1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 860 to 851
Here they come…walking down the street…
860. “Hello, Dolly!,” Louis Armstrong. Songwriter: Jerry Herman; #1 pop; 1964. Louis Armstrong, one of the most important figures in American music history, was no longer a regular recording artist during the early 1960s. He made his living on the road and his band wasn’t pleased to fly into New York on a scheduled day off to record a few songs as a favor to Joe Glaser, Armstrong’s manager. The song “Hello, Dolly!” was intended to help promote the Broadway play of the same name that debuted in 1964. After the single was released to radio, Armstrong’s band had to learn the song while touring, being taken off guard when audiences demanded to hear it. While the actual song is a trifling, Armstrong’s cheerful charisma always radiates through any medium. Armstrong on his surprise hit, “It sure feels good to be up there with those Beatles.”
859. “(Theme from) The Monkees,” The Monkees. Songwriters: Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart; Did Not Chart; 1966. No band has ever had a more hey! hey! recognizable, please allow us to introduce ourselves number than the we’re the young generation “(Theme from) The Monkees.” Peter Tork, commenting many years ago, “”I always thought the song worked fine as the theme song for the TV show, but I never allowed us to sing it in public. The whole idea of standing up there and singing, ‘We’re wonderful/We’re the wonderful ones/And our names are The Wonderful Ones,’ was too self-congratulatory. What we do now is, the backing band plays (the music) and Micky and I come out onstage to it. I can’t ever see us singing ‘Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees!’ I couldn’t bear it.”
858. “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” The Four Seasons. Songwriters: Bob Crewe, Bob Gaudio; #1 pop/#1 R&B 1962. The Four Seasons formed as The Four Lovers in the mid-1950s and scored a minor pop hit with “You’re the Apple of My Eye” in 1956. The band found their two major creative forces in 1959 when Bob Crewe joined the group and they started working with producer Bob Gaudio. Renamed The Four Seasons, they brought their Italian-American doo wop to the airwaves with the #1 single “Sherry” in 1962, the first of thirty Top 40 hits for the group or Frankie Valli during the decade. Both Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio have claimed that they individually suggested the title “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” referencing different films for their inspiration. Released two months after “Sherry” and using a similar musical template, Frankie Valli falsetto cry-i-ied his way back to the #1 slot.
857. “Pushin’ Too Hard,” The Seeds. Songwriter: Sky Saxon; #36 pop; released 1965, peaked on the charts in 1967. Sky Saxon, waxing philosophically shortly before his death, “If someone were to ask me, I’d say there were four bands that defined the Sixties. They are, in no particular order: Love, the Seeds, the Doors, and the Byrds.” The Seeds formed in Los Angeles in 1965, with Utah native Sky Saxon serving as frontman. Their biggest hit was “Pushin’ Too Hard,” a two chord rocker with a sneering, Mick Jagger inspired vocal with a strange electric piano instrumental break. Depending upon your perspective, “Pushin’ Too Hard” represents everything positive (simplicity, experimentation) or negative (imitation, repetition) of ‘60’s garage rock. Sky Saxon’s opinion, “I wrote 76 songs for the Seeds. I consider them all to be classics to be discovered now or at a later date.”
856. “Why,” Lonnie Mack. Songwriter: Lonnie Mack; Did Not Chart; 1964. Indiana raised Lonnie McIntosh merged country and R&B influences to develop his own whammy bar heavy, Flying V propelled guitar style. He hit the pop charts twice in 1963, once with an instrumental version of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee,” peaking at #5, and secondly with his own composition “Wham!,” which was not a jitterbug. Mack takes an unforgettable vocal turn on the love is pain “Why,” described by Greil Marcus as “”a soul ballad so torturous, so classically structured, that it can uncover wounds of your own. Mack’s scream at the end has never been matched, God help us if anyone ever tops it.” One could argue that Lorraine Ellison’s ruptured organ screaming on “Stay with Me” competes favorability with Mack’s haunted wailing, but both can give you nightmares.
855. “On the Road Again,” Canned Heat. Songwriters: Floyd Jones, Alan Wilson; #16 pop; 1968. Canned Heat formed in Los Angeles in 1965 and developed a sound based upon bringing traditional blues into the 1960’s contemporary rock context. Their 1967 eponymous debut album consisted primarily of cover versions of songs originally performed by Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf, et. al. They first hit the pop charts with “On the Road Again” in 1968, a reinterpretation of Chicago blues artist Floyd Jones’ 1953 recording. Alan Wilson’s tenor flirting with falsetto vocals and the band’s underlying chugging blues bottom made Canned Heat one of the more eccentric sounding acts of their era.
854. “The Whole World is a Stage,” The Fantastic Four. Songwriters: Albert Hamilton, Ronnie Savoy, Edward Wingate; #63 pop/#6 R&B; 1967. Motown wasn’t the only recording label in Detroit during the 1960s. Ed Wingate and Joanne Jackson founded Golden World/Ric-Tic Records in 1962, as direct competition to Berry Gordy, releasing material by Gino Washington, Edwin Starr, the Detroit Emeralds, and the Fantastic Four, among others. The Fantastic Four formed in Detroit in 1965 and had their biggest R&B hit with the 1967 “The Whole World is a Stage.” The song is an odd ballad where the narrator discovers that his woman has been cheating with his supposed best friend, but takes the attitude that everyone in life is always performing, so there’s no need to get unduly upset. On the business side of the house, Berry Gordy purchased all Golden World assets, including their recording studio, in 1966 and purchased the subsidiary Ric-Tic Record label in 1968.
853. “Um, Um ,Um, Um, Um, Um,” Major Lance. Songwriter: Curtis Mayfield; #5 pop/#1 R&B; 1964. Dick Clark, “How did you develop this sound? You have that unusual sound that doesn’t sound like anybody else. Do you design it?” Major Lance, “No, actually my manager Carl Davis and Curtis Mayfield has a lot to do with it.” Lance was a gifted athlete who attended high school with Curtis Mayfield, leading to a musical partnership in the 1960s. His biggest hit was the unusual “Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um” – a tale about not being able to verbalize romantic disappointment. It’s a smartly arranged number with a touch of Latin in the percussion and Johnny Pate’s tasteful horn arrangement.
852. “Foolish Little Girl,” The Shirelles. Songwriters: Helen Miller, Howard Greenfield; #4 pop/#9 R&B; 1963. The Shirelles formed in New Jersey in 1957 and shortly thereafter had their first chart hit with “I Met Him on a Sunday,” a song written by the group for a high school talent contest. With six Top Ten singles from 1960 to 1963, they were one of the definitive girl group acts of the pre-British Invasion early 1960s. “Foolish Little Girl,” their last Top Ten single, is a narrative debate with one party regretting her decision to end a relationship and receiving a scolding response about her immaturity from another vocalist. The Shirelles may have also felt like foolish little girls during this timeframe, after discovering the legal trust that Phil Spector and Scepter Records were supposedly using to safeguard their royalties until they turned 21 did not exist.
851. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” Crosby, Stills & Nash. Songwriter: Stephen Stills; #21 pop; 1969. Crosby, Stills & Nash formed in 1968, after David Crosby was fired from The Byrds, Graham Nash quit The Hollies, and Buffalo Springfield imploded. The folk rock supergroup released their eponymous debut album in 1969, an influential record mixing social commentary with confessional singer/songwriter material and reinventing the “California sound” with a softer approach. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” commemorates the relationship between Stephen Stills and Judy Collins in a four song grouping that was chopped down from seven minutes to four and a half for Top 40 radio. This trio was defined by their harmony singing and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” sounds like less of a period piece than most of their early material.