Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Top 200 Songs of the 60's*: #190-181

We continue our salute to one of the top decades of the Rock Era with numbers 190 through 181*:


"Duke Of Earl"
Gene Chandler
This great song began when the Duk-ays, a group that included Chandler under his original name of Eugene Dixon, as well as Earl Edwards, warmed up with vocal exercises.  They would regularly warm up by singing "Do do do do..." in different keys.  Dixon soon changed it to "Du...du...du...Duke of Earl", and a song was born. 
Dixon and Edwards worked with songwriter Bernice Williams, then the Du-Kays recorded it on Nat Records in 1960.  Vee Jay Records bought the master tapes, and with them, the distribution rights to the song. 
Calvin Carter, A&R man with Vee-Jay, was more interested in Dixon than the group as a whole.  The producers then offered Dixon a choice:  begin a solo career with "Duke Of Earl" and be replaced in the Du-Kays by Charles Davis, or have Davis record the song and begin his solo career instead.  Chandler chose the second option with the blessings of the group.     
Dixon changed his stage name to Gene Chandler, and "Duke Of Earl" was recorded in 1961.  Chandler performed the song on the ABC-TV program American Bandstand, and it sold over one million copies in little over a month.  Chandler's debut rose to #1 for three weeks in 1962, facing its toughest competition from "The Twist", Bruce Channel's "Hey!  Baby" and Dion's "The Wanderer".  
The song became so popular that Chandler subsequently dubbed himself "The Duke of Earl".  In 2002, "Duke Of Earl" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and is one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


"You Showed Me"
Gene Clark and Jim McGuinn  of the Byrds wrote this song in 1964 while performing as a duo at The Troubadour and other Los Angeles clubs, and the Turtles covered it five years later.  The Byrds recorded the song, and it is included on some later archival releases, but they did not include it on any of their studio albums.  Chip Douglas, former bass player of the Turtles who became their producer, was there at The Troubadour in 1964 and suggested the song to the band.  It features Clark's trademark mix of major and minor chords arranged in unexpected progressions.
Originally an upbeat song, the Turtles' version is much slower.  But that was very much by accident.  Douglas played the song for the group on a pump organ with one of its bellows broken, so he had to play it at half-speed.  But the Turtles loved it, and that is how they recorded it. 
"You Showed Me" features vocals from Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, Al Nichol on guitar, Jim Pons on bass, and John Barbata on drums, who quit the Turtles right after the recording sessions.  "You Showed Me" was released as a single on White Whale Records, which was basically a one-artist label with the Turtles their prized possession.
Going against great competition from songs like "Everyday People", "Crimson and Clover" by Tommy James & the Shondells, "Touch Me" from the Doors and CCR's "Proud Mary", the Turtles hit #6 with "You Showed Me".


"San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair)"
Scott McKenzie
John Phillips (of Mamas & Papas fame) wrote the song , plays guitar on the recording, and also co-produced it with Lou Adler. The single was released on Ode Records in the U.S. and Columbia in the U.K. and Canada.  

"San Francisco..." features a trio of famous session musicians as well--bassist Joe Osborn, Larry Knechtel  (later a member of Bread) on keyboards and drummer Hal Blaine.  Many people refer to McKenzie's song as the "anthem of the 60's".
"San Francisco..." was used to promote the upcoming Monterey Pop Festival of 1967, which became famous.  Coastal radio stations began playing the song within days of its recording.  KRLA in Los Angeles played it six straight times when it first arrived.  When the song was officially released in May, it was an instant hit, and rose to #4 in the U.S.  And it was a strong #4 too, going against the classics "Windy", "Respect", "Light My Fire" and "Groovin'", as well a "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" by Frankie Valli.
The song is credited with bringing thousands of young people to San Francisco, California, during the late 1960's, and in Central Europe, young people adopted "San Francisco" as an anthem for freedom.



"Wouldn't It Be Nice"
Beach Boys

Here's the first entry from the Beach Boys in our special.  It's one of the songs that made the album Pet Sounds so great.   The instrumental track required 21 takes at Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles before Brian Wilson was satisfied.

The Beach Boys were:  Brian Wilson and Mike Love on lead vocals, with backing vocals from Carl and Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston.  Instrumentation was provided by The Wrecking Crew, a nickname coined by famous drummer Hal Blaine for a group of session musicians that played anonymously on countless records in Los Angeles during the 60's.  They are one of the most successful studio groups in recording history.

Although The Wrecking Crew included numerous musicians (Glen Campbell and Leon Russell were among them), the ones who played on "Wouldn't It Be Nice" were:

Guitar:  Jerry Cole and Bill Pitman
Piano:  Larry Knechtel and Al de Lory
12-String Guitar: Barney Kessel
Bass:  Carol Kaye
Double Bass:  Lyle Ritz
6-String Bass:  Ray Pohlman
Drums:  Hal Blaine
Percussion:  Frank Capp
Accordion:  Carl Fortina and Frank Marocco
Trumpet:  Roy Caton
Tenor Saxophone:  Steve Douglas and Plas Johnson
Baritone Sax:  Jay Migliori

Tony Asher and Mike Love wrote the lyrics with Brian Wilson coming up with the music.  The Wrecking Crew recorded their part at Gold Star Studios with the Beach Boys finishing up at CBS Columbia Square in Los Angeles.  "Wouldn't It Be Nice" was released on Capitol Records, and peaked at #8.

The song faced stiff competition from "You Can't Hurry Love" by the Supremes, the Association's classic "Cherish", "Poor Side Of Town" from Johnny Rivers, "96 Tears" by ? & the Mysterians, and "Reach Out I'll Be There" by the Four Tops.  "Wouldn't It Be Nice" has helped sell 12 million albums, and has now exceeded two million in radio airplay.


"Blue Velvet"
Bobby Vinton

Ten or so years ago, this #1 smash would have ranked higher, but it has lost ground with limited airplay in the past decade and almost no record sales.  Dozens of artists have recorded the song, including Tony Bennett, but the one who had the biggest hit with it was Bobby Vinton.

Bernie Wayne and Lee Morris Vinton wrote the song.  Burt Bacharach arranged and conducted the studio musicians, although Vinton had became proficient on all of the instruments in the band at Duquesne University.  Vinton graduated with a degree in Musical Composition prior to becoming a recording artist, and he plays piano, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, drums, and the oboe in his shows today.

"Blue Velvet" reached #1 for three weeks, despite competition from "My Boyfriend's Back, "Heat Wave" by Martha & the Vandellas, and "Sugar Shack".


"Strangers In The Night"
Frank Sinatra

Ivo Robic originally wrote the music for a festival in Croatia; Bert Kaempfert rewrote it, and lyrics were composed by Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder. 
Glen Campbell played rhythm guitar and elite session drummer Hal Blaine was in on the recording as well.  Jimmy Bowen produced "Strangers In The Night" for Reprise Records.
Sinatra ad-libbed the "dooby dooby doo" scat at the end of the recording.  Iwao Takamoto, the animator who created the cartoon dog Scooby-Doo, said that he got the inspiration to name his character from Sinatra's ad-lib.  Sometimes songs contribute to our culture in ways the performer can't possibly imagine.
In the midst of songs like "Paint It, Black" by the Rolling Stones and the Beatles' "Paperback Writer", Sinatra found his way to #1.   It became Frank Sinatra's first #1 song in 11 years, and the title song for his most successful album.  The song reached #1 on both the Hot 100 chart and the Easy Listening chart, and also hit #1 in the U.K.   Sinatra captured Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, and Ernie Freeman won the Grammy for Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocalist or Instrumentalist. 

"Do You Want To Know A Secret"

John Lennon was the primary songwriter but it is credited to McCartney-Lennon.  It was written for George Harrison to sing.  Harrison and Lennon played guitar, Paul McCartney played bass and Ringo Starr drums.  The Beatles recorded the song on February 11, 1963 at the EMI Studios in London.  As usual, George Martin produced the song, and it was released as a single on Parlophone Records.

"Do You Want To Know A Secret?" was released a year later by Vee-Jay Records.  Going against songs like Hello, Dolly!", "My Guy", and the Beatles' own "Can't Buy Me Love" and "Twist And Shout", "Do You Want To Know A Secret" still found its way to #2 in April. It has been played over one million times on the radio, and has helped sell eight million albums to date.


"Young Girl"
Gary Puckett & the Union Gap

Jerry Fuller, who also wrote "Lady Willpower" and "Over You" for this group, wrote "Young Girl".  Fuller also penned the #1 song "Travelin' Man" for Ricky Nelson. 
Lead singer Gary Puckett from Twin Falls, Idaho became one of the most respected vocalists of his time.  Kerry Chater played boass, Gary Withem was on keyboards, Dwight Bement played tenor sax, and Paul Wheatbread played drums.  Fuller also produced the song for Columbia Records.

  "Young Girl" was stopped short of #1 by "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" and "Honey".  It peaked at #2 for three weeks, competing for airplay with "Love Is Blue",  "Lady Madonna", "Mrs. Robinson", and "Scarborough Fair".
"Young Girl" went Gold, and has been played on the radio over two million times.


"Let's Hang On!"
4 Seasons
Bob Crewe, Sandy Linzer, and Denny Randell combined to write this hit for the 4 Seasons.  It was the last hit by the group to feature Nick Massi, who left the group the same month this single was released. 
Randell explained,
     "That was the first record that had a certain sound about it.  We put some R&B there, we came in with a really interesting horn section that wasn't one of the big things in their repertoire at that time.  We really put it into a Pop R&B bag with the horns and different kinds of background vocals."
"Let's Hang On" features the great falsetto voice of Frankie Valli and two fuzz guitars.  With its strumming of acoustic guitars, the opening deceives one into thinking it is a ballad.  But then the snarling, fuzz guitar riff takes over to make it an exciting song.  By adapting the group's sound to include a driving rhythm and Motown-influenced sound, the 4 Seasons were able to stay relevant in a period of stiff competition from the Beatles and others.  Crewe produced the song, which was released in September of 1965 on Phillips Records.  "Let's Hang On" reached #3, facing competition for "I Hear A Symphony" by the Supremes and "Turn!  Turn!  Turn!" by the Byrds, "Day Tripper", "We Can Work It Out" and  "Eve Of Destruction".



Up until this song, this group had been billed as the Supremes, but starting with "Reflections", their singles were credited to Diana Ross & the Supremes.  The famous trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote and produced it; it was among the last Motown singles for them to do so.  The song was also one of the final singles to feature Florence Ballard before she was fired on July 1.  The group recorded it at the Hitsville U.S.A studios in Detroit, Michigan. 

Motown bought one of the first 10 Moog synthesizers manufactured, and they were eager to use it.  "Reflections" is historic in that it is one of the first big hits to feature synthesizers, which of course became enormously popular in the 70's.  The song rose to #2, kept out of the top spot by Bobbie Gentry's classic "Ode To Billie Joe".  Other contenders out at the time were "Lulu's "To Sir With Love", Never My Love" and "Windy" from the Association, "All You Need Is Love", "Light My Fire" by the Doors, and the Box Tops' "The Letter". 

We'll serve up another platter tomorrow of ten more great songs from the 60's.  Be sure to join us then!

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