The 50 Best Songs of 1962
by Justin Farrar | May 22, 2014
Welcome to The 50, a Rhapsody scheme in which we attempt to compile the biggest, best, most historically remarkable songs of every year. Our list of 50 tracks -- presented here in no particular order, ideally flowing like a time-traveling DJ set -- has been argued over and (grudgingly) agreed upon by our full editorial staff. Please enjoy.
There exist more than a few Boomers out there who dismiss '60s pop before the arrival of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and other "serious artistes" as nothing more than a dustbin stuffed with cheap novelties and teen idols with great hair. My response to their criticism is simple: So the hell what? If you're like me and crave pop that is energetic, wild and most of all fun, then the early '60s -- and 1962 in particular -- were a truly awesome time. Maybe kids at the time didn't care about social issues and modern art. But that's only because they were too busy dancing, surfing and partying, all the while listening to one outrageous tune after another extolling the joys of dancing, surfing and partying. In fact, some of the songs they dug were so outrageous they bordered on Dada lunacy. Zooming up the charts were anthems about mashing potatoes and mashing monsters, as well as ditties about "Green Onions" and something called "The Locomotion." And what about The Rivingtons' "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow" -- what on earth are those dudes singing about? Then there was the great Dick Dale & His Del-Tones; their "Miserlou" is so stinging and raucous it basically invents goth-punk guitar.
One other thing: Does it really matter that icons like the Fabs and Dylan weren't yet on the scene? The era, after all, boasted plenty of its own top-shelf icons. Motown was firing on all cylinders, with now-classic hits from The Miracles ("You've Really Got a Hold on Me"), The Marvelettes ("Beechwood 4-5789") and a young Marvin Gaye ("Hitch Hike"). The Crystals, meanwhile, hooked up with producer Phil Spector to unleash the perfect pop symphonies "He's Sure the Boy I Love" and "He's a Rebel." And let's not forget that several of America's most beloved and unique singers, from Solomon Burke and Dion DiMucci to Roy Orbison and Sam Cooke, were at the time scoring one hit after another. Very few songs are as cool sounding as Dion's "Ruby Baby" -- this I'm sure of. If you want to hear just how special early '60s pop could be, then you best check out our 50 Best Songs of 1962 playlist right now. It's a fun listen.