My Top 25 Songs of the 60s

Posted: July 22, 2018 in Music, Rock Lyrics, Rock Music, Rock Videos, Things I Love
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Before we begin, understand that I didn’t choose these songs for their historical significance, their legendary lyrics or for the amazing musicianship contain within. I simply picked the songs that I never get tired of listening to, that make my earholes happy every single time I hear them. So without further ado, let us commence . . .

We Gotta Get Out of This Place – The Animals (1965)

Believe it or not this tune was initially slated to be sung by The Righteous Brothers, who would’ve got the brooding right but would’ve never had the grubby, throaty force legend Eric Burdon brings to the song. Just an amazing song with a soaring chorus that blew me away from the get-go. Listen to the bass that kicks things off.

Caroline No – Beach Boys (1966)

Quite simply the saddest, most beautifully written song I’ve ever heard. Proof that Brian Wilson is an absolute musical genius.

Where did your long hair go?

Where is the girl I used to know?

How could you lose that happy glow?

Oh Caroline, no . . .

Nowhere Man – The Beatles (1965)

It should come as no surprise that the four guys from Liverpool were the first to write a song that made me think. Before “Nowhere Man” I just liked music for the beat and the melody, never expecting to learn anything. Still, when I heard these lyrics I was mesmerized . . . “Doesn’t have a point of view, Knows not where he’s going to, Isn’t he a bit like you and me?” You know, I was just a kid but I knew exactly what they were saying – wake up, young man, and see what’s all around you.

Helter Skelter – The Beatles (1968)

Paul McCartney has said that he wanted to record a song, “as long as dirty as possible”. He succeeded. Some say this was the first speed metal song, and I cannot disagree. Wildly original for 1968. Prepare your ears for this one.

Like a Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan (1965)

In 1965, Bob Dylan was about to pack it in. Having finished an exhaustive tour of England he’d lost interest in the music game, but the creation of this track – one of his finest moments made even better with Al Kooper’s signature organ line – reinvigorated his love for music. Of course the six minute monster went on to become a worldwide hit and one of the most influential pieces of music of all time. “How does it f-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-l?”

I Started a Joke – Bee Gees (1968)

Here’s the deal. The Bee Gees have gotten a bad rap for one reason- disco. However, there is way more to the Brothers Gibb than falsetto dance songs, and this tune proves it. There are a many interpretations of this song, including one that believes it’s about organized religion. Whatever the case, I’ve always loved the plaintive, aching vocals and melody of this song.

Positively 4th Street – Bob Dylan (1965)

I always loved the lyrics to this Dylan song, but especially these:

I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment
I could be you
Yes, I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
And you’d know what a drag it is
To see you.

Burn, man.

Chimes of Freedom – The Byrds (1964)

This is vintage Byrds, complete with the music-changing jangly guitars and beautiful harmonies. It’s easy to why The Byrds were The Beatles’ favorite American band. Many groups to come, including Tom Petty and R.E.M., were heavily influenced by The Byrds. You can tell why after listening to this song.

I Will – The Beatles (1968)

It’s hard to explain the allure of this song to me. It’s simple in every way, from the lyrics to how it was written. Still, it touches me on a most basic level.

The “Fish” Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag – Country Joe & The Fish (1967)

Well, if I hadn’t figured out Viet Nam yet Country Joe drove the point home for me with these lyrics:

Well, come on mothers throughout the land,
Pack your boys off to Vietnam.
Come on fathers, don’t hesitate,
Send ’em off before it’s too late.
Be the first one on your block
To have your boy come home in a box.

Ouch. Needless to say the song didn’t get a lot of airplay on conservative WLW over in The Natti. After midnight I could get WLS out of Chicago though, and my ears were forever cooked.

Universal Soldier – Donovan (1965)

Universal Soldier” is a song written and recorded by Canadian singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie. The song was originally released in 1964. It was not a popular hit at the time of its release, but it became a hit a year later when Donovan covered it.

He’s the universal soldier,
And he really is to blame,
His orders come from far away, no more,
They come from here and there,
And you and me and brothers,
Can’t you see,
This is not the way we put the end to war.

Touch Me – The Doors (1968)

A lot of people didn’t like this one, mainly because it was a bit of a departure for Jim Morrison and the boys. Why, you ask? Because it had horns. Gasp! As for me, I Ioved it. Here’s Jim Morrison at the peak of his powers.

White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane (1967) 

This psychedelic number divvied up Alice In Wonderland references with not-so-subtle winks at drug assisted mind expansion. Grace Slick perfectly captured the mid-60s hope that narcotics could change perceptions and the world. A counter-culture classic, and it blew my young, impressionable mind away.

When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead
And the white knight is talking backwards
And the red queen’s off with her head
Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head, feed your head.

Groovy, man.

That’s the Way – Led Zeppelin (1969)

A beautiful acoustic song from Led Zeppelin II, this one is about two youngsters who can no longer be playmates because one’s parents and peers disapprove of the other because of long hair and being generally from “the dark side of town.” As a kid it really touched me, and it still does today.

I don’t know how I’m going to tell you
I can’t play with you no more
I don’t know how I’m gonna do what mama told me
My friend, the boy next door
I can’t believe what people saying
You’re gonna let your hair hang down
I’m satisfied to sit here working all day long
You’re in the darker side of town.

Walk Away Renee – The Left Banke (1966)

I love this song mainly for one reason – the soaring, gorgeous chorus. The vocals, the harmonies, they just blew me away. Bill Bragg did an exceptionally funny and poignant spoken word version of the song which us great as well.

Lightnin’ Strikes – Lou Christie (1966)

Again, the soaring chorus won me over again with this song. It’s nothing special musically or lyrically, it’s just has a melody that gets me every single time I hear it. Can’t help it kids, I love this song.

Do You Believe in Magic? – The Rascals (1965)

From the moment John Sebastian begins strumming that autoharp at the beginning of this song I was sold. Again, it’s a just a simple song about the power of music, and it contains this great line – It’s like trying to tell a stranger about rock ‘n roll.

Fun fact: Prior to starting The Lovin’ Spoonful, Sebastian was in a band called The Mugwumps. The Mugwumps broke up when Mama Cass Elliott and Denny Doherty left NYC to go to California, where they formed The Mamas & the Papas.

People Got to Be Free – Rascals (1968)

Featuring a lead vocal from Felix Cavaliere, this is a musically upbeat but impassioned plea for tolerance and freedom. Believe me when I say it is very relevant today. Read these to the lyrics and tell me I’m wrong:

If there’s a man
Who is down and needs a helpin’ hand
All it takes is you to understand and
To pull him through,
Seems to me
We got to solve it individually, 
And I’ll do unto you what you do to me.

Hot Fun in the Summertime – Sly and the Family Stone (1969)

Sly and the Family Stone was the first major American rock group to have a racially integrated, male and female lineup, and they were incredible. They called their sound “psychedelic soul” and this was my favorite song of theirs. Just an amazing groove.

Tears of a Clown – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (1967)

Oddly enough, this great song wasn’t a hit until it was re-released in 1970. Although essentially a sad song, it’s sung with an upbeat melody. Awesome vocals by Smokey as well.

Born to Be Wild – Steppenwolf (1968) 

This is the first song where the term “heavy metal” was used, and it is famous for being included in the legendary movie Easy Rider. John Kay growls out the lyrics like the badass that he was, and the crunchy guitars give it a tough, gritty vibe. Love it.

Love Is All Around – The Troggs (1967)

I’ve just always loved the slow, dirge-like melody of this song. The other big hit by The Troggs? None other than Wild Thing.

Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys (1966)

Yep, Brian Wilson again. It wasn’t the lyrics that blew me away with this song, but rather the music. Brian Wilson’s “pocket symphony” showed me that a rock song could go deeper musically than it ever had before. The varied instrumentation was groundbreaking (A cello? Are you serious?). And what the hell was that woo-woo sounding thing? I found out later it was an electro-theremen, but all I knew at the time was that it sounded cool as hell. We all know that Lennon and McCartney were trying desperately to keep up with Wilson in the studio production department during the mid-60’s. The album Pet Sounds, and this song, illustrates why.

Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison (1967)

Morrison’s most enduring song, and although it’s been covered by a million people, nobody does it like Van the Man.

Eve of Destruction – Barry McGuire (1965)

Loved the lyrics to this one, and it was played repeatedly on the stereo on Taylor Street in Southern Ohio back when I was a kid.

You may leave here for four days in space,
But when you return it’s the same damned place.
The pounding of the drums, the pride and disgrace,
You can bury your dead, but don’t leave a trace,
Hate your next-door neighbor,
But don’t forget to say grace.

So, what did I miss? What are your favorite song from the 1960s? And don’t tell me it was before your time. You’ve heard the songs. Music is timeless. Let’s hear it.

Gimme a holler.

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