And now for something very different: I wanted to challenge myself, as I’m not a particularly big fan of ’60s chart pop. In the last several years I’ve developed a real love for ’40s/’50s material, especially jump blues and country, but the ’60s haven’t ever really grabbed me much, apart from easy listening and the Velvet Underground (heh).
1 2 (I Can’t Get No) SATISFACTION –•– The Rolling Stones (London)-5 (1 week at #1) (1) — Yes, sure, Mick’s vocal delivery, but really for me this is about Keith’s fuzzed-the-fuck-out lead guitar licks. And of course Charlie’s four-on-the-floor, because when it comes to the Stones, it always, inevitably, comes down to Charlie.
2 1 I CAN’T HELP MYSELF –•– The Four Tops (Motown)-9 (1) — I find it fascinating that the Four Tops only hit #1 on the R&B chart three times, just once more than they did on the pop chart. Along with this one and 1966’s “Reach Out I’ll Be There,” both of which did the double-dip, their only other R&B chart-topper was this smash (which also hit #11 pop) from 1981. (And dear god, that song is so Vegas/supper-club-circuit-soul.) But back to this song, which I’ve never much cottoned to; it just sounds hoary to my ears. There’s little fresh or exciting about it.
3 3 MR. TAMBOURINE MAN –•– The Byrds (Columbia)-9 (1) — Dylan’s first #1 was as a songwriter, not a performer. I love Roger McGuinn’s rather laconic vocal on this, but what I don’t get is why so many call this song “the birth of folk-rock,” because I don’t hear much if any folk on this at all. This is an electric rock song, pure and simple. That said, you know what I do hear? Much of R.E.M.’s output refracted.
4 5 WONDERFUL WORLD –•– Herman’s Hermits (MGM)-7 (4) — Peter Noone can fuck right off with his Merseybeat bullshit.
5 4 WOOLY BULLY –•– Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs (MGM)-15 (2) — Despite never hitting #1 (thanks to the Beach Boys and the Supremes), due to its extended 18-week run on the Hot 100, this ended up as the #1 single of 1965. And I guess I can see why teenagers (who were running the pop music world in the mid-’60s) would love this messy slab of garage rock, but I never can love this. Garage rock is, largely, something I never need to hear again.
6 9 YES, I’M READY –•– Barbara Mason (Arctic)-9 (6) — Someone writing on Wikipedia called this “a fetching soul-pop confection that spotlight[s Mason’s] girlish vocals. One of the first examples of the rhythmic but lush sound that came to be called Philly soul … .” Yeah, that sounds about right. It’s also very necessary to note that, much like Debbie Gibson (discussed last week), Mason was not only still 17 years old when this ascended to the top 5 on both the pop and R&B charts, but she wrote this song herself. (And for the record, the 1980 Teri DeSario/KC cover version is crap.)
7 7 SEVENTH SON –•– Johnny Rivers (Imperial)-6 (7) — Johnny Rivers is a fine singer, and Willie Dixon is a superb songwriter, but the combination of the two ends up leaving me a bit flat — likely because Rivers was never meant to perform the blues, let along melting it into perky pop.
8 11 CARA, MIA –•– Jay and the Americans (United Artists)-6 (8) — David Whitfield’s 1954 original (which spent 10 weeks at #1 in his native UK) is overblown opera-pop pap, the forerunner to Josh Groban’s career. Jay and the Americans’s cover jacks up the drama, unbelievably, in the service of an insane pop-rock reworking, and is infinitely preferable.
9 12 YOU TURN ME ON (Turn On Song) –•– Ian Whitcomb and Bluesville (Tower)-8 (9) — WHAT. THE FUCK. This 1965 “freak out,” which by most accounts only was a US hit thanks to the British invasion, features a teenaged weirdo singing in a breathy falsetto, and occasionally all but replicating orgasm on the chorus. I guess radio really would play anything by Brits at the time. Good lord.
10 10 WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW IS LOVE –•– Jackie DeShannon (Imperial)-8 (10) — I could talk about the loveliness of this David/Bachrach composition, or the fine job DeShannon does delivering it, but really I’d rather quote this line from the song’s Wikipedia entry: “In the Danish zodiac porn comedy I Jomfruens tegn (1973), an extended version is used for the hardcore underwater orgy that ends the film.”
11 6 FOR YOUR LOVE –•– The Yardbirds (Epic)-9 (6) — Totally down with this, which is what I often wish the Beatles had sounded like.
12 13 A WALK IN THE BLACK FOREST –•– Horst Jankowski, His Orchestra and Chorus (Mercury)-10 (12) — Jankowski was a German jazz/easy listening bandleader who had his greatest success with this jaunty little tune, originally titled “Eine Schwarzwaldfahrt.” That likely wouldn’t have been such a big seller in the English-speaking world, so it was retitled “A Walk in the Black Forest” and got to #3 UK, #1 US EZ (the AC chart was then known as the Easy Listening chart), and its peak pop position right here. I’ve been talking for decades about my rather profound love of easy listening music, so it shouldn’t come as a shock to learn that I love this song: its pep, its strings talking to each other, its rolling piano, the sum of all its parts.
13 42 I’M HENRY THE VIII, I AM –•– Herman’s Hermits (MGM)-2 (13) — If I didn’t hate Herman’s Hermits before this song, I certainly did after, always and forever.
14 16 LAURIE (Strange Things Happen) –•– Dickey Lee (TCF Hall)-9 (14) — Oh, ’60s, you did love songs about dead girls, didn’t you? Ugh.
15 8 CRYING IN THE CHAPEL –•– Elvis Presley (RCA Victor)-12 (3) — This song, originally cut by Elvis for one of his gospel albums, had already topped the Easy Listening chart for 7 weeks and the UK singles chart for two. I love not only his vocal on this, Presley utilizing his tender upper register, but the arrangement, which is both simple and almost eerie; the Jordanaires sound positively ghostly on this. One of Presley’s most breathtakingly beautiful singles.
16 14 HUSH, HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE –•– Patti Page (Columbia)-12 (8) — Creeeeeepy. Also, Page’s first top 20 single since 1958, and her final top 40 single ever. Also, not just creepy but pretty dated and not very interesting at all.
17 26 WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT –•– Tom Jones (Parrot)-4 (17) — This Bacharach/David song is over the top in every possible way, especially in the hands of the bombastic Tom Jones. The production is slightly insane (very UK music hall), and I really don’t like hearing Jones sing about kissing “your pussycat lips,” which frankly kinda squigs me out. On its way to #3 though, so US music fans clearly didn’t agree with me.
18 20 A LITTLE BIT OF HEAVEN –•– Ronnie Dove (Diamond)-6 (18) — The 4th of 11 top 40 singles for the now-fairly-unknown Dove, who possessed a kinda oddly-pitched voice, singing overly dramatic material. Nothing special here.
19 25 A WORLD OF OUR OWN –•– The Seekers (Capitol)-7 (19) — I’m not a big fan of folky pop, but I am a big fan of cheesy harmony singing, so where does that leave me?
20 27 (Such an) EASY QUESTION –•– Elvis Presley (RCA Victor)-4 (20) — Elvis back in winking “hey girl” mode here, which he finessed so fucking well. Talk about a man who knew how to sing to women, damn.