71 thoughts on “Spillyear 1961

  1. Easy. Songs I actually liked at the time, and I remember liking them!

    Walk Right Back by the Everly Brothers
    Runaway by Del Shannon
    A Sweet Love by the Crickets (I Fought The Law was the B side, but I don’t remember hearing that till later on.)

  2. Gosh, 1961. I was five, six at the end of the year. I can remember Yuri Gagarin, though. That is hardly something you would forget. I suppose at the time it seemed like the start of the future, but what does a five year-old know of such things? It was exciting, though, even though it wasn’t as exciting as Supercar the Sylvia and Gerry Anderson TV series.

    Music was something that went on, my mum always had the radio on during the day, but what did I like back then?

    Checking up, I can see that 1961 gave birth to some fantastic music that I love now, but I’ll try and be true to my small child self.

    So, I will definitely pick Chubby Checker and Let’s Twist Again because I know I liked that one a lot. I can remember trying to do the twist with my friends.

    I can also remember Walkin’ Back to Happiness by Helen Shapiro because my mum liked her and she was a Bethnal Green girl, so it was like she was someone that you might have known in real life.

    I also seem to remember hearing Big Bad John on the radio, hopefully in 1961. I liked that too, but I never knew who it was by until I started writing this. It was, it seems someone called Jimmy Dean.

  3. Three picks from me:

    Dave Brubeck – Take 5
    The best-known piece ever written in 5/4 time?

    The Shirelles – Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

    Helen Shapiro – Walking Back To Happiness
    Matilda likes walking backwards and singing this.

  4. Young people and American people will be astonished to hear that in 1961 the only radio programmes that played pop music in the UK were Saturday Club and Pick Of The Pops, both on Saturdays on the BBC Light Programme. You could listen to Radio Luxemburg, but only after dark and even then the signal kept fading in and out.

  5. Well this is difficult. There were some truly terrible records that year. However, I’ll go for

    Crying – Roy Orbison
    Cupid – Sam Cooke
    Crying In The Rain – Everly Brothers

  6. Donds for all Everlys and Shapiro songs. Had just left school, having stupidly decided not to continue with A levels. Peer influence combined with family circumstances. Regret it now of course though I did go on to art college a little later and did finally take some A levels much, much later. Living in a tiny village in West Somerset, chemical loo down the garden, no bathroom, just a tin bath which had to be laboriously filled from a tiny Sadia water heater plus a couple of kettles full of boiling water. No central heating. Wondering now how I stood it but it was normal at the time. Took job in local library, librarian a horrible little man who I hate to this day. I think the hatred was mutual. Fired after 3 months trial period. Worked as waitress/chambermaid in hotel – that was much more pleasant. Owner had massive Doberman which was as soft as anything, but it terrified the guests. Went to youth club in nearest town. Helped in shop that my parents were running at the time. Went for walks by myself in the country. And, as TFD has reminded me, listened to Radio Luxembourg under the bedclothes.

      • I know, dreadful people 😉 . My daughter’s a librarian too – at a school, though she’s worked in public libraries as well. I messaged her with your ‘Branch Librarian’ book cover which caused some amusement.

      • My daughter worked at Brompton Library for a while, I can’t remember exactly when, I think late 90s. It occurs to me that you might have met her. She alway seemed to be going to conferences, etc. Same surname as me – still has, although a married lady now. (It took them 15 years to get around to it!)

    • I worked in a library for a bit too, after I left school – it had been my Saturday job. Our librarian was brilliant though! She bought a coffee percolator with her own money, because she said she didn’t see why her staff should have to drink instant. I really enjoyed working there.

      • I would have enjoyed it too, but for this wretched man. Unfortunately he was the head librarian, the assistant librarian was fine.

  7. Rather more singles i liked than i expected, bummed by the lack of blues.

    Elvis – I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You
    Tokens – The Lion Sleeps Tonight
    Etta James – I Just Wanna Make Love To You

  8. Is this here today (a day early) because a scheduler doesn’t understand leap years?

    Anyway, looking down the list of hits from 1961, there are several I remember. Being 8 for most of the year, I can’t claim to have liked the cool ones. I’d probably have been into these:

    Charlie Drake – My Boomerang Won’t Come Back
    The Temperance Seven – You’re Driving Me Crazy
    Lonnie Donegan – Have A Drink On Me

    • No, it’s because I forgot what day of the week it is. I could use being in Brazil as an excuse, but since it’s the same day here, I really can’t. Sorry.

  9. Hmmm, I was two, so I don’t honestly remember anything about it. So I will pick songs I remember listening to, although it might not have been specifically in 1961:

    Andy Williams – Moon River (Wiki says he first recorded this in 1961);
    The Marcels – Blue Moon
    Roy Orbison – Crying (Wiki says this was recorded in 1961 though the video says 1962)

    • I think that 1961 was the year my dad bought his first and only house. The one in which my parents still live. Before that we rented half of a council house that was too big for an elderly widower to live in on his own. He would sit in one of the downstairs rooms and the five of us would sit in the other one. His name was Mr Church and we used to call him “Uncle Church”. My earliest memory is of watching him rolling his own cigarettes. This was two doors down from my nan and granddad, my dad’s parents.
      When we moved it was only round two corners – five minutes walking distance. I’m fairly certain I can remember walking there at the time but it’s a road I’ve walked down thousands of times since.. There was a coal bunker in the back garden and a garage was built behind it. My sister walked across the cement and my parents left one of her footprints there as a memento. It’s still visible there now.

      • I guess my parents started looking for a house at that time. They had a flat in Ladbroke Grove when Notting Hill was less salubrious than today. Dad got a job at East Ham Technical College and I was on the way to making my appearance in May 1962. They got a house in Aldersbrook, London E12 – between Wanstead and Manor Park. Mum went from Ladbrooke Grove to Hammersmith Hospital where I was born, and a week later took me back to the new place. That’s quite impressive co-ordination when I think about it. It wouldn’t happen today with shorter hospital stays, more complex house-buying arrangements, and new-fangled dads hanging around for the birth instead of doing sensible practical stuff !

  10. I’ve just noticed that Rate My Music has two of my 1960 picks listed as singles for 1961 – Piaf’s “Non Je Ne Regrette …” and Etta’s “At Last”. I’m guessing they were album tracks first as I checked the year more than once when we did 1960 songs.

    Anyway, having listened to it every week in the early noughties as the intro to John Peel’s Radio 4 programme “Home Truths” I’ll make my third choice as:

    Dick Dale – Lets Go Trippin’

  11. Too early for me to remember any music then but

    Hit The Road Jack – Ray Charles
    Quarter To Three – Gary US Bonds
    Runaround Sue – Dion

    also ran Spanish Harlem – Ben E King

      • …who appears to have released three albums that year, which I should’ve looked into before picking my three songs. I’ll cheat a little and mention “Baby It’s Cold Outside” with Betty Carter which is just beautiful, and made the A-list I compiled for songs featuring innuendo.

  12. 3 from the jazzier side of things :

    Grantstand – Grant Green
    New Delhi – The Cannonball Adderley Quintet
    Something Special – Sonny Clark

    With a tip of the pork-pie hat & a crushed Gauloises, he walked into the night …

  13. I wasn’t around then, so I’m going to have to research… the only song from that year I have on my computer is John Lee Hooker’s Tupelo Blues so that’s going on. If not already there The Marvelettes with Please Mr Postman lastly an influence on Dav(e)y Graham, Bert Jansch et al, Steve Benbow released The Man Who Invented Beer, but I can’t find it on youtube so I’m adding “I Don’t Mind If I Do”

  14. I’ll have a nostalgia-fest listening to the list later this morning. I endorse everything. I even know a couple of very cool librarians to balance out the shockers.

    The Allisons – Are You Sure (Back in the day when the UK was a force to be reckoned with in the Eurovision Song Contest)
    Bobby Vee – Rubber Ball (“Bouncy bouncy”)I
    Patsy Cline – I Fall to Pieces (Don’t remember this at the time, but it is so wonderful, I’ll post it)

    Honourable mention goes to Ferrante and Teicher and their interpretation of theTheme from Exodus. They all took themselves so seriously in those days!

  15. Second the mention of John Coltrane’s My favourite things.

    1961 was an interesting year in jazz- some things were coming to an end, others were just starting to blossom. Big bands were on the verge of folding and most of the old guard- players like Coleman Hawkins or Ben Webster- were finding it harder to make a living in the US.
    On the other hand, free jazz was now a serious force and the era of post-bop had begun, while small group playing was becoming increasingly sophisticated.

    Three recordings, besides the afore-mentioned Coltrane album:

    Ornette Coleman- Free Jazz. First long form, completely freely improvised piece by the celebrated double quartet.

    Bill Evans trio- Alice in Wonderland (Take 2). The supreme jazz piano trio release, two albums recorded at The Village Vanguard. Every track a classic but Alice.. has a particularly lyrical feel.

    Miles Davis quintet- Walkin’. (Friday night at the Blackhawk). The Blackhawk concerts didn’t initially set the world on fire, but a recent release of the entire set shows the trumpeter determined to deconstruct everything he had done up until that point, searching for new harmonic and rhythmic directions, reintroducing the blues to the very mannered “modal” feel he had established on Kind of Blue. Set the scene for the legendary second great quintet recordings from 1965 onwards.

    • Thanks for that nilpferd. My jazz chronology is a bit shaky so that’s very helpful (my showtune chronology is much better !)

      • ’59 was probably the high point for jazz, with Kind of Blue, Mingus Ah-Um, Time Out and Shape of Jazz to come all released in that year. I think that year can be seen as a pivot in jazz history. With the exception of funk/rock/fusion most of what would characterise the sixties in jazz had already been played in one form or another by the start of that decade, with the sixties it was more a case of refining things and pushing the boundaries of technique and form.

      • Quite a year. I’ve just looked up John Fordham on The Shape of Jazz To Come (there was some hippo bloke commenting underneath) and I admit I’ve never listened to it.. Best put that right soon !

      • There’s a very interesting documentary film about those four albums, from the BBC. Nice context too with references to the civil rights movement, etc.

      • Ooh, thanks again. Perhaps there’s an article to be written on the spiritual connection between Ornette Coleman and Brendan McCullum…

    • Nilp: An interesting but poorly edited film, possible the worst re-edit for commercials-addition ever! But apart from the narrator worth an hour of listening. Miles And Bru were favorites back then, not so much with Mingus and Ornette, by coincidence I was listening to ‘Faubus’ on Thurs. morning. I found myself identifying with all the angry listeners that were mentioned, that’s how I responded to the narrator at the time. I’d been listening happily to ‘real jazz’ for the prior 20 years and had developed fairly set tastes.
      I enjoyed Cannenball, Brubeck, Clarke and the Shirelles, not so much Gil, I;ve heard better.

  16. There seem to be a few people who do year-themed things on YouTube, as I’m sure many veterans of ‘Spill years knew before me. This looks a good source for anyone struggling with 1961: HERE

    There’s a Rosie And The Originals tune there which I enjoyed listening to yesterday evening – I think they got a reference on the Led Zep Houses of the Holy sleeve notes, “whatever happened to Rosie And The Originals ?” posed as a question alongside the lyrics to D’yer Make Her

  17. Ooh, you are a day early! Did the leap year catch you out?

    Anyway, a whole 17 years before I deemed to make an appearance on this Earth – from the perspective of an outsider it strikes me as very much a transitional year, somewhere between the excitement dying down after the initial buzz of rock and roll and the really exciting next creative moves on both sides of the atlantic.

    Am thinking that this was probably an exciting year for my parents – they got married in 1962, so I imagine that their courtship would be in full swing in 1961 and its curious to think what might have soundtracked it. Given my Dad is quite keen on them, I can help but imagine:

    The Shadows – F.B.I

    may have featured somewhere – whilst The Shads reputation has got mired in naffness and association with himself, I still think that some of these early records are really rather good – the solo in this is cracking and love the sinister feel that Hank brings to it.

    Almost certainly not on my folks radar would have been

    Jacques Brel – Marieke

    a rare foray into a bilingual song for Brel, a charmingly simple song of love and longing.


    Gil Evans – Where Flamingos Fly

    one of the most exquisite pieces of jazz orchestration ever recorded, Evans being fresh from his work on Miles Davis’s Sketches of Spain, this is a sublime and hypnotic arrangement.

  18. 1961 is clearly the greatest year ever – although, I have to confess that I missed the first five days of it, being otherwise engaged…

    On the day I made my first appearance (at Edinburgh’s Elsie Inglis Maternity Hospital) Cliff Richard & The Shadows were at Number One with I Love You – but things soon started to look up; the first ever episode of The Avengers was broadcast on ITV the very next day!

    I can’t claim to have actively chosen the music I was listening to in 1961 but my parents would have had the radio on most of the day with Cliff, Elvis, Andy Williams, The Everly Brothers and the like blaring out so I would have been exposed to most of the pop classics of the day.

    I would have chosen The Shirelles’ Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (officially, the greatest song ever recorded) and The Marcels’ Blue Moon but those ships have sailed so, I’ll go for:

    Ben E King – Stand By Me
    The Jive Five – My True Story
    Shep & The Limelites – Daddy’s Home

  19. I wasn’t born for another 11 years so struggling with suggestions, but just listened to the playlist so far and bar one or two there is a definite similarity in sound.

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