The Songs Of The Summer: Episode #6: 1965

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Welcome to another Sun-Soaked episode of The Songs Of The Summer Series from friend and Contributing Author Ozmoe!

This week: Remembering 1965…


As a reminder or for those just joining us, I categorize a summer song basically as the fun tune you’d like to do at karaoke with your friends. It’s hummable, singable, danceable, and probably some other kind of optimistic labels I can’t think of right now.

tnocs.com summer charts expert ozmoe

What Was The Song Of The Summer of 1965? Consider this:

• Elvis Presley

• The Beatles

• The Supremes

• The Beach Boys

All are among the all-time biggest performers on the Hot 100.

And for one week near the start of the summer of 1965—June 5, to be precise—all four acts appeared in the chart’s top five singles:

It was the sign it was going to be a hot summer music-wise – and it certainly was.

The eight number one songs that summer -a larger number than usual to that point -each had a relatively quick rise, peaking no later than six weeks after their debut on the Hot 100. To put that in perspective, consider two classics a few months earlier in 1965 that needed a longer wait to reach the pole position: The Supremes’ Come See About Me took 10 weeks, and the Righteous Brothers’ You Lost That Loving Feeling required 13. 

What brought about more excitement and volatility on the chart? Was it the influx of big names near the top of their talents? The influence of the network nighttime rock music shows Hullabaloo and Shindig? The scramble between the British invasion, Motown and surf music to dominate the music scene? Beats me.

All I know is that several of them owe their success to being classic summer songs. You know, the feel-good, turn-the-radio-up tunes that make you want to bounce along or maybe zone out when hearing them. That sort of thing.

So, here are my choices among the ones most popular in America from June to August 1965. Comment and rank your top three below, with “one” being your favorite. All are listed chronologically based on their Billboard Hot 100 peak.


• The Beach Boys: Help Me, Rhonda

Proving they could write about more than hot rods and surfing, the Beach Boys kicked off the summer with this peppy number featuring a very peppy chorus. But it’s the line that opens the song that sets the mood perfectly of an average guy stumbling to express how he feels about losing a woman he misses badly: “Well since she put me down/I’ve been out doin’ in my head.” Face it, despite what he’s singing, this guy doesn’t want Rhonda out of his heart, he wants her back in his arms again. (And we’ll get to a variant of that shortly.)


• Tom Jones: It’s Not Unusual

Combine the intense body movements of Elvis Presley with a soulful voice and finery ready-to-wear in Las Vegas, and you’ve got Tom Jones. No other imported British male soloist came close to his sexual appeal, and It’s Not Unusual gave him a great showcase to flex his vocal pipes while being seductive when performing the tune. Jones exuded confidence while sounding very hip (check out the jangling guitar lines and smooth horn sounds here), traits which helped him remain successful long after the British Invasion died down.


• The Supremes: Back in My Arms Again 

By the time this arrived, the Supremes had become such a hit machine in a year’s time that their songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland had no fear of letting lead Diana Ross refer to her backup singers by name. It may not be their best hit, but it’s definitely catchy. Some  hardcore Supreme fans may argue that the follow-up Nothing But Heartaches has a more summer sound to it, but the single stalled at number 11 and lacks its predecessor’s buoyant byplay, so I’m going with this one.


• The Four Tops: I Can’t Help Myself

Speaking of Holland-Dozier-Holland: Sugar pie honey bunch, you know that I love… this infectious example of the Motown Sound in its prime. The songwriters gave a strong showcase to lead singer Levi Stubbs, allowing him plenty of room to flex his vocal dynamics amid the always stellar work of the Funk Brothers on backup. Yeah, HDH copied this largely with their appropriately named follow-up It’s the Same Old Song (a hit later that summer), but given what excellence you hear here, can you blame them for that?


• The Rolling Stones: (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

If there was any doubt to American audiences that the Stones weren’t Beatles imitators, this hit probably blew that notion away. It’s seeped into our culture for so long that we tend to forget how joyously liberating it must have sounded when first heard. From the strong, buzzing opening chords to Mick Jagger’s seductive, swaggering delivery, this stood out way above the pack on top 40 radio. And it had a killer chorus surrounded by distinctive verses too. It’s more than a summer song, sure, but it definitely qualifies as one as well given its attributes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ANhU4AcK04

• Sonny and Cher: I Got You Babe

No ballad captured the American public’s attention during the hottest months of 1965 than one by a largely unknown (at the time) married couple. Because it was a duet between the two, both male and female listeners felt comfortable singing along with it. But let’s not discount the fine vocal work Sonny and Cher did on this, selling this song of devotion with sincere emotion. And having been born on Groundhog Day myself, I can safely say I wouldn’t mind waking up to hearing this song every morning.


• The Beach Boys: California Girls

Two Beach Boys candidates and nothing from the Beatles in the summer of 1965? Before you call this sacrilege, consider this: If you were spending time lounging at the pool, lake or beach, would you rather hear Ticket to Ride and Help! or this and Help Me, Rhonda? I thought so. The canny lyrics here pay tribute to the beauty of women across the United States, which makes the narrator’s self-centered wishes at least seem ecumenical. The song is so sturdy, it survived even a yelping hit remake by David Lee Roth 20 years later.


Oh, and in case you’re wondering why Elvis was mentioned at the top but not in the list of choices? Well, if Crying in the Chapel is your idea of a summer song … I think you’re missing the concept.

But if you do have other contenders popular in the summer of 1965 that you think should be considered instead, comment and discuss with your vote below.

And look for another year… and another summer song contest next week!

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Phylum of Alexandria
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July 11, 2022 7:30 am

What a great year for pop music.
It’s hard to top the Beach Boys with summer music, though there are some real competitors here. I think I would list your selections thusly:

  1. California Girls
  2. I Can’t Help Myself
  3. Wooly Bully (objectively the best song)
  4. I Can’t Get No Satisfaction
  5. Back in My Arms Again
  6. Help Me Rhonda
  7. It’s Not Unusual
  8. I Got You Babe

I’d also nominate James Brown’s Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag, The Supreme’s Stop in the Name of Love, Petula Clark’s Downtown, the Beatles’ Ticket to Ride, and the Kinks’ All Day and All of the Night.

thegue
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thegue
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July 11, 2022 7:44 am

It has to be California Girls, right? I mean, that IS a summer song!

  1. California Girls
  2. (love the idea of Wooly Bully here)
  3. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
  4. Help Me Rhonda
  5. It’s Not Unusual (I’m probably not the one to ask, but I don’t think Tom Jones is good-looking here? Did he get better looking as he got older, or did women simply swoon at the Welsh accent?)

P.S. Ozmoe, that is AWESOME you were born on Groundhog Day – friends and I went for the Phillenium (02-02-02), and it was the greatest weekend of my life!

(I can say that because I was married on a Monday)

Pauly Steyreen
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July 11, 2022 10:04 am

Win: California Girls
Place: It’s Not Unusual
Show: Satisfaction

My favorite however would have to be the Four Tops. It may not be the summer-iest contender, but it is a gem.

mt58
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mt58
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July 11, 2022 10:15 am

A ridiculously strong list. But if we’re strictly summer songin’, then it’s gotta be:

  • 3: Help Me Rhonda
  • 2: I Can’t Help Myself
  • 1: California Girls

And the obligatory, “but my personal favorite from the article” is:

Ticket To Ride.

Virgindog
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July 11, 2022 10:55 am

I was seven in 1965 and seven-year-old me would have picked Herman’s Hermits’ “I’m Henry VIII, I Am.” Current me considered it for a second, giggled, and then selected “California Girls.”

It’s a tough choice, though. “Satisfaction” is my favorite of these choices but not really summery. “I Got You, Babe” is a waltz and that doesn’t seem right for a beach blanket bingo either. “I Can’t Help Myself” and “It’s Not Unusual” are great picks, but “California Girls” is the most summery and carefree of the bunch.

thegue
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thegue
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July 11, 2022 11:53 am
Reply to  Virgindog

“Beach Blanket Bingo” – is that like a sofa scrimmage?

Virgindog
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July 11, 2022 12:18 pm
Reply to  thegue

I don’t know. Is a sofa scrimmage like being an armchair quarterback for rugby fans?

thegue
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July 11, 2022 3:37 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Sofa scrimmage is the teenaged fumbling around that would lead to the bedroom if older. What is BBB?

Virgindog
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July 11, 2022 4:28 pm
Reply to  thegue

Beach Blanket Bingo was a movie with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon that came out in, surprise, 1965. Low budget and innate script, it’s become synonymous with shallow, wholesome, innate fun.

I’d rather sofa scrimmage.

cappiethedog
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July 12, 2022 10:35 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

That Back to the Beach album has a fun Annette Funicello/Fishbone duet. It also has a great invisible Aimee Mann song called “Sign of Love”. There is so little online info on that soundtrack, I have no idea if she wrote it or not. I don’t get why Natalie Merchant had to rerecord Tigerlily. It sounds fine. I wish Aimee Mann would rerecord all of her ‘Til Tuesday stuff, especially “Limits to Love”, which sounds like the unofficial beginning of her solo career.

JJ Live At Leeds
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July 11, 2022 12:40 pm

I’m not going to rock the boat, firmly with the California Girls consensus. After that its the Stones and Four Tops.

A high quality selection this week.

Over here we also got Elvis’ Crying In The Chapel and Sonny and Cher. The other number 1 summer bangers were The Hollies; I’m Alive, The Byrds; Mr Tambourine Man and The Beatles; Help!

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction made it to the to mid September so falls just outside the summer anthem remit here. As good and as catchy as Help! is the lyrical content doesn’t quite ring out summer fun so Mr Tambourine takes the UK honours.

dothestrand
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July 11, 2022 1:01 pm

‘Satisfaction’ is one of many fantastic needle drops in Mad Men, this one coming in an episode titled appropriately enough ‘The Summer Man’. I’ve never been to New York in the summer, nor was I around in 1965, but it’s such a perfect pairing of song and image I can vividly picture it.

cappiethedog
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July 11, 2022 2:36 pm

1) Can’t Help Myself(Edwyn Collins sang it best as the Orange Juice frontman: “Just like The Four Tops…” Can’t Help Myself is Danny LaRusso and When Smokey Sings is Johnny Lawrence of Cobra Kai in the Motown Tribute Song Smackdown.

2) Help Me, Rhonda(Maybe the fun Beach Boys period gets overshadowed sometimes by Pet Sounds and Smile. Some days, you don’t feel like crying, so you play “Help Me, Rhonda” instead of “You Still Believe in Me”.

3) I Can’t Get No Satisfaction(Hard to believe that Keith Richards didn’t realize it was a single. The song is so overplayed, it’s uncool to talk about its perfection. Saw it performed in Gimme Shelter. Heard the song with fresh ears.

Good choices, Ozmoe.

cstolliver
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July 11, 2022 4:46 pm

I’d take issue a bit with referring to the Supremes as Diana Ross’ “backup singers,” although clearly Berry Gordy decided to make it happen that way. Other than that, I’m right on board with your nominations for the summer of ’65. My top three:

3) Satisfaction
2) I Can’t Help Myself
1) California Girls

And, thegue, I can’t speak for women, or for that matter anyone other than myself, but I thought Tom Jones got hotter as he got older. Haven’t seen the 2022 version but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s still some sizzle.

Dance Fever
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July 12, 2022 12:28 am

For those of you who think MTV was all that, American Bandstand, Shindig and Hullabaloo totally dominated the basic three channels in the ’60’s and they heavily influenced the summer of ’65. But, wait , you say, mom and dad ruled the TV scene! Yes, but a little invention called the portable TV came out about then (about a 10 inch screen and able to plug in anywhere} became our savior and we could watch in the privacy of our bedrooms while the parents watched Gunsmoke or Andy Griffith.
Whenever I’m back East, whether Mass, Maryland, DC or Boston, “Satisfaction” is the go to song for any reunion. The Tops “I Can’t Help Myself” is where I learned my dance moves. “Help Me Rhonda” is my go to trivia question about how many times the BB’s repeat the title ( 48, by my count. An it sparked a big debate on Tom’s website as to which song repeated the title words the most).
“it’s Not Unusual” is my all time favorite from Mr. Jones and “I Got You, Babe”
began my lifelong adoration for Cher. So I’m going to upset the applecart and give them all a tie for Number One! (So sue me).

cappiethedog
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July 12, 2022 12:45 am
Reply to  DanceFever

Did you know Tom Jones covered Tom Waits’ “Bad as Me”? It works.

Dance Fever
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July 12, 2022 12:58 am
Reply to  cappiethedog

Just listened to it. Wow! Just verify’s my belief he could have done so much better work if he had just let himself go instead of settling for the Las Vegas lifestyle.
But I remember a story about Johnny Mathis when someone asked him about moving out his comfort zone and being more”soulful”.
“I’m happy where I’m at in life and I can sing whatever I like, who could ask for more.”
Sometimes, we have to just let artists be artists.

cappiethedog
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July 12, 2022 10:42 pm
Reply to  DanceFever

“Kiss” is fun, but Tom Jones sounds so committed on “Bad as Me”. Like he has something to prove. When somebody passes away, I’ll go through their back catalog, but I bought Van Lear Rose because of Jack White’s involvement. The title track is something I play regularly.

Aaron3000
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July 14, 2022 10:34 pm

“I’ve been out doin’ in my head.” I’ve read that line over and over again, and I still can’t parse any meaning from it. Still, a fantastic song and probably my favorite from the BB catalog. That said, it places behind “California Girls” here, because, well, Summer! (Also, Ozmoe, my take is that Rhonda is the narrator’s rebound girl, taking his mind off the chick who broke his heart…)

3. Help Me, Rhonda
2. I Can’t Help Myself
1. California Girls

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