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1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 50 to 41

At night the stars put on a show for free.

50.  “Stop! In The Name Of Love,” The Supremes.  Songwriters: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland; #1 pop/#2 R&B; 1965.  Lamont Dozier, “The title came from a fight with my girlfriend. I got caught in an embarrassing situation where I was being a little unfaithful. This particular girl was very headstrong. So we got into an argument. She started swinging, missed me, hit the floor. And I laughed and said, ‘Please stop! Stop in the name of love.’ I was being facetious. Then we busted out in laughter because it was so corny to us. She had a choke hold on me, and I said, ‘Hold it for a minute. Did you hear a cash register? Is that a hit title?’ And she started laughing again. The music stopped the fight. It came to the rescue. Then Brian (Holland) came up with the hook (musically) for it.”  Author Stevie Chick on the song’s perfectly wrapped heartache, “’Stop!’ opens with an infernal swell of keyboard, before the Motown backbeat kicks in and Ross and her Supremes belt out the song’s agonized, unforgettable hook. But it’s in the verses where the real tragedy lingers: in Ross’s sad acknowledgement that she is ‘aware of where you go each time you leave my door’; in the humiliation that her fear of losing her man trumps her anger at his straying; in the way she asks, ‘Haven’t I been good to you? Haven’t I been sweet to you?’, just begging for a crumb of kindness.  It’s pop heartache raised to bleakly operatic heights, and you would have to be dead inside not to be moved by the dark edge to Ross’s yearning, or to resist dancing to the combustible Holland/Dozier/Holland production.”

49.  “All Day and All of the Night,” The Kinks.  Songwriter: Ray Davies; #7 pop; 1964. The Kinks replicated the proto-punk power chords of “You Really Got Me” on “All Day and All of the Night,” while Ray crooned about a romantic infatuation that bordered on stalking. Davies has referred to “All Day” as “a neurotic song – youthful, obsessive and sexually possessive.”  Author Nick Halsted, “It begins with another bare riff, slower and spare than ‘You Really Got Me.’ But now Ray’s desire for a girl is worldly, adult.  He sings with the happy leer of knowing he’ll get her, not the teen frustration a hit’s let him outgrow. This time Ray’s encouragement – ‘Oh, come on!’ – is gleeful.  Dave’s response is a gremlin’s cartoon yowl, and a solo which jerks and clambers into a chaotic climax. ‘All Day and All of the Night’ is overall more heavy, more metallic.  ‘You Really Got Me’s prototype had been streamlined and souped up.” Rock critic/terminal misanthrope Mike Saunders, “The Kinks started out by being raunchier than any group in history. ‘You Really Got Me,’ ‘All Day and All of the Night,’ ‘I Need You,’ and ‘Till the End of the Day’ were truly the Kingsmen unleashed, and for my money more thrillingly raucous records have never been recorded.”

48.  “Don’t Worry Baby,” The Beach Boys.  Songwriters: Brian Wilson, Roger Christian; #24 pop; 1964.  “Don’t Worry Baby” was inspired by The Ronette’s “Be My Baby” and the similarities have been noted by Beach Boys historian Philip Lambert: “They’re in the same key – E Major – and they start the same. The phrase structure is the same, the chord progressions are almost the same, the melodies are almost the same.”  Brian Wilson, “I wrote that with Roger Christian and it took me two days to write it. I started out with the verse idea and then wrote the chorus. It was a very simple and beautiful song. It’s a really heart and soul song, I really did feel that in my heart. Some say it’s about a car and others say it’s about a girl, who’s right? It’s both. It’s about a car and a woman.”  Author Camden Joy on Keith Moon’s favorite ballad, “Listen closely to that beautifully sad Beach Boys song ‘Don’t Worry Baby’; hear the story in it, how it’s all just about some messed-up guy so crazed with insecurity that he requires constant reassurance before he can drag-race, and then dry your tears and tell me honestly there are a lot of popular songs these days that are as touching and yet as weird.”  Also of note, the vocal arrangement envelops the listener like a soft, warm blanket.

47.  “Strawberry Fields Forever,” The Beatles.  Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney; #8 pop; 1968.  John Lennon, “Strawberry Fields is a real place…a boys’ reformatory where I used to go to garden parties as a kid with my friends Nigel and Pete. We would go there and hang out and sell lemonade bottles for a penny. We always had fun at Strawberry Fields. So that’s where I got the name. But I used it as an image. Strawberry Fields forever.”  Geoff Emerick reflecting on the first time The Beatles heard the song, “There was a moment of stunned silence, broken by Paul, who in a quiet, respectful tone said simply, ‘That is absolutely brilliant.’”  George Martin famously edited together two versions of the song, performed at different tempos and in different keys, to complete the recording.  To create the sonic richness, the instrumentation included a Mellotron, a swarmandal (an Indian harp), as well as cello and brass sections.  Time magazine, being hipper than one would expect in 1967, “(The) Beatles have developed into the single most creative force in pop music. Wherever they go, the pack follows. And where they have gone in recent months, not even their most ardent supporters would ever have dreamed of. They have bridged the heretofore impassable gap between rock and classical, mixing elements of Bach, Oriental and electronic music with vintage twang to achieve the most compellingly original sounds ever heard in pop music.”

46.  “Nowhere to Run,” Martha & the Vandellas. Songwriters: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland; #8 pop/#5 R&B; 1964.  According to Lamont Dozier, “Nowhere to Run” was inspired by a young man who was killed in Vietnam.  Dozier, “His friends asked if I would throw a party for him at my house before he was shipped out. We had the party, but he was very solemn, just sitting with his girlfriend. He had a premonition that he wouldn’t be coming back. I told him to be positive, but he was adamant. I found myself thinking about how he was feeling trapped – nowhere to run. Sure enough, two months later they shipped his body back. I think he stepped on a land mine. Nineteen years old.”  From the Motown Junkies website, “From that blazing opening, this is just a full-on assault of a record, big and brash and textured. The sound is remarkable. Many people know the story of Ivy Jo Hunter dragging a snow chain into the Motown studio and slamming it on the floor until his hands were bleeding, all to provide a unique percussion effect, something like a thousand tambourines in the background. Stories are jumbled as to whether that first happened on ‘Dancing In The Street’ or here on ‘Nowhere To Run,’ but what is clear is that the percussion here is just out of this world, a barreling, slamming groove, anchored by that chain, pulling jagged bass and horns and drums behind it (all three played by people having career days here) and dragging huge great furrows in the earth.”

45.  “Up on the Roof,” The Drifters.  Songwriters: Gerry Goffin, Carole King; #5 pop/#4 R&B; 1963.  Gerry Goffin, “Carole came up with the melody in the car – an a cappella melody. I said, ‘How about a place to be alone?’ She says, ‘My secret place.’ So the song was originally called ‘My Secret Place.’ I said, ‘No, that’s no good. How about ‘Up on the Roof’? It was imaginary – maybe something that I copped out of ‘West Side Story.’”  Author Jordon Runtagh, “Few songs in the Goffin-King canon match the sweeping cinematic grandeur of this ode to the most scenic of urban hideaways, perched atop a high-rise. The breezy Latin rhythm recalls the Drifters’ earlier hit, ‘Save the Last Dance for Me,’ but Rudy Lewis’ vocals soar even higher as he climbs the elegant melody to his secluded sanctuary.”  Charlie Thomas of the Drifters on Carole King’s studio contributions, “Carole used to hang in there with us tough. She used to pound down. She wasn’t no hard woman – a girl, at her age. But she played the piano and it was amazing the songs she gave us.”  Author David Freeland, ‘Up on the Roof’ remains one of the most enduring songs of the latter-day Tin Pan Alley period if only for its lushness of melody and lyrical sophistication. ‘At night the stars put on a show for free,’ lead singer Rudy Lewis intones, with a sweeping romanticism that underscores the poetry of the words, ‘and darling, you can share it all with me.’ The lyrics come on like an invitation, in subtle acknowledgment of the longstanding Tin Pan Alley goal of reaching the widest range of listeners possible.”

44.  “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” The Band.  Songwriter: Robbie Robertson; Did Not Chart; 1969.  “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” is narrated from the perspective of a defeated southerner during the final days of The Civil War.  Arkansas native Levon Helm, “Robbie and I worked on ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ up in Woodstock. I remember taking him to the library so he could research the history and geography of the era and make General Robert E. Lee come out with all due respect.”  Rock critic Mark Kemp on the song’s impact during the late 1960s, “Helm’s aching southern drawl lent credibility to Robertson’s words and the growing movement of young American rebels, both northern and southern, who called themselves hippies and opposed the war in Vietnam, identified with its empathetic portrait of the frightened young man.”  Professional ponderer Griel Marcus, “It is hard for me to comprehend how any northerner could listen to this song without finding himself changed.  You can’t get out from under the singer’s truth – not the whole truth, simply his truth – and the little biography closes the gap between us.”  Music executive Bob Santelli on Levon Helm’s innate gift: “Helm was the kind of person who not only appreciated the complexity of American roots music, but also the simple beauty and passion of it – the  complexity being how it tied into race and religion and southern culture, and the simplicity of how it just made people feel good.”

43.  “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” Marvin Gaye.  Songwriters: Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong; #1 pop/#1 R&B; 1968.  Barrett Strong on his return to Motown during the mid-1960s, “I was listening to the radio and I heard the Temptations sing ‘My Girl,’ and I said, ‘Man, they’re doing my kind of music now. I want to go back. Now what do I have to take back?’ I had this song title that had been in my mind a long time, ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine.’ I said, ‘Nobody’s ever written a song about this.’ So I sat down at the piano and came up with the bass line.”  The song had been a #2 pop hit for Gladys Knight & the Pips in 1967.  Gaye’s version was released as an album track, but according to Berry Gordy, “The DJs played it so much off the album we had to release it as a single.”  Marvin Gaye, “Norman (Whitfield) had this whole new arrangement worked out and it came out pretty good.  I simply took Norman’s direction.  I was reaching for notes that made my veins bulge.”  Music critic Jason Ankeny, “Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ is Motown’s greatest record. Even obscured by years of oldies radio overkill and Big Chill nostalgia it retains a hypnotic power unmatched by any of the label’s other classics, articulating the turmoil and anguish of a soul torn apart at the seams with a clarity unmatched in the annals of popular music. On its surface a desperate plea to salvage a relationship gone terribly wrong, ‘Grapevine’ progressively probes much deeper to convey complete emotional free-fall: haunted by lies, taunted by gossip and shattered by loss, Gaye’s torment is palpable, and his performance — the signature sophistication and elegance of his voice ravaged by fear and doubt — is devastating.”

42.  “I’m Waiting for the Man,” The Velvet Underground.  Songwriter: Lou Reed; Did Not Chart; 1967.  A lyric about an addict making a drug deal was a groundbreaking theme in popular music in 1967 and Lou Reed captured the junkie’s mindset of anxiety and short term euphoria on “I’m Waiting for the Man.”  Later in life he noted, “Everything about that song holds true, except the price.”  Author Sean Stanley, “(I’m Waiting for the Man’) represents an aesthetic high point for the Velvet Underground, sonically and lyrically. Witness the rhythm section’s mimicry of a train heading to the intersection of 125th Street and Lexington Avenue, East Harlem. Reed’s real triumph, though, is that with ‘I’m Waiting for the Man’ he created cinéma vérité in rock. Its legacy, then, was creating a world in which any topic was now permissible in music – and that illicit trip to score drugs made for a joyride.” Meanwhile, busker John Cale had distinctly different memories about his time in Harlem, “I remember the first gigs we did with just (Lou) and me —I had a recorder and a viola, and he had an acoustic guitar. We’d go sit on the sidewalk outside the Baby Grand (bar) up in Harlem on 125th and see if we could make some money. Every time we got moved on, the cop always had a suggestion of where we should go. ‘Try 75th on Broadway! That’s a good spot.’ So we’d go down there and make a little bit more money.”

41.  “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” Rolling Stones.  Songwriters: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards; #3 pop; 1968. “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” has one of rock music’s greatest guitar riffs, but with The Stones being The Stones, there is some controversy to the backstory.  Bill Wyman, who did not receive a writing credit, “We got to the studio early once and… in fact I think it was a rehearsal studio, I don’t think it was a recording studio. And there was just myself, Brian and Charlie – the Stones NEVER arrive at the same time, you know – and Mick and Keith hadn’t come. And I was just messing about and I just sat down at the piano and started doing this riff, da-daw, da-da-daw, da-da-daw, and then Brian played a bit of guitar and Charlie was doing a rhythm. We were just messing with it for 20 minutes, just filling in time, and Mick and Keith came in and we stopped and they said, ‘Hey, that sounded really good, carry on, what is it?’ And then the next day we recorded it. Mick wrote great lyrics to it and it turned out to be a really good single.”  For his part, Keith Richards has said the song was inspired by a nickname he gave to his gardener.  Richards, “When you get a riff like ‘Flash,’ you get a great feeling of elation, a wicked glee. I can hear the whole band take off behind me every time I play ‘Flash’ – there’s this extra sort of turbo overdrive. You jump on the riff and it plays you. Levitation is probably the closest analogy to what I feel.”  Pete Townshend, “When you are listening to a rock and roll song the way you listen to ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash,’ that’s the way you should really spend your whole life.”

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