Ten atrocious number-one songs from the 1960s

The 1960s produced a lot of different kinds of great music. These songs were not part of that excellence.
Musik aus Studio B
Musik aus Studio B / United Archives/GettyImages
3 of 6

8. “CALCUTTA” – Lawrence Welk (1961)

Take away the British music hall style, and much of what I just said about “Winchester Cathedral” could be applied to Welk’s number-one hit from 1961. It also runs just over two minutes, and for the first quarter, when it is strictly instrumental, it’s entirely innocuous. Then the singing starts.

Well, it’s not really singing. It’s a bunch fresh faced central Europeans intoning “na na na.” At least that’s what it sounds like to me. I can see them all at the beer hall doing a rousing dance. “Na na na na na na.” After that, you get an accordion solo for a while before those smiling beer drinkers return for the big finish.

(By big finish, I mean they simply repeat the same melody we have been hearing for the last two minutes, with a final double time “LaLaLa” to put an exclamation point on the end. What any of this has to do with Calcutta is one of the great mysteries of modern music.)

7. “RUNNING BEAR” – Johnny Preston (1960)

This is not the only time Native Americans will show up on this list. You can choose for yourself which example is more offensive. This particular song begins with some bastardized version of a war chant to get you into the tale. The chant runs underneath much of the song, and returns to the fore at the very end, with the added bonus of some old-school whooping to – I suppose – make it even more authentic.

The sad story is a Romeo & Juliet tragedy of the young Indian brave Running Bear and the apple of his eye, the lovely Little White Dove. But alas, their tribes were at war and their romance was doomed to failure until they threw off this mortal coil and drowned in the raging river that separated them. Thus could they be together “in that happy hunting ground” (in this sky, I’m guessing.)

What makes this extra strange is that the song flirts with breaking out into an interesting bluesy tune with some nice sax work from Link Davis. But just as it does, Preston yanks it back to that awful native chanting and maudlin storyline. Give me Hank singing “Kaw-Liga” any day. It may not be any more authentic or any less condescending, but it just sounds a thousand times better.