The Icons

The Music of Summer 1965

This is a chapter from the book ‘Tiddle-Ee-Aye-Go!’ by 60s Today contributor Ian Mole, available from 16th March.

Whenever I hear ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ by The Byrds I’m taken back to those warm summer evenings in 1965 in the densely-packed streets near Chester Road School. Our little gang of schoolmates would spend many an hour walking around, sitting on walls talking, trying in vain to chat up a girl from school who lived on Cleveland Road and occasionally getting upto mischief or having a fight. I was eleven then and that summer was a time of great change for me; in some ways it was the end of an era. In late July I left Chester Road Junior School and I never went into the building again. A Barratt’s housing development was built there in the early Eighties after the school was demolished. In late August we moved out of the house where I’d been born, in Elmwood Street, to our new home in Otto Terrace. As in every period of my life there was a soundtrack of popular music that suffused my thoughts and feelings, and summer 1965 produced many classic songs. 

A song that was in the charts for ages that spring and summer was Shirley Ellis’ ‘The Clapping Song’ and there have been a number of versions of it over the years. There was a clapping game to go with the song and this was strictly the preserve of girls. At Chester Road School the boys and girls had separate playgrounds but we’d look through the little gate between the two areas and watch the girls clapping each others’ hands as they sang, “Three, six, nine etc”

The Beatles second film ‘Help’ was released at the end of July and of course my sister and I together with her best mate and others went along to the Odeon, I think, to see it. The theme song ‘Help’ was number one for several weeks in August and other tracks from the soundtrack album such as ‘I Need You’, ‘The Night Before’ and ‘You’re Going to Lose That Girl’ always bring back those times to me. Apparently the critics didn’t rate the film much at the time but we kids thought it was a howl and would repeat some of the funny phrases from it for weeks afterwards. The Stones  released ‘Satisfaction’ that August and it’s probably their signature song. That summer I got into trainspotting in a big way and started going on exotic expeditions to places like…….Darlington. In my time I’ve worked in far-flung countries like Australia and Argentina but I still remember how thrilled I was to be going to Darlington with a couple of mates on a Saturday morning that August. My Mam made me a load of sarnies and I was looking out the front window every few minutes hoping to see my mates coming up the street with their rucksacks over their shoulders. We wanted to visit the local engine depot there and when we emerged from Bank Top Station we approached a bored looking girl who was riding round and round on an old bike and my mate asked her, “Can yer tell us where the sheds are, please?” She replied, “Bugger off!” and continued her aimless cycling. Anyway, ‘Satisfaction’ always reminds me of standing there on the sunny platform with loads of other kids feeling excited as different trains passed through.

I always thought Dave Clark looked a bit of a prat when he was playing the drums but I liked some Dave Clark Five records including ‘Catch Us if You Can’, which was the theme song to their movie and a big hit at the time as was ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ by Tom Jones, another theme song. The chorus was very over the top and some of us liked to sing that, “WHOA-A-WHOA-A!” bit whenever the mood took us. Well, I did anyway. Another big hit then was ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place’ by The Animals, whom I really rated, partly because they were from the North East. I later heard it was one of the most popular songs with G.I.’s in Vietnam, understandably. I didn’t think The Hollies were in the same league as The Animals, The Beatles etc but they had their first number one that July with ‘I’m Alive’ and it still sounds great today. ‘You’ve Got Your Troubles’ by The Fortunes was another big hit that summer and I liked it then and now. There was much less pop music available compared to now of course but we’d watch ‘Top of the Pops’ every Thursday and also ‘Ready Steady Go!’ on Fridays and we’d talk about the latest songs all the time. Sometimes it’s the songs that I don’t hear very often that strike the most powerful chords with me and such songs from that period are ‘Tossing and Turning’ by The Ivy League, ‘Poor Man’s Son’ by The Rockin Berries, ‘Trains and Boats and Planes’ by Burt Bacharach, ‘Everyone’s Gone to the Moon’ by Jonathan King and ‘In the Middle of Nowhere’ by the great Dusty Springfield’. None of those songs evoke clear memories but somehow they take me back to that time in a way that’s beyond words. ‘Hang On Sloopy’ by The McCoys was a very popular song among my group of mates, one of whom would always sing, “Hang on, Spewey” in that irritating way that a lot of kids have.

In late August and early September as my new school, the Bede, loomed ominously into my life some different types of songs were big hits and they were indicative of big changes in the music world. Barry McGuire’s ‘Eve of Destruction’ was a major hit even though it dealt with heavy issues while Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ was very long for a single and was light years away from the typical ‘boy meets girl’ song of the time. I didn’t own either a record-player or any records back then but a mate of mine who lived in Evelyn Street had both so another mate and I would sometimes go round to his place and listen to his collection, which included ‘Like A Rolling Stone’.  ‘I Got You, Babe’ by Sonny and Cher was also number one later that summer and though it wasn’t unusual lyrically, the look of Sonny and Cher was strange as they were like the first vanguard of the hippies. Of course they weren’t really and were just dressing up but to my untrained young eyes they looked radically different and on another song I saw them do on TV Cher sang it solo while Sonny just stood there with his head leaning on her shoulder, looking a bit forlorn. Later in the summer there’d be a battle between Cher and The Byrds who both had versions of Dylan’s ‘All I Really Want to Do’ in the charts.

Most of us have special feelings about the music we liked when we were young and it’s the same for every generation but I’m glad that I was young in 1965 and had such a wealth of great music to enjoy. In my view 1966 was even better as popular music continued to evolve in wild new directions but it wasn’t till August 1966 that I bought my first single and started to build a collection of my own.

Ian Mole is a teacher of English to overseas students and a walking tour guide in London, specializing in music-related tours.


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