danceOn this, a special day for me personally — and during this, a most special time of year — we move one step closer to the top five songs on this list and the final installment on my Desert Island Jukebox of ’60s singles.

Enjoy.

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
Desert Island Jukebox: Part 8
Desert Island Jukebox: Part 9
Desert Island Jukebox: Songs 26 thru 30
Desert Island Jukebox: Songs 21 thru 25
Desert Island Jukebox: Songs 16 thru 20

11. Like a Rolling Stone
Bob Dylan
1965
Quite simply, the most important vinyl disc of my lifetime, single or otherwise. An unlikely Top Ten pop hit that many of my generation at one time could point to and say, “You hear that? That cynicism? That anger? And despite all that, that sense of Dylan 2(bleeping) hope? That’s us.” While others could say, “You hear that? That piece of music – that song – the likes of which this (bleeping) world has never known before? Those words? That passion? That sound? That’s the sound of my (bleeping) generation.” Historians can talk about Elvis and the Beatles all they want. But the simple fact is, in music, everything – and I mean everything – changed after Dylan released Like a Rolling Stone in the bone-dry and sweltering summer of ‘65, during which a drought so deep and so crippling gripped the country it threatened to squeeze the life out of it. But then – and this is true – by mistake, and only because they found themselves painted into a corner, the execs at CBS released this epic 6-minute song on 45 (which, given its length, cynical attitude, and in-your-face rock-style production, they first tried to kill altogether and only later begrudgingly split in half and issued as two sides of the same single). And once they did that, but more importantly once DJs all across the U.S. – almost as though compelled by some external force or higher authority – independently, immediately, and with little or no fanfare began transferring those two halves onto one reel, splicing them together and playing the entire thing as recorded, seemingly overnight the whole world began to stand up and take notice. It was almost as though a cool, gentle breeze had swept across the land. And even today, to hear Al Kooper’s powerful opening salvo, that emotionally raw and undisciplined but joyous Dylan 3Hammond B3 organ of his, cascading out your speakers is to feel an echo of that breeze. Bruce Springsteen, who was 15 and in his mother’s car when he first heard Like a Rolling Stone, would later say the moment forever changed his relationship with music, and that just as Elvis freed his body with his songs, with this 45, Dylan freed his mind. Paul McCartney immediately ran his copy over to John Lennon where the two sat and played it over and over, almost in disbelief at not only how seemingly endless and beautiful it was, but how Dylan had just shown the world it was possible to take music even farther. And when Frank Zappa first heard the single on the radio, he actually considered quitting the business. As he would later say: “I felt, if this wins and does what it’s supposed to do, I don’t need to do anything else.” Do yourself a favor. Scroll down and hit play. Listen once again. Let Dylan’s words envelop you. Let Kooper’s organ wash over you. And if only for a moment, let yourself feel that cooling breeze just one more time.

12. When You Walk in the Room
Searchers
1964
A song built on, just maybe, the single most incredible, indelible and overlooked guitar riff in rock history. And I’m not kidding; in fact, not by a long shot. You can have your Smoke on the Water, Satisfaction, You Really Got Me, and Searchersanything (and, frankly, everything) Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Van Halen and their ilk ever dreamed up or laid down. Hell, round up the usual suspects. Beckon all comers, and the harder and more head-banging the better. I don’t care. I really don’t. I’ll put this one up against them all. And I swear to the Almighty – and I’m not simply trying to be a contrarian by saying this – if I had to vote for the single most powerful, hair-raising, full bodied, and alluring guitar riff in all of rock ‘n roll – everything, in other words, you’d expect a song’s signature phrase on electric guitar to be – this song’s would be it. Hell, Bruce Springsteen began playing this tune, live, before Born to Run, and he’s still playing it today. And what’s even better, this fabulous guitar riff wasn’t written by Jimi Hendrix, Ritchie Blackmore, Eric Clapton, Keith Richard or anyone you’d expect. Nope. It was written by Jackie DeShannon. That’s right, little Jackie DeShannon; the pop star born Sharon Lee Myers in Hazel, KY and raised in Batavia, IL; the waifish blonde with the bright eyes and surfer girl good looks who scored Top 40 hits with breezy nuggets like Needles and Pins and Put a Little Love in Your Heart; and the jackie deshannonalluring, occasionally sultry young lady who early in her quietly remarkable career dated (and broke the heart of) – get this – future Zeppelin guitar god, Jimmy Page. But even without its amazing riff, this is just simply a great, great song about loving someone from afar, without letting the world know; a song that utterly crackles with the power and purity of a love that proudly, even defiantly carries no expectations; and a song punctuated by one of the greatest, most alive and emotionally honest lines in any song ever published, one that captures the very essence of love in bloom: “Trumpets sound and I hear thunder boom, every time that you walk in the room.” My friends, may you, yours, and everyone reading this someday know the joy of having someone special feel even a fraction of that.

13. Liar, Liar
Castaways
1965
castaways 2Long before Prince, before the Jayhawks and Paul Westerberg’s Replacements, there were the Castaways, four Gopher-loving rockers from the Twin Cities who in two minutes of proto-punk glory stood pop culture on its ear with one of the greatest garage tunes ever recorded. And that song – this song – had it all; a clipped, piercing, even snarling Farfisa organ, some otherworldly falsetto lead vocals, and a primal scream just before its achingly simple guitar break. But what cemented these four kids’ status as, perhaps, the greatest one-hit-wonders ever is the fact that as a band they came together to play a single frat party, and in the course of one afternoon their keyboardist wrote what turned out to be a timeless rock artifact, if only because he wanted to give his band mates something to play for the college boys beyond the standard covers they’d taught themselves. Those four Minnesotans would eventually learn the keyboardist’s composition well enough to record it (with a throwaway B side) and release it as a single on a Minneapolis label specializing in – what else? – Polka music. Yet even with Liar, Liar’s stunning yet all-too-brief chart success, the Castaways, true to their one-hit wonder status, would never record an album, never ink a major record deal, and never release even one more single that would crack the Top 100, let alone the Top 40.

14. Feelin’ Alright
Joe Cocker
1969
I could write chapter and verse about the greatness of this record. In fact, come to think of it, I already did. But suffice it to say, this scorching version of an otherwise genteel, properly mannered, well-heeled English folk/rock chestnut by Dave Mason for his then-group, Traffic, is one that utterly blew the cover off the very notion of a cover song. You see, every few years an artist will Cockerremake (or cover) an old hit (or near-hit) in a way that breathes new and unexpected life into it. But, never before in my memory had a cover version so eclipsed its source material and so blown it completely out of the water. That was because when he was first hired as arranger, Artie Butler took the Feelin’ Alright’s existing notes, meter, and time signature and completely re-worked them around an up-tempo Latin beat and single F chord. The difference, as they say, was the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. Butler also hired a rhythm section for the song’s two-day session that would consist of two of the best sidemen in L.A. – two masters of improvisation who not only loved jazz, but who played it regularly – bassist Carol Kaye and drummer Paul Humphries. And what Butler handed the two the morning they came into the studio was not a typical detailed and precise pop score, but a jazz chart he had developed, one with only a few chords and some sketchy instructions on where and when to play. The rest was up to them. And when you hear this blistering 45 today, that’s exactly what you realize; you’re listening to a group of ferociously talented jazz cats – led by Butler Feelin Alrighton piano – with the shackles off and in a groove, soaring skyward, and heading whichever direction the mood, the moment and that F chord will take them. Even today, the energy that those few men and women created in that studio that day still crackles. As a result, Cocker has long since commandeered the song from Traffic (and Mason), and done so so utterly and so permanently that these days when you hear a cover of Feelin’ Alright, there’s a good chance you’re not hearing a cover of the Traffic song at all, but of Artie Butler’s subsequent arrangement of it for Cocker – built it around that single, solitary and unmistakable F chord. And even though Cocker’s version rose to no higher than #69 on the pop charts when it was released, it continues to resonate with fans and listeners today – so much so, in fact, that Butler once explained to me he still gets dozens of texts, calls and emails each week from people around the world commenting on it and thanking him for it. As he said in that interview, “The smartest thing I did that day? I didn’t tell (the musicians) what to play. I told them when to play.”

15. It’s Alright
Adam Faith
1965
Faith 2
He was a teen idol’s teen idol; think David Cassidy or Bobby Sherman, only British; as safe as safe could be; the kind of pop star any father would be relieved to have his daughter mooning over. Only Adam Faith was different. The guy had an almost freakish air of maturity about him. As a teen idol, even as he lived at home with his mum and dad, his wont was to wear blazers, sip cognac, and listen to Sinatra. As a result, more that making schoolgirls swoon, he made their mothers do so. What’s more, when he sang he sounded like some distant love child of Buddy Holly and one of those lame crooners like Fabian or Frankie Avalon. But then came 1964, the British invasion, and all that low-hanging fruit in America. So out of the blue, one day Faith went into the studio, let his hair down, and recorded this stunning masterpiece in growling, snarling rock ‘n roll attitude. It was almost as though the guy had become momentarily possessed and gone from an ascot-wearing upper-cruster to head-spinning, pea-soup spitting, cursing, swearing, Catholic priest-hating rock ‘n roll demon. And, perhaps appropriately, this one was subsequently released only in America; not in Faith’s native England, where his Adam Faithhandlers had apparently felt they spent too many years crafting a wholesome, adult image to toss it down the drain. But here it was different. To support this 45 on this side of the pond, Faith wasn’t booked on Bob Hope specials or variety shows, as he might have in England. Instead, he popped up all snarling and trying to be raw and sexy on teen shows like “Shindig” and “Hullaballoo,” and sharing stages with the likes of the Isley Brothers and other rough-hewn R&B acts. Didn’t help. The record didn’t catch fire at all, and stalled out at middling #31 on the charts in January of 1965. After that, he left the U.S. and was never heard from again, at least not here. Didn’t matter though. In his brief 15 minutes, Adam Faith left a mark on U.S. pop culture that lives on, if only faintly; a mark that seared, if not downright scorched its way into more than a few young, impressionable minds in the winter of 1965 – mine, for one, and director Barry Levinson’s, for another. (But rather than getting into that here, do yourself a favor, click on this link and enjoy this little gem in action.)

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Desert Island Jukebox: My 300 Favorite 45s of the 1960s (Songs 16 through 20)

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As one of those ubiquitous AM station IDs at the top of the hour might have bellowed out a lifetime ago, as a tympani thundered in the background…And the hit’s just keep on comin’! Enjoy. Desert Island Jukebox: Part 1 Desert Island Jukebox: Part 2 Desert Island Jukebox: Part 3 Desert Island Jukebox: Part 4 Desert Island Jukebox: […]

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As we inch closer and move up this list of, if not the greatest, than at least one man’s most beloved singles from the decade of the ’60s, below for your consideration please find songs #21 through #25.  And again, I truly hope someday you’ll share with me your list, just as I am sharing with you mine. […]

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Desert Island Jukebox: My 300 Favorite 45s from the 1960s (Part 9 of 10)

November 17, 2014

Nine down, one to go. And please forgive the delay between posts.  It seems the higher up this list I go, the more difficult these narratives are to write. (Not because I don’t have enough to say about each song, but because, in many cases, I have too much.  The hard part, I guess, is determining what to […]

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Desert Island Jukebox: My 300 Favorite 45s from the 1960s (Part 8 of 10)

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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 […]

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

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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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