Desert Island Jukebox: My 300 Favorite 45s from the 1960s (Songs 26 through 30)

by M.C. Antil on December 15, 2014

Twist Part 10OK, slight change of plans. In the course of compiling this list, as well as writing the narratives for each entry, it’s dawned on me that the higher up the list I go the more emotionally connected and/or artistically compelled I am by the entry. As a result, what I once was able to do in a few words, is now taking me considerably more.

Therefore, in the interest of readability and out of respect for your valuable time, I’m changing gears a bit on this 10th and final installment. Rather than listing all 30 songs with the corresponding narratives, I’m going to break those 30 into six groups of five songs each and issue a new post every few days over the next couple of weeks.

This is the first of those.  So rather than Part 10, let’s consider this Part 10a.

As always, please enjoy and feel free to comment, share, or toss rotten tomatoes in my general direction. But if you do comment, share or pick up a rotten piece of fruit, please remember this is no one’s idea of the greatest 300 singles of the 1960s. What this is, however, is a rundown of my 300 favorite singles from that decade — the most musically compelling ten year stretch of my life — and the 300 tunes that were not only released as 45s, but which after all these years still somehow manage to stir my soul.


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
Desert Island Jukebox: Songs 11 thru 15
Desert Island Jukebox: Songs 6 thru 10
Desert Island Jukebox: Songs 1 thru 5

26. Ain’t That Peculiar
Marvin Gaye
Smokey Robinson and The MiraclesAfter touring Europe for the first time, Miracles guitarist Marvin Tarplin came back to Detroit with a simple three chord riff he had picked up over there; a basic but wildly infectious harmonic progression he simply could not get out of his head and one he kept noodling with. So when he got home, he took it to his band’s leader and head songwriter Smokey Robinson, played those three chords for him, and told Robinson “There’s a song in here somewhere.” Tarplin, who was always playing around with different chords and riffs, had done the same thing a few months earlier with the three chords upon which Going to a Go-Go was built, and would do it again a few months later with a guitar lick Robinson would develop into Tracks of My Tears. But this is the Marv Tarplin-inspired song that earns a spot on this jukebox, because for my money no song in pop music history – and I know this will sound like a bold statement, but I’m serious when I say it – is built on a more driving, contagious, joyful and rapturous three chord sequence. I stand in awe at the power of those three little chords and their ability to defy anyone and everyone within earshot, regardless of who or where they are, to not to want to get up and dance. In fact, at my funeral someday rather than playing some sappy, maudlin or melancholy pop tune, some old Celtic dirge, or some winsome, teary ballad, do me a favor. Instead, just play this diamond of long-lost soul gem (which, now that I think about it, I first bought as a 13 year old in 1969 on 125th Street in Harlem) and play it just slightly louder than you think you should. And if people want to get up and dance right then and there, well…let ‘em. Because I guess, now that I think of it, that’s exactly how I hope everyone reading this will someday remember me.

27. If I Needed Someone
George HarrisonFor all their greatness as a band, and all the amazing music they left us, honesty compels me to admit the Beatles’ canon includes a surprising number of vastly overrated rock songs. It’s as though anything the band ever did still gets viewed through certain critics’ and fans’ prisms, deemed heaven-sent and, therefore, considered worthy of deification. How is it, then, that over the years one of the greatest Beatle songs ever has managed to slip through the cracks to such an alarming degree it’s actually become underrated? As Robert Wuhl’s character in “Bull Durham” might have said, “It’s a miracle.” Yet, that’s exactly what’s happened to this stunning but largely forgotten gem. Written by George Harrison, who sings lead and plays its jangling, if not celebratory electric 12-string, the song is a delicious study in false cool and paper-thin male bravado. A guy meets a girl one night, goes home, carves her number on his wall, and then tells her maybe he’ll call her? C’mon, pal. Who you kiddin’? Anyway, while I have no overwhelming personal connection to this long-lost Harrison gem, I will go to my grave believing it is the veritable Cinderella of the Beatles’ catalogue. While decidedly ordinary Fab Four fare like Hey Jude, Yesterday, Let it Be, and Nowhere Man prance off to the ball like a bunch of homely stepsisters hoping to catch the prince’s eye, the most amazing and beautiful of the family has somehow left been left behind to clean the house. Believe me, this one is not this high on this list because I’m grading on a curve. This one is here because George Harrison’s magnificent and coolly detached If I Needed Someone is, quite simply, the Beatle song I now deem most worthy of the prince’s hand in marriage.

28. Victoria
Photo of KINKS and Ray DAVIESWhile rock ‘n roll has never had any shortage of pious, passionate and deeply affected (and, to be fair, affecting) social observers, it’s often come up woefully short when it comes to good old fashioned satirists. Thank god then for Ray Davis, the wittiest, most acid-tongued and sharpest social satirist rock (if not music in general) has ever known. Hell, they could probably teach entire master classes in irony using only Sunny Afternoon and Father Christmas, two Davies love/hate songs that show an understanding of (and deep affection for) Britain’s working and downtrodden class, even as they’re ramming a skewer through the heart of it. Yet of all Davies’ causticly funny yet socially aware songs, this little 1969 non-hit (#62 on the charts) off the Kinks’ concept album Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) is the best. A young, poor, working class slob (and a guy I suppose, at least to an extent, like Davies himself) offers hosannas to his beloved England, its privileged monarchy, and haughty traditions, even as he wallows in his own grim realty, austere conditions, Victorian attitudes and inbred lack of social mobility. And just about my favorite part of any rock song ever recorded is this one’s final verse, during which that poor slob starts rattling off a checklist of his motherland’s colonies and territories, places that once spanned the four corners of the globe (as in “the sun never sets on the British Empire”). And as he’s doing that, as those place names keep getting ticked off one by one in pounding, rhyming and rhythmic fashion, Dave Davies’ guitar starts chugging harder and harder, while various and random background voices pop up and begin howling, louder and louder and each time somehow achieving a higher and even more rapturous level of national pride and celebration. It is an amazing musical moment from a song that has become the poster child for thinking man’s rock ‘n roll. In fact, at that very moment is when you realize that, just maybe, if there was ever any part of any rock song in history specifically meant to be played loud enough to wake the dead, this may be it. Look, I admit; Ray Davies probably never could have written A Day in the Life, Gimme Shelter, Baba O’Reilly or Stairway to Heaven. But don’t kid yourself. Name the British songwriting great – John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Keith Richard, Peter Townsend, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, whoever – it doesn’t matter. Give that guy from his 18th birthday ‘til this side of forever and I promise you, try as he may, he will never come up with anything even close to this.

29. Ask the Lonely
Four Tops
Levi StubbsLike so many high school-age men throughout history, there were no two ways about it; I was ruled in those days by some combustible combination of heart and gut. And of all the emotions I felt, no two were any more powerful than the twin towers of lust and heartache. Hell, in high school and the first two years of college I suppose if I could have somehow harnessed the sheer tonnage of what I felt of those two savagely raw and seemingly bottomless emotions, I could have generated enough power to light a small city. And no singer in my lifetime ever communicated those two hallmarks of the adolescent experience any better than the Four Tops’, Levi Stubbs. In Bernadette, the man’s powerful, brawny and slightly jagged baritone captures the very essence of lust, longing, and the kind of physical, almost feral craving a young man can have for a woman in way that can still send chills down my spine. And as for heartache, well, all I can say is that in this one two and a half minute recording – one of the most unjustly overlooked singles in Motown’s long and glorious history – Stubbs’ savagely raw and resonant instrument doesn’t just convey loneliness and the gnawing pain of lost love and solitary despair. For a young man whose first and only love has up and decided to abandon him for the promise of someone new, it crawls inside his brain and becomes those things.

30. Soul Coaxing
Raymond Lefevre
Soul CoaxingI have no specific recollection of the news. I only remember it wasn’t good. My dad, who at the time was a fledgling sales rep, and who at least in matters of business always seemed to be swimming upstream, had just received a phone call that said something he clearly hoped for wasn’t going to happen. I was 13. I saw the deep disappointment on his face and watched as an unseen weight seemed to form on his shoulders. He then slowly took his keys off the hook, left through the side door, got in his car and drove away. An hour or so later when he returned, I’ll never forget that this little gem was blasting on his radio as he pulled in the drive. I was shooting baskets out back. Then – and this image will remain with me forever – he flashed a big, warm smile, stuck a massive paw out the driver’s side window and gave me a big, solid thumbs up, his signature gesture and one that spoke volumes, telling me, at least until the next time, everything was going to be OK. Somehow, even in the worst of times, this remarkable man who flat-out refused to let life’s hiccups bring him down, always managed to keep the wind squarely in his sails. And I’d like to think of all the things I ever learned from the guy, none was more important than that. So this entry is here not only because it’s a melodic and vastly underappreciated sliver of pop history, but because Soul Coaxing, a fringy ‘60s instrumental by a little known orchestra leader from France named Raymond Lefevre, remains just about the greatest wind-in-your-sails song I’ve ever known in my life.

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