1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 340 to 331

Written by | June 7, 2018 6:59 am | one response

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You broke my heart, ‘cause I couldn’t dance.

340. “You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover,” Bo Diddley. Songwriter: Willie Dixon; #48 pop/#21 R&B; 1962. The biggest Bo Diddley pop hit of the 1960s didn’t feature the famous Bo Diddley beat. Instead, it was a straight ahead rocker written by Willie Dixon about the shallowness of appearances. Dixon, “If you put a picture of Superman on the cover of The Bible, you might thing you are getting a comic book. The cover hides a lot of things, that is what people judge folks by a lot of the times, by what they look like on the outside. And you can’t actually judge anything by the cover – no individual, no part of life.” The concept was a good fit for Diddley, who is often only thought of in terms of his famous beat. Author Robert Palmer on the variety of Diddley’s music, “Add occasional claves and other percussion instruments, occasional minimal bass lines, judicious seasoning from piano and/or harmonica and/or second guitar, and Bo’s own wizardry in the use of deliberate distortion and feedback, deliberately plucked bell-tone harmonics, and fluid, watery textures, and you have a concept or philosophy of rhythmic orchestration that is much more varied and mutable than it initially seems.”

339. “This Is My Country,” The Impressions. Songwriter: Curtis Mayfield; #25 pop/#8 R&B; 1968. Author Bill Friskics-Warren, “The hit records that Curtis Mayfield made with the Impressions were written as barely masked paeans to black pride. With the Impressions’ 1968 single ‘This is My Country’…Mayfield decided to drop the mask.” The cover of the “This Is My Country” album pictures the band standing in front of a dilapidated slum building, reflecting that “their country” was a land under siege. Backed by those sweet Chicago horns, Mayfield explains that his people have paid the price through welts on their back to proclaim their rights as Americans. How odd it must have been to hear “Shall we perish unjust or live equal as a nation?” on Top 40 radio. The concept of ownership was important to Mayfield, who started his own publishing company and record label.

338. “Not Fade Away,” The Rolling Stones. Songwriters: Buddy Holly, Norman Petty; #48 pop; 1964. The Crickets released the Bo Diddley influenced, won’t-take-no-for-an answer love song “Not Fade Away” as the b-side to the 1957 Top Ten hit “Oh, Boy!” The Stones placed their aggressive stamp on the number with Mick Jagger sounding more incontestable than Buddy Holly. Bill Wyman, “The rhythm thing was formed basically around the Buddy Holly thing. We brought the rhythm up and emphasized it. Holly had used that Bo Diddley trademark beat on his version, but because he was only using bass, drums and guitar, the rhythm element is sort of a throwaway. Holly played it lightly. We just got into it more and put the Bo Diddley beat up front.” Stones manager Andrew Oldham was particularly delighted with the results, “Although it was a Buddy Holly song, I considered it to be like the first song Mick and Keith wrote, in that they picked the concept of applying that Bo Diddley thing to it. The way they arranged it was the beginning of the shaping of them as songwriters. To me, they wrote the song. It’s a pity we couldn’t have gotten the money.”

337. “Over, Under, Sideways Down,” The Yardbirds. Songwriters: Chris Dreja, Jim McCarty, Jeff Beck, Keith Relf, Paul Samwell-Smith; #13 pop; 1966. Yardbirds drummer Jim McCarty on this multi-directional effort, “It was really inspired by ‘Rock Around the Clock’ by Bill Haley and the Comets. Jeff and I just played through a boogie – the two of us – doing all the breaks in the middle. Everyone just sort of played on top of that. Then Jeff came up with that riff in the beginning, which was like dynamite. ‘Over Under Sideways Down’ was about the situation of having a good time – a bit of decadence, really – in the ’60s. Cars and girls are easy to come by in this day and age, and laughing, drinking, smoking, whatever, till I’ve spent my wages, having fun.” Author Alan Di Perna, “(Jeff) Beck devised a whirling dervish Middle Eastern line that became the song’s hook. The result was another addition to the lexicon of all-time great rock riffs, and another prime example of the romantic exoticism and international scope of Beck’s six-string sensibility.”

336. “Getting Might Crowded,” Betty Everett. Songwriter: Van McCoy; #65 pop/#28 R&B; 1964. Mississippi native Betty Everett moved to Chicago to pursue a career in music in 1957 and had her first chart hit in 1963 with “You’re No Good,” a song that Linda Ronstadt would take to greater heights in the 1970s. She went pop Top Ten with “The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s in His Kiss)” in 1964. The following year, Everett cut the first version of Van McCoy’s “Getting Mighty Crowded,” a defiant romance/Chicago soul number targeted just as much for pop audiences as it was for R&B. The song moved into the world of British rock ‘n’ roll with a 1966 cover by The Alan Price Set and Elvis Costello’s 1980 uptempo take. Everett had her final Top 40 hit with 1969’s “There’ll Come a Time,” a sweet return to doo wop ballad singing.

335. “Do You Love Me,” The Contours. Songwriter: Berry Gordy, Jr.; #3 pop/#1 R&B; 1962. The Contours were a Detroit vocal group that formed in the late ‘50s and received a contract from Motown in 1961. The Contours sounded much rawer than most of their Motown counterparts and are as often associated with “frat rock” as they are soul music. Joe Billingslea of the Contours, “Berry (Gordy) said ‘I want you to try this song I’m writing.’ He told us how he wanted the backgrounds to go and we sang it. ‘Try it again, I didn’t quite like it,’ he said. After about the third time he said, ‘That’s not right. I think I’ll give it to The Temptations instead.’ I told him not to. We did it again and he said, ‘That’s exactly how I want it. Come in tomorrow morning, we’re going to record it.’ I didn’t like the song. It reminded me of ‘Twist and Shout.’ The following week it made the charts. I turned around and said: I love that song!’”

334. “Pipeline,” The Chantays. Songwriters: Brian Carman, Bob Spickard; #4 pop; 1962. The Chantays formed as a high school act in 1961, inspired by a local band who were “making money and getting all the girls.” After school one day, Brian Carman took his $40 Montgomery Ward guitar and started trading licks with guitarist Bob Spickard. Out of that afternoon jam session developed “Pipeline,” one of the most recognizable songs in the history of surf music. Dean Torrence of Jan and Dean, “To me it had that kind of laid back quality that some of the other surf songs didn’t have and it seemed to shift gears as it went along, which is kind of what the art of surfing would pretty well be. If you’re trying to structure a tune around the art of surfing, it’s just a guy on a surf board in the water, what the hell. It would be hard to do that, and this was one of the songs that really did capture surfing.” A 1987 cover by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Dick Dale was Grammy nominated for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.

333. “Something,” The Beatles. Songwriter: George Harrison; #3 pop; 1969. George Harrison’s “Something” is the second most covered song by The Beatles, a sweeping romance number that Frank Sinatra once called “the greatest love song of the past 50 years.” Harrison’s starting point was the James Taylor 1968 song “Something in the Way She Moves,” but his composition far exceeded his inspiration. Geoff Emerick, “George had a smugness on his face when he came in with this one, and rightly so – he knew it was absolutely brilliant. And for the first time, John and Paul knew that George had risen to their level.” His former wife Patti Boyd wrote about the song in 2007, “George wrote a song called ‘Something.’ He told me in a matter-of-fact way that he had written it for me. I thought it was beautiful and it turned out to be the most successful song he ever wrote, with more than 150 cover versions. George’s favorite version was the one by James Brown. Mine was the one by George Harrison, which he played to me in our kitchen.”

332. “I Only Want to Be with You,” Dusty Springfield. Songwriters: Mike Hawker, Ivor Raymonde; #12 pop; 1963. Following in the footsteps of The Beatles, Dusty Springfield was the second British Invasion act to hit the U.S. airwaves in 1964. Mike Hawker had written “I Only Want to Be with You” in 1961, but it had only been recorded as a demo when a label executive requested a “guaranteed hit” to break Springfield as a solo artist. Rock critic Jason Ankeny, “Occupying the middle ground between the Wagnerian teen pop operas of producer Phil Spector and the string-sweetened sophistication of the Motown sound, ‘I Only Want to Be with You’ ranks among the great white soul records of all time, a swooning, dramatic pledge of devotion wrought with rare emotional depth.” Proving the durability of the song, “I Only Want to Be With You” was a hit for The Bay City Rollers in 1976, in the U.K. for The Tourists (fronted by Annie Lennox) in 1980, and for Samantha Fox in 1989.

331. “Anna (Go to Him),” Arthur Alexander. Songwriter: Arthur Alexander; #68 pop/#10 R&B; 1962. Alabama native Arthur Alexander, the son of a bottleneck blues guitarist, has a legacy that should have resulted in more fame. Besides being the first artist to record in Muscle Shoals with Rick Hall (on his 1962 single “You Better Move On”), Alexander is the only songwriter whose material was covered by Bob Dylan (“Sally Sue Brown”), The Beatles (“Anna (Go to Him)”), The Rolling Stones (“You Better Move On”), and Elvis Presley (“Burning Love”). On “Anna (Go to Him),” his biggest R&B hit, Alexander gives permission to the girl he loves to pursue another man, showing both chivalry in not shaming his love interest and pragmatism in getting his ring back. Alexander was inspired by his then girlfriend named Anna to write both “You Better Move On” and “Anna (Go to Him)” and the couple eventually married.

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One Response to “1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 340 to 331”

  1. Dean Mattson

    It’s great you’ve included several Bo Diddley songs in your Sixties list, one of the underrated figures of early rock ‘n roll. “You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover” might be my favorite song of his. (“Roadrunner” is another.) But Arthur Alexander wrote “Burning Love”? From what I understand, he was the first one to record it, but it was Dennis Linde who wrote it. In any event, I’ve been enjoying the series. Looking forward to seeing what’s coming next.

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