1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 790 to 781
790. “Ferry Cross the Mersey,” Gerry and the Pacemakers. Songwriter: Gerry Marsden; #6 pop; 1965. Gerry Marsden, “Brian (Epstein) called and said, ‘We’ve got a film for you.’ I said, ‘Oh, don’t be daft’ and he came up with the book ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey,’ written by Tony Warren who did ‘Coronation Street.’ The pressure was to try and do a title song that captured Liverpool, Liverpool people, and the ferries.” While the 1965 film was quickly forgotten, the Marsden title track became an international Top Ten hit and a 1989 version, recorded as a charity record and including Paul McCartney, among others, went to #1 on the U.K. and Irish singles charts.
789. “Ooh Poo Pa Doo (Part 2),” Jesse Hill. Songwriter: Jesse Hill; #28 pop/#3 R&B; 1960. It has been said that the intro of Jesse Hill’s call and response number “Ooh Poo Pa Doo” was nicked from Dave Bartholomew and that the song was stolen from a New Orleans “winehead”/street performer named Big Four who played for drinks and tips. Despite those origins, the creating a disturbance in your mind “Ooh Poo Pa Doo” has been covered over a hundred times and Hill’s version sold over 800,000 copies. Hill, who had been a drummer for Professor Longhair and Huey “Piano” Smith, understand rhythm and getting listeners to shake their hips were more important than lyrics on “Ooh Poo Pa Doo.” Allen Toussaint, “I didn’t think ‘Ooh Poo Pah Doo’ made much sense. I thought songs had to be more expressive. But when I saw the effect it had on people, I began to look at things differently.”
788. “He’s So Fine,” The Chiffons. Songwriter: Ronald Mack; #1 pop/#1 R&B; 1963. The Chiffons were a Bronx high school vocal trio who became a quartet at the suggestion of manager Ronnie Mack. Mack was a young man, but had spent several years in the music business, and pitched the band to Bright Tunes Productions, a company founded by The Tokens of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” fame. The Tokens provided backing accompaniment on “He’s So Fine” and shopped the single to several record labels, being rejected by every major company. The song was eventually released by Laurie Records and spent four weeks at #1 in 1963. Famously, the song was involved in a major plagiarism lawsuit involving the George Harrison composition “My Sweet Lord.” After having his first commercial success, Ronnie Mack died of cancer at the age of 23.
787. “Cowgirl in the Sand,” Neil Young. Songwriter: Neil Young: Did Not Chart; 1969. Legend has it that Neil was stuck at home with the flu one day, so he penned “Down by the River,” “Cinnamon Girl,” and “Cowgirl in the Sand” in a single afternoon. “Cowgirl’ is a Neil/Crazy Horse guitar jam that listeners either find hypnotic or maddeningly self-indulgent. Young, on his guitar skills, “Nobody cares if you know how to play scales. Nobody gives a shit if you have good technique or not. It’s whether you have feelings that you want to express with music, that’s what counts, really. When you are able to express yourself and feel good, then you know why you’re playing. The technical aspect is absolute hogwash as far as I’m concerned. It bores me to tears.
786. “A Boy Named Sue,” Johnny Cash. Songwriter: Shel Silverstein; #2 pop/#1 country; 1969. It’s difficult to imagine anyone who was more successful than Shel Silverstein in a broad range of creative writing fields. Silverstein is widely known for his successful children’s books/poetry collections (“Where the Sidewalk Ends,” “A Light in the Attic”). He was a Golden Globe and Academy Award nominee for his work in television and films, and also worked as a cartoonist, singer, and songwriter. Silverstein had his first major hit as a songwriter with “The Unicorn,” a Top Ten pop single for The Irish Rovers in 1968. Johnny Cash took his prison gig tour west from Folsom to San Quentin in 1969, recording the humorous story song “A Boy Named Sue” in the process. Since Cash barely knew the tale of the mislabeled lad who hated his deadbeat dad, he performed the song with a lyric sheet. This tough love number was The Man in Black’s biggest pop hit, peaking at #2. Silverstein wrote the Dr. Hook hits “Sylvia’s Mother” and “The Cover of the Rolling Stone” in the 1970s, as well as Bobby Bare’s 1974 #1 country release “Marie Laveau.”
785. “I Adolize You,” Ike and Tina Turner. Songwriter: Ike Turner; #82 pop/#5 R&B; 1962. Rock critic Robert Palmer, “There was never doubt that Tina Turner was the star, the electrifying performer audiences came to see. Ike kept his own stage presence deliberately low key, avoiding flamboyant moves and directing the band with underplayed, economical gestures. His songwriting, production and musical direction were geared toward showcasing Tina.” Be that as it may, Ike Turner penned himself as the subject of worship on the lust filled “I Adolize You,” which sounds like Satan’s version of a girl group song. Tina Turner didn’t sound like she wanted affection, she sounded like she wanted to physically devour her lover. Keith Richards on Ike, “It was the first time I saw a guy pistol-whip another guy in his own band. Ike acted like a goddamned pimp.”
784. “Good Times,” Sam Cooke. Songwriter: Sam Cooke; #11 pop/#1 R&B; 1964. Robbie Robertson, “Chuck Berry told me if it wasn’t for Louis Jordan, he wouldn’t have probably ever even got into music. That Louis Jordan changed everything and made him want to become a musician.” Arkansas born jump blues artist Louis Jordan’s impact on the rock ‘n’ roll generation is rarely overstated and besides his obvious influence on Chuck Berry, there’s also a direct link between Jordan’s 1946 R&B hit “Let the Good Times Roll” and Sam Cooke’s “Good Times.” Cooke uses Jordan’s title as a starting point on this feel good, all night long, soul soothing number. The lyric that “time don’t mean that much to me” feels ironic in the sense that this is one of the last singles that Cooke released before his death in December of 1964. Cooke recorded his vocals on “Good Times” twenty five times before being satisfied with the results, then overdubbed himself singing harmony. The single is different from the “Ain’t That Good News” album version and includes the Soul Stirrers singing backing vocals.
783. “Heaven Must Have Sent You,” The Elgins. Songwriters: Holland/Dozier/Holland; #50 pop; #9 R&B; 1966. The R&B vocal group The Elgins started performing during the late 1960s, but were eventually given their name, one that had been previously used by The Temptations, by Barry Gordy. Gordy completed the lineup by taking the unsuccessful Motown act named The Downbeats and adding the unsuccessful Motown singer Saundra Mallett to the unit. The Elgins never broke pop in the U.S., but had two Top Ten Holland/Dozier/Holland written R&B hits with “Darling Baby” and “Heaven Must Have Sent You.” “Heaven Must Have Sent You” sounds like an upbeat Supremes recording with The Miracles on backing vocals. Due to its popularity on the Northern soul scene, the single was re-released in 1971, four years after The Elgins broke up, and became a #3 pop hit. Bonnie Pointer recorded a disco version of “Heaven” for a #11 pop hit in 1979.
782. “A Public Execution,” Mouse (Mouse and The Traps). Songwriters: Ronnie “Mouse” Weiss, Knox Henderson; Did Not Chart; 1965. Mouse and The Traps were a high school Texas outfit that included Bugs Henderson, later a major cult figure on the Texas blues scene. Bugs, on the age old reason for starting a band, “I saw Mouse (Ronnie Weiss) in assembly at high school, when I was into Elvis. He played ‘Money Honey’ and ‘I’m Walkin’,’ and girls were screaming.” “A Public Execution” is an uproarious deadpan Bob Dylan pastiche. Ronnie feigns Dylan’s condescending, venomous tone while the guitarists play their best punk rock version of “Like A Rolling Stone” in the background. Lenny Kaye, “There are some who say that Mouse does Dylan’s ‘Highway 61’ period better than the Master himself.”
781. “Remember (Walkin’ in the Sand),” The Shangri- Las. Songwriter: Shadow Morton: #5 pop; 1964. The Shangri-Las were a Queens based act who became a pop sensation while still in high school. On “Remember,” songwriter/producer Shadow Morton used melodramatic production touches and the lyrics recount every moment (“Then he touched my cheek (Remember)/With his finger tips”) of a failed young love experience. A teenage Billy Joel performed, depending on the account, on the demo or final recording of this song. Joel, “He’s a pretty strange guy, Shadow (Morton). He’s wearing this big cape and dark glasses and he played the producer role to the hilt. He wanted to be the Phil Spector of the East Coast. He talked in these wild, dramatic, theatrical terms – he wanted more ‘thunder’ and he wanted more ‘purple’ in the record.” A confused Joel was lost until the session guitarist said, “Oh, just play louder, kid.’”