1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 180 to 171
179. “Crazy,” Patsy Cline. Songwriter: Willie Nelson; #9 pop/#2 country; 1961. Songwriter Willie Nelson, “I enjoyed fooling around with the phrasing, but it made my sound noncommercial for all those Nashville ears who were listening for the same old stuff and misunderstood anything original. I had problems immediately with my song ‘Crazy’ because it had four or five chords in it. Not that ‘Crazy’ is real complicated; it just wasn’t your basic three-chord country hillbilly song.” Depending on which source you believe, either Nelson pitched “Crazy” to Charlie Dick, Patsy Cline’s husband, or songwriting peer Hank Cochran pitched the song to producer Owen Bradley. (Billy Walker had turned down the chance to cut it, noting it was a “girl’s song.”) Cline heard no potential in Nelson’s demo version, but Bradley reshaped the music, giving it a sophisticated arrangement for the genre. Author Paul Kingsbury, “Patsy had incredible vocal technique. She was a very powerful singer and very versatile, capable of growling or purring, vaulting octaves with ease. But beyond just the raw technique, Patsy was able to give you a window into her soul. You feel that you’re hearing exactly how Patsy feels, almost as if she were a neighbor coming over for a cup of coffee and spilling her heart out to you.” Nelson has named this recording as his favorite cover version of one of his songs.
178. “Promised Land,” Chuck Berry. Songwriter: Chuck Berry; #41 pop/#41 R&B; 1964. Chuck Berry often wrote about racial issues in ways that could be easily overlooked by casual listeners. On the surface, “Promised Land” is an updated travelogue rewrite of “Wabash Cannonball” – a song about a physical trek from Virginia to California, where Los Angeles provides the ultimate opportunity for the American dream to come true. However, on deeper inspection, the lyrics are about the 1961 Freedom Riders, a group of civil rights activists who made a series of bus trips to protest segregation in interstate bus terminals. The cities listed replicate the travels of the Freedom Riders and notes the conflicts that were part of the journey (the Freedom Riders were attacked by a mob when they entered a bus station in Montgomery, Alabama). “Promised Land” was a #41 pop hit for Berry in 1964 and a #14 pop hit for Elvis, the ultimate poor boy made good, in 1974. Author W.T. Lhamon, Jr., “’Promised Land’ smuggled black reality and black anxieties into the smiling heart of America, grafting them there so artfully that most listeners never dreamed Berry’s incubus had visited them.”
177. “Let Her Dance,” Bobby Fuller Four. Songwriter: Bobby Fuller; Did Not Chart; 1965. “Let Her Dance” was an update/rewrite of an earlier Bobby Fuller song titled “Keep on Dancing.” Producer Bob Keane changed the tempo in his attempt to make Fuller’s material sound less like Buddy Holly. Former Fuller manager Rick Stone reflecting on the promotion and distribution challenges, “’Let Her Dance’ we all felt was the Bobby Fuller Four’s best recording but Bob Keane (who ran Fuller’s label Del-Fi Records) had leased the recording to Liberty and they let it die – didn’t promote it. When we were on the east coast in the spring of 1966, all we heard were complaints about how bad Del-Fi was shipping the records out. DJ’s didn’t want to play ‘Love’s Made a Fool of You’ because the kids couldn’t find the singles to buy in any of the record stores!” “Let Her Dance” has been resurrected with covers by Phil Seymour, Marshall Crenshaw, and Los Super Seven. Fuller died under mysterious circumstance in 1966, but his music is worth a deep dive. Bill Holdship, “Bobby Fuller is probably the ultimate symbol of rock ‘n’ roll ‘innocence,’ dying (literally) amidst the decadence of Hollywood. After all, it was only a short time after his death that the Sunset Strip became a psychedelic rock Mecca – and nothing, least of all rock ‘n’ roll ‘innocence,’ was ever the same again. What’s more, it became crystal clear – at least to me – that Bobby Fuller was the actual missing link between Buddy Holly and the psychedelic swamp rock of Creedence Clearwater Revival.”
176. “I Was Made to Love Her,” Stevie Wonder. Songwriters: Stevie Wonder, Lula Mae Hardaway, Henry Cosby, Sylvia Moy; #2 pop/#1 R&B; 1967. Stevie Wonder’s born in Little Rock/childhood sweetheart song was lyrically inspired by his first romantic infatuation. Producer Henry Cosby reportedly took Wonder to see a local Baptist minister’s service to replicate some of the intensity and cadences from the pulpit to the recording studio. Wonder, “She was my third girlfriend but my first love. I used to call Angie up and, like, we would talk and say, ‘I love you, I love you,’ and we’d talk and we’d both go to sleep on the phone. And this was like from Detroit to California, right? You know, mother said, ‘’Boy, what you doing – get off the phone!’ Wonder would later recall becoming “really hoarse” while recording the vocals, which gives his performance both a sense of youthful exuberance and a sense of coming of age intensity. Los Angeles session musician Carole Kaye has claimed that she played on the song, but Motown insiders have a different recollection. Henry Cosby, “Fifty per cent of ‘I Was Made to Love Her’ was James Jamerson’s bass line. No one else played bass like that.”
175. “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” Fly and the Family Stone. Songwriter: Sly Stone; #2 pop/#3 R&B; 1969. Author Miles Marshall Lewis, “The week after Woodstock, ‘Hot Fun in the Summertime’ entered the top 100 and speedily shot to number two for two weeks, Sly and the Family Stone’s biggest hit since ‘Everyday People.’ The languid, melancholy tone of the song perfectly captures the lazy haziness of summer. Beginning with simple piano trills, Sly jumps right into the lyrics: ‘End of the spring and here she comes back…’ It’s the first Sly and the Family Stone song with sentimental string orchestration, a universally appealing subject, instantly nostalgic. The trademark throaty growl Sly would later use time and again debuted here.” The line “I ‘cloud nine’ when I want to” can be viewed as either a salute to the Temptations or as recognition that Motown producer Norman Whitfield had copied Sly’s groundbreaking psychedelic soul sound.
174. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell. Songwriters: Nickolas Ashford, Valerie Simpson; #19 pop/#3 R&B; 1967. Valerie Simpson, “Harvey Fuqua and Johnny Bristol were producing Marvin and Tammi, and they asked us for material. We sent them ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.’ It’s funny because Dusty Springfield had just come to town (looking) for material. We played that song for her but wouldn’t give it to her, because we felt like that could be our entree to Motown. Nick called it the ‘golden egg.’ We knew that it was a hit. Sometimes you have real gut feeling about something. Then it becomes a question of what do you do with it, and who can carry it the furthest, and you start designing how you can get it to as many people as possible.” Drummer Uriel Jones on the recording process, “Ashford and Simpson had written the song and they always came to the studio with charts. They were one of the few producers and writers who had full charts and made us work from them. They knew 95 percent what they wanted to hear. Johnny Bristol and Harvey Fuqua were the actual producers in charge of the recording. We did the rhythm track first, then they put the horns on second. Then they recorded Tammi Terrell’s vocal, then they did Marvin Gaye’s next. Each vocal was done separately, the singer in the studio with the producer on their own, and they put it all together at the end. You know, I never heard the finished song until I switched on the radio and it was playing.” Author Donald Guarisco, “Gaye and Terrell’s recording is a classic Motown combination of pop sweetness and soulful fire: the stately strings give the song an ear-catching sweetness but the hard-hitting drumwork and the pulsing, staccato bass line maintain a quick, driving pace. However, the true hook of ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ is the impressive chemistry between Gaye and Terrell: she balances his gospel grit during the verses with a sweet alto tone but he steps back to let her voice soar over his during the show-stopping chorus.”
173. “Gimme Some Lovin’,” The Spencer Davis Group. Songwriters: Steve Winwood, Spencer Davism, Muff Winwood; #7 pop; 1966. Steve Winwood in 1988, “’Gimme Some Lovin’ is obviously the bane of my life in some ways, because I’ve got to do it all the time. But now you actually have a lot more people who have heard ‘Higher Love’ than ‘Gimme Some Lovin’.’ Or, often, people have heard ‘Gimme Some Lovin” and don’t know it’s me. That happens a lot. They say, ‘Why are you covering that Blues Brothers song?’” “Gimme Some Lovin’” sounds like a U.S. Southern soul song for a reason, the intro riff was copied from a 1966 single by Stax artist Homer Banks titled “(Ain’t That) a Lot of Love.” Spencer Davis, “Muff (Winwood) had a bass riff from an old Homer Banks record. Steve played a Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ kind of thing and said to me to play minor (chords), not majors.” Muff Winwood, “Steve had been singing ‘gimme some lovin’,’ just yelling anything, so that became the title. It took about an hour to write, then down to the pub for lunch.” Despite going Top Ten in the U.S. and U.K. with “Gimme Some Lovin’” and the followup single “I’m a Man,” Winwood left The Spencer Davis Group in 1967 to direct (my apologies) Traffic.
172. “Having a Party,” Sam Cooke. Songwriter: Sam Cooke; #17 pop/#4 R&B; 1962. Sam Cooke’s “Having a Party” is an oddly wistful song, he sings as though he’s more worried about the social engagement ending than enjoying the moment. The recording was no slapdash affair as conductor René Hall hired an eighteen piece band for the occasion, including six violins, two violas, and two cellos. Peter Guralnick, “They overdubbed the additional voices and hand claps of just about everyone in the room, and the music swelled and took on an almost anthemic quality – it had all the uncalculated fervor that defines a group of people who have lived through good times and bad times together and cherish the good times despite the near-certain knowledge that they are not going to last.” Music historian Mark Deming, “’Having a Party’ was, like many of Cooke’s hits, a savvy bit of record-making in which the rough surfaces of his deeply soulful vocal style were buffed smooth with a sophisticated pop-styled production. A Duane Eddy-esque guitar line and a shimmering string arrangement kick off the record, and as Cooke’s always-stunning vocals sink in, you can’t help but wonder if he happened to wander into the squarest party in town, with Coca-Cola and popcorn the most exotic refreshments being offered and AM radio setting the scene. But as innocuous as the material may be, Cooke’s performance is nothing short of sublime, and as he calls out to the DJ, he manages to communicate both joy and urgency, calling up the sound of a man lost in the music and not wanting the spell to end.
171. “Shangri-La,” The Kinks. Songwriter: Ray Davies; Did Not Chart; 1969. A centerpiece of The Kinks’ 1969 album “Arthur: (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire),” “Shangri-La’ is an epic social commentary about confusing material contentment with happiness and accepting the limitations/mediocrity of middle class life because no other options exist. The music is suitably claustrophobic and the lyrics conclude, “You need not worry, you need not care/You can’t go anywhere.” Dave Davies, “Ray was writing fantastic, sensitive words that were so relevant to what was going on – better than any politician. I was really surprised at the response we got to ‘Shangri-La,’ because I thought it was going to be a massive, massive hit.” Ray Davies thought his intent was misunderstood, telling John Mendelssohn in 1970, “They think we’re running people down when in fact we’re just trying to state a few little things – if anything, taking the side of those people. That’s the way I always do it. I always try to take the side of the person I’m writing about. But a lot of people still see it as us taking a swipe at them.”