The Beatles: bigger than Ken Dodd – but only just

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The Independent Culture

They called them the Swinging Sixties, so it comes as no surprise that there are four Beatles singles in the top five in a new compilation of the best-selling singles of the decade.

But what song is up there at No 3 with the Fab Four? Could it be "Not Fade Away", the first big hit for The Rolling Stones? Or "River Deep, Mountain High", which launched the fabulous career of Tina Turner? Or "Purple Haze", or "Whiter Shade of Pale", or "You'll Never walk Alone", by Gerry and the Pacemakers, which became the anthem of Liverpool FC? Or perhaps "Flowers in the Rain" by The Move, the first record to be played on Radio 1, by the DJ Tony Blackburn, when the station was launched in 1967.

Actually, none of the above even made the Top 20. In at No 3 is "Tears" by Ken Dodd, a comedian best remembered for his Diddy Men, his tickling stick, and his aversion to paying tax.

Because, in the 1960s, it was not only the young, the turned on, and the groovy who bought records. Mums and Dads – especially Mums – would treat themselves occasionally to a seven-inch piece of vinyl that they could put on the turntable, and set to 45rpm.

The first Beatles single not to top the charts, "Strawberry Fields Forever", in 1967, was beaten into second place by a song called "Release Me" by Engelbert Humperdinck, who was over 40, had a neat haircut, and was every mother's heart-throb.

"And the first hit ever to be No 1 in the UK and USA simultaneously was a soft instrumental number, "Stranger on the Shore" by the jazz clarinettist, Acker Bilk.

The list was compiled by the Official Charts Company, collating data from 1 January 1960 to 31 December 1969, for a Radio 2 programme yesterday, presented by Tony Blackburn.

He said: "This brings back many fantastic memories. It comes as no surprise to see the Fab Four at No 1, but other aspects of the chart are perhaps a little unexpected. For example Ken Dodd, The Seekers and Engelbert Humperdinck all attain higher chart positions than The Rolling Stones, Elvis and Cliff Richard."

The twenty best selling singles of the Sixties

1. She Loves You, by The Beatles

2. I Want To Hold Your Hand, The Beatles

3. Tears, Ken Dodd

4. Can't Buy Me Love, The Beatles

5. I Feel Fine, The Beatles

6. The Carnival Is Over, The Seekers

7. We Can Work It Out / Day Tripper, The Beatles

8. Release Me, Engelbert Humperdinck

9. It's Now Or Never, Elvis Presley

10. Green Green Grass Of Home, Tom Jones

11. The Last Waltz, Engelbert Humperdinck

12. Stranger On The Shore, Acker Bilk

13. I Remember You, Frank Ifield

14. The Young Ones, Cliff Richard

15. Sugar Sugar, The Archies

16. The Next Time / Bachelor Boy, Cliff Richard

17. Telstar, The Tornados

18. From Me To You, The Beatles

19. Two Little Boys, Rolf Harris

20. Hey Jude, The Beatles