Saturday, April 22

Friday Filler, Late Edition

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!


Anonymous said...


I am extremely fond of Dylan. Unfortunately, harmonica, at any volume, appears to have been specifically crafted to torment people with migraines into messy suicide by decapitation. Ditto accordion and bagpipe, both of which I also quite like.
It's a shame, but these days I have a migraine nearly all the time. So I don't listen to much of it anymore.

We're not even gonna talk about the top 100 from the year I graduated. Solid crap.

Anonymous said...

He and Wilson Pickett were like losing your virginity unofficially.

HEY! No fair!

Oh, DSidhe, those HAs are a bitch. I wish you could find relief.

Well, doghouse, at least you got around to mentioning ONE of the Motown gals, albeit the showiest one. For my money, Martha and the Vandellas(Dancin' in the Streets) and Mary Wells (I've Got Two Lovers) are right up there with the guys, and sometimes looking down. And Aretha Franklin has no peers on anyone's list.

And shouldn't someone mention "Devil With a Blue Dress" Mitch Ryder, or "Louie, Louie" The Kingsmen, fer chrissakes? Frat house staples in those days.

Anonymous said...

It's kind of bizarre that We Can Work It Out is on the list and Day Tripper isn't (who makes these lists?). Day Tripper, IIRC, was the "A" side of the single, althought the Beatles stuff was of such consistent high quality that there were few "B" sides that were actually "B". How do they determine which sales were for which side? I played guitar in a rock band back then and of course the Day Tripper riff was hot for adolescent guitarists everywhere, and evidence that they were surely fans of Roy Orbison.

On the flip side, we all thought Crystal Blue Persuasion was laughable, another example of your basic hitter group trying to get on the psychedelic bandwagon by putting acid into their Budweiser and like really getting into Peter Max and that flower shit, man.

Anonymous said...

Are you throwing down the gauntlet, Mr. Riley? 'Cause it is awn! Do you really think you've got something worse than the 4 pillars of crap that are "Grease", "Sometimes When We Touch", "Boogie Oogie Oogie", and "Come Sail Away"? Considering you've already battered my memory with "Ballad of the Green Berets" and "California Dreamin'", how much worse can it possibly get? (Famous words to be rued later)

As for Felix Cavaliere, he may have been pompous and poorly dressed, but he did have one of rock's great voices and "Good Lovin'" still blasts out of the radio like a 2 and 1/2 minute supernova.

isabelita said...

I was a 15 year old in NW Ohio in 1965, and well and truly attached to CKLW, Motown station from Detroit. Loved those girl groups.
One of them did that song,"Remember - walkin' in the sand...Remember - walkin' hand it hand..." Can't recall which one. Anyway, it was better than lots of those guy groups' efforts.
Your march around memory land is fun. I can hear those tunes instantly, and remember my reactions to them. The Sinatras... barf!

handdrummer said...

Ahh, Can't Hurry Love, another of the great gender bending karaoke tunes my ex-footballer buds and I will do when provoked by enough Brooklyn IPA. Not a sight for the faint of heart, believe me.

Love that song.