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1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 800 to 791

Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong?

800.  “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” Dusty Springfield. Songwriters: Burt Bacharach, Hal David; #6 pop; 1964.  U.K. singer Dusty Springfield had her first commercial success during the early 1960s with a trio named The Springfields.  The Springfields had a Top Twenty pop hit in 1962 with “Silver Threads and Golden Needs” and sounded disturbingly like Peter, Paul, and Mary.  Dusty left that act in late 1963 and found immediate international pop success with the single “I Only Want to Be with You.”  Dionne Warwick had recorded a somewhat wooden version of “Wishin’ and Hopin’” in 1963.  The Springfield version, which sounds like a girl group song with gospel backing singing, wasn’t intended as a single, but Burt Bacharach and Hal David used their influence to get airplay in New York, then the song went national.  “Wishin’ and Hopin’” was Springfield’s second highest charting solo song in the U.S., only bested by 1966’s “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me.”

799.  “Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp),” Barry Mann.  Songwriters: Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann; #7 pop; 1961.  Barry Mann was a constant presence on the pop charts during the 1960s as a songwriter, but his only hit as a performer was the doo wop novelty number “Who Put the Bomp.”  The song references pop hits by The Marcels (“Blue Moon”), The Edsels (“Rama-Lama-Ding-Dong”), The Diamonds (“Little Darlin’”), and Chubby Checker “Pony Time,” while equating lyrical nonsense syllables with winning his lover’s heart.  Barry Mann, “It was really just a spoof song.  It was a put-on.  I mean, it was not the kind of song that makes an artist.”  “Who Put the Bomp” was resurrected as a title of an influential 1970’s fanzine/magazine published by music historian/record executive Greg Shaw.

798.  “The Watusi,” The Vibrations.  Songwriters: James Johnson, Shirley Hall, Leslie Temple; #25 pop/#13 R&B; 1961.  The Vibrations were a Los Angeles vocal group who recorded under several different names.  Recording as The Jayhawks, sometimes referred to as The Jay Hawks, they scored a hit with “Stranded in the Jungle” in 1956, competing directly on the pop and R&B charts with the better known version of that song by The Cadets.  They had hits under two different names in 1961, peaking at #20 on the pop charts with “Peanut Butter” by The Marathons and shimmying over the airwaves with “The Watusi.”  The Orlons had the biggest hit about this particular dance craze with their 1962 #2 pop hit “The Wah Watusi,” but The Vibrations had the better groove, probably because they took theirs from Hank Ballard’s “Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go.”  Stephen Caldwell of The Orlons, “Karl Mann thought of spinoffs.  The Vibrations’ tune ‘The Watusi’ almost made it, so let’s see if we can get one that will make it.  That’s how they did it.  It was all commercial music and they wanted to stay in the commercial mode.”

797.  “Heartbreak (It’s Hurting Me),” Little Willie John.  Songwriter: Jon Thomas; #38 pop/#6 R&B; 1960.  Drummer Melvin Parker, “Little Willie John used to come through.  I really enjoyed working behind him playing one of the hits he had recorded called ‘Heartbreak,’ which was more like an organ groove thing.  A shuffle thing…’Heartbreak, you’re killing me!’  He had this cane someone had given him.  It was made of a rare kind of wood, bent all different kinds of ways.  It was a beautiful piece and he’d take that thing and beat in on 2 and 4 and Ben (Collier) would open up that organ and start going ‘BOMP! BOMP!’  It was so beautiful!  Little Willie with his natural voice could sing that song!”  The James Brown cover of “Heartbreak” is a highlight from his oddly titled 1968 album “Thinking About Little Willie John and a Few Nice Things.”

796.  “Chains of Love,” Bobby Bland.  Songwriter: A Nugetre; #60 pop/#9 R&B; 1969.  “Chains of Love” was first recorded by Big Joe Turner as a woozy blues number and his version peaked at #2 on the R&B charts in 1951.  Although some sources say the song was penned by Doc Pomus, Ahmet Ertegun has the writing credit and discussed the song in 1988, stating, “I wrote teenage records, not songs.”  The Bobby Bland version has a much more sophisticated production than Tuner’s original, sounding similar to Ray Charles ballad material.   This record is a good representation of why Bland was sometimes called “The Frank Sinatra of The Blues.”  Songwriter Dan Penn, “He made you understand what the song means to him.  He didn’t just shuffle through you know – it’s also blood and guts.”

795.  “It Takes Two,” Marvin Gaye & Kim Weston.  Songwriters: William “Mickey” Stevenson, Sylvia Moy; #14 pop; #4 R&B; 1966.  Kim Weston, “Marvin and I went into the studio together to record the album “Take Two.”  We didn’t pick the tracks, they were picked by Mickey Stevenson, my then-husband, and our producer, but ‘It Takes Two’ had been written by him and Sylvia Moy especially for us and it really worked.  (Marvin) added little ad libs, intonations here and there and suggested things for the arrangements.  I saw the genius shine out of him but also the frustration.  You could hear it in his voice.  He wanted more control.  It was a shock when they released the song as a single. I’d already left Motown and gone to MGM.  I regret never having the chance to sing it live with Marvin. I felt my duets with Marvin really paved the way for what he did with Tammi Terrell next.  Our songs influenced theirs, and if I’d stayed at the label I think I’d have been singing those songs with him instead.”

794.  “I See the Rain,” The Marmalade.  Songwriters: Junior Campbell, Dean Ford; Did Not Chart; 1967.  The Marmalade, an act later known simply as Marmalade, formed in Scotland in 1961 and spent the early part of the decade going through the normal name and personnel changes of a struggling band.  They signed with CBS in 1966, but it took them a few years to achieve commercial success.  Jimi Hendrix deemed the psychedelic pop of “I See the Rain” as the best British single of 1967 and while I may not agree with that assessment, the lyrical guitar interludes are praiseworthy moments.  Marmalade later scored a #1 U.K. single in 1969 with their cover of The Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” and went Top Ten in the U.S. in 1970 with the comically pretentious “Reflections of My Life.”

793.  “Open the Door to Your Heart,” Darrell Banks.  Songwriters:  Donnie Elbert, Darrell Banks; #27 pop/#2 R&B 1966.  Darrell Banks wanted his love to flow like a river and shine like a light on “Open the Door to Your Heart,” his sole Top 40 effort.  Recorded in Detroit for Revilot Records, the song sounds more like traditional soul music than the crossover pop music that Motown was releasing at the time.  “Open the Door to Your Heart” was a beloved record on the Northern soul scene and a U.K. auction of a rare vinyl 45 sold for over $23,000 in U.S. dollars in 2014.  Banks, never known as a friendly man, took credit for writing “Open the Door to Your Heart,” even though it was penned by Donnie Elbert, resulting in legal action that still left Banks with an unearned co-writing credit.  He was killed in 1970, after a love triangle dispute escalated into gun violence.

792.  “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” Etta James.  Songwriters: Etta James, Leroy Kirkland, Pearl Woods; #37 pop/#4 R&B; 1962.  Etta James, “I was originally like a punker, know what I mean, like the punks are today, I’d spit in a minute.”  Perhaps it was Etta’s punk rock attitude that lead her to merge gospel, R&B, and girl group sounds on the joyful “Something’s Got a Hold on Me.”  Those broad range of influences have resulted in the song being covered by Ike and Tina Turner, The Hollies, The Righteous Brothers, and Christina Aguilera, among others.  Etta on the creative accounting procedures of Chess Records, “You’d get a Cadillac or a fur stole or a ring, something like that.  That was your royalties. I didn’t have any lawyer or a good manager or nothing, so what the heck?  Long as I was riding in a big Cadillac and dressed nice and had plenty of food, that’s all I cared about.”

791.  “Groovin’,” The Young Rascals.  Songwriters: Felix Cavaliere, Eddie Brigati; #1 pop/#3 R&B; 1967.  Felix, “I met this young girl and I just fell head over heels in love. I was so gone that this joyous, wonderful emotion came into the music.  ‘Groovin’ was part of that experience. If you look at the story line, it’s very simple: ‘we’re groovin’ on a Sunday afternoon’ because Friday and Saturdays are when musicians work.”  The astute reader may not be wrong to think of “groovin’” as a euphemism for another activity.  Atlantic Records saw no potential in the song.  Influential New York disc jockey “Murray the K” (Murray Kaufman) interceded on the band’s behalf, telling Jerry Wexler the song would be “a friggin’ number one” record.  We’ve now officially reached our euphemism limit on this entry.

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