1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 770 to 761
770. “Game of Love,” Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders. Songwriter: Clint Ballard, Jr.; #1 pop; 1965. It is said that Glyn Geoffrey took his stage name from Elvis drummer D.J. Fontana, however, coincidentally his band was also signed to U.K. Fontana Records. The Mindbenders had their breakthrough U.K. hit in 1964 with their cover of Major Lance’s “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um.” The band had their only major U.S. hit with the Clint Ballard composition “Game of Love,” once described by Nick Tosches as a “greaseball classic.” This steadfastly heterosexual vision of love seems a bit outdated, but those were simpler times.
769. “He Was Really Saying Something,” The Velvelettes. Songwriters: Norman Whitfield, William “Mickey” Stevenson, and Edward Holland, Jr.; #64 pop/#21 R&B; 1964. The Velvelettes weren’t in the typical Motown mode, being college students who came from Flint and Kalamazoo. A previous association with Motown songwriter/producer Mickey Stevenson was a stepping stone in getting signed to Detroit’s premier label. The Velvelettes fell for a bob-bob-sookie-do-wah struttin’ sweet talker on “He Was Really Saying Something,” a song that was Top Five U.K hit for Bananarama in 1982. From Susan Whitall’s highly recommended “The Women of Motown: An Oral History,” “The Velvelettes were the embodiment of girl group vivaciousness, and their string of hits was vibrant if short-lived.”
768. “A Hundred Pounds of Clay,” Gene McDaniels. Songwriters: Kay Rogers, Luther Dixon, Bob Elgin; #3 pop/#11 R&B; 1961. Gene McDaniels, the son of a Nebraska minister, performed gospel and jazz music before hitting the pop and R&B charts in 1961 with “A Hundred Pounds of Clay.” The lyrics, which basically state that God created women so men could have a loving play toy, caused the song to be initially banned by the BBC, but a quick rewrite fixed that issue. McDaniels, whose singing style was more Jackie Wilson than Otis Redding, had five Top 40 singles during the early ‘60s and wrote Roberta Flack’s 1974 #1 single “Feel Like Making Love.” McDaniels clashed with producer Snuff Garrett during recording sessions, but later reflected, “He set me up in a way that everybody was paying attention and then he got me two more Top 10 songs. That really helped because when I started writing people took me seriously.”
767. “Hello Walls,” Faron Young. Songwriter: Willie Nelson; #12 pop/#1 country; 1961. Shreveport, Louisiana native Faron Young started performing on “The Louisiana Hayride” as a teenager, with Webb Pierce facilitating his appearances on the program. Young moved to Nashville in 1952 and churned out hits for over two decades. It took Willie Nelson ten minutes to write the loneliness shuffle “Hello Walls,” which spent nine weeks at #1 on the country charts and crossed over to #12 on the pop charts. The Nashville studio musicians who performed “Hello Walls” were less than impressed with this Willie Nelson composition, joking in the studio “Hello, Chair” and “Hello, Couch.” Faron Young knew the record would be a hit and even refused to buy the song from Nelson, giving him a loan instead. Over two decades later, Nelson paid off the loan to Young, by giving him a three thousand pound bull.
766. “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night),” The Electric Prunes. Songwriters: Annette Tucker, Nancie Mantz; #11 pop; 1966. The Electric Prunes formed in Los Angeles in 1965 and, after being hired to perform at a party by songwriter Annette Tucker, received their signature song in “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night).” The oscillating fuzz tone guitar effects sounded like nothing else on radio while the lyrics painted a scene of disturbing romantic desperation. Ritchie Unterberger, “Few rock singles are as simultaneously experimental and commercial. That was obvious right from the opening hook: a slowly swelling, backwards burst of fuzztone tremolo guitar, announcing the record’s arrival like a supersonic bee swooping into your speakers.” The band scored another Top 40 single with the Bo Diddley rip “Get Me to the World on Time,” then quickly faded away.
765. “Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette),” The O’Jays. Songwriter: Naomi Neville (Allen Toussaint); #48 pop/#28 R&B; 1965. The Triumphs formed as a high school R&B vocal group in 1958, eventually changing their name to The O’Jays in honor of Cleveland disc jockey Eddie O’Jay. Their 1965 singled “Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette)” was their first R&B hit and their biggest pop hit until 1972’s “Back Stabbers.” “Lipstick Traces” was originally recorded by Benny Spellman, who demanded another song from Allen Toussaint after providing the backup bass vocal hook on Ernie K-Doe’s “Mother in Law.” “Lipstick Traces,” with its title describing the only thing an ex-lover left behind, was a hit on the U.K. Northern soul circuit, as was their 1968 U.S. album track “I’m So Glad I Found You.” Online commentary from unknown source, “Greil Marcus used ‘Lipstick Traces’ for the title and starting point of one of his books. I found the book dense and impenetrable. I bought a hardback copy in a US bookshop and shlepped it back home, adding about a kilo to my holiday luggage. Completely unreadable. I should have bought 45s instead.’”
764. “Across the Alley from the Alamo,” Bob Wills. Songwriter: Joe Greene; Did Not Chart; 1969. Bob Wills career as a touring performer ended in 1969, he suffered a major stroke that paralyzed the right side of his body. His recording of “Across the Alley from the Alamo” during that year is a testament to his towering influence in Western swing; the song had been considered a jazz and pop tune, originally performed by songwriter Joe Greene in 1947. Wills was almost two decades removed from being a major star in 1969, but his cover of this pinto pony/Navajo/Hi-De-Ho novelty number eventually made the tune a standard in his genre. It’s since been recorded by Asleep at the Wheel, The Pine Valley Cosmonauts, The Quebe Sisters, and Riders in the Sky. Note the absence of the Texas Playboys in the billing, Wills was recording with Nashville studio musicians at the time.
763. “I Thank You,” Sam and Dave. Songwriters: Isaac Hayes, David Porter; #9 pop/#4 R&B; 1968. Sam Moore and Dave Prater both worked on the gospel circuit during the 1950s and started performing as a duo in 1961. They had their first success at Stax Records, where the lion’s share of their material came for the songwriting team of Isaac Hayes and David Porter. “I Thank You” was their final release for Stax and their final R&B Top Ten hit. Showing gratitude for a love affair or sexual experience, “I Thank You” starts in tent preacher mode and includes a funky clavinet riff from Isaac Hayes. ZZ Top later covered “I Thank You,” recording at Ardent Studios in Memphis, for a 1980 Top 40 single.
762. “Nights in White Satin, Moody Blues. Songwriter: Justin Hayward; #32 pop; released in 1967, did not chart in the U.S. until 1972. Soaked in reverb, recorded with the London Festival Orchestra, and incorporating a floating Mellotron hook and a flute solo, “Nights in White Satin” is pop song that sounds like a mini-opera. Originally released in 1967, the hyper-dramatic number became a hit in the U.S. in 1972, after radio audiences had been conditioned to listening to lengthier records. Justin Hayward on its inspiration: “About an audience in Glastonbury, a flat in Bayswater, and the ecstasy of an hour of love.”
761. “Shake Your Moneymaker,” Elmore James. Songwriter: Elmore James; Did Not Chart; 1962. Mississippi bluesman Elmore James, the man who perfected the lacerating slide guitar sound, starting performing in juke joints near Canton, Mississippi and formed his own band in the late 1930s. He had a surprise Top Ten R&B hit in 1951 with “Dust My Broom,” credited to James as a songwriter although it was a cover of a Robert Johnson composition. James recorded “Shake Your Moneymaker” in New Orleans in 1961. It’s an upbeat 12-bar blues number made for the dancefloor instead of the crying towel. ZZ Top nicked part of the lyrics from “Moneymaker” for their 1981 love song “Tube Snake Boogie.”