1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 430 to 421
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city, linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty.
430. “Angel Baby,” Rosie and the Originals. Songwriter: Rosie Hamlin; #5 pop/#5 R&B; 1960. Rosie Hamlin is a name that has been forgotten in pop music, even though John Lennon once mentioned her as one of his favorite singers and Led Zeppelin asked in the 1970s, “Whatever happened to Rosie and the Originals?” “Angel Baby” was written as a poem by Rosie Hamlin when she was 14 and the song was recorded in an airplane hangar the following year. The music was inspired by the Penguins’ 1954 hit “Earth Angel” and the vocal performance relates the intensity of teen romantic infatuation. Hamlin left the music business in 1963, but returned for revival shows in 2002, getting a chance to perform at Madison Square Garden before she retired again due to fibromyalgia.
429. “Hitch Hike,” Marvin Gaye. Songwriters: Marvin Gaye, William “Mickey” Stevenson, Clarence Paul; #30 pop/#12 R&B; 1962. One thinks of Marvin Gaye as a rather reserved performer, but on an American Bandstand appearance while singing “Hitch Hike,” Gaye twirls like a solo Temptation and jerks his right arm in a hitch hike motion so often, one worries that his hand might fly off his wrist. As Gaye sings about thumbing around the country to find his baby, Martha and the Vandellas provide the “hitch hike, baby” backing vocals. Co-songwriter Clarence Paul, “’Hitch Hike’ was Marvin’s concept. He had the groove worked out when we started helping him. That’s him playing drums and piano on the track.” This motorway number was covered by The Rolling Stones in 1965 and the intro was copied by The Velvet Underground on “Here She Goes Again” and by The Smiths on “There’s a Light That Never Goes Out.”
428. “Love’s Gonna Live Here,” Buck Owens. Songwriter: Buck Owens; #1 country; 1963. 1963 is the year that Buck Owens became a top tier superstar in country music. “Love’s Gonna Live Here” is an Owens composition with a sunny, almost Disney-esque disposition (you can almost imagine a cartoon bluebird dancing on his shoulder as he sings). The song spent sixteen weeks at #1 on the country charts. It would take almost fifty years for another country single to surpass that feat (which happened with 2013’s “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line – what a proud moment). The song also inspired a well-played imitation by Merle Haggard on “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.” Dwight Yoakam, “(Merle) was great at doing impressions. His Buck Owens impersonation is hilarious. It’s eerily, spot-on Buck.”
427. “Suzanne,” Leonard Cohen. Songwriter: Leonard Cohen; Did Not Chart; 1967. “Suzanne” is a hypnotic song about sexual attraction, written about the interpersonal chemistry between Cohen and a Montreal dancer named Suzanne Verdal. Verdal in 2006, “I was the one that put the boundaries on that because Leonard is actually a very sexual man and very attractive and very charismatic. And I was very attracted to him, but somehow I didn’t want to spoil that preciousness, that infinite respect that I had for him, for our relationship, and I felt that a sexual encounter might demean it somehow. That precious relationship produced a great piece of art.” Author Sylvia Simmons, “Leonard the poet transformed the physical Suzanne into the metaphysical ‘Suzanne’ and made her an angel. Leonard the magician sawed her down the middle, then put the two parts of her back together — the carnal and the spiritual — and made her more perfect than before. Leonard the composer made a hallowed melody of her, both implausibly intimate and ineffably spacious.”
426. “If That’s What You Wanted,” Frank Beverly and the Butlers. Songwriter: Frank Beverly; Did Not Chart; 1967. Frankie Beverly is best known for his soul/funk unit Maze, a band that had 29 R&B hits from 1977 to 1994 and never crossed over to pop audience. Born Howard Beverly, he changed his name in honor of ‘50’s pop star Frankie Lymon. Beverley, “I used to sing Frankie Lymon songs on street corners and people use to throw me money.” A Philadelphia native, Beverly performed in local doo woo groups before forming The Butlers in 1963. The Butlers never made any noise on the charts, but the soul/pop of “If That’s What You Wanted,” which sounds like a lost Motown classic, found an audience on the Northern soul scene. British DJ/remix specialist Will Ritson, “This is one of my favorite tracks and I love playing it out more than any other. Frankie can totally handle himself anywhere in a set. Begin the journey here and don’t look back.”
425. “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” The Monkees. Songwriters: Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart; #20; 1966. Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and the Raiders on recording the first version of this garage rock/punk standard, “(Songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart) took our version of the song that we had just cut, as we had an acetate of it. They gave it to The Monkees and said ‘Here’s a demo of a song we just wrote.’ That’s why, if you listen to The Monkees’ version, you will hear Micky (Dolenz) doing all the ad-libs identical to the ones I had at the end of our version. That’s why the versions are so similar, they didn’t know it was us. They thought it was Boyce and Hart on the demo.” Peter Tork, “The songs that we got were really songs of some vigor and substance. ‘(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone’ is not peaches and cream. It comes down hard on the subject, poor girl. The weight of the song is indicated by the fact that the Sex Pistols covered it. Anybody trying to write ‘60s songs’ now thinks that you have to write ‘59th St. Bridge.’ ‘Feeling groovy!’ Which is an okay song, but has not got a lot of guts. ‘Stepping Stone’ has guts.”
424. “Soulful Dress,” Sugar Pie DeSanto. Songwriter: Maurice McAlister; Did Not Chart; 1964. Maurice McAlister of The Radiants (represented in this series by “Voice Your Choice”) penned “Soulful Dress,” a great groove number about a small woman with a big attitude. Ed Ward in 2010, “’Soulful Dress’ is probably Sugar Pie DeSanto’s best-known song these days, not least because Texas singer Marcia Ball has had it in her set for years, but it also established DeSanto’s persona: an assertive young woman who took no mess. With this and its successor ‘I Don’t Wanna Fuss’ hitting the charts, DeSanto went off to tour Europe, and they’re still talking about her shows – wild dancing and standing back flips included – and her using martial arts on a hefty guy who invaded the stage in England.” Nancy Sinatra’s boots weren’t the only symbols of fashion feminism during the 1960s.
423. “Barefootin’,” Robert Parker. Songwriter: Robert Parker; #7 pop/#2 R&B; 1965. New Orleans musician Robert Parker started his career as a saxophone player and can be heard backing Professor Longhair on his 1949 single “Mardi Gras in New Orleans.” He continued to work as a sideman, supporting Fats Domino, Huey “Piano” Smith, and Irma Thomas, among others, until starting his solo career in 1958. The syncopated dance beat number “Barefootin’” was a marriage of two inspirations. Parker, “Percy Stovall booked a gig at Tuskegee University in Alabama. The girls took their shoes off and piled them in front of the bandstand before they danced. That stayed with me. Then we went on the road with Chris Kenner. We went to Miami and played a show with a comedian. When he came on stage he said, ‘Everybody get on your feet, you make me nervous when you’re in your seat.’” “Barefootin’,” which Devo made a reference to in their 1981 single “Beautiful World,” was Parker’s only Top 40 release.
422. “Downtown,” Petula Clark. Songwriter: Tony Hatch; #1 pop; 1964. Tony Hatch had started working on the music of “Downtown” while on a business trip to New York. Petula Clark, “He played ‘Downtown’ on the piano. I said: ‘Woah, I like that.’ So, I asked him to write a lyric up to the standard of the tune, and two weeks later we did it.” Clark knew the arrangement would be critical to the success of the song, saying many years later, “I had to connect with young record buyers, but not alienate her older core audience. The trick was to make a giant orchestra sound like a rock band.” The song shot to #1 on the U.S. pop charts before Clark could even get into the country to promote the record. Despite the promises of bright lights and dancing your worries away, Clark has said, “I’ve always thought there was this loneliness and there’s even a slight feeling of desperation in it.”
421. “Success,” Loretta Lynn. Songwriter: Johnny Mullins; #6 country; 1962. It’s not clear how the song “Success,” a tear jerker about how one person’s accomplishments can ruin a relationship, came to Loretta Lynn’s attention. It was written by Springfield, Missouri resident Johnny Mullins, who had penned the 1956 Porter Wagoner hit “Company’s Comin’.” Mullins only had an eighth grade education and his regular job from 1957 to 1982 was working as a high school janitor. “Success” was Loretta’s first Top Ten single and she later asked Mullins to write a song specifically for her. That request resulted in the 1966 Top Ten hit “Blue Kentucky Girl.” Despite his lack of formal education, Mullins noted late in his life that he “learned to read, write, and figure my royalties.” When asked about her personal success, Loretta once responded, “You’ve got to keep growing, or you’re just like last night’s corn bread: stale and dry.”