1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 120 to 111
119. “Got to Get You into My Life,” The Beatles. Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney; #7 pop; Released in 1966, peaked on the charts in 1976. While the horns might sound like a hat tip to Motown or Stax, lyrically this is Paul McCartney’s paean to the demon weed. Macca, “I’d been a rather straight working class lad, but when we started to get into pot it seemed to me to be quite uplifting. It didn’t seem to have too many side effects like alcohol or some of the other stuff, which I pretty much kept off. I kind of liked marijuana and to me it seemed it was mind-expanding, literally mind-expanding. So ‘Got to Get You into My Life’ is really a song about that. It’s not to a person, it’s actually about pot…like someone else might write an ode to chocolate or a good claret.” The song entered the Top Ten of the U.S. pop charts a decade after it was released and six years after the Beatles had disbanded.
118. “Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again,” Bob Dylan. Songwriter: Bob Dylan; Did Not Chart; 1966. Author Jim Beviglia, “’Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again’ is an elegant track, loping about at a mid-tempo pace with great spacing between the instruments so that every one of Dylan’s words get desired attention. The guitars just prance about, bouncing off Al Kooper’s chirping organ, without any force behind them. The music is not the least bit abrasive; it’s not even aggressive. That leaves the lyrics to do the heavy lifting in terms of innovation and evocation, and the words are up to that task. The bizarre tenor of the words in songs like this have a way of emphasizing the intended emotions far better than a straightforward take might do. In this case, the narrator gets buffeted about between these goofy characters and absurd situations ‘til his activities become almost comforting. This isn’t a blues that tears out your heart; it’s one that leaves you scratching your head. It’s not sorrow that Dylan wants to evoke here; its haplessness, and he accomplishes this via the surreal tone.”
117. “On Broadway,” The Drifters. Songwriters: Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller; #9 pop/#7 R&B; 1963. “On Broadway” was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and was originally performed from a perspective of a female assessing her bright lights, big city competition. The Cookies recorded “On Broadway” as a shuffle in 1962 and the song was an album track for The Crystals later that year. Leiber and Stoller later re-wrote the lyrics from the perspective of a man with, perhaps, more determination than self-awareness. Author Joel Selvin, “Leiber and Stoller worked on the Mann-Weil song, writing the bridge, straightening out the lyric. Stoller messed around with the key and changed the finish of the crucial opening line, going up instead of down on the word ‘Broadway.’ On their way to lunch before the session, they ran into Phil Spector on the sidewalk and invited him. He showed up at the studio with his guitar and ended up playing the solo on the instrumental break.” Rock critic Ritchie Unterberger, “Rudy Lewis’s lead vocal on the verses projects the right balance of defiance, resentment, and ambition in his tale of a guy who’s poor and deprived now, but determined to make it on Broadway. The Drifters’ contributions as backing vocals might be unobtrusive, but they’re vital, softly murmuring “on broadway” often after Lewis sings that phrase, as if they’re both acting as his subconscious voice, and mimicking the grandeur of the flashing neon lights of New York’s most glamorous strip. The song keeps changing keys upward with each subsequent verse, a convenient device perhaps, but quite effective in making the track progressively tenser.” Cover to discover – Neil Young’s 1980’s despairing crack addict reading.
116. “Wild Thing,” The Troggs. Songwriter: Chip Taylor; #1 pop; 1966. It’s difficult to imagine a more rudimentary and effective rock ‘n’ roll anthem than “Wild Thing.” Songwriter Chip Taylor, “’Wild Thing’ came out in a matter of minutes. The pauses and the hesitations are a result of not knowing what I was going to do next. I was on the floor laughing when I was through.” New York rockers The Wild Ones performed the original version of “Wild Thing,” using a blues rock arrangement that featured a primitive harmonica sound. The Troggs counterbalanced their stomp and crunch with an ocarina solo. The band had fifteen minutes at the end of a recording session to complete the song, which they hurried through even though Troggs lead singer Reg Presley thought the lyrics were ridiculous. Lester Bangs in 1971, “The Troggs eschewed all trendy gimmicks and kinky theatrics, delivered their proposition with sidewalk directness and absolute sincerity, and came out for any ear that half listens the most powerfully lust-driven outfit in white rock ‘n’ roll, then or now.” Speaking of theatrics, Jimi Hendrix performance of “Wild Thing” at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival famously climaxed with Hendrix setting his guitar on fire then repeatedly smashing his instrument into the stage.
115. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” The Beach Boys. Songwriters: Brian Wilson, Tony Asher, Mike Love; #8 pop; 1966. Songwriter Tony Asher, “Brian (Wilson) was constantly looking for topics that kids could relate to. Even though he was dealing in the most advanced score-charts and arrangements, he was still incredibly conscious of this commercial thing. This absolute need to relate.” Rock critic Nick Kent, “’Wouldn’t It Be Nice,’ the song that would lead off their finished creation (‘Pet Sounds’), was little more than a sophisticated play-off on the old ‘We’re too young to get married’ teen angst dialogue. But this time Brian Wilson was out to transform the subject’s sappy sentiments with a God-like grace so that the song would become a veritable pocket symphony; two minutes of limpid harps imitating teenage heartstrings in a tug of love, growling horns, joyous little bells, cascading strings, harmonies so complex they seemed to have more in common with a Catholic Mass than any cocktail lounge a cappella doo-wop – in short, a fantasy island of the most exquisite musical longing imaginable.” Author Joe Tangari, “’Wouldn’t It Be Nice’ has everything you love about the Beach Boys in spades: the Wall of Sound Jr., the scarcely believable harmonies, the dreamtime prosody, and the imaginative instrumentation. It’s the ultimate starry-eyed teenage symphony to God, and it perfectly captures the earnest devotion we only seem capable of in a small window of years.”
114. “Get Off of My Cloud,” Rolling Stones. Songwriters: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards; #1 pop; 1965. When it came time to release a follow-up single to “Satisfaction,” The Rolling Stones responded with another #1 U.S. and U.K pop hit. Mick Jagger, “That was Keith’s melody and my lyrics. It’s a stop-bugging-me, post-teenage-alienation song. The grown-up world was a very ordered society in the ’60s, and I was coming out of it. America was even more ordered than anywhere else. I found it was a very restrictive society in thought and behavior and dress.” Author Andrew Grant Jackson (a very presidential sounding name, no?), “The song was a prime example of how to remake your smash hit the same but different. The ‘hey-hey’ hook from ‘Satisfaction’ was recycled for crowd sing-alongs, and Charlie Watts’ instantly recognizable drumbeat set the kids dancing to the proto-Hustle of the Chez Vous Walk (also known as the Marvin Gaye Walk). Keith Richards’ distorted guitar snarls in aggravation at being hounded by the record label to top ‘Satisfaction” just eight weeks later. (Brian) Jones simplifies the ‘Last Time’ riff into the stoned shrug of ‘What, me worry?’” Competitor Neil Young’s assessment, “’Satisfaction’ was a great record. ‘Get Off of My Cloud,’ even better record. Looser, less of a hit. More of a reckless abandon.”
113. “The Leader of the Pack,” The Shangri-Las. Songwriters: George “Shadow” Morton, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich; #1 pop/#8 R&B; 1964. The Shangri-Las peaked commercially with this is-she-really-going-out-with-him teen tragedy number. Author Iain Aitch, “’Leader of the Pack’ – an extraordinary three-minute melodrama about death, lost love and motorcycles, which was banned by the BBC – became one of the most talked about and distinctive singles of all time. The heartfelt, plaintive (and distinctively nasal-sounding) lead vocal was recorded when Mary Weiss was 15, not even old enough to sign her own name on her recording contract.” Mary Weiss, “I put a lot of my own pain into that song. I don’t think teenage years are all that rosy for a lot of people – they certainly weren’t for me. They are the most confusing time of people’s lives and there is a tremendous dark side to the record, which I think teenagers related to. The studio was a great place to let the pain out.” Author Peter Buckley, noting that strengths can also be weaknesses, “The Shangri-Las brought together all the strands of girl groups – the assertiveness, the female solidarity, the love of bad boys, the heightened emotion – in such style that there didn’t seem anywhere else to go.”
112. “I Got You (I Feel Good),” James Brown. Songwriter: James Brown; #3 pop/#1 R&B; 1965. “I Got You” evolved from a song that James Brown wrote for Yvonne Fair in 1962 titled “I Found You” – the lyrics and rhythmic structure are similar, but lack the percussive funk sound that became Brown’s niche. Public Enemy’s Chuck D on Brown’s influence, “James presented the best grooves. To this day, there has been no one near as funky. No one’s coming even close. Whenever I see a frozen pond, I take myself to 1967 when us kids did the James Brown ‘I Feel Good’ dance on any patch of ice.” Melvin Parker, the brother of saxophone player Maceo Parker, on playing drums on Brown’s biggest pop hit, “I was just trying to be different. Clean, funky and different. That’s why I did a rim click, because a rim click is always clean.” Maceo Parker, who reportedly once pulled a gun on his temperamental boss, knew that Brown didn’t always feel good. Parker, “It didn’t matter where I was, I was always strapped. Because sometimes James had good days; sometimes he had bad days. I didn’t want to be a part of the bad days.”’
111. “Suspicious Minds,” Elvis Presley. Songwriter: Mark James; #1 pop; 1969. Songwriter Mark James, “Late one night, fooling around on my Fender guitar and using my Hammond organ pedals for a bass line, I came up with a catchy melody. I was married to my first wife then but still had feelings for my childhood sweetheart, who was married back in Houston. My wife suspected I had those feelings, so it was a confusing time for me. I felt as though all three of us were all caught in this trap that we couldn’t walk out of.” James recorded the song in 1968 for Sceptor Records, but his version failed to chart. Chips Moman on pitching the song to Elvis, “He was crazy about it. He wanted to hear the song over and over again, and learned it on the spot.” Author Bill Janovich, “After years of wasting his talents on B-movie soundtrack filler, a bellowing, mature-voiced Presley unleashes his full power on this watershed ballad. It alternately rages and simmers, from a driving four-on-the-floor chorus to a slow-burning, halting-tempo bridge that feels like a completely different song. It is on this Stax-like soul section — after the anguished frustration expressed in the verses — that Presley testifies like Otis Redding, beseeching his lover not to ‘let a good thing die,’ as if down on one knee. The theme is summed up in the song’s title: two adult lovers letting paranoia and mistrust drive a wedge between them.” The similarities between the song and Presley’s rocky marriage were impossible to ignore.