Between Buddy Holly and The Beatles…

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“Number One with an AXE! Vol 2” sells for $2.99 and is available at:
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“Number One with an AXE! A Look at the Guitar’s Role in America’s #1 Hits, Vol 2, 1960-64” $2.99
November, 2016
Our guitar-oriented tour through the history of Billboard’s American Number One hits continues, starting in January ’60 with Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” and ending in December ’64 with a cheerful ditty called “I Feel Fine” by an obscure pop quartet who apparently called themselves The Beatles. As in Volume 1 (1955-59), Michael Rays rates each #1 song based on four guitar-centric criteria: Riffage, Rhythm Playing, Fills and Solos. He also writes a brief commentary on each song, as well as providing a video link so you can watch/listen to each tune. Anyone who loves the guitar and pop music will enjoy this trip down memory lane!



Running Scared, Roy Orbison, 6/5/61, 1 week at #1

Riffage 6, Rhythm 7, Fills 0, Solo 0; Total 13

It’s not quite back to the fifties, but with the last few songs the guitar is starting to see the light of day. This song is a great example of Orbison’s creativity as a songwriter: the chord progression, the rhythms, the lyrics and the slow, steady build to a musical/lyrical/emotional climax. (Though, it must be said, not much of a denouement!)

Walk Right In, The Rooftop Singers, 1/26/63, 2 weeks at #1

Riffage 7, Rhythm 7, Fills 3, Solo 6; Total 23

Oh, my! Guitars! Guitars everywhere! The riff, rhythm, fills and solo on this rather paradoxical tune (rebellious lyrics sung about as squarely as possible) are all cut from the same cloth, but ya know what? It works!

Innovation Alert! This song was the first #1 hit to use not one but TWO twelve-string guitars—and one of them was a lefty!

Can’t Buy Me Love, The Beatles, 4/4/64, 5 weeks at #1

Riffage 0, Rhythm 7, Fills 3, Solo 6; Total 16

The Liverpool onslaught continues, and did someone say solo? George goes in for 12 bars of string-bending twang.

This tune is pretty much riff-free, begging the question: when will the Beatles (or anyone else for that matter) put it all together?

I Get Around, The Beach Boys, 7/4/64, 2 weeks at #1

Riffage 8, Rhythm 6, Fills 0, Solo 7; Total 21

Brian Wilson and company arrive on the scene in stunning fashion, showing that both sides of the Atlantic will make the 60s a very special time in pop music.

This amazing song is wildly adventurous, not only within the surf genre but in music generally. It features an unorthodox structure (break-chorus-verse); an up-tempo, four-part, harmonized vocal layer cake with falsetto topping (that would be Brian); lots of cool rhythms; and one of the great underrated percussion methods: clapping. Guitar-wise, there’s a super-cool interior riff, a sparse, syncopated rhythm line and a classic surf solo by Carl Wilson. Check out that sweet Jazzmaster (Jaguar?) in the video!

Note: As if “I Get Around” weren’t great enough, its B-side was “Don’t Worry Baby.” Yowza!