2019-02-24 13:12:19 UTC
Freddie And The Dreamers - "I'm Telling You Now"
HIT #1: April 10, 1965
STAYED AT #1: 2 weeks
"The early era of rock ‘n' roll had its nerds (Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison) and its showmen (Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis). But as far as I know we didn't get a hybrid nerd-showman until the dawning of the British Invasion. Freddie Garrity was a tiny, weedy energy-ball."
Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders - "The Game Of Love"
HIT #1: April 24, 1965
STAYED AT #1: 1 week
"'The Game Of Love' is a dumb song, but it is gloriously dumb. It launches furiously into and out of the classic Bo Diddley beat, hitting some new, goofy level of energy every time it snaps back into focus."
Herman's Hermits - "Mrs. Brown, You've Got A Lovely Daughter"
HIT #1: May 1, 1965
STAYED AT #1: 3 weeks
"The song never achieves liftoff. It never even tries for liftoff. Instead, it's a morose little mutter, a self-pitying rock-kicker. In some small way, it's amazing that a song this flat and unassuming could've hit the way it did."
The Beach Boys - "Help Me, Rhonda"
HIT #1: May 29, 1965
STAYED AT #1: 2 weeks
A couple of days before Christmas 1964, the Beach Boys were on a plane from Los Angeles to Houston when Brian Wilson suffered a panic attack. Almost immediately, Wilson decided that the stress of staying on the road was too much for him. He decided to stay home while the rest of the band was on the road. (For a few months, session-musician king and future country-pop superstar Glen Campbell filled in for him. I like to imagine that it didn't last because Campbell towered over the full-time Beach Boys and made them look even more like dweebs.) Wilson devoted himself full-time to the studio, experimenting with weed and acid and seeing where he could push the Beach Boys' sound.
It didn't take long for things to change. The 1965 album The Beach Boys Today! is an early stab at a cohesive pop-album statement. It deals with romantic desolation as much as teenage thrills, and its instrumentation is thicker and more expansive than what the group was already doing. This was the beta version of the new Beach Boys. They hadn't yet become the starry-eyed chamber-pop masters that they'd evolve into soon enough, but they were trying to get there.
"Help Me, Rhonda," the Beach Boys' second #1 single, is a total transitional record. Wilson was still chasing Phil Spector, and you can totally tell. The song is full of false fade-outs and harmonic cross-currents. But all this lush experimentation is in service of a song that's just not that great.
"Help Me, Rhonda" is a plea to a girl. The narrator wants to forget another girl, an ex-fiancée who moved onto another man. He's looking for a rebound, and he's not especially romantic about it. If Rhonda hears this song, she knows that the narrator doesn't really like her; he's just begging to use her. But we only know this from about four lines of the verses. Almost the entire song is the central hook, repeated over and over and over.
"Help Me, Rhonda" is the first Beach Boys song where Al Jardine sang lead, and his voice - just slightly less buttery and more strained than those of his bandmates - is better-suited for a song like this. The group's harmonies are, of course, utterly dazzling. They recorded the song with members of the Wrecking Crew, including Campbell and Leon Russell, but Wilson hadn't fully learned what to do with those guys, the way Spector had. So despite all that's going on on the song, it sounds small and needy, its lightly mocking ukulele riff overwhelming all the symphonic swells. It's not bad, exactly, but it's nowhere near what Wilson would work up in the next few years.