1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 670 to 661
Ray Charles shares his belief in self-medication.
670. “Pretty Little Angel Eyes,” Curtis Lee. Songwriters: Curtis Lee; Tommy Boyce; #7 pop; 1961. Curtis Lee was discovered while performing in clubs in his hometown of Yuma, Arizona and songwriter Tommy Boyce was quickly directed by his publishing company to compose a hit single for Lee. Lee contributed the title “Angel Eyes” and Boyce completed the song using “Blue Moon” by the Marcels and “Little Girl of Mine” by the Cleftones for inspiration. The doo wop rocker “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” was the second major hit for producer Phil Spector, following Ray Peterson’s 1961 Top Ten version of “Corinna, Corinna.” Backing vocals on “Pretty Little Angel Eyes” were provided by the Halos, who had a Top Forty hit in 1961 with the novelty number “Nag.”
669. “Don’t Let Me Cross Over,” Carl Butler. Songwriter: Penny Jay; #88 pop/#1 country; 1962. Carl Butler was a Knoxville, Tennessee native who served in World War II as a teenager. He had his first success as a songwriter in the 1950’s, composing the Top Ten country hits “If Teardrops Were Pennies” and “Kisses Don’t Lie” for Carl Smith. “Don’t Let Me Cross Over” was written by another Knoxville native, recording artist Jay Penny, and the struck by temptation number spent eleven weeks at #1 on the country charts for Carl and his uncredited wife Pearl Butler. Carl and Pearl Butler later became a formal duo and had ten Top 40 country hits during their career, although “Temptation Keeps Twisting Her Arms” and “Heartaches for Lunch” never charted. “Don’t Let Me Cross Over” was a Top Ten country hit on two more occasions, for Jerry Lee Lewis and sister Linda Gail in 1969 and for Deborah Allen and Jim Reeves in 1979. The latter was a neat trick, since Reeves died in 1964.
668. “Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go,” Hank Ballard & the Midnighters. Songwriter: Hank Ballard; #6 pop/#1 R&B; 1960. There had been plenty of records released with adult themes prior to the 1950s, but Hank Ballard is credited with bringing smut to the airwaves. He joined the doo wop act The Royals in 1953 and co-wrote their Top Ten R&B hit “Get It,” which is not about picking up a sandwich. The Royals transformed into The Midnighers and became more brazen with the 1954 major R&B hits “Work with Me Annie” and “Sexy Ways.” Ballard’s success waned during the late 1950s, but after writing “The Twist,” he returned to the charts in1960 with the Top Ten pop hits “Finger Poppin’ Time” and “Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go.” “Let’s Go” proves that Ballard didn’t change his sexually themed, old school R&B sound for pop audiences. The AM radio world discovered the allure that Annie always knew.
667. “Love Is Like an Itching in My Heart,” The Supremes. Songwriters: Holland, Dozier, Holland; #9 pop/#7 R&B; 1966. The Supremes were on such a hot streak in 1966 that their album “The Supremes A’ Go-Go” knocked The Beatle’s “Revolver” out of the #1 slot on the album charts, even though it was primarily a collection of cover tunes. One of the new tracks was “Love is Like an Itching in My Heart,” a song with an arrangement that sounded more like Martha and The Vandellas than a typical Supremes number. The single was much more overtly sexual than most of the Supremes’ records. Dave Marsh from his 1989 book, “The Heart Of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Every Made,” “If I thought that the crew at Motown fooled around, I’d think that using Diana Ross, the most uptight singer in either rhythm and blues or girl group music, to personify female horniness was one of the greatest jokes in rock and roll history.”
666. “Midnight Confessions,” Grass Roots. Songwriter: Lou Josie; #5 pop; 1968. The songwriter/producer team of P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri started developing material in 1965 to capitalize on the folk rock movement. They recorded with members of The Wrecking Crew and then hired bands to perform live as The Grass Roots. Eventually, a Los Angeles act knows as The 13th Floor (not The Elevators) became the long term touring version of the Grass Roots, but the Wrecking Crew continued to do the studio work. “Midnight Confessions” was the second Top Ten hit by the “band,” following “Let’s Live for Today” onto AM radio. The horn driven song was producer Steve Barri’s attempt at a West Coast Motown sound. The Grass Roots had their last Top Ten single with 1971’s “Sooner or Later” and still perform on nostalgia shows.
665. “Apache,” The Shadows. Songwriter: Jerry Lordan; Did Not Chart; 1960. The Shadows, who were originally known as The Drifters when they formed in 1958, were Cliff Richards’ backing unit and a successful instrumental act in the U.K. Inspired by an American cowboy flick, “Apache” used a tribal drum intro, bright guitar sounds, and what would become one of the most recognizable riffs in popular music to deliver a #1 U.K. hit. A much less dynamic version recorded by Jørgen Ingmann was a #2 U.S. hit 1961. The Incredible Bongo Band, a loose affiliation of studio musicians, recorded an organ/percussion heavy version of “Apache” in 1973. That recording didn’t make the charts, but was latter dubbed “the national anthem of hip hop” and has been sampled by Missy Elliot, LL Cool J, Moby, Nas, and Grandmaster Flash, among others.
664. “Fun, Fun, Fun,” Beach Boys. Songwriters: Brian Wilson, Mike Love; #5 pop; 1964. There are two different stories about what inspired the T-Bird taking, daughter rebellion Beach Boys hit “Fun, Fun, Fun.” One theory is that Dennis Wilson had a rich girlfriend who borrowed her father’s Thunderbird for supposed trips to the library and would magically appear at Wilson’s apartment instead. It’s also been said that while on a promotional trip to Utah, they heard a story of a radio station owner’s daughter who borrowed daddy’s Thunderbird for a proposed virtuous purpose and was later found at a local drive-in. Auther Harry Sumrall on The Beach Boys impact, “(The Beach Boys) virtually defined the image of surfers, hot rods, sun, beaches, girls, and fun, fun, fun that became the California myth. The titles of their songs said it as well as anything: “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Surfer Girl,” “Fun, Fun, Fun,” “Dance, Dance, Dance,” and “California Girls.” With these hits and others, Brian Wilson created a new sound in rock and roll. It was called the ‘surf sound,’ but in fact it was a combination of older rock verities set in entirely new lyrical and musical contexts.”
663. “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” Ray Charles. Songwriters: Jo Armstead, Nick Ashford, Valerie Simpson; #72 pop/#45 R&B; 1966. Nick Ashford was homeless for a period during the mid-1960s, before he had his first real success as a songwriter, penning “Let’s Go Get Stoned” with Valerie Simpson and Jo Armstead. Ashford, “We couldn’t come up with anything. I said, ‘Let’s go get stoned.’ I meant, just go have a drink. I started ad-libbing the title and Val picked it up and we just kind of made it up. Ed (Silvers, their publisher) said, ‘Y’all joking, but if you finish this, I bet I can get a record with Ray Charles.’” That songwriting trio returned to the theme of self-medication for “I Don’t Need No Doctor,” a more explosive performance that radio failed to embrace. Brother Ray liked to have a microphone directly on Carol Kaye’s bass amplifier and the only female member of The Wrecking Crew gave “Doctor” its adrenaline rush.
662. “Surf City,” Jan and Dean. Songwriters: Brian Wilson, Jan Berry; #1 pop; 1963. William Jan Berry and Dean Torrence were high school football players who started performing as a doo wop vocal group in the late 1950s. They had their first Top Ten single in 1959 with “Baby Talk” and returned to the Top 40 in 1961 covering Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser’s 1930’s composition “Heart and Soul.” Jan Berry collaborated on “Surf City” with Brian Wilson resulting in what is a basically a Beach Boys record (they even did the backing vocals) under a different name. Brian Wilson, “I was proud of the fact that another group had had a #1 track with a song I had written, but dad would hear none of it. He called Jan a ‘record pirate.’” Jan and Dean returned to the Top Ten in 1964 with “Dead Man’s Curve,” also co-written by Brian Wilson, and “The Little Old Lady (from Pasadena).”
661. “Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo),” Manfred Mann. Songwriter: Bob Dylan; #10 pop; 1968. Manfred Lubowitz was raised in a Jewish family in South Africa that relocated to the U.K. in 1961, due to their philosophical opposition to apartheid. Manfred was already an accomplished jazz pianist and he formed the Mann-Hugg Blues Brothers in 1962. Originally, the unit was a blues/jazz act, but they evolved into the pop band Manfred Mann. Bob Dylan penned “Might Quinn,” generally referred to as “Quinn the Eskimo,” a song he described as a “simple nursery rhyme”. Mike D’Abo of Manfred Mann: “We met in a publisher’s house as Bob Dylan was making some new material available to other artists. I had to make up some of the words as I couldn’t make out everything he was saying. It was like learning a song phonetically in a foreign language. I have never had the first idea what the song is about.” Enigmatic though it is, the Klaus Voorman flute hooks and the sing song catchiness made “Quinn” a Top Ten U.S. hit and a #1 single in the U.K.