1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 110 to 101
The movement you need is on your shoulder.
110. “Victoria,” The Kinks. Songwriter: Ray Davies; Did Not Chart; 1969. Journalist Keith Altham, “Ray Davies was the Noel Coward of rock and roll for me. He had that wit and that ability to conjure up a particular kind of Englishness that was very marked because most people in bands started with an R&B thing, started with a transatlantic accent and they started with songs that were embedded in the deep south of America. Those songs had nothing to do with their own roots. Ray was really the first person to come along and write from his own cultural experience, being English and being born in London, and writing about his own life.” Ray used an English staple, a brass band, on “Victoria,” a rousing rocker that simultaneously celebrates the peak of the British Empire and criticizes how power was wielded to obtain the desired results. Dave Davies was obviously in a celebratory mood on “Victoria,” whooping in the background, ecstatic to be rocking out again. Journalist Holly Hughes, “The guitar motif of ‘Victoria’ is a thing of glory indeed. It’s like a trumpet flourish ringing out, yet with a hint of surf guitar twang; driven by the fierce locomotive of Mick Avory’s drum beat, it charges out of the gate hellbent for whatever. Eventually Ray Davies comes in to sing, but he can barely keep up with the breakneck pace.”
109. “What a Wonderful World,” Louis Armstrong. Songwriters: Bob Thiele; George David Weiss; #32 pop; released in 1967, peaked on charts in 1988. Few singers could have taken a sentiment as fundamentally schmaltzy as “What a Wonderful World” and made a genuinely moving record out of it, but Louis Armstrong was no average performer. Jazz trumpeter Humphrey Lyttleton, “I don’t think he took his singing seriously at first, but when Bing Crosby came along, he started softening his voice. It was still a gravel voice, but he found he could phrase in a very passionate and rhapsodic way, especially on slow ballads.” For Armstrong, the appeal of the lyrics was local, not global, “There’s so much in ‘Wonderful World’ that brings me back to my neighborhood where I live in Corona, New York. Lucille and I, ever since we’re married, we’ve been right there in that block. And everybody keeps their little homes up like we do and it’s just like one big family. I saw three generations come up on that block. And they’re all with their children, grandchildren, they come back to see Uncle Satchmo and Aunt Lucille. That’s why I can say, ‘I hear babies cry/ I watch them grow/ they’ll learn much more/ then I’ll never know.’ And I can look at all them kids’s faces. And I got pictures of them when they was five, six and seven years old. So when they hand me this ‘Wonderful World,’ I didn’t look no further, that was it.” The sweeping sentimental number about peace, love, and understanding was a #1 U.K. hit in 1968, but didn’t hit the U.S. charts until 1988, after being used prominently in the hit film “Good Morning, Vietnam.”
108. “Hey Jude,” The Beatles. Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney; #1 pop; 1969. As every Beatles fan knows, “Hey Jude” was written by Paul McCartney as a song of encouragement to Julian Lennon. Julian Lennon in 1987, “Paul told me he’d been thinking about my circumstances, about what I was going through and what I’d have to go through. Paul and I used to hang out quite a bit – more than Dad and I did. There seem to be far more pictures of me and Paul playing at that age than me and Dad. It surprises me whenever I hear the song. It’s strange to think someone has written a song about you. It still touches me.” Ian McDonald on the recording of “Hey, Jude,” “They packed thirty-six highly trained classical musicians into a small room to play four chords over and over again, closing the evening by requesting them to clap and sing along. Persuaded by a double fee, all but one complied.” The length of the song and the extended coda created a communal feel. Author Kenneth Womack, “Ultimately ‘Hey Jude’ ponders the notion that individual healing is rendered possible through a renewed relationship with the human community that exists beyond the self.” Author Tim Riley reflected on McCartney’s vocal performance, “It’s weirdly imbalanced. It’s as if Beethoven wrote a concerto and the cadenza went on longer than the sonata. (McCartney is) Baryshnikov at the end, dancing all over the place. It’s a tour de force. He goes from extreme intimacy to ecstatic shouting – wild euphoria – all in the span of a single track. The range is what separates it from every other vocal display.”
107. “Fingertips (Part 2),” Stevie Wonder. Songwriters: Clarence Paul, Henry Cosby; #1 pop/#3 R&B; 1963. Marvin Gaye, who is frequently credited with playing drums on this record, “You really had to start paying attention to Stevie after ‘Fingertips.’ No matter what else you might be doing, you knew that Stevie had a superior musical intelligence and was learning as fast as you.” “Fingertips (Part 2)” was a grand fluke, a boisterous, chaotic live recording where Wonder was supposed to be exiting the stage for Mary Wells, but gets lost in the moment. It is a lightning caught in the bottle explosion that became the first live record to go to #1 on the pop charts. Joe Swift, the clearly confused bass player can be heard yelling “What key? What key?” Berry Gordy, “We’re not sure why the record was such a big hit, but leaving that mistake in didn’t hurt. There are certain kind of mistakes I love.” Brian Holland on that night at Chicago’s Regal Theater, “When Stevie got to ‘Fingertips,’ the closing tune, people jumped up and down, clapped their hands, and stomped their feet. They just went wild. The atmosphere was pure electricity. At the end, they were more exhausted by all the hand-clapping stuff than Stevie was.”
106. “You Don’t Own Me,” Lesley Gore. Songwriters: John Madara, Dave White; #2 pop; 1963. One generally doesn’t associate the subject of feminism with early 1960’s pop music, but Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” is a dramatic statement of independence and equality. Song co-writer John Madara, “Our original intent was to write a song with a woman telling a man off: ‘Don’t tell me what to do, don’t tell me what to say.’ Though we didn’t realize it at the time that it would become a woman’s anthem, it definitely was our intention to have a woman make a statement.” In addition to the lyrics, the structure of the music lures in the listener before he hears the message. Lesley Gore, “The beauty of that song is that the verses start in a minor key, and then, when you go into the chorus, it goes into the major, and there’s such a sense of lift and exhilaration. After seeing how powerful that is, it became a method I’ve used on a number of occasions.” Lesley Gore biographer Trevor Tolliver, “Everyone involved knew there was something different about the song, something sublime. Engineer Phil Ramone remembered the notoriously stolid, prim string section rapping their violin bows on their music stands in applause, following Lesley’s astounding performance.”
105. “Surfer Girl,” The Beach Boys. Songwriter: Brian Wilson; #7 pop/#18 R&B; 1963. Brian Wilson on finding his gift, “Back in 1961, I’d never written a song in my life. I was nineteen years old. And I put myself to the test in my car one day. I was actually driving to a hot dog stand, and I actually created a melody in my head without being able to hear it on a piano. I sang it to myself; I didn’t even sing it out loud in the car. When I got home that day, I finished the song, wrote the bridge, put the harmonies together and called it ‘Surfer Girl.’” Music historian Bill Holdship, “There is no greater song than ‘Surfer Girl,’ in my estimation. There are many that may be its equal, depending on your mood, but none any better. It’s a song with a simplistic beauty and melody that can be appreciated by toddlers as well as old people in their twilight years. I’ve loved it for most of my life. To think it was the first song he ever wrote, in his car, conceptualizing the entire thing in his head as he drove, still boggles my mind. A grand slam right out of the gate.” Author Phillip Lambert, “(Wilson) has also acknowledged that his melody was inspired by ‘When You Wish upon a Star,’ a song that he apparently sang as a child and that might have been fresh on his mind after hearing a version by Dion & the Belmonts that was on the charts briefly in 1960.”
104. “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” The Animals. Songwriters: Bennie Benjamin, Gloria Caldwell, Sol Marcus; #15 pop; 1964. Nina Simone recorded the original version of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” in 1964, using her singular blues meets Broadway vocal style. The Animals turned it into a pop song with its recurring organ riffs and booming chorus. Eric Burdon, “It was never considered pop material, but it somehow got passed on to us and we fell in love with it immediately.” Rock critic Rob Chapman, “When the Animals covered ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,’ a song written for Nina Simone, Eric Burdon handled its tricky phrasing as expertly as she did. In an age when even the best English pop singers – McCartney in Little Richard mode, Jagger as James Brown mannequin – offered fan-boy pastiches of their heroes, Burdon just dared you to snigger at his sincerity. He meant it, man. His band mates, Chas Chandler in particular, found it amusing that this diminutive, greasy-haired gnome should adopt the mantle of the seen-it-all bluesman, but Burdon just hunched himself against the brickbats and carried on regardless. While his fellow musicians mugged and grinned behind him, Burdon continued to look down the barrel of that light entertainment lens like the Brit-punk prototype that he was.”
103. “Cold Sweat (Part I),” James Brown. Songwriters: James Brown, Alfred Ellis; #7 pop/#1 R&B; 1967. Pee Wee Ellis, “One night somewhere, James called me into the dressing room and grunted a bass line, which turned out to be ‘Cold Sweat.’ I was very much influenced by Miles Davis and had been listening to ‘So What’ six or seven years earlier and that crept into the making of ‘Cold Sweat.’ You could call it subliminal, but the horn line is based on Miles Davis’ ‘So What.’ Between the two of us, we put it together one afternoon. He put the lyrics on it. The band set up in a semicircle in the studio with one microphone. It was recorded live in the studio. One take. It was like a performance. We didn’t do overdubbing.” “Cold Sweat” also was completely unconventional in that the song has only one chord change. RJ Smith, “There is a reason why music teachers call the succession of harmonies in a song a chord progression. They have a lot invested in the word progress nestled in the phrase. Like their assumption that ‘growth’ or history’s forward march is tied to a series of chord changes, and the assumption that a proper sequence of chords builds an arc, or a storyline, or somehow creates a sense of getting somewhere. ‘Cold Sweat’ jumps off that train. It moves all right, but it does not travel a route. ‘Cold Sweat’ is about an enduring, dominant present.”
102. “Bring It On Home to Me,” Sam Cooke. Songwriter: Sam Cooke: #13 pop/#2 R&B; 1962. “Bring It On Home to Me” was an update/rewrite of Charles Brown’s 1959 single “I Want to Go Home,” with a much more distinctive gospel feel. Cooke sings “Bring It On Home to Me” as a duet with Lou Rawls and in the words of guitarist René Hall, “We were after The Soul Stirrers type thing, trying to create that flavor in a rhythm and blues recording.” Peter Guralnick, “They nearly got it all in one take. This was the closest Sam had come to the classic gospel give-and-take he had once created with Paul Foster (of the Soul Stirrers), and the only adjustment that he chose to make on the second, and final, take was the decision to use Lou alone as the echoing voice and dispense altogether with the background chorus. What comes through is a rare moment of undisguised emotion, an unambiguous embrace not just of cultural heritage but of an adult experience far removed from teen white fantasy.” “Bring It On Home to Me” returned to the pop charts during the 1960s with covers by The Animals and Eddie Floyd, and was a #1 country hit for Mickey Gilley in 1976.
101. “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” The Righteous Brothers. Songwriters: Phil Spector, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil; #1 pop/#2 R&B; 1964. Bobby Hatfield of The Righteous Brothers had a question for Phil Spector regarding his chorus only role in this song, “’What am I supposed to do while the big guy’s singing?” Spector replied, “’You can go to the bank.” Bill Medley had his own reservations, “At first, none of us thought it was a hit. When Phil played it for (songwriter) Barry Mann over the phone, Barry yelled, ‘Phil, Phil, you’ve got it on the wrong speed!’ He thought it was being mistakenly played at 33 1/3 instead of 45 rpm – and so did some of the distributors.” Despite those reservations “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” has been played on radio and television more than any other song in history. Barry Mann once reflected on Phil Spector’s contribution, “For the bridge, Phil experimented on the piano with a ‘Hang On Sloopy’ riff. It was brilliant. I built a melody on the riff while Cynthia shouted out lyrics: ‘Baby, baby, I get down on my knees for you’ and so on. (Spector) said he had tears in his eyes when he heard Cynthia’s line, ‘Something beautiful’s dying.” The booming ambience and Medley’s testifying deliver also had an impact on Brian Wilson, whose goal when writing “Good Vibrations” was to top this recording.