1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 960 to 951
960. “Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While),” Kim Weston. Songwriters: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland; #50 pop/#4 R&B; 1965. Kim Weston was a Detroit gospel singer who signed with Motown in 1961. She never had a breakout single as a solo act, turning down an offer to record “Dancing in the Street” before it was then given to Martha and the Vandellas. “Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)” is a stripped down production for Motown – no horns, no strings, all the power it needs comes from the swinging rhythm section. When the Doobie Brothers covered the song for a #11 pop hit in 1975, they reached out to Motown veteran arranger Paul Rison to capture the feel of the song. Doobie Brothers guitarist Patrick Simmons, “At first the band sounded like the Grateful Dead doing the Four Tops.”
959. “Some Kind of Wonderful,” Soul Brothers Six. Songwriter: John Ellison; #91 pop; 1967. Soul Brothers Six started as a family act, hence the name, in Rochester, New York in 1965, but personnel turned over quickly. They were signed to Atlantic Records in 1967, releasing the percussion heavy “Some Kind of Wonderful.” The recording sounds amazingly raw for a major label act of that era, however, a smoother cover by The Fantastic Johnny C also failed to make the Top 40. (The Fantastic Johnny C was known as Johnny Corley to his parents and he went Top Ten on the pop charts in 1967 with “Boogaloo Down Broadway.”) “Some Kind of Wonderful” finally found an audience as a #3 pop hit for Grand Funk Railroad in 1973. The Soul Brothers Six never had any chart success, but John Ellison received an award from BMI in 2012, in recognition that his signature song had been broadcast on radio over four million times.
958. “Music,” The Festivals. Songwriter: C.O. Richards; Did Not Chart; 1966. The Festivals are somewhat of a mystery act, a Dallas R&B quartet who released singles on Smash, Blue Rock, Colossus, and even Motown Records without ever having a hit or, as far as I can tell, a publicity picture. Some of their singles have appeared on Northern soul compilations, including the smooth soul sounds of their 1966 release “Music.” Mayor Hawthorne captured the band’s easy going approach on his 2011 cover of The Festivals’ 1967 release “You’ve Got the Makings of Lover.” Never plead if you can reach your objective with a croon.
957. “Both Sides, Now,” Joni Mitchell. Songwriter: Joni Mitchell; Did Not Chart; 1969. Joni Mitchell received recognition from her peers before she was a recording artist. Buffy Sainte-Marie, Tom Rush, Dave Van Ronk, and Judy Collins had all covered Mitchell’s material prior to Mitchell’s release of her 1969 gold certified “Clouds” album, which included two of her best-known songs, “Chelsea Morning” and “Both Sides, Now.” An unpunctuated, overproduced version “Both Sides Now” had been a Top Ten single for Judy Collins in 1968. Joni’s simpler arrangement and slower pace gave the listener more to think about, with the shrouded in mystery lyrics that Mitchell has described as “a meditation on reality and fantasy; the idea was so big it seemed like I’d just scratched the surface of it.” Highly illogical, but true: despite being covered hundreds of times by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Carly Rae Jepsen, one of the most downloaded versions of the song is by Leonard Nimoy.
956. “Soul Time,” Shirley Ellis. Songwriter: Shirley Ellis; #67 pop/#31 R&B; 1967. Depending on your source, Shirley Ellis was either born in 1927 or 1929 or 1941 in the Bronx and was descended from West Indian parents. It is believed that she wrote The Chords 1955 b-side “Pretty Wild” and was a member, with her husband Alphonse Elliston, of an obscure R&B act known as The Metronomes during the early 1960s. She scored three Top Ten singles between 1963 and 1965 with “The Nitty Gritty,” “The Name Game,” and “The Clapping Song (Clap Pat Clap Slap).” Her 1967 release “Soul Time” didn’t tear up the U.S. pop charts, but it did tear up U.K. dance floors as a Northern soul hit. I’m not sure what the chant 2-4-6-8-22 means, but it’s fun to hear Ellis sing about synchronization.
955. “Baby Scratch My Back,” Slim Harpo. Songwriter: James Moore (Slim Harpo); #16 pop/#1 R&B; 1965. James Moore first started working as a blues artist using the name Harmonica Slim and was a sideman for Lightnin’ Hopkins before recording the hive buzzing “I’m a King Bee” (later covered by The Rolling Stones) in 1957. “Baby Scratch My Back” was Harpo’s highest charting single, matching a loping backbeat with a not so innocent request to take care of an itch. You can definitely hear Bo Diddley’s influence, which is never a bad thing, on Harpo’s music both sonically (the chicken scratch solo on this record is a nice touch), as well as in the lyrical attitude.
954. “Open My Eyes,” Nazz. Songwriter: Todd Rundgren; Did Not Chart; 1968. Todd Rundgren formed the Nazz while still a teenager in 1967 and their first live gig was opening for The Who. Speaking of that band, “Open My Eyes” begins with the riff from “I Can’t Explain” before blasting into its own psychedelic stratosphere. There are a lot of moving parts, with the phased vocal effect perhaps used a bit too generously, but Rundgren’s pop sensibility holds everything together. Nazz vocalist/keyboard player Robert “Stewkey” Antoni would front a band named Sick Man of Europe in the early 1970s, which was the core of what would become Cheap Trick minus Robin Zander.
953. “Da Doo Run Run (When He Walked Me Home),” The Crystals. Songwriters: Phil Spector, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich; #3 pop; 1963. During their career, there were three different lead singers for The Crystals. Barbara Alston, an original member of the group, sang the first three singles, including “Uptown.” None of the band was present when Darlene Love sang “He’s a Rebel” and “He’s Sure the Boy I Love,” but the singles were still credited to the quartet. Dolores “LaLa” Brooks, at the age of thirteen, had replaced a pregnant Myrna Giraud in 1962 and was the lead on their later hits, including “Da Doo Run Run.” Brooks has said that Cher was one of the backing vocalists. Phil Spector knew that his simple “Bill/heart stood still” tale was going to be a hit, commenting on the final playback, “That’s gold. That’s solid gold coming out of that speaker.”
952. “Window Up Above,” George Jones. Songwriter: George Jones; #2 country; 1960. Jones, “”I wrote it in about twenty minutes. I just came in off the road, about eight in the morning. While breakfast was being fixed, I just sat down in the den and picked up the guitar, and it was as simple as that. Sometimes it’s hard to even figure where the ideas come from.” “Window Up Above” is where Jones first found his definitive gut wrenching vocal style, where any random syllable can lacerate a vital organ. A #2 hit for Jones, a #1 single for Mickey Gilley in 1975, and a unique perspective on adultery as voyeurism (Except for The Only One’s “Special View” -Ed).
951. “Never My Love,” The Association. Songwriters: Don Addrisi, Dick Addrisi; #2 pop; 1967. The Association formed as part of the mid-1960’s Los Angeles folk rock scene – their recording of “Babe I’m Going to Leave You” was sandwiched, chronologically, between Joan Baez’s 1962 recording and Led Zeppelin’s more popular 1969 release. The Association would have been labelled pejoratively as “soft rock” in earlier times, but now have been bestowed the hipness of the “sunshine pop” genre. “Never My Love” was the band’s last major hit, a cooing, gentle vow of affection with a dash of Beach Boys inspired harmony singing.