Entertainment & Arts

Chart attack: The Beatles' rivals in 1962

The Beatles with a silver disc in 1963
The Beatles' success spelt the end for many of the 1950s' biggest names

It is 50 years since The Beatles first entered the UK singles chart with Love Me Do - but what were the other records in the hit parade that week?

Easy listening, country, instrumentals - those were the big sellers when The Beatles made their UK chart debut on 13 October, 1962.

The top 50 was dominated by solo artists: 45 of them, to be precise, from the clean-cut Cliff Richard, to venerated entertainers like Nat King Cole.

Almost no-one wrote their own material. Instead, tin pan alley scribes like Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were responsible for half-a-dozen of the week's biggest singles.

And many hits were watered down cover versions of American smashes: Bermondsey boy Jimmy Justice, for example, was at number 24 with a cruelly neutered version of Ben E King's Spanish Harlem.

At number one, however, was Telstar - The Tornados' first, and biggest hit.

An instrumental group led by production genius Joe Meek, their song foreshadowed the Beatles' studio experiments, with its tape loops, cavernous echoes and a bleepy spaceship effect that was rumoured to be the sound of a toilet flushing, played in reverse.

"Instrumentals were good because they were international," says the band's drummer, Clem Cattini. "There were no language barriers, there were just tunes."

Telstar went on to become the first US number one by a British rock group, and sold five million copies worldwide.

It wasn't the only non-vocal tune in the Top 50 that week. The Shadows, Duane Eddy and jazz legend Mr Acker Bilk all featured, as did Jet Harris's Oscar-nominated theme for The Man With The Golden Arm - memorably accompanied on film by Saul Bass's groundbreaking "jagged arm" title sequence.

But The Beatles' brief appearance at the bottom of the chart signalled the end for these songs.

"As soon as the Beatlemania thing started, instrumental groups went out the window," says Cattini.

"Even the Shadows struggled for quite a while. Cliff struggled, really, until he got Devil Woman in the '70s.

"The Beatles took the shine off everybody else. They were so powerful and so successful over here and in America, nobody wanted any instrumental groups. It was all singing groups. We even got down to the low of making a vocal EP, which was an absolute disaster."

Million seller

A couple of places below The Tornados was Australian-English crooner Frank Ifield.

His single, a cover of country standard I Remember You, was one of two hits in the Top 50 to feature yodelling (the other was Karl Denver's Blue Weekend).

More importantly, it was the first British single to sell more than one million copies, having spent seven weeks at number one over the summer.

The following year, Ifield's Wayward Wind would stop The Beatles second single, Please Please Me, getting to number one. But, like Cattini, he says the appearance of Love Me Do in the charts was the beginning of the end for the old guard.

"People started to say to me, 'what group are you in?'," says Ifield, now a music promoter in Australia.

Frank Ifield in 1959
Frank Ifield was the first artist to have three consecutive UK number ones

"It was The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Gerry And The Pacemakers, and Freddie And The Dreamers.

"The solo singers really took a back seat."

But there was no animosity between Ifield and the Beatles. As Love Me Do climbed the charts, he put them on the bill for one of his shows in Peterborough (the local paper complained that Ringo "made far too much noise"). Later, he even released an album with them.

"When I went over to the States, I was released on a label called Vee-Jay," he explains, and they "had this idea of coupling my name with [the Beatles], to give them a boost."

"They were going to call the album The British Invasion, or something like that, but it ended up being called 'Jolly, What?'

"I loved the sleeve notes on the back, because it said 'we hope you like this copulation'.

"I've never copulated with the Beatles, I've got to be honest with you!"

Radio role

What's interesting about the British charts in 1962 is how tame they seem compared to the equivalent countdown in the US.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the top 10 featured the twisted groove of Booker T and the MGs' Green Onions and The Contours' ragged R&B classic Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance)?

"We just didn't seem to get that edgy stuff," says music historian Colin Larkin, who now runs the Best Things On Earth website. "Surfing Safari was out and a hit in America - but we just weren't getting it."

The BBC's Light Programme, now Radio 2, would have been averse to such music, he says. "And pirate radio didn't exist then - so where else would we have heard Monster Mash or Green Onions?"

Radio Luxembourg was the only place to sample US R&B, and the raucous beat bands it influenced in Merseyside and Manchester.

But when Love Me Do reached number 17 in December (partly because The Beatles' manager Brian Epstein bought 10,000 copies with his own money) the transformation happened almost overnight.

"By Christmas, the fundamental change was made," says Larkin. "Music publishers saw the goldmine, managers certainly saw the goldmine."

The music industry loves a bandwagon, of course, but Larkin suggests that, in 1962, people were poised for a band like The Beatles to come along.

"The music publishing industry in the '50s did incredibly well," he says. "They made a vast amount of money - but by the time they got to the early '60s, the music wasn't very imaginative. It was the tenth version of what had been done in the '50s. There were some dreadfully average pop songs.

"Music publishers were willing this massive change [to happen]. They felt it and, for once, they were at the beginning of something.

"Admittedly, they ripped a lot of people off, but they were wise to the changes that were coming."

The seismic shift can be overstated. The Beatles ushered in the swinging 60s, but they still shared the charts with respectable singers like Englebert Humperdinck and novelty songs like The Archies' Sugar, Sugar.

But everyone agrees that something fundamental changed on 13 October, 1962.

"The Beatles really invented the idea of being a band in the modern sense," says Jools Holland.

"There weren't bands before who wrote their own music, there weren't bands who were really funny and there weren't bands who were iconic.

"The Beatles really changed everything and remain the blueprint for what the idea of a band is all about."

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