1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 730 to 721
730. “It’s Not Unusual,” Tom Jones. Songwriters: Les Reed, Gordon Mills; #10 pop; 1965. Thomas John Woodward was raised in South Wales and took an early interest in American rhythm and blues music. Woodward was fronting Tommy Scott and the Senators, a Welsh beat group, when he was discovered. His manager quickly changed his name and turned him into a solo artist. The brassy “It’s Not Unusual” was his breakthrough hit. Jones, “I did the demo on this song when it was being offered to Sandie Shaw. I was just starting out and, God bless her, she said, ‘Whoever’s singing this, it’s his song.’ Finding great new songs is never easy, and back in those days, finding one that would fit me – the way I felt and sang anyway – was difficult. I’m indebted to Sandie for being so generous.” Jones became a ‘60s icon, perhaps more for his Vegas sex appeal image than his music.
729. “The Streets of Baltimore,” Bobby Bare. Songwriters: Harlan Howard, Tompall Glaser, #5 country, 1966. Bobby Bare moved to Los Angeles in the late 1950s and cut a demo for a song he wrote titled “All American Boy.” The demo was eventually released under the name of Bill Parsons, but it was Bare singing on the 1959 Elvis inspired #2 pop hit. After a stint in the military, Bare decided to focus on the country market, first charting with the 1962 #18 hit “Shame on Me.” He had his first Top Five country hit since 1964’s “Four Strong Winds” with the Harlan Howard/Tompall Glaser composition “The Streets of Baltimore.” On this downhearted story song, the narrator sells his Tennessee farm (uh-oh) and takes a factory job in Baltimore to make his wife happy. He soon discovers that his woman loves the bright lights of the city more than she loves him. It’s surprising that “The Streets of Baltimore” was only a hit single once – it’s been covered by Gram Parsons, Charley Pride, Nanci Griffith with John Prine, The Del McCoury Band, The Statler Brothers…you get the idea.
728. “Five O’Clock World,” The Vogues. Songwriter: Allen Reynolds; #4 pop; 1965. The Vogues formed as a Pennsylvania high school vocal group in 1958 and had their breakthrough hit with their testosterone free cover of Petula Clark’s “You’re the One” in 1965. “Five O’Clock World” was written by Arkansas native Allen Reynolds, who later produced every Garth Brooks song that you can name. The music for “Five O’Clock World” was provided by Nashville session pros, including guitarist Chip Young whose credits include Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Charley Pride’s “Kiss an Angel Good Morning.” The lyrics describe a working man who tolerates his soul crushing job just to see his woman smile at the end of the day. “Five O’Clock World” served as the theme song to “The Drew Carey Show” for one season and was a country hit for Hal Ketchum in 1992, produced by Allen Reynolds.
727. “Days of the Broken Arrows,” The Idle Race. Songwriter: Jeff Lynne; Did Not Chart; 1969. The Idle Race originated with a Birmingham, England band that formed in 1959 and were known at that time as Billy King and the Nightriders. Roy Wood was a member of the group during 1964 and 1965, leaving to form The Move. Future ELO frontman Jeff Lynne joined the band in 1966 and his skills as a songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist were quickly recognized by his colleagues. Roy Wood and Jeff Lynne had started working together before Lynne joined The Move and “Days of Broken Arrows” has similarities to The Move’s “Wild Tiger Woman.” The song also reflects the Beatles influenced pop sensibility that would make Lynne an international star during the 1970s.
726. “What I’d Say,” Jerry Lee Lewis. Songwriter: Ray Charles; #30 pop/#27 country/#26 R&B; 1961. Jerry Lee Lewis traveled to England in May of 1958 and the fact that his third marriage was to a thirteen-year-old cousin did not endear him to the hearts and minds of the citizens of the United Kingdom. His status as a major star quickly vanished, although he still had a Top 20 country hit with the Charlie Rich number “I’ll Make It All Up to You” late in that year. He returned to the country charts in 1961 with a cover of “Cold, Cold Heart” and made the Top 40 on the R&B, pop, and country charts in 1961 with his cover of Ray Charles’ “What I’d Say.” The Killer’s personal life may have resulted in many questionable and entertaining moments, but the man could find a motherhumpin’ groove. Also, if you ever get too deep into Johnny Cash worship, check out his version of “What I’d Say,” recorded as a duet with June Carter Cash. It will bring you back to reality faster than a cowpie campfire.
725. “Thanks A Lot,” Ernest Tubb. Songwriters: Eddie Miller, Don Sessions; #3 country; 1963. Ernest Tubb grew up in the rural, farming community of Crisp, Texas, which is now officially listed as a ghost town, and was obsessed with the music of Jimmie Rodgers. In the 1930s, he befriended Carrie Rodgers, Jimmie’s widow, and she became his first manager. He became a country music superstar in the early 1940s with the release of his signature song “Walking the Floor Over You.” Although publicly known for his genial personality, Tubb became a heavy drinker in the 1950s. He once showed up drunk at 4:30 in the morning at Nashville’s WSM radio station and shot a hole in the wall. Band members often had double duty of performing and then keeping Tubb from kicking glass out of car windows. The sarcastic, lost love number “Thanks a Lot” was a comeback hit for Tubb, his first Top Ten country single since 1958’s “Half a Mind.” Tubb’s stripped down version of Western swing gave “Thanks a Lot” a sense that he’d mend his broken heart with no enduring damaging. Tubb was famously known for displaying the back of his guitar at the end of his performances, which had “THANKS” spelled out in large block letters.
724. “Tossin’ and Turnin’,” Bobby Lewis. Songwriters: Ritchie Adams, Malou Rene; #1 pop/#1 R&B; 1961. It wasn’t an easy life for Bobby Lewis, who was raised in an orphanage until he was twelve and ran away from his foster home at fourteen. He worked in carnivals and was eventually recognized for his singing talent, joining the Leo Hines Orchestra. While performing at the Apollo in 1960, he visited Beltone Records and ended up recording “Tossin’ and Turnin’.” The lyrics describe a sleepless night from a man who doesn’t know where his woman is, but the music is a raucous party. Lewis returned to Top Ten in 1961 with the generally forgotten “One Track Mind.” Lewis is still alive and continued performing, despite being almost completely blind, until the early 2010s.
723. “I Want a Love I Can See,” The Temptations. Songwriter: Smokey Robinson; Did Not Chart; 1963. “I Want a Love I Can See” was released before The Temptations had made the pop charts. Their first hit was 1964’s “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” but this was the group’s first A-side/pushed single written and produced by Smokey Robinson. According to Temptation Otis Williams, Robinson would arrive at the studio “with all of the vocal and instrumental parts worked out on paper down to the last detail.” Smokey’s attention to craft resulted in the swooping harmony vocals and swaying horns on “I Want a Love I Can See.” This is the only Temptations number with baritone Paul Williams performing the lead vocals.
722. “Rhythm of the Rain,” The Cascades. Songwriter: John Claude Gummoe; #3; 1962. The Cascades evolved out of band started by Navy personnel in 1960. However, it was primarily studio musicians who performed on “Rhythm of the Rain,” their sole hit, including Glen Campbell on guitar. John Gummoe, “”The lyrics began while I was serving in the U.S. Navy. I was standing a mid watch on the bridge while we were underway to Japan. We were sailing up in the north pacific and it was raining heavily and the seas were tossing. The title came to me first and I liked the ‘ring’ of it, the way it flowed, and that night I wrote down most of the lyrics. It was like the rain was talking.” Pitter patter, pitter patter.
721. “You’ll Lose a Good Thing,” Barbara Lynn. Songwriters: Huey P Meaux, Barbara Lynn Ozen; #8 pop/#1 R&B; 1962. Before she was “The Empress of Gulf Coast Soul,” a pre-teen Barbara Lynn saw Elvis Presley perform on television and decided to give up piano lessons and start playing guitar. Inspired by a high school romantic spat, the slow blues number “You’ll Lose a Good Thing” showed a sense of maturity and confidence of a much more experienced performer. Lynn never replicated the success she had from her first single, but rearranging the theme for her 1964 release “Oh! Baby (We Got a Good Thing Goin’)” was a profitable decision. Lynn, “Mick Jagger called me at my manager’s office. He said, ‘I’m here to collaborate with your manager and ask you if it’s alright with you for us to record your song ‘Oh Baby (We Got a Good Thing Going).’ I told him, ‘You have my full permission!’”