1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 600 to 591
Michael Martin Murphy and I Monkee around.
600. “I Will Follow Him,” Little Peggy March. Songwriters: Franck Pourcel, Paul Mauriat, Arthur Altman, Norman Gimbel; #1 pop; 1963. Pennsylvania native Margaret Battavio signed a deal with RCA Records in 1962, when she was 14 years old, and was given the stage name Little Peggy March. (The “Little” moniker had more to do with her height, she was under five feet tall, than her age.) Famed Brill Building producers Hugo Peretti and Luigi Creatore took a 1962 Petula Clark single titled “Chariot,” a song that was performed in French, and reworked it for the American market as “I Will Follow Him.” This doo wop meets girl group number about depthless teen romantic devotion was an international #1 single. March was unable to sustain her success in the U.S. and she lived in Germany, where she was a much bigger star, from 1969 to 1981.
599. “A Fool in Love,” Ike and Tina Turner. Songwriter: Ike Turner: #27 pop/#2 R&B; 1960. Anna Mae Bullock joined Ike Turner’s Revue in 1958, but didn’t get the name Tina Turner or the chance to sing lead until “A Fool in Love.” The song was originally written for band member Art Lassiter who left Turner’s band shortly after Tina’s intended guide vocal was recorded. Juggy Murray of Sue Records, “All of those blues singers sounded like dirt. Tina sounded like screaming dirt. It was a funky sound.” Kurt Loder called it “the blackest record to creep into the white pop charts since Ray Charles’ gospel-styled ‘What’d I Say’ the previous summer.” Robert Krasnow of Elektra Records, “Ike saw Tina as the ultimate woman, as a Venus, the perfect girl. It was a fantasy of his and she played to this image for him, or was a partner to it because she wanted the same things he did. Tina’s a very smart woman. She saw what Ike was conjuring up for her. I don’t see how she could’ve put as much time into it if she didn’t want success as much as Ike did.”
598. “Sally, Go ‘Round the Roses,” The Jaynetts. Songwriters: Lona Stevens, Zell Sanders; #2 pop/#4 R&B; 1963. The Jaynetts evolved out of an R&B vocal group named The Hearts, who had a Top Ten R&B hit in 1955 with “Lonely Nights.” Band manager Zelma Sanders took her profits from that effort and founded J&S Records, becoming one of the first females to own a label. J&S Records worked with Chess Records in the early 1960s and had their first success with “Smoky Places,” a #12 pop hit by the Corsairs in 1962. Chicago producer Abner Spector worked with a new version of The Hearts, later named the Jaynetts to resolve issues with group membership, on “Sally, Go ‘Round the Roses.” Singer Johnnie Louise Richardson on the recording process, “Anybody that came in the studio that week, (Spector) would put them on (the track). Originally, I think he had about 20 voices on ‘Sally.’” The result was turning a jump rope nursery rhyme turned into a mysteriously haunting record.
597. “The Warm Red Wine,” George Jones. Songwriter: Cindy Walker; Did Not Chart; 1962. Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys recorded over fifty Cindy Walker compositions, including a 1949 release of “The Warm Red Wine.” Wills, the undisputed “King of Western Swing,” had a minor comeback in the early 1960s, scoring his first hit in a decade with 1960’s “Heart to Heart Talk,” a reunion record with singer Tommy Duncan who rejoined the Texas Playboys from 1959 to 1961. Meanwhile, George Jones was a busy possum, releasing seven – yes, SEVEN – albums from July through December of 1962. His final release of that year was the tribute record “George Jones Sings Bob Wills.” The album didn’t result in any hit singles, but when Jones laments “I’m a prisoner of drink who will never escape,” you know “The Warm Red Wine” has found its proper home.
596. “Action Woman,” The Litter. Songwriter: Warren Kendrick; Did Not Chart; 1967. The Litter was a Twin Cities garage rock/psychedelic band whose work was significantly shaped by producer Warren Kendrick. Guitarist Tom Caplan, “Warren Kendrick was a good guitar and keyboard player in his own right – he was also a good songwriter and an electronic math genius. He came up with the phasing technique used on our second album many months before the Small Faces came out with ‘Itchykoo Park.’ Anyway, after he lost the use of his left arm from some weird medical condition he turned to producing and managing and signed the group to record ‘Action Woman’ and the first album.” While the lyrics may have somewhat of a caveman quality, the raw/distorted guitar sounds on “Action Woman” are pure garage rock bliss.
595. “What Am I Doing Hangin’ Round?,” The Monkeees. Songwriters: Michael Martin Murphy, Owen Castleman; Did Not Chart; 1967. Dallas native Michael Martin Murphy performed in North Texas in the early 1960s and relocated to Los Angeles after graduating high school. He was a member of an L.A. band the Trinity River Boys in 1964, as was fellow Texan Michael Nesmith. Later Murphy teamed with Owen Castleman in the duo The Lewis and Clark Expedition and they wrote “What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round?” after Nesmith requested a song from Murphy. This south of the border love affair number wasn’t a hit for the Monkees, but helped to establish Nesmith’s country rock credentials. Murphy became an important figure on the Austin music scene in the early 1970s, scored a #3 pop hit in 1975 with “Wildfire,” and had a string of country hits in the 1980s. I interrupted him at a Mansfield, Texas restaurant for a picture a few years ago and he treated me better than I deserved.
594. “Happy Together,” The Turtles. Songwriters: Alan Gordon, Gary Bonner; #1 pop; 1967. “It took us a very long time to find that ‘Happy Together.’ It was a demo that had been turned down by every single group in American from The Vogues to Gary Lewis. Everybody passed on that song. The demo was so bad. We took it on the road with us, instead of going into the studio and we worked it with our bass player at the time, Chip Douglas. He largely was responsible for the horns and the vocal arranging. Eight months later we went into the studio, we cut the song, we walked out of there absolutely knowing for the only time in my life that this was a #1 record.” Denise Sullivan, “Striving to break from the vacuous Top 40 mold in which they’d been cast and swept up by the movement toward serious, Beatles/Beach Boys conceptual pop, the Turtles chucked all their pop, folk, psychedelia, and Zombies-style harmony expertise into one song. Teetering near the brink of bubblegum, ‘Happy Together’ rises above it; it’s a rock & roll song with a martial beat; the vocal is desperate and strident; the horns are buried, yet entirely essential. This is a most sublime slice of pop heaven.”
593. “Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs,” Charlie Rich. Songwriter: Margaret Ann Rich; #41 country; 1969. Charlie Rich recorded for five different record labels from 1960 to 1967 and his talent clearly exceeded his financial rewards. He signed to Epic Records in 1968 and started being marketed to the country audience. His 1969 album “The Fabulous Charlie Rich” is considered one of his best, even though the public response was tepid. Written by his wife Margaret Ann Rich, “Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs” is about a woman whose faith in her husband transcends his success. That had to sting a little bit. This song has a much more soulful vocal performance than Rich typically gave during his era as a major country and crossover pop star during the 1970s.
592. “White Rabbit,” Jefferson Airplane. Songwriter: Grace Slick; #8 pop; 1967. Grace Slick worked as model for several years during the early 1960s, then formed a band named the Great Society in 1965. She wrote the cautionary hallucinogenic bolero “White Rabbit” while in that band. Slick later said she composed “White Rabbitt” “on a funny-looking upright piano with about eight keys missing. I took acid and listened to Miles Davis’s ‘Sketches of Spain’ album for 24 hours straight until it burned into my brain.” Part of Slick’s inspiration came from the use of mind altering substances in popular literature: “They’d read us all these stories where you’d take some kind of chemical and have a great adventure. ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is blatant; she gets literally high, too big for the room, while the caterpillar sits on a psychedelic mushroom smoking opium. In ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ they land in a field of opium poppies, wake up and see this Emerald City. ‘Peter Pan’? Sprinkle some white dust-cocaine-on your head and you can fly.”
591. “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man),” Loretta Lynn. Songwriter: Loretta Lynn; #2 country; 1966. After six years of recording, you could say that Loretta Lynn found her true voice – that no nonsense, give no quarter, colloquial/home truth attitude – with “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man),” a #2 country hit. Loretta was inspired to write the song after a woman came to see her backstage, crying because her husband was with another woman. Lynn, “I looked at that other girl and I thought, ‘My God, don’t tell me you’re going to let somebody like that take your husband away from you!’ Cause, to me, she was twice the woman that the other gal was. So I looked back at her and said, ‘Why she ain’t woman enough to take your man!’ Just like that, as soon as I said it, I knew I had a hit song.”