1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 260 to 251
Manic depression is touching my soul.
260. “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” The Rolling Stones. Songwriters: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards; #55 pop; 1967. American radio stations didn’t ascertain that Mick Jagger was singing about a girl having her period on “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” but the suggested groovin’ around fun of “Let’s Spend the Night Together” was too hot to handle. This controversy lead to Jagger’s eye rolling lyrical change to “let’s spend some time together” on the Ed Sullivan show and the piano hooked pop/rocker that went Top Five in the U.K. didn’t touch the U.S. Top 40. Andrew Loog Oldham on capitulating to Ed Sullivan to change the lyrics, “Eighteen months earlier we would have told Ed to go f—k himself and walked off the show. But now it’s show business and at this moment we’re at the top, we all have something to lose.”
259. “My True Story,” The Jive Five. Songwriters: Eugene Pitt, Oscar Waltzer, Joe Rene; #3 pop/#1 R&B; 1961. Eugene Pitt, lead singer of this Brooklyn doo wop unit, “My mother passed away when I was like thirteen going on fourteen and we kind of slid away from the church. I started going out and hanging around the corners. I could hold a note. I kept in Brooklyn and I started the group ‘The Jive Five.’ We went up to Beltone records and we sang a few songs. (Owner) Les Cahan said ‘You guys can really sing. I love those songs. Do you have any more?’ I said ‘We got a song we don’t like.’ He said ‘You don’t like it?’ I said ‘No, because it’s a true story.’ He said ‘Let me hear it’ and we sang ‘My True Story.’ He said ‘That’s a hit.’ That was a true story. It’s about me and my girlfriend. God Bless her. Phyllis Little was her name. I never used it in the song. Names have been changed to protect her and I. That’s what I put in it.’
258. “Till the End of the Day,” The Kinks. Songwriter: Ray Davies; #50 pop; 1965. “Till the End of the Day” was written in the original Kinks style – musically, power chord driven and lyrically addressing romantic infatuation. Michael Gallucci writing about Dave Davies’ influential guitar playing, “A combination of primal garage-rock thunder and British Invasion one-upmanship, Dave’s killer riffs defined a generation (or two or three) of budding guitar heroes. ‘Till the End of the Day’ features one of his best.” The song would later be given a pseudo-reggae arrangement, as documented on the 1980 live album “One for the Road.” According to the Nick Halsted book “You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks,” Ray Davies sought help from songwriter Mort Shuman to defeat a case of writer’s block. Shuman’s advice included to “lose the wife and kids” and to create a song based upon his favorite chords. Halsted, “Ray sang in the voice of a hip young man who feels resurrected every time the sun rises, a perfect Mod hungry for experience, having the time of his life. Dave’s strangled, high tension solo and he and Rasa’s (Ray Davie’s first wife, Rasa Davies) sunburst harmonies made this pop to blast its subject from bed.”
257. “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place,” Animals. Songwriters: Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil; #13 pop; 1965. Songwriter Barry Mann had cut a blue-eyed soul demo version of “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” a song he wanted to pitch to The Righteous Brothers. Fortuitously, Allen Klein gave the demo to The Animals’ manager Mickie Most and it’s difficult to imagine the material being as ferociously anguished in any other hands. Eric Burdon, “Whatever suited our attitude, we just bent to our own shape. The song became an anthem for different people – everybody at some time wants to get out of the situation they’re in.” The longing for a better life lyric particularly resonated with American soldiers in Vietnam and Bruce Springsteen once said, “That’s every song I’ve ever written. That’s all of them. I’m not kidding, either. That’s ‘Born to Run,’ ‘Born in the U.S.A.’” Burdon was no stranger to hardship, “I’m really still a child of the Forties. I still think about it a lot, about the repercussions of armed conflict. Until 1953 we had rationing. We couldn’t buy meat, we couldn’t buy pleasurable goods like cigarettes and sweets. I didn’t starve, but I knew what it was like standing in line waiting for foodstuffs.”
256. “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)” The Byrds. Songwriter: Pete Seeger; #1 pop; 1965. Not a driving instruction, Pete Seeger took a particularly poetic section from the Book of Ecclesiastes, attached a gorgeous melody to it, and gave the world one of its most beautiful folk rock songs. Originally recorded by The Limeliters in 1962, Roger McGuinn brought the number to the attention of The Byrds and the group scored a #1 pop hit with it in 1965. Pete Seeger, “I don’t read the Bible that often. I leaf through it occasionally and I’m amazed by the foolishness at times and the wisdom at other times. I got a letter from my publisher, and he says, ‘Pete, I can’t sell these protest songs you write.’ And I was angry. I pulled out this slip of paper in my pocket and improvised a melody to it in fifteen minutes. I got a letter from him the next week that said, ‘Wonderful! Just what I’m looking for.’ Within two months he’d sold it to the Limelighters and then to the Byrds. I liked the Byrds’ record very much, incidentally. All those clanging, steel guitars – they sound like bells.” Roger McGuinn, “It was a standard folk song, but I played it and it came out rock ‘n’ roll because that’s what I was programmed to do like a computer. I couldn’t do it as it was traditionally. It came out with that samba beat, and we thought it would make a good single.”
255. “My Favorite Things,” John Coltrane. Songwriters: Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II; Did Not Chart; 1961. The Rodgers and Hammerstein composition “My Favorite Things” is best known from its performance by Julie Andrews in the film “The Sound of Music.” Saxophonist John Coltrane used the melody to explore new concepts in modal jazz. From the documentary “The World According to John Coltrane,” “In 1960, Coltrane left Miles (Davis) and formed his own quartet to further explore modal playing, freer directions, and a growing Indian influence. They transformed ‘My Favorite Things,’ the cheerful populist song from ‘The Sound of Music,’ into a hypnotic eastern dervish dance. The recording was a hit and became Coltrane’s most requested tune and a bridge to broad public acceptance.” Peter Lavezzoli, “The recorded version retains a special freshness and vitality. Not only was it a radical reinvention of an American pop song, but it was another example of Coltrane’s development as a modal improviser. It was also the first indication that Coltrane was beginning to absorb the melodic and timbral aspects of Indian music into his work, not only in the repetitive drone like patterns of the bass, but in Coltrane’s tone on the soprano sax itself.” That is to say, this thirteen minute piece is a trip.
254. “I Feel Fine,” The Beatles. Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney; 1964. The music industry didn’t treat blues singer/guitarist Bobby Parker particularly well. Parker wrote and recorded the original version of “You Got What It Takes,” but when that song became a 1959 hit single for Marv Johnson, the writing credits magically changed to Berry Gordy, Gwen Gordy, and Billy Davis. Parker had a #51 pop hit in 1961 with a “What I’d Say” inspired blues rocker titled “Watch Your Step” and the primary riff for that song later appeared in both “I Feel Fine” by The Beatles and Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick.” In fact, The Beatles actually covered “Watch Your Step” during their live performances in the early ‘60s. George Harrison, “We were crossing Scotland in the back of an Austin Princess, singing ‘Matchbox’ (Carl Perkins) in three-part harmony. And it turned into ‘I Feel Fine.’ The guitar part was from Bobby Parker’s ‘Watch Your Step,’ just a bastardized version.” “I Feel Fine” is also famous for being the first rock record to include feedback. John Lennon, “That’s me completely. Including the guitar lick with the first feedback anywhere. I defy anybody to find a record… unless it is some old blues record from 1922… that uses feedback that way. So I claim it for the Beatles. Before Hendrix, before the Who, before anybody. The first feedback on record. George and I play the same bit on guitar together – that’s the bit that’ll set your feet a-tapping, as the reviews say. I suppose it has a bit of a country-and-western feel about it, but then so have a lot of our songs. The middle-eight is the most tuneful part, to me, because it’s a typical Beatles bit.”
253. “Girl from the North Country,” Bob Dylan. Songwriter: Bob Dylan; Did Not Chart; 1963. It is widely believed that “Girl from the North Country” was inspired by Dylan’s Hibbing, Minnesota high school girlfriend Echo Helstrom Casey, who passed away in January of 2018. Author Toby Thompson, “She was wild in a way that he wanted to be wild. She would go off with her girlfriends in the summer and hitchhike all over the place, have adventures. She was kind of an outsider and from the wrong side of the tracks, and (Dylan) was certainly attracted to that…In Hibbing, she was as bohemian as anybody in Greenwich Village.” While Dylan was known for his barbed-wire personality during the 1960s, the depthless empathy of “North Country” is one of his most moving songs.
252. “You’ve Really Got A Hold on Me,” The Miracles. Songwriter: Smokey Robinson; #8 pop/#1 R&B; 1962. During a recording session in 1980, Yoko Ono stated that John Lennon was sounding more like a Beatle than a solo artist. Lennon responded, “Actually I’m supposed to be Smokey Robinson at the moment, my dear, because The Beatles were always supposing that they were Smokey Robinson.” Smokey’s “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” took its gospel pop sound from Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” and immediate caught the listener’s attention with the opening salvo – “I don’t like you, but I love you.” Graham Vickers, “The Miracles’ ‘You Really Got a Hold on Me’ was perfect for The Beatles to cover. It had everything: memorable instrumental riffs; a great melody; a two-part harmony sung by Smokey Robinson and Bobby Rogers; and a hint of gospel-style drama in the ‘tighter’ interjections. Ostensibly an exercise in effortless pop, it was of course carefully crafted by Motown’s best personnel.”
251. “Manic Depression,” Jimi Hendrix. Songwriter: Jimi Hendrix: Did Not Chart; 1967. Hendrix, introducing this waltz time rocker live, “We’d like to do a frustrating kind of song for you. It’s called ‘Manic Depression’ – it’s a story ‘bout a cat wishin’ he could make love to music, instead of the same old everyday woman.” David Stubbs on Mitch Mitchell, “Playing with Hendrix was no second-fiddle indignity for Mitchell but a challenge to be risen to, time and again. On a track like ‘Manic Depression,’ it’s as if he’s about to be pitched off his drum seat over the top of the kit, propelled by the sheer tsunami of his drumming. He is almost the dominant force.” Mitchell’s work was inspired by the big band meets jazz sounds of Johnny Dankworth. Mitchell, “I’m just like any other drummer. I stole things from other drummers I could think of. ‘Manic Depression’ comes to mind. I stole that completely from, of all people, the drummer called Ronnie Stephenson. It came from John Dankworth’s ‘African Waltz.’ It’s just what fitted in. I heard this rhythm that Jimi was playing on guitar and I thought, ‘Oh yeah, it’s that kind of feel.’ So thank you Ronny Stephenson.”