1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 970 to 961
Belladonna cloud floating.
970. “Lazy Day,” Spanky and Our Gang. Songwriters: George Fischoff, Tony Powers; #14 pop; 1967. Spanky and Our Gang formed in the Chicago area during the mid-1960s, quickly going from a local club act to national prominence. Their music is categorized under the “sunshine pop” banner and their musical arrangements draw frequent comparisons to The Mamas & the Papas. The band went Top Ten in 1967 with the polished sound of “Sunday Will Never Be the Same.” “Lazy Day,” the band’s second Top Twenty hit, is either absurdly cheerful, blissful escapism or a severe cotton candy overdose. Spanky and Our Gang went to #17 on the pop charts later in 1967 with “Like to Get to Know You” and then quickly lost commercial relevance thereafter.
969. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” The Tokens. Songwriters: Solomon Linda, Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore, George David, Weiss Albert Stanton; #1; 1961. Here’s a song with a complicated history. “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” was originally recorded as “Mbube” in South Africa by Solomon Linda & The Evening Birds in 1939. The piercing high pitched melody was there, but there were no lyrics. Alan Lomax brought the record to Pete Seeger’s attention and The Weavers released a version titled “Wimoweh” in 1951. The Tokens, first name The Linc-Tones, were a New York doo wop vocal act that formed in 1955 with Neil Sedaka as an original member. The Tokens had their first hit in 1961 with the #15 single “Tonight I Fell in Love.”
During that timeframe, George David Weiss, who wrote music for Broadway and for films, wrote lyrics for “Wimoweh” and the Tokens quickly took “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” to #1. The equally catch and annoying earworm has never left popular culture, becoming a hit again in the 1970s by Robert John and then featured in the Disney 2000 film “The Lion King.” In 2006, the descendants of Solomon Linda finally reached a legal settlement on publishing royalties for the song. The Tokens had three additional Top 40 singles between 1966 and 1973, but our generally remembered, incorrectly, as a one hit wonder act.
968. “Sugar, Sugar,” The Archies. Songwriters: Jeff Barry, Andy Kim; #1 pop; 1969. After producer/businessman Don Kirshner’s unpleasant personal experience with The Monkees, who were more interested in creative control than hit records, he developed The Archies. The Archies were comprised of hired studio musicians with the gimmick being that they represented the characters in a popular cartoon. The Archies first hit the Top 40 in 1968 with “Bang-Shang-A-Lang,” a possible influence on the 1976 Silver hit “Wham Bam Shang-A-Lang.” “Sugar, Sugar” was the biggest hit of 1969, spending four weeks at #1. Irresistibly catchy bubblegum pop, “Sugar, Sugar” was penned by Jeff Barry, who wrote several girl group classics, and Andy Kim, who became a pop star in 1974 with the hit “Rock Me Gently.” “Sugar, Sugar” returned to the charts in 1975 as a Top 40 single and Top Five R&B hit for Wilson Pickett.
967. “Uptown,” The Crystals. Songwriters: Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil; #13 pop/#18 R&B; 1962. The Crystals were an African-American girl group who formed in New York in 1961 and were quickly signed to Phil Spector’s Philies Records. In fact, there late 1961 single “There’s No Other (Like My Baby)” was the company’s first hit record. “Uptown” tells the story about a working stiff, “a little man,” who his woman treats like a king when he returns to his tenement home. Perhaps recalling his experience on “Spanish Harlem,” Spector gave the song a Latin feel using flamenco guitar and castanets.
966. “Fire,” Etta James. Songwriter: Willie Dixon; Did Not Chart; 1968. Jamesetta Hawkins had a difficult childhood raised in poverty in Los Angeles and San Francisco, never knowing who her father was, although she speculated he was famed pool player Rudolf “Minnesota Fats” Wanderone. She met Johnny Otis as a teenager and had a Top Five R&B hit in 1955 with “The Wallflower” (sometimes known as “Roll with Me, Henry” or “Dance with Me, Henry”) credited to Etta James and The Peaches. She found R&B success early in the 1960s recording for Chess Records and later in the decade with records produced in Muscle Shoals by Rick Hall. “Fire” was an obscure 1968 b-side, later included on retrospective compilations. Etta gets turned on like a television while her liver quivers over her lover on “Fire.” It’s an average composition at best, but Etta and the Muscle Shoals Horns transcend the material.
965. “Euphoria,” The Holy Modal Rounders; Robin Remaily; Did Not Chart; 1964. The Holy Modal Rounders were a folk duo comprised of Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber, who performed material in the style of traditional American folk music, but with a decidedly chemically enriched vibe. In fact, their 1964 version of “Hesitation Blues” is credited with being the first song to include the word “psychedelic.” “Euphoria,” from the duo’s 1964 debut album was written by fellow minded soul Robin Remaily (sometimes credited as George Remaily) and describes “kicking the gong” and “floating on a belladonna cloud.” Nobody has ever sung like Peter Stampfel, whose vocals may not be mellifluous but they are generally unforgettable. A boozy version of “Euphoria” was released by The Youngbloods in 1967 as the lead track to their “Earth Music” album.
964. “Rocky Top,” The Osborne Brothers. Songwriters: Boudleaux Bryant, Felicia Bryant; #33 country; 1967. Sonny and Bobby Osbourne were raised in Southwestern Ohio and formed their bluegrass outfit after Bobby served in the Korean War. (Sonny, who was not drafted, worked for Bill Monroe in the early 1950s). Their sound was progressive bluegrass for its era, incorporating electric and percussion instruments; vocally, they were known for their stacked harmonies. “Rocky Top” was penned by the husband and wife songwriting duo Boudleaux Bryant and Felice Bryant, whose credits include the Everly Brothers’ songs “Love Hurts,” “All I Have to Do is Dream,” “Wake Up, Little Susie,” and “Bye Bye, Love.” This moonshine liquor, rural paradise number is probably best known today as being the fight song for the University of Tennessee. The Osborne Brothers recorded from the mid-1950s to the early 1980s and a re-released version of “Rocky Top” became their biggest hit in 1996, peaking at #12 on the country charts. Bobby Osbourne still performs with his band, The Rocky Top X-Press, and in 2014 the town of Lake City, Tennessee changed its name to Rocky Top, Tennessee, in an effort to become a tourist destination.
963. “Hippy Hippy Shake,” The Swinging Blue Jeans. Songwriter: Chan Romero; #24 pop; 1963.
The Swinging Blue Jeans were a Liverpool act with many career similarities to The Beatles, in terms of timeline if not impact. Originally known as The Bluegenes, the band started as a skiffle act in 1957, but switched to rock ‘n’ roll after being booed off the stage at Hamburg, Germany’s famed Star Club in 1962. The renamed band had their first U.K. hit with “It’s Too Late Now” in 1963, peaking at #30 for the single penned by guitarist Ray Ennis. The Chan Romero 1959 single “Hippy Hippy Shake” had been a major hit in Australia and was often performed by The Beatles during the early 1960s. The Swinging Blue Jeans sounds like they are covering The Beatles and became their signature song, peaking at #2 in the U.K. A version of the band still tours today, sometimes paired up with the current version of The Merseybeats.
962. “Green Tambourine,” The Lemon Pipers. Songwriters: Paul Leka, Shelley Pinz; #1 pop; 1967. The Lemon Pipers formed in Oxford, Ohio, a college town less than an hour away from Cincinnati, in 1966 and were signed by Buddah Records in 1967. While The Lemon Pipers viewed themselves as psychedelic rockers, their record label was looking for a new bubblegum act. When the band’s self-penned first single, “Turn Around and Take a Look” failed to chart, the label went to a pair of Brill Building songwriters, who delivered “Green Tambourine.” The lyrics were inspired by a man Shelley Pinz saw doing a street performance with a tambourine in front of the Brill Building, begging for change. Using an electric sitar and echo effects provided the desired psychedelic trappings. Guitarist Bill Bartlett left The Lemon Pipers to form Starstruck, whose version of “Black Betty” became a hit in 1977, although the band name was changed to Ram Jam at that time. Ah, the vagaries of the music business.
961. “Peppermint Twist (Part I),” Joey Dee & The Starlighters. Songwriters: Joey Dee, Henry Glover; #1 pop; 1961. The Twist, both the song and the dance, were the pop culture phenomenons of the early 1960s. Chubby Checker’s cover version of Hank Ballard’s 1959 hip shaker “The Twist” was a #1 pop song in both 1960 and again in 1962. Other songs on that theme were “Kissin’ and Twistin’” by Fabian, “Twistin’ USA,” by Danny and the Juniors, “Let’s Twist Again” by Chubby Checker, “Tequila Twist” by The Champs, and “Twist and Shout” by The Isley Brothers. Joey Dee & The Starlighters had a regular gig in New York City’s Peppermint Lounge, a venue that became a social spot for celebrities during that era. Dee’s fast paced tribute to the dance and his place of employment earned him a #1 single and two music themed starring film roles. The Starlighters returned to the Top Ten in 1962 with their cover of The Isley Brothers’ “Shout” and then were swept away by The British Invasion.