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

by M.C. Antil on September 30, 2014

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
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

61. Pay You Back With Interest
Among the mysteries of my lifetime: time travel, eternity, supercolliders, the acting career of 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 little two and a half minute exercise in raw emotion and unflinching honesty was a great recording of a terrific song.  But I never knew just 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
A study in contrasts; the verses, minimal, driven by a fuzzy bass line, and sung Elvis style; and the choruses, unbridled, joyful, and fueled by an odd mix of a penny-whistle and double-tracked vocals that are anything but cool. In fact, they’re ebullient. But the highlight of this pop diamond (written, oddly enough, by Artie Kornfeld, who in three years would make history as one of the three promoters of the original Woodstock) has always been near the end, when its Cavalry-charge of a coda kicks in, and (this sounds funny even as I write it) the penny-whistle rolls up its sleeves and St. Peter’s double-tracked vocals find a higher gear. Meanwhile, all we lovers of this soaring little gem can do is drop everything, turn our heads toward all that joyous noise, and then follow it like the 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
Cyran’ Shames
Take your pick; either this shimmering original of a Tony Hatch gem by the Searchers, 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 once sprang, Hatch proved once again he is one of greatest (and most criminally overlooked) pop tunesmiths of our lifetime.

66.  Sandy
Ronny and the Daytonas
A song that feels as though it had been rattling around 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 that she became dear friends with Brian Jones. 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 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 his pre-Boss days when he was all full of youthful spit and vinegar, and when he and his 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 jukebox I realized over the years that I’d, oddly enough, developed a deep affection for ‘60s-era dance songs. And I know that since three such songs earned conspicuously high places on this list; the second being this almost criminally overlooked Smokey and his Miracles hit. But even though many would never immediately think of Mickey’s Monkey as a shining moment in Motown history, consider: During the famed Motown Revue era, when 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 hits, of all the songs in the Motown catalog, this was the one Berry Gordy chose to close every show.  And even Robinson would later admit this early 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 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 just-picked sweet corn from some 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 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 and friends played cards, noshed and kibitzed around the table – he was as simple and uncomplicated as a man could come. And sure, this one would no doubt earn a place on this list on merit alone.  But it gets extra credit as the one song the man who, in his eternal pursuit of life’s simple joys became my role model, used to whistle more than any other. 

73.  Mrs. Bluebird
Eternity’s Children
Some ten years later Mississippi boy Bruce Blackman would have much better luck with his next band.  That next band, Starbuck, and its first single — Moonlight Feels Right — actually hit, in part because Bruce and his mates drove from station to station all across the South and personally asked DJ’s to play it.  The same, alas, cannot be said of his previous band’s biggest single, not to mention its best shot at the brass ring. That Blackman composition, a tune built on an infectious melody and some almost celestial harmonies, was in many ways a perfect song for its time, a delicious mix of folk, psychedelia and sunshine pop that had the ability to crawl into your ear and not leave. But beyond some middling chart success in a handful of large markets, the single went nowhere.  Regardless, Mrs. Bluebird remains yet another hidden gem in an era during which hidden gems seemed as plentiful as jello molds, rabbit ears, and VW Beetles.

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
Most likely assumed that, in Radar Love, with its reference to the car radio playing “some forgotten song,” Golden Earring was being coy and poking gentle fun at this dusty relic. But I knew better. I knew what a great song “Brenda Lee’s Coming on Strong” was. And I sensed those four Dutch kids were being sincere in giving Lee’s sadly forgotten 45 a much-deserved opportunity to take a curtain call and (just maybe) be discovered by a new generation of listeners. And I knew too, had I thought of it, what a great piece of traveling music Coming on Strong was, especially if you were driving all night, your “hands wet on the wheel.”  Because as a kid I owned this little number on vinyl and used to play the hell out of it over and over again. That’s why, when I saw Golden Earring at the London’s Rainbow Theatre in the Fall of 1974, and walked out after with a tee shirt tucked under my arm, my sense was I wasn’t the only one in the crowd with a Top Ten hit rattling around his brain as he stepped into the cold, damp night. Only it wasn’t Golden Earring’s first Top Ten single up there 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 composition, 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 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 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 would 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 insistence that, as producer, his name be listed among a song’s composers, although his input, as great as it was, was in the studio, not as its composers sat in a cubicle, hunched over a piano, and staring at a blank sheet of paper. But that’s why I love this 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 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 the decade when the Wall of Sound was deemed quaint, if not 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. Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)
Frank Wilson
In the Carolinas, there’s a brand of music called Beach Music.  And, no, Beach Music does not mean surf songs or Beach Boy tunes.  Beach Music is a light and billowy brand of 60’s soul that drives preppies crazy, works like catnip on young, gently over-served girls clad in Docksiders and pearls, and revolves almost exclusively around the singular joy of dancing and smiling at the same time. As such, the grandaddy of all Beach tunes is Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy by the Tams.  Now, to wrap your brain around a similar cult at the heart of which also lies 60’s soul, take everything I just wrote about Beach Music, transfer it to the North of England, turn the preppies into working class kids, and take whatever was light and billowy about the former and roughen it just a smidge.  What you have left is an 80’s phenomenon knows as Northern Soul.  Yet, the two cults on the opposite of the pond share at least one common thread.  The idea that both have, to this day, a single bellwether song, one that when played loudly can wake the dead and draw them onto the dance floor.  In the case of the former, it’s a 1968 regional hit by the Tams.  In the latter, it’s a single — a complete non-hit — written and performed (but never released broadly) by an in-house Motown producer who in 1965, and in a moment of almost divine inspiration, recorded one of the most joyous and danceable songs in the history of the pop charts. 

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 great soul recordings, 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 behind the beat like Deputy Droop-a-Long, shuffling along all slow and easy at the pace of paint drying. And couple Hawkins’ laid-back groove with the tight, bouncy harmonies of the singers. The juxtaposition is intoxicating. And while this Dan Penn/Spooner Oldham tune 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 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.  And that he forged a career based less on musical talent than musical connections. That may be true, but it fails to give Nelson credit for the remarkable things he did bring to the table. Matinee idol looks and boy-next-door 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 the sack together and come out all hip and California-sounding, Nelson had not only pioneered that confluence of styles, he drove the train.  And with this single, a countrified version of a Johnny Mercer/Great American Songbook standard, released as a 45 with James Burton’s stunning 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 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 hard rocking garage band from Chicago’s northwest suburbs. The New Colony Six were in time cleaned up, toned down, and transformed into a pop band, any teenage girl would be proud to bring home to meet mom and day.  But what made this recording special has always been its stunning, almost sublime piano outro, a lilting postscript to an already fabulous 45.  And while this one has always been a favorite, 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 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, 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. 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.  Darlin’ was shipped to stations a week before Christmas in ’67 and 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’ signature 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. It was not an album, but a two-sided single, with both sides marketed 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 could not have been more profound. 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 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 brief time early in his career the music he created was, much like the band he led, an almost perfect blend 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 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.

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