August 18, 2017

560 The Blossoms “He’s a Rebel” 1962

“Darlene Love’s was the unmistakable voice cutting through Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, although she was uncredited on her biggest hit, ‘He’s a Rebel,’ by the Crystals. A vocalist with the Blossoms and Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, Love also released some solo recordings, including one that would become her signature, ‘Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),’ in 1963.” Love said, “I know we were the first black background group. Because mostly, the people that were doing sessions, they weren’t groups. They just hired a soprano, alto and tenor or whatever. But we were literally a group doing background…We worked for Dionne Warwick for 10 years. That was where we had most of our growing up—learning what you do and what you don’t do, how you take care of business, how you talk to people, how you deal with people” (Roger Catlin, The Washington Post, 12/15/2016). 

The Blossoms “He’s a Rebel”

559 The Beatles “Love Me Do” 1962

Little Richard: “Nobody knew [The Beatles] but their mothers. I thought they were a very good group when they performed with me at the Star-Club in Hamburg, but I never thought they were a hit group…They were singing my music and Chuck Berry’s and some of Elvis’s. They would sing ‘Love Me Do’ every night, ‘cause it was going to be their first record. It was really something else when they shook the world” (David Pritchard, Alan Lysaght, The Beatles: An Oral History, 1998). 

The Beatles “Love Me Do”

558 The Beatles “(P.S.) I Love You” 1962

When American rock & roll appeared in England in the mid 50s, “All the Beatles, like millions of lads of the same age, were affected. They all have the same sort of memories, of groups springing up in every class at school and in every street at home. There were overnight about a hundred dances in Liverpool with skiffle groups queuing up to perform. It was the first time for generations that music wasn’t the property of musicians. Anyone could get up and have a go. It was like giving painting sets to monkeys. Some of them were bound to produce something good sometime” (Hunter Davies, The Beatles, 1978). 

The Beatles “(P.S.) I Love You”

557 The Beach Boys “Surfin’ Safari” 1962

“The first song on the first side of their first album didn’t tell a literal truth about the lives of the young men singing it—no one save the drummer was ever likely to go surfing with anyone at any time under any circumstances—but there’s truth in the voices. It crackled through the guitars and drums, and in 1962 it spoke not just to kids in Los Angeles, but also in hundreds of far-flung, landlocked cities” (Peter Carlin, Catch a Wave, 2006).  

The Beach Boys “Surfin’ Safari”

556 John Barry (1933-2011) and his orchestra “James Bond Theme” 1962

“Before Dr. No, the most significant musical hit to have originated in a spy film was Doris Day’s ‘Que Ser Sera’ for the 1957 Alfred Hitchcock The Man Who Knew Too Much. But the use of the electric guitar connected a new generation of movie goers to the films they often saw in drive-in theatres on weekends, a generation defining itself by the sounds of rock and roll. As a result, the Clifford Essex Paragon De Luxe, the guitar Vick Flick played for the original ‘James Bond Theme,’ is now appropriately on display in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame” (Jack Becker, et al, James Bond in World and Popular Culture, 2011).

John Barry and his orchestra “James Bond Theme”

August 4, 2017

555 Joan Baez (1941- ) “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” 1962

“I had an affair with a girl when I was twenty-two. It was wonderful. It happened, I assume, after an overdose of unhappiness at the end of an affair with a man, when I had a need for softness and understanding. I assume that the homosexuality within me…saved me from becoming cold and bitter toward everyone” (Joan Baez, And a Voice to Sing With, 1987). 

Joan Baez “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You”

554 Herb Alpert (1935- ) and the Tijuana “The Lonely Bull” 1962

Alpert “was working in the makeshift recording studio in his garage one day in 1962 when he happened on something interesting; he discovered that he could add a new dimension to his sound by recording a second trumpet part directly on top of the original…When the two parts were combined slightly out of synchronization, another effect was produced, which he called a ‘Spanish flair.’” Inspired by a bullfight in Tijuana, Mexico, he added the “flair” and bullfight atmosphere to “a friend’s instrumental composition called ‘Twinkle Star,’ which he then retitled ‘The Lonely Bull’”(Ben Edmonds, Linda Paulson, Contemporary Musicians, 2005).

Herb Alpert (1935- ) and the Tijuana Brass “The Lonely Bull”

553 Bobby Vee (1943-2016) “Take Good Care of My Baby” 1961

“Born Robert Thomas Velline on April 30, 1943, and raised in Fargo, Vee famously got his big break under tragic circumstances at the age of 15 in 1959. He and his band, the Shadows, were recruited to fill in for Buddy Holly at the Moorhead stop of the Winter Dance Party Tour the night after Holly died in a plane crash outside of Clear Lake, Iowa. Vee’s career soon rocketed after that as he earned teen idol fame and landed 38 singles in the Billboard Hot 100 between 1959-1970…he famously remained a humble, hard-working Midwesterner who settled into a quiet life in St. Joseph, Minn., with his wife of more than 50 years, Karen…Bob Dylan said that Vee was “the most beautiful person I’ve ever been on stage with” (Chris Riemenschneider, Star Tribune—Minneapolis, October 24, 2016). 

Bobby Vee “Take Good Care of My Baby”

552 The Tokens “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” 1961, The Weavers “Wimoweh” 1952, Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds “Mbube” 1939

Solomon Linda (1909-1962) “and his boys were given a one-off chance to record a song on the only recording equipment in all of Sub-Saharan Africa in 1939…Linda was paid ten shillings, and the song became a hit in Africa, though it was beyond unlikely that it would someday become known in every corner of the world.” Ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax shared the record with Pete Seeger, whose mistranslated “Wimoweh” was recorded by the Weavers in 1952. Because of Seeger’s leftist politics, “the song disappeared from the airwaves, as did Seeger for years to come. A decade later, four Jewish teenagers from Brooklyn calling themselves the Tokens discovered a dusty copy of the Weavers’ near-hit record in the collection of a group member’s older brother” (Robert Zieger, OAH Magazine of History, April 2010). 

The Tokens “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”

The Weavers and Gordon Jenkins & his Orchestra “Wimoweh”

Solomon Linda and the Evening Birds “Mbube”

551 The Shirelles "Mama Said" 1961

Susan Douglas wrote: “The most important thing about this music, the reason it spoke to us so powerfully, was that it gave voice to all of the warring selves inside us struggling, blindly and with a crushing sense of insecurity, to forge something resembling a coherent identity…In the early 1960s, pop music became the one area of popular culture in which adolescent female voices could be clearly heard” (O’Brien, She Bop II, 2002).

The Shirelles "Mama Said"

July 28, 2017

550 Del Shannon (1934-1990) “Runaway” 1961

“He was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan and grew up in the nearby small town of Coopersville. He learnt to play the ukulele and guitar and listened to country music, citing Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell and Hank Snow as particular favourites. During the late 1950s, before he became an international pop star, Del played in various bands around Battle Creek, Michigan. Adopting the name Charlie Johnson and fronting the Big Little Show Band, he would play a mix of country, pop, and rock’n’roll songs” (Maverick, April 2010). 

Del Shannon (1934-1990) “Runaway”

549 The Revels “Comanche” 1961

“While The Sentinals and The Impacts were probably the best-known surf bands from the [San Luis Obispo] county, local surf music began with The Revels…The Revels started out of San Loui Obispo High School in the mid-1950s. And while they are often considered a ‘pre-surf’ band, decades later, they would gain surf music notoriety when their song ‘Commanche’ appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s movie ‘Pulp Fiction’” (Patrick Pemberton, The Tribune, www.sanluisobispo.com, 3/1/2012). 

The Revels “Comanche”

548 The Regents “Barbara Ann” 1961

“A rock ‘n’ roll vocal group from the Bronx, New York, USA. The Regents were part of the explosion of Italian-American vocal groups from the New York area who made their impact during the early 60s, before the British invasion and the rise of self-contained bands made them passé…They first recorded a demo of ‘Barbara-Ann’, but when no company showed interest in the song they broke up” (The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 2006). 

The Regents “Barbara Ann”

547 Jimmy Reed (1925-1976) “Bright Lights, Big City” 1961

“Dazzled by the streetlights of many a Southern city while he was on a brief tour, Reed was struck with lyrics; words and images just seemed to manifest. He could hardly see in front of him as he sped down the road in his car, saying ‘these lights sure is bright.’ And the basis of a song emerged…The fascination with Wolf, Muddy, and even John Lee Hooker is their mannishness, the inherent meanness in their delivery. In short, they presented themselves as badasses, whether this was true or not. Conversely…Reed could have been the guy who sidled up to the bar and drank a couple of beers with you—and often was” (Will Romano, Big Boss Man: The Life and Music of Jimmy Reed, 2006). 

Jimmy Reed “Bright Lights, Big City”

546 Jimmy Reed (1925-1976) “Big Boss Man” 1961

“Because Reed’s epilepsy medicine was a depressant, when combined with alcohol it made the poor man dazed at times. Many Reed fans had no knowledge of his medical problem; they thought some of his whacky behavior could be chalked up to alcohol abuse, or worse. The truth is, Reed preferred to stay drunk most of the time because he thought it would keep his epileptic seizures at bay” (Will Romano, Big Boss Man: The Life and Music of Jimmy Reed, 2006). 

Jimmy Reed “Big Boss Man”

July 21, 2017

545 Elvis Presley (1935-1977) “Can’t Help Falling in Love” 1961

“After seeing Blue Hawaii, moviegoers left theaters talking about ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love.’ The number immediately became the favorite of hundreds of thousands of fans. Most were unaware that it had been designated the lesser of the two songs on Elvis’s latest record” (Ace Collins, Untold Gold: The Stories Behind Elvis's #1 Hits, 2005). 

Elvis Presley “Can’t Help Falling in Love”

544 Elvis Presley (1935-1977) “Little Sister” 1961

Presley’s RCA recording engineer, Bill Porter, said the song was a classic even before they finished the final take. Competition from Presley’s films and from the other side of the song’s record (“His Latest Flame”) lowered projected sales (by Presley’s standards) (Ernst Jorgesen, Elvis Presley: A Life in Music, 1998). 

Elvis Presley (1935-1977) “Little Sister”

543 The Paris Sisters “I Love How You Love Me” 1961

The song was recorded by Phil Spector, who along with the Paris Sisters expected generous royalty checks when the song became a hit. However, record owner Lester Sill told them that the production costs were too high. When the Sisters vehemently objected, Sill said “the Paris Sisters destroyed themselves, because they got very salty with me and no one else wanted to record ‘em. I loved the Paris Sisters but I don’t think anyone could’ve made hits with ‘em but Phil” (Mark Ribowsky, He’s a Rebel, 1989). 

The Paris Sisters “I Love How You Love Me”

542 Roy Orbison (1936-1988) “Crying” and “Running Scared” 1961

“Lacking the charismatic good looks of Elvis Presley or the other teen idols of the early 1960s, he increasingly adopted a solitary and mysterious posture, often dressing in black outfits on stage and wearing dark glasses for most public appearances. In the mid-1960s, he had a featured role in the film The Fastest Guitar Alive but made no further attempts to pursue a film career” (American National Biography, 2010). 

Roy Orbison “Crying”

Roy Orbison “Running Scared”

541 Ricky Nelson (1940-1985) “Travelin’ Man” 1961

Father Ozzie Nelson “unconsciously invented the conceptual music video…Instead of having Rick and the band simply stand up and sing the song on the TV program, Ozzie went to work in the editing room and superimposed some stock travelogue footage over Rick’s face as he sang ‘Travelin’ Man,’ a rudimentary model of music videos twenty years before they exploded on the music scene” (Joel Selvin, Ricky Nelson: Idol for a Generation, 1990). 

Ricky Nelson “Travelin’ Man”

July 14, 2017

540 Ricky Nelson (1940-1985) “Hello Mary Lou” 1961

“His guitarist, James Burton, wrote himself into the vocabulary of his instrument…The musicianship of Rick’s early band was renowned among other musicians. When Bob Dylan first looked for a band to back his electric folk rock, he sought out Rick’s old musicians” (Joel Selvin, Ricky Nelson: Idol for a Generation, 1990). 

Ricky Nelson “Hello Mary Lou”

539 The Marvelettes “Please Mr. Postman” 1961

“When The Marvelettes appeared on American Bandstand, all of Inkster, Michigan was watching. Inkster High School even cancelled its football game, for once shining a light on the girls instead of the boys. Nervous to be talking to Dick Clark, Wyanetta [Cowart], when asked about the group’s origins, told him that ‘Detroit is 30 miles outside of Inskster’” (Gayle Wald, Journal of Popular Music Studies, Sept. 2012). 

The Marvelettes “Please Mr. Postman”

538 The Mar-Keys “Last Night” 1961

The band, originally called the Royal Spades, was formed by a group of students at Messick High School in Memphis, Tennessee. After their hit, “Last Night,” debuted, the name was changed to Mar-Keys, a modification of “Marquis” when a band member pointed out that “People around here don’t read French.” The record became the basis for “what became known as the Stax sound” (Rob Bowman, Soulsville, U.S.A.: The Story of Stax Records, 1997).

The Mar-Keys “Last Night”

537 The Marcels “Blue Moon” 1961

Tenor “Bingo” Munday “and his friends formed the Marcels, named after a stylist haircut, in 1959 while students at Allegheny High School on the North Side, inspired by groups like the Harptones, the Cadillacs and the Spaniels…As legend has it, the day he heard it, New York DJ Murray the K played ‘Blue Moon’ 26 times in a four-hour show. In March 1961, the song knocked Elvis Presley off the top of the Billboard chart, becoming the first No. 1 rock n’roll hit out of Pittsburgh” (Scot Mervis, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 1/24/2017). 

The Marcels “Blue Moon”

536 Bobby Lewis (1933- ) “Tossin’ and Turnin” 1961

“One of the realities of the emergence of the rock and roll genre in 1955 or 1956 was the pace of rise to stardom and fall to nonentity was much more frenetic than in the Big Band era of the forties and the adult pop sound of much of the fifties…The much more adolescent-based rock audience was far more fickle, and even top stars who did not die in plane crashes or car wrecks saw their popularity diminish in an amazingly brief time frame. Thus many of the most successful artists during the summer of 1961 had almost totally disappeared by the summer of 1963” (Victor Brooks, Last Season of Innocence: The Teen Experience in the 1960s, 2012). 

Bobby Lewis “Tossin’ and Turnin”