The year 1965 was the height of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War in the US. Social and political upheaval inspired and boosted the music industry to new heights yet again. In this article, we’ll use Billboard’s year-end charts to determine the 35 best songs to come out in 1965.
1. Wooly Bully – Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs
Wooly Bully was first released on a small label in Memphis, XL, in 1964. The following year, MGM picked up the song and released it to the mainstream music world. It ended up becoming the first—and biggest hit—Sam The Sham And The Pharaohs would ever release.
It may have only risen to number two on the Hot 100, but it was named the number-one track of the year despite never touching the top spot thanks to it selling over three million copies and becoming the first American record to reach one million sales during the British Invasion.
2. I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) – Four Tops
Four Tops’ I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) ended up being one of the defining songs of the 60s decade and one of the most enduring tracks of the era. It was the biggest R&B single of the year. It spent nine weeks on top of the R&B chart in the US and topped the US Hot 100 for two non-consecutive weeks. It also turned out to be one of their biggest hits in the UK, rising to number 23 on the charts there.
3. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones’ (I Can’t Get No)Satisfaction is yet another one of the most legendary songs of the 60s and turned out to be the third biggest hit of 1965. The guitar riff of the track composed by Keith Richards is often regarded as one of the greatest song hooks of all time and the track has ranked within the top 25 of Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
In 1965, it gave them their first US number-one hit, but in the UK, it took longer to catch on because of the sexual nature of the lyrics. It has since been preserved in the National Recording Registry and inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
4. You Were on My Mind – We Five
The original writer of You Were On My Mind was Sylvia Fricker, and she found a modest Canadian hit with the song in 1963. The most notable version of the track came as a cover by We Five in 1965 that reached number three on the Hot 100 and spent five weeks on top of the Easy Listening chart.
5. You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ – The Righteous Brothers
You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ was a massive hit for The Righteous Brothers and featured Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound production techniques. Their version of it in 1965 reached the top of the Hot 100 in February and spent a total of 16 weeks on the chart, something that was almost unheard of at the time.
6. Downtown – Petula Clark
Petula Clark’s version of Downtown was recorded in 1964 and became a major international hit in 1965. It would reach the top of the Hot 100 and number two on the UK Singles Chart that year, eventually inspiring numerous cover versions of the song from big-name artists like Dolly Parton. The original writer of the track, Tony Hatch, won an Ivor Novello award for the song in 1981.
7. Help! – The Beatles
The Beatles weren’t just massive in the music industry, they were also active in film. Help! served as the title track of their 1965 film and the movie’s soundtrack album, eventually released as a single in July of that year. It rose to the top of both the US Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart, remaining in those positions for three weeks each. When asked about the inspiration for the song, John Lennon said it was a real cry for help after the overwhelming emotions that came along with The Beatles’ massive amount of success.
8. Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat – Herman’s Hermits
Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat had the unfortunate luck of getting stuck behind The Supremes’ hit single Stop! In The Name Of Love on the Hot 100. It rose to the number two spot on the chart and was incredibly popular, ultimately outstripping the song that kept it from number one on the year-end charts by quite a large margin.
9. Crying in the Chapel – Elvis Presley
Crying In The Chapel was first released by Darrell Glenn in 1953, and his version of the song reached number six on the US Billboard charts. Other artists would come along to record it over the years, but Elvis Presley’s 1965 recording was the most successful. His version reached number three on the Hot 100 and took the top spot on the UK Singles chart.
10. My Girl – The Temptations
The Temptations are known as one of the best groups of all time now, but the first number-one single they ever produced was My Girl. It would go on to become their signature song after reaching the top of the Hot 100 and R&B charts in 1965 and has been included in the National Recording Registry for preservation.
11. Help Me Rhonda – The Beach Boys
Help Me Rhonda first appeared on The Beach Boys’ 1965 album Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!). It was a unique song for the group, as Al Jardine was the lead vocalist for this track, unlike most of their other releases during the era. The album version and single version had slightly different lyrics, with the single version becoming their second number-one single and one of their biggest hits of all time.
12. King of the Road – Roger Miller
King Of The Road tells the story of a homeless man who has essentially no money but enjoys the freedom of the lifestyle he leads. While cynical, the song was a big hit single for Roger Miller. It rose to the top of the Hot Country Singles Chart, UK Singles Chart, and Easy Listening rankings while peaking at number four on the Hot 100.
13. The Birds and the Bees – Jewel Akens
The Birds And The Bees was allegedly written by the—at the time—12-year-old son of Era Records owner Herb Newman. Jewel Akens’ 1964 recording of the song was a huge chart success, rising to number three on the Hot 100 and number two on the Cash Box Top 100 rankings.
14. Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me – Mel Carter
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me by Mel Carter was actually first performed by Karen Chandler in 1952. Several artists would end up recording covers of the song, but his version was the most successful. It spent a total of 15 weeks on the Hot 100 and rose as high as number eight on that chart, but it did take the top spot on the Easy Listening chart.
15. Shotgun – Jr. Walker & the All Stars
Shotgun was one of the biggest dance tunes of 1965. It reached the top spot of the R&B Singles chart and held the spot for four non-consecutive weeks while also peaking at number four on the Hot 100.
16. I Got You Babe – Sonny & Cher
Sonny & Cher’s I Got You Babe was the first single to come from their debut album Look At Us in 1965. It was a huge debut hit for the pair, reaching the top spot of the Hot 100 and spending three weeks in that position. It also turned into an international number one by topping the charts in both the UK and Canada.
17. This Diamond Ring – Gary Lewis & the Playboys
The Diamond Ring was the first hit single for Sammy Ambrose, but Gary Lewis would release his own version shortly after. Lewis’ version was the more successful one, eventually making it to the top of the Hot 100 and spending over a month climbing the chart.
18. The “In” Crowd – The Ramsey Lewis Trio
The “In” Crowd was originally performed by Dobie Gray and appeared on one of his earlier albums. The Ramsey Lewis Trio went on to record an instrumental version of the song a year later that took a jazzier approach to the track. Their version peaked at number five on the Hot 100 and spent three weeks at the number-two spot on the R&B chart.
19. Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter – Herman’s Hermits
Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter was first recorded by Tom Courtenay for a British TV play in 1963 and that version got a single release. Herman’s Hermits would go on to release the most memorable version of the song though, and saw it rise to the top of the Hot 100 and in Canada. The group oddly never released it in the UK despite being native to that country.
20. Stop! In the Name of Love – The Supremes
Stop! In The Name Of Love is one of the most fondly remembered songs of 1965. Another big hit that was attributed to the Holland-Dozier-Holland collaboration, The Supremes earned a number-one hit on the Hot 100 and a number-two hit on the Soul Singles chart with their recording of it.
21. Unchained Melody – The Righteous Brothers
Unchained Melody originated as a 1955 song that was the theme for the prison film Unchained. It went on to become one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century, with several versions of the track becoming singles hits. The Righteous Brothers released their version of it in 1965 and saw it become a jukebox standard that reached number four on the Hot 100 and number 14 on the UK Singles Chart.
22. Silhouettes – Herman’s Hermits
Silhouettes was first made famous by The Rays in 1957 and a competing version by The Diamonds was also a chart success. Herman’s Hermits revived the song in 1965 and earned the number-five spot on the Hot 100 and number three on the UK Singles Chart.
23. I’ll Never Find Another You – The Seekers
I’ll Never Find Another You was The Seekers’ first song the group released in the UK, and it was the second-best-selling single in the UK in 1965. It not only topped the UK Singles Chart, but it also went on to reach number four on the US Hot 100 and number two on the US Easy Listening chart.
24. Cara Mia – Jay and the Americans
Cara Mia was first released in 1954 by David Whitfield that took the top spot of the UK charts and made it to the top 10 in the US. It would later be performed by Jay And The Americans in 1965, earning the rock group a number-four hit on the Hot 100 and taking the top spot in Canada.
25. Mr. Tambourine Man – The Byrds
Bob Dylan wrote and released Mr. Tambourine Man on his 1965 album Bring It All Back Home. Its success saw numerous other artists record the song, with The Byrds releasing one of the most successful versions. Both Dylan’s original and his version with the Byrds have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
26. Cast Your Fate to the Wind – Sounds Orchestral
Cast Your Fate To The Wind was a jazz instrumental by Vince Guaraldi that won a Grammy Award in 1963. The song would later be released by Sounds Orchestral, who took the theme of the track away from the jazz genre and made it more of a dance club song. Their version was a number-one hit on the Easy Listening chart and rose to number five and number 10 on the UK Singles Chart and Hot 100 respectively.
27. Yes, I’m Ready – Barbara Mason
Barbara Mason’s version of Yes, I’m Ready was the first of several hit recordings of the song. In 1965, her version of the track reached number two on the R&B chart and number five on the Hot 100. It would end up being her highest-charting single and would be re-recorded by Mason for her 1973 album Give Me Your Love.
28. What’s New Pussycat? – Tom Jones
What’s New Pussycat? was the title theme song of the 1965 screwball movie. Tom Jones was the artist who performed it on the film soundtrack and in the single release. It became his third single to reach the top 30 of the UK Singles Chart and peaked at number 11 on that ranking. It also rose to number three on the US Hot 100.
29. Eve of Destruction – Barry McGuire
Eve Of Destruction was one of the most iconic protest songs of the 60s. While many artists would record it and many critics would describe the track as everything wrong with the younger generation, the song was a hit for several artists. Barry McGuire’s version was the most successful, rising to number one on the Hot 100 and Cash Box Top 100 charts while peaking at number three in the UK.
30. Hang On Sloopy – The McCoys
The Vibrations were the first group to record Hang On Sloopy, but their version would not be the biggest hit it produced. The McCoys found the most success with the song, with theirs ending up being the official rock track of the state of Ohio and becoming associated with the Ohio State University.
31. Ticket to Ride – The Beatles
Ticket To Ride was in no way The Beatles’ biggest hit, but it was still an amazing song that kept their streak going by becoming their seventh consecutive number-one hit in the UK and third consecutive number-one in the US. It would also be included in their film Help! that year.
32. Red Roses for a Blue Lady – Bert Kaempfert
Red Roses For A Blue Lady was first written by Sid Tepper and Roy C. Bennet in 1948. One of the most successful versions of the song came from Bert Kaempfert in 1965, though two other versions of it would chart with his simultaneously. His version reached number 11 on the Hot 100 and number three on the Easy Listening chart.
33. Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag – James Brown
Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag was James Brown’s first big hit single. It not only was his first to break the top 10 of the Hot 100 by peaking at number eight, but it also won him his first Grammy Award.
34. Game of Love – Wayne Fontana And The Mindbenders
Game Of Love was a big hit for Wayne Fontana And The Mindbenders. In 1965, the song reached number one on the Hot 100 and number two on the UK Singles Chart.
35. Name Game – Shirley Ellis
Name Game started out as a fun rhyming game set to a song, with Shirley Ellis being the first artist to release the track as a single. Several versions with different names would be released over the years, but her original version reached number three on the Hot 100.
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