1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 580 to 571
580. “Today I Started Loving You Again,” Merle Haggard. Songwriters: Merle Haggard, Bonnie Owens; Did Not Chart; 1968. Merle Haggard’s youth was filled with multiple arrests as well as the adventure of running away from home at the age of 14. He saw Johnny Cash perform while incarcerated at San Quentin and opted for a music career over a life of crime. After working short stints with Buck Owens and Wynn Stewart, Haggard started his solo career in 1962. This 1968 album track was originally titled “I Started Loving You Again.” Retrospectively, this heartbreak number sounds like it should have been a major hit, but Merle was primarily known for his prison songs during this timeframe. Sammi Smith of “Help Me Make It Through the Night’ fame had a Top Ten single with her 1975 version of “Today I Started Loving You Again” and the song has been recorded by George Jones, Martina McBride, and Bobby Bland, among others.
579. “Born on the Bayou,” Creedence Clearwater Revival; Did Not Chart; 1969. Creedence Clearwater Revival evolved from John Fogerty’s high school band and for a short period during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Fogerty was one of the most prolific creative forces in popular music. Fogerty on his dark swamp rocker, “Born on the Bayou” was about a mythical childhood and a heat-filled time, the Fourth of July. I put it in the swamp where, of course, I had never lived. It was late as I was writing. I was trying to be a pure writer, no guitar in hand, visualizing and looking at the bare walls of my apartment. ‘Chasing down a hoodoo.’ Hoodoo is a magical, mystical, spiritual, non-defined apparition, like a ghost or a shadow, not necessarily evil, but certainly other-worldly. I was getting some of that imagery from Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters.”
578. “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” Traffic. Songwriters; Jim Capaldi, Steve Winwood, Chris Wood; Did Not Chart; 1968. Steve Winwood formed the psychedelic rock band Traffic after leaving The Spencer Davis Group in 1967. The U.K. rock audience immediately accepted Winwood’s foray into progressive rock – the singles “Paper Sun,” “Hole in My Shoe,” and “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush” all reached the Top Ten in 1967. “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” while never released as a single, became the band’s signature song. The lyrics were developed from a Jim Capaldi poem and Steve Winwood’s aching vocal providing an aura of intrigue. Winwood, while not famed as a guitarist, performs guitar licks that sound remarkably like Eric Clapton on “Dear Mr. Fantasy” and those two gents formed the band Blind Faith in 1969.
577. “(I Don’t Want No) Part Time Love,” The Falcons. Songwriters: Robert West, Willie Schofield, Wilson Pickett; Did Not Chart; 1961. Wilson Pickett biographer Tony Fletcher wrote that Pickett “struggled with the meandering, James Brown-like vocal approach to (I Don’t Want No) Part Time Love,” completing missing the strength of the recording. There’s a spooky undercurrent to the song and insistent electric guitar squiggles that makes this sound like a bridge between Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and the psychedelic rock era. There’s also what sounds like some trippy vibraphone runs in the background. Unprecedented weirdness for 1961.
576. “Shades of Gray,” The Monkees. Songwriters: Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil; Did Not Chart; 1967. Creem writer Bill Holdship in 1986, “The beautiful, moving, magnificent, splendid, wonderful ‘Shades of Gray’ rates as one of the ‘60’s BEST compositions – and sounds as beautiful, etc., today as it did then.” First recorded in 1965 by a New York folk rock trio named The Will-O-Bees, “Shades of Gray” is a song about loss of innocence and moral relativism. Author Andrew Hughes, “The Monkees acknowledged the confusion that social change wreaks, with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil’s ‘Shades of Gray’: ‘I remember when the answers seemed so clear. We had never lived with doubt or tasted fear.’ (Peter) Tork’s plaintive delivery of the final line of the chorus, ‘Only shades of gray,’ vividly captures the song’s sense of uncertainty teetering on despair.” The French horn and cello sections reinforce the mood of melancholy disillusionment.
575. “I Count the Tears,” The Drifters. Songwriters: Doc Pomus, Mort Shuman; #17 pop/#6 R&B; 1960. Ben E. King didn’t really join The Drifters in 1958. Manager George Treadwell owned the rights to the name, had fired his previous set of performers, and then hired King’s vocal group the Five Crowns to become The Drifters. The bells and strings heartbreak number “I Count the Tears” was the last single with King on lead vocals before he started his solo career. King, “One of the members of the group found out we were making $3 – $5,000 a night. We were getting a hundred dollars a week a piece. We told (George Treadwell) what our feelings were about the salaries we were getting. He looked at me ’cause I stood up and made some speech and said, ‘Well, look, you stand aside and anyone who wants to join you can do so.’ I walked out in the hopes that the rest would follow. When I got out, I stood next to the door, and no one followed.” “I Count the Tears” was later rewritten as “Let’s Live for Today” by The Grass Roots, a case of obvious plagiarism that resulted in no legal action.
574. “Flowers in the Rain,” The Move. Songwriter: Did Not Chart; 1967. The Move formed in Birmingham, England and were originally influenced heavily by The Who, before finding their decidedly more whimsical direction. They had their breakthrough U.K. hit in 1967 with “Night of Fear,” a song with riffs taken from Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.” The bouncy “Flowers in the Rain” could be easily heard as both a leaving reality psychedelic pop number and as a children’s song. In a promotional stunt that backfired, the first 500 copies of the single included a cartoon of Prime Minister Harold Wilson engaging in an unclothed physical activity with his secretary. A lawsuit ensued and The Move lost a large sum of money when the British courts ordered that all proceeds from the record be donated to a charity of the Prime Minister’s choosing.
573. “The Nile Song,” Pink Floyd. Songwriter: Roger Waters; Did Not Chart; 1969. Pink Floyd may have been largely defined by Syd Barrett’s acid soaked whimsy before “The Dark Side of the Moon” era, but “The Nile Song” has Black Sabbath level aggression. From “Guitar World” magazine, “David Gilmour’s blistering, bendy solos guide this Roger Waters-penned rocker menacingly downstream. Gilmour’s vocals never sounded so sinister as they do on this track, barking over a chugging, churning riff that may even slip into the proto-punk category at times.” A monster guitar song.
572. “Surfin’ USA,” The Beach Boys. Songwriters: Brian Wilson, Chuck Berry; #3 pop; 1963. It would be impossible for “Surfin’ USA” to be a bad song, because, as Brian Wilson has noted, he simply took Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “rewrote it into something of our own.” What Wilson viewed as a tribute, Chuck Berry’s lawyer deemed plagiarism and Berry was given the publishing rights. However, Berry wasn’t the only influence on the record. Carl Wilson, “On ‘Surfin’ U.S.A.,’ Brian wanted an opening lick and I just did this Duane Eddy riff (author’s note – from the song “Movin’ and Groovin’” . I was worried that it had been on another record, but what the hell. That was the first time we were aware we could make a really powerful record. For the first time, we thought the group sounded good enough to be played with anything on the radio.” The band’s thorough research resulted in their first Top Ten pop hit.
571. “Cupid,” Sam Cooke. Songwriter: Sam Cooke; #17 pop/#20 R&B; 1961. Sam Cooke was the Muhammad Ali of 1960s R&B, a game changing entertainer blessed with unlimited finesse and lithe knockout power. According to Rolling Stone, “Cooke’s producers had asked him to write a song for a girl they had seen on a Perry Como TV show — but once they heard her sing, they kept ‘Cupid’ for Cooke to do himself.” The song is more pop than R&B with some Latin elements and Cooke displays his beautiful soaring tenor. James Brown, “Sam Cooke is the only man I know that stand flat footed and kill you with one song. If I had half the voice that Sam had, I wouldn’t dance.”