1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 700 to 691
Dick Clark’s wife coins a name for someone who is the opposite of Fats Domino.
700. “Goin’ Out of My Head,” Little Anthony and the Imperials. Songwriters: Teddy Randazzo, Bobby Weinstein; #6 pop/#6 R&B; 1964. Little Anthony and the Imperials formed in New York City in 1958, quickly reaching the national charts with the Top Five doo wop number “Tears on My Pillow.” Little Anthony departed for an unsuccessful solo career in the early 1960s and returned in late 1963, persuaded by songwriter/childhood friend Teddy Randazzo, who co-wote their comeback hit “Goin’ Out of My Head.” The Imperials made their second visit to the Top Ten on the pop charts with this dramatic ballad, a vocal tour de force showcasing Little Anthony’s expressive tenor voice. The Lettermen, sounding like Pat Boone’s illegitimate children, scored a Top Ten hit in 1967 with their medley of “Goin’ Out of My Head/Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”
699. “Goin’ Back to Miami,” Wayne Cochran & the C.C. Riders. Songwriters: Wayne Cochran, Charles Brent; Did Not Chart; 1966. Wayne Cochran was visually eccentric and his performances were as over the top as his appearance. He released singles throughout the 1960s without commercial success, but did gain a cult following with his James Brown inspired stage shows. The bass pumping “Goin’ Back to Miami,” later covered The Blues Brothers, is a mixture of frat rock and R&B horns. Cochran on his dynamic stage performance, “We’d be out there in the audience, standing on tables. We’d make the whole room part of the show. We’d play at full volume; it was like this wall of sound, and there was never a stop between songs. We’d write horn interludes to take you from one song to the next. Once it would start, the show literally never stopped. You couldn’t breathe until the show was over.”
698. “I’m Sorry,” Brenda Lee. Songwriters: Dub Allbritten, Ronnie Self; #1 pop/#4 R&B; 1960. Georgia native Brenda Lee was a child performer who was discovered by Red Foley when she was ten years old. She had her first charting single, the 1957 #15 country hit “One Step at a Time,” when she was twelve. However, she was primarily a pop artist in the 1960s, best known for the 1960 #1 single “I’m Sorry.” Decca Records was concerned with a teenage act singing an unrequired love song and didn’t push “I’m Sorry” as a single. It topped the pop charts anyway and the a-side, “That’s All You Gotta Do,” was also a Top Ten hit. Although not marketed to country audiences, the string heavy “I’m Sorry” was an early example of producer Owen Bradley’s countrypolitan sound.
697. “Detroit City,” Bobby Bare. Songwriters: Danny Dill, Mel Tillis; #16 pop/#6 country; 1963. Get up! Everybody’s gonna move their feet! Get down! Everybody’s gonna…wait…wait, wrong song. It wasn’t unusual for poor Southerners to move to Detroit during the mid-1900s for readily available factory work (in fact, some of my own Southern relatives moved from cotton country to the Motor City for short term financial stability during the 1960s). On the homesick “Detroit City,” a young man pines for his family and lover while he toils on the assembly line. The song was written by former Grand Ole Opry performer Danny Dill (author of “The Long Black Veil”) with Muh-Muh-Muh Mel Tillis. Bare won a Grammy for his version, released after Billy Grammar had a country hit earlier that year with the same song but titled “I Wanna Go Home.” Tom Jones took “Detroit City” to #27 on the pop charts in 1967.
696. “It’s Now or Never,” Elvis Presley. Songwriters: Wally Gold, Aaron Schroeder, Eduardo di Capua; #1 pop/#7 R&B; 1960. Greil Marcus writing about Elvis at the time of his death, “The problem is that Elvis did not simply change musical history, though of course he did that. He changed history, pure and simple, and in doing so, he became history – he became part of it, attached to it, as those of us who were changed by him, or changed ourselves because of things we glimpsed in him, are not.” Elvis was discharged from the Army in March of 1960 and immediately returned to the top of the pop charts with the tepid rocker “Stuck on You” and with the dramatic ballad “It’s Now or Never.” “It’s Now or Never” is based upon the Italian song “O Solo Mio,” an idea that Elvis took from the 1950 #2 pop hit “There’s No Tomorrow” by Tony Martin. Perhaps not coincidentally, Roy Orbison developed his operatic singing style soon after “It’s Now or Never” was released.
695. “The Twist,” Chubby Checker. Songwriter: Hank Ballard; #1 pop/#2 R&B; 1960. Philadelphia singer Ernest Evans was nicknamed “Chubby” during high school and was given the last name “Checker” by Dick Clark’s wife Barbara during a 1959 recording session. “The Twist” was written by Hank Ballard who recorded a much more sexually suggestive version of the song for a #16 R&B hit in 1959. Dick Clark was unable to book Ballard for “American Bandstand” and reached out to Chubby Checker to record the song. Disc jockey Clay Cole, on the pop culture sensation that resulted from Checker’s more innocent sounding record, “Chubby and the Twist got adults out and onto the dance floor for the first time. Before the Twist dance phenomenon, grown ups did not dance to teenage music.” The teenage radio audience made “The Twist” a #1 single in 1960 and, after the dance became fashionable among celebrities and older audiences, the single went to #1 again in 1962. Checker had several other major hits with dance themes during the early 1960s, but later viewed “The Twist” as a millstone, typecasting him to a teen demographic that didn’t allow him to be viewed as a versatile, talented singer.
694. “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” The Kinks. Songwriter: Ray Davies; Did Not Chart; 1966. Ray Davies, “I like this song very much. It kind of sums up everything that we’re about. Everybody’s expecting us to do wonderful things and we mess it all up usually.” The 1966 b-side to “Sunny Afternoon” was the last release of The Kinks in their initial garage rock style, with Dave Davies giving a vocal performance that positively sneers at conformity. Originally pitched to The Animals, the stature of this song has grown over time with covers by left of the dial acts from The Chocolate Watch Band to Camper Van Beethoven. In the words of Fort Worth music impresario Joseph Justin, “A foundation punk rock ‘n’ roll spirit if there ever was one.”
693. “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” The Temptations. Songwriters: Smokey Robinson, Robert Rogers; #11 pop/#1 R&B; 1964. Berry Gordy was patient with The Temptations, an act he signed in 1961 that didn’t have their first hit until 1964’s “The Way You Do the Things You Do.” The pick up line lyrics (“You’ve got a smile so bright/You know you could have been a candle”) started as a running joke that Smokey Robinson and Bobby Rogers of The Miracles amused themselves with on long bus rides. Otis Williams of The Temptations, “The first time we heard the song, we loved it. The melody swung, and the lyrics had lots of charm. They were silly in a way, talking about a girl you loved as a candle, a handle, a schoolbook, a cool crook, a broom, a perfume, but, typical Smokey, he made it work. It got a good response whenever we did it live, so our hopes were up. We knew from past experience that even the best tracks don’t always click.”
692. “Surfin’ Sufari,” The Beach Boys. Songwriters: Brian Wilson, Mike Love; #14; 1962. “Surfin’ Sufari” was the first Top 40 hit for The Beach Boys, proving that the surfing theme didn’t need to be a regional phenomenon. In fact, the song was originally the b-side to “409” and got its first radio push from the decidedly non-coastal city of Phoenix, Arizona. Right out of the gate, the vocal harmonies and Chuck Berry inspired guitar licks stand out as future signature sounds of the band. Murry Wilson, the father of Brian, Carl, and Dennis Wilson, produced the track and Mike Love credits Murry Wilson’s direction for the guitar sound as a key reason the record was a hit. Still, those two prickly personalities weren’t a mutual admiration society. Love, “I didn’t resent Murry any more than I’d resent anyone who stole from his kids, beat them unnecessarily, intimidated them, and screwed them up emotionally.”
691. “El Paso,” Marty Robbins. Songwriter: Marty Robbins; #1 pop/#1 country; released in 1959, peaked on the charts in 1960. Arizona native Marty Robbins grew up enamored with cowboy culture, preferring ranch work to high school studies. He joined the Navy during World War II and learned to play guitar while in the service. In the late 1940s, he began appearing on Arizona radio and television programs, leading to a contract with Columbia Records in 1951. Robbins topped both the country and pop charts with “El Paso,” a border town tale of doomed romance. The song has the scope of a major motion picture, carefully crafted into a four and a half minute Western ballad. Robbins developed a storyline that includes love, jealousy, murder, theft, a revenge murder, and a death kiss without ever overreaching or taxing the listener. Prominent Spanish guitar work enhances the cinematic feel.