Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Top 200 Songs of the 60's*: #150-141

Fifty songs have been heard so far, at least if you're one of the smart people who has been on Inside The Rock Era each day.  We continue to feature the fabulous music of the 60's with ten more songs:



"Game Of Love
Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders
Clint Ballard Jr. wrote this for the Mindbenders; he also would later write "You're No Good" for Linda Ronstadt.  Wayne Fontana handled vocals, with Eric Stewart on lead guitar, bassist Bob Lang, and Ric Rothwell on drums.
Jimmy Page, already an accomplished session musician, was working in the studio when the Mindbenders recorded "Game Of Love".  When Stewart asked him if he could try Page's Les Paul guitar sometime, Page handed it over right away, saying "Why don't you just play it on your recording?"'  The guitar you hear on the song is indeed Page's guitar.  Stewart would later become an original member of 10cc.
Coming in at 1 minute and 58 seconds, "Game Of Love" is one of the shortest #1 records in history.  When the group scheduled a tour of the United States to promote the song, they were initially denied visas until they could prove that they recorded it. 
The Mindbenders faced some stiff competition with this one--"Stop!  In The Name Of Love", "Ticket To Ride", "Eight Days A Week", "Downtown", "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'", "Help Me Rhonda", and "My Girl".  Yet it still reached #1.


"Tuesday Afternoon"
Moody Blues

Justin Hayward wrote "Tuesday Afternoon" while sitting in the middle of a field near his home in England on a beautiful spring afternoon.  He had his acoustic guitar with him, and the song just came to him.
Hayward sang lead vocals and played acoustic guitar, while Mike Pinder plays a Mellotron (a keyboard instrument which triggers taped loops of a chosen instrument recorded at different pitches).  Pinder worked for Streetly Electronics (which made the instrument) prior to becoming one of the founding members of the Moody Blues.  Pinder was one of a select few musicians who played the instrument, and the Moodies became one of the first superstar groups to feature the Mellotron in concert. 
Pinder also played piano on "Tuesday Afternoon", John Lodge played bass and sang backing vocals, while Ray Thomas played the flute solo at the end, and Graeme Edge played drums and percussion.  The London Festival Orchestra also played on the track, with Peter Knight providing arrangements.  Tony Clarke produced for Deram Records.
At the time, "Tuesday Afternoon" peaked at #24, lost in the shuffle of songs such as "This Guy's In Love With You", "Hey Jude", "People Got To Be Free", "The Horse", "Born To Be Wild", "Hello, I Love You", "Jumpin' Jack Flash", and "Classical Gas".  It was also hurt by its length at the time.  Radio stations did not play songs over three minutes, so Clarke edited the song down to 2:16, and if you're familiar with the song, you realize that is ridiculous, for it cut out all of the best parts of the song. 
So listeners ignored the single and bought the album instead.  Billboard had no idea how to account for album sales in its charts, and still doesn't, so that explains why "Tuesday Afternoon", at #24, is one of The Top Unknown/Underrated Songs of the Rock Era*
The classic album that contains "Tuesday Afternoon", Days of Future Passed, sold one million copies, and the long version of "Tuesday Afternoon", not the short one, has since been played over one million times on the radio.


"For Once In My Life"
Stevie Wonder

Motown songwriters Ron Miller and Orlando Murden teamed up to write this song in 1966.  A singer named Jean DuShon originally recorded the song, but when Motown label boss Berry Gordy found out about it, he wasn't happy that his songwriters were writing songs recorded on another label.
Gordy had several artists at Motown record it, but Stevie Wonder's version (recorded at Motown's Hitsville USA Studios in Detroit, Michigan) was tucked away for almost a year before Gordy finally released it.  Miller and Murden had written the song as a ballad, but Wonder's version was uptempo.
James Jamerson shines on bass, playing a completely improvised line for Wonder.  The Originals and the Andantes provided background vocals, while the Funk Brothers were responsible for instrumentation.  Henry Gordon produced it.
"For Once In My Life" was released on Tamla Records, a subsidiary of Motown.  It rose to #2 on both the R&B and overall charts, while competing against "Hey Jude", "Love Child", Marvin Gaye's "I Heard It Through The Grapevine", "Crimson And Clover", and "Everyday People". 


"Put A Little Love In Your Heart"
Jackie DeShannon

Jackie DeShannon wrote this song with younger brother Randy Myers and Jimmy Holiday. 
She went into the studio and recorded the song, which DeShannon, after eight hours and several takes, felt represented the best vocals of her career.  Then, disaster.  When Jackie went back to listen to the song, her vocals had been erased.  And if you've ever done much recording, you know the sickening feeling when this happens.  At least you know you're not alone.
DeShannon was devastated, but while the memory of her performance was still fresh in her mind, she re-recorded her vocals.  She must have done a fine job, that was the recording that began gaining strength when an Atlanta, Georgia radio station began playing it.  Then, when WABC in New York City selected the song as its "Pick of the Week", "Put A Little Love In Your Heart" took off.  
"Put A Little Love In Your Heart" reached #4, but when you consider that "Aquarius", "Honky Tonk Women", "Get Back", "Crystal Blue Persuasion", "Everybody's Talkin'", "Sugar, Sugar", "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town", "Spinning Wheel", "Bad Moon Rising", "In The Year 2525", "Sweet Caroline", and "My Cherie Amour" were all out at the same time, you realize that the #4 peak means absolutely nothing.  Very few songs in the Rock Era would have even reached #4 against that lineup. 
"Put A Little Love In Your Heart" has sold over one million copies, and has now been played over four million times.   
Jackie used the money from the song to buy a car for her dad, and a house for her parents.  DeShannon was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010. 


"Under The Boardwalk"
In the Drifters' previous hit "Up On The Roof", the main character is enjoying a romantic night on a rooftop, but, since it was summertime, in this song (which references the previous location in the opening line), the couple decides that it's too hot up there, and they look for a cooler location.
Jerry Wexler, head of Atlantic Records, came across this Kenny Young and Arthur Resnick song at their publishing company, and decided the Drifters should record it.  Resnick also wrote the #1 hit "Good Lovin'" for the Rascals.
The Drifters were all set to record the track on May 21, 1964, but lead singer Rudy Lewis died from drugs the night before.  Rather than reschedule the session, Johnny Moore, who had shared lead vocals with Lewis, was tabbed on "Under The Boardwalk".  Eugene Pearson, Johnny Terry and Charlie Thomas were the other surviving Drifters on the song.
The rest of the lineup on the record included Ernie Hayes on piano, Everett Barksdale, Bill Suyker and Bob Bushnell on guitar, Milt Hinton on bass, drummer Gary Chester and George Devens on percussion.  Bert Berns produced this one for the Drifters.
"Under The Boardwalk" rushed to #4 that summer for the group.  But when seen in the context of the competition, songs as great as "The House Of The Rising Sun", "Do Wah Diddy Diddy", "A Hard Day's Night", "Oh Pretty Woman", "Baby Love", and "Where Did Our Love Go", #4 doesn't look so bad.
Hey!  Baby
Bruce Channel

Channel and friend Margaret Cobb wrote this song in 1959; Channel had been performing it for two years before recording it as a demo for Fort Worth, Texas producer Major Bill Smith.
Delbert McClinton played harmonica on the song, and at one of Channel's concerts, the backup group was an unknown group from Liverpool called the Beatles.  The story goes that Lennon was impressed by McClinton's harmonica playing, which inspired Lennon to play it on the song "Love Me Do".  Donny Stevens played guitar and Ronnie Dawson played drums on Channel's single.
Channel released the single on Smith's label, LeCam Records,  before it was picked up nationally by Smash Records, a division of Mercury.  "Hey!  Baby" rose to #1 for three weeks in the U.S., and hit #2 for six weeks in the U.K. 
Chubby Checker's "The Twist", "Can't Help Falling In Love" by Elvis Presley, and the Token's classic "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" were all out at the same time as "Hey!  Baby".

"Big Bad John"
Jimmy Dean

Jimmy Dean and Roy Acuff teamed up to write this huge hit early in the Rock Era.  Don Law produced the song for release on Columbia Records.

 It rose to #1 for five weeks on the Popular chart, #1 for two weeks on the Country chart, and no less than ten weeks at the top on the Easy Listening chart.  "Big Bad John" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Record of the Year, and Dean also received a nomination for Best Male Solo Vocal Performance.

"Big Bad John" fought off songs such as "Can't Help Falling In Love", "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", Chubby Checker's "The Twist", and "Runaround Sue" to get to the top.  Dean went on to have a popular line of sausage products.

"In The Midnight Hour"
Wilson Pickett
Wilson Pickett co-wrote this with Steve Cropper, who wrote and produced many of the releases for Stax Records.  The pair wrote the song at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, the same hotel where Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered on April 4, 1968. 
Cropper also played guitar on the song, with the members of Booker T. & the MG's ( Booker T. Jones on keyboards, Lewis Steinberg on bass, and Al Jackson Jr. the drummer) playing on the track recorded at Stax Studios in Memphis.  Jerry Wexler produced the song.  "In The Midnight Hour" went to #1 R&B, and, although it stalled at #21 on the Popular chart, it has picked up considerable steam since then. 
At the time of release, the song could not break through in the midst of releases such as "Satisfaction", "I Can't Help Myself", "Mr. Tambourine Man", "I Got You Babe", "Like A Rolling Stone", "Wooly Bully", "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers, "Eve Of Destruction", and "Help!" and "Yesterday" by the Beatles.  However, BMI indicates that the song has been played over two million times since.  
Pickett was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991, and the Hall of Fame also chose "In The Midnight Hour" as one of the 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.  
"I Hear A Symphony"
The rock & roll story is something like a history lesson.  So when someone asks you, "How many #1 songs did the Supremes have?", we hope you, having the benefit of checking out this website, will quickly stand up tall and shout out, "12!".
This one was the sixth, once again written and produced for them by the famous trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland.  After the Supremes' previous release "Nothing But Heartaches" failed to make the Top Ten, thus ending the group's streak of #1 songs at a then-record five in a row, this is how serious Motown head Berry Gordy took it. 
Gordy issued a memo for the Motown offices that read:
"We will release nothing less than Top Ten product on any artist; and because the Supremes' world-wide acceptance is greater than the other artists, on them we will only release number-one records.
So you hear talk on Inside The Rock Era about #1 songs and Top Ten records, or your hear your disc jockey or Casey Kasem talk about such things, and you can tell by the importance that record labels put on them that rankings and sales are how everything the music industry does is gauged.  There are of course examples of albums or groups that do not record Top Ten songs doing well, but those are by far the exception and not the rule.
The reason is that, after the fact, radio stations will not continue to play songs that were not Top Ten material; it's that simple.
So Holland-Dozier-Holland took the memo to heart, changing their songwriting for "I Hear A Symphony" and adding complexity to the musical structure.  It paid off, because it returned the Supremes to #1 status.
Diana Ross sang lead on the track, with background by Florence Ballard and Mary Wilson and instrumentation from the Funk Brothers.  The Supremes recorded the song at the Motown Hitsville USA Studios in Detroit, Michigan.
The #1 peak for the song is even more impressive considering it went against "I Feel Fine", "My Girl" by the Temptations, "Downtown", "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" and "Do Wah Diddy Diddy".

"Classical Gas"
Mason Williams

There are more instrumentals featured in The Top 200 Songs of the 60's*, and in The Top Songs of the 70's*, than other decades, and their number has shrunk to the point where they have nearly become extinct among today's generation.  Sad, that the current generation doesn't have the musical knowledge to put out a great song with just the music.
Mason Williams did, and he released this gem produced by Mike Post, who was hired to be musical director of The Andy Williams Show shortly afterwards.  Post of course later had his own instrumental hits with "The Rockford Files" and the "Theme From 'Hill Street Blues'" and he wrote "Theme From 'Greatest American Hero'" .
Listen for the Wagnerian tuben horns--it's a relatively rare instrument, what you might call a cross between a French horn and a trumpet.
At the time, Williams was head writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, and he performed the song several times on episodes of the show.  "Classical Gas" climbed to #2 for two weeks, and it spent three weeks at #1 on the Adult chart.  It did all that competing against songs like "Honey", "Mrs. Robinson", "This Guy's In Love With You", "Hey Jude", "Jumpin' Jack Flash", "Hello, I Love You" by the Doors and Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild". 
"Classical Gas" won three Grammy Awards:  Best Instrumental Composition, Best Contemporary Pop Performance, Instrumental, and Best Instrumental Arrangement.  "It has now been played over five million times, becoming BMI's all-time #1 instrumental for radio airplay.   

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