Saturday, October 18, 2008

10 Great Songs from One Great Year


1965 is credited as the year Rock and Roll grew up. Moving from more innocent pop standards to emotionally driven lyrical compositions as Bob Dylan, the Moody Blues, Jefferson Airplane, Donovan and the Yardbirds hit the stage.

Nationally, it was a time of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and police clashes in Alabama. The Vietnam War escalating and the death of Winston Churchill. The Astrodome opens in Houston as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and Pope Paul IV exonerated the Jews in the death of Christ.

Unchained Melody - Righteous Brothers

This first appeared in the 1955 movie "Unchained," starring Former football player Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch. The movie takes place in a prison, and the song was written for the movie to reflect the mood of the prisoners as they wait for time to pass. The Righteous Brothers version was a huge hit, but it was released as a B-side. The single had "Unchained Melody" (with no producer credit on the label) as the B-side to Gerry Goffin's and Carole King's "Hung on You," but many DJ's preferred to flip the single and played this instead. This infuriated Phil Spector, who subsequently left no doubt as to which side of a Philles single was the A-side. This returned to both the US and UK charts in 1990 after it was included in the motion picture Ghost.

My Girl – Temptations

This was written by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White, who were both members of The Miracles. Robinson wrote the lyrics, which were inspired by his wife, Claudette. In a 2006 NPR interview, Robinson explained that he wrote this with David Ruffin's voice in mind. It was the first Temptations single to feature Ruffin on lead vocals (Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams sang lead on previous Temptation's singles), and it led to a greater role for Ruffin, as he became their primary lead singer. Robinson went on to write many more hits for The Temptations, who were considered the most talented vocal group at Motown.

I Got You Babe - Sonny and Cher

Sonny Bono was an up-and-coming record producer when he got Cher a job with Phil Spector as a session singer. They started dating and moved in to their manager's house. Bono would write songs on a piano in the garage. He came up with this tune and wrote the lyrics on a piece of cardboard. Cher didn't like it at first, but Sonny changed the key in the bridge to fit her voice and she loved it. This wasn't an anti-war song, but it went over well with the Hippie crowd because it stuck up for guys with long hair when Cher sang, "Let them say your hair's too long, I don't care, with you I can't go wrong.”

Downtown - Petula Clark

This was Petula Clark's first hit in the US. She was the first female singer from England to hit #1 in the US during the Rock era (after 1955). This won a Grammy in 1965 for Best Rock & Roll Recording, making Clark the first British singer to win a Grammy. In 2003, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. After the words, "And you may find somebody kind to help and understand you," there is the drum roll from Little Peggy March's #1 version of the French tune "Chariot." In 1962 Petula had a big continental hit with the same song, which was also known as "I Will Follow Him."

Tell Her No - The Zombies

In this song, a guy knows that his girl is likely to cheat on him, and he's telling someone else to reject her advances. He's pretty emphatic about this, as the word "No" is repeated 65 times in the song. This was written by Zombies guitarist Rod Argent. "Tell Her No" has been described as a "standard Beatles" cut, and has also been called "harmonically and melodically more complex than the best Beatles stuff, and just as catchy and emotional." The Zombies featured Argent, who went on to form his own band and had the 1972 hit “Hold Your Head Up,” and Colin Blunstone, who sang the hit, “Old and Wise” for the Alan Parsons Project in 1982.

It's Not Unusual - Tom Jones

Tom Jones' real name is Thomas Jones Woodward. He was spotted supporting Mandy Rice-Davies by the manager Gordon Mills who suggested the name Tom Jones and secured him a deal with Decca. After a succession of hit singles in the UK and US he moved to California in 1969, performing regularly in Las Vegas. This was written by the classical music arranger and conductor Les Reed along with Tom Jones' manager Gordon Mills. They wrote it for the British singer Sandie Shaw, but she turned it down. Tom Jones saw the song's potential, recorded it, and it became his first hit single.

I Fought the Law – Bobby Fuller

The song is about a guy who goes to jail after a robbery spree. The phrase "I fought the law" caught on, and has remained in the American lexicon ever since. Both the song and the saying have appeared in many movies, TV shows, video games and other commercial enterprises. It's also been parodied a great deal, notably by Bob Rivers on his track "I Fought the Lawn.” Barry White, who went on to become a famous soul singer, played drums on this track. Although he was known for his distinctive bass voice, White could play a variety of instruments and was a session musician for a while. Fuller was found dead in the front seat of his mother's car a few months after this was released. He was beaten up and had swallowed gasoline. His death was ruled a suicide, but it was rumored to be the work of mobsters - he may have been having an affair with someone's wife.

Do You Believe In Magic – Lovin' Spoonful

This was written by John Sebastian, who formed The Lovin' Spoonful with his friend, Zal Yanovsky. Sebastian and Yanovsky were in a group called The Mugwumps, and made a name for themselves playing clubs in Greenwich Village. When the other Mugwumps - Mama Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty - moved to California and formed The Mamas And The Papas, they formed the band and Sebastian began focusing on songwriting. The Lovin' Spoonful started playing electric instruments to get away from the folk music sound and attract a younger contemporary rock audience. This has been featured on the soundtracks to the movies Parent Trap, Disney's Return To Neverland, Gulliver's Travels and One Trick Pony, to name just a few. As the '60s drew to a close, The Lovin' Spoonful disbanded and Sebastian started working on a variety of projects. He wrote music for the Care Bear series, published children's books, made harmonica instruction videos, and was a guest star on the TV show "Married With Children." In 1976, he wrote the theme song to the TV show "Welcome Back Kotter," which was a #1 hit.

What The World Needs Now Is Love – Jackie DeShannon

This was written by the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It was offered to Dionne Warwick and Gene Pitney, who both passed on it. Bacharach (from Record Collector magazine): "Dionne (Warwick) rejected that song. She might have thought it was too preachy and I thought Dionne was probably right. Hal pushed me to play it for Jackie De Shannon who we were gonna record. Otherwise I would have let it be and it would still be in the drawer. Once I heard Jackie sing four bars of it, I thought 'this is great.' Jackie had such a great voice. Love her voice. Whether it's a song she wrote herself or singing 'What The World Needs Now Is Love,' she's special. I wish we could have repeated that success with Jackie but the material we gave her on the next session wasn't as good. DeShannon has been a successful songwriter in her own right as well, composing the 1969 smash, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” and the 1981 Kim Carnes’ mega hit, “Bette Davis Eyes.”

You Won’t See Me – The Beatles

No collection from 1965 is complete without at least one song by the Beatles. The song is about a crisis in McCartney's relationship with his then-girlfriend Jane Asher. She was rejecting him by not returning phone calls and ignoring him — for once, he was in a vulnerable position. The more biting tone of the song marks a change away from his earlier, happier love songs. "You Won't See Me" was recorded during the last session for Rubber Soul. At 3:22, the song was the longest that the Beatles had recorded to that point and marked a trend by Bob Dylan and others at the time to start writing longer songs. In 1974, Canadian singer, Anne Murray, had tremendous success with her cover of this song, going to #8. John Lennon is said to have told Murray that her version of "You Won't See Me" was his favorite Beatles' cover ever. Murray herself is a confessed Beatles fanatic and later covered several others of their songs as singles, including "Day Tripper" and "I'm Happy Just to Dance with You."


Allison Guerriero said...

Downtown!! Petula of my favorite all time songs. It is such a cheesy song, but so loveable!!

readingjunkie said...

I absolutely love every pick here! You are so lucky I don't have a voice recording on my computer since I am sitting singing now. Shame I love to sing but can't carry a note!