1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 320 to 311
Everybody has got their own Mr. Jones.
320. “The Cold Hard Facts of Life,” Porter Wagoner. Songwriter: Bill Anderson; #2 country; 1967. West Plains, Missouri native Porter Wagoner started his career at his local butcher shop – when he wasn’t cutting meat there, he was performing for customers or doing remote radio broadcasts. Red Foley gave Wagoner a slot on his Ozark Jamboree radio program, based in Springfield, Missouri, and he became a country star in the mid-1950s. The narrator on “The Cold Hard Facts of Life” returns from a business trip a day early, dreaming of romance with his wife (which rhymes with “life” which rhymes with “knife”). He discovers that she has been cheating on him, downs some liquid courage, goes on a stabbing spree, and winds up in prison. He ultimately remains more proud than remorseful about teaching the adulterers the cold hard facts of life.
319. “Walk on By,” Leroy Van Dyke. Songwriters: Kendall Hayes, Gary Walker; #5 pop/#1 country; 1961. University of Missouri journalism major Leroy Van Dyke penned “The Auctioneer” while serving in the Korean War. Recorded for $100, “The Auctioneer” went to #9 on the country charts in 1956. Van Dyke didn’t hit the airwaves again until 1961’s secret love affair/cheating number “Walk on By” – it’s irresistible vocal hook resulted in nineteen weeks at #1 on the country charts and a #5 pop hit. Van Dyke on his career record, “When I first heard it, it wasn’t finished. There was only one verse and about a half of a chorus. The publisher took it home the night after I found it, and wrote the second verse. I changed some of the words, and re-arranged the chorus, and that’s what the version you hear on the radio today. ‘Walk on By’ was named by Billboard magazine as the biggest country single of all time, based on plays, number of sales and number of weeks in the charts.”
318. “Here Comes the Sun,” The Beatles. Songwriter: George Harrison; Did Not Chart; 1969. George Harrison, “’Here Comes the Sun’ was written at the time when Apple was getting like school, where we had to go and be businessmen: ‘Sign this’ and ‘sign that.’ Anyway, it seems as if winter in England goes on forever, by the time spring comes you really deserve it. So one day I decided I was going to sag off Apple and I went over to Eric Clapton’s house. The relief of not having to go see all those dopey accountants was wonderful, and I walked around the garden with one of Eric’s acoustic guitars and wrote ‘Here Comes the Sun.’” Eric Clapton, “It was a beautiful spring morning, and we were sitting at the top of a big field at the bottom of the garden; We had our guitars and were just strumming away when he started singing ‘de da de de, it’s been a long cold lonely winter,’ and bit by bit he fleshed it out, until it was time for lunch.” Author Greg Kot, “The guitar lick he plays behind the mantra of ‘Sun, sun, sun’ is classic Harrison, a signature moment every bit as great as his opening chord in ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’”
317. “Street Fighting Man,” The Rolling Stones. Songwriters: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards; #48 pop; 1968. Dissatisfaction among college students in France was slowly growing in 1968 and police overreaction to organized dissent created a short term national crises. The Stones weren’t known as a political act, but Jagger found inspiration in the chaos. Jagger, “There was all this violence going on. I mean, they almost toppled the government in France; de Gaulle went into this complete funk, as he had in the past, and he went and sort of locked himself in his house in the country. And so the government was almost inactive. And the French riot police were amazing.” (Jagger may not have the perspective of, let’s say, an actual history professor on this era). Keith Richards was, unsurprisingly, more concerned about sonics, “There’s no electric guitar parts in it. Even the high-end lead part was through a cassette player with no limiter. Just distortion. Just two acoustics, played right into the mike, and hit very hard. There’s a sitar in the back, too. That would give the effect of the high notes on the guitar. And Charlie was playing his little 1930s drummer’s practice kit.”
316. “Feeling Good,” Nina Simone. Songwriters: Anthony Newley, Leslie Bricusse; Did Not Chart; 1965. Anthony Newley was an English actor and pop star who formed a songwriting partnership with Leslie Bricusse, penning the music for the 1971 film “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” The team also wrote the 1960’s musicals/stage productions “Stop the World – I Want to Get Off” and “The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd,” which included their composition “Feeling Good.” A somewhat operatic version of “Feeling Good” was recording for the Broadway cast album by Gilbert Price, who was managed by Andrew Stroud, Nina Simone’s husband and manager. Simone gives a blues meets Broadway interpretation of “Feeling Good,” but there’s always the subtext with Simone. Author Susan Hayward, “’Feeling Good,’ as Simone sings it, is an ironic hymn to personal freedom with all the slave tonalities one cares to read into it.”
315. “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown),” The Beatles. Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney; Did Not Chart; 1965. John Lennon, “I was trying to write about an affair without letting my wife know I was having one. I was sort of writing from my experiences – girl’s flats, things like that. I was very careful and paranoid because I didn’t want my wife, Cyn, to know that there really was something going on outside of the household. I’d always had some kind of affairs going on, so I was trying to be sophisticated in writing about an affair, but in such a smoke-screen way that you couldn’t tell. But I can’t remember any specific woman it had to do with.” “Norwegian Wood” is a prime example of Bob Dylan’s influence on The Beatles in terms of lyrics and George Harrison’s sitar playing was the first time an Indian instrument had been used in a rock band context, although The Kinks developed a similar sound with different instrumentation on their 1965 single “See My Friends.”
314. “Ballad of a Thin Man,” Bob Dylan. Songwriter: Bob Dylan; Did Not Chart; 1965. Author Andrew Grant Jackson, “Nobody could say for certain what the hell ‘Ballad of a Thin Man’ was about. The song is a nightmarish mix of William Burrough’s ‘Naked Lunch’ with the piano of Ray Charles’s ‘I Believe to My Soul.’ As with ‘Rolling Stone,’ there are many candidates for the identity of the song’s ‘Mr. Jones.’ Journalists often raised Dylan’s ire with their inane or repetitive questions. Journalist Jeffrey Jones claimed to have been heckled by Dylan in a hotel dining room during the Newport Folk Festival. ‘Mr. Jones! Getting it all down, Mr. Jones?’” Dylan certainly paints a portrait of someone who is equally irritating and clueless. He once commented, “I could tell you who Mr. Jones is in my life, but, like, everybody has got their Mr. Jones.”
313. “Six Days on the Road,” Dave Dudley. Songwriters: Earl Green, Carl Montgomery; #32 pop/#2 country; 1963. Wisconsin native Dave Dudley was a semi-pro baseball player who worked as a disc jockey after suffering an arm injury. He fronted an Idaho based trio for seven years, but didn’t have any hits until relocating to Minnesota in 1960. “Six Days on the Road” was Dudley’s first major hit and he became almost singularly known throughout his career for truck driving material. The song paired Dudley’s booming baritone with popping white pills lyric for a weary working man feel. Johnny Voit’s string snapping guitar style became one of Dudley’s trademark sounds. English pop star Ian Whitcomb on “Six Days,” “The most masculine song I’d ever heard, a trucker/cowboy telling in a rich, lusty voice about his ‘rig’ with its ten-four gears and a Georgia overdrive and how he could have had a lot of women but he wasn’t like other guys.”
312. “Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love) ,” The Swingin’ Medallions. Songwriters: Don Smith, Cyril Vetter; #17 pop; 1966. “Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love) emerged from Louisiana in the early 1960s. A gentleman named, seriously, Dick Holler had a band called The Rockets, which included at various times Don Smith and Cyril Vetter, who wrote “Double Shot.” (Vetter also worked as a drummer for a local act named The Greek Fountains). Dick Holler & The Holidays released “Double Shot” in 1963, but their original lacked the drunken chaos of The Swingin’ Medallions version. The Medallions were an eight piece South Carolina act with a large horn section who sounded like they were both covering “96 Tears” and attending the best frat party ever when they made “Double Shot” a Top Twenty hit. In the general weirdness department, Dick Holler went on to write The Royal Guardsmen hit “Snoopy vs. The Red Baron” and Dion’s “Abraham, Martin, and John.”
311. “Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel),” Roy Orbison. Songwriters: Roy Orbison, Joe Melson; #2 pop; 1960. Although often considered a first generation rock ‘n’ roll star, Wink, Texas native Roy Orbison didn’t have any pop Top 40 success during the 1950s. “Only the Lonely” was Orbison’s breakthrough pop hit, written with his frequent collaborator Joe Melson and peaking at #2 on the pop charts. Orbison’s material wasn’t crossing over to the country charts during the 1960s, despite being recorded in Nashville with that city’s top session players. Music critic Stephen Holden, “The voice propelling ‘Only the Lonely’ expressed a clenched, driven urgency, as Orbison detonated a small emotional explosion in two and a half minutes. As the song climbed to a peak, the singer’s voice metamorphosed from a grim Texan twang into a keening, high tenor that arced into a half-yodeled falsetto cry before plunging back to earth.”