1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 140 to 131

Written by | July 22, 2018 9:40 am | No Comments

Please allow me to introduce myself.

140.  “(I Know) I’m Losing You,” The Temptations.  Songwriters: Norman Whitfield, Eddie Holland, Cornelius Grant; #8 pop/#1 R&B; 1966.  Author Joel Francis, “The list of Motown songs based around a guitar riff is a short one, but this masterpiece should be at the top of that one and several others. Producer Norman Whitfield wrote the song with Edward Holland of Holland-Dozier-Holland, but the Temps’ road manager Cornelius Grant supplied the signature guitar line. Grant’s contribution not only got him co-writing credit, but earned him the spot to play on the record – that’s him you hear on guitar in the song. The Temptations’ classic line-up was in full effect for this number. David Ruffin nails the vocals. The rasp in his voice makes it sound like he’s been up all night drinking, smoking and thinking about where this relationship has gone. When the rest of the Temps chime in with ‘looosing you’ it sounds like a desperate cry echoing out of the abyss.”  The song crossed over to rock audiences with a Top Ten cover version by Rare Earth in 1970 and another Top 40 outing by Rod Stewart (and the Faces) in 1971.

139.  “King of the Road,” Roger Miller.  Songwriter: Roger Miller; #4 pop/#1 country; 1965.  Driving outside of Chicago, Roger Miller took note of a sign that read, “Trailers for Sale or Rent.”  Miller was in Boise, Idaho a few weeks later, admiring a hobo statuette in the airport gift shop.  Those two pieces of inspiration resulted in his signature song, a tale of a modern hobo content with his indigent lifestyle.  Rock critic William Ruhlmann, “’King of the Road’ was an out-of-the-box smash, a surprising fate for a song about the joys of being a bum. Country singer/songwriter Roger Miller had been scoring crossover hits with self-written novelties like ‘Dang Me’ and ‘Chug-a-Lug’ since switching from RCA Victor to Smash Records in 1964. The easygoing, folkish ‘King of the Road’ was also something of a novelty, but in a warmly engaging, rather than outright humorous, way. Miller was a master of economical wordplay, and he deftly sketched the portrait of a footloose man at the bottom of society with short phrases, even including, for instance, quotations from cheap hotel notices: ‘no phone, no pool, no pets.’” Miller won five Grammy awards in 1965, leading to his quip, “It took me seven years to become an overnight sensation.”

138.  “Sympathy for the Devil,” The Rolling Stones.  Songwriters: Mick Jaggers, Keith Richards; Did Not Chart; 1968.  Rolling Stone magazine, “The inspiration for this hellish detour came from Soviet writer Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel ‘The Master and Margarita,’ which depicts Satan having his way in 1930s Moscow.  Richards struggled to find the right backing for Jagger’s menacing Dylan-esque lyrics, unsure ‘whether it should be a samba or a goddamn folk song,’ he recalled.  The Stones ended up giving the devil one of their best grooves, built on Rocky Dijon’s congas and Bill Wyman’s Bo Diddley-ish maracas.”  Keith Richards, “’Sympathy for the Devil’ started as sort of a folk song with acoustics, and ended up as a kind of mad samba, with me playing bass and overdubbing the guitar later.  That’s why I don’t like to go into the studio with all the songs worked out and planned beforehand.”  Jagger once reflected that the rhythm has “an undercurrent of being primitive – because it is a primitive African, South American, Afro-whatever-you-call-that rhythm.  So to white people, it has a very sinister thing about it.”

137.  “Twist and Shout,” The Beatles.  Songwriters: Bert Berns, Phil Medley; #2 pop; 1963.  Songwriter/producer Bert Berns wrote “Twist and Shout,” with Phil Medley, as a variation of “La Bamba” and the original version was released in 1961 as a Phil Spector production of a Detroit duo named The Top Notes.  Berns hated Spector’s production of his song, which resulted in Berns moving into producer’s seat for the 1962 recording by The Isley Brothers.  The Isley Brothers, not enamored by the song, were surprised that their version resulted in their first Top 40 hit.  The Beatles had inserted this screaming crowd pleaser into their marathon sets in Germany during the early 1960s and it was the final song recorded as part of a thirteen hour session for their first album.  John Lennon’s voice was ragged from singing all day and his pushing-through-the-pain raspy vocals add to the sense of frenzied euphoria. Author Ian McDonald, “The results were remarkable for its time: raw to a degree unmatched by other white artists and far too wild to be accepted by an older generation.”

136.  “My Guy,” Mary Wells.  Songwriter: Smokey Robinson; #1 pop/#1 R&B; 1964.  “My Guy” was the commercial peak from Mary Wells, who left Motown in 1965 and later suffered from drug addiction.  The song serves as another testament to Smokey Robinson’s understated genius.  Author Susan Whitall, “You need to look no further than the career of Mary Wells to see the physical manifestation of the shift at Motown from bluesy, gutbucket music to the sweeter pop that would put the company on the charts and into the black.  Her ascent also revealed the importance of Smokey Robinson in creating the Motown sound, because it was Robinson who steered her away from the funky wail Gordy was encouraging in early Wells songs.  Robinson encouraged Wells to sound sweet and shy, closer to her personality than the blues mama Gordy had in mind.”  Rock critic Jason Ankeny, “On the surface ‘My Guy’ is a buoyant ode to undying devotion, sweetly simple in its head-over-heels enchantment, but the shy seductiveness of Wells’ vocal belies the idiosyncrasies of the lyrics.   Punctuated by underhanded compliments like ‘No handsome face could ever take the place of my guy,’ the song turns itself inside out, making so much of the guy’s shortcomings – and Wells’ willing acceptance of them – that it takes on radical new meanings, provoking any number of questions on the vagaries of attraction.”

135.  “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” Elvis Presley.   Songwriters: Steve Sholes, Roy Turk; #1 pop/#3 R&B/#22 country; 1960.  “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” is a song from the 1920’s Tin Pan Alley era and was recorded at the request of manager Colonel Parker, on behalf of his wife Marie.  The four in the morning, unlit recording session seemed to shake producer Chet Atkins, who never worked with Elvis again.  Atkins, “I turned around and the lights were all out, and I couldn’t see what the hell was going on, and then I hear the guitar and the bass and the Jordanaires humming a little bit, and Elvis started to sing.”  Author Daniel Wolff has argued that Elvis created a great rock ‘n’ roll record with “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” by harkening back to Dean Martin instead of leather jackets.  Wolff, “By the end of the second line, Elvis has established his right to this ballad legacy. Listen to how he phrases ‘Do you miss me tonight?’ ending in a breathy tenderness that’s almost scary in its intimacy. With the song barely begun, the quality and conviction of his voice have pulled you into the darkness and answered each question as it’s asked: yes, you’re lonesome; yes, you’ve missed him.”  Author Tom Breihan on the vocal performance, “He found a way to exploit every drop of juice that the song ever had.”

134.  “River Deep – Mountain High,” Ike & Tina Turner.  Songwriters: Phil Spector, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich; Did Not Chart; 1966.  Tina Turner, “”I must have sung that 500,000 times.  I was drenched with sweat. I had to take my shirt off and stand there in my bra to sing.”  Arranger Jack Nitzsche, “It was amazing to watch ‘River Deep’ grow.  Even during the cutting of the track, Tina was singing along as we cut it and was so into it she was holding her crotch on the high notes.  Oh man, she was great, doing a rough, scratch vocal as the musicians really kicked the rhythm section in the ass.  Once in a while, a vocalist would run through a song, but Tina made everybody play better.”  Depending on which version of the story you like better, Phil Spector either paid Ike Turner $20,000 to produce Tina on the track or gave Ike that much money to stay away from the recording studio.  While the lyrics are somewhat childlike for a romantic pop song, the galvanic sweep of the orchestration and the Wall of Sound vocalists are undeniable.  Joel Selvin writing about the failure of “River Deep” on the famed producer’s psyche, “Phil Spector was living like some kind of crazed recluse. He closed his Philles Records, fatally discouraged by the failure of his Ike and Tina single, ‘River Deep— Mountain High,’ and descended into a life lived on vampire hours behind around-the-clock security in a Beverly Hills mansion, where his jealousies and paranoias could run free.”

133.  “Twisting the Night Away,” Sam Cooke.  Songwriter: Same Cooke; #9 pop/#1 R&B; 1962.  Sam Cooke was taken back when The Twist dance craze moved from the teen set to high society.  Author Peter Guralnick, ”Sam happened to catch a television show one day featuring scenes from the Peppermint Lounge. ‘Look at those old ladies dressed in diamonds, twisting away,’ he said in amusement to (producer) J.W. Alexander, then took out his notepad and wrote a song.  Like nearly every one of Sam’s songs, it was so simple, both lyrically and melodically, as to defy analysis – but so carefully put together at the same time, so perfectly matched in meter, melody, and rhyme as to be instantly memorable and, once heard, virtually unforgettable.” It has been said that Rod Stewart, who covered “Twistin’ the Night Away” in 1972, began his career singing above his natural key to replicate Sam Cooke.  Stewart, “Anything Sam did, I would do. Apart from getting shot in a hotel room by a hooker.”

132.  “Hold On, I’m Coming,” Sam and Dave.  Songwriters: Isaac Hayes, David Porter; #21 pop/#1 R&B.  One night during a Stax writing session, Dave Porter yelled from a bathroom to an impatient Isaac Hayes, “Hold on, I’m coming!”  Author Robert Gordon, “David ran in yelling, one hand holding his pants halfway up, the other one waving wildly, ‘Hold on, I’m coming! That’s it!’ It would be the chorus, and title, to Sam and Dave’s breakout song.  At the next day’s session, the built the parts quickly.  For the rhythm Dave referenced the funky hit out of New Orleans, Lee Dorsey’s ‘Get Out of My Life Woman.’ That provide a good starting part for Al Jackson.  Isaac’s horn part became a central riff.  Steve (Cropper) dug into his James Brown trick bag for a funky guitar part.  Penned as a love song, this piece transcends romance and becomes a cultural message with civil rights overtones, urging unity among African-Americans, reminding that help is always nearby – and on the way.”  Sam Moore, “That was the chemistry.  Sam and Dave, Hayes and Porter.  Just like the chemistry between Berry Gordy and Motown and between Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones.  Hayes – I believed in whatever he said.  His mouth, to me, was a bible.”

131.  “I’ve Got Dreams to Remember,” Otis Redding.  Songwriters: Otis Redding, Zelma Redding, Joe Rock; #41 pop/#6 R&B; 1968.  Otis Redding is nursing his broken heart again on “Dreams to Remember,” trying to cope with his love for a cheating woman.  Ironically, the song started as a love poem from his wife Zelma.  Otis re-wrote the premise with Joe Rock, who managed The Skyliners and wrote the lyrics to their 1959 doo wop classic “Since I Don’t Have You.”   Originally envisioned as spare ballad, the final version was the first Redding song to include female backing vocalists, turning his angst into a dialogue of pain.  Charlotte Pence, “’I’ve Got Dreams to Remember” is Otis’s saddest song.  Every time he says ‘again’ (in reference to his woman kissing another man), it’s like a door slamming on your hand, a nail going into your heart.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *