In The Number Ones, I’m reviewing every single #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, starting with the chart’s beginning, in 1958, and working my way up into the present.
The early era of rock ‘n’ roll had its nerds (Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison) and its showmen (Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis). But as far as I know we didn’t get a hybrid nerd-showman until the dawning of the British Invasion. Freddie Garrity was a tiny, weedy energy-ball. A former milkman and skiffle singer from Manchester, Garrity had a deranged giggle of a laugh that sounded exactly like the intro of the Surfari’s “Wipe Out,” and he pioneered an exceedingly strange high-kicking dance that must’ve made him the mid-’60s equivalent of a viral phenomenon. He couldn’t really sing, but he had other ways of grabbing your attention.
It made for a hell of a spectacle. Garrity would leap around at the front of the stage, grinning and giggling and pretending to shave with his microphone. Behind him, the Dreamers — four Manchester blokes who looked like dim-witted henchmen from a British crime movie — did the exact same dance. That was good TV!
It was not, however, good music. “I’m Telling You Now,” the one Freddie And The Dreamers song that crossed over to America, was strictly entry-level Merseybeat. It’s not bad, exactly. There’s a nice little shuffle to the beat, and I like the deep-toned guitar solo and the percussive surf-guitar flourish. The song’s hook is a mockingly simplistic whine, but it will absolutely lodge itself into your head and stay there. But this was an era of pop miracles, and “I’m Telling You Now” was nothing more than an amiable goof — a song that would’ve gone nowhere if that dance hadn’t been so much fun to watch.
BONUS BEATS: Speaking of that dance! Here’s Freddie And The Dreamers playing their attempted dance-craze single “Do The Freddie” on Hullabaloo, with the show’s other guests (including Chuck Berry and Martha And The Vandellas) joining in: