On April 13, 1965, the British Invasion was officially complete.
While the 7th Annual GRAMMY Awards may not have constituted a complete surrender to the Beatles and their English fellow travelers, it didn’t take long for the GRAMMYs to acknowledge the stunning impact of the Fab Four following their American arrival in 1964. John, Paul, George and Ringo themselves won two GRAMMY Awards—Best New Artist and Best Performance By A Vocal Group for “A Hard Day’s Night.” Furthermore, the group’s wider cultural impact was further recognized indirectly when the GRAMMY for Best Engineered Recording—Special or Novel Effects was presented to engineer Dave Hassinger for The Chipmunks Sing the Beatles.
“The Best on Record” television special for the year also reflected the Brave New Fab World of 1964. After noting that the show was bringing together “the Great Society of the recording industry,” Steve Allen explained at the start that this was a time in music when “it doesn’t hurt if you’re a Beatle or a Chipmunk or something like that. For people it’s a little tougher.” In fact, it wasn’t hard to miss a certain anti-rock condescension creeping into the proceedings when Allen—who won the Best Original Jazz Composition for “Gravy Waltz” with Ray Brown the previous year—added, “Sometimes I put on the Rolling Stones just so I can turn them off.”
The Stones did not win a GRAMMY or appear on “The Best on Record,” but the Beatles memorably did. First, there was an introduction from famed Boston Pops Orchestra conductor Arthur Fiedler who noted, “Until recently longhair has always been used as a term referring to classical music. Lately it seems to have an entirely different meaning. The new longhairs have a new sound, a new beat and, to say the least, very new haircuts.” The show then cut to Twickenham Film Studios in London where the Beatles were filming their second movie, Help! Peter Sellers—a favorite comic hero of the group—was at the studios to present the Fabs with their two GRAMMYs, or as he called them, “Grandma Awards.” Sellers and the boys proceeded to quip quite happily, before the Beatles broke into a slightly crazed version of the World War I standard “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.” For the record, the Beatles did not sweep the Rock Awards—interestingly, the Best Rock & Roll Recording went to fellow Brit Petula Clark for “Downtown.”
Certainly it wasn’t all about rock and roll at the 7th Annual GRAMMY Awards. The bossa nova beat was still all the rage, with Record of the Year going to “The Girl from Ipanema” by Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz and Album of the Year going to the Getz/Gilberto album by Stan Getz and João Gilberto. The Song of the Year GRAMMY, meanwhile, went to Jerry Herman for “Hello, Dolly!” as recorded by Louis Armstrong. When Armstrong had to cancel an appearance on “The Best on Record” at the last minute, producer George Schlatter and his team delivered an excellent late substitute to sing the song—Jimmy Durante. This was followed directly by an amusing appearance by Woody Allen who had been nominated for Best Comedy Performance. “My wrists are completely healed,” Allen explained of his loss to Bill Cosby (I Started Out As a Child). As Allen wryly noted, “It’s a thrill for me to be included in this fantastic tribute being paid to the recording industry by the recording industry.”
Speaking of fantastic tributes, this year’s “The Best on Record” ended with one richly deserved salute to the late great Nat “King” Cole who had died of lung cancer on February 15, 1965. Steve Allen returned to the screen to point out that Cole had been one of the founders and one of the first members of the Board of Governors of The Recording Academy. Sammy Davis Jr. then beautifully paid his respects to Cole by singing a medley of his unforgettable and timeless songs.