sadler

13. “Bang Bang” – Cher

12. “When a Man Loves a Woman” – Percy Sledge

11. “Summer in the City” – The Lovin’ Spoonful

10. “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” – Dusty Springfield

9. “Last Train to Clarksville” – The Monkees

8. “Good Vibrations” – The Beach Boys

7. “Sunshine Superman” – Donovan

6. “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron – The Royal Guardsmen

5. “Hanky Panky” – Tommy James & the Shondells

4. “Day Tripper”/”We Can Work it Out” – The Beatles

3. “Yellow Submarine”/”Eleanor Rigby” – The Beatles

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

1. “Cherish” – The Association

Survey courtesy of the WQAM Sixties Tribute Site

Best Classic Bands Staff

2 Comments so far

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  1. Big Al
    #1 Big Al 30 October, 2021, 11:33

    I grew up with these songs from 1966. Never saw this video of California Dreaming with Michelle eating a banana (??). Seems strange.

    Reply this comment
  2. Rollbert
    #2 Rollbert 8 January, 2024, 09:34

    66 had it all could not turn off the am radio. How about Winchester Catherdral, Cool Jerk, Gloria, WipeOut, SloopJohn B, Dirty Water, Beauty only Skin Deep, Daydream, That’s life. You could hear all styles of rock on one rockin station like WABC or WMCA in NYC in 1966.

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