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1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 440 to 431

In the days of my youth, I was told what it means to be a man.

440.  “Nothing But a Heartache,” The Flirtations.  Songwriters: Wayne Bickerton, Tony Waddington; #34 pop; 1969.  The Flirtations formed as a female vocal group named The Gypsies in 1962, a quartet of native South Carolinians who had moved to New York, and had a minor R&B hit in 1965 with the J.J. Jackson composition “Jerk It.”  They changed their name to The Flirtations in 1966 and moved to England two years later, after winning a local contest to see who could sound the most like The Supremes.  Surprisingly, “Nothing But a Heartache” charted higher in the U.S. than it did in the U.K, but the exploding chorus of this song found its permanent home on the Northern soul scene.  The Flirtations continued to record through the 1980s, having a major hit in South Africa in 1984 with “Back on My Feet Again,” a song arranged to sound like “I’m So Excited” by The Pointer Sisters.  Celebrating their international legacy, The Flirtations reunited in 2015 to record an album of girl group cover songs.

439.  “I Can Only Give You Everything,” Them.  Songwriters: Phil Coulter, Tommy Scott; Did Not Chart; 1966.  The 1966 Them album track “I Can Only Give You Everything” certainly sounds like it was influenced by The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction,” but Van Morrison’s snarls in such a menacing tone that the record stands on its own merits.  I doubt that the funky organ break had any influence on Tammy Wynette, but it’s interesting that Morrison sings, “’Cause after all, I’m just a man.”  Eternal garage rock legitimacy was bestowed upon “I Can Only Give You Everything” through 1967 covers by The Troggs and the MC5.  Beck brought the intro guitar riff into a new era, using it on his 1996 single “Devil’s Haircut.”  Author Don McLeese on Van Morrison, “(His) Irish growl with Them launched a thousand American garage bands.  He was clearly the Godfather of Punk.”

438.  “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You),” The Isley Brothers.  Songwriters: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland, Sylvia Moy; #12 pop/#6 R&B; 1966.  Depending on your source, “This Old Heart of Mine” was either originally written for Kim Weston or The Supremes and the backing tracks were later completed with The Four Tops in mind.  This is another song in the Motown formula of heartbreak lyrics and upbeat music.  Lamont Dozier, “I’ve often broken up with a girlfriend for a week just to be able to get that real feeling of hurt so that I can write what I write from experience!  I should add that I always make sure we patch up again after the week’s over.  But I’m constantly working at the piano – that’s my source of release, like a tranquilizer for me.”  Rod Stewart recorded the song in 1975 and again as a duet with Ron Isley in 1989, resulting in a Top Ten pop hit.

437.  “Running Scared,” Roy Orbison.  Songwriters: Roy Orbison, Joe Melson; #1 pop; 1961.  Bob Dylan, “I was always fishing for something on the radio. Just like trains and bells, it was part of the soundtrack of my life.  I moved the dial up and down and Roy Orbison’s voice came blasting out of the small speakers.  His new song, ‘Running Scared,’ exploded into the room. Orbison, though, transcended all the genres – folk, country, rock and roll or just about anything. His stuff mixed all the styles and some that hadn’t even been invented yet.  He could sound mean and nasty on one line and then sing in a falsetto voice like Frankie Valli in the next.  With Roy, you didn’t know if you were listening to mariachi or opera.  Typically, he’d start out in some low, barely audible range, stay there a while and then astonishingly slip into histrionics.  His voice could jar a corpse, always leave you muttering to yourself something like, ‘Man, I don’t believe it.’  His songs had songs within songs.  They shifted from major to minor key without any logic. Orbison was deadly serious – no pollywog and no fledgling juvenile.  There wasn’t anything else on the radio like him.”

436.  “Can’t Buy Me Love,” The Beatles.  Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney; #1 pop; 1964.  Rolling Stone magazine, “McCartney has said ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ was ‘my attempt to write [in] a bluesy mode.’  But the song is much closer to the group’s primary influences: the bright gallop of uptempo Motown and brisk Fifties rockabilly.  Lennon and McCartney had their own deep roots in the latter, but Harrison was the expert: His guitar style, especially in the Beatles’ early recording years, was an aggressive updating of the simplicity of Carl Perkins and Scotty Moore’s breaks on Elvis Presley’s Sun singles.  In ‘Can’t Buy Me Love,’ Harrison’s solo — which takes off after one of McCartney’s Little Richard-inspired screams — is classic ’56 Memphis with jet-age sheen.”  George Martin commenting on his key recommendation, “I thought that we really needed a tag for the song’s ending, and a tag for the beginning; a kind of intro.  So I took the first two lines of the chorus and changed the ending, and said ‘Let’s just have these lines, and by altering the second phrase we can get back into the verse pretty quickly.’  And they said, ‘That’s not a bad idea, we’ll do it that way.’”

435.  “Down the Road Apiece,” The Rolling Stones.  Songwriter: Don Raye; Did Not Chart; 1965.  Donald McRae Wilhoite, Jr. went from being a Vaudeville song and dance man to writing pop hits for The Andrew Sisters including “Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar,” “The House of Blue Lights,” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”  He also penned the 1950 boogie woogie hit “Down the Road a Piece” for the Will Bradley Trio.”  Retitled “Down the Road Apiece” the song was covered by Amos Milburn and Ella Mae Morse during the 1940s, but The Rolling Stones may have first heard it from Chuck Berry’s 1960 stripped down version.  From the Philippe Margotin/‎Jean-Michel Guesdon book “The Rolling Stones All The Songs,” “The Stones had been playing ‘Down the Road Apiece’ since 1962, before Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts had even joined the group. Right from the introduction, played by Keith Richards on his Epiphone Casino, the group sounds very much in its element. The groove is extraordinary and indeed far superior to the Chuck Berry version.  From the moment Richards launches into the opening notes, he shows that he has become an excellent lead guitarist.  (Ian) Stewart takes pride of place with his utterly irresistible boogie woogie piano, which is nothing less than a work of art.”  Chuck Berry was present at the recording session, reportedly giving his approval by saying, “You got a real great sound going.  Swing on, gentlemen.”

434.  “Hurt So Bad,” Little Anthony and the Imperials.  Songwriters: Teddy Randazzo, Bobby Weinstein, Bobby Hart; #10 pop/#3 R&B; 1965.  According to what source you believe, “Hurt So Bad” was either quickly written in a Las Vegas conference room between sets that Teddy Randazzo was performing or Randazzo was independently moved to write the song while going through a painful divorce and requested assistance in completing the song.  Jerome “Little” Anthony has said this dramatic ballad is his favorite record from his group’s catalogue.  The quiet-loud-quiet sound structure worked just as well for the Imperials as it later would for The Pixies and Nirvana.  The Lettermen released a creepy version of “Hurts So Bad” for a #12 pop hit in 1969 and Linda Ronstadt took the song back to the Top Ten in 1980.

433.  “Uptight (Everything’s Alright),” Stevie Wonder.  Songwriters: Stevie Wonder, Sylvia Moy, Henry Cosby; #3 pop/#1 R&B; 1965.  Retrospectively, as difficult as it is to believe, at one point Motown was discussing dropping Stevie Wonder from the label.  Sylvia Moy, “There was an announcement in a meeting that Stevie’s voice had changed, and they didn’t know exactly how to handle that. They asked for volunteers. None of the guys would volunteer. They were going to have to let him go.”  Sylvia Moy then told producer Mickey Stevenson, “Let this be my assignment. I don’t believe it’s over for him. Let me have Stevie.”  Wonder came up with the title hook for “Uptight (Everything’s Alight)” and Moy finished the song from there, resulting in the singer’s second Top Five pop hit.  From the Motown Junkies website, “It opens with a battered drumbeat, an insistent 4/4 pounding, tambourine dragged in its wake, and appropriately enough it feels like a door being kicked open; Stevie’s career to this point had been grasping along a darkened corridor, on a straight line course to obscurity, and yet suddenly all kinds of possibilities reveal themselves, a Technicolor future flooding in, blasting away two years’ worth of shoddy novelty records.”

432.  “Cigarettes and Coffee,” Otis Redding.  Songwriters: Jerry Butler, Eddie Thomas, Jay Walker, Did Not Chart; 1966.  Al “TNT” Braggs served as Bobby Bland’s opening act during the early 1960s and wrote many of Bland’s hits, although he generally did not receive writing credits.  As a recording artist, Braggs is best known for recording the original version of “Cigarettes and Coffee” in 1961 and the 1966 Northern soul hit “Earthquake.”  Jerry Butler and Otis Redding had a songwriting relationship, penning “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” together, so Butler may have encouraged Redding to rescue “Cigarettes and Coffee” from obscurity.  While Gary “U.S.” Bonds was having a party at a quarter to three, Otis Redding finishes his long night begging for commitment from his lover, while sharing tobacco and caffeine.  The music has a woozy early morning feel and nobody ever voiced desperation with more conviction than Otis Redding.

431.  “Good Times, Bad Times,” Led Zeppelin.  Songwriters: Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, John Bonham, Robert Plant; Did Not Chart; 1969.  On the opening track of their debut album, Led Zeppelin displayed their melodicism and their incomparable technical expertise, as well as their thundering hard rock swagger and Robert Plant’s tongue in check, rock god panache.  John Paul Jones, “Usually anything (by Led Zeppelin) with lots of notes was mine and anything with chunky chords was Page’s. Things like ‘Good Times Bad Times,’ those are my sort of riffs, they’re quite busy.”  Jimmy Page, “John Paul Jones came up with the riff. I had the chorus. John Bonham applied the bass-drum pattern. That one really shaped our writing process. It was like, ‘Wow, everybody’s erupting at once.’ It really knocked everybody sideways when they heard the bass drum pattern, because I think everyone was laying bets that Bonzo was using two bass drums, but he only had one.”

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