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As I launch a new Popdose series, I feel the need for a lengthy preamble that I promise you won’t have to bother with again…
This is what the British Invasion of American music looked like on paper. It’s the front page of Billboard magazine from January 18, 1964 — the week the Beatles’ latest single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” debuted on the U.S. Hot 100 at #45.
The next week, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” rocketed to #3 and on February 1, it was #1. With that, the history of popular music in America had a new demarcation point — there was music before the Beatles, and music after the Beatles. And while stars and styles from before 1964 continued to enjoy success in the wake of the British Invasion, it was the Beatles leading the charge at the dawn of the Rock and Roll’s second golden age.
The problem is that, like with most other cultural revolutions, the heroes of yesterday have been forgotten or, at best, acknowledged reluctantly. And that’s a shame, because some really great music and memories molder away in garage sale crates or in dusty old magazines — all in the name of musical progress.
And that’s where, I humbly submit, Before We Was Fab comes in. In each edition of this series, I will put the spotlight on a pre-Beatles musical nugget. Or to paraphrase Frank Costanza at the Festivus airing of grievances, “I got a lotta great music to share with you people. Now, you’re gonna hear about it!”
The first song in this series, however, merits inclusion more on historical grounds than its own excellence. It’s what I’d call good, but not great. Why I chose it is simple, however — it was the last song to hit #1 in America before the Beatles.
It’s “There! I’ve Said It Again” (b/w “The Girl with the Bow in Her Hair”) by Bobby Vinton, released by Epic Records in November 1963. It hit #1 on January 4, 1964 and stayed there for four weeks until it was knocked off by John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
Bobby’s taken his fair share of abuse at Popdose, particularly during our Digging for Gold series, but I like this. It’s sweet and pretty in a quaint way, but still satisfying. Vinton is in fine voice and there are some nice production and arrangement touches — brief minor melodies and a hint of marimba, for example — that help to keep things interesting.
The mandatory pop string section is there of course, but it doesn’t become overbearing in the least. Lastly, there’s the drama-heightening key change during the last minute, years before anyone even knew who David Foster was.
An all-time great? Not necessarily. But it’s a good song and, given the musical climate of late ’63/early ’64, I can see why it was a hit.
As it happens, Bobby Vinton was one of the lucky few performers to not be completely swept away by the tide of changing American music tastes in the 1960s. He scored another #1 in December 1964 with “Mr. Lonely” and made a number of appearances in or near the Top 20 for several more years. His last major hit came with “My Melody of Love,” which spent two weeks #3 in November 1974. Not bad, not bad at all.