During rock’s formative years and extending through the mid ‘70s, the primary vehicle for delivering rock and roll was the 45-rpm single. Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and, of course, The Beatles were all masters of the radio-ready pop gem. Around the time of Sgt. Pepper’s, the album slowly began overtaking the single as the dominant format, but with the advent of iTunes, singles are making a comeback. Below are 10 bands for whom the single was king.
10. The Dave Clark Five
For a time, at the dawn of the British Invasion, it appeared The Dave Clark Five might challenge The Beatles as kings of the three-minute pop song. Between 1964 and 1967, the London-based quintet placed 17 songs in the Top 40, including such monster hits as “Glad All Over,” “Catch Us If You Can” and “Over and Over.” Drummer Dave Clark both produced and managed the band; hence, the upfront, walloping drum sound that powered the group’s songs. By the time the band called it quits in 1970, they had made more appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show than any other British act.
9. The Guess Who
During the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, The Guess Who were a constant presence on AM radio. Beginning with “These Eyes,” which reached #3 on the U.S. pop charts in 1969, the songwriting team of Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings churned out a flurry of smash singles, including “Laughing,” “Undun,” “No Time” and “American Woman.” Even after Bachman left to form Bachman-Turner Overdrive, The Guess Who forged on with such great 45s as “Share the Land” and “Hand Me Down World.”
No band blended a multitude of influences into a winning formula better than Oasis did. Gathering snatches of The Who, The Beatles and The Jam, and tossing bits of Blur into the mix as well, Oasis specialized in crafting singles that sounded somehow both familiar and new at the same time. During a span of 765 weeks, from 1995 till 2005, Oasis was a fixture on the British singles charts, a distinction that earned them a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.
7. The Kinks
Although frontman Ray Davies’ ambitions would later be centered on albums, The Kinks made their initial mark as one of Britain’s best singles bands. Their first two 45s tanked, but fueled by one of rock and roll’s all-time great fuzz riffs, their third single, “You Really Got Me,” launched the band on the fast track to stardom. A segment of American listeners will always know The Kinks best for “Lola” and “Come Dancing,” which came later, but from late 1964 through the middle of 1966, they were giants of the first British Invasion.
6. The Eagles
Country-rock bands like Poco and The Flying Burrito Brothers had always occupied a place on rock’s fringes, but The Eagles were the first such group to connect with a wide audience. During a seven-year run in the ‘70s, the band was a constant presence on the charts, delivering both churning riff-based tunes (“Witchy Woman,” “Already Gone”) and heartland ballads (“Tequila Sunrise,” “Take it to the Limit”). “Hotel California” remains one of the most powerful guitar rockers ever to climb to the top of the charts.
5. The Who
Before Pete Townshend’s ambitions drove him to create such masterworks as Tommy and Quadrophenia, The Who were at heart a singles band. Smash hits like “My Generation,” “I Can’t Explain” and “Substitute” tapped into “teen angst” two decades before those words became a catch-phrase for the grunge movement, as The Who framed discontent in deceptively tidy pop packages. Mod bands such as The Jam, as well as the entire ‘70s punk movement, owe a monumental debt to The Who’s early approach to the three-minute pop song.
4. The Smiths
In the ‘80s, while most of their peers were embracing synth-driven New Romanticism, The Smiths were crafting guitar-driven pop masterpieces redolent of the first British Invasion. In retrospect, guitarist Johnny Marr and singer Morrissey comprised one of rock’s unlikeliest partnerships, but in the span of roughly three years the two wrote a flurry of hits that formed a template for British guitar-rock in the ‘90s. By the time The Smiths called it quits in 1987, they had place sixteen hits on the U.K. charts.
3. Creedence Clearwater Revival
Inducting Creedence Clearwater Revival into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Bruce Springsteen said, of the band, “In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s they weren’t the hippest band in the word – just the best.” In fact, no group put more working-class muscle into the Top 40 during that era than John Fogerty and CCR did. “Bad Moon Rising,” “Fortunate Son” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain” couched stinging social commentary in no-frills rock and roll. At the other extreme, “Travelin’ Band” and “Down on the Corner” celebrated roots-rock with glorious abandon.
2. The Rolling Stones
So brilliant are many of The Rolling Stones’ albums, fans sometimes forget that the group made its name of the strength of some fantastic singles. The Stones released mostly cover songs during their early years, beginning with a 1963 rendition of Chuck Berry’s “Come On.” Sizzling versions of tracks like Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and Bobby Womack’s “It’s All Over Now” followed, until Jagger and Richards hit their stride with the 1965 original tune, “The Last Time.” Thereafter, during their London Records years, the band churned out Jagger-Richards hits with startling regularity.
1. The Beatles
It’s not for nothing that The Beatles’ 1 album – a 27-track compilation of the band’s Number One singles – has sold more than 31 million copies to date. Especially during the group’s mop-tops phase, The Beatles were kings of radio, spewing forth singles so fast their songs often competed with one another for the top spot on the charts. Neither before nor since has a band so prolifically crafted brilliant songs that connected as profoundly with the public at large.