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

by M.C. Antil on 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; the jukebox will be solar powered.)

Enjoy.  And to find Part 1 of my ’60s-vintage Desert Island Jukebox, just click the link below.

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

241.  I Live for the Sun
For all we know, they had the collective talent of a gerbil. And, God knows, they ripped off the Beach Boys right down to the striped shirts and haircuts. Heck, they even briefly found themselves protégés of Murray Wilson after Brian, Carl and Dennis canned the old man. But when you’re nine and living in a place that gets ten feet of snow a year and is populated by those for whom clouds have settled in comfortably behind death and taxes, when you turn on your transistor and hear a joyous song built almost exclusively around the word sun, believe me, somehow all that other stuff quickly starts to melt away.

242.  Yes, I’m Ready
Barbara Mason
One of the earliest examples of the lush, melodic sound that TSOP founders and high masters Thom Bell, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff used to dominate the airwaves in the early 70s. In all honesty, though, I’m not sure what I love more about this chestnut; Mason’s coquettish vocal work or the fact that, at a time when young ingénues all over the country were waiting at home for someone to write them a hit, this talented little lady sat down at the piano one day and wrote herself one.

243.  Walking in the Rain
The fact that during its day yet another pop gem was able to rise no higher than some middling place on the charts (#23, in this case) speaks to one of two things; either how clueless we were about great music, or how rich the competition was. Truth be told, it was probably a little of both. Regardless, this gem, on the basis of its perfect (and exquisitely timed) sound effects, holds the distinction of earning the only Grammy a Phil Spector recording ever won (for sound engineering), and it remains to this day one of those dusty old hits whose greatness has a way of escaping those of a certain age – until, that is, those of that certain age actually sit down and listen to it.

244.  You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice
Lovin’ Spoonful
The Spoonful were, without question, my favorite band. And while I never turned to them for “beautiful” songs, I do remember regularly listening to DJs on my parents’ station referring to “beautiful music” and giving station IDs about theirs being the “home of beautiful music.” When I’d hear that, I’d always think to myself…C’mon, those songs are OK, but they aren’t any more beautiful than This Boy, Hey Girl, Catch the Wind or this amazing little sliver of jingle-jangle magic.

245.  I Go to Pieces
Peter and Gordon
A little gem that composer Del Shannon tried unsuccessfully to convince the Searchers to record while backstage together on a tour of Australia. It was during Shannon’s backstage pitch to the Searchers, however, that then-unknown singer Peter Asher came upon the rocker playing the tune as he might have recorded it, heard in his ear a slightly Britished up version of it (complete with trademark harmonies), and asked Shannon, “Excuse me, but do you mind if my partner and I have a go at it?”

246.  The Mountain’s High
Dick and Dee Dee
One of those songs on the list for which the distance between my personal affinity and public perception remains miles wide and fathoms deep.  But I refuse to apologize for the extent to which I continue to embrace this long-forgotten hit or hold fast in my belief it is still one of the freshest, most original recordings ever made. Yet I know many music geeks who refuse to see The Mountain’s High as anything more than just another piece of early 60s ear candy from which the Brits were sent here to liberate us. Hardly. Do yourself a favor. Listen to this slightly off-kilter, deliciously muddy production with an open mind and an honest heart and consider the possibility it it is not merely a great recording, it one of the most unexpected and criminally under-appreciated singles in pop history.

247. Rock and Roll Woman
Buffalo Springfield
There was a time I was sure Stephen Stills was the single most talented and creative force in all of rock ‘n roll. Now, I’m not even sure he was the most dominant force in his own band.  But that’s hardly the point. By 1969 Stills had assembled an eclectic body of songs (including his first solo album, which hit the stores in 1970) that blew me away in that it was more original, tasteful, tuneful and musically compelling than anything any normal 24-year old kid had a right to produce.  Plus, if you’d ever seen him live during that era (I first saw him in ‘74), you’d realize he was at least in the discussion for the title Greatest Guitar Player on the Planet.

248.  He’s the Kind of Boy You Can’t Forget
The Raindrops were really just budding Tin Pan Alley hit-maker Ellie Greenwich being double-tracked while singing a handful of her own compositions, accompanied by her songwriting partner and soon-to-be husband Jeff Barry, whose sole job, it seems, was to add some nonsense bass notes.  And while the duo wrote and had a hand in producing better and far more significant sides than this one, it is still an evocative little recording that contains some delicious moments and at least one or two breath-taking chord changes.

249.  Never Gonna Find Another Love
Five kids from my hometown calling themselves the Sermon came this close to the brass ring in 1970 when Kama Sutra bought the rights to two local chart-toppers in two B-level markets (the Sermon went to #1 in Syracuse, while The Rapper by Donnie Iris did the same in his native Pittsburgh). But why the boys’ dreams stayed forever beyond their grasp is, alas, another story for another time. What matters is that their one shot at Top 40 fame and glory somehow developed an ability over the years to transport at least one former fan to a simpler place and time, because on those rare occasions when the now-grown kid from Syracuse’s West Side got a chance to actually hear the band’s one and only hit – especially the hauntingly beautiful vocal arrangement of its equally hypnotic fade – he couldn’t help but smile and recall those gentle days when life seemed to teem with possibility and when, above all, the promise of love always seemed to linger just a slow dance away.

250.  Hooked on a Feeling
B.J. Thomas
I was honored to learn a while back that B.J. Thomas had become a follower on Twitter. I’m hoping now that Mr. Thomas – if he ever happens upon this post and discovers that, of all the hit 45s from the 60s that could have found a home on my imaginary jukebox, his crisply produced and magnificently interpreted (not to mention ooga chuka-free) little Top Ten pearl (with its electric sitar) from the fall of ‘68 actually made the cut – might somehow feel even a fraction of a feeling he once made possible in me.

251.  Theme from “A Summer Place”
Percy Faith
Most don’t realize that this homage to summer romance was written not by Faith, but by Hollywood composer Max Steiner, whose scores included both Gone With the Wind and King Kong. What Faith did write was this arrangement, as well as conduct the orchestra that played this version, which subsequently went to #1 on the pop charts.  And while Faith’s arrangement is otherwise unremarkable, at least that is until the bridge leading into the song’s third and final verse, it is in the song’s last verse that it changes key in dramatic fashion and starts operating on a more emotionally involving level. In fact, the song’s staccato violin and French horn-fueled key change before the third verse could literally send shivers down my spine and make the hair rise on the back of my neck — even as a kid,  And, truth be told, I’m not sure the thing has ever once failed to do so since.

252.  The In Crowd
Dobie Gray
For many a music geek coming of age in the ‘60s, being part of an “in” crowd probably seemed like a foregone conclusion – until, of course, all alone on a Saturday night you looked around and considered the possibility that, just maybe, life held for you a sobering alternative. And while Gray would go on to have a much bigger hit a few years later with Drift Away, and Ramsay Lewis would ride soon his jazzy instrumental version to an even loftier position on the charts, this brash little version of The In Crowd is the version I loved, and this is the song of Dobie Gray’s that I never got sick of hearing – and, in fact, would often find myself reaching for the volume knob every time it came on.

253.  Morning Girl
Neon Philharmonic
Here’s your assignment: take a moment and search the name, “Tupper Saussy.”  (Seriously, that’s a name.) Then be prepared to lean forward and start digging deeper and being blown away. I promise, at some point you’ll ask yourself, “How have they not made a movie about this guy’s life?” Pop songwriter, classical composer, Top 40 hit-maker, painter, actor, playwright, successful ad man, educator, best-selling author, Nashville sideman, editor, political reporter, self-taught economist, Federal Reserve and IRS abolitionist, wanted man by the FBI, ten-year fugitive, federal prisoner, and on and on – not to mention, of course, father and husband. But for purposes of this list, in 1969 Tupper Saussy wrote and recorded one of the coolest pop tunes to ever hit the airwaves, a hit that, like its composer – and as great as it was – ended up leaving you with more questions than answers.

254.  I Got a Line on You
Instead of this long lost little nugget, let’s talk about its composer, Randy Wolfe, a guitar-playing, 60’s-era hippie straight out of Central Casting (right down to the deliciously spot-on stage name he would adopt). But why Randy California was still making headlines years after drowning off the coast of Hawaii was because of two his songs that Spirit had played on two different tours with an up-and-coming British blues band named Led Zepplin. Those songs, Taurus and Fresh Garbage, eventually served as the core of a copyright lawsuit filed by his estate. And though Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, et al, would eventually prevail in the suit, to this day you simply cannot listen to the two halves of Stairway to Heaven and not hear faint echos of those two otherwise unknown California compositions.


255.  Girl Don’t Come
Sandie Shaw
This turned out to be the toughest of these 300 intros to write because I’m not sure why this fringy little hit is even here. But I know this; none of these other 299 songs is any more reflective of its time or place. What’s more, you simply cannot hear this one now and fully appreciate just how perfectly it mirrored the swinging and style-obsessed London of 007, Twiggy and the XKE. One needed to have heard it in 1965, when it was released; to have known almost intuitively what the term mod meant; to have had visions of Carnaby Street, Beatle boots, unisex haircuts, feathered fedoras, walking sticks, wide stripes and bold colors dancing in your head; and to have laid in the darkness of your bedroom 3,000 miles away, listening all alone as Sandie Shaw — singing barefoot, as always — drifted out of a tiny speaker, accompanied only by your imagination and the warm glow of the tubes of your radio.

256. Only the Strong Survive
Jerry Butler
Emotionally anyway, a worthy companion piece for the Four Seasons’ Walk Like a Man.  This little Gamble and Huff-penned beauty about picking yourself up and dusting yourself off comes from the suave and eternally cool Butler (known to his friends as the “Iceman”) and remains his biggest seller ever.  But why it’s here and why this soul chestnut is important to me as a self-taught music buff is because while it received plenty of air play in its day, and I never grew tired of it, it was one of two songs to open my eyes (Fontella Bass’ somewhat played out Rescue Me being the other) to the musically transformative power of an element of pop music greatness that I had never known existed; the driving, melodic and slightly brash bass line.

257.  Hippy Hippy Shake
Swinging Blue Jeans
I can’t explain it, but from the very first time I heard this song over a half century ago I fell in love with it. However, it would be years before I would learn that this rocking little-engine-that-could overcame mountainous odds to achieve its small but lasting place on the mantel of pop history. Written by a part Cherokee/part Apache/part Mexican/part Irish teenage kid who at the time was an Elvis Presley wanna-be, a first-time songwriter from, of all places, Montana, the record became an even more unlikely success when it was subsequently discovered, recorded and released by a D-list former skiffle outfit from England that one time featured a washboard, a banjo, and an oil drum bass.

258.  I Remember You
Frank Ifield
The fact that I’m the biggest Johnny Mercer fan you know is not germane to our discussion.  What is important is the fact that years ago, Mercer – who had always been a devoted family man – strayed for the one and only time in his life, succumbing to the charms of that notorious man-eater, Judy Garland. But one day the serial heartbreaker up and dropped Mercer cold. Devastated, he used his pain to compose two of the finest songs of lost love ever written; a smoky, melancholy, end-of-the-bar number (One For My Baby), and a loving, resigned and reflective one (I Remember You).  And in the latter, which was slightly countrified and released as a single in ‘62 by yodeling Brit, Frank Ifield, Mercer crafted of the most tender sentiments one ex-lover could ever express about another, and a line that still gets me every time: “When my life is through and the angels ask me to recall the thrill of them all, I will tell them I remember you.”

259.  Ride My See Saw
Moody Blues
One night years ago, my buddy Matt and I were sitting on a small wooden bench on the tip of Skaneateles Lake, sufficiently primed, drinking beer, and methodically working on an enormous block of cheese that had somehow crossed paths with us, when Matt – who I’ll always love for so many reasons, not the least of which is his uncanny knack for bizarre but compelling hypotheticals – said to me, “OK, imagine there are two long speakers running horizontally down the length of each side of the lake. What song would you want to hear right now?” Looking straight ahead into the darkness, I took a sip of beer, cut off a piece of cheese, offered it to him, and responded simply, “Easy…Ride My See Saw.”

260. Under My Thumb
Rolling Stones
Just as I eliminated Feeling Good by Nina Simone on a technicality, I’m going to use a technicality to give this one the spot it deserves. Although never released as a 45 in an English speaking country, this song was released as a single in Japan. And because it was released as both as a single and in the 60s, and because a number of those discs still exist in the world, this one becomes fair game – technically that is. Besides, when you listen to Jagger’s coolly detached, misogynistic vocals, the icy clean nature of Andrew Loog Oldham’s production, and the too-cool-for-school marimba playing of Brian Jones, you realize Under My Thumb is, just maybe, the coolest song the hottest band in the world ever recorded.

261.  Albatross
Fleetwood Mac
It’s ironic that the architect of Fleetwood Mac as a straightforward blues band and its musical conscience throughout its early years, Peter Green, would end up writing and playing lead on this stunning little instrumental and unlikely pop hit. I say ironic because as much as Green tried to steer his mates clear of the mainstream pop so many of his contemporaries were using to conquer the U.S., this one would end up serving as a model for the exact type of song that would help make Fleetwood Mac one of the most commercially successful bands in recording history, while providing a blueprint for the exact kind of infectious, melodic hook every guitarist the band ever employed – from Danny Kirwan and Bob Weston to Bob Welch and, of course, Lindsey Buckingham – would spend virtually every waking moment of every waking day trying to replicate.

262. Go Ahead and Cry
Righteous Brothers
In 1965, having grown tired of Phil Spector’s weirdness, Bill Medley managed to get his contract sold to Norman Granz’s revered jazz label, Verve, where he achieved artistic freedom he never would have under Spector, pop’s most notorious martinet. It was at Verve that Medley, in the role of producer, was able to replicate Spector’s famed Wall of Sound by hiring his arranger and some of his pet musicians and asking them to simply do what they did best. The duo’s biggest blue-eyed soul hit for Verve was Mann & Weil’s Soul and Inspiration, which appears higher on this list. But this largely unknown side, a Medley-original, has always been a favorite and remains a song that, while overwrought in places, finds a higher gear (especially in its final third) and actually manages to out-wall the Wall of Sound.

263. You Beat Me to the Punch
Mary Wells
The star-crossed Wells may have been Motown’s first superstar, but she suffered from bad heath, bad career decisions, bad choices in men, bad luck, and, in the end, a bad, bad, bad, bad, bad heroin habit.  But at Motown early in the decade, the label’s resident Queen of the Minor Key released a handful of fabulous 45s, my favorite of which remains this one – which was not only a cool, understated and subtle recording, but just maybe (and I say this in all due respect and without a whiff of either racism or elitism) the first time in Top 40 history that the urban patois of the times prevailed over the Queen’s English and someone was “axed” to do something.

264.  You’re Gonna Miss Me
13th Floor Elevators
I could probably write chapter and verse about Roky Erickson, the emotionally twisted and almost feral lead singer of the 13th Floor Elevators, by some estimations the world’s first psychedelic garage band (and a group that nearly added Janis Joplin as a second lead singer before she moved to San Francisco). But this is neither time nor the place to go on about the cult legacies surrounding Erickson or the Elevators.  Instead, let’s focus on the group’s only and only hit, which in 1966 became yet another in a stunning array of raw and attitude-laced pre-punk singles, all early garage classics, all released in the span of a few months, and all landing on the pop charts, helping to make ’66 in my mind the greatest year in rock history. But that aside, I simply love the fire and passion of this song; perhaps the only tune in the history of the pop charts to feature as one of its core instruments an amplified jug.

265.  Mama Didn’t Lie
Jan Bradley
In the months leading up to the cultural tsunami otherwise known as the Fab Four’s first Sullivan appearance, there wasn’t much in the way of artistic daring or musical experimentation being plied in the pursuit of Top 40 hits. But amid AM’s seemingly endless supply of girl group melodrama, crossover country, folk earnestness and white boy pledges of love, every once in a while you’d hear something that was, well, different.  This Curtis Mayfield-penned nugget was one such song, a soulful little beauty released on Chicago’s Chess label that made the impresario Chess brothers even further aware that, as Chuck Berry had already pointed out to them, there was often more money to be made in a single mainstream pop hit than all the records and all the revenues a straight blues and R&B artist could generate in a year.

266.  You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
A Lennon-McCartney ballad given a folk treatment (not to mention a beautifully tweaked melody line) that I’ve always loved, and a recording that apparently so excited Lennon (who played producer, while McCartney played rhythm guitar) that after the session he immediately phoned Brian Epstein to tell him he’d just recorded a #1 hit. Unfortunately for the Silkie, four British kids who had just inked a deal with Epstein and for whom the manager was in the process of booking a full U.S. tour (complete with an Ed Sullivan Show appearance), they were each denied work visas, forcing Epstein to cancel every last date (including the Sullivan Show) and killing whatever chance they ever had of becoming anything more than musical footnotes.

267. Jenny Take a Ride
Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels
In scanning this list, I’ve found I’m relying heavily on two particular words (and will no doubt continue to do so, if only because at times no others seem to suffice). When I was growing up in the 60s I aspired to be one of two things (and hopefully both). I, like so many others my age, wanted to grow up to be cool and wanted to have soul. Now to paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart who at that time was, famously, discussing pornography, I’m not sure I could describe either but I sure knew each when I saw it. So today, as I find myself writing about these artists (and their songs), I realize the highest compliment I can pay is to say he (or she, or it) was cool, or had soul. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Mitch Ryder of Detroit, Michigan, by far the single coolest and most soulful interpreter of song the decade ever produced – as well as the only man on this list for whom my two pet words now seem, somehow, woefully inadequate.

268.  Foolish Little Girl
Another early ‘60s, Helen Miller Tin Pan Alley tune, this one co-written with Howard Greenfield, my affinity for Foolish Little Girl did not develop in real time and it was only as I heard it sporadically over the years that I came to appreciate just what a fabulous recording it was. And what I realized drew me most to the song was its evocative quality and ability to transport me back in time, conjuring up images of a less crowded, less cynical, less hurried and less complicated America that as a country (and for all its brashness and forward thinking during the 60s) seemed either incapable or unwilling of cutting ties completely with the safety and certainty of the decade of Ike, the hula hoop and the Davy Crockett hat.

269.  The Tracks of My Tears
Johnny Rivers
Debate all you want about whether or not Rivers was a great artist. What is not subject for debate is the fact that the Italian kid from New York by way of Louisiana had a stunning ear and an uncanny knack for singling out a great pop tune, then covering it in a way that breathed unexpected life into it. Rivers’ re-imagining of the Miracles’ Top 40 hit of a few years prior – complete with strings, flutes, chimes, and of course, some stunning background vocals by Darlene Love and the Blossoms – was an even better recording than Smokey’s original and helped make Rivers’ version of The Tracks of My Tears the bigger hit and an essential (though long-forgotten) part of the often trippy Summer of Love soundtrack.

270. What Becomes of the Broken Hearted
Jimmy Ruffin
For all its greatness, there was a maddening sameness to many of Motown’s most beloved singles.  (That’s why the Marvelettes were so refreshing; because they always sounded just slightly different.) What’s more, so many of the label’s shining stars seemed to float above a song’s lyrics as if they were singing them simply because they were required to sing something. Only Levi Stubbs really appeared to consistently own his lyrics and made you believe them. Which is maybe why I love this recording. Written by three guys who would never do anything else of note for the label, and sung by the older brother of the Temptations’ lead singer (himself a wanna-be who’d been sniffing around the studio for years), this song achieved an emotional depth that few other Motown recordings ever would.  And for that reason, I still cannot hear it without thinking that half a century ago an unknown named Jimmy Ruffin, amid all that star-power at Motown, rose far above his station, reached deep within himself, and gave one of the most heartfelt and emotionally honest vocal performances in the history of the label, if not all of pop music.

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