1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 680 to 671
Beyond the seas of thought, beyond the realm of what.
680. “Journey to the Center of the Mind,” Amboy Dukes. Songwriters: Ted Nugent, Steve Farmer; #16 pop; 1968. The Amboy Dukes was a name that Ted Nugent had used for a group that he formed in Chicago in 1964 and, being a conservationist, he recycled the moniker for an entirely different band that was signed to Mainstream Records in 1967. The group was a one hit wonder act, hitting the pop charts with their psychedelic drug hit “Journey to the Center of the Mind.” Jim DeRogatis, “Fueled by acid provided by the radical journalist and leader of the White Panther Party (John Sinclair), John Drake and guitarist Steve Farmer helped craft a 1968 hit called ‘Journey to the Center of the Mind’ that urged psychedelic experimentation over a riff adapted from the theme to the Western series, ‘Bonanza.’” For his part, Ted Nugent claimed complete ignorance regarding the song’s theme, “I didn’t know anything about this cosmic inner probe. I thought ‘Journey to the Center of the Mind’ meant look inside yourself, use your head, and move forward in life.”
679. “Bend Me, Shape Me,” The American Breed. Songwriters: Scott English, Larry Weiss; #5 pop; 1967. The American Breed was a Chicago area band who formed in 1958 and had their first Top 40 with the twee psychedelia of “Step Out of Your Mind.” The Outsiders of “Time Won’t Let Me” first recorded “Bend Me, Shape Me” as a blue eyed soul number in 1966. The American Breed turned the song into a galloping pop number with a targeted for AM pop radio sing along chorus. Songwriter Larry Weiss later penned Glen Campbell’s 1975 #1 pop hit “Rhinestone Cowboy,” while his musical partner Larry Weiss co-wrote Barry Manilow’s breakthrough hit “Mandy” and, how strange is this, also produced the first Thin Lizzy album.
678. “Funny How Time Slips Away,” Billy Walker. Songwriter: Willie Nelson; #23 country; 1961. Billy Walker was not blessed with the world’s greatest gimmicks. Before he became known as “The Tall Texan,” Billy Walker worked in a Lone Ranger mask, billed as “The Traveling Texan, the Masked Singer of Country Songs.” After shedding that persona, the Texas Panhandle native signed with Columbia Records in 1951 and scored a #8 hit in 1954 with “Thank You for Calling.” Willie Nelson reportedly wrote “Crazy,” “Night Life,” and “Funny How Time Slips Away” during a two week period of time, primarily composing the songs in his head as he travelled between Houston clubs. This lost love classic only went to #23 on the country charts for Walker, but was a pop hit for Jimmy Elledge in 1961 and a #1 R&B hit for Joe Hinton in 1964. “Funny How Time Slips Away” has been recorded by Elvis, Frank Sinatra, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Spinners, Dorothy Moore, and a host of others. Walker had nine Top Five county hits from 1962 to 1972 including the #1 single “Charlie’s Shoes” in 1962 and “Cross the Brazos at Waco” in 1964. He was still an active performer when he died in a car wreck in 2006.
677. “Elenore,” The Turtles. Songwriters: Howard Kaylan, Mark Volman, Al Nichol, Jim Pons, John Barbata; #6 pop; 1968. I’ll just stand back and let Howard Kaylon of The Turtles describe this one, “’Elenore’ was a parody of ‘Happy Together.’ It was meant as an anti-love letter to White Whale (Records), who were constantly on our backs to bring them another ‘Happy Together.’ So, I gave them a very skewed version. Not only with the chords changed, but with all these bizarre words. It was my feeling that they would listen to how strange and stupid the song was and leave us alone. But they didn’t get the joke. They thought it sounded good. Truthfully, though, the production on ‘Elenore’ WAS so damn good. Lyrically or not, the sound of the thing was so positive that it worked. It certainly surprised me.”
676. “Fire,” The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Songwriter: Jimi Hendrix; Did Not Chart; 1967. The sexual swagger of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” was inspired by an innocent event. Visiting the home of bassist Noel Redding’s mother in chilly England, Hendrix asked if he could have a position near the fireplace to warm up. The family dog was comfortably in the best spot, inspiring the line, “Move over Rover and let Jimi take over.” The song has been described by Matthew Greenwald as “an exercise in soul, psychedelic rock, and polyrhythmic jazz-inspired drumming” and Richard Crouse has opined that “’Fire’ may be the guitar hero’s definitive tune.” Roger Taylor of Queen commenting on Mitch Mitchell’s drumming, “He played the kit like a song, it was just wonderful. (It was a) fusion of jazz technique and wonderful riffs, but with this rolling ferocious attack on the whole kit.”
675. “Pictures of Matchstick Men,” Status Quo. Songwriters: Francis Rossi; #12 pop; 1968. Status Quo has been a successful European act for decades, but were one hit wonders in the United States. Lyrically and sonically, “Matchstick Men” was perfect for the psychedelic era, a reality reinforced by the wah wah guitar and phase effects. The inspiration was quite businesslike. Status Quo frontman Francis Rossi, “’Matchstick Men’ was basically about my ex-wife. I’d just got married, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is a mistake, what have I done?’ But I sat down to try and write a song like ‘Hey Joe.’ In the middle of the Jimi Hendrix song is that chord sequence.” In 2005, the U.K. magazine NME named Status Quo “kings of the U.K. singles chart.” At that time, they had 61 charting singles, the most of any rock band in U.K. music history.
674. “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” Neil Diamond. Songwriter: Neil Diamond; #10 pop; 1967. Neil Diamond wasn’t getting much positive attention from the nascent rock press during the 1960s, but, as far as his appeal went, he quickly found out that the little girls understood. Diamond, “All those oohs and aahs and screams made me laugh a little. It threw me for a loop at first and then I decided to write a song with these girls in mind.” In concert, Diamond was known to pull a woman from the crowd and croon this coming of age seduction number to her. Afterwards, he’d walk her back to her seat and tell her significant other, “She’s ready for you now.” The Chicago alternative rock band Urge Overkill covered “Girl” for a 1992 EP and their version was used in the film “Pulp Fiction.” Urge Overkill bassist “King” Roeser on their impromptu recording, “We did our version of ‘Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon’ from memory. The lyrics, I don’t even know if they go that way. It speeds up, the fills are all over the place, it’s out of tune.”
673. “Angel of the Morning,” Merrilee Rush & the Turnabouts. Songwriter: Chip Taylor; #7 pop; 1968. Merrilee Rush started performing in rock bands in the Pacific Northwest in 1960 and got an opening band slot with Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1967. That job lead to an introduction to Chips Moman, who produced her version of the pre-marital sex song “Angel of the Morning.” Songwriter Chip Taylor, who also wrote The Troggs hit “Wild Thing,” “I heard some guy playing ‘Wild Thing’’ real slow on a guitar. It sounded nice. So, I did the same, lifting one of my fingers off a chord to create a suspension. Then the words ‘There’ll be no strings to bind your hands, not if my love can’t bind your heart’ came out. It was as beautiful a love connection as I could ever feel.” County star Juice Newton took “Angel of the Morning” back to the Top Ten on the pop charts in 1981.
672. “Beyond the Sea,” Bobby Darin. Songwriters: Charles Trenet, Jack Lawrence; #6 pop/#15 R&B; 1960. New York native Bobby Darin (nee Walden Robert Cassotto) started writing jingles with Don Kirschner in 1955, then had a short lived personal and professional relationship with Connie Francis. He became a pop star in the late 1950’s with the Top Five singles “Splish Splash” and “Dream Lover.” His 1959 album “That’s All” was a move from contemporary pop to a jazz/big band sound and he topped the charts that year with his version of “Mack the Knife.” Like “Mack the Knife,” “Beyond the Sea” was also a song from another language, originally written as a French song titled “La Mer.” A slow ballad version of “Beyond the Sea” had been recorded by Harry James and His Orchestra in 1947, but Darin took the plaintive number and give it a buoyant, swing arrangement. The man who once said, “Nearly everything I do is part of a master plan to make me the most important entertainer in the world,” had his last Top Ten single with his cover of Tim Hardin’s “If I Were a Carpenter” in 1966 and passed away in 1973 at the age of 37.
671. “White Room,” Cream. Songwriters: Jack Bruce, Pete Brown; #6 pop; 1968. After working with The Yardbirds and John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, Eric Clapton formed the power trio Cream with bassist Jack Bruce and percussionist Ginger Baker. “White Room,” the band’s second and final U.S. Top Ten single, is notable for Clapton’s wah-wah pedal guitar sound and the lyrical sense of dark mystery that worked well during the acid era. Pete Brown constructed the lyrics from an eight page poem he had written, inspired by the color of his apartment bedroom. Brown, “I lived in this actual white room and was trying to come to terms with various things that were going on. It’s a place where I stopped, I gave up all drugs and alcohol at that time in 1967 as a result of being in the white room, so it was a kind of watershed period. It was a miracle it worked, considering it was me writing a monologue about a new flat.”