1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 480 to 471
You’re so sweet you make sugar taste just like salt.
480. “This Magic Moment,” The Drifters. Songwriters: Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman; #16 pop/#4 R&B; 1960. Ben E. King on taking over as the lead singer for The Drifers, “I was never supposed to be a lead singer, ever. There was never should have been a Ben E. King in life because I was a baritone singer. I was the one that did the steps and watched the girls while the other guys had the responsibility of making the song happen. I was not that guy. I had no intentions of being that guy but as luck would have it or not, Charlie Thomas couldn’t do the song ‘There Goes My Baby.’ Jerry Wexler got upset about it and said, ‘Who wrote the song?’ And they pointed at me. And he said, ‘Well, if he wrote it, let him sing it.’” King’s smooth baritone became The Drifters’ trademark during his tenure and he commands center stage on “This Magic Moment,” a love song about a kiss that will last forever. The string section reinforces the lyrical concept with sweeping detonations.
479. “Chapel of Love,” The Dixie Cups. Songwriters: Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, Phil Spector; #1 pop; 1964. The Dixie Cups were a vocal trio – two sisters and a cousin – who formed in New Orleans in 1963 and were managed by Joe Jones, who had a major pop hit in 1960 with “You Talk Too Much.” The Barry/Greenwich composition “Chapel of Love” had been recorded by The Ronettes, The Crystals, and Darlene Love, but Phil Spector wasn’t satisfied with the results and those versions weren’t released. The Dixie Cups version was recorded by Lieber and Stoller, neither of whom liked the finished product. (In fact, Lieber has stated he hated the song “with a passion”). However, the warm feelings generated by young love pining for the altar connected with the public. With its quixotic view of romance and sing-songy phrasing, both absolutely loving and hating “Chapel of Love” is perfectly understandable.
478. “Walking the Dog,” Rufus Thomas. Songwriter: Rufus Thomas; #10 pop/#4 R&B; 1963. During the 1960’s, Stax Records was run more like an informal family gathering spot than as a structured business. Atlantic’s legendary studio engineer Tom Dowd was amazed at how relaxed the studio atmosphere was compared to the unionized environment in New York. One Sunday afternoon, Rufus Thomas walked in the studio without an appointment, announced he had a new song, and “Walking the Dog” was cut in a few hours. With “Walking the Dog,” Rufus Thomas was the first, and only, father to hit the Top Ten after his daughter had a Top Ten single (Carla’s “Gee Whiz”). The World’s Oldest Teenager was a fixture on the Memphis entertainment scene for decades – hosting amateur shows, working in radio, and recording for both Sun and Stax Records. This canine dance craze went #10 in 1963 and would later be covered by The Rolling Stones, Johnny Rivers, The Sonics, Mitch Ryder, Aerosmith, etc., etc., etc.
477. “Darkness, Darkness,” The Youngbloods. Songwriter: Jesse Colin Young; #86 pop; 1970. The Youngbloods emerged from the New York folk scene in 1965 and our best known for their version of “Get Together,” a smile on your brother/love one another ‘60s anthem/Top Five pop hit. “Darkness, Darkness” is from the band’s 1969 album “Elephant Mountain,” the first production effort from future long haired country boy Charlie Daniels, and is decades ahead of its time in terms of fitting into the Americana goth genre. Songwriter Jesse Colin Young, “I spent one sleepless night thinking about my friends who were in Vietnam and how terrifying it must be. So much of the fighting was done at night and ‘Darkness Darkness’ came out of that sleepless night. I tried to put myself in their shoes.” There have been several cover versions of “Darkness, Darkness” from the world of classic rock to include Mott the Hoople, Golden Earring, Robert Plant, and Ann Wilson.
476. “Heroes and Villains,” The Beach Boys. Songwriters: Brian Wilson, Van Dyke Parks; #12 pop; 1967. “Heroes and Villains” was the first collaboration between Brian Wilson and lyricist Van Dyke Parks. Wilson, “I think it was a great title, and he (Parks) suggested it. To me, ‘Heroes and Villains’ sounds like a ballad out of the Southwest. That’s what it was intended to be – as good as any of those – and, really, to be a ballad. This Spanish and Indian fascination is a big chapter in Californian history, and that’s what it’s supposed to be – historically reflective, to reflect this place. I think it did it.” The relative failure of this record in comparison to “Good Vibrations” pushed Wilson to his creative breaking point. Former Beach Boys manager Jack Rieley, “It was the public failure of ‘Heroes’ to wow Capitol (Records) and thus wow the world that caused him to withdraw. When the withdrawal began to attract notice, Brian’s keen senses picked up on the fact. Soon he was feeding off the crumbs of legend available to ‘Brian Wilson, eccentric recluse’ – a hideous second-best to the public acclaim he was denied.”
475. “If Sugar Was as Sweet as You,” Joe Tex. Songwriter: Joe Tex; Did Not Chart; 1966. “If Sugar Was as Sweet As You” was a departure for Tex, it’s just as much rock as R&B and the background organ riff sounded like Augie Meyers had joined his band. Tex goes to great lengths to describe how sweet his honey is, to include the wonderful aside “stick your finger in my coffee.” This b-side to his 1966 single “The Love You Save (May Be Your Own)” languished in obscurity until being covered by Rockpile in 1980. Nick Lowe, “Like lots of other kids over here, I was a mod and we all liked this new music – well, it seemed new to us – this fantastic stuff beamed in from some planet. It was our own little language. If you saw someone walking down the road with a Joe Tex album under their arm, you would go up to them and start talking. You had spotted a friend.”
474. “Last Train to Clarksville,” The Monkees. Songwriters: Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart; #1 pop; 1966. “Last Train to Clarksville” was The Monkees first single, an immediate #1 smash written as an homage, to be gracious, of The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer.” Songwriters Boyce and Hart were indirectly penning lyrics about a soldier drafted for Vietnam service, which explains the tagline “and I don’t know if I’m ever coming home.” Micky Dolenz, “We were working 24/7. Normally, you do a TV series – eight, 10 hours a day – and go home. But after filming the show, I would go into the studio and sometimes record two or three lead vocals a night. So, it’s all a bit of a blur. That middle bit, there were words to that. Bobby Hart tells the story that I said, ‘It’s midnight, I have to be on the set at six. I can’t learn to sing that.’ He said, ‘Okay, just go ‘Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo.’ You never know, if I’d sang all those words, it might not have worked.”
473. “Tomorrow Never Knows,” The Beatles. Songwriters: John Lennon, Paul McCartney; Did Not Chart; 1966. “Tomorrow Never Knows” was an early excursion into psychedelic rock territory for The Beatles, a song based on an underlying drone with special effects, tape loops, recurring seagull squawks, and an unconventional stuttering drum pattern from Ringo. George Harrison, “‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ is saying what meditation is all about. The goal of meditation is to go beyond (that is, transcend) waking, sleeping and dreaming. So, the song starts out by saying, ‘Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream, it is not dying.’” Thoughts from Klaus Voorman, who designed the “Revolver” album cover, “’Tomorrow Never Knows’ was so far away from the early Beatles stuff that even I myself thought, well, the normal kind of Beatles fan won’t want to buy this record. But they did.”
472. “The Bottle Let Me Down,” Merle Haggard. Songwriter: Merle Haggard; #3 country; 1966. Merle Haggard could have made a career out of drinking songs and this #3 single was one of his best. He wasn’t shy about describing how influential Buck Owens was on his early material. Haggard, “The only person that either of us (Merle and Bonnie Owens) knew that had any success at all, that we knew personally, was Buck Owens. We had to kind of pattern most everything from what Buck would talk to us about.” On “The Bottle Let Me Down,” Bonnie Owen’s harmony vocals drops off after singing “tonight the bottle” and Merle appropriately completes the line “let me down” all slone. Merle, “The only reason for harmony is to accent… Buck always taught me that.”
471. “Hit the Road Jack,” Ray Charles. Songwriter: Percy Mayfield; #1 pop/#1 R&B; 1961. Lousiana native Percy Mayfield topped the R&B charts in 1950 with the jazz influenced blues number “Please Send Me Someone to Love.” After a life threatening car accident in 1952, he worked primarily as a songwriter for Art Rupe’s Specialty Records. He had his only crossover pop success with “Hit the Road Jack,” a male/female argument similar to The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me” for a prior generation. Margie Hendricks provided the husky growling female counterpart to Ray Charles’s whipped dog routine. In real life, Hendricks and Charles shared a baby and an addiction, but that didn’t keep her in the fold forever. Author Michael Lydon, “Always a prima donna who carried and combed an endless supply of elaborate wigs, Margie sassed the boss once too often, and suddenly Ray had had enough. Margie’s departure (in 1964) ended a historic partnership. Ray sang with many other women later in his career, but none matched him in tone and texture, or challenged him in emotional intensity, as did the immortal Marjorie Hendricks.”