1965 was a remarkable year for the Righteous Brothers. Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield had topped the US chart in February and then scored a career-changing, international smash with “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin.’” They returned to the top ten in May with “For Once In My Life,” and went there again in August with “Unchained Melody.” On the Hot 100 for December 4, the duo made yet another big entrance, as “Ebb Tide” smashed into the chart at No.41.
The song, written by Robert Maxwell and Carl Sigman, was a dozen years old and the subject of many previous interpretations when the Righteous Brothers tackled it. In the pre-rock’n’roll era, it was a huge hit in America in 1953 for British orchestra leader Frank Chacksfield, who spent a month at No.2 in the US, reaching a more modest No.9 in the UK.
“Ebb Tide” also reached No.10 in the US for Vic Damone in 1953 and No.30 for Roy Hamilton in 1954. Other versions followed by Frank Sinatra, the Platters and Lenny Welch, before Medley and Hatfield gave it their distinctive sound, at the suggestion of producer Phil Spector. Like “Unchained Melody,” the recording was actually a solo performance by Hatfield.
The performance of the Philles single wasn’t even hindered by the litigation that was, by then, taking place between the producer and the artists. By the new year, it spent two weeks at No.5, as The Beatles continued at No.1 with “We Can Work It Out.” As the duo’s releases flip-flopped between two labels, their next chart appearance saw them reach even further into music history, when a version of Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell’s 1930 copyright “Georgia On My Mind” reached No.62 on Moonglow. Then came another major Philles hit with their second and final US No. 1, “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration.”
Listen to “Ebb Tide” on the Righteous Brothers’ Gold album.