Tag Archives: pop music 1964

“Please Please Me”
1962-1964

The Beatles’ first No. 1 hit in the U.K., “Please Please Me,” came in February 1963 on Parlophone records.
The Beatles’ first No. 1 hit in the U.K., “Please Please Me,” came in February 1963 on Parlophone records.
     The one song that really helped kick-start the Beatles’ rocket ride to international fame and fortune was “Please Please Me.” 

In February 1963, “Please Please Me” was the song that first sent the Beatles’ music to the top of the U.K. music charts. It was their first No. 1 hit. It was also the song that energized “Beatlemania” in the U.K. – the screaming crowds that began besieging the Beatles at their stage appearances, generating media attention far and wide. 

“Please Please Me,” in fact, was the tipping point – the take-off song that changed everything. Within a year of this song’s release, the Beatles would be a worldwide phenomenon, their music selling practically everywhere.

     True, the Beatles’ first hit song was “Love Me Do,” which rose to No.17 on the U.K. charts in November 1962. But “Please Please Me,” their second single, was the Beatles’ first popular “hard rocking” song; the song that captured their youthful exuberance and musical drive. It was also the song that first offered that unique “Beatles’ sound”– an appealing mix of young male vocals in sync with driving guitars. “Please Please Me” captured that sound in an aggressive and engaging way. It was feel good music that was fresh, open, and hopeful. The public ate it up. 

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“Please Please Me”-1963

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     John Lennon sang lead and played harmonica on the song, George Harrison played lead guitar, Paul McCartney was on bass, and drummer Ringo Starr delivered the back beat.  McCartney and Harrison also supplied the harmony and background vocals.  It was a sound the world hadn’t quite heard before – and a sound, as time would tell, that would turn music to gold.

1963: George Martin in a sound booth at Abbey Road studios with the Beatles in the background.
1963: George Martin in a sound booth at Abbey Road studios with the Beatles in the background.
     Initially, however, “Please Please Me,” as originally written by John Lennon, didn’t have the chops to make it as a No. 1 hit – at least not in the eyes of George Martin, the person then in control of the Beatles’ fate in their first London recording sessions.  In fact, “Please Please Me” almost didn’t make it at all.

     In the U.S., meanwhile, this song also had something of a tortured history.  Although it was released in America in early 1963 as it had been in Britain, it went largely unnoticed.  “Please Please Me” would not fully emerge as a U.S. hit until more than a year later, in March 1964, when it would join four other Beatles’ songs to occupy the top five positions on the U.S. Billboard charts.  But the story of “Please Please Me” in America captures some of the confusion, bungled business opportunities, and the general whirlwind that came with the Beatles euphoria in those crazy early days.  More on that in a moment.

Sheet music cover for the Beatles’ “Please Please Me” issued by Dick James Music, Ltd., London.
Sheet music cover for the Beatles’ “Please Please Me” issued by Dick James Music, Ltd., London.
     “Please Please Me” was a John Lennon composition.  Lennon described the inspiration for the song as coming from a combination of Roy Orbison and Bing Crosby influences.  He wrote the song at his aunt Mimi’s house, having been listening at the time to some Roy Orbison tunes.  Lennon was also taken with a line from Bing Crosby’s 1932 song, “Please” – the line being, “Please lend your little ears to my pleas…”  Lennon said he loved “the double use of the word ‘please’” — in the second case, the plural of the word “plea”.  

     Paul McCartney pointed back to Orbison’s style.  “If you imagine [Please Please Me] much slower,” McCartney said of the song, “which is how John wrote it, it’s got everything.  The big high notes, all the hallmarks of a Roy Orbison song.”

     In 1962 Lennon’s song was offered initially at the Beatles’ first London studio session in its slower form.  George Martin, the studio engineer and manager of EMI’s Parlophone label, and the guy who had signed the Beatles in 1962, did not like Lennon’s song when he first heard it.  He found it too slow and reportedly called it “a dirge” at one point.  He suggested the song’s tempo be sped up and that the Beatles try a different arrangement.  Reportedly, Martin also played a sped-up taped version of the song from an earlier recording that served as something of an “ah-ha” moment for the group.  But Martin wanted the Beatles to record another song at their next session at Abbey Road studios on November 26th, 1962, one the Beatles had not written themselves.

Early Vee-Jay single of Beatles’ “Please Please Me,” released in the U.S. 1963, is distinguished by ‘Beattles’ misspelling, later corrected.
Early Vee-Jay single of Beatles’ “Please Please Me,” released in the U.S. 1963, is distinguished by ‘Beattles’ misspelling, later corrected.
     However, the Beatles prevailed on Martin to let them take another crack at “Please Please Me.”  They had taken Martin’s suggestions on the song, sped it up, and added Lennon’s harmonica to the arrangement.  “We lifted the tempo, and suddenly there was that fast Beatles’ spirit,” McCartney later recalled.  The song was now much better.  Still, it went through a series of more than a dozen studio takes before Martin was satisfied – and this time, he liked what he heard.  “Gentlemen,” he is reported to have said from the recording booth to the group after the new version was completed, “I think you’ve got your first Number One.”  After the Beatles’ first national TV appearance on U.K.’s Thank Your Lucky Stars show on January 19, 1963– which featured “Please, Please Me” – the song began its rise on the U.K. singles charts, hitting No. 1 on February 22nd, 1963.

     In the U.S., meanwhile, George Martin had sent a copy of “Please Please Me” to EMI’s U.S. subsidiary, Capitol Records, in January 1963, urging executives there to distribute Beatles’ songs in the U.S.  They declined, saying famously: “We don’t think the Beatles will do anything in this market.”  Atlantic Records was also offered a chance to distribute “Please Please Me” in the U.S., but they also declined.  At that point, other record labels began looking at the Beatles’1963 songs for U.S. release.  One of these labels was Vee-Jay out of Chicago, an African American-owned label founded in the 1950s specializing in blues, jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll.

Brian Epstein, who discovered the Beatles and became their manager, also negotiated early business deals and arranged for publicity.
Brian Epstein, who discovered the Beatles and became their manager, also negotiated early business deals and arranged for publicity.
     On January 25, 1963, Vee-Jay obtained a U.S. contract to release a limited number of Beatles records for short time period.  Sometime in February 1963, “Please Please Me,” w/ “Ask Me Why” on the B side,  was released as a single on the Vee-Jay label.  The song was played on Chicago’s WLS radio station where it rose to No. 35 on WLS music survey in March 1963.  But “Please Please Me” did not chart nationally on Billboard at the time.  The record, in fact, was a commercial flop at that point, selling fewer than 7,500 copies.

     Back in Britain in 1963, “Please Please Me” was doing so well that Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein pulled the Beatles off their tour schedule to record their first album, naming it Please Please Me to capitalize on the popularity of the single.  Some 14 songs – including “I Saw Her Standing There” as the lead track – were compiled for that album in one day after nine hours of recording over three sessions.  The new Please Please Me album was released in late March 1963.  Within four weeks it would be No.1 on the U.K. albums chart, remaining in that position for 30 weeks.  New Beatles’ singles were also released in the U.K. through 1963, and these resulted in three more No. 1 hits: “From Me to You” w/ “Thank You Girl” in April 1963; “She Loves You,” w/ “I’ll Get You” in August 1963 ( which achieved the fastest sales of any record in the U.K. up to that time, selling 750,000 copies in less than four weeks); and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” w/ “This Boy” in November 1963, which had 1 million advance U.K. orders.

April 1963: Beatles with George Martin at EMI House in central London receiving their first silver disc for sales of more than 250,000 copies of “Please, Please Me.”
April 1963: Beatles with George Martin at EMI House in central London receiving their first silver disc for sales of more than 250,000 copies of “Please, Please Me.”
     In the U.S., meanwhile, Brian Epstein in November 1963 phoned Capitol Records president, Alan Livingston, about the label’s refusal to distribute Beatles songs in America.  Epstein played the Beatles’ latest U.K. hit song for Livingston over the phone — “I Want To Hold Your Hand” – and also mentioned to Livingston that the group was scheduled for February 1964 TV appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show.  Livingston agreed to begin spending some serious money distributing and promoting Beatles’ songs in the U.S.  On December 4th, 1963, Capitol announced it would begin selling “I Want To Hold Your Hand” in mid-January 1964.  But after a few radio DJ’s in America began playing the song, Capitol undertook a rush production schedule to release “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” then targeting release for the day after Christmas, December 1963.

Vee-Jay’s promotional cover sleeve for Beatles’ ‘Please Please Me’ single following Jack Paar show, Jan 1964.
Vee-Jay’s promotional cover sleeve for Beatles’ ‘Please Please Me’ single following Jack Paar show, Jan 1964.
     On January 3, 1964, Jack Paar, host of the late night U.S. TV talk show, “The Jack Paar Show,” aired a filmed segment of a Beatles’ performance of “She Loves You” from England.  It was the first complete Beatles song aired on American TV, and for many Americans, the first time they had seen or heard the Beatles.  Meanwhile, Capitol Records’ early release of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” proved wildly successful.  By January 10, 1964, two weeks after the release, the single has sold 1 million copies – a staggering number at that time for an unknown music group from overseas.

     Vee-Jay records, for its part, seeing the rising tide for all things Beatles, decided to take another shot at “Please Please Me,” and in mid-January 1964 re-issued the single, this time, with “From Me To You” on the “B” side.  Some of Vee-Jay’s promotional record sleeves for the single featured headlines printed on the jacket that read: “The Record That Started Beatlemania,” and other text description noting the Beatles’ clip on The Jack Paar Show, their upcoming Ed Sullivan Show appearances, and press coverage in Time, Life and Newsweek magazines.  “This Is The Record That Started It All,” said the Vee-Jay record sleeve.  By January 25, “Please Please Me” finally entered the American Billboard chart at No. 69, soon rising to No. 1.  Vee-Jay would sell at least 1.1 million copies of “Please Please Me” in its second offering, and would also sell at least four other Beatles’ singles, as well as the Beatles’ first U.S. album, Introducing…The Beatles, which came out ten days before Capitol’s Meet the Beatles!, also in January 1964.

Cover sleeve for the re-issued single of the Beatles’ “Please Please Me” in America by Vee-Jay Records.
Cover sleeve for the re-issued single of the Beatles’ “Please Please Me” in America by Vee-Jay Records.
     “Please Please Me,” however, was just the beginning of the Beatles’ phenomenal rise in America during 1964.  After their first national TV appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 8th when more than 70 million tuned in, their songs dominated the American music charts.  In 1964 alone, the Beatles put 19 hit songs in the Top 40, and 30 in the Top 100.  In fact, between January and March 1964, the Beatles accounted for 60 percent of all record sales in the U.S.  Fifteen of their recordings in 1964 – nine singles and six albums – each sold one million or more copies, representing total Beatles’ record sales that year of more than 25 million copies.

     “Please Please Me” may not be regarded as the Beatles’ best song ever by music critics or many of their fans, but it is certainly among the most important for launching their career, energizing their early style, and showing how adaptable and creative they could be when faced with criticism in the studio.  In a special Rolling Stone magazine supplement of November 2010 reviewing the Beatles’ 100 greatest songs, “Please Please Me” is ranked at No. 20.  Today, the song is still sold and downloaded by fans via Amazon.com, Apple’s iTunes music store, and other music sellers.  For other stories on the Beatles at this website see “Beatles History: 12 Stories,” a sub-directory page with additional choices.  Thanks for visiting — and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle


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Date Posted: 1 February 2013
Last Update: 21 June 2017
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Please Please Me, 1962-1964,”
PopHistoryDig.com, February 1, 2013.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

April 1963 poster for concert in Northwich, England with the Beatles at the top of the bill not long after “Please Please Me” hit the top of the charts. Small print above their name reads “Hit recorders of ‘Please Please Me’.”  Poster was later sold at Christies in London, 2012.
April 1963 poster for concert in Northwich, England with the Beatles at the top of the bill not long after “Please Please Me” hit the top of the charts. Small print above their name reads “Hit recorders of ‘Please Please Me’.” Poster was later sold at Christies in London, 2012.
The Beatles’ first album, Please Please Me, released in the U.K. late March 1963, hit No. 1 in April and held that position for 30 weeks.
The Beatles’ first album, Please Please Me, released in the U.K. late March 1963, hit No. 1 in April and held that position for 30 weeks.

“The Beatles,” in Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski (eds), The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, New York, 3rd Edition, 2001, pp. 56-59.

Greil Marcus, “The Beatles,” in Anthony DeCurtis and James Henke, with Holly George-Warren (eds), The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock n Roll, New York: Random House, revised edition, 1992, pp. 209-222.

Frederick Lewis, “Britons Succumb to ‘Beatlemania’,” New York Times Magazine, December 1, 1963.

Lawrence Malkin, “Liverpudlian Frenzy; British Beatles Sing Up a Teen-Age Storm,” Los Angeles Times, December 29, 1963, p. G-4.

Jack Gould, “TV: It’s the Beatles (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah); Paar Presents British Singers on Film,” New York Times, Saturday, January 4, 1964, Business, p 47.

CBS, Inc., Press Release, “The Beatles to Make Three Appearances on Sullivan Show,” February 3, 1964.

Richie Unterberger, Beatles Song Review, “Please Please Me,” AllMusic.com.

“Please Please Me” (song), Wikipedia.org.

“The Beatles 100 Greatest Songs,” Rolling Stone, November 2010.

Bill Harry, The Beatles Encyclopedia: Revised and Updated. London: Virgin Publishing, 2000.

“Introducing… The Beatles,” Wikipedia.org.

Dennis McLellan, “Alan W. Livingston Dies at 91; Former President of Capitol Records,” Los Angles Times, March 14, 2009.

Jack Doyle, “Beatles’ Closed-Circuit Gig, March 1964″(Beatles’ first U.S. concert appearance in Washington, DC & related U.S. theater showings), PopHistoryDig.com, July 9, 2008.

Jack Doyle, “Dear Prudence, 1967-1968″(Beatles’ retreat in India & song trove developed thereafter), PopHistoryDig.com, July 27, 2009.

Jack Doyle, “Beatles in America, 1963-1964” (frenetic early years of Beatles’ popularity & music success) PopHistoryDig.com, September 20, 2009.

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“Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”
1964-1965

Early 1960s photo of Bill Medley & Bobby Hatfield on a 2006 issue two-CD set. Among songs included is the No.1 hit of 1965, 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' '.
Early 1960s photo of Bill Medley & Bobby Hatfield on a 2006 issue two-CD set. Among songs included is the No.1 hit of 1965, 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' '.
     In December 1964, a song titled “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” began to be heard on the radio.  It was a song that would one day become the 20th century’s “most played” radio song.  It was performed by two guys from California — Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield; two guys who came to be known as the Righteous Brothers.  Their stage name came about after a black U.S. Marine, attending one of their early nightclub acts, shouted out approvingly: “That was righteous, brothers!”  The label stuck, and the two singers became a distinctive duet, with Bill Medley, the taller of the two, providing the bass-baritone, and blond-haired Bobby Hatfield singing tenor.  Their style would later be dubbed “blue- eyed soul,” and there was no doubt about their vocal talent.  They had a range and style that helped create a strong and distinctive sound.  But they also had another potent ingredient in their music that helped make it distinctive — a music producer named Phil Spector. 

Music Player
“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'”

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     Regarded as a musical genius in the studio, Phil Spector was then coming into his most productive years. With the Righteous Brothers, Spector made especially good use of their talents, packaging their songs in a distinctive way as he pushed the boundaries of popular music using his then-becoming-famous “wall of sound” technique. Spector’s sound used a flood of instrumentation behind good vocals that gave pop music a near-orchestral quality. His treatments became quite distinctive, often described as “full and powerful” — they changed popular music. Spector himself, however, would also become known for his quirky and bizarre behavior, some of it violent, which years later would result in a second-degree murder conviction in the Los Angeles case of actress Lana Clarkson, for which Spector is currently serving a 19-years-to-life prison sentence. But in his earlier life, during his 1960s’ music production and studio work with the Righteous Brothers and other groups, Spector had magical abilities and was a much sought-after producer. 

Sample 45 rpm record sleeve for 1964-65 single.
Sample 45 rpm record sleeve for 1964-65 single.

 

Honing a Hit

     Said to have been inspired in part by “Baby I Need Your Loving” — a song by the Motown group the Four Tops (#11, July 1964) — “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” was written by the New York Brill Building husband-and-wife team Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, along with Phil Spector.  The production of the song went through many hours of experimentation, retakes, and studio time before it was recorded and released.  As the Righteous Brothers’ Bill Medley would later recall:  “Barry Mann wrote this ballad and I remember him telling me he wanted to write a song that was like the Four Tops’ records, and he wanted that kind of a song.  So they wrote this ballad and Phil Spector and Barry Mann sat down at the piano and sang it to us.  And they both had real high voices.  And when they got done I said, ‘man, that’s a great song for The Everly Brothers’ — ’cause they sounded like The Everly Brothers.  They had these real high thin voices.  And I couldn’t imagine this was the song Phil Spector wanted to do with us…  So we started learning it and the complexion of the song changed dramatically by trying to find the right key.  The song has a pretty huge range to it….”

45 rpm disc showing A-side single, 'You’ve Lost That Lovin Feelin' ' on Philles record label.
45 rpm disc showing A-side single, 'You’ve Lost That Lovin Feelin' ' on Philles record label.
     To get up to the really high notes in the song — a song, it would turn out, that builds and builds — there had to be a low start, so they kept experimenting to find just the right start and voice.  In the end, what had begun with Mann and Spector at the piano with their high, thin sound, became something very different — but in a good way. “The whole vibe of the song” changed, explained Medley.  “And with Spector’s phenomenal production it was pretty unique.  Great song!  Great production!  And I think Bobby and I did a real good job.”  Spector also had some back-up singers on the song, namely Sonny & Cher, before they hit it big on their own.  Years later, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would single out the song, and Spector’s production, at the induction of the Righteous Brothers.  “Spector heard a deeper potential in the blend of Medley’s earthy thunder and Hatfield’s heavenly fire,” said the Hall, calling the song “magnificently produced” and citing it as a kind of “symphonic pop.”  Spector’s wall-of-sound production technique on this song, said the Hall, “scaled unparalleled heights for a pop single.”

Righteous Brothers, 1960s.  Bill Medley & Bobby Hatfield, in younger days.
Righteous Brothers, 1960s. Bill Medley & Bobby Hatfield, in younger days.
     Still, at the time it was made, “You Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” had a couple of quirks about it that could make it a problem — especially for radio disc jockeys playing the new record.  The opening line — “You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips” — was done very slowly in Bill Medley’s very deep bass baritone.  It was so slow and so deep, in fact, that upon hearing the record, some thought it was being played on the wrong speed.  A second possible problem was the song’s length — nearly four minutes in play time when most songs then on the radio were in the two minute range.  But Spector fixed that, at least temporarily, altering the actual 3:50 play time on the disc label by reversing the last two numbers, making it 3:05, which helped get the song past time-conscious radio DJs and music pro- grammers.  But when the song was finally played by the DJs, the sound they heard was pure gold.  It features, in part, a powerful back-and-forth between Medley and Hatfield in their respective baritone and tenor, almost in a call-and-response fashion, and gives the song a dramatic, soulful flair.  Vanity Fair called it “the most erotic duet between men on record.”

45 rpm version of 1965's ‘Unchained Melody’ on Phil Spector’s label. Click for 3-song CD.
45 rpm version of 1965's ‘Unchained Melody’ on Phil Spector’s label. Click for 3-song CD.
     “We had no idea if it would be a hit,” recalled Bill Medley some years later.  “It was too slow, too long, and right in the middle of The Beatles and the British Invasion.”  But within two months of its release, by early February 1965, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” had reached the #1 spot in the U.S. and the U.K.  It became one of the most successful pop singles of its time, despite exceeding the standard length for radio play.  Indeed, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” remains one of the most played songs in radio history, estimated to have been broadcast more than 8 million times to date.  The Righteous Brothers, meanwhile, proceeded to have three more Phil Spector-produced Top Ten hits: “Just Once in My Life” (#9), “Unchained Melody” (#4), and “Ebb Tide”(#5) — all in 1965.  Those were heady days for the two singers, a time when they were actively recording in New York, as Bill Medley later recounted:

“. . .The Brill Building – you know, that’s where they did all that great writing…. Where Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, Carole King, and Neil Sedaka [were]; . . . just [where] all the phenomenal writers came from.  Well, when it was time for us to go in and record we would just call Screen Gems and say, ‘listen, we’re gonna record on the ninth of January and we need a song and we will fly into New York to hear what you guys come up with.’  So we would fly into New York at a certain time and they would parade these unbelievable artists in to us.  They would sing these phenomenal songs.  None of them were bad. They were all phenomenal.  And what a great problem to have; to try and pick the best song out of all these wonderful songs.  So I’m sure we turned down several hits.  Couldn’t do them all.  Certainly would have liked to.”

“You’ve Lost
That Lovin’ Feelin'”

The Righteous Brothers
1964-65

You never close your eyes anymore
when I kiss your lips
And there’s no tenderness like before
in your fingertips
You’re trying hard not to show it, (baby)
But baby, baby I know it

You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’
Whoa, that lovin’ feelin’
You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’
Now it’s gone, gone, gone, woah

Now there’s no welcome look in your
eyes when I reach for you
And now you’re starting to criticize
little things I do
It makes me just feel like crying, (baby)
‘Cause baby, something beautiful’s dying

You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’
Whoa, that lovin’ feelin’
You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’
Now it’s gone, gone, gone, woah

Baby, baby, I’ll get down on my knees
for you
If you would only love me like you
used to do, yeah
We had a love, a love, a love you don’t
find everyday
So don’t, don’t, don’t… let it slip away

Baby [baby], baby [baby]
I’m begging you please, please
I need your love [I need your love]
I need your love [I need your love]
So bring it on back [So bring it on back]
Bring it on back [So bring it on back]

Bring back that lovin’ feelin’
Woah, that lovin’ feelin’
Bring back that lovin’ feelin’
‘Cause it’s gone, gone, gone
And I can’t go on, woah

Bring back that lovin’ feelin’
Whoa, that lovin’ feelin’
Bring back that lovin’ feelin’
________________________
(…. ) = background chorus
[…. ] = Medley-Hatfield call-and-response

     Before the Righteous Brothers scored big with “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” the two had performed on the September 1964 premiere of ABC-TV’s rock `n roll variety show, Shindig!, and they continued to make appearances on the show thereafter.  They had also served as an opening act for the Beatles’ first America concert tour and later for the Rolling Stones as well.  But once their songs began climbing the charts, they were soon in demand for their own act.

 

Blue-Eyed Soul”

     The Righteous Brothers’s sound, however,  had fooled some listeners in the mid-1960s, including a few in the black community thinking the two singers were black artists.  Black music was also then called “rhythm & blues,” or R&B music, having been changed from the previous “race records” label of earlier times. 

In the 1960s, a number of cities with R&B radio stations were surprised to learn that the Righteous Brothers’ songs were those of two white performers. Rocky Grosse, Program Director at WWRL, a major R&B station in New York, was one of those with the mistaken impression. 

George Woods, an on-air radio personality with WDAS in Philadelphia, is credited with coining the term “blue-eyed soul” to describe the kind of music these two white Righteous Brothers were then turning out — music enjoyed by both R&B and pop listeners. In fact, the Righteous Brothers songs helped open up the R&B radio stations to other white artists who also had a “soul sound” to their music.

     “When we were both 13 we didn’t know each other,” Medley would later say about Hatfield and himself, “but our musical college was the same.  Rock ‘n Roll caught us right at puberty.  First time I heard Little Richard, my life changed.  I would buy all these records by Fats Domino, B.B. King, Bobby Bland and Ray Charles and listen to them all day long.  When it came time for me to sing on stage, I was trying to be like them. . . .”


Las Vegas Act

     The Righteous Brothers quickly became one of the top groups on the music scene in the mid-1960s. They also became one of the first rock ‘n roll acts to play Las Vegas. As Bobby Hatfield later recounted about those times:

“. . .It was a great reception. We were working [The Sands] with Frank Sinatra. He was in the main room and we were in the lounge. It was a real thrill to meet and actually become friends with people like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin. They were all working The Sands at that time…and Bill and I became …well, not close friends, but at least acquaintances, where they knew us by name and most of them just called us ‘the righteous boys’.”


Post-Phil Spector

Record sleeve cover for 1966 No. 1 hit song, (‘You’re My) Soul & Inspiration.’
Record sleeve cover for 1966 No. 1 hit song, (‘You’re My) Soul & Inspiration.’
     By 1966 the Righteous Brothers left Phil Spector and the Philles label, making a better business deal with Verve Records. Verve bought the Righteous Brothers’ contract for $1 million. Their first song with Verve, “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration” was also a No. 1 hit and a million seller. Bill Medley, who had some experience with sound production, was able to replicate a Spector-like “Wall of Sound” treatment for the duo’s new song. Through the remaining 1960s, however, they would have only a few more Top 40 hits. 

In 1968, Medley left for a solo career.  Hatfield kept the Righteous Brothers going for a time with another singer, Jimmy Walker.  But the act wasn’t the same.  Medley had a couple of hits on his own, and for a time, neither he nor Hatfield did alone what they had done together.  In 1974 they reunited for one hit, “Rock and Roll Heaven,” and in later years did some touring together on the oldies circuit and nightclub performing in Las Vegas and elsewhere.

The Righteous Brothers’ ‘Unchained Melody’ helped make the ‘pottery scene’ from the 1990 film ‘Ghost’ one of the most memorable ever – and the film's popularity gave the song & Righteous Brothers’ music new life. Click for film DVD.
The Righteous Brothers’ ‘Unchained Melody’ helped make the ‘pottery scene’ from the 1990 film ‘Ghost’ one of the most memorable ever – and the film's popularity gave the song & Righteous Brothers’ music new life. Click for film DVD.
 

Movie Power

     However, two of the Righteous Brothers’ 1960s songs would later receive a boost from subsequent use in major films. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ ” received a second run at the music charts in 1986 after it was used on the soundtrack of the May 1986 movie, Top Gun, starring Tom Cruise.

In 1990, the Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody,” featuring Bobby Hatfield, was used memorably in the Patrick Swayze-Demi Moore film Ghost, rising to No. 14 on the pop charts and becoming a million seller more than 25 years after its first recording. “Unchained Melody” also then topped the U.S. adult contemporary chart for two weeks and was No.1 in Australia for seven weeks through January 1991. 

In the U.K., meanwhile, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” became the only song to enter the UK Top 10 three different times: once in 1965 when it was originally released, again in 1969 when it was re-released, and a third time in 1990 following Ghost, when “Unchained Melody’s” rise to No. 1 there also brought attention to “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,'” which itself rose to No. 3 on the UK charts. “Unchained Melody,” however, was the best-selling UK single that year. In the U.S., a 1990 anthology album, Best of the Righteous Brothers, also became a million seller.

     Separately, in 1987, Bill Medley’s duet with Jennifer Warnes on “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” — a featured song in the film Dirty Dancing  — topped the Billboard Hot 100 that November, and later earned a Grammy Award. The film’s soundtrack, with the song, also became a gigantic best seller — in fact, the most successful soundtrack since Saturday Night Fever, selling 14 million copies.

 

On The Radio

     In December 1999, Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) announced that “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” was the No. 1 song of the 20th century in terms of songs played most frequently on American radio and television.  At that time, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ ” had passed the 8 million “plays” mark. The 8 million ‘radio plays’   of “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin'” equals more than 45 years of back-to-back airplay. “One million continuous performances of a song of the average length of 3 minutes represents 5.7 years of continuos airplay,” explained BMI in its announcement.  “The 8 million performances of “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling’ ” equals more than 45 years of back-to-back play.”

     The Righteous Brothers’ songs have been covered by a number of groups.  Elvis Presley, for one, frequently sang “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” and “Unchained Melody” during his 1970s performances.  Dionne Warwick, Hall and Oates, and Neil Diamond, among others, have also done versions of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’.”  Warwick’s version hit #16 in 1969, and Hall and Oates’ remake hit #12 in 1980.

 

Homesick Blues

     But for some fans of the Righteous Brothers’ sound, there’s no substitute for the real thing. Here’s rock critic and writer Dave Marsh, recalling his memories of “You’ve Lost That Lovin Feelin” both as a young teen and in later adult years, as described in his book, The Heart Of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made:

     “…The [radio] deejay told me that this [song] was by the Righteous Brothers, who I already knew from TV’s Shindig.  They were a Mutt and Jeff act.  Somber-voiced Bill Medley stood way over six feet, dark and halfways handsome; tenor Bobby Hatfield was blond, five-five or so and greaser cute…
     …Naturally, I bought the record, surprised at its red and yellow Philles label… So I sat and stared at the label and being in another line of work at the time — eighth grade — came to no unnecessary conclusions.. . . In the spring of 1987, staying at a hotel in downtown Chicago, I strapped on headphones and went for a run. . . I’d been on the road a couple of weeks, and felt home- sick, a little afraid, frightfully lonely. . .  I loved the record (wore out one copy, picked up another used), harbored a half-secret devotion to the Righteous Brothers no matter what they did well into adulthood, moved on to other things, but still turned “Lovin’ Feelin'” way up whenever it came across the radio.
     In the spring of 1987, staying at a hotel in downtown Chicago, I strapped on headphones and went for a run.  There was a parade on Michigan Avenue, and I dodged in and out among the crowd until I got down by the lake, where there was almost nobody.  I’d been on the road a couple of weeks, and felt homesick, a little afraid, frightfully lonely.  The tape I listened to was composed of random favorites, deliberately jumbled so I couldn’t remember what came next.  Somewhere over by the lake, “Lovin’ Feelin'” came on.  I jammed the volume all the way up and the clash of those voices came through again.  When they started begging and pleading — “Baby, baby, I’d get down on my knees for you,” sang Medley, “If you would only love me like you used to do,” responded Hatfield — tears sprang from my eyes. In the center of the continent, at the heart of a population of six million, I was suddenly, unmistakably, nerve-tinglingly abandoned and alone.
     God knows what passersbys thought.  But with the title — “You’ve lost that lovin’ feelin'” — echoing in my ears I understood at last:  We worship the thing we fear…”

 

Recent Years

Righteous Brothers performing in later years.
Righteous Brothers performing in later years.
     During the 1990s and early 2000s, the Righteous Brothers were sometimes performing 60-80 shows a year on the road and in concert. They were also appearing in Las Vegas for about 12 weeks a year. But in 2003, they were recognized for their earlier contributions to rock ‘n roll music. On March 10, 2003, they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Billy Joel was their presenter. “In the mid-1960s the Righteous Brothers became a fixture on Top 40 radio and the televised rock and roll variety show Shindig!…,” says their Hall of Fame description. “Medley’s commanding baritone and Hatfield’s forceful tenor ranked among the most indelible voices of that charmed era.” But sadly, only several months after their Hall of Fame induction, tragedy struck, as Bobby Hatfield died suddenly in November 2003 during one of their tours. He was 63 years old. In 2008, an earlier 21st anniversary special on the Righteous Brothers’ music that had been filmed in 1983 at the Roxy in Los Angeles, was aired nationally on many PBS television stations.

See also at this website “To Know, Know…Him,” for more background on Phil Spector, or go to the “Annals of Music” page for additional story choices in that category. Thanks for visiting – and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted: 31 August 2008
Last Update: 6 October 2018
Comments: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,”
PopHistoryDig.com, August 31, 2008.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Righteous Bothers photo from the 1960s.
Righteous Bothers photo from the 1960s.
“The Righteous Brothers,” in Holly George-Warren and Patricia Roman- owski (eds), The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, New York, 3rd Edition, 2001, p. 824.

“The Interview” (1996), Righteous Brothers Official Website.

“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’, The Righteous Brothers,” Rolling Stone, December 9, 2004.

“BMI Announces Top 100 Songs of the Century – ‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ ‘ Is Number One,” BMI.com, December 13, 1999.

Cover of 1999 CD with 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'.
Cover of 1999 CD with 'You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'.
Dave Marsh, The Heart Of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made, New York: Da Capo Press, 1999. pp.7-8.

“Righteous Brothers,”Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Induction Year: 2003

Dave Thompson, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ by The Righteous Brothers,” Song Review, All Music Review.

You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” and “The Righteous Brothers,” Wikipedia.org.

Richie Unterberger, “The Righteous Brothers,” Biography, All Music Review.

“Blue-Eyed Artists Herald Musical Integration of Airways,” Billboard, 1960s.

“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ by The Righteous Brothers,” Songfacts.com.