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

by M.C. Antil on 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 groups (especially the first two, since I really always really liked a number of their songs).

But when I applied my criteria, including which songs I still truly love and which still hold a special place in my heart, which songs I’ve never grown tired of hearing over the years, and which songs haven’t been either played to death by oldies stations or rendered toothless by mass exploitation, I felt much better about the fact that these singers and/or groups simply found themselves on the outside looking in.

So with that – spoiler alert, here – the following are the biggest names from the ‘60s you won’t find anywhere on my jukebox.  (And, like the rest of my exercise in personal taste and memory, please take this with a grain of salt.) 

  • Fifth Dimension
  • Supremes
  • Temptations
  • Bee Gees

Now, on to the next 30.

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

121.  Dead End Street
The song that led me to suspect the Kinks were something more than just another rock band and Ray Davies was not just one more guy churning out pop hits. This one showed me Davies, as much as being a spot-on class observer and gently acidic social satirist, was fronting a band so much cooler than its contemporaries, if only because the Kinks didn’t take themselves as seriously as the Beatles, Stones or Who. Case in point? This one features, of all things, a damn trombone – which, near the end, takes us home by strolling arm-in-arm with a gin house-style piano and some whispered, slightly breathless “yeahs.”  In doing so, the instrument becomes not only hipper than such a stodgy piece of brass deserves to be, but it is only there because the lads apparently got in their cups in a pub the night prior, met a classical trombonist working on a pint at the bar, and after taking a shine to the old bloke, thought it would be fun to have him play on their record the next day.

122.  Our Winter Love
Bill Pursell
I’ve only met one person who’s heard this otherworldly instrumental and said “Ugh.” In every other instance, the reaction has been almost the polar opposite. In fact, it remains startling just how many people, having heard this song for the first time in decades, still feel compelled to remark (often to no one in particular) just how much they love it. There must be something about its chilly, slightly spooky melody, its angelic vibe, and its fragile, if not brittle piano. This unlikely hit from longtime Nashville sideman and music professor Bill Pursell (who I was fortunate enough to befriend) has a terrific backstory, of which I’ve written in detail. But what I continue to love about this buried treasure is the fact that its transcendent ability hasn’t diminished one bit with the passage of time. In fact, as evidenced by all those responses it still manages to trigger, I would aruge it’s quite the opposite.

123.  Walk on By
Dionne Warwick
When you consider the complexity and layered intricacy of so many future Burt Bacharach compositions, what strikes you most about this early gem with Hal David is, at least on the surface, its apparent simplicity.  But then again, to some that’s the very definition of genius; the ability to make something very hard look incredibly easy.

124.  Freddie Scott
Hey Girl
What?  Another long-forgotten nugget on this jukebox from a legendary Brill Building husband-and-wife songwriting team? This one from Gerry Goffin and Carole King?  I’m shocked.  Shocked.

125. Look to Your Soul
Johnny Rivers
This is not so much a great song as it is a great period piece; a pop single reflective of its day and time, when introspection was almost a rite of passage, if not a civic duty for any budding adult searching for higher meaning.  But the reason this one ultimately makes this list is because it’s the 45 that first turned me onto the brilliance of Joe Osborne, just maybe, the most melodic and underappreciated bass player of our lifetime.

126.  Take Five
Dave Brubeck Quartet
I suppose I could make a case that if I wanted to choose the five most reflective pieces of pop culture (be they book, movie, painting, TV show, sculpture, photo, LP or song) that captured the look and feel of the oh-so-brief vortex where the stable and sturdy Eisenhower ‘50s morphed into the volatile but dynamic ‘60s of John Kennedy, this amazing little jazz number, the album that spawned it, and the artwork on the LP’s cover just might be three of those five things.

127.  Hey Joe
Tim Rose
In all deference to Jimi Hendrix’ admittedly terrific cover, I’ll take this seething, white-knuckled version that, somehow, manages to get angrier and angrier with each passing verse. And while the single of Rose’s take on Hey Joe was edited dramatically and lost its first few verses (along with one of its most graphic images; that of a blue-steel 44), I shouldn’t have to remind you that, regardless, it’s not just any handgun we’re talking about here. We’re talking about a blue-steel 44 being wielded by a guy who’s woman has done him wrong and who now has one thing in mind. Katie bar the door, pass the ammunition and, for God’s sake, send the kids to grandma’s. Holy (bleeping) sh*t, Batman, music doesn’t get any rawer or more laser-focused than this.

128.  Guess I’m Dumb
Glen Campbell
Arguably, the greatest Brian Wilson song you never heard; one he apparently wrote specifically for the Beach Boys Today but one he eventually gave to one of his old sidemen from his Pet Sounds days, a rosy-cheeked and well-scrubbed Arkansas finger-picker who’d agreed to pinch hit for him and take his place on a Beach Boys tour of Europe so he could stay home, deal with the voices in his head, and finish what would turn out to be his masterpiece.

129.  Time Is on My Side
Irma Thomas
Honesty (and not my occasionally contrarian mind) compels me to admit that if I were to rank the three most renowned versions of this classic Jerry Ragovoy tune, the Stones’ well-intentioned but otherwise lukewarm take on it would finish a distant third, trailing by at least two football fields trombonist Kai Winding’s surprisingly cool ‘63 original, and then (by twice that) Irma Thomas’s stunning ‘64 cover.  What makes this soulful, gospel-flavored version so great?  Well, let’s just say that if you can listen to the chilling choir of female voices taunting, “You’ll come running back,” behind Thomas and find yourself still compelled to ask that question, I’m not sure you’d ever truly understand my answer.

130.  Shakin’ All Over
Guess Who
At the time they recorded this cover of a rhythm and blues hit from England, they were Chad Allan and the Expressions, a garage band from Canada that for legal reasons issued the single in the U.S. as simply, “Guess Who?” But rather wasting words on that bland soon-to-be pop band and their terrific take on this Johnny Kidd and the Pirates hit, let me talk about Kidd, the hip-swiveling dynamo from England who wrote the song. It was, after all, Johnny Kidd who influenced a young Roger Daltry to put down his guitar and focus on his singing. It was Johnny Kidd who inspired Pete Townsend to move from rhythm to lead guitar.  And it was Johnny Kidd who, if he hadn’t been suddenly killed in a car accident in ‘66, would have likely been swallowed whole (along with his old-school R&B ways) by the British Invasion – a tsunami of a movement led by, ironically, many of the same young British musicians he inspired and changed forever.

131.  Me About You
Lovin’ Spoonful
It was all but over for the Spoonful by ’69. Zal Yanovsky had fled to Canada, his tail between his legs. John Sebastian had played Woodstock and placed his old band squarely in his rearview mirror.  And what remained of one of the shortest-lived great bands in history opted to release one more LP; if only (it would seem) out of habit. The album predictably didn’t do a thing. Neither did either of its singles, one of which – this one – topped out at #91. But that doesn’t make it any less worthy of a spot on this jukebox because this version of Me About You (originally a non-hit for the Turtles) remains one of the oddest yet most beautiful and moving recordings of the decade, one that reminds me every time I hear it just how underutilized drummer/singer Joe Butler was during the Spoonful’s brief but oh-so-magical run.

132.  Oh How Happy
Shades of Blue
I cannot tell you the extent to which it blew my mind when I learned that one of the only doo-wop songs I ever truly liked – and a breezy, light-as-a-feather gem released at a time when doo-wop had all but vanished from the charts – was written by, of all people, Edwin Starr; he of the powerful pipes, the brawny, soulful delivery, and the angriest, sassiest and most iconic anti-war protest song ever recorded.

133.  Baby, Baby Don’t Cry
By the end of the decade, Berry Gordy had all but turned over the keys to Motown to Norman Whitfield (who wrote the aforementioned War for Edwin Starr), believing that the time for Smokey Robinson’s sweet and innocent brand of soul had passed, and that Whitfield’s brawny brand of social commentary (along with Ashford & Simpson’s melodic ballads) had become the new order of the day in the Motor City. But rather than trying to squeeze a square peg into a Gordy’s round hole, Smokey simply continued doing what he did best, and in the process began producing, arguably, the greatest music of his career; non-hits like this one that, unlike so many of Whitfield’s, have aged gracefully over the years and now seem to have acquired an almost eternal youth, if not a pop timelessness.

134.  Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Darlene Love
For my money, this Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich tune remains the single greatest Christmas recording of the era, if not of all time. In fact, this original version of what has since become a seasonal staple (one covered many times by many artists, but never quite as well) and its singer are still so bristling with power, passion and majesty that years after the 45’s initial release a critic once famously wrote that with this one song Darlene Love could “summon snow in July.”

135.  Epistle to Dippy
An almost perfect record for the Summer of Love; a breezy, cryptic and deliciously trippy song written specifically for a Donovan chum from childhood who the locals took to calling “Dippy.” Apparently, Dippy had joined the British Army a short time earlier and in ’67 found himself in a bloody armed conflict in Malaysia.  The story then goes that, upon hearing the song intended for him as a wake-up call by his old pacifist schoolmate, had a change of heart and prevailed upon Donovan to use the royalties from the song to help him buy his way out of the army.

136.  Oh Happy Day
Edwin Hawkins Singers
Gospel was far from an unknown commodity on the charts in 1969, as for the run of the decade musicians across the board, from the fringiest of stars to heaviest of heavyweights (such as Elvis, Joe South and Aretha) had been incorporating gospel elements into songs. Two years later would even see the release of an entire gospel-inspired musical, Godspell, whose breakout hit would turn out to be the original but traditional-sounding Day by Day.  But this unlikely single – a spine-tingling mash up of a traditional mid-18th century hymn and a long-lost early 18th century melody – was the absolute real deal; a honest-to-goodness, soul-stirring gospel number, arranged by a choirmaster, sung by choir in robes, and recorded live in a Southern Baptist church in the heart of the Oakland ghetto. That a song like this could rise to the top of the pop charts is, just maybe, Exhibit A for just how cool pop music was in the ‘60s and just how much it had grown by 1969.  Sweet Jesus. Praise the lord. And pass the vinyl.

137.  Out of Limits
I remember when these events first happened and, frankly, they make no more sense now than they did back then. And follow me on this, OK? It gets confusing. In the early ‘60s there were two hit sci-fi anthology series, the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. The Twilight Zone, created by Rod Serling, had a classic theme fueled by an eerie and distinctive four-note riff. This terrific little surf guitar gem, released at the height of the two shows’ popularity, was built on that four-note riff.  And yet, for some reason, the song was not titled Twilight Zone. It was titled Outer Limits. And if that weren’t confusing enough, Serling sued the Marketts when their vamp on his show’s theme song hit the market. And while his suing for intellectual property infringement was reasonable, given this one’s four-note DNA, after the case was settled it was agreed that all future pressings of the 45 would use the name Out of Limits – despite the fact that Serling had nothing to do with that show. Made no sense to me then. Makes even less sense now.

138.  Just One Smile
Gene Pitney
Listening to this non-hit of a heartbreak song now reminds me that for all I love rambling on about the greatness of Gene Pitney and the man’s unique ability to wring every last drop of emotion out of a pop tune, I should be making a similar case for the unrecognized pop greatness of Randy Newman, who long before he became a witty, acid-tongued, and unlikely hit-maker in the ‘80s (and one of Hollywood’s go-to composers and film/TV scorers to boot), at one time had been a terrific balladeer who — as evidenced by this flop of a single — had a sense of melody that was not only achingly beautiful but freakishly spot-on.

139.  Love Can Make You Happy
My parents thought I was spending the night at my buddy Jimmy’s. I was actually across the street at my girlfriend Patti’s house – and in fact in her bed, as her parents had gone away for the weekend and we, for the first time in our lives, found ourselves all alone. And as I lay there the following morning, 17 years old and full of spit, vinegar and hormones, Patti brought me a cup of hot black coffee, set it on the nightstand, and planted a tender, loving kiss on my cheek. That’s when this song came on her little AM clock radio. That was a lifetime ago. I’m a different person in a different place. Patti’s battle with cancer is long since over. And the world as I knew it has changed so many times it would send chills down my spine if I were to let myself dwell on it. For those reasons and more, I’d be lying if I were to sit here and try to convince you that, at least for me, this entry is nothing more that just another pretty little pop tune.

140.  Morning Dew
Size-wise, England may be only slightly larger than, say, New Mexico, but honesty compels me to report than in the ‘60s that little island in the North Sea seemed to craft better throwaway sides than our sprawling country produced hit ones. Case in point; this ultra-cool take on a contemporary folk song by Canadian troubadour Bonnie Dobson peaked at only #52 on the charts. But when I listen today, I realize this single blows away so many of its tired, former chart-topping contemporaries; records still being paraded about by the programming wonks at corporate radio and still being systematically and unceremoniously played to death by oldies stations across the country.

141.  Groovy Kind of Love
Think about it, how great does a song have to be to have retained its allure through five decade’s worth of shifting cultural taste, idioms, axioms and norms, and to have risen to the top of the pop charts twice by two different artists nearly 25 years apart, and to have done all that with the word “groovy” sitting in its title like a big fat loogy?  Amazing, isn’t it?  Nice little bit of trivia about the original: that’s a very young Eric Stewart singing lead on this record, the same Eric Stewart who took over for Wayne Fontana after he left the band he started and to which he lent his name, and the same Eric Stewart who a decade later would co-write (with Graham Gouldman) and sing lead on 10cc’s forever fabulous and forever intoxicating, I’m Not in Love.

142.  Fortunate Son
Credence Clearwater Revival
As great as Credence was, it’s astounding how tired I grew of so many of their songs, even the non-hits. One of the notable exceptions has always been this raging little beauty; a tune that, perhaps more than the combined measure of its notes and lyrics, was able to embody and capture perfectly both the rage and the frustration being felt by so many young men my age for a war that by the end of the decade had spiraled out of control and had emerged as some toxic mix of the absurd and the all-too-real.

143.  Eight Miles High
It just possible that if you were to line up the coolest pop singles of all time, that line might just start behind this savagely hip little Gene Clark, Roger McGuinn and David Crosby beauty.  And while Eight Miles High was literally about the Byrds’ first-ever trip to London, metaphorically anyway, it served as the ideal theme for a generation of kids apparently dedicated to, and in the lifelong pursuit of, the perfect buzz.

144.  Hey Jude
Wilson Pickett
One day the house band at FAME studios in Muscle Shoals was going to break for lunch. Given that the year was 1968, it was small-town Alabama, and the two people involved were (a) a virile young black man and (b) a hippie-looking longhair, respectively, Wilson Pickett and a 22-year old kid guitarist named Duane Allman told the guys to go on without them. They’d eat in the studio. Allman then convinced Pickett to try something he initially resisted. But the guitarist said had an idea for a song he wanted Pickett to try. So try he did. And what they came up with, and what was released on 45 (after one take) was a complete and utter deconstruction of the Beatles’ Hey Jude. And while the single surprised everyone, including Ahmet Ertegun, Jerry Wexler and the folks at Atlantic Records by climbing to #16 on the charts, its real impact would prove to be historic. Because if you listen to this one beginning at around the 2:45 mark, you will not only hear the first few notes of what would become Southern Rock, you will hear the birth of a legend.

145.  Something in the Air
Thunderclap Newman
Another one of those bands consigned to dwell forever in the land of What Might Have Been. Backed and mentored by none other than Pete Townsend himself, and featuring a brilliant but ill-fated young Scottish guitarist/wunderkind named Jimmy McCulloch and a fabulous songwriter/lead singer named Speedy Keene, Thunderclap Newman (which, ironically, was the name of the third member of the group) should have become stars, instead of what they ultimately became; hard-drinking, hard-sparring and hard-living one-hit wonders whose one hit, admittedly, ended up being a song for the ages.

146.  Let the Music Play
Critics have long hailed Ben E. King, the Drifter’s seminal lead singer, as one of the landmark voices in all of rock history. But for my money his ill-fated replacement, Rudy Lewis (who was found dead in a Harlem hotel room, shortly after recording both Up On the Roof and On Broadway), was not merely King’s equal, but as evidenced by his stunning work on this long-lost Bacharach/David number, the B-side of On Broadway – and, please, do yourself a favor and pay particular attention to Lewis’ gut wrenching delivery of the line right after the song’s oh-so brief trumpet break – the guy was, just possibly, even better.

147.  Sally Go Round the Roses
American pop culture is littered with cult movies, TV shows, comic books and bands; even cult actors and comedians. Few pop singles, however, have been able to achieve cult status, if only because they’re never around long enough to gain the requisite hipster cache. Enter Sally Go Round the Roses, one of pop’s first and only true cult singles, a record so out-there that to this day it seems to defy description. The masterwork of young arranger Artie Butler, who also played every instrument on the single (except guitar), the young studio wizard achieved Sally’s haunting echo effect by cranking up the reverb and recording himself directly onto the master tape every time he laid down a new track, giving the end result a muddy, almost macabre sound/vibe that over the years has only served to enhance the record’s standing as a cult favorite, particularly among musicians and industry insiders.

148.  Look Through Any Window
Another Graham Gouldman gem, this one fueled by a combination of Tony Hicks’ shimmering 12-string, Bobby Elliott’s power drumming, and, of course, the Hollies’ trademark celestial harmonies. But to listen today to this stunning product of rock’s all-too-brief jingle-jangle period and to realize it rose no higher than #32 on the charts is to consider the possibility that Graham Nash was smart to leave when he did. Because if the Hollies were not going to become international superstars and rank among music’s elite after a single as exquisite as this one, there was a good chance it was never going to happen for the band.

149.  Skip a Rope
Henson Cargill
One of those classic country pearls of early morning dew that crossed over to the pop charts in the ’60s and helped give them a decidedly down-home, corn-fed feel. But unlike so many of the countrified crossover hits early in the decade, this unlikely gem from the Summer of Love dared do something only a handful of country singles had ever done – or for that matter ever would do; make a strong, strident and even caustic social statement. What’s more, lyrically this one-of-a-kind nugget traded heavily on both irony and innuendo, two subtle songwriting devices that, let’s be honest, country music’s core audience has never proven comfortable with, conversant in, or particularly quick to embrace.

150.  Houston
Dean Martin
One of a handful of Brat Pack-worthy originals composed in the latter part of the decade for Sir Francis and his Palm Springs mob by Nancy Sinatra’s cosmic cowboy of a musical partner and Oklahoma ex-pat, Lee Hazelwood.  This one, like so many of the others, a delicious mix of the old and new, remains my absolute favorite Dean Martin tune of all time; one that is both perfect for the man’s syrupy delivery and entirely in keeping with his sleepy-eyed and often laconic stage demeanor.

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