1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 630 to 621
Nancy Sinatra gets tired of flip flops.
630. “(I Don’t Know Why) But I Do,” Clarence “Frogman” Henry. Songwriters: Paul Gayten, Robert Guidry (Bobby Charles); #4 pop/#9 R&B; 1961. New Orleans pianist Clarence Henry had his first hit in 1956 with the novelty number “Ain’t Got No Home.” Henry alternated between singing like a girl and croaking like a frog on “Ain’t Got No Home,” thereby earning his nickname. “(I Don’t Know Why (But I Do)” was co-written by Louisiana songwriter Bobby Charles, who also penned “See You Later, Alligator” for Billy Haley and the Comets and “Walking to New Orleans” for Fats Domino. Charles released “But I Do” in the 1980s as a slow blues number, but Clarence “Frogman” Henry’s original recording of the song harkens back to the big band era. Henry returned to the Top 40 in 1961 with “You Always Hurt the One You Love” and opened a series of shows for The Beatles on their 1964 tour. Henry, “Paul (McCartney) was the greatest. I called him a Soul Brother. He was down home.”
629. “(All My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers,” Merle Haggard. Songwriter: Liz Anderson; #10 country; 1964. After being paroled from prison in 1960, Merle released his first single that year, the Fuzzy Owen composition “Singin’ My Heart Out.” Haggard worked as a bass player for Bakersfield pioneer Wynn Stewart during the early 1960s and Stewart penned Haggard’s first charting single, the 1963 heartbreak number “Sing a Sad Song.” “(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers” was Haggard’s first Top Ten hit and was written by Liz Anderson, the mother of one time country superstar Lynn Anderson. After being jilted by his lover, Merle concludes that “the only thing he can count on is his fingers.” This composition, often mistakenly cited as a Hag original, resulted in his touring band being named The Strangers.
628. “Walking Up a One Way Street,” Willie Tee. Songwriter: Earl King (Earl Johnson); Did Not Chart; 1965. Pianist Willie Turbinton had a lengthy career on the New Orleans music scene, performing in R&B, jazz, and funk outfits. He had his only chart success with the 1965 #12 R&B hit “Teasin’ You,” one of several songs from that Tee released from this timeframe that would later be associated with Carolina beach music. The 1965 b-side “Walking Up a One Way Street” has found audiences among aficionados of Carolina beach and Northern soul music. Tee sings of romantic devastation on this number, but the New Orleans horns are more bop than teardrop. After his solo career ended, Tee had a long association with the funk act The Gaturs (their 1972 instrumental “Gatur Bait” sounds like The Meters on Quaaludes) and worked with the Mardi Gras “Indian Tribe” The Wild Magnolias in the mid-‘70s.
627. “Boris the Spider,” The Who. Songwriter: John Entwistle; Did Not Chart; 1966. The playfully frightening “Boris the Spider” was the first song John Entwisle wrote for The Who and one of the most memorable in the band’s catalogue. The composition was inspired by a drunken conversation between Entwistle and Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman about potentially amusing animal names. Entwisle developed such a reputation for his black humor that he commented in the early 1980s, when promoting his solo album “Too Late the Hero,” “The only thing I tried to avoid was writing six more songs about death, suicides and creepy-crawly things.” “Boris the Spider” is an example of Engwistle expanding the role of bass guitarists in rock music by performing as a lead instrumentalist.
626. “She’s Got Everything,” The Kinks. Songwriter: Ray Davies; Did Not Chart; 1968. This rocking ode to a perfect girlfriend could have been a hit in 1965, but by the late ‘60s “Everything” wasn’t consistent with Ray’s musical and lyrical sophistication. Author Andy Miller, “The track is an unreconstructed rave of the sort not minted by The Kinks since ‘Till The End Of The Day,’ with a Dave Davies guitar solo that is both timeless and utterly ridiculous.” The Romantics covered “She’s Got Everything” in 1979 and Deep Purple may have listened to the instrumental bridge before writing “My Woman from Tokyo.” The Kinks liked the main riff from this song so much that they recycled it for their 1984 single “Do It Again.”
625. “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” Nancy Sinatra. Songwriter: Lee Hazelwood; #1 pop; 1966. Nancy Sinatra in 2016, “I knew it was a hit the first time Lee Hazlewood played the bass line on his guitar in my mother’s living room. When I heard the track in the studio, I knew then and there it would be a number-one record. The fact that it has been embraced by generation after generation of little girls is proof of its staying power. I was the lucky one to record it and I think the fashion helped it along. Girls always want a pair of boots.” The kitsch feminist anthem “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” was Nancy Sinatra’s breakthrough hit and signature song, sometimes to her chagrin. Sinatra, “The image created by ‘Boots’ isn’t the real me. ‘Boots’ was hard and I’m as soft as they come.” Author Felix Contreras, “(Lee) Hazlewood thought the song was a little too risqué for the 25-year-old Sinatra, whose record label was pushing a wholesome image. Nevertheless, once Hazlewood decided to record it, he gave Sinatra very specific instructions in the studio: ‘Sing it like a 14-year-old girl who goes with truck drivers,’ he remembered telling her.” “Boots” topped the pop charts as did “Somethin’ Stupid,” her 1966 duet with her father Frank Sinatra.
624. “Unchain My Heart,” Ray Charles. Songwriters: Robert Sharp, Jr., Teddy Powell; #9 pop/#1 R&B; 1961. Robert Sharp, known as Bobby to his friends, was a New York jazz pianist who wrote “Unchain My Heart” in 1960 and then sold the song for $50 to feed his drug habit. Ray Charles cut the original version of “Unchain My Heart,” using Latin rhythms, a big band sound, and The Raelettes. The lively arrangement tempers the lyrics about Brother Ray’s tethered emotions. Songwriter Bobby Sharp moved to the Bay Area and had dropped out of the music business in the late ‘60s to be a drug counselor. He was later able to go through the legal process and regain the copyright to “Unchain My Heart,” shortly after it was recorded by Joe Cocker in the late 1980s. Sharp, on overcoming addiction, “I went in the hospital a patient and I came out a staff member.”
623. “He Will Break Your Heart,” Jerry Butler. Songwriters: Jerry Butler, Curtis Mayfield, Calvin Carter; #7 pop/#1 R&B; 1960. “He Will Break Your Heart,” later popularized as “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)” by Tony Orlando and Dawn, was the first hit Jerry Butler had after leaving The Impressions. This Top Ten single was still a collaboration with Curtis Mayfield, in terms of both the composition and the close harmony singing. Butler, “I just sang the melody and Curtis put the chords to it.” Butler was inspired to write the lyrics based upon a personal romantic quandary. In 2005, Butler discussed what it was like performing on the oldies circuit, “What we used to talk about was girls, and now we talk about how many pills we take.”
622. “I Can’t Turn You Loose,” Otis Redding. Songwriter: Otis Redding; #11 R&B; 1965. Originally slapped onto the b-side of “Just One More Day,” “I Can’t Turn You Loose” accidentally became the bigger hit. Otis introduced his “got-ta, got-ta” phrasing here, which was to Otis what “good God!” was to James Brown. Mark Ribowsky, “’I Can’t Turn You Loose’ etched what would be the single most identifiable riff of the sixties’ soul idiom, the undulating roller-coaster ride of horn flourishes. Steve Cropper, looking for an arrangement with the energy of the vocal, came up with something for his guitar that was very, very similar to the opening bars and entire driving bass line of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch),” which came out in April of 1965 and roared to the top of the pop and soul charts.”
621. “Ring of Fire,” Johnny Cash. Songwriters: June Carter, Merle Kilgore; #17 pop/#1 country; 1963. Johnny Cash is a Mount Rushmore figure in country music history and his 1963 single “Ring of Fire” is his most popular song. There’s plenty of juicy soap opera in the backstory of this crossover pop hit. The writing credits went to John’s then side chick June Carter Cash and Merle Kilgore. June claimed her inspiration was from a phrase of poetry in a book that her uncle, A.P. Carter, owned. However, soon to be spurned wife Vivian Cash claimed that The Man in Black wrote the song with Kilgore and, calculating an impending divorce, didn’t want the asset in his name. Fiddle player Curly Lewis has confirmed Vivian’s story and both stated that the actual ring of fire was a reference to a certain part of June’s anatomy, most probably not her left elbow. For his part, born hustler Merle Kilgore wanted to license “Ring of Fire” to the hemorrhoid relief company Preparation H. Two more historical notes – Anita Carter, June’s sister, released the original version and the completely atypical mariachi horn arrangement reportedly came from one of Cash’s dreams.