1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 210 to 201
Those schoolgirl days of telling tales and biting nails are gone.
210. “Heat Wave,” Martha and the Vandellas. Songwriters: Songwriters: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland; #4 pop/#1 R&B; 1963. Rock critic Dan Wiess, “The most ferociously swinging girl-group song of all time, ‘Heat Wave’ shuffles along raucously and magnificently even before a Vandella horns in. The drums are just so BUSY, and the knot of women singing ties together beautifully at the end of those tangled verses — let’s not even get started on the sax breaks. Martha Reeves makes ‘tears all over my face’ sound like the goddamn greatest situation to ever be in. Holland-Dozier-Holland’s magnum opus was so flawless that even a 2010 Phil Collins cover wasn’t dead on arrival.” British music journalist Richard Williams, “I can remember the feeling of being overwhelmed when ‘Heat Wave’ by Martha and the Vandellas came surging out of the wireless one night in the autumn of 1963. A controlled explosion of kinetic energy, it seemed to pick the listener up and hurl them into a new world. I n the combination of gospel voices, thrusting piano chords, steady bass and swaggering drums, Motown had found its sound.”
209. “Come Together,” The Beatles. Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney; #1 pop; 1969. The Beatles took a Chuck Berry riff into swamp rock territory, adding Lennon’s evocative/provocative collage style lyrics and vocal distortion into the equation. John Lennon, “The thing was created in the studio. It’s gobbledygook. ‘Come Together’ was an expression that Tim Leary had come up with for (perhaps for the governorship of California against Reagan), and he asked me to write a campaign song. I tried and I tried, but I couldn’t come up with one. But I came up with this, ‘Come Together,’ which would’ve been no good to him – you couldn’t have a campaign song like that, right? It was a funky record — it’s one of my favorite Beatles tracks. It’s funky, it’s bluesy, and I’m singing it pretty well.” McCartney, “I said, ‘Let’s slow it down with a swampy bass-and-drums vibe.’ I came up with a bass line, and it all flowed from there.”
208. “To Sir with Love,” Lulu. Songwriters: Don Black, Mark London; #1 pop; 1967. Scotland native Maria McLaughlin, professionally known as Lulu, had her first U.K. pop hit when she was fifteen years old with her 1964 cover of The Isley Brothers’ “Shout.” She made her acting debut in 1967, starring in the film “To Sir, with Love,” with Sidney Poitier. Lulu thought that the songs the producers had selected for the film were “rotten” and reached out to Canadian composer Mark London for material. Lulu on “To Sir with Love,” “I was over the moon. I just knew it was going to be a great song.” The lyrics portray a young girl becoming a woman and showing appreciation for her mentor for providing support and guidance. Arranger Mike Leander, who also developed the string arrangement for The Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home,” built a sweeping chorus and the resulting single spent five weeks at #1 in the U.S. Lulu later became a U.K. television star and had a major international hit in 1974 with her cover of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World,” beating Kurt Cobain on becoming nouveau hip via The Thin White Duke by two decades.
207. “Mr. Soul,” Buffalo Springfield. Songwriter: Neil Young; Did Not Chart; 1967. Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul” sounds like a fuzz heavy update of the Stones’ “Satisfaction” with Neil Young’s mercurial, stream of consciousness lyrics providing a more psychedelic lens. Author James McDonough, “Open to a thousand interpretations, shot full of mystery and dread, ‘Mr. Soul’ is the first glimpse into the darker side of Neil Young’s psyche. Whatever it was that had descended upon him, the feeling in ‘Mr. Soul’ is that he just made it out from underneath. Young, who bashed out the song in five minutes, playfully dedicated the tune “respectfully to the women of Whiskey A Go-Go and the women of Hollywood.” Otis Redding stopped by during the “Mr. Soul” recording session where (a) he saw co-producer Charlie Greene punch Stephen Stills in the mouth and (b) he decided to cover the song, an idea he later dropped or Neil vetoed depending on which story you prefer.
206. “Sunny Afternoon,” The Kinks. Songwriter: Ray Davies; #14 pop; 1966. This U.K. #1 single was the final U.S. hit for The Kinks during the 1960s. Ray Davies took on the role of the abused aristocrat on “Sunny Afternoon,” having lost his yacht to a pernicious federal government. Rolling Stone magazine, “This Ray Davies tune taps into English music hall tradition with a jaunty wistful melody; Davies plays a rich kid who’s been busted out by the tax man, scrapped by his girlfriend and left with little more than ‘my ice cold beer/lazing on a sunny afternoon in the summertime.’ It’s like the Beatles’ ‘Taxman’ as satire.” Ray Davies biographer Thomas Kitts has opined that “Sunny Afternoon” was “borne out of (Davies’s) struggle with class identification” and Johnny Rogan compared the song to The Beatles’ “I’m Only Sleeping” in that “both songs reveled in the vacuous delight of doing nothing whatsoever.” The descending bassline would become a common feature for The Kinks and was revived by Slade on their 1974 U.K. hit “Far Far Away.”
205. “Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” The Four Tops. Songwriters: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland; #1 pop/#1 R&B; 1966. Lamont Dozier, “From the start, we knew ‘Reach Out’ was for Levi Stubbs and the Four Tops. I wanted the song to explore the kinds of things women were going through and for Levi to come off as understanding and supportive. I also wanted the lyrics to be phrased in a special way—as though they were being thrown down. Back in ’66, we were listening a lot to Bob Dylan. He was the poet then, and we were inspired by his talk-singing style on ‘Like a Rolling Stone.’ We loved the complexity of his lyrics and how he spoke the lines and sang them in places. We wanted Levi to shout-sing ‘Reach Out’—as a shout-out to Dylan.” Duke Fakir of The Four Tops, “Eddie (Holland) realized that when Levi hit the top of his vocal range, it sounded like someone hurting, so he made him sing right up there. Levi complained, but we knew he loved it. Every time they thought he was at the top, he would reach a little further until you could hear the tears in his voice. The line ‘Just look over your shoulder’ was something he threw in spontaneously. Levi was very creative like that, always adding something extra from the heart.” The Four Tops begged Gordy not to release “Reach Out” as a single, feeling that the piccolo and flute instrumentation combined with the hoof beat drum pattern was too weird for radio. Of course, it became their biggest hit/signature song.
204. “Devil with a Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly,” Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. Songwriters: Frederick Long, William Stevenson; #4 pop; 1966. Songwriter/producer Bob Crewe is primarily known for his work with The Four Seasons, but he also discovered William Levise, who picked the stage name Mitch Ryder while randomly thumbing through a Manhattan phonebook. Ryder and the Detroit Wheels had their breakthrough hit in 1965 with “Jenny Take a Ride,” a song that combined Little Richard’s “Jenny, Jenny” and the Chuck Willis version of “C.C. Rider.” Ryder went back to the concept of a two tune medley by combining Shorty Long’s “Devil with a Blue Dress On” with Little Richard’s ball loving “Good Golly Miss Molly.” Ryder, “We knew we had something hot. The formula worked, in a big way. It established a stereotype of Mitch Ryder and what people could expect: energetic, exciting, frenzied, whatever you want to call it. It established us.” The gospel meets rock ‘n’ roll sound of the medley also merged two other popular themes – sin and salvation.
203. “Somebody to Love,” Jefferson Airplane. Songwriter: Darby Slick; #5 pop; 1967. This Haight-Ashbury summer of love rocker was written by Grace Slick’s brother-in-law and, like “White Rabbit,” was a song that Grace updated from her band The Great Society and turned into a hit for Jefferson Airplane. Rock critic Joe Viglione, “The opening with Grace Slick’s voice booming an acappella ‘When the truth is found’ is such a great top of the hour lead-off call to arms that classic rock and oldies radio do just that with it decades after its initial sojurn at the upper reaches of the charts.” Slick, “Darby wrote the words simply, without pedantry, suggesting that adhering to the old Puritan cliché ‘it’s better to give than to receive’ might actually make you a happier person. The idea of service and selflessness may sound like a tedious task reserved for bald monks, but the way Derby wrote the lyrics, altruism didn’t seem like such a lofty and unattainable state.”
202. “Dark End of the Street,” James Carr. Songwriters: Dan Penn, Chips Moman; #77 pop/#10 R&B; 1967. Dan Penn, “James Carr, he had some great records but he was kind of an Otis (Redding) sound-alike. But when he did ‘Dark End Of The Street’ I think he found his own voice. He never sounded like that again. The whole make-up of the record, it screams 1966. There’s something about that time that got on that tape that I’ve never heard anybody get that close to.” Part of Dan Penn and Chips Moman’s inspiration for “Dark End of the Street” was a standing goal that they had to write “the best cheating song ever.” Author Thom Jurek, “(Carr) sings from the territory of a heart that is already broken but enslaved both to his regret and his desire. This is a love so pure it can only have been illicit.” Although “Dark End” has been recorded dozens of times, no version ever captured the pop or country airwaves. James Carr had ten R&B hits from 1966 to 1969, but suffered from bipolar disorder and lung cancer, and passed away at the age of 58 in 2001.
201. “Mother’s Little Helper,” The Rolling Stones. Songwriters: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards; #8 pop; 1966. The Rolling Stones noted that it wasn’t only the rock ‘n’ roll generation who were escaping reality through pharmaceutical experimentation during the 1960s. Jagger, “Very strange number. Like a music hall number. It’s about drug dependence, but in a sort of like spoofy way. As a songwriter, I didn’t really think about addressing things like that. It was just every day stuff that you I’d observe and write about. It’s what writing is for really. There is a sort of naivety, but there’s also a lot of humor in those songs.” It is sometimes reported that Brian Jones played sitar for the song’s primary riff, but that wasn’t the case. Keith Richards, “The strange guitar sound is a 12-string with a slide on it. It’s played slightly Oriental-ish. The track just needed something to make it twang. Otherwise, the song was quite vaudeville in a way. I wanted to add some nice bite to it.”