1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 810 to 801
The Gentrys use condom sense to name their band.
810. “Come On,” Chuck Berry; Songwriter: Chuck Berry; Did Not Chart; 1961. Chuck discovers his life is nothing but frustration since his baby left him on “Come On,” a noncharting single with Martha Berry providing literal soul sister backing vocals. “Come On” would famously become the first single from The Rolling Stones, hitting #21 on the U.K. charts in 1963. However, their version sounds positively tame compared to the original. Colin Robinson on the influence of “Come On,” “Those wailing horns, lushly expanding and contracting, would be the basis for many a Motown song for Barry Gordy to produce, usually built upon Lamont Dozier’s uncannily catchy melodies and lyrics and delivered by the Supremes, Tammi Tarrell, and Mary Wells.”
809. “Liar, Liar,” The Castaways. Songwriters: James Donna, Denny Craswell; #12 pop; 1965. The Castaways were Minneapolis one hit wonders who started in their local frat scene in 1962. Disc jockey/music blogger Michael Jack Kirby on “Liar, Liar,” “With a catchy organ riff, stinging guitar punctuation, blood-curdling scream midway, the whole thing doused in echo, the real key to the song’s appeal was Folschow’s bizarre falsetto vocal: ‘liar, liar, pants on fire, your nose is longer than a telephone wire!’ The extended proboscis imagery was weird enough, but could this guy’s voice have been any higher and more shrill? He was just far enough below dog-whistle range for human ears to ache from the sound. A voice no one else would dare to put on record. I mean this all in a good way, of course.” “Liar, Liar” returned to the airwaves as a minor modern rock hit for Blondie’s Debbie Harry in 1989.
808. “Paying the Cost to be the Boss,” B.B. King. Songwriter: B.B. King; #39 pop/#10 R&B; 1968. During a recording career that lasted approximately six decades, B.B. King became synonymous with the blues genre, often being referred to as “The King of the Blues.” An intermittent crossover pop artist, King scored over 60 Top 40 R&B hits from 1951 to 1981. His 1968 Top 40 entry “Paying the Cost to the Boss” reflects a male chauvinism that would be hard to sell in modern times (“As long as I’m workin’, baby and payin’ all the bills/I don’t want no mouth from you about the way I’m supposed to live”), but the brassy, swinging arrangement and title tag line carry the song more than the inherent sexism does. “Payin the Cost” was covered by Pat Benatar on her 1991 jump blues tribute album “True Love.”
807. “Sin City,” The Flying Burrito Brothers. Songwriters: Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman; Did Not Chart; 1969. The Flying Burrito Brothers formed in 1968, when Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman were pushed from the nest or flew away from The Byrds. Their 1969 album “The Gilded Palace of Sin” is considered one of the most important records in country rock history, although critical hosannas far outpaced retail activity. Chris Hillman woke up one morning with the words “this old town’s filled with sin, it will swallow you in” stirring in his head. He woke up Gram Parsons and thirty minutes later “Sin City” was completed. The Burrito Brothers bested the Eagles by eight years in writing an impressionistic song about the evils of Los Angeles. Speaking of the Eagles, I once watched as Glenn Frey introduced Bernie Leadon as a former member of The Flying Burrito Brothers. The stadium crowd reacted with laughter, having no idea of the importance of that group in country rock history, just thinking of it as a humorous sounding name.
806. “I Am a Rock,” Simon and Garfunkel. Songwriter: Paul Simon; #3 pop; 1966. Like the Ramones, Simon and Garfunkel grew up in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens, New York. The musically inclined duo started recording while still in high school during the late 1950s, using the name Tom & Jerry, but developed their trademark sound during the early 1960s as they transitioned to folk music. Simon and Garfunkel had their pop breakthrough in 1965 with the #1 single “The Sound of Silence.” “I Am a Rock” had been recorded for a 1965 Paul Simon solo album, but a more commercial version, with guitar sounds to remind listeners of The Byrds, was recorded after the success of “The Sound of Silence.” Perhaps this tale of hermetic happiness was the inspiration for the Lester Bangs’ composition “I’m in Love with My Walls.”
805. “Hot Smoke and Sassafrass,” Bubble Puppy. Songwriters: Rod Prince, Roy Cox; #14 pop; 1968. Despite always being a hotbed of conservatism, the psychedelic rock era did not bypass Texas, as demonstrated by bands like The 13th Floor Elevators, The Red Krayola, and Bubble Puppy. Bubble Puppy formed in 1967 and, legend has it, their first live gig was opening for The Who. Drummer David Fore on the unlikely inspiration for their sole pop hit, with an obvious recreational drug theme, “We were sitting around the TV and there was an episode of ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ on. Granny says, ‘Hot smoke and sassafrass, what is that?’ and we built out from there.” The appeal of their music? “Our songs were just poppy songs. A lot of them had uplifting themes. The psych part had more to do with the light show.” The band still performs in Texas and are much better than their somewhat comedic name and left field hit would lead you to believe.
804. “Keep on Dancing,” The Gentrys. Songwriters: Allen A. Jones, Willie David Young; #4 pop; 1965. The Gentrys were a Memphis high school rock band lead by Larry Raspberry, but their most famous member became Jimmy Hart, through his later association with professional wrestling. The band was originally named The Gents, short for The Gentlemen, but the young musicians felt that the name lacked inspiration. After seeing a condom dispensing machine in a gas station that included a brand called the Gentry, they had a new latex inspired moniker. “Keep on Dancing” had been originally performed by an obscure Memphis R&B group known as The Avantis. After upping the tempo, The Gentrys version of “Keep on Dancing” lasted just over a minute, so producer Chips Moman added a drum roll then doubled the length of the song by dubbing the original performance a second time. A revamped version of The Gentrys released a cover of Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl” in 1970 and charted higher, peaking at #52 nationally, than Young’s original version.
803. “I Wish It Would Rain,” The Temptations. Songwriters: Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong, Roger Penzabene; #4 pop/#1 R&B; 1967. Rodger Penzabene, typically named “Roger” in songwriting credits, is somewhat a mystery figure in Motown history. A Jewish white kid, Penabene was a childhood friend of future Temptations guitarist/musical director Cornelius Grant and became a lyricist for Motown. Legend has it that Penzabene was inspired to write “I Wish It Would Rain” after he discovered his wife was having an affair. The lyrics describe a man who hopes for rain to help mask his tears. A week after “I Wish It Would Rain,” Penzabene committed suicide at the age of 23.
802. “Don’t Send Me No Flowers (I Ain’t Dead Yet),” The Breakers. Songwriter: Donna Weiss; Did Not Chart; 1965. While the Memphis teenage act The Gentrys seemed like nice boys you could take home to meet your mother, The Breakers sounded like snarling punks, bragging about their prowess with the opposite sex. Both bands recorded “Don’t Send Me No Flowers (I Ain’t Dead Yet)” in 1965 with The Breakers clearly dealing the winning hand. The song includes a nice Charlie Rich reference, noting that it’s too early to place a headstone on their grave. Songwriter Donna Weiss later co-wrote the Kim Carnes’ hit “Bette Davis Eyes” with Jackie DeShannon.
801. “What’s Your Name,” Don and Juan. Songwriter: Claude Johnson; #7 pop; 1962. Roland “Don” Trone and Claude “Juan” Johnson were a New York vocal duo who scored their only major hit with the doo wop ballad “What’s Your Name.” Claude Johnson had previously had performed with The Genies, who had a #71 R&B hit in 1959 with “Who’s That Knocking?,” a song about a cheating man who worries about juggling his women. “What’s Your Name” is a romantic sidewalk serenade, much different than the b-side, “Chicken Necks,” a description of the duo’s favorite food.