1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 460 to 451
When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide.
460. “Shake,” Sam Cooke. Songwriter: Sam Cooke; #7 pop/#4 R&B; 1964. Sam Cooke went back to the rhumba rhythm on “Shake,” a song recorded less than a month before his untimely death. It’s somewhat strange that a relentless dance number was his first posthumous release, but it was also his most successful. This “shake it like a bowl of soup and make your body loop-de-loop” number was a popular R&B and rock cover in the ‘60s, with versions released by Otis Redding, The Supremes, The Small Faces, The Animals, and Tom Jones. Steve Cropper, “If you took a jar of Sam Cooke and a jar of Little Richard and shook ’em up and poured ’em out you would get Otis Redding. When he sings a ballad, he’s singing it almost like Sam Cooke would sing it. When he’s singing an up-tempo dance song, he sings it almost like Little Richard would sing it, that energy.” Redding’s version of “Shake” at the Monterey Pop Festival serves to prove Copper’s point.
459. “Everybody’s Talkin’,” Nilsson. Songwriter: Fred Neil; #6 pop; 1968. As a Brill Building songwriter, Fred Neil penned Roy Orbison’s 1961 pop hit “Candy Man” and he later worked as a Greenwich Village folksinger. Neil released “Everybody’s Talkin’” on a 1967 album for Capitol Records and it failed to become a hit when originally released by Harry Nilsson in 1968. The song was resurrected in the 1969 Oscar Award winning film “Midnight Cowboy,” becoming Nilsson’s first Top Ten single. The lyrical sense of longing for a better place fit well within the theme of the movie, a tale of male prostitution in New York City. The production values of “Everybody’s Talkin’” where similar to the Jimmy Webb/Glen Campbell collaborations of that era and Cambpell released his version of “Everybody’s Talkin’” as the lead track to his swan song 2017 “Adiós” album.
458. “Bad Moon Rising,” Creedence Clearwater Revival; #2 pop; 1969. John Fogerty, “’Bad Moon Rising’ was a title in my songwriting book. It was a good image. I was up late at night trying to write, and I started thinking about this old movie, ‘The Devil and Daniel Webster,’ about a farmer who sells his soul to Mr. Scratch— the devil— for good fortune. I knew ‘Bad Moon Rising’ was good before any singing happened. The lick is a big part of the song, and it’s certainly borrowed from the Scotty Moore guitar lick on the Elvis record ‘I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone.’ In places it’s exactly the same. I didn’t make the song out of his lick, but I used it. I wasn’t hiding it— that lick was so great! I was honoring it.”
457. “Crosstown Traffic,” The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Songwriter: Jimi Hendrix; #52 pop; 1968. Before making his name as rock ‘n’ roll music’s most gifted guitarist, Jimi Hendrix unwillingly served in the Army, worked as a sideman for The Isley Brothers and Little Richard, and was even briefly a hired hand for Joey Dee and the Starliters. He debuted as a solo artist with his 1966 cover of “Hey Joe” and was immediately a major pop star in the U.K., where “Hey Joe” and its followup “Purple Haze” were Top Ten singles. “Crosstown Traffic,” a number about a well used woman who the narrator can’t rid himself of, was never meant to be a centerpiece of the “Electric Ladyland” double album, which included the over thirteen minute excursions “Voodoo Chile” and “1983…(A Mermaid I Should Turn to Be).” Hendrix, “You have the whole planned-out LP, and all of a sudden they’ll make ‘Crosstown Traffic,’ for instance, a single, and that’s coming out of a whole other set.”
456. “Monkey Man,” The Rolling Stones. Songwriters: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards; Did Not Chart; 1969. Author Jim Beviglia, “The intro to ‘Monkey Man,’ is elegant and mysterious, an alluring entreaty to the listener to enter this dark alley with the band and see what transpires. What does transpire is violent and thrilling all at once, a mélange of machine-gun drums, edgy guitars and maniacal vocals. Bill Wyman comes up big on ‘Monkey Man’ with the chilling vibraphone at the start of the song. The track could have easily begun with the thrust of the guitars and drums, but the quiet moodiness of that intro allows Keith Richards and Charlie Watts the opportunity to make even more of an impact when they finally bust down the wall.” Here’s quite a different take from the Luke Dick/George Reisch book “The Rolling Stones and Philosophy: It’s Just a Thought Away, “Unlike most moral theories, and even other forms of hedonism, Cyrenaic hedonism insists that the road to happiness lies not in our rational natures, but in our most base animal instincts. ‘Monkey Man’ could serve as a theme song for the entire Cyrenaic movement. The song not only acknowledges our animal nature, but embraces it. ‘I’m a fleabit peanut monkey /All my friends are junkies…Well, I am just a monkey man / I’m glad you’re a monkey, too.’”
455. “Feelin’ Alright,” Joe Cocker. Songwriter: Dave Mason; #33 pop; released in 1969, peaked on charts in 1972. Dave Mason had penned “Feelin’ Alright?” for Traffic in 1968 and Joe Cocker dumped the question mark and added Latin percussion for his hit version. Mason, “It’s just a song about a girl. It’s just another relationship gone bad. I was trying to write the simplest thing I could come up with. Two chords was it.” Author M.C. Antil on the arrangement Artie Butler developed for Cocker’s recording, “The beauty of the session in Butler’s mind was that it was only going to include four players – in essence, a four-man band – and rather than consigning each to a hard-and-fast and specific set of notes or beats, he put together a general chord structure from which each could improvise and play what he or she felt. What he created, in other words, was a jazz arrangement for a jazz quartet.” Butler, “It was one of those great moments when musicians get together and everything just clicked. The magic was all over the studio that night. You could feel it in the room. While listening to a playback I looked around at (drummer) Paul Humphrey and (bassist) Carole (Kaye) and everyone else. We all had big smiles on our faces. We just knew we were on to something. Sometimes you make a record and six months later it sounds dated. This record stood the test of time. I made it in 1969, and today after all these years it still sounds funky to me. It makes me want to get up and dance, which believe you me is a sight you don’t want to see.”
454. “Going Up the Country,” Canned Heat. Songwriter: Alan Wilson; #11 pop; 1968. Henry Thomas was a Texas born, African American country blues singer who was in his mid-50s when he recorded 23 songs for Vocalion Records in the late 1920s. Thomas played the quills, a set of cane pipes that was developed as a musical instrument by American slaves in the early 1800s. Alan Wilson of Canned Heat took the melody from Wilson’s 1928 composition “Bull Doze Blues” and wrote a set rural paradise lyrics to develop the hippie anthem “Going Up the Country.” Wilson was a blues scholar, as well as being known as a gifted harmonic player, who died of a drug overdose in 1970.
453. “Hide Away,” Freddie King. Songwriters: Freddie King, Sonny Thompson; #29 pop/#5 R&B; 1961. Freddie King, often billed as “Freddy,” grew up in Texas and Chicago, picking up blues influences from both locations. He met musician/A&R man Sonny Thompson in 1959 and scored four Top Ten R&B hits in 1961. King admittedly adopted his instrumental hit “Hide Away” from a Hound Dog Taylor stage number titled “Taylor’s Boogie” and it quickly became a required blues band cover tune. Eric Clapton covered “Hide Away” with John Mayall’s Blues Breakers in 1966 and the song introduced a respected Texas guitarist into the hustler side of show business. Jimmie Vaughan, “I had a black bald headed manager and he booked me in little bitty towns as Freddie King Jr. I would come out and play all of Freddy King’s instrumentals. This guy just booked me because I could play Freddie King songs and it was a novelty deal.”
452. “Down By the River,” Neil Young. Songwriter: Neil Young; Did Not Chart; 1969. Neil Young and company jam for nine minutes while the lead singer kills his love interest, figuratively, of course, on “Down By the River.” Young, “There’s no real murder in it. It’s about blowing your thing with a chick . See, now in the beginning, it’s ‘I’ll be on your side, you be on mine.’ It could be anything. Then the chick thing comes in. Then at the end it’s a whole other thing. It’s a plea… a desperation cry.” Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio, “If I was ever going to teach a master class to young guitarists, the first thing I would play them is the first minute of Neil Young’s original ‘Down by the River’ solo. It’s one note, but it’s so melodic, and it just snarls with attitude and anger. It’s like he desperately wants to connect.” This is where the world first learned of the untamed, primitive power of Crazy Horse.
451. “Helter Skelter,” The Beatles. Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney; Did Not Chart; 1968. After hearing Pete Townshend proclaim that “I Can See for Miles” was “the most raucous rock ‘n’ roll, the dirtiest thing they’d ever done,” Paul McCartney viewed that statement as a challenge. Macca, “I went into the studio and told the guys, ‘Look, I’ve got this song but Pete said this and I want to do it even dirtier.’ It was a great brief for the engineers, for everyone – just as fuzzy and as dirty and as loud and as filthy as you can get it is where I want to go. I was happy to have Pete’s quote to get me there.” Starr screamed about his blisters, while Harrison and McCartney slammed out the guitar riff in unison. Roadie Mal Evans and John Lennon served as the horn section. At one point The Beatles recorded a twenty seven minute version of the song. Ringo on his famous declaration “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!”: “The track was actually very long, and we were just pounding. I t was a jam, really, it turned into that. And at the end, the only way off the kit was, ‘Look, my fingers are bleeding, and I just have to get up.’ And I decided to shout it.”