Musical Diary: February 1964

Beatlemania is really taking the world by storm; “I Want To Hold Your Hand” is #1 everywhere and is knocked off the top spot in Australia by their own “I Saw Her Standing There’/ “Love Me Do”. It will be June before The Beatles lose the top spot in Australia. “All My Loving” is also top of the EP charts in the UK. For the moment none can compare with The Beatles who used 1963 to sweep aside all opposition with completeness not seen since Elvis Presley hit the music scene in 1956. Like most of rock and roll’s legends, The Beatles wrote great songs and made great songs of others their own, mixing styles with effortless joy and utter indifference to conventional wisdom.

On the 3rd they arrive at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York to start their first USA trip and five days later 73 million people, the biggest ever TV audience, watched them perform live on the “Ed Sullivan Show”, the band’s first live performance in the USA. During their time on the show, there were no reports of juvenile crime across the entire country. On the 11th they made their first concert appearance at The Coliseum in Washington DC. The Beatles were now dominating the USA charts and were responsible for 60% of the sales. Not all UK bands were making big impressions; The Dave Clark Five were less than impressive on UK TV’s “Sunday Night at the London Palladium”. They were eventually to become one of the most popular beat-group of the sixties. They started their career in 1958, and after losing out to Brian Poole & the Tremeloes version of “Do You Love Me” they elected to record their own compositions which resulted in “Glad All Over” reaching the top in January 1964. The timing was perfect and knocked “I Want To Hold Your Hand” from #1 prompting the headlines “The Five Jive crushed the Beatles beat”. The group’s career in the UK was erratic, but in the USA, after a series of performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, they had a remarkable 17 Billboard top 40 hits.

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New to the scene in Australia was Merv Benton. At the age of 19 he was signed by W&G records, and at a recording session produced by Johnny Chester put down the tracks “Baby Let’s Play House” an Elvis Presley cover and “Endless Sleep” a hit previously for Marty Wilde, in the UK and Phil Phillips in the USA. This was the start of a long success for Merv with a string of top 40 hits. Also at these sessions was the renowned disc jockey Stan Rofe who was instrumental in getting Benton to appear live on Graham Kennedy’s In Melbourne Tonight. Merv Benton’s follow up single was a cover of Carl Perkins “Honey Don’t” backed by W&G’s excellent session musicians The Strangers. By the end of the year, he had appeared on Bandstand and Johnny O’Keefe’s Sing, Sing, Sing, as well as four hit singles, a hit EP and a hit LP. Also in Australia, the new mod movement was headed by a group from across the ditch. New Zealander Ray Columbus and his backing group, The Invaders, returned to their homeland pretty pleased with their three months in Oz. They had covered The Beatles’ “I Wanna Be Your Man” and outsold The Rolling Stones version, the Stones were yet to make it in Australia. Ray Columbus started his career in 1959 when he was only 17, with a backing group The Drifters in their hometown Christchurch and when they moved to Auckland changed their name to Ray Columbus & The Invaders and became very popular in New Zealand. They were to return to Australia later in the year with their biggest hit”She’s A Mod”.

Playing at the premium surfing based nightclub Surf City at King’s Cross, Sydney was relatively new band Billy Thorpe & the Aztecs, their success was yet to come. The Aztecs had already made recordings with a couple of surf-sounding instrumentals “Smoke And Stack”, and “Board Boogie”, and when Billy Thorpe met up with them he cheekily told them they were good but needed a singer and he was their man. In the UK A band of Irish musicians were riding high in the charts with their first big hit “Diane”. The Bachelors started off as a harmonica group until someone suggested they record old standards, other top ten hits were, “Charmaine”, “I Believe”, “Ramona”, “I Wouldn’t Trade You For The World”, “No Arms Can Ever Hold You”, “Marie”, and “The Sound Of Silence”.

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The #1’s in Australia in February 1964
1st I Want To Hold Your Hand The Beatles
8th 15th 22nd 29th I Saw Her Standing There/ Love Me Do The Beatles

The USA
The Beatles I Want To Hold Your Hand topped the charts the entire month.

The UK
1st 8th 15th Needles And Pins                                 The Searchers
22nd Diane                                                                  The Bachelors
29th Anyone Who Had A Heart                              Cilla Black

The top ten records in Australia February 1964
1. Love Me Do / I Saw Her Standing There         The Beatles
2. I Want To Hold Your Hand                                 The Beatles
3. Glad All Over                                                          The Dave Clark Five
4. She Loves You                                                        The Beatles
5. Please / Half As Much                                          Frank Ifield
6. You Don’t Own Me / Run Bobby Run               Lesley Gore
7. Secret Love                                                              Kathy Kirby
8. Daisy Petal Pickin’                                                 Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs
9. Surfin’ Bird                                                             The Trashmen
10. Don’t Talk To Him                                               Cliff Richard & The Shadows

What was your favourite song from this time?

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