1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 640 to 631
The Blue Magoos turn to green for inspiration.
640. “Heavy Music (Part I),” Bob Seger and The Last Heard. Songwriter: Bob Seger; Did Not Chart; 1967. Bob Seger was a young man with a plan during the 1960s, “I wanted to be as rhythmic as James Brown, as deep as Bob Dylan, and as fiery as Little Richard.” Seger played in Detroit bands throughout the early part of the decade, then signed with Cameo-Parkway Records in 1966. Driven by the rhythm section, “Heavy Music” has Seger testifying like a blue-eyed soul brother and had a chance to break nationally, but Cameo Parkway folded as the single was ascending. Seger, “All of a sudden, we couldn’t get anybody at Cameo to answer the phone. We got on a plane and went to New York, went up to the building where the company was and knocked and knocked on the door of their office. Finally, a janitor came out of the elevator and said, ‘Nobody’s there. They’re gone.’”
639. “Back Up Train,” Al Greene and The Soul Mates. Songwriters: Curtis Rodgers, Palmer E. James; #41 pop/#5 R&B; 1967. Al Greene was born in Forrest City, Arkansas, the son of a sharecropper. Greene worked in both gospel and R&B music while growing up and released “Back Up Train,” his first single, on a label started by his band mates. “Back Up Train” doesn’t reflect the sound Al Green (he later dropped the final “e”) developed with Willie Mitchell during the 1970s, instead it favorably replicates the music that Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions were recording during that era. Green on his initial success, “Right away, everybody decided I was a one-record act. Well, it was the chitlin circuit for me. Dallas, Baton Rouge, Atlanta, the small clubs . . . very rough. Sometimes you go into a place, work as hard as you can and the promoter’s gone home when you get offstage; you don’t get paid. Or the promoter’s so BIG, why a little fellow like me…”.
638. “Homecoming,” Tom T. Hall. Songwriter: Tom T. Hall; #5 country; 1969. Olive Hill, Kentucky native Tom T. Hall started performing locally as a teenager and honed his songwriting skills while serving in the Army in the late 1950s. After leaving the service, he studied journalism and worked in radio. He had his first success as a songwriter when Jimmy Newman took his composition “D.J. for a Day” to #9 on the country charts in 1964. He also penned Johnny Wright’s 1965 #1 hit “Hello Vietman” and Dave Dudley’s 1966 Top Five release “What We’re Fighting For.” Hall narrates an awkward reunion on “Homecoming,” a tale of a struggling road musician who is no longer connected to his family. It’s a song about chasing dreams and living on hope, shading reality to mask failures. Although Hall promises to call and write his father in the future, the words feel completely empty.
637. “Gino Is a Coward,” Gino Washington. Songwriter: Ronald Davis; Did Not Chart; 1964. Detroit native George “Gino” Washington started performing at thirteen and was releasing singles while attending Pershing High School. On the upbeat R&B number “Gino Is a Coward,” the singer notes he has muscles made of iron and steel, but remains a coward when it comes to pursuing his love interest. Despite the theme, “Gino” is a party record with raw energy like the Gary “U.S.” Bonds singles of the early 1960s. Bruce Springsteen rewrote “Gino Is a Coward” for his “Tunnel of Love” tour as an extended live performance number titled “I’m a Coward (When It Comes to Love).” Gino never had a national hit, but hosted a Detroit television program during the 1970s and still performs local club gigs.
636. “Louisiana Man,” Rusty and Doug. Songwriter: Doug Kershaw; #10 country; 1961. “Louisiana Man” was the biggest hit for Kershaws Rusty and Doug, peaking at #10 on the country charts and almost touching the pop Top 100 (it “Bubbled Under” at 104). A tale of a swamper making his living from fishing lines and river critters, it was a song that reflected Kershaw’s Cajun southwest Louisiana roots. “Louisiana Man” was blasted from space by the Apollo 12 astronauts in 1969 and has been covered, not kidding, approximately 800 times. The hits dried up for the act after 1961 and brothers Rusty and Doug stopped performing together in 1964. Doug Kershaw released solo albums from 1969 to 1981, only hitting the Top 40 with the decidedly un-Cajun flavored “Hello Woman” in 1981. Wild eyed southern boys can’t be tamed for the middle of the road.
635. “Don’t Make Me Over,” Dionne Warwick. Songwriters: Burt Bacharach, Hal David; #21 pop/#5 R&B; 1962. A common story regarding “Don’t Make Me Over” is that Dionne Warwick screamed that phrase to Burt Bacharach and Hal David during an argument, inspiring the title. Bacharach, “Hal never bothered to correct her version of the story, but if you asked him about it, he would have told you Dionne never said that to him.” Warwick reflecting on her first hit single, “’Don’t Make Me Over’ was my very first recording and I still remember it vividly because we literally did thirty-two takes.” Backed by The Sweet Inspirations, Warwick displays her impressive vocal range on this request for self-determination within a relationship. Bacharach, “To me, her voice had all the delicacy and mystery of ships in a bottle.”
634. “Sweet Dreams,” Patsy Cline. Songwriter: Don Gibson; #44 pop/#5 country; 1963. “Sweet Dreams” is the song most associated with Patsy Cline – it was the title of a 1985 biographical film about her and is often referred to as a “Patsy Cline song.” However, “Sweet Dreams” was written by Don Gibson, who had a Top Ten hit with his version in 1956 and Faron Young took it back to the Top Ten in 1960. The lyrical themes about lost loves and dreams were made more poignant as the first single released after Cline’s death. Decca Records would have one more posthumous Top Ten hit from the vault, Cline’s cover of Bob Will’s “Faded Love.” Although her career was relatively short, Patsy Cline broadened the audience for country music and her best work has a timeless quality that continues to be influential.
633. “Mind over Matter (I’m Gonna Make You Mine),” Nolan Strong. Songwriter: Devora Brown; Did Not Chart; 1962. Nolan Strong started singing as a Detroit teenager with The Diablos, who are highly regarded by doo wop fans for their 1954 single “The Wind.” Eventually, Nolan Strong took top billing for the act, since Fortune Records wanted to emphasize his high tenor voice, reportedly a seminal influence on Smokey Robinson’s singing. From the Detroit Metro Times on “Mind Over Matter,” “Built around a six-string riff that Keith Richards would later swipe for “Start Me Up,” this genre-defying single was as much about the ground-breaking approach of guitarist Chuck Chittenden as it was the ethereal-voiced delivery of its lead singer. Surf drums, doo-wop harmonies, country chord changes and a blazing guitar solo compounded Berry Gordy’s attempt to cash in with a cover version by the aptly named Pirates (actually the Temptations in disguise).”
632. “Hungry,” Paul Revere & The Raiders. Songwriters: Barry Mann, Cynthia Well; #6 pop; 1966. Paul Revere & The Raiders started as a Boise instrumental act and had their first national hit with “Like, Long Hair” in 1961. Their career stalled when Revere worked as a cook for a year and half, as deferred military service for his conscientious objector status. A move to Los Angeles in 1965 resulted in fourteen Top 40 singles between 1965 and 1971. The lustful “Hungry” combines the tight Brill Building songwriting of Barry Mann/Cynthia Well with Mark Lindsay’s preying wolf vocal performance. According to Lindsay, it was the last record to include boogie woogie pianist/band namesake Paul Revere in the studio performance. Lindsay, “When the music changed a little bit and the Beatles, Dave Clark Five, and everybody else came in and started using Farfisa organs, we had to go to an organ. Revere didn’t like that – he preferred to pound the keys. When he couldn’t do that anymore, he kind of lost his passion for music.”
631. “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet,” The Blue Magoos. Songwriters: Ron Gilbert, Ralph Scala, Mike Esposito; #5 pop; 1967. The Blue Magoos were a Bronx based band who released their debut album, titled “Psychedelic Lollipop,” in late 1966. The band took the James Burton guitar riff from Ricky Nelson’s version of “Summertime,” a surprisingly bluesy take on the George Gershwin standard, and shifted it to a Vox Continental organ for their 1967 hit “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet.” (Deep Purple also recycled the riff for the opening of their 1970 single “Black Night”). Lead singer Peppy Castro on how the band developed their proto-punk sound, “We were making $45 a week and we had pooled all our money and starved for a week to buy this $250 Echoplex. We thought it broke, and our hearts sank. We plugged it back in, and it was making this ungodly (feedback) sound, but we liked it. We were smoking dope out of our minds and we thought, ‘Whoa, that’s trippy.’ We moved the tape selector and changed speeds and it made an even weirder sound, and we started writing toward that sound.”