1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 280 to 271
280. “Absolutely Sweet Marie,” Bob Dylan. Songwriter: Bob Dylan; Did Not Chart; 1966. Bob Dylan beats on his trumpet and lives outside the law (honestly) while searching fo his lover on “Absolutely Sweet Marie.” Al Kooper’s playful organ work keeps the proceedings from getting too serious and Greil Marcus has called Kenneth Buttrey’s stickwork some of the best drumming in rock ‘n’ roll history. Sean Wilentz, “By the time Dylan sings of the six white horses and the Persian drunkard, Buttrey and the song are soaring – and then Dylan launches into a harmonica break. For just under a minute, the song becomes an overpowering rock-and-roll concerto for harmonica and drums. With the sound of ‘Sweet Marie,’ “Blonde on Blonde’ entered fully and sublimely into what is now considered classic rock and roll.” Cover to discover: Jason and the Scorchers’ early 1980’s cowpunk romp.
279. “Yield Not to Temptation,” Bobby Bland. Songwriter: Deadric Malone (Don Robey); #56 pop/#10 R&B; 1962. Bobby Bland places potential infidelity into an explicitly gospel framework on the hand clapping, call and response R&B number “Yield Not to Temptation.” Blues scholar Charles Keil writing in 1966, “’Yield Not to Temptation’ is church music, and recognized as such by all present. Bobby plays a preacher role, the girls represent a choir, and the audience is the participating congregation. But the problem being symbolized is as usual, completely personal. The touring blues singer is invariably separated from his wife most of the year, will she be true while she is away, and can he withstand the temptations that his many female admirers present as he moves from town to town? The conflict – the temptation – cuts both ways, although the conflict is practically universal in Negro ghetto life.”
278. “Leavin’ on Your Mind,” Patsy Cline. Songwriters: Wayne Walker, Webb Pierce; #83 pop/#8 country; 1963. “Leavin’ on Your Mind,” the last single released by Cline before her death, was penned by Webb Pierce with Wayne Walker and originally recorded by 2010 Canadian Country Hall of Fame inductee Joyce Smith in 1961. Cline immediately wanted to cover the song after hearing Smith’s version, but producer Owen Bradley waited until the original had a chance to succeed. Despite the lack of crossover pop success, this is the type of countrypolitan torch song that was Cline’s specialty and nobody has ever matched her singing in this genre. “Leavin’ on Your Mind” has been covered by LeAnn Rimes, Terri Clark, k.d. lang, and Loretta Lynn, but Cline’s #8 country hit is the only version you’ll ever need.
277. “Ain’t Nobody Home,” Howard Tate. Songwriter: Jerry Ragovoy; #63 pop/#12 R&B; 1966. Howard Tate had his first R&B hit with the once bitten, twice shy broken relationship number “Ain’t Nobody Home,” a song that was later covered by B.B. King and Bonnie Raitt, both of whom misplaced the groove that Tate created. Tate reminisced with Jason Gross in 2001 on his overnight success, “They put ‘Ain’t Nobody Home’ out and it just mushroomed into the top of the charts overnight. I was doing construction work as a mortar mixer supplying the brick layers, making good money. I came home from work one day with mud all over my face and my clothes, just filthy. I was getting ready to go up the steps to the house and (manager) Bill Fox was out there in his Cadillac. He blew the horn and said ‘Listen, you got to catch a plane and go to Detroit.’ I said ‘let me go and get showered and cleaned up.’ He said ‘You don’t have time for that! We got you booked on the plane- you gotta go now.’ When I got to the airport, of course people were looking at me like I was crazy.”
276. “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss),” Betty Everett. Songwriter: Rudy Clark; #6 pop/#1 R&B; 1964. Merry Clayton, who famously provided backing vocals on The Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” was only fifteen years old when she released the original version of “The Shoop Shoop Song” in 1963. After her version failed to chart, producer Calvin Carter pitched the number to a less than enthusiastic Betty Everett. With backing vocals by Chicago session singers The Opals, “The Shoop Shoop Song” became more of a girl group hit than a solo outing and it was Everett’s only significant pop success. Dave Marsh, “’Shoop’ is one of the finest girl group hits, undoubtedly the best one made outside the genre’s New York City/Philadelphia/Los Angeles ‘axis.’” Richard Williams, “No subsequent singer has ever declaimed another striking opening couplet – ‘Does he love me? I wanna know/ How can I tell if he loves me so?’ – with a more poignant urgency.”
275. “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You),” Marvin Gaye. Songwriters: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland; #6 pop/#3 R&B; 1964. Lamont Dozier, “Marvin Gaye was pissed because it was out of his key. He hated to be cut in higher keys because he wanted to be a baritone crooner. But he has such a fire in certain keys. When you take him at the end of his range, where he had to scuffle for it, he became very imaginative, hitting his falsetto in certain places. It was effective and it made something magical happen.” “How Sweet It Is” was a much maligned charting single for James Taylor in 1975, but in the words of Iman Lababedi, “This huge hit shows how soulful Taylor can be, and how pop Gaye was, while both remained strikingly true to themselves.”
274. “Heart Full Of Soul,” The Yardbirds. Songwriter: Graham Gouldman; #9 pop; 1965. Graham Gouldman isn’t a household name but everyone knows his music, including “For Your Love” and “Heart Full of Soul” by the Yardbirds, “Listen People,” by Herman’s Hermits, “Bus Stop” by the Hollies, and his ‘70s work as a member of 10cc. “Heart Full of Soul” was The Yardbirds first single after Jeff Beck replaced Eric Clapton and the original concept was to use a sitar for the lead instrumental breaks. Drummer Jim McCarty, “’Heart Full of Soul,’ which was very moody, gave us the ability to play the riff in sort of an Eastern way, give it an Oriental touch.” Jeff Beck, “The sitar player couldn’t get the 4/4 time signature right; it was a hopeless waste of time. So I said, ‘Look, is this the figure?’ I had the fuzz machine (Jimmy Page’s prototype distortion unit) going. We did one take, it sounded outrageous. So they kept the tabla player, who could just about make it work. They rushed that out, and the rest was a rollercoaster ride.”
273. “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You,” Elvis Presley. Songwriters: Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, George David Weiss; #2 pop; 1961. “It’s Now or Never” wasn’t the only Elvis hit based upon a well established European melody. “Can’t Help Falling in Love” was a rewrite of the French song “Plasir d’amour” (“The Pleasure of Love”), which dates back to the late 18th century. It was recorded by a combination of Nashville session men (Floyd Cramer, Bob Moore) with future Wrecking Crew member Hal Blaine on drums, and long time Elvis sidemen Scotty Moore and The Jordanaires. According to songwriter George Weiss, Elvis insisted on including this love ballad in the movie “Blue Hawaii,” against the wishes of the movies’ producers. It became Presley’s standard show closing number and UB40 had the most successful cover of a song popularized by Elvis with their 1993 #1 light reggae cover.
272. “Wish Someone Would Care,” Irma Thomas. Songwriter: Irma Thomas; #17 pop/#2 R&B; 1964. New Orleans music journalist Alison Fensterstock, “’Wish Someone Would Care’ was the first composition of her own that Thomas had ever recorded. It’s a song that comes straight from a heart so broken that the singer can’t even imagine finding all the pieces, let alone how they might fit back together; a song about a yearning that’s deeper than romance or physical want, a04n anguished, purely existential desire for the relief of being seen. At the time she recorded the song, Thomas was 22, the mother of little kids in the middle of her second divorce. She was angry and tired, and she wished someone would care. The slow-burning, meditative ballad was as devastating as a hurricane, and it scooted up to No. 2 on the R&B chart and No. 17 on the Hot 100 – still her highest-charting hit to date.”
271. “Cathy’s Clown,” The Everly Brothers. Songwriters: Don Everly, Phil Everly; #1 pop/#1 R&B; 1960. It’s one thing to be treated like yesterday’s garbage by a former lover, but it’s a higher level of humiliation when the entire world knows you’re the abused puppet. Such is the dilemma on “Cathy’s Clown,” where sincere tears hold no allure for reconciliation. Assistant engineer Bill Porter, “I asked (producer) Wesley Rose if I could use the tape loop on the drums. He said, ‘I don’t care.’ So, I hooked it up, fed it back into the console and got the balance, and then I switched it off on the verse and on during the bridge. I just did it manually with a switch. It’s right in tempo and right in sync, so it gave the effect of two totally different drum sounds. That became the biggest record they ever had.” Vince Gill, “I honestly believe I’ve spent the last 40 years, on every record I’ve been part of for somebody else, trying to be an Everly. On every harmony part I’ve sung, I was trying to make it as seamless as Phil did when he sang with Don. They had an unfair advantage — they were brothers — but I’ve spent my whole life chasing that beautiful, beautiful blend.”