1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 950 to 941
The electric jug makes its triumphant debut.
950. “Village of Love,” Nathaniel Mayer and the Fabulous Twilights. Songwriter: Nathaniel Mayer; #22 pop/#16 R&B; 1962. Detroit native Nathaniel Mayer first entered the humble environs of Fortune Records at the age of twelve, looking for a recording opportunity. Four years later, he released his first single on the label, “My Last Dance with You.” The next year he entered the charts with “Village of Love,” a doo wop rocker with a hat tip to Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say” in the lyrics and a sound that would been right at home on the “American Graffiti” soundtrack. When later 1960’s material like “I Don’t Want No Bald Headed Woman Telling Me What to Do” and “I Want Love and Affection (Not the House of Correction)” failed to make the airwaves, Mayer dropped out of the music business for several decades. During the 2000s, Mayer released two CDs and toured with his Fat Possom label mates The Black Keys.
949. “Just One Look,” Doris Troy. Songwriters: Gregory Carroll, Doris Troy (as Doris Payne), #10 pop/#3 R&B; 1963. Doris Troy spent most of her life as a backup singer, supporting acts like The Drifters and Solomon Burke before she had her one hit single and working with The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd afterwards. Troy sounded more soulful than many of her girl group counterparts of her era and “just one look is all it took” is a sharp lyrical hook, pithily defining love at first sight. If the production seems a bit raw, the record was a demo that Atlantic decided to release without further investment. The Hollies took “Just One Look” to #2 on the U.K. charts in 1964 while Linda Ronstadt peaked at #44 in 1979 with her weak cheese rendition.
948. “Alley Oop,” The Hollywood Argyles. Songwriter: Dallas Frazier; #1 pop/#3 R&B; 1960. “Alley Oop” was written and originally performed by Dallas Frazier, a Nashville based songwriter whose credits include “Mohair Sam,” “Elvira,” and “There Goes My Everything.” The song was based upon the caveman themed comic strip of the same name. Producers Gary Paxton and Kim Fowley, later infamous for creating the 1970’s all-female rock act The Runaways, were ahead of the bubblegum curve in pretending a group of hired studio musicians were a rock band. Kim Fowley on the low budget, drunken studio session that resulted in this #1 single, ““We did the whole thing for $92, maybe $96. We made the record, fed everybody, and still had money left over.” There was a solid market for novelty songs during the early 1960s including Brian Hyland’s “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” (#1, 1960), Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s “Monster Mash” (#1, 1962), Larry Verne’s “Mr. Custer” (#1, 1960), and “Ahab the Arab” by Ray Stevens (#5, 1962).
947. “He’ll Have to Go,” Jim Reeves. Songwriters: Joe Allison, Audrey Allison; #2 pop/#1 country; released late 1959, peaked on the charts in 1960. Jim Reeves started his career in the honky tonk tradition, but had moved into countrypolitan crooner mode for “He’ll Have to Go,” which spent twelve weeks at #1 on the country charts in 1960 and was a #2 pop hit. (There was a grand total of five – yes, FIVE – #1 country hits in 1960: “El Paso” by Marty Robbins, “He’ll Have to Go,” “Please Help Me, I’m Falling” by Hank Locklin, “Alabam” by Cowboy Copas and Ferlin Husky’s “Wings of a Dove.”) Reeves tries to sweet talk a woman out of the arms of another man on “He’ll Have to Go,” but settles for a fantasy. California born country singer Jeanne Black had her only significant hit with the answer song “He’ll Have to Stay,” which also went Top Ten pop and country.
946. “Your Good Thing (Is About to End),” Mable John. Songwriters: Isaac Hayes, David Porter; #95 pop/#6 R&B; 1966. Mable John, the oldest sibling of Little Willie John, knew Bertha Gordy, Barry Gordy’s mother, and that connection helped her to become the first female singer signed to Tamla Records. A traditional blues singer, she found no success and had her only hit record at Stax in 1966. The songwriter duo of Isaac Hayes and David Porter, fresh off of their biggest records to date with Sam & Dave’s “You Don’t Know Like I Know” and “Hold On! I’m Comin’,” penned “Your Good Thing (Is About to End).” Mable’s sings with simmering rage, not a crying victim, but someone who might cause you bodily damage. Lou Rawls took his more polished, less gritty cover version to #18 on the pop charts in 1969.
945. “Fire Engine,” The 13th Floor Elevators. Songwriters: Tommy Hall, Stacy Sutherland, Roky Erickson; Did Not Chart; 1966. The Austin based 13th Floor Elevators may have been the first psychedelic rock band and embracing the counterculture lifestyle in 1960’s Texas had severe personal consequences for lead singer Roky Erickson. The band split the difference between typical garage rock of their era and the type of dark drama that would later become the hallmark of The Doors. Tommy Hall’s electric jug produced a primitive emergency siren sound effect on “Fire Engine” and the lyrics (such as “A fiery flood engulfs your brain/And drowns your thoughts with scarlet rain”) would never exist in a world without LSD.
944. “Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow the Sun),” Del Shannon. Songwriter: Del Shannon; #9 pop, 1964. After several years of working as a club performer in his native Michigan, Del Shannon’s national career started with a bang, his signature song “Runaway” was an international #1 single in 1961 and “Hats Off to Larry” went Top Ten that year. Shannon’s “Little Town Flirt,” which sounds like a girl group song from a male perspective, peaked at #12 in 1963 and he had his last major hit with “Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow the Sun).” The guitar chords on “Keep Searchin’” are reminiscent of “Runaway,” but the chorus stands on its own merit and you get some bonus creepy falsetto notes in the fade out.
943. “Hold What You’ve Got,” Joe Tex. Songwriter: Joe Tex; #5 pop/#1 R&B; 1964. Joe Tex was losing his patience with the music business during the early 1960s. His only chart success was as a writer, James Brown had reworked his composition “Baby You’re Right” for a hit and a writing credit. The two soul legends were not friends. After Bea Ford, Tex’s ex-wife, recorded with Brown, Brown sent Tex a note saying he was done with her and Tex could have her back. Tex responded with the 1962 recording “You Keep Her.” However, Buddy Killeen believed so strongly in Joe Tex that he started Dial Records on his behalf. A less comical plea for appreciation than “Skinny Legs and All” was his first major hit and his biggest except for 1972’s “I Gotcha.” The described qualities of a “good woman” in 1964 – one who minded the children and cooked dinner.
942. “Good News,” Sam Cooke. Songwriter: Sam Cooke; #11 pop; #1 R&B; 1964. Sam Cooke’s music career started in gospel music; he was a member of the popular touring group The Soul Stirrers from 1950 go 1956. Another major act on that circuit was The Pilgrim Travelers, a unit that included Cooke’s friend Lou Rawls during the 1950s. The Pilgrim Travelers had recorded the traditional gospel number “Good News” in 1948. Sam Cooke transitioned the song into the secular world, grabbing a writing credit in the process. Interesting use of instrumentation: studio guitarist Joseph Gibbons plucks the banjo on this gospel meets R&B recording.
941. “I Go to Pieces,” Peter and Gordon. Songwriter: Del Shannon; #9 pop; 1964. Peter Asher and Gordon Waller were a British pop duo who were quite successful in their native country and in the United States, despite looking like lads who had their milk money stolen daily. Jane Asher, Peter’s sister, dated Paul McCartney during the 1960’s and that era’s most talented popsmith gave the duo several songs, including their 1964 #1 single “A World Without Love.” On a 1964 tour, Peter and Gordon either (a) heard Del Shannon pitch “I Go to Pieces” to The Searchers or (b) heard a demo of a Shannon recording of the song. With their close harmony singing, Peter and Gordon sound like The Everly Brothers of the British Invasion on this tune of emotional devastation. After their recording careers ending, Gordon Waller started a publishing company. Peter Asher became a successful producer, for James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, and a top music executive for Sony. Nerds rule.