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.
Here’s a lyric that probably wouldn’t fly today, at least on a big pop song: “The purpose of a man is to love a woman, and the purpose of a woman is to love a man.” But that binary-ass thinking was completely normal in 1965, and we got a great song out of it.
Wayne Fontana was really a Manchester kid named Glyn Ellis. Reports vary on whether he named himself after D.J. Fontana, Elvis Presley’s drummer, or after Fontana Records, the label that signed him. Either way, they’d been a band for a couple of years when they came out firing with “The Game Of Love,” a blue-rock ripper that the American pop songwriter Clint Ballard Jr. had penned.
“The Game Of Love” is a dumb song, but it is gloriously dumb. It launches furiously into and out of the classic Bo Diddley beat, hitting some new, goofy level of energy every time it snaps back into focus. Fontana belts out the supremely goofy lyrics with an absurd level of conviction, and there’s a great vocal interplay going on with the other Mindbenders — the dipped-low doo-wop bass vocal on the chorus, the trilling rolled R on the breakdown. It’s music for dancing, music with an actual rhythmic push-pull to it. There’s sex in it, and there’s a freewheeling hammerhead sense of fun, too.
You might think that, after hitting with a song like that, Fontana and his Mindbenders would stick around, the way so many of their British Invasion peers did. Nope! Later in 1965, Fontana quit the Mindbenders mid-show. The Mindbenders kept going without him, and they got to #2 a year later with “A Groovy Kind Of Love,” a song later covered by Phil Collins. Two Mindbenders, Eric Stewart and Graham Gouldman, went on to form the great ’70s studio-rock institution 10cc, and Stewart worked closely with Paul McCartney on four of his ’80s albums.
As for Fontana, he had a minor hit with the Gouldman-written “Pamela, Pamela” in 1967. Then, in 2005, he was arrested for setting a cop car on fire with the cop still in it. After firing his lawyers and showing up to court dressed as Lady Justice (with sunglasses on, because Justice is blind), Fontana was sentenced to 11 months in prison, and then freed on time served. The cop was OK.
BONUS BEATS: Eminem and Kendrick Lamar rapped over a sample of “The Game Of Love” on “Love Game,” from The Marshall Mathers LP 2, but that song is terrible. So instead, let’s go with something good. Here’s De La Soul sampling “The Game Of Love” on “My Brother’s A Basehead,” from 1991’s De La Soul Is Dead: