1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 780 to 771
Tammy Wynette hits her jezebel stage.
780. “He’s Sure the Boy I Love,” The Crystals. Songwriters: Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil; #11 pop; 1962. The Blossoms formed as a Los Angeles high school vocal group in 1954 and Darlene Wright (Darlene Love) became their lead singer in 1958. Their first national success was singing background on the Sam Cooke 1959 hit “Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha.” The Blossoms had the unenviable distinction of creating great financial success during the girl group era while working in obscurity, providing backing vocals for Phil Spector’s productions or recording uncredited lead vocals. With The Crystals being unable to record on short notice, Phil Spector chose The Blossoms to sing on “He’s Sure the Boy I Love,” an upbeat number about a women who pined for a millionaire, but found true happiness with a man who collects unemployment. Spector enraged both The Blossoms and The Crystals for recording one act and giving the artist credit to another, but he wasn’t in the good will business.
779. “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad,” Tammy Wynette. Songwriters: Billy Sherrill, Glenn Sutton; #3 country; 1967. Virginia Wynette Pugh was a twenty-four-year-old Mississippi cosmetologist with three children who decided to try her luck in Nashville in 1966. Producer Billy Sherrill, needing a singer for the Johnny Paycheck composition “Apartment No. 9,” signed Pugh to a recording contract and gave her a new name. “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad,” with a lyrical theme about a woman turning into a tramp to get even with her cheating man, was Wynette’s first major single, peaking at #3 on the country charts. Before Tammy decided to stand by her man, she thought it might be more fitting to be a jezebel.
778. “I Walk on Guilded Splinters,” Dr. John, The Night Tripper. Songwriter: Dr. John Creaux; Did Not Chart; 1968. In the early 1700s, slaves shipped to New Orleans from Western Africa brought “voodoo” customs, to include spiritual chants that later influenced the city’s music culture. Musician Malcolm John Rebennack adopted the stage name Dr. John in tribute to a New Orleans “hoodoo” practitioner and Dr. John’s 1968 debut album “Gris Gris” brought traditional forms of New Orleans music into a contemporary context, perfectly suited for the LSD era. “I Walk on Guilded Splinters” was based on a traditional voodoo church song. Dr. John, “It’s supposed to be ‘Splendors,’ but I turned it into ‘Splinters.’ I just thought splinters sounded better and I always pictured splinters when I sung it.” Stewart Copeland, “This has a dark, echoey, Cajun atmosphere. But it has that atmosphere from the wrong side of midnight.”
777. “Them That Got,” Ray Charles and His Orchestra. Songwriters: Ray Charles, Ricci Harper; #58 pop/#10 R&B; 1960. Florida native Ray Charles consistently hit the R&B charts during the 1950s, but didn’t have his crossover breakthrough hit until 1959’s Top Ten single “What I’d Say (Part I).” He signed with ABC Records in 1960 and had his first #1 pop hit with “Georgia on My Mind.” His 1960 R&B hit “Them That Got” mixes the blues with a big band jazz sound, while Charles complains about being on the wrong side of the haves/have nots equation. A somewhat forgotten Ray Charles release, Maceo Parker gave the number a bebop treatment on his 1990 “Roots Revisited” album.
776. “In My Lonely Room,” Martha and the Vandellas. Songwriters: Holland/Dozier/Holland; #44 pop/#6 R&B; 1964. Martha and the Vandellas evolved from a Detroit teenage vocal group, known as The Del-Phis, that formed in 1957. Martha Reeves joined the act in 1960 and they recorded for Chess Records before becoming Motown stars. They had their first Top Ten single with 1963’s “(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave.” While Brian Wilson found solace in his room, Martha only finds a place to cry with privacy. Lamont Dozier, “I have a couple favorites that weren’t the biggest hits, like ‘In My Lonely Room.’ It brings back memories of unrequited love. When I was composing that piece, I had found a love of my life, that didn’t pan out. ‘In My Lonely Room’ was just a special feeling.”
775. “Tobacco Road,” The Nashville Teens. Songwriter: John D. Loudermilk; #14 pop; 1964. As a title, “Tobacco Road” has appeared in several genres, first as a 1932 novel about poverty from Georgia native Ernest Caldwell. A long running Broadway play based on Caldwell’s book debuted in 1933 and the theme was reshaped for a 1941 comedy film directed by John Ford. North Carolina native John D. Loudermilk wrote and released “Tobacco Road” as a folk song with attitude in 1960. The Nashville Teens were, of course, a British Invasion band that formed in Surrey, England in 1962. Their version of “Tobacco Road” is pure garage rock stomp with a side dish of Jerry Lee Lewis boogie woogie piano in the instrumental break. The Teens had another U.K. Top Ten hit in 1964 with the John D. Loudermilk composition “Google Eye,” but had no other chart successes in the U.S.
774. “Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes),” Carla Thomas. Songwriter: Carla Thomas; #10 pop/#5 R&B; 1961. As the daughter of Memphis disc jockey/singer/full time personality Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas was born into the entertainment industry. She composed and released her sole Top Ten pop hit at the age of seventeen with “Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes).” The doo wop inspired ballad was the first major hit for Satellite Records, which later became Stax. Thomas on her coming of age, wide-eyed innocence performance, “The record was young-sounding, romantic and it expressed what a lot of people wanted to say at that age, but still, I was surprised at how well it did.”
773. “I Get the Sweetest Feeling,” Jackie Wilson. Songwriters: Van McCoy, Alicia Evelyn; #34 pop/#12 R&B; 1968. Producer Carl Davis on working with Jackie Wilson, “We had it to the point that if I pointed with my finger, Jackie knew he was supposed to hit that ‘bird note’ (high C). I would point and he’d hit that bird note and fly. Not many people could go up and down like Jackie; he could go up and down the scale so easily.” If you’ve ever wondered what Burt Bacharach and Hal David would have sounded like working at Motown, “I Get the Sweetest Feeling” is your answer.
772. “Another Saturday Night,” Sam Cooke. Songwriter: Sam Cooke; #10 pop; #1 R&B; 1963. Sam Cooke did not have to labor extensively to find female company. His song “Another Saturday Night” was inspired by being, let’s say, buzzkilled by a snobby hotel. Peter Guralnick, “He and Alex (J.W. Alexander) had been staying at the aristocratic Mayfield Hotel, but the first time they brought back some girls (‘Sam was in great demand,’ said a bemused Don Arden of Sam’s many social conquests), they were informed by management that they were prohibited by hotel policy from entertaining female guests in Sam’s suite. Alex immediately booked another, smaller hotel, but the incident lingered and one night in the dressing room, Sam picked up his guitar, said J.W., and started strumming, ‘It’s another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody.’” What started as an inside joke, resulted in a Top Ten single for Cooke and a 1974 cover by Cat Stevens peaked at #6 on the pop charts.
771. “Touch Me,” The Doors. Songwriter: Robby Krieger; #3 pop; 1968. The Doors formed in Los Angeles in 1965, founding members Jim Morrison and Ray Manzarek had both been UCLA film students, and were signed to Elektra Records in 1966. The band scored a #1 pop hit in 1967 with “Light My Fire,” but were defined more by the dark tone of their music and Jim Morrison’s daredevil charisma than they were by AM radio success. Still, the horn and string arrangements, as well as Morrison’s lounge singer approach on “Touch Me” reflect concessions to Top 40 radio. It’s impossible to know if The Doors wrote “Touch Me” as a tongue-in-cheek joke, but if so, it’s Andy Kaufman level performance art.