1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 150 to 141

Written by | July 20, 2018 8:45 am | No Comments

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And his mama cries.

150.  “Green River,” Creedence Clearwater Revival.  Songwriter: John Fogerty; #2 pop; 1969.  John Fogerty returned to his swamp rock sound on “Green River,” utilizing a guitar sound that provided a tone more eerie than nostalgic.  Fogerty, “’Green River’ is really about this place where I used to go as a kid on Putah Creek, near Winters, California.  I went there with my family every year until I was ten.  Lot of happy memories there.  I learned how to swim there. There was a rope hanging from the tree.  Certainly dragonflies, bullfrogs.  The actual specific reference, Green River, I got from a soda pop-syrup label.  You used to be able to go into a soda fountain, and they had these bottles of flavored syrup.  My flavor was called Green River.  It was green, lime flavored, and they would empty some out over some ice and pour some of that soda water on it, and you had yourself a Green River.  The guitar riff, the musical hook, was how I imagined James Burton would’ve done it.  James would always find just the right part.  I wanted that bluesy rockabilly sound rather than a pretty melody like ‘Proud Mary.’  It’s almost as if, had I been lucky enough to be recording at Sun Records, this is what I would’ve come up with.”

149.  “Kicks,” Paul Revere & The Raiders.  Songwriters: Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil; #4 pop; 1966.   Mark Lindsay, “(Producer) Terry (Melcher) was looking for material for the group and he kinda sent out an APB (all points bulletin).  Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil sent him ‘Kicks.’ As a matter of fact, we had just cut ‘Steppin’ Stone’ and were ready to release it as a single, and then Terry got ‘Kicks’ in the mail and he played it for me, and he said, ‘What do you think?’ And I said, ‘Man, we gotta cut this NOW!.’”  This anti-drug message song had been rejected by The Animals, but became the first U.S. Top 5 pop hit for the unconventional Raiders.  Despite being out of step with the “turn on, tune in, drop out” message of the era, the sweet hooks and garage rock sound of “Kicks” has its own addictive powers.  Robert Christgau, “This was the one American garage band whose recorded output justified the ensuing mythos.”

148.  “I Forgot to Be Your Lover,” William Bell.  Songwriters: William Bell, Booker T. Jones; #45 pop/#10 R&B; 1968.  William Bell was considered a house regular for Stax as a songwriter and recording artist, but he never had a Top 40 hit for that label.  His only crossover success came with his 1976 Southern soul meet disco #10 pop hit “Trying to Love Two.”  His biggest hit for Stax was “I Forgot to Be Your Lover,” a regret filled performance that sounds like it came from a whiskey drenched lonely night.  Billy Idol retitled the song as “To Be a Lover” for a modern rock dance number in 1986 that resulted in a #6 pop hit.  Other covers of William Bell material include Linda Ronstadt’s 1973 version of “Everybody Loves a Winner,” Cream’s 1968 white boy “Born Under a Bad Sign,” and Carole King’s 2011 Stax meets Xmas reading of “Every Day Will Be Like a Holiday.”

147.  “The Wanderer,” Dion and the Belmonts.  Songwriter: Ernie Maresca; #2 pop; 1961.  Dion, “At its roots, it’s more than meets the eye. ‘The Wanderer’ is black music filtered through an Italian neighborhood that comes out with an attitude. It’s my perception of a lot of songs like ‘I’m A Man’ by Bo Diddley or ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ by Muddy Waters. But you know, ‘The Wanderer’ is really a sad song. A lot of guys don’t understand that. Bruce Springsteen was the only guy who accurately expressed what that song was about. It’s ‘I roam from town to town and go through life without a care, I’m as happy as a clown with my two fists of iron, but I’m going nowhere.’ In the fifties, you didn’t get that dark. It sounds like a lot of fun but it’s about going nowhere.  The other inspiration was a little bit of (Wilbert Harrison’s) ‘Kansas City,’ because that song was popular at the time and I loved it. The big inspiration was this kid in the neighborhood.  I think his name was Jackie Burns. He was a sailor and he had tattoos all over him, like he had ‘Flo’ on his left arm, ‘Mary’ on his right. Janie was the girl that he was going to be with the next night and then he put ‘Rosie’ on his chest and he had it covered up with a battleship. Every time he went out with a girl, he got a new tattoo. So the guy was worth a song!”

146.  “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You),” Aretha Franklin.  Songwriter: Ronnie Shannon; #9 pop/#1 R&B; 1967.  “I Never Loved a Man” was Aretha Franklin’s first Top Ten single and the start of her ascension as The Queen of Soul in 1967.  Drummer Roger Hawkins, “I’ve never experienced so much feeling coming from one human being.  When she hit that first chord, we knew everything was going to be all right.”   Aretha’s then husband/manager Ted White, “I took (songwriter) Ronnie Shannon to my building, and we talked about what kind of material I wanted for Aretha.  He went upstairs and about two hours later came down with ‘I Never Loved a Man.’”  The Muscle Shoals musicians didn’t have a hook for the song, until Spooner Oldham developed the keyboard pattern for the intro.  Oldham, “The song didn’t have a specific meter, really.  So the band just kind of looked at each other like, ‘Well, what do we do?  We were all off in our little worlds trying to figure out a rhythm or a riff.  I just happened to be the one to formulate this little pattern.”  Dan Penn, “From there it just sparkles and shines.  After everybody heard her sing, ‘You’re no good, heartbreaker,’ she had five instant fans.  She was getting all the respect one person can get from those cats.”

145.  “In the Ghetto,” Elvis Presley.  Songwriter: Mac Davis; #3 pop/#60 country; 1969.  “In the Ghetto” was a major comeback hit for Elvis, his first Top Ten pop single since 1965’s “Crying in the Chapel.”  Songwriter Mac Davis, “I grew up with a little kid whose daddy worked with my daddy, and he was a black kid.  We were good buddies, 5 or 6 years old.  I remember him being one of my best buddies.  But he lived in a part of town, and I couldn’t figure out why they had to live where they lived, and we got to live where we lived.  We didn’t have a lot of money, but we didn’t have broken bottles every six inches.  It was a dirt street ghetto where he lived.”  Elvis reportedly had reservations about the generational poverty song, since Colonel Parker had advised him to always avoid politics and cultural issues.  However, the palpable empathy of Elvis was as important as the song’s message. Rock critic Jason Ankeny, “There’s no mistaking Elvis’ deep connection to the song’s tale of poverty and desperation — after all, it could have been his story had things worked out any differently.”  “In the Ghetto” has been covered by Nick Cave, Bobby Bland, Candi Station, Marilyn Manson, Dolly Parton, and Merle Haggard, among others.

144.  “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” Otis Redding.  Songwriters: Steve Cropper, Otis Redding; #1 pop/#1 R&B; 1968.  Steve Cropper, “(Otis) had been at San Francisco playing The Fillmore, and he was staying at a boathouse (in Sausalito, across the bay from San Francisco), which is where he got the idea of the ship coming in. That’s about all he had: ‘I watch the ships come in and I watch them roll away again.’ I took that and finished the lyrics. If you listen to the songs I wrote with Otis, most of the lyrics are about him. He didn’t usually write about himself, but I did. ‘Mr. Pitiful,’ ‘Sad Song Fa-Fa,’ they were about Otis’s life. ‘Dock of The Bay’ was exactly that: ‘I left my home in Georgia, headed for the Frisco Bay’ was all about him going out to San Francisco to perform.” Robert Gordon, “’Dock of the Bay’ has none of the trademark Otis Redding characteristics. There’s not the rambunctious energy, there’s no growling vocals, it’s not a ballad that aches.  Rather, it’s introspective and contemplative, a sudden synthesis of the Beatles and Bob Dylan by a soul singer.  It conveys a new worldliness, an ability to present the ultimate sophistication, which is simplicity.  It’s a leap in the way that Otis’s first session was, when he went from imitating Little Richard to establishing his own ballad style, walking through a door he hadn’t previously the confidence, nor the artistic development, to enter.”

143.  “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” The Rolling Stones.  Songwriters: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards; #42 pop; released in 1969, peaked on charts in 1973.  Mick Jagger, “’You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ was something I just played on the acoustic guitar—one of those bedroom songs. It proved to be quite difficult to record because Charlie couldn’t play the groove and so Jimmy Miller had to play the drums. I’d also had this idea of having a choir, probably a gospel choir, on the track, but there wasn’t one around at that point. Jack Nitzsche, or somebody, said that we could get the London Bach Choir and we said, ‘That will be a laugh.’  It’s a good song, even if I say so myself. It’s got a very sing-along chorus, and people can identify with it: No one gets what they always want. It’s got a very good melody. It’s got very good orchestral touches that Jack Nitzsche helped with. So it’s got all the ingredients.”  Keith Richards, “’You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ was basically all Mick. He’d written it on guitar, it was like a folk song at the time. I had to come up with a rhythm, an idea. I’d float it around the band and just play the sequence here and there.”  Marianne Faithfull, “Obviously I also contributed to ‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ and ‘Dear Doctor; – junk songs.  I know they used me as a muse for those tough drug songs. I knew I was being used but it was for a worthy cause.”

142.  “Mama Tried,” Merle Haggard.  Songwriter: Merle Haggard; #1 country; 1968.  One of Haggard’s signature songs, “Mama Tried” empathizes with a caring mother whose criminal son is living “life without parole.”  While not strictly autobiographical (Merle never had a life sentence), Haggard has described “Mama Tried” as the song that moved him the most and said he thought about his own mother every time he performed it.  Haggard, “Instead of doing life in prison I was doing one to fifteen years.  I just couldn’t get that to rhyme.”  Author David Cantwell, “’Mama Tried’ doesn’t sound rueful at all, not with James Burton kicking off the record with a Dobro lick that skips in breathless anticipation toward whatever adventure the open road holds in store, not with Roy Nichols squeezing off electrical sparks that sound like Merle’s once more chasing down a freight train and shouting ‘Wait for me.’”

141.  “Shakin’ All Over,” Johnny Kidd and the Pirates.  Songwriter: Johnny Kidd, Guy Robinson; Did Not Chart; 1960.  Johnny Kidd and the Pirates formed in London in 1959 and released one of the U.K.’s most memorable pre-Beatles rock ‘n’ roll singles with 1960’s “Shakin’ All Over.”  Johnny Kidd, “When I was going round with a bunch of lads and we happened to see a girl who was a real sizzler, we used to say that she gave us ‘quivers down the membranes.’  It was a standard saying with us referring to any attractive girl.  I can honestly say that it was this more than anything that inspired me to write ‘Shakin’ All Over.’”  Needing a b-side to their recording of the standard “Yes Sir That’s My Baby,” “Shakin’ All Over” was penned and recorded in less than a day.  Richie Unterberger on its impact,”’Shakin’ All Over’ featured a more menacing guitar sound than had ever graced a British release.  Particularly striking was the opening descending run, just a run down a basic scale, but done with a sharp yet menacing tone, like a hand running over a razor blade.  The riff was repeated at various dramatic pauses in the track, and played not by Kidd or one of the Pirates but by session guitarist Joe Moretti.  After that riff opens the record unaccompanied, a basic grinding ominous guitar pattern kicks in, like a jungle tussle slowed to a crawl as a predictor circles around its victim.  When Johnny Kidd sings the lyric about quivering and shaking when his girl draws close, he sounds like he’s trembling more or less equally with sexual excitement and fear of being devoured.”  Cover versions resulted in a 1965 #1 hit in Canada by The Guess Who and a 1965 #1 hit in Australia by Norman Rowe.

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