Friday, July 18, 2014

The Top 200 Songs of the 60's*: #30-21

We begin this segment with four consecutive songs from 1967, which arguably is the best year ever in music.  Twenty-six songs from that magic year dot The Top 200 Songs of the 60's*.  That isn't the most (there are 41 songs from 1969 and 34 from 1964), but what made 1967 so special is that 8 of those 26 are in The Top 30*!  Let's get things started today with the first of those eight:


"Hello, Goodbye"

This song came about when Paul McCartney invited friend Alistair Taylor to his house, although one gets the idea that the idea had already hatched in McCartney's head.  Paul took his guest into the dining room to show him his hand-carved harmonium.  As an experiment, McCartney asked Taylor to shout out the opposite of whatever he sang, such as black and white, yes-no, hello and goodbye, etc.  Thus, The #30 Song of the 60's* was born.

The Beatles recorded "Hello Goodbye" at London's EMI Studios (Abbey Road) in October and November of 1967.  McCartney sang lead, and played bass, piano, bongos, and congas,  John Lennon sang backing vocals and played acoustic guitar and Hammond organ,  George Harrison sang backing vocal and played lead guitar, and Ringo Starr sang backing vocal, and played drums, maracas, and tambourine.  Leo Birnbaum and Kenneth Essex played viola on the track.  George Martin produced the song for Parlophone in the U.K. and Capitol Records in the United States.

As for the ending, McCartney said, "I remember the end bit where there's the pause and it goes 'Heba, heba hello'.  We had those words and we had this whole thing recorded but it didn't sound quite right, and I remember asking Geoff Emerick if we could really whack up the echo on the tom-toms.  And we put this echo full up on the tom-toms and it just came alive."

"Hello Goodbye" sold over one million copies, and hit #1 in the United States (for three weeks), the U.K., France, and Norway.  It contended with "Daydream Believer", Lulu's "To Sir With Love", "Love Is Blue", and "Incense And Peppermints".  While "Hello Goodbye's" 15-song Competition Field* is not stellar, it has made up for it by helping to sell 41 million albums.


"Happy Together"

The Turtles were a group that always tried to follow the latest trend, be it surf-rock, folk rock, or whatever.  This song really gave them stardom and the Turtles went on to become one of the top artists of the 60's.

Songwriters Gary Bonner and Alan Gordon played bass and drum, respectively, in a group called the Magicians.  Gordon, who had other songs recorded by the Lovin' Spoonful, Alice Cooper, and Frank Zappa, explained the process that went into writing The #29 Song of the 60's*:

"I had nearly half a song already written, mostly lyric ideas, but couldn't find the right melodic concept.  The Magicians were in the middle of a week-long engagement at the Unicorn Club in Boston, and one early morning I was visiting my divorced father in nearby Ayer, Massachusetts after being up all night.  I had stopped to have breakfast at the Park Street Diner in the town and was miserable with no sleep, the endless dumb gigs we were playing and having a songwriter's block.  About the only melody that was throbbing in my tired, fried brain at that hour was the time-immemorial repeated open string pattern that Allen (Jake) Jacobs, the Magician's lead guitarist, would use as he incessantly tuned and retuned after, before, and frequently during each piece we played.

Suddenly, some words began to fit and literally minutes later music and lyrics started to take shape. I excitedly and in fairness asked Jake to complete the song with me as co-writer, but he refused, saying it was all 'too simple' for him to be involved, so my regular partner Gary then helped me with the finishing touches. When Gary Klein at the Koppleman/Rubin office heard the result, he immediately knew the song would be perfect for the new and upbeat image being created for The Turtles, and it was his continued enthusiasm that convinced the group to record it.

Bonner and Gordon also wrote "She'd Rather Be With Me" for the Turtles and "Celebrate" for Three Dog Night.  Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman provided vocals, Al Nichol played lead, Jim Nichol played rhythm guitar, Chip Douglas played bass, and John Barbata was the drummer.  Joe Wissert produced "Happy Together" for White Whale Records.

The song went to #1 in the Summer of Love.  It spent three weeks at the top against competition from "I'm A Believer", "Groovin'", "Strawberry Fields Forever", "For What It's Worth", and "Penny Lane".  "Happy Together" went Gold, and has been elected to the Grammy Hall of Fame.  It has now been played over five million times on the radio.

"Happy Together" has been featured in over 20 movies.  According to writer Sam Tweedle, "Happy Together" is more than just a song: it is an emotion, a philosophy, a part of Americana, and is easily one of the most important songs of the last fifty years."


"The Letter"
Box Tops

Songwriter Wayne Carson Thompson wrote The #28 Song* after his father gave him the line "Give me a ticket for an aeroplane."  Chips Moman, who ran American Sound Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, was a friend of Thompson's, and was impressed by a new, as yet unnamed band led by 16-year-old Alex Chilton.  He suggested to Thompson that the group record the song.
Thompson played guitar on the recording, and it is believed that the drums and bass are taken from a demo that he recorded.  Thompson thought the lead vocal was too husky, and he didn't like the production either.  When producer Dan Penn added in the airplane sound, Thompson thought Penn had lost his mind.
Thompson changed his mind when the song became one of the biggest hits not only of 1967 but of all-time.  The group, undecided on their name, reportedly were going to ask fans to "mail in a suggestion and a box top", and that name Box Tops stuck.
When Penn previewed the track for Moman, Chips suggested the airplane sound be cut.  According to William McKeen in his book Rock and Roll is Here to Stay:  an anthology, Penn replied, "Give me that razor blade right there... [and] I'll cut this tape up!  The airplane stays on it, or we don't have a record."
Mike Leach arranged the music for the strings and horns, and "The Letter" was released on Mala Records in the U.S. and Stateside/EMI in the U.K.  The song rocketed to #1 for four weeks in the U.S., and was a Top 10 hit in the U.K., Austria, Belgium, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Spain, and Sweden.  "The Letter" sold over one million copies and, at just 1 minute, 58 seconds, is one of the shortest songs to ever reach #1.  The Box Tops were nominated for two Grammy Awards, Best Performance by a Vocal Group and Best Contemporary Group Performance, Vocal or Instrumental.
"The Letter" achieved all this against stellar competition from "Ode To Billie Joe", "Light My Fire", "Windy", "To Sir With Love", "All You Need Is Love", "Never My Love", "Incense And Peppermints", "Reflections", and "Can't Take My Eyes Off You".  It is amazing looking back at it that all those great songs were out at the same time.  If you were alive and listening to the radio in 1967, you were fortunate indeed.
Thompson also wrote "Soul Deep" and "Neon Rainbow" for the Box Tops, and also won a Grammy Award for co-writing "Always On My Mind".   


"I'm A Believer"

Neil Diamond, who at the time was a struggling songwriter/musician who had just scored his first hit the year earlier with "Cherry, Cherry".  That achievement piqued the interest of promoter Don Kirshner, who was looking for songs for the Monkees.  Kirshner was particularly interested in Diamond's "I'm A Believer", and as part of the deal, Diamond recorded his version as well.
Micky Dolenz of the Monkees sang lead, with session musicians Sal Ditroia and Al Gorgoni on guitar, Dick Romoff playing bass, Artie Butler on organ, Jeff Barry playing piano and tambourine, and Buddy Saltzman on the drums.  Barry also produced the song for Colgems Records.
"I'm A Believer" was an instant hit, selling over one million copies within two days.  It raced to #1, where it spent seven weeks, one of the longest-running #1 songs of the decade, competing against "Good Vibrations", "You Keep Me Hangin' On", "Happy Together", "Penny Lane", and "Poor Side Of Town".  It is one of less than forty singles to sell over 10 million copies worldwide, and has helped sell seven million albums. 


"You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling"
Righteous Brothers
There are 26 songs in this feature from the year 1965.
Producer and label owner Phil Spector was so eager to sign the Righteous Brothers to Phillies Records that he bought out the remaining two-and-one-half years of the groups' contract with Moonglow Records.   Just as eager for a hit for his prized duo, Spector went to the famous songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil to write a song for them.
Spector carried his enthusiasm to the production studio, aiming to make this not only his finest personal production, but better than the other top producers of his day:  George Martin, Berry Gordy, Brian Wilson, and Andrew Loog Oldham.  Spector brought in guitarist Barney Kessel, Carol Kaye on acoustic guitar, Earl Palmer on drums, and bassist Ray Pohlman.  Bill Medley sang lead, with Bobby Hatfield joining him on the chorus.  A young Cher sang backing vocals towards the end of the song.
The song was recorded at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood, California.  In all, the production cost Spector about $35,000, but the finished product had him wondering.  He solicited the opinion of Mann, who thought the song was recorded at the wrong speed.  It wasn't, but rather Medley's great bass voice that had Mann thinking it was too slow.  Spector had the time of 3:05 put on the 45 so disc jockeys would play it, rather than the actual 3:50.  In those days, songs three minutes and under were the norm.  Famed New York DJ Murray the K loved the song, but suggested moving the bass line in the middle to the beginning of the song.
Medley was unprepared for the success that followed.  He told Rolling Stone, ""We had no idea if it would be a hit. It was too slow, too long, and right in the middle of The Beatles and the British Invasion.
" You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" went to #1 for two weeks in the midst of great songs like "I Feel Fine", "Downtown", "Stop!  In The Name Of Love", "My Girl", "Come See About Me", "Eight Days A Week" and "Leader Of the Pack".  The level of competition is an exclusive component of Inside The Rock Era's copyrighted mathematical formula used to rank The Top 200 Songs of the 60's* and other music specials.  Competition must be considered in any comparison of songs, or for that matter any ranking (be it movies, television shows, sports teams, etc.) across the years.
Oldham, manager and producer of the Rolling Stones, went as far as to buy advertisements in the British trade papers saying the Righteous Brothers' song was the greatest record ever made.
Combined with the Hall & Oates remake of this song (and others), "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" was the most-played song of the Rock Era through 1999, according to BMI, with eight million airplays.  Despite the great airplay, the Righteous Brothers' version has been on four million albums sold, very low for this range.  All these factors are at work in the formula referred to above.
The Righteous Brothers' classic was selected as one of the Songs of the Century by RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America).  There are at least 106 other artists who have recorded the song.


"(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay
Otis Redding

And we reach The Top 25*.
At the time this song was written, Otis Redding was the star artist for Stax Records.  Booker T & the MG's were the house band at Stax, serving as the musicians on all the label's major hits.  Guitarist Steve Cropper of the group co-wrote this song with Redding.  Cropper told NPR in 1990:
Otis was one of those kind of guys who had 100 ideas.  Anytime he came in to record he always had 10 or 15 different intros or titles, or whatever.  He had been at San Francisco playing The Fillmore, and he was staying at a boathouse (in Sausalito, across the bay from San Francisco), which is where he got the idea of the ship coming in.  That's about all he had: 'I watch the ships come in and I watch them roll away again.'  I took that and finished the lyrics.  If you listen to the songs I wrote with Otis, most of the lyrics are about him.  He didn't usually write about himself, but I did. 'Mr. Pitiful,' 'Sad Song Fa-Fa,' they were about Otis' life. 'Dock Of The Bay' was exactly that: 'I left my home in Georgia, headed for the Frisco Bay' was all about him going out to San Francisco to perform.
Cropper was a big fan of the Association, and wrote the bridge of the song based on their music, which he thought would help make the song popular.  As for Redding, he was inspired to write the song after listening to the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which had just been released.  Redding called the song "an extension of the Beatles' music."
Cropper played guitar on the track, with Booker T. Jones on organ, bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn and drummer Al Jackson, Jr.
When it came time to record the song, Redding whistled the last verse, because he and Cropper didn't have it finished.  Redding figured he would return to Memphis and fill in the verse after his concert in Madison, Wisconsin.  But, in another tragedy of the Rock Era, Redding and members of the Bar Kays died in a plane crash on December 10, 1967 that landed in Lake Monona, Wisconsin.
Cropper and the rest of the group, which was on tour, was devastated.  When Cropper returned to Memphis, he mixed the song, saying it was "maybe the toughest thing I've ever done".  When Steve produced the song, he left the whistling in and it fit the song perfectly.  He also added mimicked seagull whistles and waves crashing on the shore.  The song was released six weeks after Redding's death on Volt Records, a subsidiary of Stax.
"(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" became the first posthumous #1 song of the Rock Era, topping the charts for four weeks and spending eleven in the Top 10.  It did all that with songs such as "Love Is Blue", "Honey", "Hello Goodbye", "Lady Madonna", "Daydream Believer", "Scarborough Fair" and "Young Girl" out at the same time.  "...Dock Of The Bay" won posthumous Grammy Awards for Best Rhythm & Blues Song and Best Rhythm & Blues Performance.  The classic has now sold over four million records worldwide, but is included on albums that have only sold a little over one million.
In 1999, as the millennium was coming to a close, BMI named this as the sixth-most performed song of the 20th century with six million performances.
The Sausalito Wooden Boat Tour includes a visit to Waldo Pier (across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco), the actual dock where Otis wrote the song, as well as the old tug which contains the actual table upon which he wrote the song. 


"It's Now Or Never"
Elvis Presley

While stationed in Germany in his stint in the United States Army, Elvis Presley heard the song "There's No Tomorrow" by Tony Martin.  The melody was originally taken from the Italian song "O Sole Mio", first recorded in 1907 by Giuseppe Anselmi.
After being discharged, Presley asked his record company to write lyrics to the song, and songwriters Aaron Schroeder and Wally Gold did so, reportedly in about 25 minutes.  Schroeder would go on to write seventeen songs for Presley, including "Stuck On You" and "A Big Hunk O' Love", but this was by far the biggest he ever wrote.  Schroeder also wrote another song you might be familiar with--the theme song for the popular cartoon show Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!  Schroeder later discovered and managed the career of Gene Pitney, and helped acts like Jimi Hendrix and Barry White get started.
Elvis recorded "It's Now Or Never" at the RCA Studios in Nashville, Tennessee with engineer Bill Porter, one of The Top Engineers of the Rock Era*.  Porter recalled the famous session on April 3-4, 1960:
In those two days, we recorded 12 songs, two of which went to No 1," Porter remembered.  "Elvis was having trouble with 'It's Now or Never' because he basically sang in the baritone range, and the end was in the tenor range.  We recorded this song for at least seven or eight takes.  At one point, I finally pushed the talkback button and said, 'EP, we can just do the ending.  I can splice it on without doing the song all the way through again'.  He answered me with, 'Bill, I'm gonna do it all the way through, or I'm not gonna do it at all!'  So, we did it again. And, of course, he got it the way he wanted it.
Elvis was backed by elite guitarist Scotty Moore along with Hank Garland, Bobby Moore played bass, D.J. Fontana and Buddy Harman played drums, and Floyd Cramer was on piano.  Presley's backing group the Jordanaires sang backing vocals.
"It's Now Or Never" landed at #1 for five weeks in the United States, and it spent eight weeks at #1 in the U.K. in 1960, with an additional week at the top in 2005 when it was re-issued.  The song also topped charts in Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Norway.  It is one of the top-selling songs in history, with over 25 million copies sold worldwide, and has helped sell over 25 million albums as well.
The song wasn't just a #1 song, another million seller for Elvis.  It was a sea-change in his career, signaling Presley had moved from rock & roll to the mainstream.
According to some sources, Barry White, who was in jail in 1960 for stealing tires, heard this song, and it had such an effect that it convinced White to begin  a career in music.


"I Feel Fine"

The eighth single released by the Beatles is The #23 Song of the 60's*.
"I Feel Fine" represents another innovation by the group:  the first time that guitar feedback was used on a popular song in the recording studio.  More on that later.
John Lennon wrote the guitar riff while the Beatles were recording "Eight Days A Week".  The acoustic Gibson guitars owned by the Beatles were equipped with electric pickups on the neck, so they produced a tone that was a mix between an acoustic and an electric guitar.  So what came out of them was a woody tone that you hear at the open of the song.
Lennon and George Harrison both said that the riff was influenced by "Watch Your Step", a 1961 song by Bobby Parker.
Now for the historic feedback alluded to earlier.  By the time "I Feel Fine" was recorded, the rapidly-progressing Beatles had mastered the basics in the studio, and began to explore other sources of inspiration, such as noises heretofore eliminated as mistakes (electronic hisses, twisted tapes, talkback, and the like).
Artists such as the Kinks and the Who had already used feedback live, but this song is the first example of a popular song that used feedback that was recorded on vinyl.  Lennon plucked an "A" note on his guitar, a single, percussive feedback note.  Paul McCartney later recalled:
John had a semi-acoustic Gibson guitar.  It had a pickup on it so it could be amplified . . . We were just about to walk away to listen to a take when John leaned his guitar against the amp.  I can still see him doing it . . . it went, 'Nnnnnnwahhhhh!"  And we went, 'What's that? Voodoo!'  'No, it's feedback.'  Wow, it's a great sound!'  George Martin was there so we said, 'Can we have that on the record?'  'Well, I suppose we could, we could edit it on the front.'  It was a found object, an accident caused by leaning the guitar against the amp.
The Beatles recorded "I Feel Fine" at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London.  Martin produced the song for Capitol Records in the U.S. and Parlophone in the U.K.  Lennon played rhythm guitar and his lead vocal was double tracked, McCartney played bass and sang harmony vocals, Harrison played lead and rhythm guitar and sang harmony vocals, and Ringo Starr played a superb drum part.
"I Feel Fine" went Gold and spent five weeks at #1 in the U.K., and three weeks at #1 in the U.S. vs. competition from "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling", "Downtown", "Come See About Me", "She's Not There", and "Leader Of the Pack".  "I Feel Fine" has helped sell over 36 million albums in the U.S. alone, and has been played over two million times.


Del Shannon

And now we have the great song at #22*.

Del Shannon and keyboardist Max Crook had been performing together for years when they wrote this song while playing a club in their hometown of Battle Creek, Michigan.  As Shannon recalled to Jon Kutner and Spencer Leight in the book 1000 UK #1 Hits:

We were on stage and Max (Crook) hit an A minor and a G and I said, 'Max, play that again, it's a great change.'" The drummer, Dick Parker, followed them and after 15 minutes, the manager of the club shouted, 'Knock it off, play something else.'" The next day Shannon wrote some lyrics: "That night I went back to the club and I told Max to play an instrumental on his musitron for the middle part, and when he played that solo, we had 'Runaway.'"n the UK, this was the biggest-selling single of 1961.

Shannon recorded the song at Bell Sound Recording studios.  Fred Weinberg helped out with instrumentation, and Al Caiola, Al Casamenti and Bucky Pizzarelli played guitar, Crook played the famous instrumental break on a Musitron, Milt Hinton played bass, arranger Bill Ramall played baritone saxophone, and Joe Marshall was on drums.  Harry Balk and Irving Micahnik produced the song, released on Big Top in the U.S., London Records in the U.K., and Heliodor in Germany.

Days after Shannon appeared on Dick Clark's American Bandstand, "Runaway" reached #1 and stayed there for four weeks.  Some of the top songs that were out at the time:  "Travelin' Man", "Stand By Me", "Blue Moon" and the Shirelles' "Dedicated To The One I Love".
Tom Petty refers to this classic in his song "Runnin' Down A Dream ("It was a beautiful day, me and Del were singing, a little Runaway."


"Honky Tonk Women"
Rolling Stones

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were inspired to write this song by Brazilian gauchos at the ranch were the two were staying in Matão, São Paulo, Brazil.  Richards recalled:
 It's all cowboys. It's all horses and spurs. And Mick and I were sitting on the porch of this ranch house and I started to play, basically fooling around with an old Hank Williams idea. 'Cause we really thought we were like real cowboys. Honky tonk women. And we were sitting in the middle of nowhere with all these horses, in a place where if you flush the john all these black frogs would fly out. It was great. The chicks loved it. Anyway, it started out a real country honk put on, a hokey thing. And then couple of months later we were writing songs and recording. And somehow by some metamorphosis it suddenly went into this little swampy, black thing, a Blues thing. Really, I can't give you a credible reason of how it turned around from that to that. Except there's not really a lot of difference between white Country music and black Country music. It's just a matter of nuance and style. I think it has to do with the fact that we were playing a lot around with open tunings at the time. So we were trying songs out just to see if they could be played in open tuning. And that one just sunk in. 
The Rolling Stones recorded "Honky Tonk Women" at Olympic Studios in London.  Jagger sang lead, Richards played rhythm and lead guitar, including the solo, while new member Mick Taylor also played lead, Bill Wyman was on bass, and Charlie Watts played drums.  Ian Stewart played piano, Bud Beadle and Steve Gregory played brass, Jimmy Miller played the cowbell, while Richards, Doris Troy, Reparata and the Delrons, and Nanette Workman (credited as Nanette Newman) sang backing vocals.  Miller also produced the song for Decca Records in the U.K. and London in the United States.
Taylor had taken over for founder and lead guitarist Brian Jones, and this is was the first time he recorded with the Stones.  Jones had fallen deep into drug abuse by this time, and after the group recorded "Honky Tonk Women", they drove to his house and fired him.  Less than a month later, Jones was found dead in his swimming pool.

Consider the competition for "Honky Tonk Women":  "In The Year 2525", "Sugar, Sugar", "Get Back", "Crystal Blue Persuasion", "Hot Fun In The Summertime", "Everybody's Talkin'", "Bad Moon Rising", "I Can't Get Next To You", "Spinning Wheel", "My Cherie Amour", "Sweet Caroline", and "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town".  "Honky Tonk Women" sold over one million copies, has helped sell 17 million albums, and has been played on the radio over two million times.

We hope you have been able to hear all 180 songs so far.  If not, go back and catch what you missed--we guarantee it's better than anything else you can hear on the radio back-to-back at one time. So we are now sitting just outside The Top 20* for the decade. Join Inside The Rock Era tomorrow for one of just two segments left!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.