1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 990 to 981
“Shall we shag now, or shall we shag later?”
990. “What Kind of Fool (Do You Think I Am),” The Tams. Songwriter: Ray Whitley; #9 pop, #1 R&B; 1964. The Tams were an Atlanta based vocal group, often categorized in the southeast U.S. “beach music” genre. The quintet had their first minor hit with “Untie Me,” a Joe South composition, in 1962. “What Kind of Fool (Do You Think I Am)” features Joseph Pope’s deep gravelly vocals over a pop/doo wop arrangement – that unique combination of sounds resulted in their biggest U.S. pop hit. The Tams have a higher profile in the U.K., where “Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me” went to #1 in 1971 and the BBC banned “There Ain’t Nothing Like Shaggin’” peaked at #21 on 1987. Trivia note – the guitarist on “What Kind of Fool” was Earl “Peanutt” Montgomery, who later co-wrote the #1 country singles “We’re Gonna Hold On” by George Jones/Tammy Wynette and “What’s Your Mama’s Name” by Tanya Tucker.
989. “Love is All Around,” The Troggs. Songwriter: Reg Presley: #7 pop; 1967. Proto-punk rockers The Troggs had more chart success in their native U.K. than in the U.S., where “With a Girl Like You,” “I Can’t Control Myself,” and “Any Way That You Want Me” were all Top Ten singles in 1966. By late 1967, it seemed like The Troggs fifteen minutes of fame were fleeting, but had their last major international hit with the atypical romance number “Love Is All Around.” (Strangely, they had several major hits in South Africa in the late 1960s and early 1970s). Not as good as the song by the same name that served as the theme to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Love is All Around” is still beguiling for its cavemen pitching woo vibe. Cover to discover: The Scottish band Wet Wet Wet spent an amazing fifteen weeks at #1 on the U.K. charts with their 1994 reinterpretation.
988. “Tuesday Afternoon,” The Moody Blues. Songwriter: Justin Hayward; #24 pop; 1968. The Moody Blues started as a clumsy R&B inspired U.K. rock act, no band has ever had any less business covering James Brown, before perfecting their niche in fast food progressive rock. As part of the British Invasion, they went Top Ten in the U.S. in 1964 with “Go Now,” even though that song’s instrumental break sounds like a kindergarten class attempting to play cool jazz. The Moodies returned to the U.S. charts with “Tuesday Afternoon,” showing that you could go far with a simple melody and a mellotron during this timeframe.
987. “It’s Raining,” Irma Thomas. Songwriter: Allen Toussaint using the pseudonym Naomi Neville; Did Not Chart; 1962. Irma Thomas had racked up two marriages and four children before she started her recording career at the age of 19. She worked with songwriter/producer Allen Toussaint for a string of singles on Minit Records in the early 1960s, the best remembered being the doo wop meets R&B “It’s Raining.” Irma watches the precipitation while nursing her heartbreak over a departed lover on the song. Rockabilly revivalist Shakin’ Stevens took “It’s Raining” to the Top Ten of the U.K. pop charts in 1981.
986. “Skinny Legs and All,” Joe Tex. Songwriter: Joe Tex; #10 pop/#2 R&B; 1967. Joseph Arrington, Jr. signed with King Records in 1955, right after he completed high school in Baytown, Texas. After getting a new name, Joe Tex recorded for almost a decade without success, finally hitting the Top Ten with “Hold What You’ve Got” in 1964. Tex examined the battle of the sexes from every possible angle and made a comical plea for appreciation, despite physical or material shortcomings, on the faux live “Skinny Legs and All.” Tex was less charitable about body issues on his last major hit, 1977’s “Ain’t Gonna Bump No More (With No Big Fat Woman).”
985. “Some Kind of Wonderful,” The Drifters. Songwriters: Gerry Goffin, Carole King; #32 pop/#6 R&B; 1961. The Drifters were formed in 1953 to be Clyde McPhatter’s backing unit and had immediate success on the R&B charts. Their first major pop hit came with “There Goes My Baby,” a #2 single featuring Ben E. King on lead vocals. Rudy Lewis performed the lead vocals on “Some Kind of Wonderful,” a classic pop look at euphoric love, not to be confused with the Soul Brothers Six/Grand Funk Railroad hit of the same name. Carole King included her confessional singer/songwriter version of her composition on her 1971 album “Music.” It did not make the earth move.
984. “Cool Jerk,” The Capitols. Songwriter: Donald Storball; #7 pop/#2 R&B; 1966. During the early 1960s, The Capitols performed as “The Caps” in the Detroit area, disbanding due to lack of success. When a dance craze called the “pimp jerk” hit Detroit, Donald Storball put the band back together, giving the phenomenon a new name for radio airplay. The backing unit was The Funk Brothers, Motown’s house band, moonlighting for quick money. With bassist Bob Babbitt leading the way, The Capitols danced their way to one hit wonder glory. Cover to discover: Bootsy Collins’ 2002 release with Babbitt replicating his original/famed bass line.
983. “A Groovy Kind of Love,” The Mindbenders. Songwriters: Toni Wine, Carol Bayer Seger: #2 pop; 1966. The Mindbenders formed in Manchester, England in 1963, to serve as Wayne Fontana’s backing unit. Wayne Fontana and The Mindbenders scored a #1 U.S. pop hit in 1965 with “Game of Love” and the band’s frontman soon thereafter left the band. Undaunted, The Mindbenders had their first, and only, international smash with “A Groovy Kind of Love,” capitalizing on one of the decade’s most overused adjectives. This was the first major songwriting credit for Carol Bayer Seger who would later have credits on the #1 pop singles by Leo Sayer, Christopher Cross, Dionne Warwick, and Patti LaBelle/Michael McDonald. Eric Stewart, who performed the lead vocals on “Groovy,” and Graham Gouldman, who joined the band for their final months in 1968, later were original members of 10cc.
982. “Crimson and Clover,” Tommy James and The Shondells. Songwriters: Tommy James, Peter Lucia; #1 pop; 1968. Tommy James had started fronting bands at the age of 12 in 1960 and his original Shondells broke up in 1965. A Pittsburgh disc jockey started playing the band’s 1964 single “Hanky Panky” that year and a new version of Tommy James and the Shondells released fourteen Top 40 singles from 1966 to 1969. Tommy James wanted to move the band into a more psychedelic pop direction with “Crimson and Clover,” using a simple three chord riff pattern similar to what Lou Reed would later use as the basis for “Sweet Jane.” “Crimson and Clover” was played over and over, resulting in a #1 pop hit. Joan Jett resurrected the song, without the tremolo vocal kitsch, for a Top Ten single in 1982.
981. “It’s My Life,” The Animals. Songwriters: Roger Atkins, Carl D’Errico; #23 pop; 1965. The R&B influenced hard rock band The Animals formed in Newcastle, England in 1963 and moved to London the next year, just in time to catch a slot on the British Invasion. The band released fourteen U.S. Top 40 singles during the 1960s and despite their blues based reputation, several of their hit songs, included “It’s My Life,” came from professional Brill Building songwriters. Still, the band’s foreboding sound and the declaration, “Baby, it’s my life and I do what I want” oozed rock ‘n’ roll swagger. During Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” era, he would often perform a live ten minute plus version of “It’s My Life” with a lengthy spoken interlude about his teenage battles with his father.