1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 830 to 821
George feels tears wellin’ up cold and deep inside like his heart’s sprung a big leak.
830. “Talk Talk,” The Music Machine. Songwriter: Sean Bonniwell; #15 pop; 1966. The Music Machine is viewed as one of the 1960’s prototypical garage punk bands, even though the musicians had previously been involved in folk music. Experimentation with tuning techniques and fuzz box effects achieved their distinct sound. Rock critic Richie Unterberger on the band’s only hit, “The most radical single to be heard on Top 40 radio in late 1966. Against a succession of grinding two-note fuzz riffs and key changes that rose and rose until it hit the ceiling, Sean Bonniwell sprewed and growled a rally cry to social alienation with a mixture of sarcasm, self-pity, and paranoia.” Lead singer Sean Bonniwell returned to folk music in 1969 with his solo album “(Close),” which is worth a listen just for cognitive dissonance purposes.
829. “The Rain, The Park & Other Things,” The Cowsills. Songwriters: Artie Kornfeld, Steve Duboff; #2 pop; 1967. Bob Cowsill reflecting on the success of this single, “The reason I think it did great was when it came out in 1967, it was acid rock, Motown and very, very hard, dark kind of stuff. Then this little, light, fluffy piece of music comes floating through. It flew, and it was great. It’s a wonderfully crafted record. Artie Kornfeld produced it. He did a good job. Artie went on to do the Woodstock Festival. For a while there, we were not taken that seriously as musicians, and that can get under your skin a bit. Our age had something to do with that. For Pete’s sake, I was 17. Barry was 14. We were teenagers. I’m finding out that it’s pretty well respected. Some of our music stood the test of time. It sounds real good still. People tell me that. So, I appreciate that.”
828. “This Guy’s in Love with You,” Herb Alpert. Songwriters: Burt Bacharach, Hal David; 1968; #1 pop; 1968. Herb Alpert successfully managed careers as an artist, being the leader of the Tijuana Brass, and as a businessman, serving as co-owner of A&M Records, during the 1960s. The Tijuana Brass, an instrumental group, were featured on a 1968 CBS television program and the director requested that Alpert sing one number for the occasion. Alpert contacted Bacharach who dug up the unrecorded composition “This Guy’s in Love with You” and Hal David rewrote part of the lyrics for the theme of Alpert crooning to his wife. Alpert obviously was working with a limited vocal range, but his earnest effort is no small part of the record’s appeal.
827. “I’ll Go Crazy (Live),” James Brown and The Famous Flames. Songwriter: James Brown; #73 pop/#28 R&B; released in 1963, but peaked on the charts in 1966. James Brown started recording in 1956, but didn’t have his first Top Twenty pop hit until 1963’s “Prisoner of Love.” Prior to that release, Brown had his album breakthrough with “Live at the Apollo,” which peaked at #2 on the pop charts despite not containing any hit singles. The studio version of “I’ll Go Crazy” peaked at #15 on the R&B charts in 1960, however, the live performance showcases the discipline and rhythmic creativity of The Famous Flames. “I’ll Go Crazy” was released as the b-side of “Lost Someone” in December of 1965, two and a half years after the “Live at the Apollo” album was released, and received more airplay than the scream heavy a-side.
826. “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love),” Jr. Walker and the All Stars. Songwriters: Johnny Bristol, Harvey Fuqua and Vernon Bullock; #4 pop/#1 R&B; 1969. Saxophone player Jr. Walker (known to his parents as Autry DeWalt Mixon Jr.) started performing in Indiana during the 1950s, with his inspiration coming from the jump blues artists of the previous decade. His band later moved to Detroit, was discovered by Harvey Fuqua of the Moonglows, and signed to Motown in 1964. The 1969 Top Five hit “What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)” is smoother than the fiery soul records that the All Stars typically released, yet it matched the success of “Shotgun,” their signature song, on both the pop and R&B charts. Retrospectively, “What Does It Take” sounds like an early example of 1970’s quiet storm soul.
825. “Luxury Liner,” The International Submarine Band. Songwriter: Gram Parsons; Did Not Chart; 1968. Gram Parsons was admitted to Harvard University during the mid-1960s, but his personal focus quickly shifted to the Boston folk scene instead of academia. He formed the International Submarine Band, a seminal country rock act, in 1966, eventually finding his way to Los Angeles and recording the “Safe at Home” album. “Luxury Liner,” an upbeat shuffle train tune with phrasing similar to “It’s All Over Now,” has a sound that is reminiscent of the country edged material Michael Nesmith brought to the Monkees. Parsons had left The International Submarine Band prior to the release of their debut album to join The Byrds.
824. “Don’t Look Back,” The Remains. Songwriter: Billy Vera; Did Not Chart; 1966. “The Remains were the band that led the way for rock ‘n’ rollers in Boston,” Peter Wolf of The J. Geils Band. Songwriter Billy Vera, “’Don’t Look Back’ was written on assignment from my publisher for soul singer Chuck Jackson, who wound up not recording it. When I heard The Remains’ version, it wasn’t what I’d expected, but I loved it and thought it had hit potential. Lenny Kaye included it on his ‘Nuggets’ album. Twenty years later, Rhino put out an expanded version box set which sold like crazy, earning me the first real money on that song. After that, they released a Robert Plant box set which included ‘Don’t Look Back,’ selling another ton of records. So, 40 years after I wrote it, the song finally made some real money and has become a garage rock classic.” Despite the quality of this song, Barry Tashian disbanded the group three days after completing their 1966 tour with The Beatles.
823. “Be True to Your School,” The Beach Boys. Songwriters: Brian Wilson, Mike Love; #6 pop; 1963. The Beach Boys formed in Hawthorne, California in 1961 and were originally comprised of brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson with cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine. Their breakthrough hits were primarily surfing themed material and The Beach Boys helped define the sun and fun image of southern California. “Be True to Your School” continued the innocent, teen theme, with school pride being equated as important to romantic devotion. One of the backing female singers was Marilyn Rovell, who married Brian Wilson in 1964.
822. “Some Velvet Morning,” Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra. Songwriter: Lee Hazelwood; #26 pop; 1967. Lee Hazelwood was a disc jockey turned singer/songwriter/producer who had his first major successes working with Duane Eddy in the late 1950s, but is best known for his partnership with Nancy Sinatra. Hazelwood wrote and produced the Nancy Sinatra hits “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” and “Sugar Town.” The Hazelwood/Sinatra duet “Some Velvet Morning” sounds like a psychedelic pop litmus test, a way to see how far you could push the squares and still hit the Top 40. Nathan Raban, “One of the strangest, druggiest, most darkly sexual songs ever written – ambitious, beautiful and unforgettable. Hazlewood and Sinatra sound like they don’t inhabit the same universe, let alone the same song. Over loping spaghetti-Western guitar, Hazlewood sings of Greek mythology and ‘some velvet morning when I’m straight,’ while Sinatra coos about flowers and daffodils in a stoned haze against a backdrop of bubblegum psychedelia. ‘Some Velvet Morning’ sounds like two songs spliced together by a madman, or an avant-garde short film in song form.”
821. “The Race is On,” George Jones. Songwriter: Don Rollins; #96 pop/#3 country; 1964. East Texas native George Jones received his first guitar when he was nine and was busking on Beaumont streets before he was a teenager. After a short stint in the Marines, Jones returned to Texas and received a record deal in 1953. “The Race is On” was a #3 hit for George Jones in 1965, his highest charting record since the 1962 #1 single “She Thinks I Still Care.” Jones biographer Bob Allen overstates his case a bit, but here’s an interesting description of the song’s skittish energy, “George imbued ‘The Race Is On’ with a masterfully frenetic, on-the-edge vocal reading, full of whining emotional ambivalence and mock sadness. By gleefully bending and stretching the notes and singing, at times, slightly ahead of or behind the song’s fast-clipped meter, he embellished it with a subtle sense of tension and release that perfectly complemented the rapid-fire cascading effect of the song’s lyric.” This sarcastic heartbreak number has visited the pop, U.K., and country charts with covers by Jack Jones, Dave Edmunds, and Sawyer Brown.