Overnight Sensation - The 60s
"I See The Light," Five Americans
January, 1966 - #26
The Five Americans, from Oklahoma via Dallas (or is it Dallas via Oklahoma) charted six times, with half of those singles produced by none other than Dale "Suzie Q" Hawkins hisownself. This tune, first released in '65, was reissued at the end of the year to become the band's first chart entry. It has plenty of that stomp later heard in the Top 10 "Western Union," if not more of it.
January, 1966 - #74
"Call Me Lightning"
March, 1968 - #40
August, 1968 - #25
As great as the Who was, the band reached the U.S. Top 10 only once, with "I Can See For Miles" (#9) in '67. "My Generation," of course, is one of the anthems of the era (it was a #2 hit in the U.K.), and "Magic Bus" is another one of the band's best-known tunes. "Call Me Lightning" is one of the lesser-known, but still worthy, songs from the Who catalog. It may be a bit more controlled than "My Generation," for example, but it still has a gritty Daltrey lead vocal and a bass solo from John Entwistle. That alone should be worth the price of admission.
"All Night Long," Dave Clark Five
February, 1966 - N/C
The DC5 was one of the most successful of the British Invasion bands, and with good reason. The songs were smartly played, full of energy and just exploded out of a car radio. The band charted 13 times in '64-'65 alone, with seven of those reaching the Top 10 (and all of them worthy of airplay today).
"All Night Long" is definitely a lost nugget, the flip side of the #18 single "At The Scene." A rare instrumental, combining Clark's machine-gun drumming with some bluesy harmonica work from Denny Payton, and Mike Smith replacing his usual tough vocals with some all-out screams! It's wacky, wild, frantic, and, of course, I dig it.
"Batman Theme," Neal Hefti
February, 1966 - #35
1966 was definitely the year of the Bat, as the ever-popular TV series made its debut in January (the only bad thing about that was that ABC canceled the great TV rockfest Shindig! to make room in the schedule for it) and, within a month, the nation was going batty. Bat-toys, Bat-bubblegum cards, Bat-milk cartons, and this, the Bat-theme, on the radio. There were numerous other versions of this song to follow, with Al Hirt's being one of the more interesting, and other Bat-influenced songs came along as well. Perhaps the best of these was "Batman To The Rescue," from LaVern Baker, a rewrite of her 1956 hit "Jim Dandy." Swing, Batman!
"Eight Miles High"
April, 1966 - #14
"So You Want To Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star"
January, 1967 - #29
"My Back Pages"
April, 1967 - #30
The Byrds, oddly, only reached the Top 10 twice, with the #1 singles "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Turn! Turn! Turn!" Both of those are worthy, but these three aren't bad, either. "Eight Miles High," with its jazz-inspired, modal 12-string work from Roger McGuinn, was crippled a bit by alleged drug references in the lyrics, which kept the song off many stations. "So You Want To Be ..." was a great uptempo tune and, intentionally or otherwise, a somewhat accurate description of the state of the business at the time. "My Back Pages" is yet another great interpretation of Bob Dylan songs that the band did so well. Ask Tom Petty; he can tell you.
"My Little Red Book"
April, 1966 - #52
"7 And 7 Is"
July, 1966 - #33
Love, led by singer/guitarist Arthur Lee, is another band worthy of induction into the garage band hall of fame. "7 And 7 Is" is one of those runaway train-type songs that bands could play for ten or 15 minutes, or as long as their fingers would hold up, writing their own verses if they wished.
"Dirty Water," The Standells
April, 1966 - #11
Despite this song's professed love of Boston ("down by the banks of the river 'Chaaahs"), the Standells were an L.A. band. Did we mention garage bands somewhere here? Another one of the honorees for the garage band hall of fame. And drummer Dick Dodd was an original Musketeer? Perish the thought that dear Annette would have heard this stuff; might have corrupted her for life.
"Hey Joe," The Leaves
May, 1966 - #31
Did we mention garage bands ... Yep, here's another one, with one of those songs that practically everybody did back then. The Leaves were the ones that hit the charts with it, the second time around, as the single was first released in the fall of '65.
"Searching For My Love," Bobby Moore & the Rhythm Aces
June, 1966 - #27
Great R&B-flavored tune guaranteed to get bodies swayin' in the local malt shop, when played on the jukebox. The first, and biggest, of two chart entries from this Alabama-based band. The Memphis-based Amazing Rhythm Aces, who began charting on the country and pop charts in the mid-70s, were named in part as a tribute to this band.
"You Better Run," Young Rascals
June, 1966 - #20
One of the greatest of the early Rascals singles, with a typically urgent Felix Cavaliere vocal and "ballsy" guitar work from Gene Cornish.
"I'm Not Your Steppin' Stone," Paul Revere & the Raiders
June, 1966 - N/C
Guess the Raiders just had too many great songs in '66, as this monster recording of the Boyce & Hart composition, from the band's Midnight Ride album, was never released as a single. That opened the door for the Monkees to grab the hit with it.
"Sugar And Spice," Cryan Shames
July, 1966 - #49
The first, and highest charted, of the five entries from this Chicago-based band.
"Warm And Tender Love"
July, 1966 - #17
"Out Of Left Field"
April, 1967 - #59
(Courtesy Rhino Records)
If you listen to these classic hits stations solely, you'd get the impression that Percy Sledge was a one-trick pony, but the Alabama native actually charted 14 times. Working with those fantastic musicians in Muscle Shoals, Sledge had some of the best R&B records of the period. These are two of the better examples.
"God Only Knows"
August, 1966 - #39
"Do It Again"
July, 1968 - #20
Paul McCartney has often cited Pet Sounds as his favorite album, and he has also said that "God Only Knows" was the greatest song ever. It's difficult to argue with Sir Paul on this one, from the sophistication of the arrangement to the harmonies to the sincerity of the lead vocal, this one is a pretty amazing record.
"Do It Again" doesn't come close to that (what could?), but it's a nice, solidly-played, feel-good tune great for a Saturday afternoon cruise in the old convertible.
"Respectable," The Outsiders
August, 1966 - #15
The Cleveland band started with its best shot, the wonderful "Time Won't Let Me," earlier in '66. After the ballad "Girl In Love," they cranked up the tempo again, using a horn arrangement similar to its first hit to fire up this Isley Brothers tune.
"Just Like A Woman," Bob Dylan
September, 1966 - #33
One of Dylan's best love songs of all, along with the later "Lay Lady Lay," which reached the Top 10 in '69.
"Love Is A Hurtin' Thing," Lou Rawls
September, 1966 - #13
This tune, a #1 R&B hit, was Lou's highest-charting pop entry for ten years, until the Philly disco of "You'll Never Find Another Love Like Mine" eclipsed it.
"Tomorrow Is A Long Time"
October, 1966 - N/C
January, 1968 - #43
Some of the best of "Elvis unplugged," and two great Presley performances that should be remembered. The former, which caused Bob Dylan to remark "Elvis recorded a song of mine; that's the one recording I treasure most," is one of Elvis' best ever. The acoustic arrangement added intimacy, and Elvis' restrained but emotive vocal is very effective. For whatever ridiculous reason, RCA chose to bury this as a "bonus song" on the Spinout soundtrack album.
As for "Guitar Man," it became the centerpiece production number of Elvis' 1968 TV special. Jerry Reed, the song's composer, was brought in to play that funky acoustic guitar on Elvis' recording. After Presley's death, Reed returned to the studio to lay down three electric guitar parts for a new single release of the same tune (with all the original tracks removed except Elvis' voice), which actually reached #28 in 1981.
"A Hazy Shade Of Winter," Simon & Garfunkel
November, 1966 - #13
Not a true story song ala "Mrs. Robinson" or "The Boxer," but still an interesting narrative in the lyrics, and performed with a sense of urgency. The tune was given some considerable rock muscle when the Bangles covered it some 21 years later.
"Talk Talk," The Music Machine
November, 1966 - #15
This one was as much about attitude as anything else, as Sean Bonniwell delivered the lyrics in a low-pitched growl. Still a cool record, though, and the one the band is remembered best for.
"Pushin' Too Hard," The Seeds
December, 1966 - #36
Did we say attitude somewhere? Did we say something about garage bands ... This was the first, and best known, of five chart entries from this L.A. garage band. And, the aforementioned Bangles have performed this one onstage since their early days, with Debbi Peterson replacing the pouty sneer of Sky Saxon (nee Richard Marsh) with more of a friendly, but determined, warning.
"The Dark End Of The Street," James Carr
February, 1967 - #77
The late Memphis soul singer had six chart entries from 1966-68; this one was clearly the best. Great feel and expressive vocals on this one.
"The Loser (With A Broken Heart)," Gary Lewis & the Playboys
March, 1967 - #43
Lewis threw a funky wrinkle into his usual pattern of pop tunes here, with this uptempo, R&B-flavored song complete with backup vocals by Darlene Love and the Blossoms.
"Live," The Merry-Go-Round
April, 1967 - #63
The first of only two chart entries from this L.A. band fronted by Emitt Rhodes. Rhodes later recorded solo, while drummer Joel Larson worked with the Grass Roots. As for the song, it was another well-chosen bringback by the Bangles on their All Over The Place album.
"Bowling Green," Everly Brothers
May, 1967 - #40
The last U.S. singles chart entry for Don and Phil for 17 years. The single may suffer from a bit too much production; the live version of the tune (as presented on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, for example) might have actually made for a better single.
"Soul Finger," Bar-Kays
May, 1967 - #17
Now best remembered for being involved in one of the great tragedies in rock history, the Bar-Kays were a fine R&B instrumental group originally formed by Booker T. & the M.G.s drummer Al Jackson Jr. The band charted three times in '67 before the plane carrying it and Otis Redding crashed in December. Band member Ben Cauley survived the crash, and another member, James Alexander, wasn't on that fateful flight. Alexander later reformed the band for studio work at Stax Records, and eventually new Bar-Kays material as well.
"Ain't Nothin' But A House Party," The Show Stoppers
May, 1967 - #118
June, 1968 - #87
The Show Stoppers were a Philadelphia-based soul quartet, featuring two sets of brothers, Earl and Timmy Smith and Alex and Laddie Burke, the latter being younger brothers of Solomon Burke. Small world, ain't it? The title gives you a pretty good idea that this is a good party tune. First released on a small label in '67, it couldn't get past the "Bubbled Under" mention in the trades. A year later, reissued by another indie, the tune finally cracked the national charts. It was one of several R&B singles of the era that the J. Geils Band took great relish in performing onstage in the 70s.
"Bluebird," Buffalo Springfield
July, 1967 - #58
The Springfield was not only blessed with a great lineup of talent, but it was responsible for some of the best records of the era. Sadly, most of them weren't heard on a national basis, outside of the band's first hit, "For What It's Worth (Stop, Hey What's That Sound)." This, the band's second single, was written by Stephen Stills (as was the first hit), and is an amazing mix of acoustic and electric energy. With so much creative talent, however, there is bound to be friction, so the Springfield's tenure was a short one, and Stills, Neil Young, Richie Furay, Dewey Martin and Bruce Palmer (replaced by Jimmy Messina) each went on to other directions. Stills and Young, of course, teamed with Crosby and Nash and recorded as a duo and as solo acts, while Messina and Furay started Poco.
"You Keep Me Hangin' On," Vanilla Fudge
July, 1967 - #67
July, 1968 - #6
The Fudge specialized in sledgehammering songs seemingly not written for psychedelic readings; the Supremes hit of '66 being one of them. It worked, however, eventually, as this tune re-charted and made its way to the Top 10 about a year after its initial release. Some sources credit an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show that helped propel the tune up the charts. Bassist Tim Bogert and drummer Carmine Appice later reteamed in Cactus, and in an early 70s "power trio" with Jeff Beck, among many other credits by the former Fudgers.
"Ode To Billie Joe"
August, 1967 - #1
November, 1969 - #31
(Courtesy Collectables Records)
Bobbie Gentry's "Ode To Billie Joe" is an amazing record so often ignored by hits radio stations today, which is totally bewildering. The story goes that Capitol Records had the original version of "Billie Joe" shortened, as it was way too long for a single. When it was edited, but down to about four and half minutes, Capitol deemed it was still too long for the two-and-a-half-minute length typical for singles of the period, the label gave up, and slapped it on the B side of the uptempo ditty "Mississippi Delta." Radio, however, flipped it back, and "Billie Joe" became the monster hit it so deserved to be.
The instrumentation of an acoustic bass, Bobbie's plunking an acoustic guitar and a sly, expressive string chart from Jimmie Haskell, left plenty of room for Ms. Gentry's voice to tell the story. Slightly nasal, slightly raspy and very sexy, Bobbie's voice wove its way through one of the greatest story songs ever on record, a southern-fried soap opera of family alienation (what should have been the main theme, though most folks didn't get it) and intrigue (what DID they throw off the bridge? It didn't matter; that was symbolism).
The song eventually became a film, under the guidance of Max Baer Jr., the onetime Beverly Hillbilly who became a director of such films as Macon County Line, but, in '76, a bit late to capitalize on the song's initial triumph. At least the reissue of the single, and a newly-recorded version as the film's main title, put the song back on the charts.
Bobbie did have other chart singles, including a couple of duets with Glen Campbell, and another southern soap opera, "Fancy." She also hosted her own television series in England. She has been absent from the music scene for far too long.
August, 1967 - #65
December, 1967 - #67
"All Along The Watchtower"
September, 1968 - #20
November, 1968 - #52
(Courtesy Experience Hendrix/MCA)
Yes, Jimi Hendrix, the avatar of psychedelic blues/rock guitar, could never get past #20 on the singles chart, with his mind-blowing rendition of Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower." That song was a #5 U.K. hit, "Purple Haze" reached #3 there and "Crosstown Traffic" also surpassed its U.S. chart rating, peaking at #37; "Foxey Lady" was not a single in the U.K., although "Burning Of The Midnight Lamp" (#18), was. Anyone who knows anything about Hendrix knows how great all these records are. And there are, of course, other Hendrix tunes that might have made for great singles as well. A favorite of mine is "Wait Until Tomorrow," from Axis: Bold As Love, which used a country-styled narrative to tell the tale of unrequieted love. The fact that the narrator meets his end at the hands of the girl's daddy probably factored into the decision, if there was one, not to release that tune as a single (the same may have applied to "Hey Joe," which was actually the first Hendrix single released, although it didn't chart). Hendrix, despite his guitar pyrotechnics that are the stuff of legends, was actually a fine lyricist (again, the Axis album may be the best example). Still, Jimi made his mark, despite the lack of support by AM radio.
"Little Old Man (Uptight - Everything's Alright)," Bill Cosby
September, 1967 - #4
Cosby had seven straight million-selling comedy albums full of his hilarious stories of his childhood in Philadelphia, the joys and woes of marriage and parenthood, and his own unique intrepretation of the Bible ("Noah And The Lord," "The Apple"), among other topics. He turned to music with the same flair in '67, taking the Stevie Wonder hit and turning it on its ear with wacky new lyrics. The instrumentation is wonderful, and it cooks! Also worthy of mention is the flip side, "Don't Cha Know," a bluesy, brassy tune also with humorous lyrics. And, nine years later, Cosby did a letter-perfect takeoff on Barry White with "Yes, Yes, Yes." Truly a funny and very talented man.
"Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out)," The Hombres
September, 1967 - #12
The lone chart entry for the Memphis band whose membership included B.B. Cunningham, brother of the Box Tops' Bill Cunningham, and members of the touring band for Ronnie & the Daytonas. Another great record for those times when you just feel like gettin' goofy.
September, 1967 - #52
"Cherry Hill Park"
October, 1969 - #15
Two fine releases from Georgia-born Billy Joe Royal, who had the good fortune of having many of his records written and produced by Joe South, including Royal's chart debut, "Down In The Boondocks" (which reached #9 in '65). "Hush" may now be best-remembered for Deep Purple's version a year after this, but Billy Joe's recording is fine, too. The later "Cherry Hill Park" is a bit more bold and brassy that stopped a few notches short of the Top 10.
"By The Time I Get To Phoenix"
October, 1967 - #26
November, 1968 - #3
(Courtesy Razor & Tie)
Two of several great Glen Campbell singles that found homes on the pop, country and Adult Contemporary charts. "Phoenix" very well could have been Johnny Rivers' hit, as he recorded the Jimmy Webb tune first in '66, and then decided not to release it as a single. Campbell's arrangement was almost a note-for-note copy of Rivers' version.
Another Webb tune, "Wichita Lineman," is one of the finest country-pop records of the 60s; there is something almost hypnotic about the string arrangement in this, combined with a strong, impassioned vocal from Campbell. It was a huge hit, which it deserved to be, and should still be heard today.