August 22, 2014
The United States launched the world’s first active, direct-relay communications satellite on July 10, 1962. Telstar 1 was designed to relay television signals between the United States and Europe.
Meanwhile back in the U.K., drummer Clem Cattini, lead guitarist Alan Caddy, keyboardist Roger Lavern, rhythm guitarist George Bellamy, and bassist Heinz Burt were serving as the backing band for British artist Billy Fury under the name of The Tornados.
Enter writer/producer Joe Meek. He had used Telstar as the idea for an instrumental song he had written. He decided to use The Tornados to record that song.
I don’t know if “Telstar” was considered the first space record but it had a sound that made you envision communications from outer space. It was the keyboards that provided the otherworldly imagery as they just hummed and buzzed throughout the song. It was an immediate hit in the United States as the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart on December 22, 1962, and remained there for three weeks. It was a bigger hit in their home country as it was the U.K.’s number one single for five weeks.
Acker Bilk’s single “Stranger on the Shore” was the first British single to reach number one in the U.S. when it topped the charts earlier in the year, but The Tornados were the first British group to reach number one. The Beatles would become the second.
The Tornados would never duplicate the success of their biggest hit. They had one more minor hit in the U.S. the next year, but by 1965 all the original members had departed. By 1967 the band was history. The original members reunited once during 1975 to record an updated version of their biggest hit but without commercial success.
Today, “Telstar” is a quaint and somewhat antiquated reminder of the simple music of the early 1960s, pre-Beatles era. In its day, however, “Telstar” blasted off on a journey to the top of the charts.
July 13, 2014
The music world came to a halt during late December, 1958, when Elvis received his draft notice. Fans suffered without him until March 5, 1960, when he received his honorable discharge, and all was right with the world again.
His manager, Colonel Parker, welcomed him back by booking studio time and during several marathon sessions; he produced enough material for his Elvis Is Back album and a number of singles which he released during the course of the next year. At the time, his singles were not released as a part of his studio albums. They had a life of their own and the only way to own the music was to purchase these small 7” vinyl 45s.
These early post army recording sessions produced several number one singles. “Stuck On You,” “It’s Now Or Never,” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight” all topped the Billboard Magazine Pop Singles Chart during 1960 for a combined 17 weeks. The fourth number one single of his post army career reached the top of the charts March 20, 1961, where it remained for two weeks.
Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman wrote 25 songs for Elvis, but to be honest they stole this one. “Surrender” was taken from a 1902 Italian Neopolitan song named “Come Back To Sorrento.” It was an up-tempo love ballad that reminds me of Spanish bull fighting, complete with castanets. It was straight pop and would look ahead to Elvis’ movement away from rock ‘n’ roll toward a more slick sound. It would top the American charts for two weeks. It was also one of the shorter number one singles in American music history as it clocked in at just less than two minutes.
For better or worse, Elvis’ career would quickly move in a movie star direction, which would combine good material with some not so good. But back in 1961, the sun was shining, “Surrender “was number one, and Elvis ruled the music world.
June 15, 2014
Concetta Rosa Maria Franconero, better known by her professional name Connie Francis, was one of the most successful female singers of the fifties and sixties placing 59 songs on the American singles chart between 1957 and 1969. Fifty years ago this week her second of three number one hits, “My Heart Has A Mind Of Its Own,” was the number one song in The United States, September 26, 1960 for two weeks.
Oddly, it is some of her non number one releases that remain her signature songs. “Who’s Sorry Now,” “Lipstick On Your Collar,” “Where The Boys Are,” and “Stupid Cupid” are all nice slices of a pop world long gone.
Connie Francis’ formula was to switch back and forth between emotional and agonizing songs of love’s yearnings and catchy tunes with somewhat inane but ultimately mesmerizing lyrics that would stay in your mind for days, which was an important component for success in the days of early sixties AM singles radio.
“My Heart has A Mind Of Its Own” certainly falls into the sappy emotional category but it does stay with you. While her career faded with the advent of the seventies, her catalogue had withstood the test of time better than many of her contemporaries.
Despite personal problems and four short marriages she has continued to perform and record down to the present day. She has also become a fixture in Vegas.
Very few performers have had the commercial success of Connie Francis and a half century ago this week she ruled the American singles charts.
June 15, 2014
It’s doubtful that Giovanni Capurro could have imagined what lay in store for his composition, “O Sole Mio,” when he wrote the song back in the year 1900. Six decades later, an adapted English version topped the music charts in the United States.
Elvis took the melody of “O Sole Mio,” added English lyrics and turned it into a smooth pop song. Released during the summer of 1960, it topped the BILLBOARD MAGAZINE Pop Singles Chart for five weeks beginning August 15, 1960.
It signaled a change in Elvis’ style and sound as he began to move away from his rockabilly/rock ‘n’ roll roots toward a more pop sound. The public embraced the song and the sound. It reached The Billboard Hot 100 on July 18, 1960, and on August 15, 1960, it claimed the top spot where it remained for five weeks.
“It’s Now Or Never” was one of Elvis’ biggest hits and remains one of his signature songs.
May 25, 2014
March 1, 1960: Farewell party for Elvis by his Army Unit.
March 5, 1960: Elvis is honorably discharged from the Army at Fort Dix.
March 20-21, 1960: Elvis enters the recording studio and records six songs including two future number one singles.
March 1960: Advance orders for the as yet unnamed and unheard single top 1.2 million.
March 26, 1960: Elvis debuts “Stuck On You” on the Frank Sinatra Timex Television Show.
April 4, 1960: “Stuck On You” enters the BILLBOARD Hot 100 Chart.
April 25, 1960: Stuck On You” reaches number one where it remains for four weeks.
April 23, 2014
“Mack The Knife” by Bobby Darin dominated the BILLBOARD Hot 100 during the fall of 1959. It reached the top of the chart on October 5, 1959, and remained in that position for nine of the next ten weeks. The only time it was not number one was the weeks of November 16, when it slipped to number two.
Enter The Fleetwoods, who had a number one hit back in April with “Come Softly To Me.” They and their song “Mr. Blue” managed to spend the week of November 16, 1959 as the number one song in the country before “Mack The Knife” returned to the top position.
Very few groups ever reach the top of the charts; never mind two number ones in the same year. The problem was lead singer Gary Troxel entered the military and so they were unable to tour. They did keep releasing singles but would only have one more top ten hit.
The Fleetwoods split in 1966 but have re-united a number of times down through the years. They left behind two wonderful million selling pop hits.
February 6, 2014
Harold Lloyd Jenkins couldn’t decide whether to be a basball player or a preacher. He ended up as a member of The Country Music Hall Of Fame.
Conway Twitty, stage name taken from Conway Arkansas and Twitty, Texas, formed he first band when he was ten years old. He continued to perform as a rock and roller while in the serice. Before signing a contract with MGM, he and band member Jack Nance wrote “It’s Only Make Believe.”
It took a while but on November 10, 1958, “It’s Only Make Believe” topped The Billboard Hot 100. It fell to number two the next week but returned to the top on November 24.
He would remain a rock artist until the mid-1960 whn he switched to country. He had 33 singles reach number one on the Country Chart.