1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 420 to 411
How many roads must a man walk down?
420. “Something in the Air,” Thunderclap Newman. Songwriters: Speedy Keen, Andy Newman; #37 pop; 1969. John “Speedy” Keen was a multi-instrumentalist who played in several London bands during the mid-1960s and, while working as Pete Townshend’s chauffer, wrote “Armenia City in the Sky” for ‘The Who Sell Out” album. Pete Townshend and Who manager Kit Lambert put together the band Thunderclap Newman to showcase Keen’s songs. 16-year-old Jimmy McCulloch, later of Wings, played lead guitar, Andy “Thunderclap” Newman was the pianist, and Townshend played bass under the pseudonym Bijou Drains. With its plaintive guitar sound and ham fisted boogie woogie piano solo, “Something in the Air” was an odd call for a revolution, but it resulted in a #1 U.K. pop hit.
419. “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Bob Dylan. Songwriter: Bob Dylan; Did Not Chart; 1963. How long did Bob Dylan labor over what is possibly the most famous protest song ever written? Dylan, “I wrote ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’ in 10 minutes, just put words to an old spiritual, probably something I learned from Carter Family records. That’s the folk tradition. You use what’s been handed down.” Rolling Stone magazine, “It probably remains Dylan’s most covered song, an all-purpose progressive anthem suggesting that things must and will change. The song’s melody borrows from the slavery-era folk song ‘No More Auction Block for Me,’ and its language is rooted as much in Woody Guthrie’s earthy vernacular as in biblical rhetoric. But in a decisive break with the current-events conventions of topical folk songs, Dylan framed the crises around him in a series of fierce, poetic questions that addressed what he believed was man’s greatest inhumanity to man: indifference.” “Blowin’ in the Wind” became Dylan’s first hit as a songwriter when Peter, Paul, and Mary’s cover version peaked at #2 on the pop charts in 1963.
418. “Chains,” The Cookies. Songwriters: Gerry Goffin, Carole King; #17 pop/#6 R&B; 1962. The original version of The Cookies formed as a New York vocal trio in 1954 and reached the Top Ten on the R&B charts in 1956 with “In Paradise,” a song that sounds like it was recorded in a water well. A few of the original Cookies became Raelettes, backing vocalists for Ray Charles, and a new version of the Cookies surfaced in 1961. Their 1962 single “Chains” used an irregular hand clapping pattern that was simple but irresistibly catchy. The following year “Chains” reached a bigger audience when it appeared on The Beatles’ debut album. The Cookies had their biggest hit with 1963’s “Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad (About My Baby)” and the decidedly unpsychedelic act disbanded (crumbled?) in 1967.
417. “I Want Candy,” The Strangeloves. Songwriters: Bert Berns, Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein, Richard Gottehrer; #11 pop; 1965. “I Want Candy” was the biggest Bo Diddley hit of the 1960s, although it was written and released by The Strangeloves, an act comprised of songwriters Bob Feldmen, Jerry Goldstein, Richard Gottehrer, and New York session musicians. The Strangeloves developed a fake backstory, pretending to be an Australian band. Gottehrer, who co-founded Sire Records in 1966, “Most of the music that was attracting attention was like The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Animals. It was the image bands that were attracting attention. We did a song before ‘I Want Candy’ and in the middle of it, Bob Feldman gave a short narration with a fake English accent. The Strangeloves were born as a foreign act. We didn’t think we could get away with being English. So, we selected some other part of the former Empire and that was Australia.” This sweet tooth rocker returned to the airwaves in 1982 after being covered by the English new wave act Bow Wow Wow.
416. “Needles and Pins,” The Searchers. Songwriters: Jack Nitzsche, Sonny Bono; #13 pop; 1964. “Needles and Pins” was written for Jackie DeShannon and her original version peaked at #84 on the U.S. charts in 1963. The U.K. pop band Cliff Bennett and The Rebel Rousers included “Needles and Pins” in their live show and The Searchers, who started as a skiffle outfit in Liverpool in 1959, heard Bennett’s version while performing in Hamburg, Germany. The Searchers accidentally created a sound that would become important in folk rock circles. Guitarist John McNally, “That 12-string sound on ‘Needles and Pins’ was a total mistake, and it wasn’t even done with 12-string guitars. We used two regular six-string guitars playing the same riff and added a little echo and reverb, and suddenly it sounded like a 12-string. We thought it sounded great and decided to leave it like that, and everyone thought we were using 12-strings. To recreate the sound on the road, we actually had to go out and buy 12-string guitars.” The Searchers had their biggest pop hit in the U.S. with their 1964 cover of The Clovers’ “Love Potion No. 9” and, despite not having a significant hit in the past fifty years, a version of the band that includes original guitarist John McNally continues to perform.
415. “Working in the Coal Mine,” Lee Dorsey. Songwriter: Allen Toussaint; #8 pop/#r R&B; 1966. Country music wasn’t the only genre voicing the trials of the working class during the 1960s. On Lee Dorsey’s “Working in the Coal Mine,” manual labor results in too much physical exhaustion to enjoy the weekend. Dorsey was backed by the future Meters on this Top Ten pop hit/future Devo cover tune and a simple pickaxe sound effect reinforced the labor camp feel. Allen Toussaint, “There wasn’t as much percussion as you might think on there. My brother hit the mike stand with a drum stick for the pick sound. We didn’t know anything about a coal mine. When (Lee Dorsey) would come off the road at the end of a successful tour, he would go and get into his grease clothes, his dirty work gear and go and work on cars. Straightening out fenders and painting bodywork. But really it was his finest hour when he was singing. He was a very good person for me to work with and he totally trusted me every step of the way.”
414. “Solitary Man,” Neil Diamond. Songwriter: Neil Diamond; #21 pop; released in 1966, peaked on the charts in 1970. Diamond, “’Solitary Man’ was my first song where I tried to really raise the level of my songwriting. It was inspired by the Beatles’ song ‘Michelle,’ which was also written in a minor key. I don’t think I’d ever written a song in a minor key before, it was the first and it kind of broke the dam for me. After four years of Freudian analysis I realized I had written ‘Solitary Man’ about myself.” Dan Epstein, “’Solitary Man’ remains the most brilliantly efficient song in the Diamond collection. There’s not a wasted word or chord in this two-and-a-half minute anthem of heartbreak and self-affirmation, which introduced the melancholy loner persona that he’s repeatedly returned to throughout his career.” Ellie Greenwich was co-producer on the track and even though she wasn’t an accomplished arranger, she spent seventeen hours developing the trombone and low range trumpet sections. Author David Wild, “A masterpiece full of musical and lyrical mystique, ‘Solitary Man’ benefited enormously from the addition of trombones on the chorus, the sort of musical punctuation point from (Jeff) Barry and (Ellie) Greenwich that somehow made all the difference.”
413. “Build Me Up Buttercup,” The Foundations. Songwriters: Mike D’Abo, Tony Macaulay; #3 pop; 1968. The Foundations were an unusual act from a demographic standpoint. They formed in London in 1967 with musicians from the U.K., the West Indies, and Sri Lanka and there was a twenty-year gap between the oldest and youngest band members. After scoring a 1967 #1 U.K. hit with “Baby Now That I Found You,” lead singer Clem Curtis was replaced by Colin Young, who performed vocals on “Build Me Up Buttercup.” “Buttercup” was co-written by Mike D’Abo, who was singing lead for Manfred Mann at the time, and the song was originally pitched to David Essex of “Rock On” fame. The Foundations were on the wrong side of a cruel to be kind lover saga on this ba-da-day, hey-hey hey international hit. Astute pop fans heard the same melody six years later in ABBA’s “Waterloo.” ABBA keyboardist Benny Andersson, “If ‘Waterloo’ is similar to ‘Build Me Up Buttercup,’ ‘Baby Love’ by The Supremes is also similar to it. They all have the same rhythmic structure.”
412. “I’ll Take Care of You,” Bobby Bland. Songwriter: Brook Benton; #89 pop, released in 1959, peaked on the charts in 1960. Bobby Bland was a significant star in the world of R&B, but his appeal seldom crossed over to pop audiences. He had twenty six Top Ten R&B singles from 1957 to 1974, but only had four singles that reached the pop Top 40. “I’ll Take Care of You” was released in late 1959, several months after songwriter Brook Benton had become a star with his Top Five pop hit “It’s Just a Matter of Time.” Bland gives an empathetic performance on this slow paced ballad, while a high pitched organ almost serves as second vocalist. “I’ll Take Care of You” has kept irreproachable company over the years with covers by Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Etta James, and Irma Thomas.
411. “Substitute,” The Who. Songwriter: Pete Townshend; Did Not Chart; 1966. Pete Townshed on “Substitute,” “It was written as a spoof of ‘19th Nervous Breakdown.’ On the demo, I sang with an affected Jagger-like accent.” Townshend also found inspiration in the lyrics of Smokey Robinson and The Miracles’ “Tracks of My Tears.” “Smokey Robinson sang the word ‘Substitute’ so perfectly, that I decided to celebrate the word with a song all its own.” There may not be a better couplet during the decade than the weary “Substitute you for my mum/At least I’d get my washing done.” Townshend, no surrogates needed, performed on the 1993 cover version by the Ramones.