1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 510 to 501
When you’re feeling low and the fish won’t bite.
510. “America,” Simon and Garfunkel. Songwriter: Paul Simon; #97 pop; first released in 1968, issued as a single in 1972. Paul Simon takes a road trip on “America,” grappling with the concepts of whether the United States represents a set of ideas, a state of mind, or a series of geographical destinations. The lyrics were inspired by a five day driving excursion that Simon undertook in 1964 with his then girlfriend Kathy Chitty. Disc jockey Bob Dyer commenting on a discussion with Simon in 1966, “I asked Paul Simon if they were still charging the $1,250 we paid them to play and he said they were getting about four times that much then. Then I asked him why he hadn’t pulled out, and he said he had to see what a city named Saginaw looked like.” Art Garfunkel, “That has a real upright, earnest quality because we both have the identical soul at that moment. We come from the identical place in our attitude, and the spine that’s holding us up, we are the same person. Same college kid, striking out.” Lyrically, “America” is a rare pop song that doesn’t contain a single rhyme, yet nothing sounds forced in its structure.
509. “Trouble in Mind,” Nina Simone. Songwriter: Richard M. Jones; Did Not Chart; 1965. A classically trained pianist from a small segregated North Carolina town, the inimitable Nina Simone started performing in bars in the 1950s and had a #19 pop hit in 1959 with her version of “I Love You, Porgy” from the opera “Porgy and Bess.” “Trouble in Mind” is an eight bars blues number from the 1920s that’s been recorded by everybody from Bob Wills to Led Zeppelin. Simone released a live single of “Trouble in Mind” in 1961 that peaked at #11 on the R&B charts (that record was most likely significantly edited since the album version was over five and half minutes). The 1965 studio release from the “Pastel Blues” album shows how effortlessly Simone merged jazz, rhythm and blues, and pop music into her own singular sound. That album also includes the ten minute plus “Sinnerman,” a traditional African American spiritual number that became one of Simone’s signature songs.
508. “Not Guilty,” Bo Diddley. Songwriter: Elias McDaniel (Bo Diddley); Did Not Chart; 1961. Bo Diddley didn’t have a Top 40 hit during the 1960s, but his albums were worth buying based on the titles alone – “Bo Diddley Is a Gunslinger,” “Bo Diddley Is a Lover,” “Bo Diddley’s a Twister,” and “Surfin’ with Bo Diddley.” On the 1961 single “Not Guilty,” Bo withstands an unusual interrogation from a female chorus, to include, “Did you kill a nanny goat?” The reply, “To make my baby a Sunday coat.” In the middle of the song the court takes “a two bar recess.” Bo Diddley, making woman faint and capable of killing with his bare hands, was all man and mile wide.
507. “Got You on My Mind,” Cookie and His Cupcakes. Songwriters: Joe Thomas, Howard Biggs; #94 pop; 1963. Cookie and His Cupcakes was a seven piece Louisiana act who first hit the charts with their #47 pop hit “Matilda” in 1959, a song often referred to as “the swamp pop national anthem.” Based out of Lake Charles, Louisiana, the band was first named the Boogie Ramblers when they formed in 1953 and worked as a touring opening act for Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis.” “Got You on My Mind” had been a #2 R&B hit for John Greer and the Rhythm Rockers in 1951 and has been recorded by Jean Shephard and Sleepy LaBeef. The Cupcakes version has the swaying, laid back Fats Domino New Orleans sound. Lead singer Huey “Cookie” Theirry, an African American Cajun, often found mutual attraction with white women, which did not bode well for his personal safety. Author Shane Bernard’s quote from “a nightclub owner,” “In Lawton they’d got the rope to hang him and everything over there one night.” Thierry left Louisiana in the mid-1960s and lived in Los Angeles obscurity until being rediscovered and reforming his band in the early 1990s.
506. “What a Man,” Linda Lyndell. Songwriter: Dave Crawford; #50 R&B; 1968. Florida native Linda Lyndell was a white girl who sounded like a soul sister and she worked as an opening act for James Brown and Ike and Tina Turner in the early 1960s. She had her only charting single with the slinky R&B rhythm of “What a Man,” which was resurrected by Salt-n-Pepa with En Vogue for their 1993 hit “Whatta Man.” Lyndell’s man was special because he knew all the latest dance moves. Salt-n-Pepa’s man rubbed it down and made it smooth like lotion. As a white woman performing sexually provocative music in a black idiom, Lyndell started receiving death threats from the Ku Klux Klan and left the music business, deciding that discretion was the better part of valor. She performed “What a Man” for the first time in 2003, at the opening of the Stax Museum in Memphis.
505. “You Didn’t Say a Word,” Yvonne Baker. Songwriters: William Jackson, Joseph Renzetti, Jean Wells; Did Not Chart; 1967. Yvonne Baker was a member of the Philadelphia doo wop act The Sensations and wrote their 1962 #4 pop hit “Let Me In.” She later became a solo act and had one of the U.K. Northern soul scene’s biggest hits with “You Didn’t Say a Word,” although most listeners didn’t know the song title or artist. Simon Price, “Many of the feather-cut kids in their three-star tops, flare-flapping Oxford bags and slippery Solatio shoes would have known this as the James Bond song. Identities of highly localized dancefloor hits, sometimes associated with just one venue, were jealously guarded by DJs who stuck plain white paper over the labels to prevent rivals from stealing their set.” “You Didn’t Say a Word” does cop its intro from John Berry’s “James Bond Theme” in an audaciously fun way and maintains an insistent surging, dancefloor arrangement. Simon on the enduring impact of the song, “(It) is sufficiently iconic that a T-shirt bearing only its title and a mock-up of the Bond gun barrel is available, no further explanation needed.”
504. “Unchained Melody,” The Righteous Brothers. Songwriters: Alex North, Hy Zaret; #4 pop/#6 R&B; 1965. “Unchained Melody” was written for the 1955 film “Unchained,” which is why the word is in the title of the song, but not in the lyrics. There were three Top Ten versions of “Unchained Melody” in 1955, the biggest being Les Baxter’s #1 single. The Righteous Brothers recorded the song as an intended album cut/b-side. According to Bill Medley, he produced the song and Phil Spector took credit for the production after it became an unexpected hit. Hatfield came back to re-record the final dramatic “I need your love” line, asking Bill Medley to edit it into the song. Medley, “I punched that in and he left. He said, ‘No, I can do it better.’ And I said, ‘No, you can’t.’ (Laughs) And I think it’s a big part of that song.’”
503. “Glad All Over,” Dave Clark Five. Songwriters: Dave Clark, Mike Smith; #6 pop; 1963. The Dave Clark Five formed in north London during the late 1950s and were viewed as the premier rivals to The Beatles before The Rolling Stones became an international sensation. Known for their drum heavy “Tottenham Sound,” it was an unusual band in that the percussionist also served as the frontman. The title “Glad All Over” was inspired by the 1957 Carl Perkins record with the same name, although the sound was completely different. Dave Clark, “I knew that we needed a song with the thumps in. We had been playing dance halls and we were getting a great audience response to the stomping things we were doing. ‘Glad All Over’ didn’t take long at all to write. Your best songs are the ones you seem to do very quickly. It was a great hook, and a very simple one.”
502. “Little Bit O’ Soul,” The Music Explosion. Songwriters: John Carter, Ken Lewis; #2 pop; 1967. The Music Explosion was a Mansfield, Ohio act that was discovered by bubblegum pop producers Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz during the mid-1960s. Their first single was a non-charting cover of “Little Black Egg” by The Nightcrawlers. However, they soon found their two minutes and eighteen seconds of fame with “Little Bit O’ Soul,” a bass riff and Farfisa organ hooked number that had been released in 1965 by the U.K. act The Little Darlings. Band member Burton Stahl, “We wanted to put that vamp in there, that da, da, da, da, every time. It was a little bit different than some of the other groups that had attempted it. Life changed from being a nobody in Mansfield, Ohio to giving us a special day and the keys to the city. We pretty much made it to the top by the time I was 20 years old.’”
501. “Love of the Common People,” Waylon Jennings and The Waylors. Songwriters: John Hurley, Ronnie Wilkins; #67 country; 1967. West Texas native Waylon Jennings landed his first regular radio job when he was 12 years old and worked as a disc jockey after dropping out of high school. Buddy Holly arranged his first recording session in 1959 and Waylon famously missed out on the plane ride that resulted in the deaths of Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson). He first hit the country charts in 1965 and went Top Ten in 1966 with the Bakersfield rip “That’s What You Get for Loving Me.” The anti-poverty “Love of the Common People” was first recorded by The Four Preps and more than twenty-five different artists released the song between 1967 and 1970. Waylon’s take probably was too much of a folk/pop sound for country music at the time, but he certainly gave his gritty baritone voice a real workout on this number. The name of Jennings’ backing unit, The Waylors, eventually worked better for Bob Marley.