1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 40 to 31

Written by | August 11, 2018 7:00 am | No Comments

Are you ready for a brand new beat?

40.  “You Can’t Hurry Love,” Supremes.  Songwriters: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland; #1 pop/#1 R&B; 1966.  Motown went to church on “You Can’t Hurry Love,” a song inspired by a 1950’s recording titled “(You Can’t Hurry God) He’s Right on Time” by Dorothy Love Coates & The Original Gospel Harmonettes.  Lamont Dozier, “We were trying to reconstruct ‘Come See About Me’ and somehow it turned into ‘You Can’t Hurry Love.’ It was basically a gospel feel we were after.”  Rock critic Jason Ankeny, “The Supremes never made a more soulful record than 1966’s ‘You Can’t Hurry Love’; one of the Holland-Dozier-Holland team’s most propulsive productions, its hypnotic bass and tambourine intro hooks you immediately, maintaining throughout a lean, percussive slinkiness far removed from the slick excess common to most of the group’s biggest hits. If Diana Ross’ voice often seemed far too thin to navigate the grandeur of her material, here she transforms those negatives into positives — the lyric is all about longing and loneliness, perfect for the little-girl-lost frailty her latter-day diva posing would seek to obliterate, and her performance resonates with an honesty and vulnerability she would rarely reveal again.”  Joe Lynch of Billboard magazine, “Buoyed by one of the most underrated (and subtly influential) bass lines in pop history and an irrepressible church music energy, Diana Ross’ dexterous vocals transition from a fragile coo at the song’s heartbroken start into a joyous defiance.”

39.  “I Saw Her Standing There,” The Beatles.  Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney; #14 pop; 1963.  Paul McCartney on writing with John Lennon, “Those early days were really cool, just sussing each other out, and realizing that we were good. You just realize from what he was feeding back. Often it was your song or his song, it didn’t always just start from nothing. Someone would always have a little germ of an idea. So I’d start off with (singing) ‘She was just 17, she’d never been a beauty queen’ and he’d be like, ‘Oh no, that’s useless’ and ‘You’re right, that’s bad, we’ve got to change that.’ Then changing it into a really cool line: ‘You know what I mean.’ ‘Yeah, that works.’”  Author Barry Lenser, “It’s only appropriate that the opening song of the Beatles’ debut album ‘Please Please Me’ starts with an iconic moment. Paul McCartney’s lively count-in (‘one, two, three, fahhh’) puts ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ energetically into motion, and what follows are two-plus minutes of joyous pop electricity. Several of the touchstones of early-period Beatles are at work: jaunty riffs, unison vocals, high-pitched ‘woohs’, and, most delightfully, hand claps (all of which reappear with frenzied effect on the album closer, the untouchable ‘Twist and Shout’). The songcraft is economized and straightforward. Paul’s bass line tugs and struts along, and blends with John’s rhythm guitar rather seamlessly. Ringo offers a simple-sounding percussive shuffle while George’s guitar work, especially his erratic solo, reveals a burgeoning talent that still isn’t sure how to creatively occupy all its designated space. Combined, it’s the sound of a spirited young band that wants to tweak and refine the templates of rock ‘n’ roll into something distinctly its own.” McCartney later noted that his bass playing was an exact replication of the notes from the Chuck Berry number “Talkin’ About You.”

38.  “The Loco-Motion,” Little Eva.  Songwriters: Gerry Goffin, Carole King; #1 pop/#1 R&B; 1962.  Little Eva (Eva Boyd) was working as a babysitter for Gerry Goffin and Carole King when that duo penned “The Loco-Motion.”  Little Eva performed the vocals as a demo recording and, after the song was rejected by Dee Dee Sharp (who had one of the biggest hits in 1962 with the dance number “Mashed Potato Time”), producer Don Kirshner decided to use Eva as the vocalist. Carole King on the dance sensation, “There never was a dance called the loco-motion until after it was a number one hit record. Everyone said, ‘How does this dance go?’, so Little Eva had to make up a dance.”  Author Peter Hales, “The beat – pushed, syncopated, even broken, came right out of the black music of Eva Boyd’s childhood in South Carolina: gospel, R&B, and blues.  That Little Eva would end up recording the song, with Carole King singing backup, also spoke for a different form of racial interplay than had characterized the conversion of race records into white hits in an early identity.”  The group participation dance number (“come on, baby”) was a #1 pop hit for Grand Funk in 1974 and a major international hit for Kylie Minogue in the late 1980s.

37.  “(You May Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” Aretha Franklin.  Songwriters: Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Jerry Wexler; #8 pop/#2 R&B; 1967.  Jerry Wexler had the “natural woman” title concept, Goffin and King penned the tune, and Aretha provided the sexual meets salvation sound.  Author Bill Janovitz, “Like many of her mid- to late-’60s recordings, it is based around a gospel piano part. Jerry Wexler allows Franklin’s gospel approach to lead the track, but assures its pop success with some pizzicato strings and warm brass accents. Franklin sings it perfectly, with a lovely sense of the building arrangement, and the Sweet Inspirations provide stellar backing vocals.”  Music journalist Bonnie Steinberg, “’(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’ is a slow burn, building to that joyful chorus. It’s essentially the musical equivalent of shouting from the mountaintops how in love with someone you are, and when Aretha’s happy, we’re all happy.” Songwriter Carole King, “I hear these things in my head, where they MIGHT go, how they MIGHT sound. But I don’t have the chops to do it myself. So it was like witnessing a dream realized.”

36.  “Louie Louie,” The Kingsmen.  Songwriter: Richard Berry; #2 pop; 1963.  Doo wop singer Richard Perry penned “Louie Louie” during the 1950s, lifting the basic riff directly from “El Loco Cha Cha” by the Latin band Ricky Rillera and the Rhythm Rockers.  Berry’s version of this sailor’s lament failed to charts, but found its way to the Pacific Northwest where it was covered by Rockin’ Robin Roberts and the Fabulous Wailers, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and, most famously, The Kingsmen.  Singer Jack Ely on the production that would later result in an FBI investigation, “(Producer Ken) Chase directed us to set up our amplifiers and the drums in a circle. I stood in the middle of the circle and sang or rather almost yelled up at a boom mic that was suspended about four or five feet above my head. Basically the whole thing was recorded on the one overhead mic in order to capture that ‘live sound.’ Mr Chase said we sounded like we did at his teen club.” Dave Marsh on the results, “’Louie Louie’ is the most profound and sublime expression of rock and roll’s ability to create something from nothing. Built up from a Morse code beat and a ‘dub duh dub’ refrain, with scratchy lead vocal, tacky electric piano, relentless rhythm guitar, and drums that sound like the guy who’s playing ‘em isn’t sure what comes next, ‘Louie Louie’ scales the heights of trash rock to challenge the credentials of all latter-day rockers: If you don’t love it, you’ve missed the point of the whole thing.”

35.   “Dancing in the Street,” Martha and the Vandellas.  Songwriters: Marvin Gaye, William “Mickey” Stevenson, Ivy Jo Hunter; #2 pop/#8 R&B; 1964.  Author Tom Moon, “This is the ultimate summer single, two minutes and thirty-eight seconds of heat in audio form. Hear just a few seconds of the introduction, a fanfare for soul-revue horns, and pretty soon that school’s-out-let’s-party state of mind takes hold.” It’s been often said that Mickey Stevenson was inspired to write “Dancing in the Street” after watching Detroit children cool off during the summer by open fire hydrants.  Although the song would later be associated with the civil rights movement, Stevenson was only thinking of inclusion, stating, “Kids have no color. They would play out there as if they were brothers and sisters of every creed. So the song comes from that idea.” Music historian Nelson George, “’Dancing’ was not only Reeves’s best vocal performance; it would also prove to be Mickey Stevenson’s most important on-record contribution to Motown. With Marvin Gaye, for whom he’d already penned, ‘Hitch Hike,’ ‘Stubborn Kind of Fellow,’ and ‘Pride and Joy,’ Stevenson had conceived a driving dance record that would be perfect for the summer. Moreover, he took the musical elements Holland-Dozier-Holland had used on ‘Heat Wave’ and tightened them up. The tambourines are right on the beat now, the horns, the backing voices of the Vandellas – Stevenson, Ivy Hunter, and Gaye – are arranged more elaborately, and James Jamerson’s bass line is much higher in the mix. All the rhythmic elements, including Gaye’s piano figure, bolster a rigid beat perfect for doing the jerk or Philly dog. Stevenson, a student of Berry’s work and H-D-H’s boss, had refined the formula and gotten a better vocal performance from Martha than anyone had before or would again.”

34.  “Runaway,” Del Shannon.  Songwriters: Del Shannon, Max Crook; #1 pop; 1961.  Michigan native Del Shannon was a country music fan who was drafted into the Army during the mid-1950s and later worked as a truck driver and as a carpet salesman.  Shannon was performing with keyboardist Max Crook, who developed an early version of a synthesizer known as a Musitron, and it was Crook who developed the extraterrestrial solo for “Runaway.”  Del Shannon, “We were on stage, and Max hit an A minor and a G and I said, ‘Max, play that again, it’s a great change.’”  (Paul McCartney later took “the lovely A minor we heard in ‘Runaway’ and inserted it in ‘From Me to You.’”)  Author Bob Stanley, “’Runaway’ was, and remains, the ultimate fairground anthem, the 45 you’d most expect to turn up on a Wurlitzer jukebox in a forgotten, suburban diner.  ‘Runaway’ was all energy and mystery, from the dense, almost discordant opening guitar chords, through its falsetto hook (‘wah-wah-wonder’) to the eerie, space-organ solo.  The lyric was beyond melancholy, filled with dread and paranoia; the runaway girl may not even be alive.  It was the kind of record you could build a career on, and Del Shannon didn’t disappoint.  The existential angst of ‘Runaway’ became a template that he was still using at the far end of the decade on the ghostlike ‘Colorado Rain.’ He couldn’t write any other way – the fear and demons in Shannon’s music echoed the mind of its maker.”

33.   “Knock on Wood,” Eddie Floyd.  Songwriters: Steve Cropper, Eddie Floyd; #28 pop/#1 R&B; 1966.  Steve Cropper, “We were trying to write a song about superstitions, and after we’d exhausted about every superstition known to man at that time, from cats to umbrellas, you name it, we said, what do people do for good luck? And Ed tapped on the chair and said, ‘knock on wood, there it is.’ So basically the whole theme of the song changed, and we started to sing about, I’d better knock on wood for good luck, that I can keep this girl that I got, because she’s the greatest – and that’s what it was about.”  Eddie Floyd was working as a staff writer for Stax, but after recording the demo for “Knock on Wood,” originally slotted for Otis Redding, it was determined that Floyd was better suited for the song.  Author Rob Bowman, “David Porter contributed a second voice on the chorus, simply because he poked his head in the studio while Floyd was cutting the song. (Drummer) Al Jackson contributed the idea for the ‘knocking’ drum hook that follows Floyd’s evocation ‘You gotta knock…’”  Per Eddie Floyd, the drummer was inspired by comedian Stepin Fetchit’s performance of ‘Open the Door Richard.’”  Floyd on Steve Cropper’s intro, “That intro is actually the intro to Wilson Pickett’s ‘In the Midnight Hour,’ only it’s turned around backwards. Only Steve could have thought to do that. He turned the chords around, using the song he had originally done with Pickett, and it all came together.”

32.  “Paint It Black,” Rolling Stones.   Songwriters: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards; #1 pop; 1966.  There is perhaps no darker 1960’s song this side of the Velvet Underground than “Paint It Black.” Mick Jagger on the theme of death and depression, “It’s been done before. It’s not an original thought by any means. It all depends on how you do it.” Keith Richards, “What’s amazing about that one for me is the sitar. Also, the fact that we cut it as a comedy track. Bill was playing an organ, doing a takeoff of our first manager (Eric Easton) who started his career in show business as an organist in a cinema pit. We’d been doing it with funky rhythms and it hadn’t worked and he started playing it like this and everybody got behind it. It’s a two-beat, very strange. Brian (Jones) playing the sitar makes it a whole other thing.”  Music historian Richie Unterberger, “The principal riff of ‘Paint It Black’ was played on a sitar by Brian Jones and qualifies as perhaps the most effective use of the Indian instrument in a rock song. The exotic twang was a perfect match for the dark, mysterious Eastern-Indian melody, which sounded a little like a soundtrack to an Indian movie hijacked into hyperdrive.” Ian Astbury of The Cult, “What an incredible comment on the late 20th century. They were smart enough to realize that all the institutions you were supposed to look up to had begun to crumble. I’m always more interested in the darker aspects of the Sixties, and for me the Stones captured that better than anyone else, especially that lascivious sexual power. The Stones really tapped into the blackness, the carcass of late Sixties society that was dying. On this track they had that urban voodoo sound down brilliantly.”

31.  “In the Midnight Hour,” Wilson Pickett.  Songwriters: Wilson Pickett, Steve Cropper; #21 pop/#1 R&B; 1965.  Aretha Franklin, “Wilson Pickett was one of the greatest vocalists of our time. He’d sing off the melody, but it was on. He would go into what you call a ‘squall’ – a scream that might not be in the key of the song, but it worked.”  Steve Cropper was inspired by a lyric from Wilson Pickett’s days as a singer for The Falcons to write “In the Midnight Hour” and he didn’t overthink the guitar intro.  Cropper, “I say in my shows that playing the guitar is real simple, you just follow the dots – the dots on neck on every guitar are in the same place. That’s how I came up with the intro for this. They go, ‘It couldn’t be that simple,’ then all of them go home and get their guitars out and go, ‘Wow, it is!’”  Jerry Wexler contributed to the song, which was written at the Lorraine Hotel, where Dr. Martin Luther King was later assassinated.  Wexler, “I was shaking my booty to a groove made popular by the Larks’ ‘The Jerk,’ a mid-Sixties hit. The idea was to push the second beat while holding back the fourth.” Cropper in his inimitable Stax speak, “This was the way the kids were dancing; they were putting the accent on two. Basically, we’d been one-beat-accenters with an afterbeat; it was like ‘boom dah,’ but here was a thing that went ‘um-chaw,’ just the reverse as far as the accent goes.”  Jerry Wexler on Wicked Pickett’s vocals, “There was something about those records and Wilson’s voice — those were some of the funkiest, deepest-grooving, in-the-pocket recordings I ever heard. The thing about Wilson was he was just a great screamer, but he did it with control. James Brown would scream and it was a scream, but Wilson could scream notes. His voice was powerful, like a buzz saw, but it wasn’t ever out of his control, it was always melodic.”


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