by request: sweet smell of success (alexander mackendrick, 1957)
a circular, uninformative discourse on john f. kennedy and me

music friday, 1963 edition

Specifically, November 22, 1963, since everyone in America aged 50 or older is thinking about that day. These were the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 for November 23, 1963, which is a day later, but as far as I can tell, the dates on the Billboard charts are a bit off, the way a magazine will come out in April and be called the May issue.

10. Los Indio Tabajaras, “Maria Elena”. Recorded in 1958, released in the United States in 1962, and on the charts here in 1963. A version by Jimmy Dorsey hit #1 in 1941. Los Indios Tabajaras were Brazilian.

9. The Singing Nun, “Dominique”. At one point, this made #1. It is often cited as having a calming influence on America after Kennedy’s death. The story of Jeanne Deckers, “The Singing Nun”, is fascinating and ultimately tragic. In 1982, under severe tax problems, she recorded a disco version of the song.

8. Elvis Presley, “Bossa Nova Baby”. From Fun in Acapulco.

7. Tommy Roe, “Everybody”. Released after his Buddy Holly-influenced chart topper, “Sheila”, this was a last gasp before Roe turned into the ultimate bubblegum artist with songs like “Sweet Pea”.

6. Lesley Gore, “She’s a Fool”. Once, at summer camp when I was, I don’t know, 12 years old, there was a dance. I spent the entire night with one girl. They only had two albums, which they played over and over. One was The Golden Hits of Lesley Gore. I don’t remember what the other album was, but I never hear Lesley Gore without thinking of that night.

5. The Impressions, “It’s All Right”. Made #1 on the R&B charts. Probably gets more respect today than any other song on this list.

4. Jimmy Gilmer & the Fireballs, “Sugar Shack”. Greil Marcus once called this “perhaps the worst excuse for itself rock & roll had yet produced”. (Don’t worry, the Beatles were just around the corner.) As opposed to “It’s All Right”, this might be the song that gets the least respect today of all of the songs on this list. In one of the more confounding moments in Billboard chart history, “Sugar Shack” bumped “It’s All Right” off the #1 spot on the R&B charts.

3. Nino Temple & April Stevens, “Deep Purple”. This was #1 on the charts the previous week. The song came from the 1930s, and made #1 in 1939 with Larry Clinton and His Orchestra. Nino Temple and April Stevens were brother and sister. (More than a decade later, Donny and Marie Osmond charted with their version of the song.) I was going to make a crack about how this was not where the band Deep Purple got their name, but then I looked it up, and sure enough, Richie Blackmore suggested the name because “Deep Purple” was his granny’s favorite song.

2. The Village Stompers, “Washington Square”. I’m no expert, but this must be one of the last Dixieland records to chart this high on the Hot 100.

1. Dale & Grace, “I’m Leaving It Up to You”. Wikipedia factoid: “It was the #1 song when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Dale and Grace were in Dallas on the day of the assassination and scheduled to perform that night as part of Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars (with Bobby Rydell, Jimmy Clanton, and Brian Hyland), and moments before the assassination had waved to the president's motorcade from a vantage point near their hotel.”

[edited to add Spotify playlist]



Great idea for a music post. Plus I haven't heard almost half of these. It's a trip how much decent (and sometimes great) music of this era didn't transcend the ages the same as some songs.

Steven Rubio

It's been a truism for a long time, and it's been subject to appropriate historical revisionism for almost as long: that pop music sucked between the time Elvis went in the Army and the Beatles arrived. But when people say that, they're talking about dreck like "Sugar Shack". I've heard all of them, because I was 10 years old in November of 1963, and listened to the radio all the time. But the only one of those ten songs I still play on purpose is the Impressions.

BTW, I'm serious: the most interesting thing that grows out of the above is the story of The Singing Nun.

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