1964's Billboard Hot Top 100 Worst Songs

Rick Margin
4 min readFeb 2, 2024

The Year America Discovered The World’s Greatest Band.

1964 was a remarkable defining point in the history of not only American music, but the broader global music business. For the first time, the US was receiving a serious business challenge from England, notably London.

With the arrival of the Beatles in February and the continual stream of new British bands arriving almost monthly, American’s were captivated by their more engaging & diverse music, provocative apparel and unique hair styles. Britain wasn’t the only source of disruption. Motown expanded their already formidable stable with The Supremes placing 4 songs in the Top 5, The Temptation’s scoring their first No1 and The Four Tops landing in No11 with their debut single. The Beach Boys, Four Seasons, Roy Orbison all had No1’s and were trending up. Pre-Motown girl vocal groups, instrumental surf bands, teen tragedy songs, traditional folk groups were all history. And 1950’s and early 1960’s teen idols like Chubby Checker, Ricky Nelson, Elvis Presley and Everly Brothers were pushed to the sideline. Some eventually recovered, but others weren’t as fortunate.

Ken Barnes, a former USA Today radio writer, analyzed US musical acts’ success before and during the Invasion in a 2021 article for Radio Insight attempting to confirm or debunk the claim that the British Invasion devastated US music. He noted that “a large percentage of the alleged victims of the Invasion (42 percent of most US hit music acts of 1963) were already seeing diminishing returns in 1963 before the Invasion began”. The American teen and young adult music market lacked innovation and was starving for something exciting and fresh.

1964 represented a massive improvement in music originality. But as you’ll see, old habits die hard. I reviewed all 52 weekly Billboard Hot Top 100 charts searching for high-ranking hit songs and have subjectively flagged the 8 worst songs that reached the Top 20. I’ve listed them in their 1964 chronological order. Bad songs charting isn’t the point — my issue is their high ranking. You the listener decide for yourself.

“Popsickles and Icicles” by The Murmaids (January 11). It was written by David Gates, the soon to be famous songwriter and front man for the band Bread. It reached No3, holding off “Since I Fell For You” by Lenny Welch and “Dominique” by The Singing Nun. Only “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen halted its embarrassing rise to No2!

“Whispering” by Nino Tempo & April Stevens (January 25). It reached #11 and is completely derivative of 1960 No1 hit “ Hey Baby” by Bruce Channel. It held off the momentum of “You Don’t Own Me” by Leslie Gore.

“Stop and Think It Over” by Dale & Grace (February 29). It reached No9 and is completely derivative of their own 1963 No1 hit “I’m Leaving Up To You”. They’re apparently nicknamed [by someone] “The King and Queen of ‘63”. Who knew? This song jumped over “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um” by Major Lance.

“Penetration” by The Pyramids (March 14). It reached No18 and is derivative of many previous surf songs but with lots more monotonous repetition. The Dick Clark Show banter, bouncy dance steps and un-Beatle-like haircuts are fun. It’s the final surf song to chart. It bested “You Don’t Own Me” by Leslie Gore and “Glad All Over” by the Dave Clark Five.

“Diane” by The Bachelors (June 20). In the US it reached No10, No1 in the UK and No2 in Ireland, their home country. This was their biggest international hit. I dare you to listen the whole song. It jumped over “Hello, Dolly” by Louis Armstrong and “My Guy” by Mary Wells.

“Bread and Butter” by The Newbeats (September 19). It reached No2. Yes, you read it correctly. Even the band didn’t think this was a good song. But it jumped over “Where Did Our Love Go” by the Supremes and “Everybody Loves Somebody” by Dean Martin. They also charted at No16 on December 12 with “Everything Alright”. I’ve sparred you listening to it.

“Haunted House” by Jumpin” Gene Simmons (September 26). It reached No11 and is complete rip-off of the 1958 No1 hit “Yakety Yak” by the Coasters. The bass player for the band Kiss chose his stage name as a tribute to this singer who was the opening act for Elvis Presley in 1956. His song jumped over “Maybelline” by Johnny Rivers and “Baby I Need Your Loving” by the Four Tops.

“Ringo” by Lorne Greene (December 5). This spoken-word Western ballad was a No1 hit. Yes, you read that right. Beginning in 1959 he played the role of Ben Cartwright on the very successful Western TV program Bonanza. He knocked “Baby Love” by the Supreme’s out of the No1 spot and jumped over “She’s Not There” by the Zombies.

Unfortunately, the 1960’s record buyer and label producers didn’t dismiss bad songs after 1964 as exemplified by 1966’s “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” by The Royal Guardsmen that reached No2. Only “I’m A Believer” by the Monkees kept it from reaching No1. Shoot me.

And Finally, from 1968–1972 record producers gave us a steady diet of catchy shallow “fun” songs described as “bubblegum” music most of which were performed by one-hit wonders. I’m not humoring anyone by discussing this genre because I’ve reached my limit of trash music with that last song.

I had to keep reminding myself that the songs are ranked by record store sales, so someone liked them. Just be appreciative that I didn’t search the lowest ranked songs for examples.

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Rick Margin

A curious guy interested in both understanding & writing about meaningful issues. Email @ ric62551@gmail.com. Join in at https://medium.com/@ric625