In 1966 The Beatles announced that they would no longer tour at all and retired full-time to the recording studio. John Lennon was particularly interested in using recording tricks in Beatles songs, and the subject matter of their songs was becoming more and more openly radical. Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys), meanwhile, was now working completely with studio musicians, often using 25 at a time in what was in effect the first rock-orchestra. He stopped writing songs in the traditional manner, instead "constructing" songs out of recorded bits and pieces (pre-dating Todd Rundgren's recent forays into "interactive music" by 25 years).
Top 20 Singles of 1966
1. Step Back/CaraLyn - Johnny Young & The Strangers
Though Johnny Young was one of the most prolific Australian pop songs writers of the 1960s, his first hit single came from another source - The Easybeats. After leaving school, Perth teenager Johnny Young became lead vocalist of The Nomads. By the time he was 20, Young was hosting a local TV showed called Club 17. When The Easybeats came to Perth, they met Young and Stevie Wright and George Young presented him with a song they had written called 'Get Back'. Johnny recorded it with a cover of The Strangeloves' 'Caralyn' on the flipside and the single became the second biggest selling Australian hit of the rock'n'roll era.
2. The Green, Green Grass of Home - Tom Jones
Tom Jones, born Thomas Jones Woodward in 1940 in Pontypridd, Wales, was one of the legendary independent record producer Joe Meek's 'wannabe's and called himself Tommy Scott. Despite some initial singles, very little happened. After returning to Wales, Tom decided to place himself under the management of fellow Welshman Gordon Mills. Even after gaining a recording contract, things didn't change until the hit 'It's Not Unusual'; a song originally intended for Sandie Shaw, that was co-written by Mills with Les Reed. This one single was to forge the path of his whole career; the style was neither rock'n'roll, nor 'middle-of-the-road', but somewhere in between. This formula worked well and enabled the title song for the James Bond movie Thunderball to become a hit just as easily as the far more 'country' sounding 'The Green, Green Grass of Home'. By the early 1970s, Tom moved himself to the USA and spent his time performing in expensive cabaret venues like those in Las Vegas.
3. These Boots Are Made For Walking - Nancy Sinatra
In 1960, the 20-year old daughter of ol' Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, set out to conquer the world the way her father had. After five years of getting nowhere, she was about to give up when her producer Jimmy Bowen persuaded his next door neighbour, Oklahoma-born producer/songwriter Barton Lee Hazlewood, to come out of semi-retirement to deliver Nancy a hit record. Hazlewood had earlier written and produced hits like 'The Fool' in 1956 for Sanford Clark, and 'Rebel Rouser', a multi-million selling hit for guitarist Duane Eddy in 1958. Hazelwood and arranger/conductor Billy Strange came up with Nancy's first top 100 hit, 'So Long Babe', but it was the follow-up single 'These Boots Are Made For Walkin' (also penned by Hazlewood) that became the monster hit they'd been looking for. Nancy's image underwent a dramatic remake, gone was the innocent teen bubblegum girl look from the early '60s, replaced with the new tough, no-nonsense, snarling, hissing sex kitten that would help make go-go boots a fashion staple. "How Does That Grab You, Darlin'" was the follow-up single.
4. Somewhere My Love - Ray Conniff & the Singers
After serving in the U.S. Army in World War II, Ray Conniff (right), then an accomplished musician, was hired by Mitch Miller at Columbia Records as their home arranger, and he worked with many artists, including Rosemary Clooney, Marty Robbins, Frankie Laine, Johnny Mathis, Guy Mitchell and Johnnie Ray. In 1959 he formed the Ray Conniff Singers (12 girls and 13 boys) and released the album, It's the Talk of the Town. This group of singers brought him the biggest hit of his career: 'Somewhere My Love'. The lyric was set to "Lara's Theme" from the film, Doctor Zhivago (1965), and became a top 10 single. The album also reached the US top 20 and went platinum, and Conniff won a Grammy.
5. Let It Be Me - Johnny Young
This schmaltsy Everly Brothers hit was Johnny Young's follow-up single to his hit debut single, 'Step Back'. By the time he recorded it, Young had moved to Melbourne with his backing band, Kompany, where he had taken over as compare of the TV show, Go!, following Ian Turpie's shock resignation. 'Let It Be Me', written by Gilbert Bécaud, P. Delano and M. Curtis and released as a single by The Everly Brothers in December 1959, is actually a reworking of a French song recorded in 1955 by Bécaud, called 'Je T'Appartiens'. The first English version of it was recorded in 1957 by an actress named Jill Corey. The Everly Brothers' recording was one of the first pop songs to use a string section.
6. Winchester Cathedral - The New Vaudeville Band
The New Vaudeville Band could almost be described as the band that never was - or at least nearly never was. They were almost entirely the brainchild of Tin Pan Alley songwriter Geoff Stephens. He had written a song, 'Winchester Cathedral', and thought it would sound best if played in the fashion of a 1930s dance band. So he hired a group of session musicians and recorded it. The recording was so successful that, following its sudden high profile in the US, Stephens was expected to take his band on concert tours there. Musicians were quickly gathered together, none of whom had performed on the recording; a new singer was cast as 'Tristram, Seventh Earl Of Cricklewood'. The band went on the road with no one any the wiser, filling concert halls wherever they went. They even managed to squeeze out a few more hits before the novelty wore off and everyone went their separate ways in the 1970s.
7. Friday On My Mind - The Easybeats
Think about The Easybeats and inevitably this anthem to the working class person comes to mind. The band was formed in the Villawood Migrant Hostel in suburban Sydney by a teenage group of recent arrivals. The song was co-written by guitarist George Young and fellow band mate and guitarist Harry Vanda. The latter describes the song as reminiscent of their hostel days where they hung out for the end of the week because of the fun it brought. Previously, the band's main songwriting team had been George Young and lead singer Stevie Wright. Vanda and Young produced The Easybeats' later albums and some years after the group broke up in 1969, formed a new group, Flash And The Pan, which had a few successes during the late '70s and early '80s. They also continued writing and producing hits for other artists like AC/DC (George Young is the older brother of AC/DC's Malcolm and Angus Young) and John Paul Young.
8. The Loved One - The Loved Ones
The ahead-of-their-time Melbourne based The Loved Ones began life as the Red Onions Jazz Band but switched to rhythm and blues when jazz was pushed aside to make way for the Mersey sound. Their lead singer was London-born Gerry Humphries (he migrated to Melbourne as a 15 year old in 1958) and wrote the lyrics of their own material. This was their first No.1 hit and its ground breaking sound set the pace and tone for their relatively short two years at the top. 'Ever-lovin' Man' and a cover of Fat's Domino's 'Blueberry Hill' were the band's most popular follow-up singles. The band split in 1967 after just one album, Magic Box. The Loved Ones reformed briefly and recorded live in 1987. Humphries died of a heart attack in London in December 2005, aged 62.
9. Strangers In The Night - Frank Sinatra
The music was written by Bert Kaempfert (1923-1980), Charles Singleton and Eddie Snyder are credited with the lyrics. Published in 1966, Sinatra recorded this song in that year, when it appeared on his Strangers In The Night album. Sinatra at first hated this song and didn't want to sing it, however it became one of his most popular songs. To this day, the songwriters deny that the song is about picking up call girls.
10. Lady Godiva - Peter and Gordon
Peter and Gordon would seem unlikely candidates for pop success with their middle class peers and their Westminster School education. However, the pair had one enormous advantage; Peter's sister was the young actress Jane Asher and she had gained the attention of none other than Paul McCartney who had begun a courtship with her. With access to the young Beatle's 'surplus' songs, the pair obtained 'World Without Love' and cut a competently crafted single with it. The popularity stemming from its success would sustain their musical career for almost three years. They split up during 1968 after some inevitable arguments and Peter Asher forged a new career in show business management - becoming an agent for James Taylor, and then the producer behind Linda Ronstadt. Gordon Waller tried to kick start a solo singing career on a couple of occasions, but never gained significant public attention. 'Lady Godiva', about a woman who becomes involved in burlesque, is a novelty song loosely based on the story of the beautiful wife of Leofric III (968-1057 AD), Earl of Mercia and Lord of Coventry. The people of that city were suffering grievously under the Earl's oppressive taxation. Lady Godiva appealed again and again to her husband, who obstinately refused to remit the tolls. At last, weary of her entreaties, he said he would grant her request if she would ride naked through the streets of the town. Lady Godiva took him at his word, and after issuing a proclamation that all persons should keep within doors or shut their windows, she made the ride, clothed only in her long hair. One person disobeyed her proclamation, a tailor, ever afterwards known as Peeping Tom. Her husband kept his word and abolished the onerous taxes.
11. Born Free - Matt Monro
Born Terence Parsons in Shoreditch, London, Matt Monro (1930-1985) was a ballad singer of the 1960s and one of the great international postwar entertainers. Affectionately nicknamed "the singing bus driver" (because one of his many occupations prior to achieving fame was driving the Number 27 bus from Highgate to Teddington), he got his first break in 1956 when he became a featured vocalist with the BBC Show Band. He had a major hit with the The Beatles' "Yesterday" in 1965, his version was the first to be released of the most recorded song of all time (The Beatles were not impressed that he beat them to it). In 1966 he sang the Oscar-winning title song for the film, Born Free, which became his signature tune. The opening scene of The Italian Job features Monro singing 'On Days Like These'.
12. Spicks and Specks - The Bee Gees
The Bee Gees are regarded as one of the great phenomena of popular music. The most successful group to ever come out of Australia, they are reputed to have sold 110 million records, with the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack accounting for 20 million of them. However, the eight years that the English born show-biz brothers spent in Australia in their early teens weren't nearly as profitable. In the mid 1960s they were so broke they couldn't even afford guitar strings and had to sell their songs to pay for studio time. Back then, they honed their craft in a former butcher's storeroom in suburban Hurstville, Sydney, that Ozzie Byrne had converted into the St Clair recording studio. It was there that The Bee Gees first hit, 'Spicks And Specks', was recorded along with dozens of others songs. The many backing tracks they recorded there would also be used by many other artists over the coming years. Recording details | More ...
13. Women (Make You Fee Alright) - The Easybeats
This was the fifth single to be released by The Easybeats; it made No.7 in January 1965 and stayed in the charts for 13 weeks. It was penned by the group's songwriting duo, Harry Vanda and George Young. By 1966, the band had had six hits in a row in Australia, and felt it time to attempt to conquor other markets. They right for the UK in June 1966, and by the end of the year had recorded two more hit sin gles and released a third Australian album, Easybeats Volume 3, from which this single was lifted. By the end of the year (as in the year that would follow) the Easybeats had been voted Australia's top group for 1966 in the Go-Set pop magazine awards.
14. No Milk Today - Herman's Hermits
Graham Gouldman, a prolific British songwriter who would later form and perform in the British band 10cc, wrote many songs for a wide range of artists in his earlier career. These included "Bus Stop" by the Hollies and "For Your Love" by the Yardbirds. Like this song, which he wrote for Herman's Hermits, the lyrics were drawn from his observance of everyday occurences in the city of Manchester, England, where he lived. In an interview with the Forgotten Hits newsletter, Hermit's lead singer Peter Noone said: "Personally I think 'No Milk Today' is Herman's Hermits' best recording, and perfectly captures the moment and the feel of Manchester terraced houses and what was the end of a British era. I recall it was made at Lansdown Studios and that we recorded a few other songs that day, probably 'There's A Kind Of Hush,' 'Dandy' and 'No Milk Today.' This was in the period where we (Mick and I) had just stopped using The Hermits on the recordings and were using the best musicians available to us to try to keep up with what had suddenly become The British Invasion. We were supposed to deliver 48 tracks a year to MGM so we were always scrambling to catch up. I recall that John Paul Jones played bass guitars on the tracks and was also responsible for the arrangements which I dare say are brilliant on all three tracks but I know he liked 'No Milk Today' and I would suggest that his arrangement turned this perfect Graham Gouldman song into a hit. I think that after we had the tracks down then I did the lead vocal and then Karl Green, Keith Hopwood and I did the backgrounds, the songs were mixed and that was it."
15. Good Vibrations - The Beach Boys
Acknowledged as Brian Wilson's songwriting and production masterpiece, 'Good Vibrations' is high on the list of the best songs written in the 20th century. Wilson called it a Pocket Symphony and spents months perfecting it. This included about 90 hours of studio time over a 2 month period (six different Los Angles studios were used) and 70 hours of tape, which were edited and spliced together to create the final product. This accounted for its $40,000 cost, which made it the most expensive pop song ever recorded at that time. Wilson worked on its obsessively; he stayed home and wrote music while the rest of the band toured. In fact, the other Beach Boys did not contribute a note towards the music, that was all done by Wilson and session musicians he hired, like Glen Campbell who played lead guitar. Carl Wilson sang the lead vocals. Some of the unusual sounds were produced using a Theremin; a strange instrument that used electric current to produce sound. It was played by moving the hand across the electric field, and was very hard to control. The instrument had been developed many years earlier to be used as a sound effect in Sci-Fi and Horror movies. It was found in a studio prop room by Brian. 'Good Vibrations' was the last US No.1 hit for The Beach Boys until 'Kokomo' hit the top spot 22 years later. This is the longest anyone has gone between No.1 hits.
16. Come And See Her - The Easybeats
By May 1966 when this single was released, The Easybeats were riding high on a wave of success. Having conquered the home market, they felt there was nowhere else to go but England to have a crack at the British market. While there, they cut an album which included their greatest ever hit, 'Friday On My Mind". This rather strange song, which asks a doctor to come and look at the songwriter's sick girlfriend, sounds somewhat like the The Animals' 'We Gotta Get Out of This Place', which had a lot of airplay on Australian radio in late 1965.
17. Elusive Butterfly - Bob Lind
Bob Lind was somewhat of a modern-day minstrel in the 60's and managed to put this solitary memorable song into the top ten. He was born in Baltimore in 1942 and moved to Chicago as a child. In the 60's he became a singer/songwriter and also a devoted fan of Bob Dylan and his music. This was originally the B-side in America of the 23-year-old Bob Lind's recording debut. The A-side was "Cheryl's Goin' Home," and when a DJ on the Florida station WQAM flipped the record and started playing "Elusive Butterfly," it kickstarted the song's success. With this song, Bob Lind gave World Pacific Records its one and only big hit, however his solo career lost impetus as World Pacific's choices for follow-up singles squandered the momentum of "Elusive Butterfly," problems with drugs and alcohol only making matters worse. Lind continues performing and touring into the '00s and over 200 artists have covered his songs.
18. Bus Stop - The Hollies
Long before his band 10cc was formed, Graham Gouldman was a prolific British songwriter whose compositions have been recorded by a variety of artists including the Yardbirds ('Heartful of Soul'), Herman's Hermits ('No Milk Today', 'Listen People') and The Hollies ('Bus Stop'). Gouldman recalls writing this song - about a couple who meet one rainy day at a bus stop, and love blooms when they share an umbrella - while riding on a No.95 bus in Manchester where he was living with his family at the time. He was a regular traveller on the bus and wrote the song about an actual couple who were often fellow passengers.
19. Hitch Hiker - Bobby & Laurie
It is a lttle known fact that this, the second bit hit for Melbourne's Bobby Bright and Laurie Allen, was written by US singer/songwriter Roger Miller in 1964. When they recorded this cover version, Bobby & Laurie were regulars on the Go! TV pop show. They later had their own show on ABC-TV. Bobby & Laurie broke up soon after making this single but their 1969 reunion produced two further hits, 'The Carroll County Accident' (1969) and 'Through The Eyes Of Love' (1970).
20. You Don't Have To Say You Love Me - Dusty Springfield
Originally this was a Italian song named 'io che non vivo' that was composed and recorded by Pino Donnagio. Dusty Springfield heard Donnagio perform it at the San Remo Festival and asked her friend Vicki Wickham, who produced the British TV show, Ready Steady Go, if she would write some English lyrics for it, which she did with the help of Yardbirds' manager Simon Napier-Bell. He recalls: "We wanted to go to a trendy disco so we had about an hour to write it. We wrote the chorus and then we wrote the verse in a taxi to wherever we were going. It was the first pop lyric I'd written, although I've always been interested in poetry and good literature. We'd no idea what the Italian lyric said. That seemed to be irrelevant and besides, it is much easier to write a new lyric completely." Dusty's sultry, classy rendition of the song, the last of 47 takes, is one of the finest recorded performances by a female artist in the 1960s. Other hit versions in the UK were by Elvis Presley (1971 No.9), Guys And Dolls (1976 No.5) and Denise Welch (1995 No.23). As part of a series of re-releases of Elvis songs in the UK in 2007, Presley's live version re-entered the UK chart at No.16.
9. Tell Him I'm Not Home - Normie Rowe
By the time this song was released at the end of 1965, Normie Rowe had become Australia's most popular male singer. His public appearances were frantic battles between security guards and hordes of over-zealous female teenagers. The single reached No.2 and charted for 20 weeks around Australia.
10. Everlovin' Man - The Loved Ones
This follow-up to 'The Loved One' was The Loved Ones' second single. The self-penned song reached No.2, the highest spot ever achieved by the band, and stayed in the charts for 19 weeks, but sold less copies overall than 'The Loved One', hence its lower position on the charts.
Other Hits of 1966
Tar And Cement - Verdelle Smith
New York based Verdelle Smith was a solo artist who had released a string of singles before hitting the jackpot with "Tar And Cement" in 1966. Her first release was '(Alone) In My Room', followed by "I Don't Need Anything" (it was a minor UK hit in late '66/early '67 for the barefooted Sandie Shaw), "If You Can't Say Anything Nice About Me", "Oh How Much I Love You", and others. They all achieved only moderate success in Britain and it was to be "Tar & Cement" that would be her solitary entry into the No. 1 spot. 'Tar and Cement' was originally an Italian smash hit for Adriano Celentano under the title 'Il Ragazzo Della Via Gluck', and written by Luciano Beretta, Adriano Celentano and Michele Del Prete. French chanteuse Françoise Hardy did a pretty French version under the title 'La Maison Où J'ai Grandi'. Lee Pockriss and Paul Vance wrote English lyrics for it, and it became 'Tar and Cement'. Incidentally Pockriss and Vance were also responsible for Verdelle's other semi-hit '(Alone) In My Room'. The song has subsequently been translated into eighteen languages. Sadly, Verdelle performed a very successful disappearing act after 1966.
Yellow Submarine / Eleanor Rigby - The Beatles
1966 was the first year in which The Beatles did not have a single in the year's top 20 in Australia. This was not because they were losing their popularity, rather that their fans preferred to buy albums. This was the only single lifted from the Revolver album. The A-side, 'Eleanor Rigby', is a true Beatles classic, written and sung by Paul. The sole instrumental backing to Paul's valid social statement about loneliness is a string quartet which, like that featured in 'Yesterday', was deftly crafted by producer George Martin. As children, McCartney and Lennon would have played in the St Peter's Church graveyard as youngsters which was over the road from where they first met and performed music when John was still in The Quarrymen. Eleanor Rigby is buried in that graveyard and two graves over is, coincidently, the grave of John McKenzie. John Lennon claimed that he wrote the last verse of the song when Paul couldn't come up with how to end the story. John also claimed that he came up with the idea of "Father McCartney" but Paul vetoed it, in deference to his father. Paul disagrees on the amount of John's contribution, claiming it was little more than five words. The single's B-side is 'Yellow Submarine'. One of the most popular Beatles songs with Ringo on lead vocals, it is a children's song that would later inspire the animated movie of the same name. Another Beatles single, 'Paperback Writer'/'Rain', was released soon after this one, but it failed to make the year's top 20 also. Both songs on the second single were put down during the Revolver recording sessions but did not appear on that album due to a lack of room.
Needle In A Haystack - The Twilights
'Needle In A haystack' was the breakthrough song for the Adelaide-based group, The Twilights and their lead singer, Glenn Shorrock. It was written by William 'Mickey' Stevenson and Motown producer Norman Whirfield and was a moderate US hit in 1964 for The Velvelettes, a Motown girl group. The Twilights' recording received plenty of airplay on radio stations around the country and became the group's only No.1 hit. It was the perfect follow-up to their previous single, a revival of the 1957 Larry Williams' hit, 'Bad Boy', which went head to head against a Beatles' version, and outsold it by a country mile.
Monday Monday - The Mamas And The Papas
At a time when The Easybeats had Friday on their minds, a newly formed California-based group called The Mamas and the Papas were pre-occupied with Monday. One evening while awaiting the release of "California Dreamin'," band member Denny Doherty was prodding songwriter John Phillips to come up with some new material. Phillips said he would come back in the morning with "a song with universal appeal". Ignoring the sarcastic comments from the group members, Phillips came up with this, their biggest hit, about not knowing what surprises a new day or a new week may bring.
Denny and Michelle apparently hated the song when they first heard it; when they were told it was to be their next single, Michelle was horrified and thought it would end their careers. Forced to eat humble pie, Denny was later quoted as saying, "Who knew? - What do I know about music!" This is believed be be the first ever popular song to use a pause as a musical device - about three seconds in length, just after the second chorus, toward the end of the song. There were lots of imitators after this, and the pause became commonplace, but "Monday Monday" did it first. When it was first played, many DJ's thought the song had ended right there and started talking.
Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown) - The Beatles
Appearing on the Rubber Soul album but never released as a single, 'Norwegian Wood' is regarded today as a Beatles classic, and features George playing sitar for the first time, and poignant lyrics penned and sung by John. Norwegian Wood is a fake wood that was used to make cheap furniture. Lennon knew people who were using it in their homes and thought it would make a good title. He claimed he was trying to write about an affair without letting his wife know he was having one. The title refers to the cheap, fake feel of such relationships.
Let The Little Girl Dance - Grantley Dee
Grantley Dee (1946-2005) was a popular Melbourne disc jockey and singer who worked on radio at 3AK Melbourne and later at 7EX Launceston. He had six charting singles in Melbourne in the late 60s, this one being his best seller. Written by Carl Spencer and Henry Glover, it was first recorded by Carl Spencer and the Videos in the US in 1958. Other versions released in Australia were by The Gingerbread Men (1965), an Adelaide band whose line-up included Idris Jones, later of The Mixtures, and his brother Evan. The Jones brothers wrote The Mixtures' hit 'The Pushbike Song' (1970). US singer Billy Bland was a versatile pop/R&B singer whose only hit was this song.
You Can't Hurry Love - The Supremes
Written by the prolific songwriting team of Lamont Dozier and brothers Brian Holland and Edward Holland, Jr., this tune was based on a Gospel song entitled "You Can't Hurry God", which was sung by Dorothy Love Coates and the Gospel Harmonettes, a Gospel group based in Birmingham, Alabama. This was the first of a second run of consecutive No.1 American hits by The Supremes. The recording is often considered the most perfect expression of The Motown Sound of the 1960s. Holland-Dozier-Holland were at the peak of their form, and The Supremes never had a better song. A cover version by Phil Collins was a major hit in late 1982. His version was used as the main theme for the 1988 film of the same name. The Dixie Chicks covered this for the soundtrack of the 1999 movie, Runaway Bride.
Security - Thane Russell and Three
A driving, garage style arrangement of an Otis Redding song, it was popular in Australia but sank without trace in its country of origin (Britain). It was produced by Paul Gadd, also known as Paul Raven but better known later as Gary Glitter. The identity of Thane Russell was a matter of speculation in Australia for years (some thought he might have been Mick Jagger) but Glenn A. Baker finally revealed that he was British singer Doug Gibbons. An associate of The Rolling Stones, Gibbons was also connected with guitarist Jimmy Page. Gibbons recorded the Jimmy Page-Jackie DeShannon song 'I Got My Tears To Remind Me' in 1965, and in the same year Gibbons' band, The Outsiders, recorded two of Page's compositions. Page is believed to have played fuzz guitar on the Thane Russell's 'Security'.
Homeward Bound - Simon & Garfunkel
After the first Simon & Garfunkel album - Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. - bombed in 1964, the duo decided to go their separate ways. Paul Simon went to live in England, scratching a living on that country's folk circuit. He had played at a club in Widnes and was getting a train back to Brentwood, Essex, England, where he lived. On the windswept railway station he wrote 'Homeward Bound'. The song has a double meaning: literally, wanting a train home to Brentwood, but on the other hand, yearning to go back to his home in the US. Little did Simon know that producer Tom Wilson, who held the masters of an unreleased album of S&G songs, was at that very time recording Bob Dylan's next album, Highway 61 Revisited. Wilson was so excited by the way a rock band had transformed Dylan's songs, he pulled out the S&G masters and got Dylan's session players to record a rock track for each using an electric 12-string guitar, bass and drums, which he then overdubbed onto the recordings. These songs made up the Sounds of Silence album (1966), which he released without the artist's knowledge, and put Simon & Garfunkel Back in business. Simon quickly returned to the US; "Homeward Bound", originally intended to have only a simple guitar accompaniment, was given the same treatment before being included on their next album, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.
The Sounds Of Silence - Simon & Garfunkel
The first recording of this song was an acoustic version on Simon & Garfunkel's first album, Wednesday Morning, 3 AM, which sold about 2,000 copies. Disappointed by its lack of sales, the duo broke up with an unreleased album in the can. Producer Tom Wilson added electric instruments to the acoustic tracks, released the album and it became one of Columbia Records' biggest sellers in 1966. As a result, the duo re-formed. Paul Simon had worked for six months on the lyrics, which are believed to have been written in response to the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy. "When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light, that split the night, and split the sound of silence" are said to refer to the gunshot that struck Kennedy. "And in the naked light I saw, 10,000 people maybe more" is said to be a reference to the crowds at his funeral. "The Sounds Of Silence" had been one of the first songs Simon and Garfunkel performed in 1964 when they were starting out and playing the folk clubs in Greenwich Village, New York, after discarding their former Everly Brothers-like image using the name Tom & Jerry. It became their first hit.
Last Train To Clarksville - The Monkees
The first single and hit record for The Monkees, it was written by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, a songwriting team that produced many songs for the Monkees, as well as Chubby Checker and Jay And The Americans. Boyce and Hart wrote this song in protest against the Vietnam War. They had to keep this quiet in order to get it recorded, but it is about a man who gets drafted and goes to fight in the war. The train is taking him to an army base, and he knows he may die in Vietnam - at the end of the song he states, "I don't know if I'm ever coming home." On the use of the name Clarkesville, Hart recalls: "We were just looking for a name that sounded good. There's a little town in Northern Arizona I used to go through called Clarksdale. We were throwing out names, and when we got to Clarksdale, we thought Clarksville sounded even better. We didn't know it at the time, [but] there is an Air Force base near the town of Clarksville, Tennessee - which would have fit the bill fine for the story line. We couldn't be too direct with The Monkees. We couldn't really make a protest song out of it - we kind of snuck it in." Hart got the idea for the lyrics when he turned on the radio and heard the end of The Beatles' "Paperback Writer." He thought Paul McCartney was singing "Take the last train," and decided to use the line when he found out McCartney was actually singing "Paperback Writer." The four members of The Monkees were chosen from over 400 applicants to appear on a TV show based on The Beatles movie, A Hard Day's Night. The show was about a fictional band, so the members were chosen more for their looks and acting ability than for their musical talent. Session musicians played on their early albums, including this song. The Monkees followed this up with the Neil Diamond penned "I'm A Believer," and had several more hits before their show was cancelled in 1968. Eventually, the band members would write their own songs and get to play their own instruments.
I Fought The Law - Bobby Fuller Four
A much-covered song originally recorded by Sonny Curtis and the (post Buddy Holly) Crickets (hear the recording). The song is more identified in the eyes (and ears) of many music fans with the Bobby Fuller Four. Around the time the song became a top ten hit, Bobby Fuller was found dead in a parked car near his Los Angeles home. The police considered the death an apparent suicide; however, many people still believe Fuller was murdered. In 1989, when the U.S. Marines had Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega confined to a church and were attempting to flush him out, one psychological tactic they used was to play "I Fought the Law" loudly and repeatedly from loudspeakers. When presidential press secretary Marlin Fitzwater was asked about the appropriateness of this at a press conference, he replied to the effect that it was a refreshing illustration of Americans' sense of humor. The Bobby Fuller Four version of this song is ranked No.175 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
It Takes Two - Marvin Gaye with Kim Weston
"It Takes Two" was a hit single recorded in 1966 by Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston for Motown's Tamla label. Produced by Weston's husband, longtime Gaye collaborator William "Mickey" Stevenson, and co-written by Stevenson and Sylvia Moy, "It Takes Two" centered around a romantic lyric which depicted many things in life (dreams, love, wishes, etc.) being better when shared by two people. The single became Gaye's most successful duet to date, but was later outperformed by Gaye's duets with Tammi Terrell. "It Takes Two" was also Gaye's first major hit in the UK. In 1967, soul singers Otis Redding and Carla Thomas covered the song on their duet album, King & Queen. In 1990 "It Takes Two" was covered by Tina Turner & Rod Stewart.
Sloop John B - The Beach Boys
"Sloop John B", the seventh track on The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds album, was also released as a single. It was originally a traditional West Indies folk song, possibly recorded earliest by The Weavers under the title "Wreck of the John B"; the song taken from a collection by Carl Sandburg (1927). The John B. was an old sponger boat whose crew were in the habit of getting notoriously merry whenever they made port. It was wrecked and sunk at Governers Harbour in Eleuthera, the Bahamas, in about 1900. Alan Lomax is said to have made a field recording of the song in Nassau, 1935, under the title "Hoist Up the John B. Sail". The song was adapted by Weavers member, Lee Hays, and has been recorded by many artists, including The Calypso Bandits, Joseph Spence, Tom Fogerty, Roger Whitaker, Johnny Cash, Jerry Jeff Walker, Dick Dale, Catch-22, Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, Relient K and Okkervil River. In 1960 Lonnie Donegan had a UK Top 10 hit with it under the title "I Wanna Go Home". The Beach Boys' Alan Jardine, who was a keen folk music fan, suggested to Brian Wilson that the Beach Boys should do a cover version, having purchased a copy of The Kingston Trio's recording of it. As Jardine explains, "Brian was at the piano. I asked him if I could sit down and show him something. I laid out the chord pattern for 'Sloop John B'. I said, 'Remember this song?' I played it. He said, 'I'm not a big fan of the Kingston Trio.' He wasn't into folk music. But I didn't give up on the idea. So what I did was to sit down and play it for him in the Beach Boys idiom. I figured if I gave it to him in the right light, he might end up believing in it. So I modified the chord changes so it would be a little more interesting. The original song is basically a three-chord song, and I knew that wouldn't fly. So I put some minor changes in there, and it stretched out the possibilities from a vocal point of view. Anyway, I played it, walked away from the piano and we went back to work. The very next day, I got a phone call to come down to the studio. Brian played the song for me, and I was blown away. The idea stage to the completed track took less him than 24 hours."
When A Man Loves A Woman - Percy Sledge
The song is actually based on the chord progression of Pachelbel's "Canon in D". Listed 54th in the List of Rolling Stone magazine's 500 greatest songs of all time, it was remade by Michael Bolton in 1991, whose version also reached No.1 on the US singles chart (Michael Bolton also received a Grammy Award for this song).
Paint It Black - The Rolling Stones (right)
This song is credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards although all of the band members contributed substantially to it, especially Bill Wyman, and leader/founder Brian Jones. Jagger's and Richards' original conception of the song was that of a slow soul song from the viewpoint of a person who is depressed. He wants everything to turn black to match his mood. The song began with Wyman playing organ at a recording session, in parody of the group's former co-manager Eric Easton, who had been an organist. Charlie Watts accompanied the organ by playing a vaguely Middle Eastern drum part; Watts' drum pattern became the basis for the final song. Brian Jones contributed the song's signature sitar riff (having taught himself to play), and Jagger contributed a lyric seemingly about a man mourning his dead girlfriend. The piano is played by Jack Nitzsche. In 2004 it was ranked No. 174 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
California Dreamin' - The Mamas And The Papas (right)
The song was written in 1963 by John and Michelle Phillips while they were living in New York, and was inspired by Michelle's home sickness for California. At the time, the pair were members of the folk group The New Journeymen which evolved into The Mamas and the Papas. They earned their first record contract after being introduced to Lou Adler, the head of Dunhill Records, by fellow singer Barry McGuire'. At first, they were going to be McGuire's backing band on this track, and it was going to be his follow up single to the hit, "Eve Of Destruction." When Denny Doherty (the other Papa) sang it, it became clear that The Mamas And The Papas should record it themselves, so Dunhill Records used it as their first single. The song features a flute solo, a rarity on pop songs. A Jazz player name Bud Shank was brought to the session to play it. The song never made it to No.1, peaking at No.4, but stayed on the charts for 17 weeks. In their 1967 song, "Creeque Alley," The Mamas And The Papas gave a history of the band and explained what happened when they did come to California. "California Dreamin'" is No.89 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Daydream - Lovin' Spoonful (right)
This lazy, laid back celebration of love on a summer's day originated with John Sebastian's attempt to rewrite The Supremes' "Baby Love," though it turned into something quite different. John Sebastian recalls, "We had no way of knowing what a nice long shelf life some of that material was gonna have. At the time, we were certainly aiming only for the next few months. That's really what we were trying for, a Top Ten record right now, right then. Everything else is unexpected." This song started The whole "New Vaudeville" retro bandwagon of the late 1960s, of which Sgt. Pepper was the most well known example. It influenced The Beatles - John Lennon's jukebox included both this and "Do You Believe In Magic?" and is known to have been a major influence on Paul McCartney's Beatles composition, "Good Day Sunshine." "Daydream" was featured in the 1994 film, War. Its release was followed by the singles, "Summer In The City" and "Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind", the latter of which is said to have been inspired by a pair of sisters who John Sebastian met at a summer camp. The song's question was fantasy - neither sister showed any interest in Sebastian, even though he taught himself the autoharp in an attempt to impress them both.
Wild Thing - The Troggs (right)
"Wild Thing", written by New York-born songwriter Chip Taylor, was originally recorded by The Wild Ones in 1965. The song is in the Key of A Major, and is based around the Chord Progression (I - IV - V - IV), which is the basis for the main riff, and the instrumental parts during the Chorus. The middle eight was originally someone whistling, but this was replaced by Reg Presley playing an ocarina. The song has remained extremely popular ever since The Troggs' turned it into a hit, and has been covered many times - perhaps most notably by Jimi Hendrix, whose performance of the song was featured in the 1968 documentary, Monterey Pop. However, Hendrix never recorded the song in the studio. The Troggs were from the town of Andover in southern England. The band's name comes from shortening the word troglodyte - meaning "cave dweller". The Troggs were signed by the manager of The Kinks in 1966, two years after the band's formation.
A Groovy Kind of Love - The Mindbenders (right)
The lyrics of this song - particularly the reference to 'groovy' - sound very dated these days, but were very 'in' when New York songwriters Carole Bayer Sager and Toni Wine wrote them. Sager was 22 and teaching high school and Wine was 17 and still in high school at the time. Both went on to very successful careers in the music industry, Sager writing popular songs for stage productions and movies (including "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)"), while Wine wrote the hit "Candida" and sang backing on many popular recordings, including Willie Nelson's version of "Always On My Mind". He was also one of The Archies on "Sugar, Sugar". Wine recalls how "A Groovy Kind of Love" came into being during a writing sesion in Sager's apartment: "We were talking about 'Groovy' being the new word. The only song we knew of was '59th Street Bridge Song', Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. You know, 'Feelin' groovy.' And we knew we wanted to write a song with that word in it. Because we knew it was the happening word, and we wanted to jump on that. Carole came up with "Groovy kinda... groovy kinda... groovy..." and we're all just saying, "Kinda groovy, kinda groovy, kinda..." I don't exactly know who came up with "Love," but it was "Groovy kind of love." We wrote it in 20 minutes. It was amazing. It was a real quick and easy song to write." The song became a No.1 UK and US hit second time around in 1988 for Phil Phil Collins. His version was used in the movie, Buster, where Collins plays the title role of 1963 Great Train Robber, Buster Edwards. Collins put together the soundtrack using various '60s songs.
Lightmin' Strikes - Lou Christie
Of this song, singer Lou Christie recalls: "They (his recording company) didn't even like it! (Label head) Lenny Shear threw it in the wastebasket and said it was a piece of crap! So we put up our own money to get it played around the country, and it started taking off once it got played. Three months later, Lenny was taking a picture with me for Billboard magazine, handing me a gold record. I loved that." The song was co-written by Christie and Twyla Herbert, who was at least 20 years older than Christie and came from a classical music background. Christie's distinctive falsetto in the hook chorus and the way the song builds set it apart from other songs on the radio at the time and helped make it a hit. On this single, the backup singers are heard singing "Stop"! and many people suggested it was about an unwanted sexual advance, hence the lines: When I see lips begging to be kissed (Stop!) I can't stop (Stop!) No I can't stop myself (Stop! Stop!).
A Must To Avoid - Herman's Hermits (right)
British Mod band Herman's Hermits were hugely successful in the mid-1960s. Their first hit was "I'm Into Something Good", which reached No. 1 in the UK and Australia. They never topped the British charts again, but had two US No. 1's with "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter" and "I'm Henry the Eighth, I Am". The band disliked both songs, and never released them as singles in Britain, although 'Mrs. Brown' featured excellent rhythm guitar by Hopwood, and 'Henry' featured an excellent guitar solo by Leckenby. The band appeared in several movies, including When The Boys Meet The Girls (1965), Hold On! (1966) and Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter (1968). Recording wise, 1966 was their busiest year. "A Must to Avoid", "Listen People" and "Leaning on the Lamp Post" were all released in 1966, the latter making the Australian Top 10. "I'm Henry VIII, I Am", "This Door Swings Both Ways" and "Dandy" were released a year earlier and all charted in 1966, but failed to make our Top 10.
Sunshine Superman - Donovan (right)
This composition by Donovan Leach marked the artist's crossover from folk to psychedelic rock. Originally, this song was subtitled "For John And Paul," a reference to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, with whom he was good friends. They were both making very innovative music at the time, so Donovan's producer Mickie Most told him not to play this to Paul McCartney under any circumstances, because he knew McCartney would be tempted to do something similar. Pye, Donovan's record company, also had Mickie Most under contract, but he moved to CBS before the album on which this song appeared could be released. This prompted a lawsuit that delayed the release of the album, Sunshine Superman, and the singles from it, so it didn't come out until a year after its completion. This was unfortunate for Donovan because this song would have been considered much more innovative if it had been released on schedule. Jimmy Page, then a session player, is featured on lead guitar. It has been suggested that the song's title was inspired by the Manhattan Phone Book (white pages) from that era - in bold print, on page 1200 are the headers "SUNSHINE" on the right and "SUPERMAN" on the right.
I Am A Rock - Simon & Garfunkel (right)
It has been speculated that "I Am a Rock" was written by Paul Simon while in London, where he went after the initial breakup of Simon & Garfunkel. The lyrics of the first verse reference "a deep and dark December" during which he is gazing out from his window to the snow below in the street. The folk-rock nature of the music makes it unlikely that Simon would have written it much earlier than 1963, when he first began experimenting with the folk genre. It was performed by Simon on 27th January 1965 on a promo show for the BBC, London. The original version of the song was first released on the Paul Simon Song Book solo album, and became the A-side to Paul Simon's only single released from it in the summer of 1965. It was backed by "Leaves That Are Green". Like the album, the single was not a commercial success and today it is an extremely rare single to locate. The Paul Simon Song Book album, which for a long time Simon himself had disdained, remained available only in the United Kingdom until 1981. While Simon was in Europe during the summer of 1965, Tom Wilson, the producer of Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. had been receiving interest in the song, "Sounds of Silence", from radio stations. It was suggested to him that the track needed livening up, so he dubbed an electric guitar and drums onto the original track, then released it as a single, whereupon it entered the US pop charts. When Simon heard about the success of this song, he was still touring in Europe as a poor solo folk singer. He immediately returned to the US, and in December 1965 he and Garfunkel began a series of hasty recording sessions with the electric "mold" created by Wilson to many of the other songs from the Song Book album, including this one. The result was the album, Sounds of Silence, which the duo released the following January. "I Am a Rock" was the fifth and closing track on side 2, and with "The Sound of Silence" (the opening track), it bookends the rest of the material. The duo cashed in quickly on their new-found success. They released "I Am a Rock" as a single in the late spring of 1966, and it became the third single (chronologically) by Simon & Garfunkel to reach the top 5 (after "The Sound of Silence" and "Homeward Bound").
Nowhere Man - The Beatles
Lifted from The Beatles' Rubber Soul album, the song's writing credit is to Lennon-McCartney, but it was actually penned almost entirely by John Lennon. "Nowhere Man" marks a notable instance of Lennon's philosophically-oriented songwriting. When the song first appeared, many of the Beatles' youthful fan base interpreted the rather hard-edged lyric, which satirizes the "Nowhere Man" as someone who "just sees what he wants to see" and who "don't know what [he's] missing", as directed against their parents' generation and conformism generally. Lennon, however, claimed that he himself was the subject of the song. He wrote it after wracking his brain in desperation for five hours, trying to come up with another song for Rubber Soul. "I'd actually stopped trying to think of something," he said. "Then I thought of myself as Nowhere Man - sitting in his nowhere land. I'd spent five hours that morning trying to write a song that was meaningful and good, and I finally gave up and lay down. Then 'Nowhere Man' came, words and music, the whole damn thing as I lay down." If factual, Lennon's explanation places the song with his earlier "I'm a Loser" and later introspective and self-critical songs ("Yer Blues", "Help!", "Jealous Guy"), rather than among his "counter-culture" songs such as "The Word" and "All You Need is Love" (as it was perceived at the time). McCartney said of the song: "That was John after a night out, with dawn coming up. I think at that point, he was a bit ... wondering where he was going."
Paperback Writer - The Beatles (right)
One of Paul McCartney's aunts reportedly requested that he write a song with some other theme than boy-girl relationships. British disc jockey Jimmy Savile claimed that McCartney's inspiration came from seeing drummer Ringo Starr reading a book. "He took one look and announced that he would write a song about a book," he said. In a 2007 interview, McCartney recalled that he wrote the song after reading in The Daily Mail about an aspiring author, possibly Martin Amis. The song's lyric is in the form of a letter from an aspiring author addressed to a publisher. The author badly needs a job and has written a paperback version of a book by a "man named Lear." This is a reference to the Victorian painter Edward Lear, who wrote nonsense poems and songs of which John Lennon was very fond (though Lear never wrote novels).
The Daily Mail was Lennon's regular newspaper and was often in the studio when The Beatles were writing songs. Aside from deviating from the subject of love, McCartney had it in mind to write a song with a melody backed by a single, static chord. "John and I would like to do songs with just one note like 'Long Tall Sally.' We got near it in 'The Word.'" He also claimed to have barely failed to achieve this goal with "Paperback Writer," as the verse remains on G until the end, at which point it pauses on C.
The backing vocals during this section are from the French children's song "Frère Jacques". Although the song was not included on an original Beatles album, it has since been included on several compilation albums. The song is one of The Beatles' most distinctive forays into "mod" rock and owes much to the contemporary work of The Who, with its distorted, circular guitar hook, high-pitched harmonies, and pounding drums, complete with tambourine touches à la "I Can't Explain". Other noteworthy aspects of the song include its distinctive a cappella intro, which reappears after each verse, and the distorted guitar riff that explodes from it leading into the next verse. A similar melody can be heard in another McCartney number, "Got To Get You Into My Life".
Lil' Red Riding Hood - Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs
Sam the Sham is the stage name of rock 'n' roll singer Domingo “Sam” Samudio from Dallas, Texas. Sam would later be known for his campy onstage attire of robe and turban and hauling his equipment around in a 1952 Packard hearse complete with maroon velvet curtains. As the front man for the Pharoahs, he sang on numerous Top 40 hits in the mid-1960s, most notably "Wooly Bully" (1965). The popularity of "Lil' Red Riding Hood" led to a financial dispute between Samudio and his band, who parted company in late 1966.
Sweet Pea - Tommy Roe (right)
Born Thomas David Roe in Atlanta, Georgia, Rowe attended Brown High School in Atlanta where he participated in a band. Greatly influenced by the sounds of the late Buddy Holly, Tommy Roe developed a unique style that, combined with his All-American clean-cut image, made him a popular musical performer throughout the 1960s. "Sweet Pea" was the fouth of ten singles that charted between 1962 ("Sheila") and 1970 ("Jam Up and Jelly Tight").
Reach Out I'll Be There - The Four Tops (right)
Written and produced by Motown's main production team, Holland-Dozier-Holland, the song is one of the most well-known Motown tunes of the 1960s and is today considered The Four Tops' signature song. Rolling Stone has ranked this version No.206 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Lead singer Levi Stubbs delivers many of the lines in the song in a tone that straddles the line between singing and shouting, like he did in 1965's "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)". Also, Stubbs' ad-libbed line, "just look over your shoulder", found its way into another song named "I'll Be There" four years later: it was the Jackson 5's fourth No.1 hit. This song differs markedly from The Four Tops' earlier efforts, due to the highly contrasting shifts between minor and major, and also major and augmented chords. These contrasting tonal shades form the hook for which the song is so well known. The Four Tops would rely on this formula for several subsequent releases.
Solitary Man - Neil Diamond
Neil Diamond’s first recording contract was in 1960 as the Neil of the Everly Brothers-style duo, Neil and Jack, who recorded on the Duel Records label. Jack was Neil's high school friend, Jack Packer. They recorded the single "What Will I Do," but it was unsuccessful. In 1962, Diamond signed with Columbia Records as a solo performer. He released the single "At Night," but it failed to make the music charts, and Columbia dropped him. Diamond then went back to writing songs on an upright piano as a writer in the Brill Building, and had success with "I'm a Believer" and "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You," which were recorded by The Monkees.
By this time (1966), Diamond had signed a deal as a recording artist with Bang Records. 'Solitary Man' was his first single with the label, and his first hit as a performer. Diamond recalls: "'Solitary Man' was written in my house in Massapequa, Long Island, and was inspired by the minor-key of The Beatles' song ‘Michelle,’ which I loved. ‘Solitary Man’ convinced me I’d always been this quiet, introverted kid. Then one of my fellow 6th grade graduates came backstage recently and showed me our 6th grade graduation book. I was shocked to be reminded that I had been voted ‘Most Cheerful’. That totally shook my whole concept of what I was like as a child. I thought I was a loner and it turns out I was probably a cheerleader. On the other hand, ‘Cheerful Man’ wouldn’t have sounded as good."
Cherry, Cherry - Neil Diamond (right)
Diamond recalls the writing process of his second hit thus: "Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and I were sitting around a small office at Bang Records talking about material for my first session for the label. I began to play a guitar lick which caught Jeff’s ear. His positive reaction made me go home and finish ‘Cherry Cherry’. We all went into Dick Charles’ studio and recorded a pared-down demo version. Jeff and Ellie sang the background parts, I sang and played the guitar, and Artie Butler played the piano and Hammond organ. I forgot who played bass but bless him anyway. We over dubbed some hand claps and a few other rhythm things (we never used a drum) and used that demo as the basis for an ‘official’ recording with horns, voices and drums. Although the big version had lots of energy, it lacked the simplicity and groove of the demo. So the demo was released as my second single on Bang - (it was) a big hit and a major commercial kick off to my career. I think we made the right choice."
That's Life - Frank Sinatra
Written by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon, 'That's Life' was a surprise hit for Sinatra. It was featured in That's Life, a 1966 album by Sinatra, and was released as a single only after pressure from radio stations who were being swamped by listeners' requests to play it. Both the album and the single proved a major successes for Sinatra.