1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 130 to 121
You know the day destroys the night, night divides the day.
130. “California Girls,” The Beach Boys. Songwriters: Brian Wilson, Mike Love; #3 pop; 1965. No song better defines the 1960’s wind in your hair, sand in your toes West Coast Beach Boys vibe than “California Girls.” Brian Wilson, “(The song was) something I’m very proud of in a sense because it represents the Beach Boys really greatest record production we’ve ever made. It goes back to 1965 when I was sitting in my apartment, wondering how to write a song about girls, because I love girls. I mean, everybody loves girls. I was thinking about the music from cowboy movies. And I sat down and started playing it, bum-buhdeeda, bum-buhdeeda. I did that for about an hour. I got these chords going. Then I got this melody, it came pretty fast after that. ‘California Girls’ had that beat — it’s called a shuffle beat — and that’s definitely a Bach influence.” Rolling Stone magazine, “The first time Wilson took acid, he sat at the piano and wrote the brooding, beautiful opening bars to ‘California Girls.’ It was a breakthrough moment, Wilson has said, that led him to begin creating more complex, emotional music. Despite the teen-fantasy theme, the singing is tougher than earlier Beach Boys hits, with tightly wound harmonies and an aggressive lead vocal.” Wilson in 2007, ” It was special, I knew that would become the theme song of the Beach Boys. It’s an anthem. That song went to No. 3 in the country. I think if anything, that song speaks louder than ever. Everyone knows about California girls, and that song is the reason.”
129. “Workin’ Man Blues,” Merle Haggard. Songwriter: Merle Haggard; #1 country; 1969. “Workin’ Man Blues” is familiar territory for Haggard – a tribute to blue collar men, welfare avoiding working class stiffs who dream of adventure, yet keep their nose on the grindstone to pay for the necessities. Still, they might regularly visit a tavern on the way home. Author Marissa Moss, “Ushered in with bits of funky guitar, 1969’s ‘Workin’ Man Blues’ became an anthem for the bluesy, blue-collar Bakersfield Sound that Haggard would come to personify. And those quirky intro licks would emerge as downright iconic too, making it increasingly safe for traditional country crooners to play as much in rock & roll waters as they damn well pleased. When the track was released, Haggard was having anything but the blues — he’d been riding high after seven Number One songs, but he refused to forget the rough and tumble roots that birthed him, singing the anthem of a man with nine children, struggling to get by.” In concert, Haggard would often perform “Workin’ Man’s Blues” in the style of Bob Wills, giving lengthy solo spots to several instrumentalists. Bob Dylan referenced Haggard’s wage grinding anthem on his 2006 number “Workingman’s Blues #2.”
128. “You’re No Good,” Betty Everett. Songwriter: Clint Ballard, Jr.; #51 pop/#5 R&B; 1963. “You’re No Good,” penned by Clint Ballard who also wrote the Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders’ hit “Game of Love,” was the first charting single for Chicago singer Betty Everett who had her biggest hit the following year with “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss).” A famous 1970’s musician also had his recording debut on this single. Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire reflecting on his first session work as a drummer, “I was scared to death, but I agreed to do it. When I got down to the recording session it turned out to be for Vee-Jay Records – Betty Everett’s ‘You’re No Good.’” Dee Dee Warwick had released the original version of “You’re No Good,” produced by Lieber and Stoller, two months before Everett’s more soulful/proto-funk take raced up the R&B charts. Calvin Carter of Vee-Jay Records initially pitched the song to an unreceptive Dee Clark and later involved The Dells in an unusual way for the record. Carter, “The Dells were sitting there on the playback and just stomping their feet on this wooden platform to the beat of the song as it was playing back. I told the engineer, ‘Let’s do it again, and let’s mike those foot pounds, ‘cause it really gave it a hell of a beat.’ So we did that, and boom, a hit. Betty Everett with the Dells on feet.” Linda Ronstadt took her more histrionic reading of this defective man song to #1 on the pop charts in 1975.
127. “Penny Lane,” The Beatles. Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney; #1; 1967. Paul McCartney in May of 1966, “I like some of the things the Animals try to do like the song Eric Burdon wrote about places in Newcastle on the flip of one of their hits. I still want to write a song about the places in Liverpool where I was brought up. Places like The Docker’s Umbrella which is a long tunnel through which the dockers go to work on Merseyside, and Penny Lane near my old home.” Hunter Davies, “This is Paul, taking the subject of childhood memories, but treating it openly, straightforwardly, cheekily, cheerfully, cleverly–in fact very like Paul himself. No hangups here–his memories are fun: blue suburban skies, nice images, nice people. The musical arrangement is just as clever and rich as ‘Strawberry Fields’, with top class trumpets, flutes, and oboes.” Rolling Stone magazine on the arrangement, “With McCartney playing three piano parts, bass, harmonium and tambourine; his bandmates playing more piano, guitar, drums and a hand bell; and several horn sections, ‘Penny Lane’ built a detailed wall of sound that achieved the force of a rock song without sounding anything like one. Despite the aura of sunniness, McCartney did slip in a few sexual references, one to a fire engine and the other…, “We put in a joke or two: ‘Four of fish and finger pie.’ The women would never dare say that, except to themselves. Most people wouldn’t hear it, but ‘finger pie’ is just a nice little joke for the Liverpool lads who like a bit of smut.”
126. “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” The Byrds. Songwriter: Bob Dylan; #74 pop; 1968. The Byrds quickly moved from Rickenbacker jangle pop to psychedelic rock to a country based sound in the 1960s. By 1968, Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman were the only original members of the band; Gram Parsons was brought onboard and heavily contributed to the vision of the 1968 “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” album. The lead track on the album was the previously unreleased Bob Dylan track “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.” The lyrics are typically impenetrable, but the country folk groove is deathless. Author Ray Robertson, “The delightfully jolly ‘You Ain’t Going Nowhere’ is archetypal country-rock: a series of Dylan’s most Dylanesque non-sequiturs strung together and sung by McGuinn in his inimitable nasal with help from Gram (Parsons) and (Chris) Hillman on the familiarly Byrdsy chorus and with lots of Lloyd Green’s sweet pedal steel in the forefront.” The Byrds took “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” to #74 on the pop charts in 1968 (the critical legacy of the “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” album has been much more substantive than its commercial success), but a later version recorded by Chris Hillman and Roger McGuinn with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band went to #6 on the country charts in 1989. Whoo-ee, ride me high.
125. “Break On Through (To the Other Side),” The Doors. Songwriters: Jim Morrison, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Robby Krieger; Did Not Chart; 1967. The intro song on The Doors’ debut album set the tone for the band’s dark populism. Morrison, “I like ideas about the breaking away or overthrowing of established order. I am interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activity that seems to have no meaning.” Author John Kruth, “’Break On Through (To The Other Side)’ kicks off with Densmore’s hard-grooving Latin beat and an electric piano vamp reminiscent of Ray Charles’ ‘What I’d Say.’ If one song sums up the Doors’ take-no-prisoners philosophy, its ‘Break On Through.’ Like Welsh poet Dylan Thomas’ metaphorical manifesto ‘Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night’ or James Dean’s tortured teenager in ‘Rebel Without A Cause,’ the song stands as a testament against societal complacency, challenging you to forge your own individual path through life, no matter the risk or how emotionally messy it may get.” Guitarist Robby Krieger, “If it hadn’t been for Butterfield going electric, I probably wouldn’t have gone into rock & roll. I got the idea for the riff (on ‘Break on Through’) from the Paul Butterfield song ‘Shake Your Money-Maker,’ which was one of my favorites. We just changed the beat around.”
124. “Piece of My Heart,” Big Brother & the Holding Company. Songwriters: Jerry Ragovoy, Bert Berns; #12 pop; 1968. Bert Berns had the original concept for “Piece of My Heart” and asked Van Morrison to work with him to complete the song. After Morrison demurred, Jerry Ragovoy completed the composition and Erma Franklin recorded the original version as a deliberately paced R&B number. Big Brother and Janis Joplin brought “Piece of My Heart” into the world of blues influenced hard rock with vocals that border on primal scream therapy. Ellen Willis, “To sing of the blues is a way of transcending pain by confronting it with dignity, but Janis wanted nothing less than to scream it out of existence. Watching men groove on Janis, I began to appreciate the resentment many black people feel toward whites who are blues freaks. Janis sang out of her pain as a woman, and men dug it. Yet it was men who caused the pain, and if they stopped causing it they would not have her to dig. In a way, their adulation was the cruelest insult of all. And Janis’s response – to sing harder, get higher, be worshiped more – was rebellious, acquiescent, bewildered all at once.”
123. “19th Nervous Breakdown,” The Rolling Stones. Songwriters: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards; #2 pop; 1966. Jagger, “We had just done five weeks hectic work in the States and I said, ‘Dunno about you blokes, but I feel about ready for my nineteenth nervous breakdown.’ We seized on it at once as a likely song title. Then Keith and I worked on the number at intervals during the rest of the tour. Brian, Charlie and Bill egged us on – especially as they liked having the first two words starting with the same letter.” The target of Jagger’s withering criticism is believed to be his one time girlfriend, English model Chrissie Shrimpton. Dave Swanson, “Kicking off with a killer guitar riff, on loan from Bo Diddley (author – the riff is similar to the Bo Diddley song “Diddley Daddy”), ‘19th Nervous Breakdown’ features some of Mick Jagger’s most arresting lyrics riding atop a pile driving rhythm, making this one of the Rolling Stones’ best early numbers. The song charges along full throttle and makes its case in just three glorious minutes. From the hypnotic opening riff through to the fade out, which features some bass heroics from Bill Wyman, it’s an early era Stones gem and a half.”
122. “Stand!,” Sly & the Family Stone. Songwriter: Sly Stone; #22 pop/#14 R&B; 1969. Author Miles Marshall Lewis, “’Stand!’ was the most sophisticated arrangement Sly had laid on the public as a single till that point, the horns more subtle and nuanced than ever; it moves along at a measured pace underneath lyrics steadily becoming more brilliant. (‘You’ve been sitting much too long/There’s a permanent crease in your right and wrong.’) But at the end of the third ‘Stand!’ rave-up chorus at 2:17, the song totally shifts into something different. Faster, funkier. Once you’ve heard ‘Stand!’ a few times, the song becomes foreplay for the orgasm of a break at the end.” Guitarist Freddie Stone on the “Stand!” LP, “’Stand!’ was where we reached our peak as a group. ‘Stand!’ was the album that said this is what we’ve been wanting to tell you in the other albums, and we’re at a place now where we can, plus things were happening in our country at that time. We felt like we were taking a stand, and we wanted to encourage our fans to do the same, hence ‘Sing a Simple Song,’ and we wanted people to remember who they were with a song like ‘Everyday People.’”
121. “Harlem Shuffle,” Bob & Earl. Songwriters: Bob Relf, Earl Nelson; #44 pop/#3 R&B; 1963. Doo wop singer Earl Nelson was a member of The Hollywood Flames during the 1950s and he performed the lead vocals on their 1950’s Top Ten R&B single “Buzz-Buzz-Buzz.” Nelson partnered with Bobby Relf in 1962 and released the dance floor groove “Harlem Shuffle,” which was arranged by a young Barry White. The duo’s vocal style has drawn frequent comparisons to Sam and Dave and the song was based upon a Los Angles single titled “Slauson Shuffletime” by Round Robin. “Harlem Shuffle” just missed the U.S. Top 40 charts in 1963, but was a Top Ten U.K. hit in 1969. British author Rikky Rooksby, “Apparently, a simple two-chord change and a lyric about dancing, it is much greater than the sum of its parts. This has to be the creepiest dance record ever made. Like ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’, it’s a performance whose atmosphere hits you right in the gut every time. Keith Richards, “The original version had horns on it, straight ahead soul-disco style. It was probably the first disco record. It was still the early Sixties when they did it, but the sound and beat were very connectable to that early disco stuff.” Los Angeles rappers House of Pain sampled “Harlem Shuffle” for the intro of their 1992 Top Five pop hit “Jump Around.”