Friday, July 11, 2014

The Top 200 Songs of the 60's*: #100-91

Inside The Rock Era began our newest music special on July 1, presenting ten songs each day since.  If you forgot the start date, you can catch up on segments you missed by viewing the Blog Archive on the left-hand side of the website.
We have arrived at an exciting time--get ready for The Top 100 Songs of the Sixties*:


"Someday We'll Be Together"

Motown decided to release this as by "Diana Ross and the Supremes," even though Ross was the only member of the group whose voice is on the recording - the backing vocals are by session artists. The next song Ross recorded, which was "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)," became her first solo single. 

"Someday We'll Be Together" was originally recorded by Johnny Bristol and Jackey Beavers in 1961.  Motown brought Bristol in to produce this version, and he encouraged Ross along the way.  That's Bristol coaching Diana throughout the song, saying "Sing it pretty" and "You better" along the way.

Although the main subject was Ross comforting a lover far away, there were other implications that can be made, such as Ross, Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong of the Supremes being together again someday.  Ross also would talk about mankind "someday, being together" regarding troubles such as civil rights and demonstrations and protests against the Vietnam War. 

Harvey Fuqua produced the song.  It not only gave the Supremes 12 #1 songs (third in the Rock Era to that point behind the Beatles and Elvis Presley), but it was the final #1 song of the 60's. 

"Someday We'll Be Together" competed against "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head", "Wedding Bell Blues", "Sugar, Sugar", Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta' Love", "Something" and "Come Together" by the Beatles, "I Can't Get Next To You", "Leaving On A Jet Plane", "Thank You" by Sly & the Family Stone, and "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye".


"Please Mr. Postman"
Georgia Dobbins of the Marvelettes asked her friend William Garrett if he had any songs written that the group could sing.  Garrett gave Dobbins this song, which was a blues number that Dobbins and friend Freddie Gorman completely rewrote except for the title.  Dobbins then left the group, but Robert Bateman and Brian Holland of Motown Records continued to work on the song and polished it up for the group to sing. 
Gladys Horton sang lead and background vocals, with Wanda Young, Georgeanna Tillman, Wyanetta Cowart and Katherine Anderson of the Marvelettes singing backing vocals.  Twenty-two year-old Marvin Gaye was trying to make a name for himself, and played drums on the track.  Benny Benjamin also played drums, with James Jamerson on bass, pianist Richard "Popcorn" Wylie and Eddie "Bongo" Brown on percussion.   Bateman and Holland produced the song for release on Motown.
"Please Mr. Postman" became the first #1 song for Motown.  The top competition came from "The Twist", "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", "Can't Help Falling In Love" and "Hit The Road, Jack".  The single went Gold, while "Please Mr. Postman" helped sell 1.5 million albums and has been heard on the radio two million times now.


"The Locomotion"
Little Eva

Carole King and Gerry Goffin teamed to write this one, which joined the dance song craze early in the Rock Era.  There was a new type of music, so of course people had to come up with ways to dance to it!
In this case, the song came before the dance, but once the song talking about a brand new dance called The Locomotion became hot, they had to come up with the dance.  Eva Boyd was Carole and Gerry's babysitter; her performance on the ABC-TV show Shindig! is the only known video of her singing this song.
Artie Kaplan, who was the contractor for the recording session,  performed the saxophone solo.  Kaplan brought in Buddy Saltzman on drums and Charlie Macey on guitar and bass.  King played piano and arranged the music, and she and a female R&B group known as the Cookies sang backing vocals.  Goffin produced it for release on Dimension Records.
"The Locomotion" is one of only nine songs in the Rock Era to reach #1 twice by different artists (Grand Funk also reached #1 with their remake), and it is one of only two in the Rock Era ("You Keep Me Hangin' On" is the other) to reach the Top 10 three times by three different artists--Kyle Minogue peaked at #3 with it.


"Love Potion No. 9"

The famous songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who wrote several of Elvis Presley's early songs, wrote this one as well, though originally for the Clovers.  Many groups quickly covered the song, but the one that emerged from the mix was this version by the Searchers.
The group had gone through a rapid series of lineup changes, most notably four different drummers.  But Chris Carter turned out to be the charm for the group, and guitarists and founders John McNally and Mike Pender and lead singer/bassist Tony Jackson had a big hit on their hands.
The group released "Love Potion No. 9" on Kapp Records.  It became a #3 smash, kept out by "Come See About Me", "I Feel Fine", "Downtown" and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'".  "Love Potion..." also competed against "Baby Love", "Do Wah Diddy Diddy", and the Temptations' "My Girl".

"Magic Carpet Ride"

Steppenwolf bassist Rushton Moreve had been toying with a bass line for a song.  The only words he had come up with were, "I like my job, I like my baby."  Lead singer John Kay took the idea and ran with it.  Inspired by his new home stereo system Kay had bought with the royalties from Steppenwolf debut album, Kay wrote "I like to dream, right between my sound machine."
Proof that when we are truly inspired, we can accomplish amazing things.  Kay and Steppenwolf definitely had something with "Magic Carpet Ride".  Kay also played guitar, while Michael Monarch was the lead guitarist, Goldy McJohn played keyboards and Jerry Edmonton handled the drums.
Steppenwolf released the song, produced by Gabriel Mekler, on ABC's Dunhill Records.  "Magic Carpet Ride" magically landed at #3, encountering song traffic such as  "Hey Jude", "People Got To Be Free", "Love Child", "Those Were The Days", and Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine".  When we present our signature music special, The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era* next year to commemorate the 60th birthday of Rock & Roll, be prepared when you don't see a lot of 90's and 2000's music.  Their competition pales in comparison to that shown above, so weeks at #1 means nothing.


"Sunshine Of Your Love"

Pete Brown, a friend of Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce, wrote the lyrics for "Sunshine...", just as he did with Cream's "I Feel Free" and "White Room".  Wow, as those are three of the group's best songs, what would they have done without him?   
Brown came up with the opening line after working all night with Bruce and watching the sun come up; hence, "It's getting near dawn, when lights close their tired eyes."  Eric Clapton and Bruce co-wrote the music, which features Bruce's superb bass.  Bruce came up with his part after seeing a Jimi Hendrix concert in London.   Clapton copied the first few lines from "Blue Moon" by the Marcels in playing his guitar part.  Ginger Baker came up with the drum pattern, but says he "didn't receive any writing credit, not even a thank you! (from the other Cream members)".
Cream recorded the song, produced by Felix Pappalardi, in May of 1967 at Atlantic Studios in New York City.  Bruce was confident it would do well after both Booker T. Jones and Otis Redding heard it at the studio and told him it was going to be a smash.
It was.  In fact, "Sunshine Of Your Love" was Cream's only million-seller.  It only reached #5 at the time, but again, look at the competition:  "Love Is Blue", "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay", "Daydream Believer", "People Got To Be Free", "Mrs. Robinson", Herb Alpert's "This Guy's In Love With You", two great instrumentals ("The Horse" and "Classical Gas"), "Scarborough Fair", "Born To Be Wild" and "Lady Madonna".  Given that field to navigate, #5 looks pretty good to us.


"Born To Be Wild"

It's a close call after all the years between Steppenwolf's two biggest hits--we have this one ahead. 
It's really an iconic song, which you can say about most of The Top 100*.  It became famous for its appearance in the 1969 movie Easy Rider, with Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, and Jack Nicholson.  The phrase "Heavy Metal Thunder" is much talked about.  Originally included in the 1961 novel The Soft Machine, William Burroughs described his character Uraniam Willy as "the Heavy Metal Kid". 
"Born To Be Wild" is the first popular song to use the phrase "Heavy Metal", and, even though it was used as a reference to motorcycles, the Steppenwolf song is credited as giving berth to the name for Heavy Metal music.
"Born To Be Wild" was originally meant to be just a "placeholder" in the movie, since Fonda wanted Crosby, Stills and Nash to do the music for the soundtrack.  But in the meantime, it was clear to Fonda and the whole crew that the song belonged in the movie, and so it stayed.   
Mars Bonfire, the stage name for Dennis Edmonton, was in the group Shadow, which was the precursor to Steppenwolf, with brother Jerry.  Jerry continued with Steppenwolf, but Dennis became a songwriter for Leeds Music.  Dennis explains his inspiration for the song:

 I was walking down Hollywood Boulevard one day and saw a poster in a window saying 'Born to Ride' with a picture of a motorcycle erupting out of the earth like a volcano with all this fire around it. Around this time I had just purchased my first car, a little secondhand Ford Falcon. So all this came together lyrically: the idea of the motorcycle coming out along with the freedom and joy I felt in having my first car and being able to drive myself around whenever I wanted. 'Born To Be Wild' didn't stand out initially. Even the publishers at Leeds Music didn't take it as the first or second song I gave them. They got it only because I signed as a staff writer.

Dennis gave the song to his brother, and Steppenwolf began working on the song.  Originally written as more of a ballad, the group sped it up and rearranged it a bit.  The Steppenwolf lineup was the same as for "Magic Carpet Ride":  Kay on guitars and lead vocals, bassist Rushton Moreve, guitarist Michael Monarch, keyboardist Goldy McJohn, and Jerry Edmonton on drums and percussion.  The result was a classic.  Gabriel Mekler produced the song for Dunhill Records.
"Born To Be Wild" was #2 for three weeks, held out of the top spot only by the classic Young Rascals song "People Got To Be Free".  "Born To Be Wild" also went against "Hey Jude", "Hello, I Love You", "The Horse", "Classical Gas", and "Jumping Jack Flash".  "Born To Be Wild" sold over one million copies and has gone over the two-million mark in radio airplay.



"(You're My) Soul And Inspiration
Righteous Brothers

Just as they had done with "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'", the famous Brill Building songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil presented the Righteous Brothers, who were their friends, with this one. 

The song has that "Wall of Sound" feel to it, but it wasn't Phil Spector who produced it.  Righteous Brother Bill Medley produced it, and he and Bobby Hatfield sound great on it as usual.  The song was released on Verve Records.
"...Soul And Inspiration" took off to #1, with competition from "Nowhere Man", "Good Lovin'", "Homeward Bound", and "When A Man Loves A Woman".  "...Soul And Inspiration" went Gold, sold over four million albums, and has been played three million times since its release.



"Paint It, Black"
Rolling Stones
The Stones check in again at #94.  In 1966, the group was recording this song, which was originally much slower.  During a break, bassist Bill Wyman began goofing around on the organ, speeding the song up.  Charlie Watts joined in with a double-time drum pattern.  The group liked it, and used the upbeat version in the recording to counter the morbid lyrics of Mick Jagger.  Guitarist Keith Richards contributed to the songwriting as well.
When Brian Jones (who also played acoustic guitar on the song) added the sitar, it was the perfect touch.  Jack Nitzsche added keyboards, and the group used Wyman's playing of the organ pedals as well.  Andrew Loog Oldham produced the song for Decca Records. 
"Paint It, Black" reached #1 for two weeks.  The competition was solid--"Good Lovin'", "(You're My) Soul And Inspiration" (featured above, which it barely beat out), "When A Man Loves A Woman', "Monday, Monday", "Paperback Writer", "Sunny", and "I Am A Rock".
When the Stones hired Allan Klein as their manager, they signed a deal giving Klein publishing rights to all the songs they wrote up to 1969.  Oops.


"Crystal Blue Persuasion"
Tommy James & the Shondells

Here's the story of an effort so involved that Tommy James & the Shondells had to not only record and produce the song, but then, one by one, take sounds out of the recording to make it "just right". 
At the time, lead singer Tommy James had just become a Christian, and he got his inspiration from the Book of Ezekiel, which he remembered as speaking of a blue Shekhinah light that represented the presence of God, and from the Book of Isaiah and the Book of Revelation, which tell of a future age of brotherhood of mankind, living in peace and harmony.  As many other Baby Boomers were also going through the same transformation, and thinking how they could help make world peace a reality, it fit in perfectly with the late 60's.
James and Mike Vale wrote the lyrics and Eddie Gray wrote the guitar riff.  When the Shondells went into the studio, they recorded the song with drums, guitars, and keyboards, and when it was all said and done, they had overproduced the song.  Thus, one by one, they started taking instruments out, until there was just a conga drum, a bongo, an organ, a tambourine, a flamenco guitar, and a light bass.  This process of removing instruments to get the right sound took about six weeks alone. 
Ron Rosman played keyboards, Vale was on bass, Eddie Gray played guitar  and Peter Lucia played drums.  James and Ritchie Cordell produced the song for Roulette Records.  "Crystal Blue Persuasion" was #2 for three weeks, making it one of The Top #2 Songs of the Rock Era*.  It has done nothing but go up in popularity since its release, with huge airplay numbers.  And the level and quantity of competition--"Aquarius", "Honky Tonk Women", "Get Back", "Sweet Caroline", "Everybody's Talkin'", "Bad Moon Rising", "Spinning Wheel", "In The Year 2525", "Sugar, Sugar" and "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town"--was far greater than "Paint It, Black", the song we just heard.

"Crystal Blue Persuasion" has far exceeded two million in radio airplay since its release.

Some awesome music in that set.  Join us tomorrow on Inside The Rock Era as we reveal Songs #90-81*!   

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