1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 610 to 601
Lou Christie gets electrified.
610. “Walking to New Orleans,” Fat Domino. Songwriters: Bobby Charles, Robert Guidry, Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew; #6 pop/#2 R&B; 1960. Fats Domino brought the boogie woogie New Orleans version of R&B to pop radio in the 1950s and he had his last Top Ten single in 1960 with “Walking to New Orleans.” The title came after Domino invited Bobby Charles to a show in New Orleans, but the young singer/songwriter lived 150 miles away from the city and had no transportation. After Fats commented, “Well, you better start walking,” Charles started writing instead. Fats recorded “Walking to New Orleans” with his collaborator Dave Bartholomew who added the melody repeating, melancholy strings. Three years after “Walking to New Orleans” was released, his label (Imperial Records) was sold and his partnership with Bartholomew ended. He was never a major presence on the charts again, but he was always a beloved figure as a rock ‘n’ roll pioneer.
609. “Jackson,” Johnny Cash with June Carter Cash. Songwriters: Billy Edd Wheeler, Gaby Rodgers (Jerry Leiber); #2 country; 1967. Billy Edd Wheeler has quite a resume, having worked as a songwriter, singer (he went to #3 on the country charts in 1965 with “Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back”), playwright, author, and poet. Wheeler had the original idea for the hotter than a pepper sprout “Jackson,” but the song was reshaped by Jerry Lieber, who used his wife’s name (Gaby Rodgers) for the writing credit. Wheeler, “When I played it for Jerry (Leiber), he said ‘Your first verses suck,’ or words to that effect. ‘Throw them away and start the song with your last verse, ‘We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout.’’ When I protested to Jerry that I couldn’t start the song with the climax, he said, ‘Oh, yes you can.’ So I rewrote the song and thanks to Jerry’s editing and help, it worked.” Peaking at #2 on the country charts, “Jackson” ushered in a new era of fame for Johnny Cash during the late 1960s.
608. “You Don’t Know Like I Know,” Sam and Dave. Songwriters: Isaac Hayes, David Porter; #90 pop/#7 R&B; 1965. After recording for four years without success, “You Don’t Know Like I Know” was the first charting single for Sam and Dave, hitting the Top Ten on the R&B charts with a lyric about the virtues of a good woman. That success still didn’t thrill Sam Moore, who envisioned himself singing material in the vein of Sam Cooke or Jackie Wilson. Songwriter Dave Porter would push Moore to sing at the top of his range. Porter, “I was the main thrust as far as getting him to project. Sam used to hate me for that. I would stand in front of his mike and push him in the direction that I wanted him to go for the effect of the song. That was part of the magic. It was high for him but he had some of the greatest pipes that I ever knew.”
607. “Making Time,” The Creation. Songwriters: Kenny Pickett, Eddie Phillips; Did Not Chart; 1966. The British band known as The Creation formed in 1963 as the Blue Jacks and later were known as Mark Four (Mark Four bassist John Dalton replaced Peter Quaife in The Kinks in 1966). Despite having a sound similar to The Who (both bands were produced by Shel Talmy), The Creation had more chart success in Germany than in their native U.K. On the unusual instrumental section of “Making Time,” Eddie Phillips played an electric guitar with a violin bow, years before Jimmy Page popularized that gimmick. Phillips on the recording, “It was like a gig really, we’d just set the stuff up and just whack it out. That probably accounts for the rawness of The Creation’s stuff. It’s a bit unpolished, it’s a bit raw, but that’s because we just used to set up and play.”
606. “Think,” Aretha Franklin. Songwriters: Aretha Franklin, Teddy White; #7 pop/#1 R&B; 1968. The Queen of Soul sang in her father’s church as a child and was first recorded as a gospel artist at the age of 14. She signed with Columbia Records in 1960, but never had consistent commercial success until moving under Atlantic Records under the direction of Jerry Wexler. During 1967 and 1968, she had nine singles reach the Top Ten of the pop charts. “Think” was co-written by Aretha with then husband Teddy White and recorded in Muscle Shoals with support from The Memphis Horns. It’s a soul explosion with a subtext of female empowerment. The intro piano lick was sampled for the hook of the 1989 rap hit “The Gas Face” by 3rd Bass.
605. “Pouring Water on a Drowning Man,” James Carr. Songwriters: Drew Baker, Danny McCormick; #85 pop/#23 R&B; 1966. Memphis soul singer James Carr was rejected by Stax Records, perhaps, because “compared to Otis Redding, he was inarguably minor league” in the words of Dave Marsh. The rejection from Stax may have also been caused by Carr’s bipolar disorder. In any event, he worked for the small Memphis independent label Goldwax and had nine singles hit the R&B charts from 1966 to 1969. “Pouring Water on a Drowning Man,” from the interestingly titled 1966 album “You Got My Mind Messed Up,” is narrated from the perspective of an emotionally dependent and thoroughly abused man. Few performers have ever sounded as emotionally crippled as Carr does on this tale of woe.
604. “Taxman,” The Beatles. Songwriter: George Harrison, Did Not Chart; 1966. As wealthy U.K. citizens, The Beatles found themselves subject to an almost inconceivable 95% supertax during 1966, ergo the lyric “There’s one for you, nineteen for me.” Harrison, “’Taxman’ was when I first realized that even though we had started earning money, we were actually giving most of it away in taxes.” A group effort, John Lennon recommended the references to government officials Harold Wilson and Edward Heath, while Paul McCartney played both bass and lead guitar. John Lennon, “I remember the day (Harrison) called to ask for help on ‘Taxman,’ one of his first songs. I threw in a few one-liners to help the song along, because that’s what he asked for. He came to me because he couldn’t go to Paul, because Paul wouldn’t have helped him at that period. I didn’t want to do it … I just sort of bit my tongue and said OK. It had been John and Paul for so long, he’d been left out because he hadn’t been a songwriter up until then.”
603. “The Bird’s the Word,” The Rivingtons. Songwriters: Carl White, Al Frazier, Sonny Harris & Turner Wilson Jr.; #52 pop/#27 R&B; 1963. The Rivingtons were a West Coast vocal group who performed under various names with rotating cast members during the 1950s. While billed as The Sharps, they performed as backing singers on the 1957 Thurston Harris Top Ten single “Little Bitty Pretty One.” The next year, the group was renamed The Rebels and backed Duane Eddy on his Top Ten hit “Rebel Rouser.” The Rivingtons found the charts in 1962 with their #48 pop hit “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow,” then revisited the gimmick with their followup single “Mama-Oom-Mow-Mow.” The group had their last charting effort with the doo wop/R&B dance craze number “The Bird’s the Word.” Despite the novelty material, The Rivingtons were an accomplished vocal act and they opened the door for Minneapolis garage rockers The Trashmen to combine two of their songs for the mystifying insanity of “Surfin’ Bird.”
602. “Please Help Me, I’m Falling,” Hank Locklin. Songwriters: Don Robertson, Hal Blair; #8 pop/#1 country; 1960. Hank Locklin performed for years in the Florida Panhandle and in southern Alabama before scoring his first hit in 1948, the #8 country single “The Same Sweet Girl.” Locklin had a #1 hit in 1953 with “Let Me Be the One,” but his chart success was sporadic in the 1950s. His smooth tenor and the tumbling into temptation lyrics took “Please Help Me, I’m Falling” to #1 on the country charts for 14 weeks and was also a crossover Top Ten pop hit. Locklin never duplicated that success, scoring only two more Top Ten county hits and having his final Top 40 effort in 1969. Locklin was still a capable performer at the age of 88, as shown by a 2006 PBS performance of “Please Help Me, I’m Falling,” and passed away in 2009 at the age of 91.
601. “Lightning Strikes,” Lou Christie. Songwriters: Lou Christie, Twyla Herbert; #1 pop; 1965. Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco did not become a pop star by accident. He later reflected, “I was so focused. I gave up a lot, like my teen years, but I got exactly what I wanted because I went after it.” Imitating the falsetto vocal style and phrasing of Franki Valli, Christie had a #24 pop hit with “The Gypsy Cried” and went Top Ten with “Two Faces Have I” in 1963. A stint in the Army delayed his career momentum, but he returned with a #1 single with “Lightnin’ Strikes,” a song that Christie says was a hit due to his own promotion. Christie, “(Label owner) Lenny Shear threw it in the wastebasket and said it was a piece of crap! So, we put up our own money to get it played around the country, and it started taking off once it got played. Three months later, Lenny was taking a picture with me for ‘Billboard’ magazine, handing me a gold record. I loved that.”