So I pulled out the calculator, and it turns out that doing the Top 100 ten at a time would require over six weeks to finish, so I figured I'd double up. Besides, it was good to give the Top Ten its own place in the sun. Like mayonnaise.
First of all, though I've told the story before, how it is a 12-year-old Midwestern lad came to be lugging Bringing It All Back Home to school that day: it's because in May of 1965 I was hanging around The Track and "Subterranean Homesick Blues" came in over my transistor radio. I knew about Dylan, the "Blowin' in the Wind" guy, but this stuff knocked me out, and I scraped up the $1.98 or whatever it was and ran to Lyric Records to find it. I was a die-hard Dylan fan before I'd finished reading his liner notes (the Great books've been written. the Great sayings have all been said) right there in the store, and while my contemporaries were boogalooing to the rest of the stuff on this list, I was in my room with my Kay acoustic and harmonica holder working through the Bob Dylan songbook. And all because in those days disc jockeys played stuff they liked, not carefully-crafted playlists cooked up on the opposite coast. Hail to thee, Joe Light and the rest of the WIFE Good Guys! Your graves will remain unmarked, like all the benefactors mankind does not deserve. Or something.
11. You Can't Hurry Love, Supremes
Okay, okay, I can bash Miss Ross with the best of 'em, but I think the real story here is that we're poised between the Holland-Dozier-Holland of 1965's "Stop! In the Name of Love" and 1967's "The Happening", which occurred around the time that they decided to leave Motown altogether and begin dueling lawsuits. There was always a razor-thin line between Diana conveying real emotion and Diana ladling on the schlock, and this one starts out straddling that line at best. But then we hit the bridge and suddenly there's iron in that velvet glove and you're on the floor. Or in the First Church of Motown with full sun on all the stained glass.
12. What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted, Jimmy Ruffin
Jimmy Ruffin, David's big brother, and just another Motown masterpiece. Jeez we were spoiled in those days...
13. These Boots Are Made For Walkin', Nancy Sinatra
Really, I suppose I should be happy this wasn't in the Top Ten. The damn thing was ubiquitious, and I started out indifferent to it and reached the point where I wanted to jab pencils in my ears. Now viewed as some sort of proto-feminist anthem, and I suppose the song itself has some charm in that area, but this misses the fact that the singer and her three-note range got the gig because of her last name. Nancy Schwartz couldn't have landed a job doing car-wash jingles.
14. Born Free, Roger Williams
Movie theme song piano tune which for some reason is not presently hyped as a proto-ecology movement instrumental.
15. Strangers In The Night, Frank Sinatra
Dooby-dooby-doo. I could go on all night about Frankie Blue Eyes. I won't.
16. We Can Work It Out, The Beatles
'Allo, ducks. Where ya been keepin' yourselves?
And why are the lovable Mop Tops barely in the Top 20 this time 'round? I guess they were busy turning the pop music universe on its head with Rubber Soul, which came out the preceding Christmas. Smoke from the numerous Beatle bonfires in the wake of Lennon's "more popular than Jesus" remark might have had an effect as well.
Anyway, the song ("Day Tripper" was the other side; not sure why it's not on the list) is an absolute gem. From the famous Paul verses (begging Jane Asher to give up her career and "see things my way", apparently) and John's dour "Life is very short..." bridge, to the use of the harmonium, to yet another remarkable Beatle Ending (truncated, but somehow recapitulating the whole song), it's another of the Lads' works where the closer you look the more you ask yourself just how the fuck they did it. The melody propels the urgency of the lyrics. The sixteen-bar verses are divided into three phrases instead of the expected four, and the bridge suddenly jumps into 3/4 without actually slowing down. And these sorts of touches are everywhere in their work, folks. And none of 'em could read a note of music.
17. When A Man Loves A Woman, Percy Sledge
Jeez, just one of the greatest soul numbers of all time. Okay, the horns are a little ragged, but Percy's voice just conveys, you know what I'm sayin'? He and Wilson Pickett were like losing your virginity unofficially.
18. Winchester Cathedral, New Vaudeville Band
Kitschy novelty tune, but definitely in line with the Paul McCartney/Ray Davies (and later Harry Nilsson) 20s English music hall vibe. I think the lead singer used a megaphone. Hurricane Smith's "Oh Babe (What Would You Say?)" tops this one as a one-off, based on sincerity.
19. Hanky Panky, Tommy James and The Shondells
Even here, four years before I'd find myself trapped painting a tin roof under the July sun while somebody let "Crystal Blue Persuasion" play twenty times in a row two stories below me, I hated Tommy James and The Shondells. Trying to explain why in this case would require a dissertation on Good Songs about Sluts vs. Bad ones. This is a bad one. You can take it from there.
20. Good Lovin', Young Rascals
Great little pop tune forever marred by the fact that somebody put these guys in Little Lord Fauntleroy outfits. And they've got a fine oeuvre ("I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore","I've Been Lonely Too Long", "How Can I Be Sure") marred by hippie schlock ("Groovin'", "People Got To Be Free") and the biggest egos this side of a Crosby Stills Nash and Young reunion. Or any of their solo shows. Felix Cavaliere: "Marvin Gaye's voice, Ray Charles' piano, Jimmy Smith's organ, Phil Spector's production and The Beatles' writing -- put them all together and you've got what I wanted to do."
NEXT: Take that, 1978!