Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Top 200 Songs of the 60's*: #110-101

Our salute to the music of the 60's continues, as we reveal some amazing songs in this group of ten:


"Incense And Peppermints"
Strawberry Alarm Clark

Mark Weitz of the group Thee Sixpence wrote the intro, the verses, and the ending of "Incense And Peppermints", then Ed King co-wrote the bridge and the lead guitar parts. 

When the group went to Art Laboe's Original Sounds Studio in Hollywood, California, there was only a temporary title to the song, and no lyrics.  Producer Frank Slay sent the fully mixed music track to John Carter, a member of the band the Rainy Daze, which Slay also produced at the time.  Carter and Tim Gilbert came up with the lyrics and the melody line extracted from the finished music track.
Carter and Gilbert were credited with full songwriting credits, even though they only came up with part of the song.  Weitz and King quickly found out that songwriting is about the lyrics and the melody, not about writing parts for individual instruments.
When it was time to record the lead vocals, none of the members of Thee Sixpence sounded right.  Greg Munford, a 16-year old who was in the studio that day, gave it a shot, and even though he was never part of the Alarm Clock, he sang on the only hit the group would have.
King played lead guitar with Lee Freeman on rhythm guitar, bassist Gary Lovetro, Weitz on keyboards and drummer Randy Seol.
The song was released as the "B" side of Thee Sixpence's single "The Birdman of Alkatrash" on All-American Records.  But radio stations in the Los Angeles area began playing "Incense And Peppermints" instead.  Uni Records could smell a big hit, so they picked up the song for national distribution and the single was released with "Incense" on the "A" side.  By this time, the band had changed their name to Strawberry Alarm Clock, and the new single credits them.   
"Incense And Peppermints" went to #1 and sold over one million copies. 
In 1970, an unknown group called Lynyrd Skynyrd opened for Strawberry Alarm Clock on tour.  King became acquainted, and would join Skynyrd in 1973.



"A Day In The Life"

Editor's Note:  Some outfits, including a prominent magazine, rank this as the Beatles' best song.  They like to get ahead of themselves, the way an amateur would do.  Which is why they have credibility problems.

You could poll every person on Planet Earth, and no way would most say that "A Day In The Life" is the best Beatles song.  I know, I've done it (polled people).  With those organizations, your opinion is not as important as theirs--on this website, it is.  Inside The Rock Era will rank songs, artists, and albums based on what you think; we do not choose to be presumptuous and rank songs for you--anyone can do that.  Rather, we gather information based on your decisions, and report that.

If "A Day In The Life" continues to sell albums, it will go up in popularity, but not until.  A song should only be ranked based on what it has accomplished.

Here we have one of the more elaborate songs of the decade, a composition years ahead of its time.  "A Day In The Life" was never released as a single, so all we have to go on is A) it's radio airplay, B), it's album sales, C) the awards it has won, and D) Record Research (which the Editor happens to specialize in).
"A Day In The Life" has not been played a million times yet, so it is way behind many of the songs in The Top 200 Songs of the 60's*.  It has no single sales, of course, but Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (which contained "A Day In The Life" and many other great songs) has sold 11 million copies.  The "Blue Album" (Beatles 1967-70) is now at 17 million copies, and Beatles Anthology 2 has sold .5 million.  Both of the last two albums are compilations, meaning that many songs are responsible for achieving those sales numbers, 28 in the case of the Blue Album and 45 in the case of Anthology 2.  "A Day In The Life" never won any awards, so that is not a factor.
So when you add it all up, "A Day In The Life" ranks at #109, exactly where we show it. 
John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote the song, which ends with one of the most distinguishable chords of the Rock Era, lasting 40 seconds.  It was made with Lennon, McCartney, Ringo Starr and Mal Evans sharing three different pianos, with producer George Martin on the harmonium.  All played an E-major chord simultaneously.  The sound level was boosted to faders by engineer Geoff Emerick as the vibration faded out, and towards the end of the chord, the level was so high that you can hear the sounds of the studio, including the studio air conditioner, rustling papers and a squeaking chair.
Two stories that Lennon read in newspapers gave him the idea for the lyrics.  When Guinness heir Tara Browne had died in early 1967, and a U.K. Daily Express article told how the Blackburn Roads Surveyor had counted 4,000 holes in the roads of Blackburn, and that the volume of material needed to fill them was enough to fill the Albert Hall.  McCartney's middle section of "Woke up, got out of bed...) was intended for another song, but the group decided it worked well here. 
The Beatles spent four sessions at EMI Studios in London recording "A Day In The Life", January 19 and 20 and February 3 and 10 of 1967.  
Lennon and McCartney shared lead vocals, with Lennon playing acoustic guitar, McCartney playing bass, George Harrison playing acoustic guitar and maracas, and Ringo Starr on drums and congas.  Evans counted the first transition from John's lead to Paul's, and the alarm clock goes off and the end of his 24-bar count.
The Beatles pulled out all the stops on "A Day In The Life" and spared no expense.  A 41-piece orchestra backed up the group.  The members were told to dress formally, but when they got to the studio, they were given party novelties to wear (false noses, party hats, etc.).   McCartney conducted the orchestra, and told them to start with the lowest note of their instruments and gradually play to the highest to open the track. 
The musicians were:  John Marston on harp, Lionel Bentley, D. Bradley, Henry Datyner, Hans Geiger, Erich Gruenberg, Jurgen Hess, Granville Jones, David McCallum, Bill Monro, Sidney Sax, Ernest Scott, Carlos Villa and Donald Weekes on violin,  Bernard Davis, Gwynne Edwards, John Meek and John Underwood on viola, Alan Delziel, Francisco Gabarro, Alex Nifosi and Dennis Vigay on cello, Cyril Mac Arther and Gordon Pearce on double bass, Roger Lord playing oboe, Jack Brymer and Basil Tschaikov on clarinet, N. Fawcett and Alfred Waters playing bassoon, David Sandeman and Clifford Seville on flute, Alan Civil and Neil Sanders on French horn, Harold Jackson, David Mason and Monty Montgomery playing trumpet, Raymond Brown, T. Moore and Raymond Premru on trombone, Michael Barnes playing tuba and Tristan Fry on timpani.
As "A Day In The Life" was the final track on Sgt. Pepper's, the Beatles chose a unique way to end it.  After the final note, Lennon had Martin dub in a high-pitched tone, inaudible to humans, that drives dogs crazy.  This was followed by a loop of incomprehensible studio noise, with McCartney saying "Never could see any other way", spliced together.  So on a record player, the needle would play the loop continuously in the run-out groove, making listeners wonder what was going on. 
 Parlophone released Sgt. Pepper's in the U.K. and Capitol Records released the landmark album in the U.S. 

Lennon's handwritten lyric sheet for "A Day In The Life" was sold to a bidder at Sotheby's in New York City for $1.2 million on June 18, 2010.


"Hello, I Love You"
Lead singer Jim Morrison had written this song three years earlier after seeing a beautiful African-American woman walking on the beach.  Full songwriting credit was given to the other members of the Doors:  lead guitarist Robby Krieger, bassist Ray Manzarek and drummer John Densmore.  Paul Rothchild produced it for Elektra Records.
The song is similar to "All Day And All Of The Night" by the Kinks, and according to the Doors biography, No One Gets Out Of Here Alive, Ray Davies of the Kinks sued the Doors and a U.K. court ruled in favor of Davies, meaning that the Doors have to pay royalties to Davies for the song.
"Hello, I Love You" hit #1 for two weeks despite strong competition from "Hey Jude", "People Got To Be Free", "The Horse", "Born To Be Wild", "Classical Gas" and "Jumpin' Jack Flash", to name a few.


"For What It's Worth"
Buffalo Springfield

The misconception is that this song is about war, although the idea started out that way.
Stephen Stills set out to write a song about American soldiers in Vietnam.  Before he was finished with that idea, Stills was on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, where 3,000 high school and college kids were having a "funeral" for a bar that was closing.  They weren't creating any trouble, but suddenly riot police with shields and helmets lined up across the street.
Stills was flabbergasted why anyone felt the need to call in riot police, and went home, changed the lyrics to the other song, and 15 minutes later, he had "For What It's Worth".
Buffalo Springfield had been working on an album with their producers, Charles Greene and Brian Stone, but weren't happy to that point.  Green and Stone had insisted on recording each musician separately, so this was the first time the group performed together on tape. 
Stills and Neil Young played lead guitar, while Richie Furay was on rhythm guitar, Bruce Palmer played bass, and Dewey Martin played drums.  They recorded at Gold Star Recording Studio in Hollywood, and released the song on Atco Records. 
At the time, "For What It's Worth" only reached #7.  Not only has the song obviously gotten stronger through time, but the #7 ranking is deceiving.  At the time of its release, the song faced tough competition from "I'm A Believer", "Happy Together", "Penny Lane", and "Strawberry Fields Forever", among others.  "For What It's Worth" has been played over three million times.


"Get Together"

This song was written by Chet Powers (aka Dino Valenti), who signed the rights over when he was thrown in prison for possession of marijuana.  It was originally recorded as "Let's Get Together" by the Kingston Trio.
The Youngbloods recorded "Get Together" in 1967 (produced by Felix Pappalardi on RCA Victor Records), but it got lost in the maze of great music that year.  Then, two years later, The National Conference of Christians and Jews distributed the single to radio stations to support Brotherhood Week.  This time, it clicked.  It rose to #5, amongst some of the greatest competition any song has ever faced in the Rock Era.  "Aquarius", "Honky Tonk Women", "Get Back", "Crystal Blue Persuasion", "Spinning Wheel", "Everybody's Talkin'", "Sugar, Sugar", "In The Year 2525", "Bad Moon Rising", "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town", and "I Can't Get Next To You" were all out at the same time as "Get Together". 
Again we repeat, if you look only at a song's ranking (#5), and not at its competition at the time, you miss the big picture.  #5 on its surface means nothing, but when you consider that "Get Together" made it to #5 going against giants such as those mentioned above, you see that is much stronger than its ranking would indicate.
The song also contributed to the atmosphere of peace and love the weekend of Woodstock.  As chronicled in Life magazine, there was a car driving very slowly while hundreds of young people walked along to road to the Festival.  A girl sitting on the roof of the car had a small battery-powered record player, and she kept playing the Youngbloods' song over and over. 
That was the way that generation felt about the world and their role in it; at least that is how they used to feel in 1969.  Unfortunately, many got greedy and corrupted later in life, and became just like the world instead.
For "Get Together" is an appeal for peace and brotherhood which presents the polarity of love versus fear.  You either choose one or the other, for they are exact opposites.
Lead singer Jesse Colin Young played bass, Jerry Corbitt was on lead guitar, Lowell Levinger played guitar, and Joe Bauer was the drummer.

"California Dreamin'"
Mamas & Papas

At the time this great classic was written (1963), Michelle and John Phillips had just gotten married, and were living in New York City.  It was a cold winter, at least for Michelle, who was from sunny California.  John would write at night, and one morning, he woke Michelle up to help him finish a song.  It was a song about longing to be in another place, inspired by Michelle's homesickness.
Michelle liked visiting churches, and just a few days before, she and John had gone to St. Patrick's Cathedral, which inspired the second verse. 
When the Mamas and the Papas were first starting out in 1965, friend Barry McGuire helped them get a contract with his label, Dunhill Records.  McGuire recorded "California Dreamin'" for his album with the group backing him.  They were at United Western Recordings, the same studio that the Beach Boys famously used for their Pet Sounds album.  The Mamas & Papas decided to record their own version, using the instrumental track from McGuire's tape, with a few chord changes made after consulting session guitarist P.F. Sloan. 
"California Dreamin'" features the great alto flute solo by jazz musician Bud Shank.  An alto flute is played in a lower register than most flutes and is larger.  Doherty wanted a solo in the song, but not a guitar.  Phillips walked out into the hall of the studio and saw Shank.  John grabbed him and brought him into the studio where the group was recording.  Shank listened to the part he was supposed to fill and nailed it on the first take.
Dunhill loved the recording, and decided to hold off on releasing McGuire's version so the two wouldn't compete.  Other great session musicians contributed to the record's great sound:  drummer Hal Blaine, keyboardist Larry Knechtel, and bassist Joe Osborn.  John Phillips played the 12-string guitar in the intro, and Cass Elliott joined the Phillips couple and Doherty on vocals.  Lou Adler produced the song.
"California Dreamin'" peaked at #4 and sold over one million copies.  "The Sounds Of Silence", "Turn!  Turn!  Turn", "We Can Work It Out", "Day Tripper", "(You're My) Soul And Inspiration", "Let's Hang On" and "Homeward Bound" were all out at the same time, making "California Dreamin'"'s #4 ranking highly impressive.


"(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave"
Martha & the Vandellas

Lead singer Martha Reeves started out as a secretary at Motown.  She certainly worked her way up, leading one of The Top Girl Groups of the Rock Era*. 
Lamont Dozier and the Holland brothers, Brian and Eddie, wrote this for the Vandellas.  The group recorded it at the Hitsville USA Studios in Detroit, Michigan in 1963.  Rosalind Ashford and Annette Beard of the Vandellas sang backing vocals, with instrumentation by the Funk Brothers, which included Richard Allen on drums, James Jamerson playing double bass, Joe Hunter on piano, guitarists Robert White and Eddie WIllis, and Andrew "Mike" Terry playing the saxophone solo.  Brian Holland Dozier produced it for release on Gordy Records, a division of Motown named for founder Berry Gordy Jr.
"Heat Wave" reached #4 competing against "Sugar Shack", "Wipe Out", "Be My Baby", "My Boyfriend's Back" and "Blue Velvet, and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Recording.  The song has been played over two million times, but Linda Ronstadt's version accounts for a good percentage of that. 


"Good Lovin'"
Young Rascals

You can tell we're getting in amongst the greats when you have #1 classics like this one.  And it is songs like "Good Lovin'" that made us present The Top 200 Songs of the 60's* instead of a Top 100--too many great songs would have been left out.
R&B singer Limme Snell originally recorded this song written by Rudy Clark and Arthur Resnick in 1965.  Felix Cavaliere, lead singer of the Young Rascals, heard the song on the radio and the group began performing it live.  Co-producer Tom Dowd was able to capture this live feel on the recording, even though the group at the time did not think their studio recording held up well. 
The Young Rascals added the famous count-in line "One Two Three" from Cavaliere that jumped out of the radio and hooked listeners immediately.  Add in the call-and-response vocals ("I said, "Doctor, [Doc-turrr...] "Mister M.D., [Doc-turr...] , and you have a smash hit.
Gene Cornish was the lead guitarist, with Cavaliere playing keyboards, Eddie Brigati on vocals and Dino Danelli on drums.  Arif Mardin and the Rascals also helped produce "Good Lovin'" for Atlantic Records.
It reached #1 despite competition from "Paint It Black", "(You're My) Soul And Inspiration", "Homeward Bound", and "I Am A Rock".  "Good Lovin'" has helped sell 7.5 million albums and has been played over two million times.
"Good Lovin'" is one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. 


"Easy To Be Hard"
Three Dog Night
Sixties music was all about songs of conscience, and we have a great example here at #102*.  Three Dog Night didn't do much of their own songwriting, but they sure knew how to pick 'em.
How can people be so heartless How can people be so cruel
...Especially people who care about strangers
Who care about evil and social injustice
Classic.  TDN got this one from Galt MacDermot, James Rado and Gerome Ragni.  Chuck Negron did an amazing lead vocal as always.  Danny Hart and Cory Wells provided the trademark three-part harmony, Michael Allsup played guitar, Floyd Sneed was on drums, Joe Schermie played bass and Jimmy Greenspoon took care of keyboards.  Gabriel Mekler produced it for Dunhill Records, a division of ABC.
"Easy To Be Hard" is one of several songs in this range that, while they didn't peak high at the time, they have aged well.  And again, it comes down to competition--Three Dog Night went against "In The Year 2525", "Crystal Blue Persuasion", "Sugar, Sugar", "Honky Tonk Women", "I Can't Next To You", "Spinning Wheel", "My Cherie Amour", "Hot Fun In The Summertime", "Everybody's Talkin'", "Sweet Caroline", "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town", "Wedding Bell Blues", "Suspicious Minds" and "Get Together".
We would argue that a vast majority of songs in the Rock Era could never even get to #4 against that lineup.  "Easy To Be Hard" was featured in the movie Hair.
Three Dog Night went through an amazing streak where they compiled 21 consecutive Top 40 hits and sold over 40 million records during this time, and "Easy To Be Hard" was one of the great reasons why.



"My Cherie Amour"
Stevie Wonder

In 1969, nineteen-year-old Stevie Wonder combined with Motown's Henry Cosby and Sylvia Moy to write one of The Top Love Songs of the Rock Era*.  By the way, we are planning to bring you that music special next Valentine's Day!
Stevie originally wrote the song about his girlfriend while he was at the Michigan School for the Blind in Lansing, and he had it titled "Oh My Marsha".  When the pair split up, Stevie changed it to the more general "My Cherie Amour". 
The Funk Brothers provided instrumentation.  Cosby also produced the song for release on Tamla Records, a division of Motown. 
"My Cherie Amour" reached #4 in the midst of great songs like "Aquarius", "The Boxer", "Get Back", "You've Made Me So Very Happy", "Honky Tonk Women", "One", "Bad Moon Rising", "In The Year 2525", "Spinning Wheel", "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town" and "Sweet Caroline".  "My Cherie Amour" has been played on the radio over four million times since its release.
So you have heard 100 songs so far, with "My Cherie Amour" landing just outside The Top 100* for the decade.  Be on board Inside The Rock Era tomorrow as we kick off the cream of the crop! 

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