1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 310 to 301
310. “Blackberry Way,” The Move. Songwriter: Roy Wood; Did Not Chart; 1968. Musically, “Blackberry Way” takes liberties with “Penny Lane,” but lyrically it’s a polar opposite experience. Paul McCartney basks in nostalgic sunshine on “Penny Lane,” while “Blackberry Way” paints a picture of unrelenting despair about losing a lover. Even though this song went to #1 in the U.K., bassist Trevor Burton was so unhappy with the material that he quit the band. Roy Wood on the influence of “Penny Lane,” “I suppose it could have been. We were all very influenced by what The Beatles were doing because they were the best songwriters around.” Cheap Trick, a band whose unstated goal is to cover every song written by Roy Wood, released a faithful re-creation of “Blackberry Way” in 2017.
309. “It’s Your Thing,” The Isley Brothers. Songwriters: Ronald Isley, O’Kelly Isley, Jr., Rudolph Isley; #2 pop/#1 R&B; 1969. By 1969, The Isley Brothers felt they were sucking hind tit at Motown and left to start their own label. They kicked off their newfound freedom with the deathless funk as sexual liberation, I-can’t-tell-you-who-to sock-it-to, “It’s Your Thing.” Once the song became a smash, Berry Gordy sued claiming that The Isley Brothers were still under Motown contract. It took eighteen years (insert Kanye West sample here) for the courts to rule in favor of the Isleys. Author Eric Weisbard, “The instant funk groove of ‘It’s Your Thing’ – passed across speaker channels between bass riff, guitar scratch, summoning piano chords, and ride cymbal; horns and full drums surging in after Ronald Isley – gave the song a different affect than the group’s earlier hits.” Ronald Isley on the destination, “It took us a year and a half to find a formula for a sound.”
308. “Tramp,” Otis Redding and Carla Thomas. Songwriters: Lowell Fulson, Jimmy McCracklin; #26 pop/#2 R&B; 1967. Oklahoma native Lowell Fulson made his name as a West Coast based blues guitarist and songwriter. His credits include “Three O’Clock Blues,” a Top Ten R&B hit for Fulson in 1948 and for B.B. King in 1951, “Reconsider Baby,” which Elvis covered in 1960, and the 1967 R&B hit “Tramp.” Fulson’s version of “Tramp” was his biggest crossover hit, peaking at #52 on the pop charts. The Otis Redding/Carla Thomas version of “Tramp” changes it from a male braggadocio lyric to a duet where Carla does her best to humble Otis Redding and her insults are deflected like water off a duck’s back. Salt-n-Pepa sampled the Redding/Thomas version of “Tramp” for their 1987 R&B hit that used the same title.
307. “Paperback Writer,” The Beatles. Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney; #1 pop; 1966. Paul McCartney, “We always try to do something different. The idea’s a bit different. Years ago, my Auntie Lil said to me, ‘Why do you always write songs about love all the time? Can’t you ever write about a horse or the summit conference or something interesting?’ So, I thought, ‘All right, Auntie Lil.’ I developed the whole idea in the car. I came in, had my bowl of cornflakes and said, ‘How’s about if we write a letter: ‘Dear Sir or Madam,’ next line, next paragraph, etc?” The background singing of “Frere Jacques” is cute, but Paul McCartney revealed he could compete with John Entwistle as a bassist on “Paperback Writer.” Engineer Geoff Emerick, “’Paperback Writer’ was the first time the bass sound had been heard in all its excitement. For a start, Paul played a different bass, a Rickenbacker. Then we boosted it further by using a loudspeaker as a microphone.” Author Colin Fleming, “A bass guitar had never sounded like this, and one can imagine the looks McCartney and engineer Geoff Emerick must have exchanged, as if they had just unlocked a whole new realm of potential for the instrument.”
306. “The Times They Are a-Changin’,” Bob Dylan. Songwriter: Bob Dylan; Did Not Chart; 1964. Bob Dylan, “I wanted to write a big song, some kind of theme song, with short, concise verses that piled up on each other in a hypnotic way. This is definitely a song with a purpose. I knew exactly what I wanted to say and who I wanted to say it to. The civil rights movement and the folk music movement were pretty close for a while and allied together at that time. Each time I sing it, I feel like I wrote it the day before.” Author Jim Beviglia, “(Dylan) never mentions a specific cause in the lyrics, thereby keeping things purposefully vague. Not only does that strategy allow any movement to co-opt the song, it also keeps it from ever sounding dated, making it useful to just about any group with any cause in history. ‘They Times They Are a-Changin’ is also an effective catchall soundtrack for anyone wanting to summarize turbulent times, and, in truth, pretty much all times are turbulent in their own way.”
305. “Down on the Corner,” Creedence Clearwater Revival. Songwriter: John Fogerty; #3 pop; 1969. Like The Beatles, John Fogerty jumped into the concept of a fictional band on “Down on the Corner,” writing about a street busking quartet named Willy and the Poor Boys. The band members had down home names like Rooster and Blinky and entertained their nickel paying audience with their washboard and kazoo skills. Fogerty’s main memories about the song involve him “spoon-feeding” the bass notes to bassist Stu Cook. Fogerty, who must have been a joy to work with, “Looking back, I should’ve been like one of the Kinks or the Troggs, picked up a guitar or a hi-hat, and just horned the guy – ‘You stupid-ass bimbo, this is not that hard. It’s just that it’s got some rhythm in it, and you don’t have any!’ My job was to make a hit record, so somehow I defused the situation and we all conquered the song. Nope – I didn’t hear ‘thank you’ afterwards.”
304. “Flowers on the Wall,” The Statler Brothers. Songwriter: Lew DeWitt; #4 pop/#2 country; 1965. The Statler Brothers formed in rural Staunton, Virginia in 1955 as a church trio and after a fourth member was added in 1960, the quartet was named the Kingsmen. The success of “Louie, Louie” by the Pacific Northwest rock band named The Kingsmen necessitated a new moniker. Renamed after a brand of facial tissue, The Statler Brothers were discovered by Johnny Cash in the early 1960s and released their first single, a cover of “The Wreck of the Old ’97,” in 1964. The agoraphobic, broken hearted “Flowers on the Wall” was written by Len De Witt, the group’s original tenor singer, and was a #2 country/#4 pop hit. Music criticism from Statler Brothers fan/non-pulp fiction author Kurt Vonnegut, “Yet another great contemporary poem by the Statler Brothers. It is not a poem of escape or rebirth. It is a poem about the end of a man’s usefulness.”
303. “Little Girl Blue,” Janis Joplin. Songwriters: Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart; Did Not Chart; 1969. Janis Joplin was both permanently scarred and motivated by her outsider status from her conservative hometown of Port Arthur, Texas. She bounced back and forth from Texas to the Bay Area before joining Big Brother and the Holding Company in 1966 and had her breakthrough pop hit with 1968’s “Piece of My Heart.” Joplin had left Big Brother before recording her 1969 album ‘I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!’ That album included her version of “Little Girl Blue,” reportedly her favorite pop song, a Rodgers/Hart number written for Broadway in 1935. Joplin approaches the material like a blues singer with a perpetually broken heart. Method acting at its finest.
302. “Abbey Road Medley,” The Beatles. Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney; Did Not Chart; 1969. Author Jonathon Gould, “For its sheer ingenuity, the long medley on the second side of ‘Abbey Road’ marked a high point of Paul McCartney’s efforts to serve as the motivator and organizer of the Beatles creative energies since the time of John Lennon’s dreamy withdrawal into the realm of psychedelic experience in the spring of 1966. The task that Paul had set himself was formidable to create a musical situation that would pique the interest and participation of his bandmates, particularly John, and at the same time provide The Beatles’ endangered recording career with an ending they could all be proud.” Rolling Stone magazine, “The ‘Abbey Road’ medley is the matured Beatles at their best: playful, gentle, acerbic, haunting and bonded by the music. Their harmonies are ravishing and complex; the guitars are confident and cutting.” McCartney, “We were holding it together. Even though this undercurrent was going on, we still had a strong respect for each other even at the very worst points.” And, in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.
301. “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” Aretha Franklin. Songwriters: Chips Moman, Dan Penn; #37 R&B; 1967. Aretha takes her piano to church and her man to school on the battle of the sexes blues number “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man.” The recording of the song started in Muscle Shoals, but was completed in New York. Songwriter Dan Penn, “She had put her sisters on it, she’d sang it over, she’d played piano herself, and I realized then you can make anything out of anything with a lot of tracks. I think maybe they had the bass drum and a snare and the bass that they used out of Alabama, and possibly the guitar. It was such a wonderful record when they played it back. It’s still one of the best records I’ve ever heard by anybody – not ’cause it’s my song, but just that record. It’ll reach out and get you in your heart.”