1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 450 to 441
450. “Don’t Start Crying Now,” Slim Harpo. Songwriters: James Moore (Slim Harpo), Jerry West; Did Not Chart; 1961. Louisiana swamp bluesman Slim Harpo cracked the Top 40 for the first time in 1961 with “Rainin’ in My Heart,” a song that sounds like Fats Domino with a harmonica instead of a piano. The rocking jump blues of the b-side “Don’t Start Crying Now” was covered by Them in 1964 and was part of The Spencer Davis Group’s live set. If anything, this mixture of blues and ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll is too short, a quick two minute explosion that could be a tremendous extended jam. Here’s more on the Them cover from the book “Irish Folk, Trad & Blues” by Colin Harper and Trevor Hodgett, “Van Morrison attacks the song with a wild ferocity that still shocks today, and it began a blues boom in Ireland that signaled the end of the line for the unoriginal, be-suited showbands which had until then dominated the scene.”
449. “Different Drum,” The Stone Poneys featuring Linda Ronstadt. Songwriter: Mike Nesmith; #13 pop; 1967. Linda Ronstadt was raised in a wealthy Arizona family and left college in the mid-1960s to try her luck on the California music scene. She quickly found success, singing lead for The Stone Poneys on their #13 pop hit “Different Drum.” “Different Drum” was penned by Michael Nesmith and was first recorded by The Greenbriar Boys, a New York bluegrass band. The Stone Poneys gave “Different Drum” a folk/pop arrangement, quite dissimilar from The Greenbriar Boys’ revivalist traditionalism. Nesmith, “The lyrics, about a breakup, came fast, but they had nothing to do with my personal life. I was newly married with a pregnant wife. Whenever I wrote, I liked creating little ‘movies of the mind.’ I was thinking about two lovers, one of whom decides they love different things. In later years, comedian Whitney Brown referred to ‘Different Drum’ as the first ‘it’s not you, it’s me; breakup song.” The studio arrangement was different than Ronstadt had expected, requiring her to change her phrasing for a faster tempo and different instrumentation. The results? Nesmith, “Linda did more for that song than the Greenbriar Boys’ version. She infused it with a different level of passion and sensuality. Coming from the perspective of a woman instead of a guy, the song had a new context. You sensed Linda had personally experienced the lyrics, that she needed to be free.”
448. “Down in the Valley to Pray,” Doc Watson. Songwriter: Traditional; Did Not Chart; 1966. The origins of this Christian hymn aren’t definitively known. It is believed to have been written by an African-American shortly after the Civil War. The song has also been known as “Down to the River to Pray,” “The Good Old Way,” and “Come, Let Us All Go Down” and was originally recorded by the gospel groups, including the Price Family Sacred Singers in 1927 and the Delta Big Four in 1929. North Carolina country roots musician Arthel “Doc” Watson may have heard the song from one of those groups or from Lead Belly’s 1940 recording. While Watson is generally known for his rapid fire, flat pick guitar work, “Down in the Valley to Pray” is performed acapella, Alison Krauss used a similar arrangement for the 2000 “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack.
447. “Tell Her No,” The Zombies. Songwriter: Rod Argent; #6 pop; 1964. Rod Argent started the band that would become The Zombies as a young teenager in Hertfordshire, England during the late 1950s. Six years later they won a local contest that lead to the recording “She’s Not There,” a #2 pop hit on the U.S. charts. They returned to the Top Ten on the U.S. pop charts with “Tell Her No” later that year (they were never as popular in their home country as they were in the U.S.), a song inspired by David and Bacharach compositions. Argent on touring with Dionne Warwick, “I was hearing all of her Bacharach stuff. That was an influence, using major sevenths and ninths and that sort of feeling in the chords.” The simplicity of the lyrics takes a backseat to Argent’s playing, who sounds more like a jazz musician than a rock ‘n’ roller on this track.
446. “Talk to Me,” Sunny & The Sunglows. Songwriter: Joe Senaca; #11 pop/#6 R&B; 1963. Little Willie John had one of the biggest hits of his career with his 1958 single “Talk to Me, Talk to Me,” written by musician/actor Joe Senaca. Sunny & The Sunglows, later known as Sunny & The Sunliners, were a high school Hispanic band from San Antonio who covered “Talk to Me” in 1963. Their version went higher on the pop charts, taking the band from local talent contests to appearing on “American Bandstand.” The Sunliners moved into the world of traditional Tejano music with the release of their 1965 single “Peanuts” and lead singer Sunny Ozuna has continued to record, winning a Grammy in 2000 for Best Tejano Album. Ozuna, “I didn’t know that I’d be a pioneer on the Tejano music that relates back to the feelings and the culture of Texans and the way they’re brought up — my gut was to go with the rock ’n’ roll thing, but I also pursued Tejano, too.”
445. “It’s My Party,” Lesley Gore. Songwriters: Walter Gold, John Gluck Jr., Herb Weiner, Seymour Gottlieb; #1 pop/#1 R&B; 1963. Lesley Gore was a New York suburban high school girl in 1963 and, based upon a few demo recordings, she was signed to work with Quincy Jones. “It’s My Party” was selected to be her first single, but Phil Spector was simultaneously recording the song with The Crystals. Jones rush released his production, hitting the airwaves first, and within two months of its release it topped the pop charts. Seymour Gottlieb developed the lyrics for the song after his own daughter broke down in tears at the thought of her grandparents attending her ‘sweet 16’ party. Gore didn’t recognize her own singing voice the first time she heard her version on the radio, commenting years later, “I said to myself, ‘Wow, somebody else has recorded my song.”
444. “Just Like Me,” Paul Revere & the Raiders. Songwriters: Rick Dey, Roger Hart; #11 pop; 1965. Vocalist Mark Lindsay on his band’s image problem, “When you think of The Raiders, the first thing a lot of people have in their head is three quarter hats, tight pants and these goofy guys jumping around on a beach wearing these idiot outfits. I think the music has kind of suffered in retrospect ’cause people think of us as clowns first and musicians second.” A shame that, because “Just Like Me” is another first rate garage rocker, with elements of “Louie, Louie,” The Kinks, and Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour.” Mac McNeilly of The Jesus Lizard, “My older cousin turned me on to some great music. I remember him saying, ‘You have to hear this guy; he plays so fast you won’t believe it.’ He was talking about Mitch Mitchell and the song ‘Fire,’ from ‘Are You Experienced’ by Jimi Hendrix. He played ‘Light My Fire’ by the Doors, some Steppenwolf, and Paul Revere & the Raiders (I still love that guitar solo in ‘Just Like Me’). That day was a revelation. My life was changed.” Pat Benatar covered “Just Like Me” on her 1981 album “Precious Time.”
443. “Nadine (Is It You?),” Chuck Berry. Songwriter: Chuck Berry; #23 pop/#7 R&B; 1964. This 1964 #23 pop hit was Berry’s first time on Top 40 radio following 1959’s “Back in the U.S.A.” and following his imprisonment on a Mann Act violation. Musically, it’s simply an updated version of “Maybellene,” which was an updated version of Bob Will’s “Ida Red.” Still, this romantic chase number wins points for lines like, “I was campaign shouting like a southern diplomat” and “Moving through the traffic like a mounted cavalier.” Best cover – The Morells, the finest bar band in the history of southwest Missouri, nail the groove. Lest we forget – John Lennon, “If you tried to give rock ‘n’ roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.”
442. “Take My Love (I Want to Give It All To You),” Little Wille John. Songwriter: Mertis John; #87 pop/#5 R&B; 1961. The Little Willie John hits “Need Your Love So Bad” and “Take My Love (I Want to Give It All to You)” were both written by his older brother Mertis John, who penned material while serving in Korea as a medic. “Take My Love” was Little Willie John’s last major R&B hit, he was dropped from King Records in 1963 due to decreasing sales and personal issues. Despite having a doo wop vocal arrangement with vocals from Hank Ballard’s Midnighters, the rhythm section chugs away with authority on “Take My Love,” while Willie proclaims romantic devotion. Perhaps a return to his gospel days, a Hammond organ takes the spotlight on the instrumental break. Marvin Gaye, “Little Willie John is the soul singer’s soul singer.”
441. “Ooo Baby Baby,” The Miracles. Songwriters: Smokey Robinson, Pete Moore; #16 pop/#4 R&B; 1965. Smokey Robinson referred to the “got what he wanted, but lost what he had” cheating song “Ooo Baby Baby” as his “national anthem.” Robinson, “Wherever we go, it’s the one song that everybody asks for.” Robinson’s singing is exquisite, with his high tenor voice displaying shattering heartbreak regarding his indiscretions and their impact. John Lennon picked up on the extended phrasing of Smokey’s “I’m cryyyyying” and used it in “I Am the Walrus.” Berry Gordy was once asked by a Detroit high school student, “How do you find guys like Smokey Robinson?” He simply responded, “You don’t find guys like Smokey Robinson.”