Good Music From 1964

After some good music from 1964? The year wasn’t short of big hits, that’s for sure.

From “Baby I Need Your Loving” to “Walk On By”, here are the best songs from 1964.

“Can’t Buy Me Love” by The Beatles

Song year: 1964

1964 was the beginning of The Beatles craze. That year, shortly after “Can’t Buy Me Love” was released, The Beatles had 14 songs in the Billboard Top 100.

Paul McCartney wrote and sang lead vocals on this song, which is, at its heart, a simple statement about money not being able to buy the best things in life. And what is the absolute best thing in life? As this and other songs by The Beatles make clear, it is love!

“Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison

Song year: 1964

A song inspired by his wife Claudette, Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman” is a song about watching a woman you are instantly attracted to walking down the street. The end of the song is hopeful as he also seems to have caught her eye.

With its unmistakable opening guitar riff and marching drum line, this is a fun song to sing and dance along to.

“I Get Around” by The Beach Boys

Song year: 1964

In 1964, Surf music was still hitting. The Beach Boys were riding their wave with “I Get Around.” Other than surfing, the second favorite topic of The Beach Boys at the time was car culture. This song is a simple ode to driving around and having the best life because you have the best car.

This was the first recording The Beach Boys made after The Beatles hit, so there was a definite pressure to be relevant. Like many of their songs, “I Get Around” is not complex lyrically, but it is the music written by Brian Wilson that pushed boundaries.

“House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals

Song year: 1964

“House of the Rising Sun” is a folk song. Its origins are murkier, and the inspiration for its lyrics is even murkier. Popular theories argue over it being about a New Orleans brothel or a women’s prison.

The Animals version seems rewritten with the brothel theory in mind, and the song warns against getting caught in your vices. There appears to be no way up and out of the depressing, depraved life in “The House of the Rising Sun.”

Many artists recorded versions of this song, but The Animals made it their own, which made The Animals a sensation.

“Where Did Our Love Go” by The Supremes

Song year: 1964

“Where Did Our Love Go” by The Supremes is another pretty self-explanatory song. A woman wonders why her lover isn’t in love with her anymore. He wants to leave, but she is unwilling to let him go.

“Do Wah Diddy Diddy” by Manfred Mann

Song year: 1964

Manfred Mann’s “Do Wah Diddy Diddy” brings us another song about watching a woman walk around town. This attraction is reciprocated, and the couple is headed to the wedding chapel by the end of the song. This is a simple but infectious song about love at first sight.

“Chapel of Love” by The Dixie Cups

Song year: 1964

Speaking of wedding chapels, “Chapel of Love” by The Dixie Cups is all about the big day. This song is about the joy of getting married and the anticipation of having a beautiful and blissful life with your partner.

“Come a Little Bit Closer” by Jay and the Americans

Song year: 1964

“Come a Little Bit Closer” by Jay and the Americans is a song about a guy having a lovely vacation in Mexico when this cute woman starts flirting with him. Even though he’s warned about her big, scary boyfriend, he just can’t turn down her advances.

At the song’s end, he leaps out the window and hears the woman come on to her boyfriend with the exact words she used on him!

“Last Kiss” by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers

Song year: 1964

A fascinating sub-genre of the car culture songs of the 50s and 60s is the car accident song. It makes sense, considering all the teens out on the road and the cars that weren’t exactly up to today’s safety standards.

“Last Kiss” is perhaps the best song of this sub-genre and one of the best songs of 1964. This musically upbeat song is about a date that ends in tragedy. The song’s speaker wakes up after a collision with his girlfriend dying in his arms. Now he’s trying to lead a good life so he can see her again in heaven.

This sorrowful song hit #2 on the U.S. charts and made it to #2 again when Pearl Jam covered it in 1999.

“My Guy” by Mary Wells

Song year: 1964

“My Guy” is a fun and catchy tribute to love and faithfulness. This song is about being true to your partner no matter what anyone says about him or who else might come up and try to whisk you away.

“You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore

Song year: 1964

Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” is an early feminist song. Women’s liberation was still almost a decade away, but this song captures a feeling that had already been stirring. This is a song about a woman as an independent person rather than as a man’s property or plaything. It is a bold, risky, and historically important song.

“Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters

“Under the Boardwalk” by The Drifters

Song year: 1964

“Under the Boardwalk” has a nice, easy, swinging cadence that matches the lyrics and takes you to a perfect, warm, and lazy day on the beach. With its boardwalk imagery, it feels like you’re there, hearing kids on the ride and smelling carnival food.

This song is a nostalgic time capsule capturing the perfect day and the feeling of falling in love.

“Baby I Need Your Loving” by the Four Tops

Song year: 1964

“Baby I Need Your Loving” is an upbeat, post-breakup song. This song is about pining desperately for a love you once had, a love that will never return to you. It captures the emotional turmoil, the inability to sleep, and the inability to think about anything other than that one person.

“Leader of the Pack” by The Shangri-Las

Song year: 1964

Here is another car accident song, even though, technically, it’s a motorcycle accident song. “Leader of the Pack” tells the story of a good girl who falls for a bad guy. Her parents make her break it off. After she breaks the news, he revs out into the rain and crashes. At the song’s end, she tells us how broken up she is and that she’ll never forget him.

“Memphis” by Johnny Rivers

Song year: 1964

This cover of a 1959 Chuck Berry song made it up to #2 on the U.S. charts. “Memphis” is a love song, but not a typical love song.

In the song, a man misses a phone call from Memphis, Tennesee. He doesn’t have the number, and he is desperate to call back because he knows it can only be one person, his six-year-old daughter Marie who was torn from him by divorce.

“You Really Got Me” by The Kinks

Song year: 1964

The Kinks really had one of the best songs of 1964 with “You Really Got Me.” This is a song about infatuation, about that one person that you see that you cannot get out of your head no matter how hard you try.

Musically this song is before its time and was instrumental for the harder rock that came after it. Because fuzz and distortion pedals didn’t exist in 1964, Dave Davies often mistreated his equipment to get the sound he was after. For this one, he cut his amp’s speaker cone with a razor blade.

“Louie, Louie” by The Kingsmen

Song year: 1964

“Louie, Louie” has a reputation for having incomprehensible lyrics. If you’ve ever wondered what they’re saying and if it’s an evil or naughty message, just know this is a rocking but relatively innocent song about a guy who is taking a three-day boat trip to Jamaica to see his love.

“Walk On By” by Dionne Warwick

Song year: 1964

Dione Warwick’s “Walk On By” was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal Davis. This song is about a woman who wants her ex to leave her alone. If he sees her while he’s walking down the street, she wants him to keep on walking. She is obviously hurt and doesn’t want seeing him to worsen it.

“Dancing in the Street” by Martha and The Vandellas

Song year: 1964

Try not to dance while listening to “Dancing in the Street,” Martha and The Vandellas call for coast-to-coast music and partying. This is a song about coming together and having a good time, no matter who you are.

“Glad All Over” The Dave Clark Five

Song year: 1964

The Dave Clark Five’s first U.S. hit, “Glad All Over,” is a sweet and innocent song about new love and that all-over happiness you feel. This song is so sure of this love, so caught up, and so joyful!

“The Times They Are A-Changin’” by Bob Dylan

Song year: 1964

Bob Dylan is such a talented and skilled lyricist that he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016. “The Times They Are A-Changing” is one of the best songs of 1964, and it shows the powers Dylan wielded with his words and how he would use that power to speak up about what he saw in the world.

1964 was a tumultuous time. This song speaks to the Civil Rights movement and the social changes that were underway. The thing is, the times are always changing, and while this is a topical song, the details in it are vague enough that they can apply to the change no matter the decade or the generation.

Best Songs From 1964, Final Thoughts

1964 was a time of struggle but also a time of innocence. Long hair was still scandalous. Teens still borrowed their daddy’s car to take their girls to the Drive-In. The beach was calling, and Motown was dealing out all the suits of love.

These were often songs by the young for the young, but the young were growing up. The best songs of 1964 give us a taste of what it might have felt like.

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