Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Best Songs of 1964 – Nos. 20 to 16

Sorry it took so long to get a new post out. I have just spent the last week celebrating my tenth wedding anniversary camping out amongst the redwood trees of Northern California. It was a tremendous experience and I highly recommend it for everyone. Anyway, on with the list…

20. All Day and All of the Night – The Kinks (All Day and All of the Night)

The Kinks made it to number seven on the US charts and number two on the UK charts with their fourth single, All Day and All of the Night. Ray Davies sang with abandon and Dave Davies shredded his guitar with one of the finest guitar solos of the year. Those Kinks got fairly introspective in their later work, but in their early days they rocked with a savagery rarely seen till the days of punk.

19. Do Wah Diddy Diddy – Manfred Mann (The Manfred Mann Album)

Manfred Mann made it to number one on both sides of the Atlantic with this amazingly catchy number. It had a great call and repeat cadence that was perfect for its early eighties revival in the classic Bill Murray comedy Stripes. Manfred Mann had a really interesting keyboard playing style and Paul Jones had a strong, soulful voice.

18. Remember (Walking in the Sand) – The Shangri-Las (Remember (Walking in the Sand))

This was the debut single by the incredibly influential girl group, The Shangri-Las. It rose to number five on the charts. Mary Weiss sang with a toughness and attitude that belied her years. The eerie atmosphere and unusual production by Shadow Morton made this song into a strange foreshadowing of gothier chicks in the far future.

17. Pain in My Heart – Otis Redding (Pain in My Heart)

This classic soul ballad from Otis Redding only made it to number sixty-one on the charts, but it really should have done better. Otis gives another amazing vocal performance. He always sang about heartbreak with such passion. Otis was setting a new standard for soul singers for generations to come.

16. It’s Over – Roy Orbison (It’s Over)

Another operatic beauty from Roy Orbison, it went to number nine on the US charts and number one in the UK. This story of lost love begins very softly but builds and builds into such a phenomenal crescendo that you can hardly imagine it can hold itself together.

Comments and opinions are encouraged and appreciated.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Best Songs of 1964 - Nos. 25 to 21

25. The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Bob Dylan (The Times They Are A-Changin’)

Bob Dylan captured his time like almost no other songwriter, especially with this protest song. Few songs more perfectly evoke the feeling of the beginning of the youth movement of the sixties. It was a truly moving number that really inspires the urge to go out and work for social change. I’m not sure if that was really Dylan’s intention, but it was certainly the result.

24. Baby, I Need Your Loving – The Four Tops (The Four Tops)

The Four Tops make their first appearance on the list with this, their first hit, which made it to number eleven on the Pop charts. Levi Stubbs belts out a beautiful love song that set a standard for many future hits from this terrific Detroit band. They were wonderfully representative of the Motown sound that was becoming so popular at the time.

23. Don’t Worry Baby – The Beach Boys (Shut Down, Vol. 2)

Sure, he’s still singing about cars, but those arrangements are getting amazing. Brian Wilson’s fantastic falsetto shows up again as the B-side to the song at number twenty-six takes a spot a few slots ahead. The song was meant as response to the Ronettes’ hit of the previous year, “Be My Baby”. It was successful in that regard as Ronnie Spector’s group eventually covered this song.

22. Can’t Buy Me Love – The Beatles (A Hard Day’s Night)

On April 4th, 1964, This song became the Beatles’ third consecutive number one song. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was replaced at number one by “She Loves You” which was replaced by “Can’t Buy Me Love”. While it sat at number one, the entire top five were also Beatles songs. No other artist has ever held all five spots at the top of the US Pop charts and it is unlikely that the feat will ever be duplicated.

21. Under the Boardwalk – The Drifters (Under the Boardwalk)

The Drifters created a real classic here. This song is so evocative of a certain era’s summer in the city that it makes me feel like I grew up in New York in the fifties and sixties even though I actually grew up in Alabama in the seventies and eighties.

Comments and opinions are encouraged and appreciated.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Best Songs of 1964 - Nos. 30 to 26

30. I’m Crying – The Animals (I’m Crying)

The Animals were a group that was most well known for their covers of great blues songs. This one has that same sound, but it’s an original by Eric Burdon and Alan Price. These guys played a hard-edged blues that only the Rolling Stones could match at the time among British bands. Eric Burdon sings it forcefully and with soul. It only made the top twenty in the States, but it should have done better.

29. She Loves You – The Beatles (The Beatles’ Second Album)

This was a massive number one hit for the Beatles, both in the UK and in the States. In fact, it was the best-selling single in Britain for fourteen years. After the band’s famous appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, the song shot to the top of the charts in the US. It is widely considered to be the quintessential song of the early-period Beatles. The British Invasion starts here.

28. Dancing in the Street – Martha & the Vandellas (Dance Party)

This modest little dance number that listed off city names in a time-honored rock tradition of trying to get lots of play on those same cities’ radio stations took on a life of its own when it was adopted as an anthem by the Civil Rights Movement. Martha Reeves sang it very well and the backing music, particularly those drums, was incredible. The Motown sound was great American competition for that British Invasion.

27. Viva Las Vegas – Elvis Presley (Viva Las Vegas)

Elvis Presley’s sixties output wasn’t a match for what he did in the fifties, but he certainly did record several great songs during his sojourn in Hollywood. This song had a tremendous beat and terrific lyrics. It was only a minor hit at the time, but over the years it has grown to be one of the most popular tracks in the Presley catalog. It’s been covered several times, notably by The Dead Kennedys.

26. I Get Around – The Beach Boys (All Summer Long)

Brian Wilson really had a beautiful falsetto, didn’t he? This was the first number one hit for The Beach Boys and the arrangement really showed amazing growth for Wilson as a songwriter. While remaining within his milieu of hot rods and cool kids in Southern California, he showed amazing originality. This was the beginning of a run of tremendous work.

Comments and opinions are encouraged and appreciated.