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1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 650 to 641

We celebrate the emergence of the Sub-Sylvian Litanies.

650. “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show,” Joe Tex. Songwriter: Joe Tex; #65 pop/#20 R&B; 1965. “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” seems like a rather uncommon phrase, but at least three different songs have been released with that title. Jump blues artist Stick McGhee released his statement on primate productivity in 1950, then Big Maybelle released a Charles Singleton/Rose Marie McCoy composition on sexual politics with the same title in 1955 (that song was covered by Bette Midler in 1998). Joe Tex instructs his listeners to keep looking for their true love on his “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show,” while also advertising the heretofore unknown moral turpitude of New Yorkers. Listening to Tex is like hearing a conman who is so convincing that you sit through his pitch, despite your better judgment, just for the bald faced entertainment value. The Joe Tex version of “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” was covered by The Animals in 1966.

649. “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Cryin’,” Ray Charles. Songwriter: Joe Greene; #95 pop/#17 R&B; released in 1959, peaked on the charts in 1960. Ray Charles didn’t have the biggest hit of the decade with a song titled “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying.” A Gerry and the Pacemakers’ composition with that name, produced by George Martin, went Top Five on the U.S. pop charts in 1964. The Ray Charles release was a jazz pop record that had been recorded in 1945 by Ernie Andrews with The Wilbert Baranco Trio and the following year by Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five. While his producers were always a bit too generous with the orchestration, this is still prime Brother Ray from a vocal perspective.

648. “That’s How Strong My Love Is,” Otis Redding. Songwriter: Roosevelt Jamison; #74 pop/#18 R&B; 1965. Roosevelt Jamison wasn’t your typical songwriter, he performed medical research and worked in academia before transitioning into the music industry. Jamison was working at a Beale Street blood bank when he discovered James Carr, who he later managed, and O.V. Wright. O.V. Wright recorded the original version of “That’s How Strong My Love Is” in 1964, but Otis Redding took the song from Wright in the same way that Aretha took “Respect” from Otis. The Rolling Stones’ 1965 cover of “That’s How Strong My Love Is” sounds positively feeble in comparison.

647. “(I Washed My Hands in) Muddy Water,” Johnny Rivers. Songwriter: Joe Babcock; #19 pop; 1966. Songwriter Joe Babcock joined The Glaser Brothers in 1959 and that group regularly toured with Marty Robbins in the early 1960s. Tired of the road and the $25 per show wages, Babcock settled in Nashville in 1965 to run Robbins’ publishing company. “I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water,” a tale of a second generation convict, was Babcock’s only hit writing credit – Stonewall Jackson took the song to #8 on the country charts and it was a Top 20 pop hit for Johnny Rivers in 1966. You can hear Rivers’ Southern roots on the vocals of this song. Rivers, “I brought Southern Louisiana blues and real rock ‘n’ roll to the Sunset Strip.” Regarding the title and message of this song, when this author was five years old, he couldn’t imagine a deeper philosophical statement.

646. “It’s the Same Old Song,” The Four Tops. Songwriters: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland; #5 pop/#2 R&B; 1965. After the success of “I Can’t Help Myself,” Berry Gordy was pushing their songwriting team for an immediate followup. Lyrically, they moved from infatuation to breakup. Four Tops tenor Abdul “Duke” Fakir, “Lamont Dozier and I were both a little tipsy and he was changing the channels on the radio. He said, ‘It sounds like the same old song.’ And then he said, ‘Wait a minute.’ So, he took ‘I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)’ and reversed it using the same chord changes. The next day, we went to the studio and recorded it, and then they put it on acetate, shipped it out to disc jockeys across the country.” Lamont Dozier, “I took the bass figure in ‘I Can’t Help Myself’ and turned it around. The chords were different, but basically we kept the same feeling. It worked.”

645. “Hush,” Deep Purple. Songwriter: Joe South; #4 pop; 1968. Songwriter Joe South recorded “Hush” in 1967 as a Southern soul record, a funky number with a blaring horn section. Jon Lord of Deep Purple, “It was a minor dancehall hit in England. It was played in the rock clubs. All we did was we took that rhythm and exaggerated it. And I did this weird thing, I hit the organ keys like bongos. It made those weird sounds that you hear at the beginning. There was no real attempt to do a hit record. It was a track that was meant for the album. And the guy at the record company here in the States, he said, ‘That’s a hit.’” Ian Paice, ““Hush”, the single, everyone knew, and whatever we did to it, they seemed to like, and it became a big hit. We went over there (to the States) for our first tour and thought we’d made it – only to discover that it’s not quite that easy.”

644. “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose,” James Brown. Songwriter: Charles Bobbit; #15 pop/#1 R&B; 1969. “Give It Up” was recorded twice by James, first as a 1969 single, then later as a six plus minute album track. Brown’s explorations into stripped down tension and release funk sounded like nothing else in popular music. Alexander Stewart, “The main guitar ostinatos for ‘Ain’t It Funky’ and ‘Give It Up or Turn It Loose’ are examples of Brown’s refinement of New Orleans funk; irresistibly danceable riffs, stripped down to their rhythmic essence. On both recordings the tonal structure is bare bones. The pattern of attack-points is the emphasis, not the pattern of pitches. It’s as if the guitar is an African drum, or idiophone.”

643. “Who’s Making Love,” Johnnie Taylor. Songwriters: Homer Banks, Bettye Crutcher, Don Davis, Raymond Jackson; #5 pop/#1 R&B; 1968. Johnnie Taylor was born in the gloriously named community of Crawfordsville, Arkansas and performed in the gospel groups The Highway Q.C.’s and The Soul Stirrers during the 1950s. He had moderate success as a solo artist in the 1960s until going Top Ten “Who’s Making Love,” a song with a most unlikely inspiration. Songwriter Homer Banks, “I heard Frank Sinatra on television. He had a song titled ‘Who’s Taking Care of the Caretaker’s Daughter (While the Caretaker’s Out Taking Care).’ I said ‘Now some kind of way I’ve got to bring this into the reality where people in rhythm and blues can relate to it.’” After scoring with this Sam and Dave sound alike number, Taylor went to #1 on the pop charts in 1976 with “Disco Lady” and became a Dallas disc jockey in the 1980s.

642. “Saginaw, Michigan,” Lefty Frizzell. Songwriters: Bill Anderson, Don Wayne; #85 pop/#1 country; 1963. Lefty Frizzell was only thirty-six years old when “Saginaw, Michigan” became his last #1 country hit, but he seemed much older. His time as a country music superstar was from the pre-rock era and he hadn’t had a Top Ten country hit since 1959’s “The Long Black Veil.” There’s little known about the origin of “Saginaw, Michigan,” a story song about a financially strapped newlywed male outsmarting his wealthy, class conscious father-in-law. Dependence on alcohol and related poor lifestyle choices resulted in Lefty’s death in 1975, at the age of 47. Robert Christgau summed up Lefty’s artistic legacy in 1991, “Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson are unimaginable without him, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, and George Jones his only artistic rivals, and for sheer vocal pleasure the texture and definition of his casual drawl tops them all.”

641. “You Can’t Ever Come Down,” Joe Byrd & The Field Hippies. Songwriter: Joseph Byrd; Did Not Chart; 1969. Joseph Byrd developed an interest in avant-garde music at a young age and studied under John Cage in New York after graduating from Stanford. The psychedelic chaos of the 1968 album from his experimental rock band The United States of America make Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention sound like a glee club. Byrd worked with West Coast session musicians on his 1969 album “The American Metaphysical Circus,” credited to Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies. “You Can’t Ever Come Down” sounds like a bizarro world Jefferson Airplane with vocalist Victoria Bond wondering, “How did the sand get inside of your brain?” The song is the centerpiece of a trilogy titled, you guessed it, “The Sub-Sylvian Litanies.”

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