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by Matthew Dixon
1961 came along, and it was another massive year for Elvis Presley. His legendary track "Are You Lonesome Tonight" spent a massive four week stint at the top of the chart at the start of the year, setting up a year when we'd see a total of four Elvis chart-toppers. However, the week that he released the track, another song was released that was a much bigger charter. No one nowadays really remembers Andy Stewart, and probably even fewer remember his hit "A Scottish Soldier". It only made No. 19 on the chart - but believe it or not, it spent a phenomenal 36 weeks on the chart.
His following hit "The Battle's O'er" made such a small impact that it came and went whilst the preceding track remained on the chart - "A Scottish soldier" decided the battle was not over! Elvis was knocked off the chart by Petula Clark - with her massive hit "Sailor" Petula only spent one week at the top, then the Everly Brother's massive double A side "Walk Right Back / Ebony Eyes" topped the chart for three weeks and then Elvis was back again. Amongst the hits at this time that didn't top the chart were the Shadows "FBI" and the massive hit for the Allisons, "Are You Sure?". Not only did it reach No. 2 in the singles chart, it also reached No. 2 for the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest - our third year in the contest, and our third successive No. 2.
Elvis' second hit of the year was the "Wooden Heart". If managed six weeks at the top, with the Allisons stuck at No. 2 for most of that time. The next three chart toppers - from the Marcels (with the classic "Blue Moon"), Lloyd Cramer and the Temperance Seven were of little note, and all changed rather quickly. The King's third chart topper of the year was "Surrender", a lesser known Elvis hit gave him yet another four weeks at No. 1, making his total 14 weeks in the first half of the year alone! The Shadows "Frightened City" and "But I Do" by the imaginatively titled Clarence 'Frogman' Henry both got stuck behind Elvis - both only making No. 3. At No. 2 behind Elvis was his eventual toppler. The artist was Del Shannon, the song was "Runaway". It spent three weeks at the top of the chart as part of a 19 week run. The Ricky Nelson classic "Hello Mary Lou" was denied the No. 1 - but it was the Everley Brothers who managed to knock Del off the top with their second No. 1 of the year, "Temptation".
Whilst Eden Kane had a No. 1 with "Well I Ask You", it only managed one week at the top. Billy Fury had a bigger hit with "Halfway To Paradise" but didn't make the top of the chart at all, something that would be common for him in future charting.
Why did these not manage lengthy spells at the top of the chart? Welcome, the year's biggest newcomer, child protégé and general singing sensation Helen Shapiro. Whilst "Don't Treat Me Like A Child" only made No. 3, it was "You Don't Know" that gave her her first chart topper - (amazingly at only 14 years and 316 days old!), and also gave her the biggest charting hit of 1961. It spent 20 weeks on the chart - and three of those were at No. 1. After that the top of the chart was locked in a tight battle between John Leyton's debut hit and only No. 1 "Johnny Remember Me" and Shirley Bassey's "Reach For The Stars / Climb Ev'ry Mountain".
The second Temperance Seven hit, "Pasadena" was denied the top spot at this time, whilst the next two chart toppers (from the Shadows and the Highwaymen) didn't make nearly so much of a chart impact. After that normal service was resumed. The year would not be complete without a second chart topper from Helen Shapiro. That song was the legendary "Walkin' Back To Happiness" which is probably the more remembered of her two big hits - even though it was the smaller charter. Following that came,yes, you guessed it, the fourth chart topper of the year from Elvis Presley. The track concerned was the double A-side "His Latest Flame / Little Sister". Frankie Vaughan's "Tower of Strength" and Danny Williams's classic "Moon River" both squeezed in chart topping songs before the year was drawn to a close.
Here are the 20 best charting singles of the year:
Here are the ten most successfully charting artists of 1960: