Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Top 200 Songs of the 60's*: #200-191

This is a bit of a sneak preview of next year's Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*.  Music of the 60's obviously is some of the best ever recorded, and it will be great to showcase music from that decade in our next music special on Inside The Rock Era

We were going to do 100, but found that there are just too many great songs that would be left out--hence the move to 200 songs.  Each day, we will feature 10 songs for a total of 20 days.  As with other music specials, The Top 200 Songs of the Sixties* will be available for viewing afterwards in the Charts and Lists Tab at the top of the website.  However, just as with other past specials, although we do our best to update from time to time, the videos that make music specials on Inside The Rock Era stand out will become outdated.

Therefore, to make for the best experience, you are encouraged to keep up with it day by day.  The absolute best time to read the write-ups and enjoy the music is the present.  Speaking of which, here is Song #200*:


Four Tops
 "Bernadette" was written and produced by Motown's ace songwriting team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland, who also wrote "I Can't Help Myself" and "Reach Out I'll Be There" for the Tops.  Lead singer Levi Stubbs proved once again that he was one of the top lead vocalists of his time, delivering a great performance on this song.

Group members Renaldo Benson (bass), Lawrence Payton (tenor) and Abdul Fakir provided vocals, along with the Andantes:  Marlene Barrow, Louvain Demps, and Jackie Hicks.  Instrumentation on the recording was provided by the Funk Brothers.  The song was recorded at the famous Motown studios, Hitsville U.S.A., in Detroit, Michigan.

The group performed the song on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 19, 1967, and two weeks later, the song entered the chart.  "Bernadette" quickly climbed to #4 overall and #3 on the R&B chart, with competition from "Happy Together" and "Penny Lane". 

"Do You Love Me"
Motown president Berry Gordy specifically wrote "Do You Love Me" for the Temptations, who had yet to enjoy a Top 40 hit.  But the Temps didn't know Gordy's intentions and when the song was ready to be recorded, Gordy could not locate them.  In another of those "right place at the right time moments", the Contours just happened to be in the Motown hallway at the time, so Gordy, wanting to get the "sure-fire hit" recorded, turned it over to them. 

Billy Gordon and Billy Hoggs shared lead vocals, with backing vocals by Hubert Johnson, Hoggs, Joe Billingslea, and Sylvester Potts.  Huey Davis plays guitar on "Do You Love Me", with the Funk Brothers providing instrumentation on the single, as they did for many Motown songs.  The Contours recorded the song at Hitsville USA in Detroit.
"Do You Love Me" rose to #1 on the R&B chart and #3 overall, a huge million-seller in late 1962.  It's toughest competition came from "Sherry" and "Big Girls Don't Cry", both by the 4 Seasons, Elvis Presley's "Return To Sender", and the Crystals' "He's A Rebel".  But there's more to the story.  In 1988, the song was included in the blockbuster movie Dirty Dancing, and it was re-released as a single.  Astonishingly, "Do You Love Me" rose all the way to #11, becoming a hit song 26 years later!


"Hang On Sloopy"

Bert Berns and Wes Farrell wrote The #198 Song of the 60's*, which was originally an R&B number by the Vibrations in 1964.
The Strangeloves had plans to record "Hang On Sloopy" as their follow-up to "I Want Candy", and began performing it on tour.  Another act on that same tour, the Dave Clark Five, heard it, recognized its potential, and wanted to record it as well.  For the Strangeloves, though, the timing was a little off, as they didn't want to release another single until "Candy" was on its way down.
The Strangeloves stopped for a gig in Dayton, Ohio, where they met Rick and the Raiders.  The latter group was led by a 16-year-old guitarist named Rick Zehringer.  The Strangeloves convinced the parents of Rick and the Raiders to take the boys to New York City so they could sing over the already-recorded tracks. 
Zehringer is now well known as one of The Top 100 Guitarists of the Rock Era*, but you know him as Rick Derringer.  He later changed his name, getting the inspiration from his record label, Bang Records, which had a Derringer gun for a logo.  Here's Derringer's recollection of the experience which led to the group's hit:  

They gave us a small record player and a copy of the musical track and told us exactly what they wanted us to sing.  We went out into the park for a few days, practiced singing it, and put the vocal on.  They jumped up and down in the control room and yelled, 'Number One!'  And a few weeks later, it was."

Since Paul Revere & the Raiders were already superstars, Rick and the Raiders changed their name to the McCoys to avoid confusion.  The other members of the group were:  Rick's brother Randy Zehringer, Ronnie Brandon, Randy Jo Hobbs, and Bobby Peterson.  "Hang On Sloopy" reached #1 for one week, and it was no fluke--the song went head-on against great songs like "I Can't Help Myself", "Yesterday", "Help!", "Satisfaction", "I Got You Babe", "Like A Rolling Stone", "Unchained Melody" by the Righteous Brothers", and "California Girls". 


"You Were On My Mind"
We Five

In his quest to add more folk groups to take advantage of the burgeoning popularity of folk music, A&M owner Herb Alpert signed We Five in 1965.  Sylvia Fricker (of Ian & Sylvia) wrote this song, and included a line about getting drunk and sick.  It was included on Ian & Sylvia's 1964 album Northern Journey.  But We Five eliminated that line in their version, thus injecting a bit of vagueness into the lyrics.  The listener cannot conclude just what or who really is on the protagonist's mind, and the song switches from typical "girl loses boy" fare to perhaps portraying something potentially more ominous.

We Five consisted of  Michael Stewart (baritone-bass and guitar), Beverly Bivens as lead singer and rhythm guitarist, tenors Jerry Burgan (six-string acoustic guitar) and Pete Fullerton (bass) and baritone-tenor Bob Jones (guitar).  Frank Werber produced the song for A&M.  Stewart later enjoyed a successful career as a producer, with Billy Joel's Piano Man album among his credits.

Officially, the song peaked at #3 in America, but was not only #1 in many markets, but one of the top songs for the year in several places.  This going against "Help!" by the Beatles, "Eve Of Destruction", Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" and "Hang On Sloopy" by the McCoys, among others.  "You Were On My Mind" was a #1 Adult hit and sold over a million copies.  Plus, it earned We Five a Grammy nomination for Best Performance by a Vocal Group.   


Dave Clark Five

Here we have the flip side of the U.K. single "Can't You See That She's Mine".  But leader Dave Clark appealed to the leadership at Epic Records to release "Because" as a single.  As is the problem with every corporation which becomes obsessed with formulas, Epic at first resisted because they didn't want to mess with the DC 5's record of four straight uptempo hits.  Finally, they relented.  "Because" became the bigger hit, rising to #3 in the United States and giving the red-hot group their fifth consecutive million-seller.  It achieved that peak going against songs like "A Hard Day's Night", "Where Did Out Love Go", "The House Of The Rising Sun", and "Oh, Pretty Woman".

Clark and Mike Smith wrote "Can't You See That She's Mine", which was produced by Adrian Clark for Epic Records.  Rick Huxley was the DC 5's bassist, with Mike Smith on organ and lead vocals, Lenny Davidson on lead guitar, and Denis Payton playing guitar and saxophone.
Clark became one of the first drummers to lead his own rock band, and the group's solid string of hits led them right into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


"Time Of The Season"

Keyboardist Rod Argent, who later formed his own group Argent ("Hold Your Head Up") wrote this song, included on the Zombies' 1968 album Odessey and Oracle (accidentally misspelled).  The group broke up shortly after recording the album.  Several singles from the album flopped before "Time Of The Season" was released. 

"Time Of The Season" was the first single chosen by Al Kooper, who had just left Blood, Sweat & Tears for his new position as staff producer for Columbia Records.  By the time the song peaked at #3, it was early 1969.  Why does a #3 song outrank some #1 songs?  Because of competition--the Zombies went against songs like "Aquarius", "Proud Mary", "Dizzy" and "Traces".  In other words, it would have been #1 in most time periods of the Rock Era.  "Time Of The Season" sold over one million copies and prompted the group to get back together again, but they found no further success. 

The song features a great bass line and organ work by Argent.  Colin Blunstone sang lead, with Paul Atkinson on guitar, Chris White on bass and drummer Hugh Grundy.  "Time Of The Season" was recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London and released as a single on Date Records.


"Grazing In The Grass"
Friends of Distinction
Here we have one of 41 songs from the year 1969, more than from any other year.  "Grazing In The Grass" was originally written by instrumentalist Philemon Hou, with John Florez producing this version for RCA Victor Records.

In 1963, Harry Elston and Floyd Butler were members of the Hi-fi's, a jazz vocal group which included eventual 5th Dimension superstars Lamonte McLemore and his cousin Marilyn McCoo.

The Friends of Distinction didn't gain any ground until they huddled with football great Jim Brown, who had retired and moved on to the music business.  Brown, who also owned the Big Jim label, became the group's manager and helped them sign with RCA Records.  The Friends of Distinction released six albums from 1969-1973, but this was their best work. 

Their version put words to the Hugh Masekela instrumental (Elston wrote the lyrics), and with the song's punchy horn section, swinging rhythm section, and superb arrangement by Ray Cork, Jr., it climbed to #3 and sold over one million copies, despite stiff competition from the Beatles' "Get Back", "Love (Can Make You Happy)" by Mercy, "Aquarius", "These Eyes", and "Bad Moon Rising".  The song features Elston's lead vocals with Butler on support vocals and singers Jessica Cleaves and Barbara Love providing the groovy "Rock-it-to-me-sock-it-to-me-sugar!" lines. 

Arthur Wright provided the great guitar solos on "Grazing In The Grass", Max Bennett played bass, while Jim Gordon played bass and percussion.  Oh and that horn section?  Dick Leith on trombone, with Bud Brisbois, Bill Peterson, Buddy Childers, Dalton Smith and John Audino on trumpet.  "Grazing In The Grass" was recorded at the RCA Victor studios in Los Angeles.   


"Hello, Dolly!"
Louis Armstrong

Hello Dolly was one of the most popular musicals of 1964, and Carol Channing, who starred in the original Broadway cast, first sang the title song written by Jerry Herman.  Louis Armstrong recorded his version for the song's publisher to use to promote the show.  Popular music dynamics make what happened even more amazing.

Beatlemania had just hit, and the Beatles had held down the #1 spot with three different songs in a 14-week span.  In the height of Beatlemania, "Hello, Dolly!" reached #1 and sold over one million copies.  Besides facing "Can't Buy Me Love", "Do You Want To Know A Secret" and "Twist And Shout", Armstrong fought off songs such as "Bits And Pieces" and "My Guy" for a turn at the top spot on May 9.  It made Armstrong (at 62 years old) the oldest person to ever reach #1 in the Rock Era.  On the Adult chart, it was even more successful , remaining #1 for nine weeks.

"Hello, Dolly!" won Song of the Year honors at the Grammy Awards, and Armstrong won a Grammy for Best Vocal Performance, Male.  The song was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
In addition to Armstrong's famous trumpet and vocals, Trummy Young played trombone on "Hello, Dolly!", with Joe Darensbourg on clarinet, Tony Gottuso playing guitar and banjo, Billy Kyle on piano, bassist Arvell Shaw and Danny Barcelona on drums.  Mickey Kapp produced the song for Kapp Records.


"Walk Like a Man"
4 Seasons

Here's one of the many great songs by the 4 Seasons, one of the top acts of the decade.  This one landed at #1 for three weeks in 1963, fighting off songs such as "Rhythm Of The Rain", "Hey Paula" and "Our Day Will Come".  Written by Bob Crewe and Bob Gaudio, as many of their hits were, it features the superb falsetto of Frankie Valli.  Gaudio played  keyboards, while Tommy DeVito played lead guitar and Nick Massi played bass.

In those years, the Seasons used session drummers, and the one on "Walk Like A Man" was one of The Top Drummers of the Rock Era*--Panama Francis.  Francis, who played for Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, Cab Calloway and Ray Conniff, among others, was the beat behind such great songs as "Peggy Sue" by Buddy Holly, "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", "The Great Pretender", "My Prayer" and "Only You" for the Platters, "Calendar Girl" for Neil Sedaka, "Splish Splash" by Bobby Darin, as well as "Walk Like A Man" and "Big Girls Don't Cry" by the Four Seasons.

Legend has it that while recording the song, the New York City Fire Department received an emergency call from the Abbey Victoria Hotel (the building that housed the studios of Stea-Phillips on 7th Avenue between 51st and 52nd).  As smoke and water started to seep into the studio, producer Crewe insisted on recording the perfect take.  The room directly above the studio was on fire, but Crewe blocked the studio door and continued recording until firemen used their axes on it and pulled Crewe and the group members out.
"Walk Like a Man" is part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll.
"Bus Stop"

Graham Gouldman, then a prominent songwriter and a future member of 10cc, wrote "Bus Stop" for the Hollies.  At the time, Gouldman was 16 years old, and wrote the song while riding the No. 95 bus that runs through the Manchester, England city centre.  Hollies member Graham Nash said that the group's manager, Michael Cohen, said to them "I got this little kid who lives down the street and he's a songwriter.  Would you come and see him?" 
After hearing the song, Nash and the group said "We'll definitely take that one--what else have you got?"
According to Goudman,
...Most of the time you have to work to make it happen.  Occasionally you can wait for some magic, like McCartney waking up with "Yesterday" already written in his mind, which does happen--it's like a gift from your subconscious (translate:  from God).  Or sometimes, it's like a tap's turned on.  When I'd written most of "Bus Stop", I was on a bus thinking about how the middle eight should go.  And this whole, 'Every morning I would see her waiting at the stop/Sometimes she'd shop...' that all came to me in one gush, and I couldn't wait to get home to try it.  When that sort of thing happens, it's really amazing.  But it's rare.
The title song from the group's album featured fill-in bassist Bernie Calvert, who later replaced Eric Haydock in the Hollies.  Hollies lead singer Allan Clarke also played harmonica, with Nash on rhythm guitar and vocals.  Bobby Elliott was the drummer.  The song was recorded at London's famous Abbey Road Studios and produced by Ron Richards for Parlophone Records.   
 "Bus Stop" reached the Top 5 on both sides of the Atlantic, and was #1 in Canada.  The song faced competition from the Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love", "Cherish" by the Association, Donovan's "Sunshine Superman" and "Black Is Black".

So there you have the first ten songs from this magical decade in music.  Tune in tomorrow for number 190-181* on Inside The Rock Era!

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