211. The Walker Brothers – The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore (1966)

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Despite Labour’s historic election victory (see below), it’s unlikely him and the rest of the Cabinet were dancing to the number 1 at the time. The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore isn’t exactly D:ream’s Things Can Only Get Better, is it?

Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons songwriters Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio (also one of The Four Seasons) originally wrote the track as a solo single for Valli. However, his backing group also performed on The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore), as it was originally known upon its release in 1965. The Walker Brothers had stayed popular since achieving their first number 1 that year with Bacharach and David’s Make It Easy on Yourself. It was an admirable attempt to replicate Phil Spector’s ‘wall of sound’, but fell short despite making it to the top. They then went to number three with My Ship Is Coming In before having a crack at Valli’s tale of heartbreak. This time they really nailed it.

Listening to Valli’s version, it’s clear that this was already a strong track, but The Walker Brothers and producers Johnny Franz and Ivor Raymonde take it to another level and really ramp up the melodrama.

Their version starts with a rather Mexican/Spanish feel in the intro, before Scott’s baritone lead begins. As the song continues, his voice is almost lost in the lush instrumentation, but that’s entirely appropriate, as the singer is drowning against an overwhelming tide of heartbreak. Something about the way he sings the lines ‘The tears are always clouding your eyes/When you’re without love’ gets me every time. I’m a big admirer of Scott Walker as an artist, but nothing he’s written tops this in my opinion.

Following a month at number 1, Scott Walker began to take over with song choices and would also join in on production duties, but as his role grew, so did the dissension, and their success began to decline. In early 1968, after touring with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cat Stevens and Engelbert Humperdinck, followed by a tour of Japan. The trio disbanded.

All three ‘Walkers’ continued to record as solo artists, with Scott gaining a cult following that only grew over the years, even if mainstream success eluded him. His late-60s albums are now considered classics. The best in my opinion, was Scott 3 (1969), featuring the trippy masterpiece Plastic Palace People.

In 1974 The Walker Brothers reformed and released three albums between 1975 and 1978. Apart from the title track to No Regrets however, they’re very MOR-country and not worth hearing. Since their final split, Scott Walker went even more leftfield and now releases albums sporadically to great acclaim. He also produced Pulp’s final album, We Love Life in 2001.

Scott is a big hero of frontman Jarvis Cocker, and was also famously a big influence on David Bowie, which became ever more apparent during Bowie’s last few albums. A birthday message from Walker to Bowie on his 50th in 1997 even reduced him to tears.

The other two Walkers, John and Gary, released biography The Walker Brothers: No Regrets – Our Story in 2009, in which John seemed philosophical about losing his importance in the group to Scott. In 2000 he set up his own record label and began touring, but he died of liver cancer in 2011. Gary has seemingly disappeared back into obscurity.

The music and art worlds mourned the loss of Scott Walker when it was announced he had died of cancer on 22 March 2019, aged 76. He leaves behind a fascinating life story and a truly innovative body of work.

Written by: Bob Crewe & Bob Gaudio

Producers: Johnny Franz & Ivor Raymonde

Weeks at number 1: 4 (17 March-13 April)

Births:

Politician Andrew Rosindell – 17 March
Footballer Nigel Clough – 19 March
Politician Mark Williams – 24 March 
Athelete Roger Black – 31 March 
Disc jockey Chris Evans – 1 April
Footballer Teddy Sheringham – 2 April 
Footballer Steve Claridge – 10 April 
Singer Lisa Stansfield – 11 April 

Deaths:

Author CS Forester – 2 April
Footballer Barry Burtler – 9 April 
Author Evelyn Waugh – 10 April 

Meanwhile…

20 March: Four months before the FIFA World Cup was scheduled to kick off in England, the Jules Rimet Trophy was stolen. A thief broke into the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, ignored rare stamps nearby that were worth far more, and took the trophy from its public display. A package with the removable lining was left at Stamford Bridge with a ransom demand. When police arrested Edward Betchley, who mailed the package, he claimed the real culprit was known as ‘The Pole’.

27 March: He/she have never been found, but the trophy was, by a dog called Pickles, a week after the robbery. His owner, David Corbett, bought a new house with the reward money, and Pickles won a medal and was invited to a celebration banquet when England won the tournament. He went on to a TV career before dying in 1967 after getting caught up in his choke chain while eating cheese. Poor Pickles, what a way for a hero to go.

31 March: Harold Wilson’s gamble paid off, and the Labour party won the snap general election, increasing their wafer-thin majority significantly.

7 April: The UK asked the UN Security Council for authority to use force to stop oil tankers that violate the oil embargo against Rhodesia. The UN did exactly that three days later.

11 April: The Marquess of Bath, in conjunction with Jimmy Chipperfield, opened Longleat Safari Park at his Longleat House, which was the first drive-through safari park outside of Africa.

207. The Beatles – Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out (1965)

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It will be no surprise to see The Beatles were Christmas number 1 yet again. This was the third time in a row, and they overtook Cliff Richard as the British act with the most chart-toppers – nine at this point. Since their last single Help!, the Fab Four had met with their old hero Elvis Presley, played their famous Shea Stadium concert, and finally slowed down, with the intention of devoting more time than usual to their new album.

With LSD added to their drug intake, in addition to their pot smoking, Rubber Soul was a big step forward. The Beatles drew on their favourite musicians of the time, including Bob Dylan and The Byrds, to create a more introspective sound, combining pop, rock and folk with their most thoughtful, insightful lyrics to date. In addition to album highlights such as Drive My Car, Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), In My Life and If I Needed Someone, the band also recorded two non-album tracks to release as a single on the same day.

Because there were disagreements over which track to prioritise, Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out became the first ‘proper’ double-A-side single. Any followers of this blog will have seen we’ve had double-A-sides before, but in these instances, the second track listed was actually supposed to be a B-side, it’s just that demand resulted in the flip sides being promoted as strongly as the main track. That’s why you’ll see so many from Elvis earlier in the decade.

Day Tripper was recorded at Abbey Road on 16 October. The killer riff and majority of the song came from John Lennon, with Paul McCartney mainly helping with the verses. Seems to me this was Lennon’s attempt at coming up with a hook as good as The Rolling Stones’ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, and he came admirably close with this.

At the time, Lennon and McCartney were debating where to go next with their songwriting, having by and large exhausted the well of first-person love songs. One option, that fortunately didn’t last, was to write ‘comedy songs’. Not necessarily silly songs, but humorous tracks, occasionally with punchlines. Although the world can be glad they didn’t stick with that idea, to be fair, when the examples are Day Tripper, Drive My Car and Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown), maybe it wouldn’t have been such a bad thing after all.

Lyrically, Day Tripper was their first single to mention drugs, albeit hidden in a not-subtle-at-all manner behind travelling references. The female character, perhaps like the one in Ticket to Ride, is sexually confident (in addition to being a ‘weekend hippy’), with the line ‘she’s a big teaser’ famously a cleaner version of the original ‘she’s a prick teaser’.

Although cleaner and sounding more ‘pop’ than (I Can’t get No) Satisfaction, the stereo mix of Day Tripper is rather sloppy. Of course, in 1965 stereo was considered less important than mono, but that’s no excuse for the brief accidental erasing of the guitar and tambourine tracks at 1.50. Once heard it’s impossible to not notice. Thankfully the error was rectified when the track was included on the 1 compilation in 2000 by taking the sounds from elsewhere in the track. Yet another classic mid-60s track, Day Tripper could easily have been a number 1 on its own.

The origins of We Can Work It Out probably came from McCartney’s now-troubled relationship with Jane Asher. He struggled to finish the song and took it to Lennon, whose ‘Life is very short…’ section was the perfect counterpoint to McCartney’s work. I have to agree with Revolution in the Head author Ian MacDonald that this song doesn’t spotlight the difference between Lennon and McCartney’s songwriting as definitively as some suggest. You can hardly call McCartney’s ‘do I have to keep on talking till I can’t go on?’ optimistic, for example. Nonetheless, the instances of the duo working together to such an extent shrank rapidly after We Can Work It Out, and this song is a great example of how well the duo complimented each other.

It was recorded four days after Day Tripper, with the rhythm track laid down in two takes. However, a further 11 hours were spent on the recording – the longest they’d ever spent on one song. During the session, George Harrison came up with the idea for Lennon’s section to be recorded as a waltz. The final ingredient, and the best, was the overdubbing of Lennon on a harmonium. This added texture to the single that pointed the way towards the future of The Beatles.

McCartney, Harrison and Starr felt We Can Work It Out was the better track to feature as an A-side, but Lennon felt strongly they should opt for the harder Day Tripper. EMI even originaly announced We Can Work It Out as the Christmas single, but Lennon’s stubbornness resulted in both tracks being joint headliners. Airplay and point-of-sale requests proved Lennon wrong, but I’m on his side on this one. Having said that, for my money one of the best Beatles covers of all time has to be Stevie Wonder’s We Can Work It Out in 1970.

Although they were at number 1 for the ninth time in a row, alarm bells rang within the media that they were starting to lose some of their popularity because the single didn’t shoot straight to the top in the first week of release, which had become the norm for the Fab Four. Despite this, the record was their best seller since Can’t Buy Me Love in 1964.

Before the release, the band recorded promo films with Joe McGrath to avoid having to appear yet again on Top of the Pops etc. The highlight of these videos is Lennon making McCartney laugh while pulling faces on the harmonium. Four days before the single knocked The Carnival Is Over from number 1, the Beatles performed their final UK gigs at the Capitol in Cardiff.

Written by: John Lennon & Paul McCartney

Producer: George Martin

Weeks at number 1: 5 (16 December 1965-19 January 1966)

Births:

Northern Irish composer Martin Galway – 3 January 

Deaths:

Broadcaster Richard Dimbleby – 22 December


Meanwhile…

17 December 1965: Tension increased between the UK and Rhodesia, with Britain beginning an oil embargo. America soon followed suit.

22 December saw a temporary maximum speed limit of 70mph on the UK’s motorways. The limit became permanent in 1967.

On the same day, Prime Minister Harold Wilson shuffled the cabinet and made Roy Jenkins the Home Secretary and the new Minister of Transport was Barbara Castle. Both MPs would be big names within Labour for many years to come.

27 December: The oil platform Sea Gem collapsed in the North Sea, killing 13 of the 32 men on board.

3 January 1966: The debut of classic children’s TV series Camberwick Green, shown on BBC One as part of the Watch with Mother strand.

4 January: Over 4,000 people attended the funeral of BBC broadcaster Richard Dimbleby. Such a gathering for the death of any broadcaster seems hard to believe.

12 January: Supporters of Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith attacked three visiting MPs.

205. The Rolling Stones – Get Off of My Cloud (1965)

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Ken Dodd’s Tears was finally usurped after five weeks at the top, with a song that couldn’t be more different. The Rolling Stones were at number 1 for the third time that year with the racucous Get Off of My Cloud.

Adored by young people and critics and feared by the older generation, The Stones were now on a par with The Beatles, but rather than make the move into establishment acceptance, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards decided to write a sequel to their previous number 1, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. The alienation felt by Jagger was the theme once more, and it seems his band’s superstardom hadn’t improved the singer’s general mood. Richards based the tune on the Kingsmen’s classic Louie Louie and later expressed regret that Get Off of My Cloud hadn’t been slowed down. He also said it was one of Andrew Loog Oldham’s worst productions.

I’ve said before that I think a lot of early Stones recordings would have benefited from cleaner production, but I’m not sure I agree with Richards in this instance. I think Oldham’s work around the time of Aftermath (1966) suits the darker, early-psychedelic material the Stones were coming out with, particuarly on tracks like this and Have You Seen Your Mother Baby, Standing in the Shadow? Although it would be nice to actually be able to work out what Jagger is shouting about. And I realise by typing that sentence I sound like the sort of person who would have been furious in 1965 that the Rolling Stones had knocked Ken Dodd from number 1…

Jagger is living high up on the 99th floor of an apartment block, and the first verse follows right on from (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, with the singer complaining about commercialism through advertising. However, he wrongfoots everyone by spending the next verse complaining about the noise coming from his neighbours until the early hours. Jagger isn’t on anybody’s side here other than his own. And what’s more, he’s so bloody rich, he can afford to go for some peace and quiet and end up with loads of parking tickets. Couldn’t give a shit as long as he’s left alone. And so we have the most mean-spirited chart-topper so far, and you’ve got to admire The Rolling Stones for their chutzpah. Their stand-offishness only made them more admired.

Written by: Mick Jagger & Keith Richards

Producer: Andrew Loog Oldham

Weeks at number 1: 3 (4-24 November)

Births:

Actor Shaun Williamson – 4 November
Comedian Sean Hughes – 10 November Sean Hughes, comedian (died 2017)
Northern Irish racecar driver Eddie Irvine – 10 November
Presenter Eddie Mair – 12 November

Deaths:

Academic Ifor Williams – 4 November
Politician George Henry Hall – 8 November

Meanwhile…

5 November: In the autumn of 1965 the situation in Rhodesia degenerated so much that martial law was announced. The UN General Assembly accepted British intent to use force if neccessary.

8 November: The Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act suspended capital punishment for murder in England, Scotland and Wales, for five years in the first instance, replacing it with a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment.

11 November: Ian Smith’s white majority regime unilaterally declared independence.

13 November: The word ‘fuck’ was believed to have been spoken on British television for the first time by theatre critich Kenneth Tynan. He was taking part in a live debate on censorship on BBC Two satirical series BBC-3. No recording exists of the occurence, but despite general opinion that it was Tynan, three other moments could also be considered the first: a drunken Brendan Brehan on Panorama in 1956 (barely intelligible muttering), a man who painted railings describing his job as ‘fucking boring’ on Ulster TV’s magazine Roundabout in 1959, or actress Miriam Margolyes, who claims to have said it in frustration while taking part in ITV’s University Challenge in 1963. But really, who gives a fuck?

20 November: The UN Security Council recommended that all states should cease trading with Rhodesia.

204. Ken Dodd – Tears (1965)

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Comedian Ken Dodd’s Tears’ reign of the singles chart lasted a mind-boggling five weeks. Not only that, it was the best-selling single of 1965 – a year featuring some of the greatest number 1s there has ever been. How did this happen?

Kenneth Arthur Dodd was born 8 November 1927 in Knotty Ash, Liverpool. He sang in the local church choir, and at 14 he left school to work for his father as a coal merchant. Despite this, he was in love with the idea of being an entertainer, and his father bought him a ventriloquist’s dummy, which he named Charlie Brown. Dodd began his showbiz career performing at the local orphanage. His trademark bucked teeth came about as a result of Dodd being dared by his friends to ride his bike with his eyes closed.

His big break came in 1954 when he turned professional at the age of 26. He performed as Professor Yaffle Chucklebutty, Operatic Tenor and Sausage Knotter at the Nottingham Empire. It’s fair to say his eccentric humour was already well in place by this point. He gained top billing for the first time in Blackpool in 1958. With his unusual appearance, quickfire one-liners, and lengthy performances, he became a big star.

Over the years his tales of the Diddy Men, jam butty mines and Knotty Ash (where he lived all his life) made him a true family entertainer. His shows became so long he even entered the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s longest joke-telling session – 1,500 jokes in three-and-a-half hours.

His sets would also feature songs. Dodd was no great shakes as a singer, but he wasn’t bad either, and off the back of his fame he started releasing singles, his first being Love is Like a Violin in 1960. It went to number eight, but for the next few years his records only made it into the top 30, including Happiness, which became his signature song.

Which makes it unlikely that anyone including Dodd would have expected Tears to do as well it did. Originally called Tears for Souvenirs, the words were by Frank Capano and music by Frank Uhr. Recorded by Rudy Vallee in 1929, it was based on Delilah’s aria Mon cœur s’ouvre à ta voix (Softly awakes my heart) from Act II of Camille Saint-Saëns’s opera 1877 opera Samson and Delilah.

Dodd’s performance on Tears, like most of his singles, is played straight, and yes, he sings it well enough, although it’s a very mannered performance, with every line pronounced to perfection. But it’s not even Dodd’s best single – Happiness is more memorable (it’s the only other one I’ve heard and I can’t say I’m in a hurry to hear any others. My only prior knowledge of it came from a snippet being sang in The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band’s I’m Bored in 1967).

It’s a throwback to the pop singles of the early-to-mid-50s. As the crimes of the Moors Murderers came to light (see below), I’d imagine that the British public, whether subconsciously or not, chose to a very safe song to listen to that was reminiscent of more innocent times. This can’t be proved though, and it still doesn’t explain exactly how big this song was. In addition to being the best seller of 1965, Tears was the third biggest single of the 60s and the only one in the top five that wasn’t by fellow scousers, The Beatles. In 2017 it was revealed as the 39th biggest single of all time. Incredible statistics for such a random, average track. Basically, I don’t know why it was so popular. It’s yet another example of the weird and wonderful world of the UK singles chart.

Dodd’s music career peaked in the mid-60s, with further top ten entries for The River (Le Colline Sono In Fioro) and Promises. Occasionally he branched out into straight acting, in theatre (a production of Twelfth Night in 1971), TV (Doctor Who in 1987) and cinema (Kenneth Branagh’s version of Hamlet in 1996). I remember finding Dodd funny as a child and wondering what the tax evasion case of 1989 was all about. I didn’t like the idea of such an odd man as Dodd behind bars, but he was acquitted and the media spotlight didn’t hurt his career.

Dodd was a national treasure and one of the last great British eccentrics. Over the years he recieved an OBE, was knighted and received award after award. Behind the laughter, like with so many comics, there was sadness. Dodd was in a relationship with Anita Boutin from 1955 until she died of a brain tumour in 1977.

A year later he fell in love with Anne Jones, and they married on 9 March 2018, two days before he died. They had wanted children but were unable, and the details of his tax evasion had included failed rounds of IVF. When they wed, Dodd had just been released from hopsital, where he had been for six weeks due to a chest infection.

Ken Dodd died in his childhood home in Knotty Ash on 11 March 2018, aged 90. The showbiz world mourned the loss of a beloved figure.

Written by: Billy Uhr & Frank Capano

Producer: Norman Newell

Weeks at number 1: 5 (30 September-3 November) *BEST-SELLING SINGLE OF THE YEAR*

Births:

Comedian Steve Coogan – 14 October
Actor Stephen Tompkinson – 15 October
Disc jockey Steve Lamacq – 16 October
Bush singer Gavin Rossdale – 30 October 

Meanwhile…

30 September: The first episode of ATV’s much-loved puppet series Thunderbirds aired on ITV.

7 October: A 27-year-old stock clerk named Ian Brady was charged with the murder of 17-year-old apprentice electrician Edward Evans the night before. Myra Hindley’s brother-in-law David Smith had witnessed Brady striking Evans with the flat of an axe and then strangling him with electrical cord. Smith had been friends with Brady for a while, but when he told his wife Maureen Hindley what he had seen, she told him to ring the police. The arrest led British Transport Police to discover suitcases belonging to Brady at Manchester Central railway station. Inside one of them were incriminating, disturbing photos of a young girl, as well as a tape of her voice pleading for help.

8 October: The iconic Post Office Tower opened in London, remaining the capital’s tallest building until 1980.

11 October: Myra Hindley was arrested and both she and Brady were charged with Evans’ murder. Police searches led them to believe that the duo were responsible for the murders of several children reported missing in the Manchester area over the last few years.

16 October: The body of 10-year-old Lesley Ann Downey was found on Saddleworth Moor.

18 October: The Magic Roundabout premiered on BBC One.

21 October: As news reports pieced together the horrific story of the Moors Murderers, Brady and Hindley were charged with Downey’s murder.

22 October: The drama in Rhodesia continued, with African countries demanding that the UK use force to prevent it from declaring unilateral independence.

24 October: Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations Arthur Bottomley travelled there to negotiate with their Prime Minster Ian Smith.

24 October: Police found the decomposed body of 12-year-old John Kilbride, who had been missing since November 1963.

29 October: Brady and Hindley were charged in court with the murders of Evans, Downey and Kilbride.

203. The Walker Brothers – Make It Easy on Yourself (1965)

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Long before Scott Walker was ordering a percussionist to punch a side of pork, he was a 60s pop idol with his pretend siblings. The Walker Brothers first found fame with this first of two number 1s, Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s Make It Easy On Yourself.

John Maus, born in New York on 12 November 1943, was a child television star. In the late 50s he was friends with Ritchie Valens, and following the La Bamba hitmaker’s tragic death, he was an honorary pallbearer at his funeral. Later, he befriended future Beach Boys David Marks and Dennis and Carl Wilson, and he helped teach them how to play the guitar. He formed a musical partnership with his sister, and they were known as the acoustic duo John and Judy. In 1961, they met Scott Engel.

Engel, born in Hamilton, Ohio on 9 January 1943, had also been a child actor and singer, and in the late 50s he was marketed as a teen idol, with Eddie Fisher (one of the first number 1 stars in the UK) pushing him for stardom. Engel had intellectual tastes from an early age, and loved progressive jazz, Beat poetry and European cinema. When he met John Maus he was in the instrumental group The Routers.

Engel and Maus briefly backed John’s sister and they became Judy and the Gents. Somewhere around this time, the 17-year-old Maus got hold of an ID card for John Walker, enabling him to perform in clubs while underage. The name stuck, and he was sick of people getting his surname wrong anyway. After breaking away from Judy Maus, Engel and Walker were briefly part of The Surfaris, the group that had recorded Wipeout in 1963. At least, they were part of the touring group, none of whom recorded their singles.

In 1964, they decided to work together as The Walker Brothers Trio, with Al ‘Tiny’ Schneider on drums. Walker was lead vocalist and guitarist and Engel was bassist and provided harmony vocals. At some point Schneider left and they continued as a duo before meeting new drummer Gary Leeds (born 9 March 1942 in Glendale, California).

All three were photogenic and soon ended up on TV shows including Shindig. They signed with Mercury Records and recorded their debut single, Pretty Girls Everywhere. It was Maus’ idea they should all take the surname Walker.

I find it odd that Engel continued to go by the name Scott Walker for the rest of his life. I guess he must have had a soft spot for his time as a pop star.

Gary Walker had recently toured the UK with PJ Proby, and convinced John and Scott that The Walker Brothers should try their luck as pop stars on these shores. It was his father that financed their first trip early in 1965. Their first single barely scraped into the charts, but they had better luck with Love Her. This follow-up featured Scott on lead vocal, and upon its success, Scott began moving into the lead spot in the trio.

They found an ideal producer in Johnny Franz. He was one of the top UK producers of the 50s and 60s, and by this point had produced six UK number 1s, from Winifred Atwell’s Let’s Have Another Party in 1954 to Juliet by The Four Pennies in 1964. Franz was very effective at lavishly orchestrated 60s pop, which made him a natural choice to produce a Bacharach and David song. Make It Easy on Yourself was a decent slab of break-up melodrama from the genius duo, and became the songwriters’ sixth UK number 1. It had first been a hit in 1962 for Jerry Butler, based on a demo from Dionne Warwick.

Make It Easy on Yourself comes out on the losing side when compared to that other big heartbreak song of 1965, You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’. Nobody does the Wall of Sound better than the creator, Phil Spector. Having said that, The Walker Brothers and Franz put in a decent job. The track opens with a wordless version of the chorus, and that first line, ‘Breaking up is so very hard to do’, set to Scott’s smooth baritone, sets things off nicely. It can’t keep the momentum going though, and the verses don’t have the tension and drama of the Righteous Brothers’ number 1. How many songs do, though? Oh, this song also features legendary session drummer Clem Cattini, who took part in a frankly ridiculously long list of UK number 1s over the years, the most recent of which had been The Bachelors’ snore-fest Diane in 1964.

Scott’s vocal is perhaps a little too polished and mannered to carry off the emotion… unless this is a deliberate ploy to make the protagonist sound in denial. You can easily imagine several other singers’ releasing this, such as Cilla Black, which means The Walker Brothers, in particular Scott, were still too green to put their own stamp on their releases. Their next number 1 was a big improvement.

Written by: Burt Bacharach & Hal David

Producer: Johnny Franz

Weeks at number 1: 1 (23-29 September)

Births:

Olympic athelete Phylis Smith – 29 September 

202. The Rolling Stones – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (1965)

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What is it with these legendary songs that were supposedly written in the sleep of their composers? Paul McCartney has always said Yesterday came to him in a dream. He rushed to the piano in the Asher household the following morning to play the melody, and was convinced at first that somebody else must have written it. But Scrambled Eggs, as he originally called it, was a Lennon and McCartney original.

And in the same year came (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had written their first number 1, The Last Time, earlier in 1965, although how much they can lay claim to that is debatable considering they pinched the chorus from The Staple Singers. Nonetheless, their songwriting was improving. The fact this song came soon after makes that a hell of an understatement.

Richards claims he woke up one morning and had a half memory of recording himself trying out a song that had come to him in the night. Playing back the recording, he heard himself playing (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction on an acoustic guitar for two minutes, singing the song’s title, followed by the sound of the pick hitting the floor and then him snoring for 40 minutes until the tape side ran out. Like McCartney, Richards was sure someone else had already written this song. He was worried it sounded like Martha and the Vandellas’ Dancing in the Street in particular.

Are the stories for these songs true? Did two of the most memorable pop songs of all time appear in their creators’ subconscious? Or did they lie to add to the legend? I guess we’ll never know, but if both are true, it’s fascinating.

The Rolling Stones entered Chess Studios in Chicago to record (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction on 10 May. Mick Jagger wrote the lyrics four days beforehand by a swimming pool. Apart from the aforementioned line, that is. The original recording wasn’t the version we know and love, and feature Brian Jones on harmonica. This version was the first the public heard of the track, however, when they debuted it on US telvision series Shindig. Two days later they tried again at RCA Studios in Hollywood, with Charlie Watts adding a new beat, and Richards performing the famous riff through a Gibson fuzzbox. This hadn’t been done on a released record before, and added a scratchy rawness to their sound. But that was fine, because he had no intention of it appearing on the released single. It was only there as a guide for what he wanted a brass section to perform.

What else can be said about (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction? How many superlatives exist? This was more dangerous than pop and rock’n’roll and to me, it’s one of the first singles you can call rock, along with You Really Got Me by The Kinks. Richards’ riff is like the musical equivalent of the big bang, it’s so important and incredible. And although it’s impossible to imagine a time in which it never existed, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction never, ever, sounds boring. That fuzzy riff is so primitive, it’s somehow meant the song has remained fresh in the same way the base raunch of You Really Got Me has. It’s such a fantastic riff, it would have no doubt sounded great from a brass ensemble, but would it be as immortal as the version we know? I doubt it.

Lots of credit should also go to Jagger, whose lyrics here really spoke to his generation. It’s hard sometimes to think a song that encapsulates feelings of alienation brought on by advertising could come from a man who later became obsessed with money like Jagger did.

Despite all the plaudits the Stones have had thrown at them over the years, I don’t think Jagger has ever really got the credit he deserves as a lyricist. Some of his songs from 1965 through to the early-70s are as sharp as pop and rock music gets. There’s a real dry wit on display here. It’s only now that I discover that although many people found this song dangerously sexually charged at the time, the filthiest lyric of all escaped most people, including me. When Jagger sings: ‘And I’m tryin’ to make some girl/Who tells me baby better come back later next week/’Cause you see I’m on a losing streak’ the ‘losing streak’ in question is the girl’s period. Clever, Jagger, you filthy beast. As great as the lyrics are though, I guess that riff overshadows, well, nearly everything. Bill Wyman’s bass also complements it brilliantly though.

Once the track was completed, everyone bar the songwriters was convinced it needed no brass overdubs, and that they’d hit upon something truly special. Luckily for everyone, Jagger and Richards were outvoted, and (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction was quickly released a month later in the US, a well as featuring on the American version of their third album, Out of Our Heads. A month later it was the US number 1. UK buyers had to wait a while longer, as Decca were already about to release a live EP by The Rolling Stones. Released in August, the song divided public opinion. To older people and the BBC, it was disgusting. To pirate radio and teenagers and young adults, it was fucking brilliant. We know who was right. The BBC relented and on 9 September it began an all-too-short fortnight at number 1.

The Rolling Stones were suddenly in a new league, and rightly considered on the same level as The Beatles. Jagger and Richard had gone from blues copyists to premier songwriters. Although the whole band stood to benefit from this, 1965 marked the year in which Brian Jones began to feel sidelined.

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction is up there with She Loves You as one of the songs that defines music, let alone the 60s. There have been countless covers from the good, the bad and the downright odd over the years, including Otis Redding, Devo, Britney Spears, the Residents, Samantha Fox and Cat Power.

I was one of the lucky ones who finally got to see The Rolling Stones at Glastonbury Festival in 2013. I’m not a superfan, and was expecting dips in the set, but overall it was a triumph and well worth the wait. Their final song was (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. I’ve had many amazing monents at Glastonbury over the years. That ranks as one of the best.

Written by: Mick Jagger & Keith Richards

Producer: Andrew Loog Oldham

Weeks at number 1: 2 (9-22 September)

Deaths:

Cricketer JW Hearne – 14 September
Geologist Arthur Holmes – 20 September