1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 930 to 921
Ronnie Spector loves me.
930. “Waitin’ in Your Welfare Line,” Buck Owens. Songwriters: Bob Owens, Don Rich, Nat Stuckey; #57 pop; #1 country; 1966. Alvis Edgar “Buck” Owens was born in Sherman, Texas, but his family moved to Arizona for work during the Great Depression. The budding guitarist/farm laborer/truck driver relocated to Bakersfield, California in 1951 and primarily worked as a session musician throughout the 1950s. George Morgan took the Buck Owens composition “There Goes My Love” to #15 on the country charts in 1957 and Owens scored his first hit in 1959 with “Second Fiddle,” peaking at #24. He went on to become the pioneer of the “Bakersfield sound” and was arguably the biggest country star of the 1960s. Texas disc jockey turned songwriter turned recording artist Nat Stuckey wrote “Waitin’ in Your Welfare Line,” in which a man waits his turn for a woman’s affection. Buck Owens and Don Rich made some adjustments to the composition, enough to take co-writing credits. This love hungry song was released during Buck’s era of unchallenged domination of country radio, he had fourteen consecutive #1 singles from 1963 to 1967.
929. “Do I Love You?,” The Ronettes. Songwriters: Vini Poncia, Pete Andreoli, Phil Spector; #34 pop; 1964. The Ronettes formed as a family act in New York City during the late 1950s and received attention during the early 1960s for both their musical talent and dancing ability. They released five singles that didn’t chart before signing with Phil Spector in 1963. Spector was particularly enamored with his future wife Veronica Bennett, who became more famously known as Ronnie Spector. “Do I Love You?” was the trio’s fourth Top 40 hit and despite the average chorus and clumsy bridge, Ronnie’s quest for romantic self-actualization works because she sounded as alluring as she looked.
928. “Catch the Wind,” Donovan. Songwriter: Donovan Leitch; #23 pop; 1965. Donovan Leitch had a quick rise to fame, moving from the London folk scene and street busking to becoming an international pop star at the age of nineteen. His primary success was in the U.K., where he had eight Top Ten singles from 1965 to 1968, but he also had four Top Ten hits in the U.S., including the 1966 chart topper “Sunshine Superman.” Donovan’s breakthrough hit was “Catch the Wind,” which was basically a more commercial viable re-write of Bob Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom.” Donovan described the lyrical inspiration in his inimitable way, “I wrote it for Linda (Lawrence, who he married in 1970), although I hadn’t really met her yet. It is a song of unrequited love, yet I hadn’t really met her, so how could I miss her? And I seem to write prophetic songs in the sense of the Celtic poet and I wrote this song before I met Linda, of a love I would like to have had and lost.”
927. “I Saw Her Again,” The Mamas & the Papas. Songwriters: John Phillips, Denny Doherty; #5 pop; 1966. The Mamas & the Papas was comprised of singers who primarily came from the world of folk music, bringing their harmony expertise to pop songs in 1965. “I Saw Her Again” was inspired by an affair between Denny Doherty and bandmate, Michelle Phillips, who was uncomfortably married to John Phillips, the group’s creative leader, at the time. The lyrics describe the moral dilemma of an illicit romance, but the vocals lovingly waft upon a sweet California breeze. Michelle Phillips was kicked out of the band for a few months during 1966 due to her extramarital activities, but was quickly reinstated. She was not the type of woman to be rejected by a mere mortal man.
926. “I Like It Like That,” Chris Kenner. Songwriters: Chris Kenner, Allen Toussaint: #2 pop/#2 R&B; 1961. New Orleans singer Chris Kenner first charted with the Fats Domino/Dave Bartholomew composition “Sick and Tired” in 1957, but didn’t find real success until teaming with Allen Toussaint in the early 1960s. Featuring the call and response vocal style of the New Orleans tradition, “I Like It Like That” was Kenner’s only crossover pop hit. Kenner’s “Something You Got” was a Top Ten R&B hit for Alvin Robinson in 1964 and he also wrote the R&B/frat rock classic “Land of 1,000 Dances.”
925. “La-La Means I Love You,” The Delfonics. Songwriters: Thom Bell, William Hart; #4 pop/#2 R&B; 1968. The Delfonics formed at a Philadelphia high school in 1966 and released singles on the Moon Shot and Cameo/Parkway labels before meeting producer and songwriter Thom Bell. Bell created the smooth sounding, high falsetto style of soul music with The Delfonics that would later be popularized by The Stylistics and The Chi-Lites in the early 1970s. Strikingly different than what was being released by Motown and Stax at the time, “La La Means I Love You” is retrospectively viewed as the beginning of the Philadelphia soul sound. Tenor William Hart made David Ruffin of The Temptations sound comparatively like Howlin’ Wolf.
924. “Big Ball’s in Cowtown,” Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. Songwriter: Hoyle Nix; Did Not Chart; 1966. Bob Wills started performing Western swing music with The Light Crust Doughboys in 1930s and his Texas Playboys became the genre’s defining act. Hoyle Nix, who learned the fiddle from his cotton farming father Jonah Nix, wrote “A Big Ball in Cowtown” and released it with his West Texas Cowboys in 1949. (Jody Nix, the son of Hoyle, is a respected performer on the modern era Texas Western swing circuit). Bob Wills no longer had a touring act with the Texas Playboys in the late 1960s, he would simply hire local musicians wherever he performed. With Leon Rausch on lead vocals, Wills cut a spirited version of “Big Balls in Cowtown” in 1966 and the song has become a Western swing standard, even covered by George Strait with Asleep at the Wheel in 1993. On the right night in Texas, you might still catch a 90-year-old Leon Rausch singing this tune.
923. “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore,” The Walker Brothers. Songwriters: Bob Crewe, Bob Gaudio; #13 pop; 1966. The Walker Brothers, a trio of unrelated musicians, inverted the British Invasion by moving from Los Angeles to England to find fame. They topped the U.K. charts in 1965 with the Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition “Make It Easy on Yourself,” using a Phil Spector style production sound. “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” came from The Four Seasons songwriting team of Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio; Frankie Valli first recorded the atypically somber number in 1965 without chart success. Once again sounding like a cross between blue eyed soul and Phil Spector, The Walker Brothers took their high octane version of “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” to #1 on the U.K charts in 1966 and had a Top Twenty U.S. hit. Showing fame’s fickle nature, The Walker Brothers disbanded in 1967.
922. “Hanky Panky,” Tommy James and the Shondells. Songwriters: Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich; #1 pop/#93 R&B; released in 1964, but peaked on the charts in 1966. Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich not only wrote some of the biggest hits of the 1960s, but they also recorded as a duo named The Raindrops. The quickly written “Hanky Panky” was initially deemed a throwaway b-side, but soon the record was discovered by garage rock bands. Tommy James recorded his version while still in high school in 1964, resulting in a regional Midwestern hit. Late in 1965, the song got new life as a hit in Pittsburgh, leading to a new version of the Shondells and the record being re-released. Tommy James, “The amazing thing is we did not re-record the song. I don’t think anybody can record a song that bad and make it sound good. It had to sound amateurish like that. I think if we’d fooled with it too much we’d have fouled it up.”
921. “Shake a Tail Feather,” James and Bobby Purify. Songwriters: Otha Hayes, Verlie Rice, Andre Williams; #25 pop/#15 R&B; 1967. The Five Du-Tones were a St. Louis soul vocal group who relocated to Chicago in 1960. They recorded the original version of “Shake a Tail Feather” in 1963, peaking at #51 pop/#28 R&B with their wonderfully raw performance. Their version was included in the 1988 film “Hairspray.” James and Bobby Purify, a cousin vocal duo, released a more polished take of “Shake a Tail Feather” in 1967, while still retaining the dancefloor bad boy sexuality and the pre-British Invasion feel. The Ray Charles dancing in the street version is a highlight of the 1980 film “The Blues Brothers.”