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1962 - Songs of the Year

Home > Everywhere > Lists | Music | Performing Arts | Vintage and Retro
by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published May 16th 2022
1962 was a surprisingly really good year for music
It's hard to believe that 1962 was 60 years ago. Well, I wasn't born then, but, still, 60 years since this rather pivotal year. For some people, the actual "60s" didn't start until 1962, when The Beatles released their first single and the first broadcast satellite Telstar was sent into orbit.
1962, john, glenn
Image by Jackie Ramirez from Pixabay

What else happened? Well, as can be seen by the photo above, John Glenn orbited the Earth. The Cuban Missile Crisis happened. Marilyn Monroe passed away. Dr No was released. Tom Cruise, Jim Carrey, David McComb and Shaun Micallef were all born. Rod Laver won the tennis Grand Slam. A large number of countries gained independence. It was quite the year.

But it was the music scene which started to change. While the charts still showed the last dominant influences of old-style rock and roll, as well as The Beatles releasing their first single, Bob Dylan released his first album, both acts went on to influence pop culture in such huge ways.

And so, with that in mind, here are my favourite songs from 1962!

To start with, the honourable mentions. There were some tough calls to make, as in the main list I restricted myself to one song per artist. '409' by The Beach Boys; 'Bachelor Boy' by Cliff Richard; 'Breaking Up Is Hard To Do' by Neil Sedaka; 'Bring It On Home To Me' by Sam Cooke; 'Can't Help Falling in Love' by Elvis Presley with The Jordanaires; 'Chip Chip' by Gene McDaniels; 'Crying In The Rain' by Everly Brothers; 'Dream Baby' by Roy Orbison; 'Get a Little Dirt on Your Hands' by The Delltones; 'Green Onions' by Booker T. & the MG's; 'Half Heaven Half Heartache' by Gene Pitney; 'If I Didn't Have a Dime (To Play the Jukebox)' by Gene Pitney; 'It Might As Well Rain Until September' by Carole King; 'Little Town Flirt' by Del Shannon; 'Monster Mash' by Bobby "Boris" Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers; 'Multiplication' by Bobby Darin; 'Only Love Can Break A Heart' by Gene Pitney; 'Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow' by Rivingtons; 'Pipeline' by Chantays; 'Rhythm Of The Rain' by The Cascades; 'Right, Said Fred' by Bernard Cribbins; 'Sealed With A Kiss' by Brian Hyland; 'Sherry' by The Four Seasons; 'Sing (And Tell The Blues So Long)' by Johnny O'Keefe; 'Southern 'Rora' by The Joy Boys; 'Tell Him' by The Exciters; 'The Swiss Maid' by Del Shannon; 'The Young Ones' by Cliff Richard and The Shadows; 'Twist And Shout' by The Isley Brothers; 'Twisting The Night Away' by Sam Cooke; 'Venus In Blue Jeans' by Jimmy Clanton.
That's quite a list already.

Here's my top 20. There are a number of instrumentals here. The instrumentals of the early 60s were some fine and often overlooked music. But this list is, I think, a good one. Your mileage may vary; some of those in the honourable mentions might appeal more. But that is the joy of these early years of rock and pop there is so much that is good. So, one song per artist, songs released initially either on album or as a single in 1962.

'Big Girls Don't Cry' by Four Seasons

Frankie Valli's voice is one of the more amazing in this history of rock and pop the way he can hold that falsetto and keep it sounding tuneful is stunning. And this song is a perfect example of that.

'Boom Boom' by John Lee Hooker

I first heard this song when I saw The Blues Brothers, and it was probably my first introduction to actual blues music. Since then, I've always had a soft spot for it, from Hooker's deep voice to his guitar playing.

'Do You Love Me?' by The Contours

Subsequently covered by many other acts, the original is still, to my mind, the best. From that slow intro to the almost screamed chorus, it is just a song that demands to be heard.

'Duke Of Earl' by Gene Chandler

It was the deep bass singing in this song that got me when I first heard it as a youngster. I didn't understand what the song meant until many years later (Duke comes from a vocal exercise they did as a doo wop group and Earl is the name of one of the singers), but that bass line!

'He's A Rebel' by The Crystals

The girls groups of the 1960s recorded so many great songs that when I had the chance to buy a compilation set of some of the better ones, it had 100 tracks on it, and nearly all were really good. This is still one of the very best, though.

'I've Been Everywhere' by Lucky Starr

The original and still the best. I have an EP with 4 different versions, but the Australian version written by Geoff Mack is still the best, and no one has matched Lucky Starr's delivery. So many have covered it, but this remains the one to listen to.

'Let There Be Drums' by Sandy Nelson

First instrumental! My dad had this on 45 so I heard it a bit as a kid and just fell in love with it. This track was the song that inspired my love for drumming.

'Let's Dance' by Chris Montez

Another original version of a song subsequently covered, but which still stands as one of the best. The driving rhythms especially that pounding drum give this a sense of fun that, yes, you want to dance to.

'(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valance' by Gene Pitney

Gene Pitney was one of my dad's favourite artists, and so there was a lot of his music in the house, and this sort of country song was one I heard a lot. While not the actual theme of the movie of the same name and same year, it still tells the same story. And it's pretty good as well.

'Love Me Do' by The Beatles

Their first single as a band, and while a fun little track, it hardly indicated the greatness that was to come. Still, I cannot leave it off this list I still sing along to it every time I hear it.

'Miserlou' by Dick Dale

Modern readers may know this as the musical backing for the Black Eyed Peas song 'Pump It'. Ignore that; listen to this, and the glory of some wild surf-style guitar playing.

'Nut Rocker' by B. Bumble & The Stingers

One of the best instrumentals recorded (in my opinion), take march section from Tchaikovsky's 'The Nutcracker' and amp it up to eleven and you have this. Just great.

'Sheila' by Tommy Roe

One of those songs I can't tell you why I like so much, just that I do. Lyrically it is standard, there is some nice drumming in the rhythm, and Roe's voice is fine. But I like the song.

'Shout! Shout! (Knock Yourself Out)' by Ernie Maresca

A throwback to the sounds of the late 1950s, I first heard this song in the 80s through a cover version, but that sounded almost exactly the same as this fun original.

'Surfin' Safari' by The Beach Boys

Very early Beach boys, it's a bit basic, but you can see where they're heading with this track, at least during their surf music, pre-Pet Sounds phase. I still enjoy it, though.

'Telstar' by The Tornados

Another instrumental, recorded and released a mere weeks after the actual Telstar satellite was launched. This track is so different to everything else which hit the charts at the time, and could have been released in the 70s and slotted right in.

'The Wanderer' by Dion

Dion had a few really good songs, and I like this one the most out of all of them. The first version I heard was by Status Quo, but going back to find the original was a pleasant surprise.

'Wipe Out' by Surfaris

A song I am still stunned by. The drumming here is amazing. The Surfaris' drummer Ron Wilson was incredible and is an unheralded master of the instrument.

'Wonderful Land' by The Shadows

One of the finest examples of Hank Marvin's guitar playing, this is an amazing song where the instrumental seems to sing to you. I have a cover by Mike Oldfield and he does actually match the original, but The Shadows just nail it.

'Working For The Man' by Roy Orbison

Finding my favourite Roy Orbison song from 1962 was quite a challenge, but I went for the one I remember best from my early childhood. The "hoo-ah!" backing and the story it tells captured me from a young age. It may not showcase his voice as well as some, but as a song I just like it.

And there we are songs from the year 1962. It was actually quite a fun year for music, and I'm glad I went back and had a look and spent a lot of time listening. This was a fun column to write.

Hope you enjoyed it, too!


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Why? 1962 was a really good year for music
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Your Comment
Thank you for Duke of Earl. Daddy Cool tackled it.
by Jeremy Bryce (score: 2|262) 34 days ago
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