recorded April 1962, New York, NY
'62 model rock and roll was all about Girl Groups and Dance Crazes, and this fabulous single was a highwater mark of both genres. Another legendary Goffin-King composition, created, contrary to myth, before there was a dance of the same name; in fact, it had already been written for Dee Dee Sharp. (Little Eva was the couple's babysitter, though.) Those are the Cookies -- who Eva subbed for on occasion -- on backup.
recorded June 1962, Los Angeles, CA
Phil Spector begins his reign as The First Tycoon of Teen and Darlene Love sings her first big hit vocal on this Gene Pitney composition. How could it miss? The Wall of Sound ia already in full effect (and rocking harder than it would in later years), and Darlene -- backed here by a group called the Blossoms; the actual Crystals are nowhere to be found -- details rock's greatest case of bad-boy attraction.
recorded August 1961, New York, NY
The former Belmonts singer moves out of doo-wop heaven and straight into teen-idol territory, but as the baddest-ass swaggering teen idol you'll ever see. Ricky Nelson made having a girl in every port seem romantic, but Dion was bragging about it, and making you love it. Revealing a bluesy edge little seen in his previous incarnation, the former Mr. DiMucci proved that personality does indeed go a long way.
recorded 26 April 1962, Hollywood, CA
The year's greatest two-sided hit stripped off much of Sam's pop sheen but kept his smooth cool intact, even as he blew off steam on Side A and pleaded for romantic resurrection on Side B. A lesser vocalist could have lost his dignity in either situation, but Cooke had a way of making everything sound blessed. (Listen for Sam name-dropping current hits on "Party" and Lou Rawls' legendary vocal counterpoint on the flip.)
recorded 23 March 1961, Hollywood, CA
He'd edged into cheese (check out that B side), but the King always had a way with a ballad, and this, his show-closer for many years, proves it. Based on the French "Plaisir D'Amour" and featuring Hawaiian-sounding guitar fills (Elvis insisted on cutting this for his Blue Hawaii film), it surrounds Elvis' quiet vocal majesty with equal musical wonder, something many of his other ballads failed to do.
recorded June 1962, Memphis, TN
MG stood for "Memphis Group," and while the town was already on the musical map -- the Mar-Keys, which featured MG members, had already scored a hit with "Last Night" -- this sinister, funky instrumental stroll served as an important signpost for Stax's future glory. (The MG's were the label's house band.) Originally a jam cut during a commercial jingle session, the end result broke new rhythmic ground for rock.
recorded November 1961, New York, NY
Already dated when it was cut, perhaps, but time smooths out those edges in our memory, anyway, and Chandler's whole rep is based on this late-period doo-wop classic. The Dukays, Gene's group, turned their vocal "doo doo doo"s into "Duke"s, and Dukay Earl Edwards provided the finishing touch to the name. The result is a pledge of fidelity only matched in its era by Ben E. King's "Stand By Me."
recorded November 1961, New York, NY
Having conquered (or, more accurately, assimilated) pop, gospel, blues, jazz, and R&B, The Genius turned to country for his smash LP Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music. But when Tab Hunter decided to cut this Don Gibson hit with a Ray-like arrangement, Charles and ABC cut him off with an edited single. The result may be Brother Ray's greatest success, if you award points for difficulty of attempt.
recorded August 1962, New York, NY
The deliciously sweet "Sherry" had already established these New York / New Jersey vocal giants in a big way, but this, their other '62 hit, is arguably tighter, more original, and certainly more clever. Cut through Frankie Valli's incredible falsetto and you find a solid examination of false bravado and emotional revenge facing teens on the cusp of adulthood. Meaning that you can probably forgive the trumpet break.
recorded June 1962, Detroit, MI
Everyone loves this little number, but few oldies fans remember this as one of the Motown conglomerate's big early hits. Yet it was; Berry Gordy had written this for the Temptations, but when they ran late, the Contours got the nod instead. When Gordy's charm-school assembly line didn't appeal to them, they floundered following up this elastic tribute to 1000 dances. Contains what may be rock's first fake ending.