1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 400 to 391
Occasions, persuasions clutter your mind.
400. “(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66,” The Rolling Stones. Songwriter: Bobby Troup; Did Not Chart; 1964. “Route 66” was written by Bobby Troup, who starred in the 1970’ s television drama “Emergency!” with his wife Julie London (who had her own pop music fame in the 1950s with her Top Ten hit “Cry Me a River”). “Route 66” is best known for Nat King Cole’s 1946 recording, but was brought into the world of rock music by Chuck Berry and The Rolling Stones in the 1960s. Often recorded as a jazz pop or boogie woogie number, The Rolling Stones make it sound as though it was designed for the world of ‘60s guitar based rock ‘n’ roll. Keith Richards on the band’s first concert in the U.S., “The first gig was in San Bernadino. It was a straight gas. They all knew the songs and they were all bopping. ‘Route 66’ mentioned San Bernadino, so everybody was into it.”
399. “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better,” The Byrds. Songwriter: Gene Clark; Did Not Chart; 1965. The Byrds formed in 1964 when three folksingers (Jim “Roger” McGuinn, Gene Clark and David Crosby) who loved The Beatles decided to blend the worlds of folk and rock music. Their experiment worked as “Mr. Tambourine Man,” a cover of a Bob Dylan song performed in a rock band context, became a #1 hit single in 1965. “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” was inspired by a girlfriend who was getting on Dave Clark’s nerves and the narrator muses that he will be happier when she goes away. The main riff is a re-write of “Needles and Pins,” but the “I can take you or leave you” attitude exudes a completely different vibe.
398. “Dedicated to the One I Love,” The Shirelles. Songwriters: Lowman Pauling, Ralph Bass; #3 pop/#2 R&B; released in 1959, peaked on the charts in 1961. The influential North Carolina rhythm and blues act The “5” Royales had their material covered by James Brown (“Think), Ray Charles (“Tell the Truth”), and The Shirelles, who transformed the Royales’ 1957 non-charting single “Dedicated to the One I Love” into a girl group classic. The Shirelles first recorded “Dedicated for the One I Love” for Decca Records and it peaked at #83 on the pop charts in 1959. The single was reissued in 1961, after “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” had hit #1 on the pop charts, and became their second Top Five hit. This was producer Luther Dixon’s first recording with The Shirelles. Dixon removed the blues guitar licks from the Royales arrangement and made the female chorus the centerpiece of the song. Lyrically, The Shirelles mourn the physical separation from their object of affection, yet find a sense of peace in the strength of their relationship. The Mamas & The Papas took the song to #2 on the pop charts in 1967 with Michelle Phillips singing the introduction in a ghostly manner.
397. “If I Needed Someone,” The Beatles. Songwriter: George Harrison; Did Not Chart; 1965. Welshman Idris Davies wrote “The Bells of Rhymney,” a poem about a 1938 coal mining disaster that was transformed into a song by Pete Seeger in 1957. The Byrds recorded “The Bells of Rhymney” with their distinctive Rickenbacker guitar sound in 1965, influencing George Harrisons’ work on “If I Needed Someone.” Byrds guitarist Roger McGuinn, “(George Harrison) gave a copy of ‘If I Needed Someone’ to Derek Taylor, The Beatles’ former press officer, who flew to Los Angeles and brought it to my house. He said George wanted me to know that he had written the song based on the rising and falling notes of my electric Rickenbacker 12-string guitar introduction. It was a great honor to have in some small way influenced our heroes The Beatles.”
396. “I Don’t Know What You Got (But It’s Got Me),” Little Richard. Songwriter: Don Covay; #92 pop/#12 R&B; 1965. Little Richard is a beloved figure from the original rock ‘n’ roll era who stopped being a pop star after pursuing a career in evangelism in the late 1950s. He returned to secular music during the mid-1960s and scored an R&B hit with “I Don’t Know What You Got,” a soulful blues number with Jimi Hendrix on guitar and Billy Preston on keyboards. The sound is nothing like his propulsive rockers from the ‘50s, instead Richard is performing in a Bobby Bland mode, with the emphasis on his heartache. He even brings the phrasing of the pulpit to the spoken interlude. The partnership with Hendrix wasn’t meant to be. Robert Penniman, Little Richard’s brother and tour manager, “I fired Hendrix. He was a damn good guitar player, but the guy was never on time. He was always late for the bus, and flirting with the girls, and stuff like that.”
395. “Chain Gang,” Sam Cooke. Songwriter: Sam Cooke; #2 pop/#2 R&B; 1960. Charles Cook, Sam’s Brother, on the origin of “Chain Gang,” “We was driving along this highway, man, and we saw people working on a chain gang on the side of the road. They asked us, ‘You got any cigarettes?’ So, we gave them the cigarettes we had. Then we got down the road about three or four miles and bought five or six cartons. We carried them back to the dudes that was working on that gang and Sam said, ‘Man, that’s a good song, right there.’” Instead of a group of guys begging for tobacco, Sam turned “Chain Gang” into a thirsty, love missing concept. This was Cooke’s second biggest hit, 1957’s “You Send Me” went to #1 on the pop charts, and it’s a tribute to his deft touch that he was able to give a prison labor theme such universal appeal. Thomas Rhett nicked the background vocal cadences of “Chain Gang” for his 2015 #1 country hit “Crash and Burn.”
394. “Everyday People,” Sly and the Family Stone. Songwriter: Sly Stone; #1 pop/#1 R&B; 1968. After working as a disc jockey, songwriter, and producer, Sylvester Stewart formed Sly and the Family Stone, originally named Sly and the Stoners, in 1966. They had their breakthrough hit in 1968 with “Dance to the Music,” then topped the charts later that year with the anti-discrimination, different strokes for different folks “Everyday People.” Author Bill Friskis-Warren, “’Everyday People’ might be sweet soul music, but it is also a tough minded prescription for the solidarity and justice that were needed to mend the soul of a nation torn by riots, assassinations, a war abroad and another, against poverty, at home. Rooted in the spiritualities of blues, jazz, and gospel music, ‘Everyday People’ articulates a vision of what the human family, at its best, might look like.”
393. “Incense and Peppermints,” Strawberry Alarm Clock. Songwriters: John S. Carter, Tim Gilbert; #1 pop; 1967. The psychedelic pop band the Strawberry Alarm Clock formed in Los Angeles in 1967. According to original band keyboardist Mark Weitz, he wrote the music for “Incense and Peppermints” with assistance from guitarist/future Lynyrd Skynyrd member Ed King and the lyrics were completed by John Carter from the band The Rainy Daze. Weitz, “When it came time to record the vocal tracks, none of the members of the Alarm Clock sounded right for the lead vocal. We all tried. Greg Munford (a 16-year-old musician from a different band) was a guest in the studio that day, and gave a go at it. His voice sounded best, and we all agreed on keeping his vocal track on the final version. When I hear ‘Incense and Peppermints’ playing on the radio today, it’s a bittersweet reaction, even after all this time. Ed and I didn’t make any money; not a cent since our names were left off as the songwriters!”
392. “Why,” The Durty Wurds. Songwriter: M. Matthews; Did Not Chart; 1965 or 1966. The Chicago garage band The Durty Wurds started as a bluegrass trio and switched to an electric rock sound following in the footsteps of Bob Dylan. Their entire recorded output during the 1960s consisted of two singles, but “Why” sounds more like the beginning of the punk rock era than “Blitzkrieg Bop” does. Mick Mackles screams like a deranged stalker, while the band sharpens The Mindbenders’ “Game of Love” riff with rusty switchblades. As primal and hard hitting as Iggy Stooge.
391. “Send Me a Postcard,” Shocking Blue. Songwriter: Robbie van Leeuwen; Did Not Chart; 1968. The Dutch band Shocking Blue formed in 1967 and are best known in the U.S. for their goddess on the mountain top 1970 #1 single “Venus.” Their 1960’s material has a more psychedelic rock edge than “Venus” – their 1969 album cut “Love Buzz” was covered by Nirvana in 1988. “Send Me a Postcard” is a power chord driven number with lead singer Mariska Veres projecting the confidence of and aura of a certain San Francisco rock star. Shocking Blue founding member Robby van Leeuwen, “She had a very impressive voice, quite different from all the other girl singers. She was rather like Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane.” Veres, who passed away in 2006, describing her early fame, “I was just a painted doll, nobody could ever reach me.”