1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 930 to 921
Hey, heyyyyyy, baby. I want to know…if you’ll be my girl.
920. “Last Night,” The Mar-Keys. Songwriters: Charles Axton, Jerry Lee Smith, Floyd Newman, Chips Moman, Gilbert C. Caple; #3 pop/#2 R&B; 1961. The Mar-Keys evolved from a Memphis high school act known as The Royal Spades and would later have a rotating cast that was known as the Stax Records house band. Stax guitar legend Steve Cropper on his memories of recording “Last Night,” “I played organ because Smoochy Smith couldn’t hold that note down and play that solo at the same time. I remember it like it was yesterday. I crouched down next to the organ and reached up to play that note. I’m convinced the reason this was a hit was because it was the first twist instrumental.” Screamin’ Jay Hawkins reworked “Last Night” into a surreal sex number titled “Bite It” in 1970. Spotify is your friend.
919. “This is the Thanks I Get,” Barbara Lynn. Songwriter: Barbara Lynn; #65 pop/#39 R&B; 1968. Soul singer/Beaumont Texas native Barbara Lynn was unique as a female guitarist (left handed, even) during the 1960s and wrote much of her material. She debuted with her breakthrough hit and only significant pop success, 1962’s “You’ll Lose a Good Thing.” Lynn often wrote lyrics from the perspective a wronged woman with singles such as “I’m a Good Woman,” “Don’t Spread It Around,” and (“Until Then) I’ll Suffer.” “This is the Thanks I Get” is the slow burn of a spurned soul. Lynn, “I wrote that tune with every fiber in me.”
918. “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl,” Loretta Lynn. Songwriter: Loretta Lynn; #14 country; 1960. Loretta Lynn’s bio is well known – born to a coal miner in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky and married at the age of 15 (sometimes reported as 13, as her birth date has been adjusted over time). A self-taught guitarist, a twenty-seven-year old Lynn cut her first record in 1960 after a dozen years of marriage and motherhood. She hadn’t found her natural voice yet with “Honky Tonk Girl” and thematically she wasn’t well suited for the victim role. What she had though, was the instincts of a natural born songwriter.
917. “Hey! Baby,” Bruce Channel. Songwriters: Margaret Cobb, Bruce Channel; #1 pop/#2 R&B; 1961. East Texas native Bruce Channel wrote “Hey! Baby” in 1959, but the single wasn’t release until December of 1961. The international success of “Hey! Baby” took Channel to the U.K. in 1962, where backing band member Delbert McClinton gave John Lennon some pointers on playing the harmonica. “Hey! Baby” is one of the pre-British Invasion hits that has never faded away, being covered by Ringo Starr in the 1970s, Anne Murray in the 1980s, featured in the 1987 movie “Dirty Dancing,” and being a #1 U.K. single for DJ Ötzi in 2001. Somewhere a high school band is probably playing it right now.
916. “Working Man,” Otis Rush. Songwriters: Mike Bloomfield, Nick Gravenites: Did Not Chart; 1969. Otis Rush left Philadelphia, Mississippi for Chicago in 1948 and he decided to be a blues musician after meeting Muddy Waters. He scored a Top Ten R&B hit in 1956 with “I Can’t Quit You Baby” and Stevie Ray Vaughn named his band after his 1958 single “Double Trouble.” Rush recorded sporadically during the 1960s with his first official album being the 1969 release “Mourning in the Morning.” The sessions were recorded at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with Duane Allman being one of the backing musicians and Electric Flag musicians Nick Gravenites and Mike Bloomfield serving as producers. Otis portrays a stud for hire on “Working Man,” with guitar licks that Robert Cray would replicate during the 1980s.
915. “My Dearest Darling,” Etta James. Songwriters: Eddie Bo, Paul Gayten; #34 pop/#5 R&B; 1960. “My Dearest Darling” doesn’t sound like a New Orleans number, but both songwriters had Crescent City roots. Pianist Eddie Bo, also known as Eddie Bocage, released a single titled “I’m Wise” in 1956 that Little Richard radically transformed into “Slippin’ and Slidin’.” Paul Gayten had hit the R&B charts as a performer in the late 1940s, going Top Ten with “True” in 1947. “My Dearest Darling” sounds stiff until Etta gets to the bridge and starts singing like her life depends on her lover’s approval. Here’s a woman who deserved a better label and publicist.
914. “Gypsy Woman,” The Impressions. Songwriter: Curtis Mayfield; #20 pop/#2 R&B; 1961. Chicago soul legends Jerry Butler and Curtis Mayfield met in a church choir and quickly formed a band with musicians who had recently located from Tennessee. Jerry Butler and The Impressions scored a #11 pop hit in 1958 with the R&B ballad “For Your Precious Love” and Jerry Butler decided to become a solo act soon afterwards. “Gypsy Woman” was the first hit for the Impressions under the direction of Curtis Mayfield, using Latin instrumentation that pop audiences had heard on Ben E. King’s “Spanish Harlem.” Mayfield, who became an expert at providing music for climatic purposes, claimed the lyrics were inspired by a cowboy movie scene involving an alluring gypsy lady dancing around a campfire.
913. “Runaway Child, Running Wild,” The Temptations. Songwriters: Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong; #6 pop/#1 R&B; 1969. “Runaway Child, Running Wild” was part of the psychedelic soul phase that producer Norman Whitfield implemented after observing the commercial success of Sly & the Family Stone. Whitfield, “To me, the original Temptations will always be the best vocal group of all time. My aim was to make the Temptations timeless and to ensure that they survived whatever changes took place in the music end of the business. Trends were changing and I was only interested in keeping them on top and in keeping them current.” This change in style brought guitarist Dennis Coffey to the forefront of The Temptations’ sound. Coffey went on to score a Top Ten hit in 1971 with the flashy instrumental “Scorpio.”
912. “Help Me, Rhonda,” The Beach Boys. Songwriters: Brian Wilson, Mike Love; #1; 1965. Brian Wilson, on his obvious rewrite of Buster Brown’s “Fannie Mae,” “We did two versions of ‘Help Me, Rhonda.’ We did one with the ukulele and we did one with guitars. We chose to use the guitar version. I heard myself singing lead on it originally and then I turned it over to Al (Jardine). I produced the Beach Boys so I decided who would sing lead. I just had a sixth sense about who should sing what songs. Some of the songs I wrote specifically for Mike, Al and Carl to sing.” Wrecking Crew bassist Carol Kaye, “That’s a tune I got pissed off at Brian about. He did take after take, and then the last take he did of that, he had us doing it for about 8 minutes while he held the phone up to the speakers. I guess he wanted the rest of the Beach Boys to hear the track. And there we were, my fingers were almost bleeding.”
911. “Buckaroo,” Buck Owens & His Buckaroos. Songwriter: Bob Morris; #1 country; 1965. Once you move past Bob Wills material like “Spanish Two Step” and “San Antonio Rose” (as opposed to “New San Antonio Rose) and pianist Floyd Cramer, it’s hard to find many relevant instrumental numbers in country music. “Buckaroo” was a #1 country hit written by songwriter/performer/producer Bob Morris. Morris also penned the Owens 1972 #1 single “Made in Japan” and Top Ten country hits for Warner Mack (“It Takes a Lot of Money”), Susan Raye (“Pitty, Pitty, Patter,” “Whatcha Gonna Do with a Dog Like That”), and Sylvia (“The Matador”). After the success of this guitar riff based single, The Buckaroos released a dozen instrumental albums from 1966 to 1972. A struggling young songwriter once played bass for Buck Owens for two weeks and suggested naming his backing unit The Buckaroos. Merle Haggard, take a bow.