1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 540 to 531
Cheat on your taxes, don’t be a fool.
540. “May I,” Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. Songwriter: Maurice Williams; Did Not Chart; 1966. South Carolina native Maurice Williams started his professional career in doo wop music in the 1950s. He wrote “Little Darlin’” for his band The Gladiolas, a song that The Diamonds covered for a #2 pop hit in 1957. The Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs single “May I” sounds like a doo wop classic, but that wasn’t a sound that radio was seeking in 1966. However, a strange horn lead and polka influenced cover of “May I” was a #39 hit for Bill Deal & The Rhondels in 1969. Williams recorded a new version of “May I” in 2000, with an arrangement influenced by the Carolina beach music sound.
539. “Husbands and Wives,” Roger Miller. Songwriter: Roger Miller; #26 pop/#5 country; 1966. “Husbands and Wives” was a departure for Miller, a sad, waltz style rumination on divorce that almost has a confessional singer/songwriter sound. Miller’s original went to #5 on the country charts and the song was a Top Twenty hit for David Frizzell and Shelly West in 1981. Brooks and Dunn had the most successful cover, taking it to #1 in 1988. Despite the success of “Husband and Wives,” Miller quickly turned away from serious themes – his next two singles were “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd” and “My Uncle Used to Love Me But She Died.” In the world of pop music, Ringo Starr recorded “Husbands and Wives” in 1974. Ringo Starr and Maureen Cox divorced in 1975.
538. “My Way,” Frank Sinatra. Songwriters: Claude François, Jacques Revaux – English lyrics by Paul Anka; #27 pop; 1969. Paul Anka purchased the publishing rights in 1967 to a French composition titled ‘Comme d’habitude” and he’ll tell the story from here. Anka, “I thought it was a shitty record, but there was something in it. At one o’clock in the morning, I sat down at an old IBM electric typewriter and said, ‘If Frank were writing this, what would he say?’ And I started, metaphorically, ‘And now the end is near.’ I read a lot of periodicals, and I noticed everything was ‘my this’ and ‘my that.’ We were in the ‘me generation’ and Frank became the guy for me to use to say that. I used words I would never use: ‘I ate it up and spit it out.’ But that’s the way he talked. I called Frank up in Nevada – he was at Caesar’s Palace – and said, ‘I’ve got something really special for you.’” Anka said he was “somewhat destabilized” by the late ‘70s sneering Sex Pistols take.
537. “Big Legged Woman,” Jerry Lee Lewis. Songwriter: Jimmy Williams; Did Not Chart; 1969. Rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis made his prodigal son return to the airwaves in the late 1960s as a major country star, releasing eight Top Ten country singles in 1968 and 1969. Sun Records, which was purchased from Sam Phillips by Shelby Singleton in 1969, used this return to fame as an opportunity to release material from the vault, including the 1969 album “Rockin’ Rhythm & Blues.” The album is primarily a collection of famed rock classics with the sole obscurity being the lascivious cover of “Mr. Blues” Jimmy Williams’ obscure 1961 b-side “Big Legged Woman.” With the name Howlin’ Wolf already taken, Jerry Lee could have been billed as Howlin’ Lust on “Big Legged Woman.”
536. “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand),” Irma Thomas. Songwriters: Jeannie Seely, Judith Arbuckle, Pat Sheeran, Randy Newman; #52 pop/#29 R&B; 1964. There are some interesting names on the songwriting credits of “Anyone Who Knows What Love Is (Will Understand).” It was written prior to Jeannie Seely becoming a major country star during the 1960s and well before Randy Newman would be celebrated as one of the finest songwriters in pop music. The arrangement sounds more like Hal David/Burt Bacharach than New Orleans soul and lyrically Thomas has no interest in losing her devotion to a bad man. Thomas was an early supporter of Randy Newman, recording his composition “While the City Sleeps” in 1964 and “Baby Don’t Look Down” in 1966. Newman didn’t have a bigger hit on the U.S. charts than “Anyone” until Three Dog Night went to #1 with “Mama Told Me Not to Come” in 1970.
535. “Lonely Weekends,” Charlie Rich. Songwriter: Charlie Rich; #22 pop; 1960. Charlie Rich first made his mark at Sun Studios writing hits for Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis in the late 1950s and had his first pop hit with “Lonely Weekends.” Rich does an amazing simulation of Elvis Presley’s vocal style on “Lonely Weekends,” which sounds more upbeat than the title would suggest due to its rockabilly sound. It would take another thirteen years before Rich became a country superstar and it’s difficult to view his Sun years as anything but a blown opportunity for such a major talent. Rich reflecting on his time with the label, “Sam Phillips had gotten wealthy and was more interested in Holiday Inn stock than the record business.”
534. “Skip a Rope,” Henson Cargill. Songwriters: Jack Moran, Glenn D. Tubb; #25 pop/#1 country; 1967. Oklahoma native Henson Cargill went to Nashville to record “Skip a Rope,” a tide turning tune during the Vietnam era. A positively hippie vibe permeates this diatribe about backstabbers, tax, cheats and racism. “Skip a Rope” was penned by Glenn Tubb (a nephew of Ernest) and Jack Moran, a blind Penn State grad/social worker who released a 1970 album titled, ouch, “As I See It.” Cargill only hit the Top Ten on one more occasion with the Moran penned, church attending/slum ignoring “None of My Business,” which peaked at #8 in 1969. After leaving the recording and touring scene, Cargill opened Henson’s Saloon and Restaurant in Oklahoma City in 1982. He filed for bankruptcy the following year.
533. “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Going to Marry,” Darlene Love. Songwriters: Phil Spector, Ellie Greenwich, Tony Powers; #39 pop; 1963. Darlene Love recorded a #1 pop song in 1962, but since “He’s a Rebel” was credited as being performed by The Crystals, her name had little value in terms of record promotion. She only managed two minor Top 40 singles as a solo act, with the quixotic “(Today I Met) The Boy I’m Going to Marry” peaking at #39. Darlene Love describing the song and her frustrations with producer Phil Spector, “a sort of doo-wop meets gospel ballad that really lets me blow off some steam – and by then, I was a pressure cooker.” Love’s sweet sensation kissing tale was included in the 1991 Steve Martin film “Father of the Bride” and referenced in the They Might Be Giants’ genre piece “Lucky Ball & Chain.”
532. “Scarborough Fair/Canticle,” Simon and Garfunkel. Songwriter: “Scarborough Fair” – Traditional, “Canticle,” Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel; #11 pop, 1968. “Scarborough Fair” is a traditional English ballad with a lyrical theme of giving a woman impossible tasks to perform as a requirement to win back the narrator’s love. The song had been recorded several times, but nobody had mastered the unsettling spirit of the composition like Simon and Garfunkel, who incorporated anti-war sentiments that deepened the emotional impact. Bruce Eder, “The sonic results were startling on their face, a record that was every bit as challenging in its way as ‘Good Vibrations,’ but the subliminal effect was even more profound, mixing a hauntingly beautiful antique melody, and a song about love in a peaceful, domestic setting, with a message about war and death.”
531. “I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You,” The Bee Gees. Songwriters: Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb; #8 pop; 1968. Robin Gibb on The Bee Gees first U.S. Top Ten single, “This is about a prisoner on Death Row who only has a few hours to live. He wants the prison chaplain to pass on a final message to his wife. There’s a certain urgency about it. Myself and Barry wrote it. It’s a bit like writing a script.” Robin Gibb, “It was like acting, you see, we said, let’s pretend that somebody, his life is on the line, somebody’s going to the chair. What would be going through their mind? Let’s not make it doom and gloom but sort of an appeal to the person he loves. What would they be saying, you know? This is it: ‘Gotta get a message to you, hold on.’”