1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 360 to 351
Teeny bopper, my teenage lover.
360. “Chain Gang (The Work Song),” Nina Simone. Songwriter: Oscar Brown, Nat Adderley; Did Not Chart; 1967. Florida native Nat Adderley grew up playing trumpet and cornet beside his saxophone playing brother Julian “Cannonball” Adderley. Nat performed in the Army, worked in Lionel Hampton’s band, then joined the Cannonball Adderley Quintet. Adderley recorded the jazz instrumental “Work Song” in 1960 and singer Oscar Brown Jr. added lyrics for his 1961 release. Simone originally recorded this hard labor prison number in 1961, but the big band 1967 album version from “High Priestess of Soul” best captures Simone’s flair for high drama. Composer Nat Adderley referred to this composition as his “social security song,” it’s been covered by more than 100 artists.
359. “Time is On My Side,” Irma Thomas. Songwriter: Norman Meade (Jerry Ragovoy); Did Not Chart; 1964. “Time is On My Side” is generally considered a Rolling Stones number, but it went through a few iterations before becoming their first U.S. Top Ten hit. Danish born jazz trombone player Kai Winding, the father of ‘70s and ‘80s session musician Jai Winding, first recorded “Time is On My Side” in 1963. Winding’s original version is an odd jazz meets blues recording with Cissy Houston, Dionne Warwick, and Dee Dee Warwick belting out the title phrase with earth shaking gospel fervor. The Rolling Stones learned the song from Irma Thomas, who released a more pop arrangement, but still included a surging gospel choir and inserted a spurned woman scolding on the bridge. Thomas, “I just told the story in the lyrics. I was a married woman with children. When you have life experiences, it’s pretty easy to tell it. When I did the tour of England in 1964, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards came to one of my shows. They said they were gonna cover the song, and they did real quick. It matters not to me whether they covered it or not. It wasn’t their fault that the general public decided it was their song, but it pushed my version to the side. I stopped doing it.”
358. “Mendocino,” The Sir Douglas Quintet. Songwriter: Doug Sahm; #27 pop; 1968. There are a few different theories on what inspired “Mendocino,” the second biggest pop hit for The Sir Douglas Quintet. One notion is that Doug Sahm wrote the lyrics after leeringly eyeing teenage girls walking down Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa, California. Another story, and one that fits the lyrics better, is that Sahm was given a weekend room in Mendocino, California and took a young female record label employee on the trip for entertainment. Brian Henneman of the Bottle Rockets, “The first time I heard Doug Sahm, our friend put on the ‘Mendocino’ album. From note one, the sound of that record was cooler than anything that I’d been listening to. I wasn’t even wise enough to formulate the reasons why I loved it. I didn’t realize that it was country and blues and Mexican music and psychedelic rock. I didn’t separate it like that yet. I was still digging Aerosmith.”
357. “Walk, Don’t Run,” The Ventures. Songwriter: Johnny Smith; #2 pop; 1960. Alabama native Johnny Smith, perhaps best known for his 1952 recording of “Moonlight in Vermont” with Stan Getz, was a jazz guitarist who wrote and recorded “Walk, Don’t Run” in 1954. He performed in a cool jazz style, reminiscent of Django Reinhardt, and his composition stayed in obscurity throughout the ‘50s, even after being covered by Chet Atkins in 1957. The surf rocking Ventures heard the Chet Atkins take, but due to their musical limitations, recorded a simpler and more dynamic version. Ventures guitarist Don Wilson, “(Chet Atkins) played it in a classical jazzy style and we couldn’t play it like that. We weren’t good enough. So we decided to make our own arrangement of it and simplify it and that’s how that happened.” Don Wilson’s mother started an independent record label to support the band and the single, after picking up national distribution, went to #2 on the pop charts. The Ventures have performed together since 1958 and went Top Ten two more times during the 60s – first with a kitschy remake of “Walk, Don’t Run” titled “Walk, Don’t Run ‘64” and with the television theme song cover “Hawaii Five-O.”
356. “Soul Finger,” The Bar-Kays. Songwriters: Jimmy King, Phalon Jones, Carl Cunningham, Ben Cauley, Ronnie Caldwell, James Alexander; #17 pop/#3 R&B; 1967. The Bar-Kays started as Stax studio musicians and evolved into Otis Redding’s road band. Their 1967 soul/funk instrumental “Soul Finger” features an enormous trilling trumpet sound and a chorus chant from neighborhood kids who were compensated with soft drinks. Author Robert Gordon, “’Soul Finger’ grew from their club gig. They were working at the Hippodrome on Beale Street, among the top-tier clubs on what was still the South’s African-American Main Street. Too young to be in the club, too good not to be there, they were vamping at the end of another song (author’s note – J.J. Jackson’s ‘But It’s Alright’) and fell into a rhythmic pattern that made them all take notice. ‘When it was done, nobody said anything,’ James (Alexander) remembers. ‘We looked at each other like, ‘There’s something to this.’” The band started playing “Soul Finger” during a studio break and Stax owner Jim Stewart immediately recorded the song. Approximately seven months after “Soul Finger” was released, four members of the Bar-Kays died in 1967 plane crash that also claimed the life of Otis Redding. A revamped version of the band released ten Top Ten R&B singles from 1971 to 1984.
355. “Prisoner of Love,” James Brown. Songwriters: Russ Columbo, Clarence Gaskill, Leo Robin; #18 pop/#6 R&B; 1963. “Prisoner of Love” was a 1930’s pop song that had been recorded by a series of decidedly unfunky performers to include Russ Columbo, Perry Como, and Bing Crosby. It was brought into the world of black pop music by The Platters in 1959 and Etta James in 1962. James Brown recorded his version with a ten-piece orchestra and a nine-member choir, showing that the scope of his musical vision went well beyond dance music. It has been suggested that Brown took the classic pop with strings approach due to the success that Ray Charles had in 1962 with his orchestrated version of country music. Robert Christgau, “His catalogue conceals a ballad album that could scare the shades off Ray Charles.”
354. “Nothing Can Bring Me Down,” The Twilighters. Songwriter: Jay White: Did Not Chart; 1968. The communities of Belton, Killeen, and Waco, Texas were never hotbeds for psychedelic garage rock, but that reality didn’t stop The Twilighters from releasing the brain melting track “Nothing Can Bring Me Down.” The song was written as a b-side in the studio, because they originally only had one song to record, but after 500 copies of the single were manufactured, local radio airplay made “Nothing Can Bring Me Down” the “hit.” From the “Rarest Garage 45s” website, “Here’s the crossover point, pinned precisely to mid-1968. The band uses fuzz guitar and splendid farfisa, both played with savage intensity as they were in ’66. The drummer pounds mercilessly at the kit, blissfully unaware of the soon-to-be obvious fact that it’s missing several rack toms and a gong. However, the guitarist HAS heard Jimi Hendrix and was very, very impressed. And the singer HAS heard Cream and Vanilla Fudge, and has changed his vocal inflections to a deeper, more mature soulful tenor. A monster garage nugget.” A suitably savage cover kicks off Pussy Galore’s 1989 “Live: In the Red” album.
353. “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” Dusty Springfield. Songwriters: Vicki Wickham, Simon Napier-Bell, Pino Donaggio, Vito Pallavicini; #4 pop; 1966. The music for “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” came from a 1965 Italian pop hit by Pino Donaggio titled ‘lo che non vivo (senza te),” which translates to “I, who can’t live (without you).” Dusty Springfield asked Yardbirds manager Simon Napier-Bell and ‘Ready Steady Go!’ producer Vicki Wickham to write lyrics in English. Napier-Bell, “Vicki and I used to eat together, and she told me that Dusty wanted a lyric for this song. We went back to her flat and started working on it. We wanted to go to a trendy disco so we had about an hour to write it. We wrote the chorus and then we wrote the verse in a taxi to wherever we were going. It was the first pop lyric I’d written, although I’ve always been interested in poetry and good literature.” Jon Savage, “Springfield’s signature tune ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’ was an extraordinary vocal performance – showing enormous technical skill and emotional empathy – that turned her into a superstar.”
352. “It’s Gonna Work out Fine,” Ike and Tina Turner. Songwriters: Rose Marie McCoy, Sylvia McKinney; #14 pop/#2 R&B; 1961. “It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” was co-written by Sylvia McKinney of Mickey & Sylvia fame, best known for their 1957 hit “Love Is Strange,” and it is disputed whether Mickey Baker or Ike Turner provided the male vocal lead on this 1961 hit. Co-writer Rose Marie McCoy, “I wrote the song, but I heard that Tina didn’t really care for it. Anyway, at the time, Sylvia (McKinney) told me I had to ‘hear this girl sing it.’ When Ike and Tina came to New York, I went up to the Apollo to see them. Ike called Tina in the room. He said ‘Sing that song.’ She didn’t say a word, but she sang. She sang like her life depended on it. I told Sylvia, if it sounds that good now, I can’t wait to hear it with the music behind it.” The tremolo guitar sound is reminiscent of Bo Diddley, while the vocal arrangement has girl group cooing in the background. Meanwhile, Tina howls like a caged animal clamoring for raw meat.
351. “Positively 4th Street,” Bob Dylan. Songwriter: Bob Dylan; #7 pop; 1965. It’s difficult to imagine a more thorough musical dismissal than “Positively 4th Street,” where Dylan attacks some unnamed figure(s) with boiling anger and self-righteous condemnation. Jonathan Bing, “’Positively Fourth Street’ is one of the most rapturously spiteful pop songs of the 1960s. Recorded by Bob Dylan four days after he enraged folk loyalists at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival by strapping on a Fender Stratocaster and tearing through a set of hard-driving rock songs, it’s a biting attack on the Greenwich Village folk scene, composed at the very moment Dylan was set to burst onto the world’s stage as a full-blown rock star.” Recorded during the “Highway 61 Revisited” sessions with Al Kooper on Hammond organ and Mike Bloomfield on guitar, “4th Street” followed “Like a Rolling Stone” into the Top Ten of the pop charts.