Forgive the delay, but I am writing this today from little Verona, Italy, where I’m spending a month drinking wine, pretending to be a local and letting my mind and body clock unwind to a degree I would have never dreamed possible at this time last year. I will continue to write from here and continue to work as well.  But much like this one, Part 9 of my 300 favorite singles of the 1960s might not be up here as quickly as it might have, had I been banging away at the keyboard back in hectic and you-want-it-when? Chicago.

Ciao, mei amici.  E grazie.

Desert Island Jukebox: Part 1
Desert Island Jukebox: Part 2
Desert Island Jukebox: Part 3
Desert Island Jukebox: Part 4
Desert Island Jukebox: Part 5
Desert Island Jukebox: Part 6
Desert Island Jukebox: Part 7 

61. Pay You Back With Interest
Among the mysteries of my lifetime: time travel, eternity, supercolliders, Chuck Norris and how this amazing pop recording – one of the greatest 45s I have ever heard in my life – never became a treasured keepsake, much less a Top 40 hit.

62.  Since I Fell for You
Lenny Welch
I always knew this stunning little two and a half minute exercise in raw human emotion and unflinching honesty was a great recording of a terrific song.  But I never knew how great until I saw its effect on someone I met and fell in love with what seems like a lifetime ago, and then some. This one’s for you, Dodie.

63.  The Pied Piper
Crispian St. Peter
Soaring, power-pop gem that foretold the coming of the short-lived (and wildly uneven) bubblegum/sunshine pop era, during which melody and melodic hooks ruled. At the same time it is also a study in contrasts; the verses, minimal, led by a thumping, slightly fuzzy bass line, and sung in a cool, lip-curled, faux-Elvis style; and the choruses, raucous, unbridled, joyful and fueled by an odd combination of a pennywhistle and some double-tracked vocals that are just about the opposite of cool. In fact, they’re downright ebullient. But the highlight of this long-lost hit (written, oddly enough, by Artie Kornfeld, who would make music history as one of the three young promoters of Woodstock) has always been near the end, when its crackling, Cavalry-charge of a coda kicks in, (and this sounds funny even as I write it) the pennywhistle ratchets things up a notch, St. Peter’s double-tracked vocals soar to even higher heights, and we lovers of this vibrant single find ourselves dropping whatever we’re doing, turning out heads in the direction of all that joyous noise, and following it like rats from Hamelin.

64.  Gonna Get Along Without You Now
Skeeter Davis
There are certain songs throughout history that became hits in one decade while clinging fervently, almost defiantly to a sound or musical style of another. Here’s one such song; a minor but joyfully infectious cover/crossover hit for county star Davis that, although released at the height of the British Invasion in the ‘60s, called to mind the previous, much simpler decade during which we Americans discovered the joy of eating dinner on TV trays, cars suddenly sprouted fins, and Ike regularly snuck out of high-level meetings to practice on the putting green he installed on the White House lawn.

65. Sugar and Spice
Take your pick; either this shimmering original of a Tony Hatch gem by one of most underrated vocal groups in rock history or the spirited cover by the Cryan’ Shames, a band of Chicago kids who nearly a half a century ago had all the tumblers fall into place and for one shining moment caught lightning in a bottle.  Either way, you can’t go wrong and you would not hear one peep of complaint from me. What’s not debatable, though, is that with this little two-minute celebration of the female of the species and the raw materials from whence the poets say she sprang, Hatch proved once again he is one of the greatest pop tunesmiths of our lifetime.

66.  Sandy
Ronny and the Daytonas
A song that feels as though it had been rattling around trapped in Brian Wilson’s id for years, trying to escape.  An odd but beguiling mash-up of, say, Caroline, No and Let’s Go Away for a While, this evocative gentle breeze from the last of surf music’s glory days was recorded not by a group of bronzed, beach rats from the Golden State but four talented, musically well-connected kids from, of all places, Nashville, who achieved some measure of success with their previous homage to the California sound, Little GTO, a year prior. Regardless, the few times I was able to hear this non-hit growing up, it did to this Snow Belt kid what the best Beach Boy songs always somehow did; transport him and his vivid (but frozen) imagination to that land of dreams on the shores of the Pacific; a place that seemed blessed with a lifetime’s worth of sunny days, warm nights, pretty girls, cool cars, TV stars, palm trees and, of course, endless waves.

67.  Thou Shall Not Steal
Dick and Dee Dee
Every once in a while I sit down to write the narrative behind one of these singles, why it’s here, or why I have some attachment to it, and find myself having to sit back, face two palms skyward and mumble to no one in particular, “Who the hell knows?” Who knows what I saw in this single in the spring of ‘65 or what I continue to see in it. Oh, it’s cool I guess that Dick and Dee Dee toured with the Stones and became friends with Brian Jones (especially the latter). It’s cool that while the song is arranged in four-part harmony, it’s Dick singing the falsetto and bass parts and Dee Dee assuming the middle two. And I suppose it’s pretty cool John D. Loudermilk wrote it, a composer I knew nothing of before starting this list, but who turned out to be a guy who wrote not one, but two songs on it.  But at the end of the day, what can I say?  I have always loved Thou Shalt Not Steal.  And it’s here. So sue me.

68.  Grazing in the Grass
Friends of Distinction
In an earlier installment I wrote the Theme from Goldfinger, a la Bull Durham’s Nuke LaLoosh, was a tune that announced its presence with authority. That’s exactly what this bold and brassy single did to AM radio back in the day, riding the virtual thunderbolt of staccato bursts that trumpeted its first verse and subsequently threatened to rip to shreds whatever tiny speakers happened to be in their way as they sought to fulfill their musical destiny in the summer of ’69, filling the airwaves in cities and towns across America with an electricity and youthful energy that was as palpable as it was unmistakable.

69.  When I Die
A genre-defying single from Canada released in the spring of ‘69, and one that inched its way up the U.S. charts before petering out at #18; a one-of-a-kind production that managed to be simultaneously melancholy and joyous, while a little resigned, a touch maudlin, and still, somehow, above it all, more than a bit hopeful; a shimmering two and half minute confection that, in a decade lousy with recordings that pushed the envelope, broke the mold, and (insert your cliché of choice here), seemed to take the whole musical experimentation thing in yet another new direction and upset, yet again, whatever status quo may have remained on the charts in a decade known for, if nothing else, bold strokes, studio daring and, every so often, seismic shifts in the very definition of what constituted a pop song.

70.  Do I Love You
Another one of those long-forgotten and long-abandoned Brill Building diamonds in the rough that, much like a few others on this list, I would have loved to hear Bruce Springsteen cover back in those pre-Boss days when he was all full of youthful spit and vinegar, and when he and the E Street Band still had the ability to make a simple three chord progression sound like the Jersey equivalent of a Wagnerian opera.

71.  Mickey’s Monkey
In putting together this mythical jukebox I realized over the years that I had, oddly enough, developed a deep affection for ‘60s-era dance craze songs. And I know that since two such songs earned conspicuously high places on this list; the first being this underrated and almost criminally overlooked gem by Smokey and his Miracles. But even though many would never immediately think of Mickey’s Monkey as a true shining moment in Motown history, consider: During the famed Motown Revue era, when the label’s acts would travel, often by bus, to places far and wide and night after night perform in Cavalcade-of-Stars style one or two of their biggest hits, of all the classic songs in the deep, rich and expansive Motown catalog at the time, this was the one Berry Gordy chose to close those shows.  And even Robinson would later admit this early, almost primal Holland/Dozier/Holland composition, with its driving Bo Diddley beat, possessed an uncanny ability to “bring down the house.”

72.  You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me
Dusty Springfield
You could always tell when my dad was happy. He would whistle. Shooting baskets in the driveway, or whipping up some ungodly foul-smelling concoction like beef tongue or tripe? Whistle. Reading the Sunday paper in his robe and sipping a cup of hot coffee? More whistling. Driving through rural Upstate New York in search of some just-picked sweet corn from some farmer’s roadside stand? More whistling still. For all that seemed to simultaneously drive him and hold him back in life, demons and otherwise, I suppose one could easily contend my father was a complex individual. But for all those little things that him happy – fresh sweet corn, hook shots in the driveway, a virgin paper on Sunday morning, shooting pool, taking day trips, and preparing a meal as family, friends and others played cards, noshed and kibitzed around the table – he was as simple and uncomplicated as a man could come. And while this song would no doubt earn a place on this list on merit alone, it gets extra credit as the one the man who, in his eternal and unabashed love of life’s simple joys, became my role model used to whistle more than all others combined. 

73.  Nothing But a Heartache
In the north of England in the late’60s there was a brand of music known as Northern Soul, which was soul music made in the spirit of the driving, pounding, rough-hewn R&B churned out by small labels in large U.S. cities earlier in the decade. What Northern Soul was not, however, was Motown. In fact, it was almost the anti-Motown (or the anti-TSOP, for that matter), where the signature sound was lush, filtered, manicured and polished to perfection. This entry is not merely my favorite Northern Soul single of the decade; it is one of my favorite 45s, period.  A dense, throbbing rave by three girls from South Carolina, written by one Northern Brit and produced by another. So, it would seem that not only did the British wake us Americans up to the blues, a raw and unsparing form of indigenous music that had been right under our noses but which we blindly ignored, but they also helped ensure we remain connected to our raw and unfiltered soul roots, even as we attempted to bury them under layer upon layer of studio polish.

74.  I’m a Man
Spencer Davis Group
Real simple.  If I was a major league ballplayer and the front office asked me to pick my walk-up song – a tune they would play and which would blare out of the stadium speakers at ear splitting levels every time I came to bat or strode in from the bullpen – this rocking number would be my pick.  And I’d make sure they included its intro, during which the groove established by the combination of Spencer Davis’ guitar and Stevie Winwood’s B3 after all these years still has the ability to make the hairs rise on the back of my neck and stand at attention.

75.  Shame, Shame
Magic Lanterns
One of those catchy-to-the-point-of-contagious tunes that used to pop into my brain years after it got regular radio play, would rattle around there for a few moments or so, and then (poof) be gone as quickly as it came (often, it would seem, for years more at a time). I just couldn’t for the life of me ever remember the name of the damn song built around that damn catchy hook. Finally, one day about six or seven years ago, unannounced and out of the blue, it popped into my head again, and this time lacking a piece of paper or any electronic gadgetry, a la the movie Memento, I quickly got up, raced to my desk, pulled out a pen and hastily scribbled the words “Shame, Shame” in blue ink on my palm. Entirely old school, I know. But it worked. And I haven’t forgotten the name this damn entry or lost track of its damn infectious hook since.

76.  Coming on Strong
Brenda Lee
While most of the world thought that, in Radar Love, with its reference about the car radio playing some forgotten song, Golden Earring was being coy, slightly hip, and maybe poking fun at this dusty relic, I knew better. I knew what a great rock ‘n roll song “Brenda Lee’s Coming on Strong” was. And I sensed those four Dutch guys were being entirely sincere in giving Lee’s stunning but sadly forgotten 45 a well-earned and much-deserved opportunity to take a curtain call and, just maybe, be discovered by a new generation. And I knew too, had I thought of it, what a great piece of traveling music Coming on Strong would have made, especially if you were driving all night, your hands wet on the wheel.  Because as a kid I owned that little number on vinyl and used to play the hell out of it over and over and over again. That’s why, when I saw Golden Earring at the Rainbow Theatre in London in the fall of 1974, and I walked out afterward with a tee shirt tucked under my arm, my sense was I was not the only one with a Top Ten pop tune rattling around his brain as he stepped into the cold, damp London night. Only it wasn’t Golden Earring’s first Top Ten hit up there doing the rattling. It was Brenda Lee’s last.

77.  Anyone Who Had a Heart
Dionne Warwick
Truth be told, one of my all-time favorite videos on YouTube is not Warwick singing this timeless Bacharach/David gem, but a 20-year old Cilla Black tearing apart this selfsame exercise in vocal gymnastics (with its wild swings of emotion and shifting time signatures), live and without backup singers, staring down a small, intimate audience wearing what looks like a ‘60s-era evening gown and sharing the stage with a small orchestra whose conductor stands just a few feet from her. It’s jaw dropping to watch her work without a net and navigate the song’s many land mines. But that said; this recording of Anyone Who Had a Heart is impossible to top. And again, just like so many on this list, it is a song that sounds like few ever written, before it or since.  And maybe I should use this occasion to praise not so much this single, but the unique context in which we first heard it. Because the eclectic mix of pop hits that defined 1964, and the stunning variety of 45s that got played alongside this one on AM radio was so wildly divergent, so random and so across-the-board it still boggles the mind; I Want to Hold Your Hand by the Beatles, Surfer Bird by the Trashmen, Hello Dolly by Louis Armstrong, Out of Limits by the Marketts, House of the Rising Sun by the Animals, Dead Man’s Curve by Jan and Dean, My Boy Lollipop by Millie Small, Cotton Candy by Al Hirt, You Really Got Me by the Kinks, The Girl from Ipanema by Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto, What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am by the Tams, Louie, Louie by the Kingsmen, BabyI Need Your Loving by the Four Tops and Dang Me by Roger Miller. And that’s just a handful. That’s off the top of my head.  And that’s a kind of delicious variety that would go on to make up the charts for every week of every year for the remainder of the decade.

78.  Black Pearl
Sonny Charles and the Checkmates
The stories are legion of how producer George Martin used to tweak, edit and massage so many Lennon & McCartney compositions that he, more than anyone else, became the de facto “fifth Beatle.” Now, can you imagine what it would have done to Martin’s reputation (or, for that matter, bank book) had all those records he produced been credited to Lennon, McCartney & Martin?  That’s what has always stuck in my craw about Phil Spector; the little martinet’s apparent insistence that, as producer, his name be listed among a song’s composers, although his input, as great as it was, was in the song’s production, not as its composers sat hunched over a piano staring at a blank sheet of paper. But that’s why I love this stunning non-hit from early ‘69.  It was not a Mann & Weil tune, a Goffin & King tune, or a Barry & Greenwich one. It was a song Spector personally wrote himself as a thinly veiled autobiographical tribute to his beloved wife, Ronnie, a young mixed-race beauty for whom the odd little man’s affection eventually crossed over and became an obsession. Regardless, at a time in rock and pop history when the Wall of Sound was deemed quaint, if not somewhat cheesy, Spector reached deep within himself and summoned up a little part of everything that once made him great and delivered this stunning three and a half minute symphony of love and devotion, a long-lost and long-overlooked pearl of production wizardry on A&M Records that, sadly, turned out to be the Boy Wonder’s final moment of studio greatness.

79.  Yes It Is
It seems that whereas Paul McCartney continues to embrace his pop roots, John Lennon – especially when he moved to New York and became politically active – used to try to distance himself from them.  This one, for example, was a gorgeous pop ballad (one of the few Lennon would ever write by himself) and a song that may or may not have been about his mother, who was killed tragically when struck by a car while wearing a simple red dress. But Lennon, at least in interviews, never seemed to take any pride in the record, or even acknowledge it to any great extent. That’s truly a shame because once I finally heard it some 20 years after its release as the B side of Ticket to Ride, I was flat-out mesmerized. What an amazing song, I thought to myself, and what a shame the guy went to his grave wearing such didactic, heavy handed and plodding clunkers as Instant Karma and Give Peace a Chance proudly on his sleeve, while relegating this shimmering and deeply moving kernel of pop beauty to the cutout bin of long-lost Beatle songs.

80.  Susan
South Siders in Chicago – those, in other words, with a seemingly innate need to distrust, malign and/or hate anything in the city north of Madison – will love this one. Some 50 years ago a South Side kid named Jim Holvay, who fronted a raunchy R&B outfit calling itself the Mob, met the manager of a hot new North Side band.  And, at the guy’s request, Holvay went out and saw the Buckinghams play one night.  And, like any true South Sider, he thought they sucked. But he told the manager he had a song he’d written a while back they could have if they wanted it. Maybe his squeaky clean band of would-be pop stars could do something with it. So when Kind of a Drag shot to #1 in the spring of ’67, the manager feverishly tracked down Holvay, who he found in L.A., playing clubs and trying to be a rock star. He asked if him had any more songs. The young rocker said no, but give him a couple of weeks. He’d write him a few. And in those two weeks, Jim Holvay composed for the Buckinghams three originals – Hey Baby, They’re Playing Our Song, Don’t You Care and Susan – all of which went on to crack the Top 20 in the summer of ’67.  But it was the last of those three – this one – that I always loved, in part because of Jim Guercio’s terrific vocal arrangement and its lead vocals by Dennis Tufano, but in part because of the twisted, slightly atonal, quasi-psychedelic and heavy industrial break just before the coda and how the melody suddenly emerges from it like a phoenix from the ashes. Plus, there’s that part during which a man’s voice, presumably a drug dealer, is faintly heard hawking to passers-by, “Acid!” Pretty dated and pretty corny, I know.  But believe me, in the Summer of Love that was pretty heady stuff, especially for a 12-year old in Syracuse, New York living life with a transistor radio glued to his ear. 

81.  I’m Your Puppet
James and Bobby Purify
Why is it when critics list the great soul recordings of all time, this amazing single from the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals rarely gets mentioned?  Yet, it’s an absolute gem of a song and, perhaps, an even better recording.  Listen to the drums of Roger Hawkins, particularly how he brushes his snare well behind the beat like some rhythmic Deputy Droop-a-Long, shuffling along all slow and easy at a pace not unlike that of paint drying. And couple Hawkins’ laid-back groove with the tight, bouncy, playful harmonies of the singers. The juxtaposition is wonderful and the effect intoxicating. And while this Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham composition was first recorded by, of all people, Dionne Warwick (and covered by Alex Chilton and the Box Tops), this is the version that wins a spot my jukebox.  Perhaps former Rolling Stone critic Dave Marsh said it best about this long underrated little sliver of pop history. In his book, The Heart of Rock and Soul, Marsh wrote of the musicians in the studio that day, saying, “All of them make it sound so easy, you can believe it’s all just a matter of ‘Pull them little strings and I’ll do anything.’ If the best definition of cool is that which never has to expend any energy defining itself, I’m Your Puppet may be the coolest soul classic ever recorded.”

82.  Niki Hoeky
P.J. Proby
Proby was a guy who, in many ways, might have been Elvis but for a brief head start and more aggressive manager. A fiercely talented Texan born Jim Smith who as a kid took his drawl, set of pipes, and good looks to L.A. where for years it seemed all he did was record demos for the likes of the King. So Proby opted to change his name, pack his bags and move to England, where suddenly for the first time in his life he became a somebody and carved out a career as a combination musician/cultural oddity; a hip-swiveling rockabilly pop star who sold records and played to houses enthralled with his aw-shucks manner. This 45, released at the height of his fame in the U.K., was his only true hit in the U.S., stalling out at #23 on the charts.  And to listen to it today you can see how (a) it became a hit here, but (b) failed to become a huge hit. Because as undeniably cool as P.J. Proby’s version of Niki Hoeky is, was and will forever remain, you just can’t see records as wild, undisciplined and rough around the edges as this one – especially ones that insist on sneaking in words like “copasetic” – ever playing in Peoria.

83.  We’ll Sing in the Sunshine
Gale Garnett
For all who feel that the folk music of the early ‘60s could often get ponderous and take itself too seriously, try this one on for size; a minor folk hit from the Summer of ’64 that was simple and breezy, which had no political viewpoint, and which dared engage the soul as much as it did the mind. Composed and sung by a true one-hit wonder, a young New Zealand troubadour named Gale Garnett, We’ll Sing in the Sunshine remains not only one of the greatest folk songs and one of the great summer songs ever written. It remains, regardless of the decade, one of the finest pop singles our generation has ever known.

84.  Fools Rush In
Rick Nelson
Ricky Nelson, as he was known then, was looked down upon by many fellow musicians and others in the industry, believing that as Ozzie Nelson’s kid he was given not only the best songs, but the best sidemen with whom to play them.  And that he forged a career based less on musical talent than musical connections. That may be true, but it fails to give Nelson any credit for the remarkable things he did bring to the table. Matinee idol looks and boy-next-door warmth and humanity aside, the man had a stunning ear and appreciated the often subtle difference between musically good and musically great. What’s more, long before the whole incestuous Laurel Canyon thing, when pop, rock, folk and country all seemed to jump into bed together and come out all hip and California-sounding, Nelson had not only pioneered that confluence of styles, he drove the damn train.  And with this single, a countrified version of a Johnny Mercer-penned Great American Songbook standard, released as a 45 with James Burton’s stunning and extended guitar solo intact (but a solo later crudely edited by the label to keep the song at around two minutes), Rick Nelson’s legacy was forever cemented as a guy who was playing California Country at a time when musical acts like the Eagles, the Byrds, Crosby, Stills and Nash, the Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons were still puttering around on training wheels.

85.  Johnny Get Angry
Joanie Sommers
A song so wrong on so many levels, yet one that remains one of the most unique and unforgettable singles of the ‘60s. Sung by the onetime Pepsi Girl, who when she wasn’t churning out dreamy, “I’m in love” ‘50s-style ballads and show tunes, was moonlighting doing soft drink ads and coyly enticing Boomers everywhere by sweetly whisper-singing, “Come alive. You’re in the Pepsi generation.” But between the eerie, minor key piano that opens this amazing 45, its odd lyrics and not even thinly veiled sado-masochistic subject matter, all delivered by a girl-next-door type, and, of course, its inimitable kazoo solo (and I guess I’ve always wanted to believe that’s Sommers playing the thing) I have always been — much like a train wreck, I suppose — just as much appalled by this record as I am inescapably drawn to it.

86.  Things I’d Like to Say
New Colony Six
A beautiful and lushly arranged nugget by a former grunge/garage outfit from Chicago’s northwest suburbs subsequently cleaned up, toned down, and transformed into a pop band any teenage girl would be proud to bring home to mom and dad.  But what made this one special has always been its stunning, almost sublime piano outro, a lilting postscript to an already fabulous recording.  And while this one has always been a favorite of mine, and like so many others my age from Maine to Colorado, I first came to know it through Chicago AM superpowers WLS and WCFL (and their combined 100,000 watts of clear channel nighttime magic), honesty compels me to admit I’m not sure it would have made this list without those indelible few seconds of piano and their ability to stop me dead in my tracks. With them, however, this 45’s inclusion here, even at this lofty position, was a slam-dunk.

87.  Darlin’
Beach Boys
In 1966, the Beach Boys released their vaunted and much-ballyhooed single, Good Vibrations, which subsequently shot to #1, sold a kajillion copies and rewrote pop culture history for the cost, intricacy and lavishness of its production. But truth be told, the following year the Wilson brothers’ band released three sides, none of which would crack the Top Ten, but all of which turned out to be better songs; Wild Honey, Heroes and Villains, and this beauty, which was shipped to stations a week before Christmas and which hit the charts the first week of ‘68.  And while I loved all three, and still do, I’ll take Darlin’ on the strength of its remarkable lead vocals by the baby of the Wilson family. Because of all the Beach Boys’ evocative and now trademark voices, Carl Wilson’s is the one that moved me then and still moves me to this day. And Carl’s gently straining instrument is the one Beach Boy voice that, as great as it may be in harmony, somehow seems to sound even better when stripped bare and left all alone and unadorned.

88.  Everybody is a Star
Sly and the Family Stone
In the summer of ‘69, Sly Stone wrote and released what turned out to be the Mason-Dixon Line of his career (and perhaps life). It was not an album, but a two-sided single, with both sides marketed to DJs as the A-side. On one side was Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin).  This beauty was on the other. And the contrast between the two was staggering. The former was edgy, slightly dark and unabashedly funky. And it pointed to a whole new direction for not just R&B, but Sly himself. The other, meanwhile, was the very antithesis of funk. It was melodic and harmonious, and represented a part of Stone that had always caused him to be embraced as much by white audiences as black ones.  In fact, for a very brief time early in his career the music he created was, much like the band he formed, an almost perfect bland of black and white. The often-harsh divide between those worlds, however, would begin to grow and manifest itself with this release. To wit; while one side of this landmark 45 would serve as a guiding light for every soul and funk practitioner from George Clinton, Rick James and Prince to Run DMC, Mos Def and Snoop Dogg, the other would become the theme for my Senior Prom.

89.  Wonderful Night
Honey Bees
The staggering number of genuinely terrific sides that flowed out of the tiny studios up and down the halls and floors of the Brill Building in the early ‘60s still blows my mind.  And amid not just that sheer tonnage of vinyl, but the last remnants of payola, the fierce competition for air time, and the politics behind what found its way into a station’s rotation and what didn’t, hundreds if not thousands of great 45s simply fell by the wayside and never saw the light of day.  This one’s no better or worse than so many of those other non-hits, but it is emblematic of just how many great songs from that pre-Beatle era of American pop we never got a chance to hear. So consider this one’s place on this jukebox largely symbolic. And inasmuch, it calls to mind the scene in Hoosiers right before the state championship when Coach Dale asks his kids following his pregame pep talk if they had anything to add to what’s already been said, and one of his players, Merle, tells his teammates simply, “Let’s win this for all the small schools that never got a chance to get here.”

90.  Witchi Tai To
Jim Pepper
You know how kids put an open palm to each side of their head and motion with fingers splayed while pulling their hands away abruptly and making a puffing, burst-of-wind sound with their cheeks, as if their heads were exploding? That’s exactly how I felt when I first heard this single in the summer of ‘69. Pepper had been a part-Kaw, part-Creek Native American kid who’d grown up in Portland wanting in the worst way to become a jazz saxophonist. So he eventually moved to L.A., and then New York, and started hanging out in jazz clubs, soaking up all he could, and trying to emulate the great players he met and watched play. But it never really clicked for him. So one day Ornette Coleman pulled the young man aside and told him, “Son, just play what you know.” Pepper eventually returned to Portland and made a conscious effort to try to incorporate the music and traditions of his heritage into his playing.  And while this example of that (based on an a traditional chant taught to him by his grandfather honoring the mind-expansive powers of peyote) never became a huge hit for Jim Pepper, it made an indelible impression on my young brain and remains to this day one of my favorite examples of musical fusion ever recorded.


Desert Island Jukebox: My 300 Favorite 45s from the 1960s (Part 7 of 10)

September 8, 2014

I look around and realize that my keyboard and I are heading into the home stretch. Part 7 of 10 is now in the books. For those of you, perhaps, new to this list of my 300 favorite singles of the ’60s, please keep in mind, this is not intended to be anyone’s idea of […]

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Desert Island Jukebox: My 300 Favorite 45s of the 1960s (Part 6 of 10)

August 14, 2014

As I was working on the segment below I began reflecting on the biggest pop stars and names of the 60s that, for whatever reason, failed to make the cut. And when I thought about it, made some notes and did some research, I was somewhat surprised to see I had excluded the following five […]

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R.I.P. — Dick Wagner

August 6, 2014

Let’s take a moment today to remember Dick Wagner – maybe the single greatest anonymous guitarist in the history of rock ‘n roll – who passed away a few days ago after a long battle with heart disease.  In 1974, Wagner, a kid from Michigan who cut his teeth in an early incarnation of Alice […]

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Desert Island Jukebox: My 300 Favorite 45s of the 1960s (Part 4 of 10)

July 15, 2014

As this list grows I become more aware of some of the great songs that didn’t make the cut. Perhaps I’ll do a post at some point down the road of the best of the rest. Regardless, please enjoy Part 4 of my personal favorite 300 singles from, if not the greatest, then at least […]

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Remembering Minnie Riperton

July 12, 2014

Tonight in Los Angeles a handful of musicians will perform a tribute concert to the late Minnie Riperton, who died of breast cancer on this day 35 years ago. To most, Riperton was simply the one-hit wonder who in 1975 hit #1 on the pop charts with the self-penned “Lovin’ You” – which, much like […]

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Desert Island Jukebox: My 300 Favorite 45s of the 1960s (Part 3 of 10)

June 30, 2014

The third of ten installments of 30 songs for inclusion on one man’s imaginary Desert Island Jukebox, one dedicated to the single most eclectic ten years in pop music history. Desert Island Jukebox: Part 1 Desert Island Jukebox:  Part 2 211.  Ruby Baby Dion 1963 I just love this recording’s swagger. Yet, to be honest, […]

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Desert Island Jukebox: My 300 Favorite 45s of the 1960s (Part 2 of 10)

June 16, 2014

The second installment of the 300 pop singles released between 1960 and 1969 I’d want to have with me on a desert island; where, god willing, I’d find a jukebox with a set of speakers the size of palm trees.  (And, to all you nitpickers, just in case you were wondering or were planning on […]

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Desert Island Jukebox: My 300 Favorite 45s of the 1960s (Part 1 of 10)

June 10, 2014

Look, I’ve always prided myself on having somewhat eclectic taste in music.  But as cool as I have always tried to be, I gotta be honest, when it comes to music I’m really a nerd, if not a stone cold one. I’m the kind of geek, after all, who grew up kneeling at the altar […]

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