the #1 hit records on the pop charts 1966

Estimated reading time is 70 minutes.

THIS IS THE SEVENTH in a series of ten articles listing and addressing the #1 records of the year as they appeared on Cash Box magazine’s Top 100 chart from 1960 through 1969. It was originally published as “You Keep Me Hanging On The Poor Side Of Town” on my publication Tell It Like It Was on Medium on July 5, 2019. The article below is identical to that one.

Please read “Introduction To The #1 Records On The Cash Box Pop Chart Of The 1960s” before reading this article. It will explain the nature of this project, introduce you to the writers whose opinions follow, and will make everything easier to understand.

The opinions expressed below are those of John Ross, Lew Shiner, and me. John is the talent behind the Round Place In The Middle website where he opines about rock & roll, western movies, and detective novels. John is my favorite writer writing about rock & roll. He is currently working on his first novel.

Lew is one of the finest novelists in America. Since you’re reading his name here, start with his novel Glimpses, which combines time-travel with fantasy and the milieu of ’60s rock music. Follow that with Deserted Cities Of The Heart (time-travel and psychedelic mushrooms!) and then his latest, Outside The Gates Of Heaven, which also takes place in the ’60s.

If you want to skim through this article and skip around from record to record or comment to comment, that works and you’ll have fun. But this article will make more sense if you read it from beginning to end.

One of the first things you will notice is that each of the articles opens with a calendar of events that reflect the zeitgeist of the era. Hopefully, these will give you some background and some context in which the #1 records of that were made.

 

BeachBoys PetSounds header 1000 bw

FEATURED ARTIST: The year 1966 should have been the biggest year in the Beach Boys’ career, except things just kept getting in the way. Capitol Records decision-makers were not pleased with PET SOUNDS and refused to issue the customary advance single to whet the public’s appetite. When Wouldn’t It Be Nice was released two months after the album instead of two months prior, it was a Top 10 hit.

Its flip-side was God Only Knows, the track that Brian wanted as the original single. Released as an A-side in the UK, it made it to #2, indicating Brian was correct in his original choice.

Without consulting the group, Capitol assembled a less-than-inspired BEST OF THE BEACH BOYS. They released and promoted this album while PET SOUNDS was in the Top 10.

And then there SMILE, both rock’s most legendarily ambitious album its most legendarily “lost album.” Initially scheduled for the Christmas season of 1966, it was eventually pulled and replaced with the much less ambitious SMILEY SMILE, which was arguably the death-knell for the group as major hitmakers.

Had Brian Wilson had the support of his record company, his group, and his family, God Only Knows, Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” and PET SOUNDS might have all topped the charts. Alas, no amount of support from those sources would have made SMILE possible. But that, too, is another story.

1966

January
The first Acid Test was held at the Fillmore in San Francisco, California, and two weeks later, the first Trips Festival was held at Longshoreman’s Hall in San Francisco.

February
The unmanned Soviet Luna 9 spacecraft made the first controlled rocket-assisted landing on the Moon.

March
Columbia Records released the Byrds’ Eight Miles High, the first genuinely psychedelic single to make the national Top 40.

April
Time magazine featured a cover story titled “Is God Dead?” and followed it a week later with the cover story, “London: The Swinging City.”

May
California and Nevada became the first states to outlaw the manufacture, sale, and possession of LSD. The FDA would ban it in October 1966.

June
In Miranda v. Arizona, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the police must inform suspects of their rights before questioning them.

July
President Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act, allowing citizens to request to see the data that agencies such as the FBI had compiled on them.

August
Charles Whitman climbed up into the main building tower at the University of Texas at Austin and started picking off students with a rifle, killing eleven and wounding thirty-two, becoming the first modern “mass shooter.”

September
The television series Star Trek débuted on NBC-TV in the United States.

October
Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton founded the Black Panther Party. The Party’s core practice was organizing armed citizens’ patrols to monitor police brutality by the Oakland Police Department against their sons and daughters.

November
In Massachusetts, Edward Brooke became the first black American elected to the United States Senate since Reconstruction, while in California, Ronald Reagan was elected Governor.

December
Walt Disney died while producing the animated feature The Jungle Book, leaving an influence on American culture that is neither over nor fully understood.

 


 

1966

 

Medium 45 1966 Beatles WeCanWorkItOut PS EC 600

Medium 45 1966 Beatles WeCanWorkItOut 600

January 1–January 22

The Beatles
We Can Work It Out
Capitol 5555
(4 weeks)

The Beatles last single of 1965 was Day Tripper / We Can Work It Out, which was released and promoted in the UK as a double-A-sided single. As such, both sides shared the top spot on the British music weeklies. In the US, the two sides charted separately with We Can Work It Out reaching #1 and Day Tripper peaking at #10.

Presumably about boy-girl relationships, some people read the lyrics of the chorus of We Can Work It Out (“Life is very short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting,” John’s contribution to Paul’s composition) as a veiled reference to the Vietnam War. Possibly, but that would be very veiled indeed.

Many people have read Day Tripper to be about LSD, but except for the word “tripper,” there is nothing in the lyrics that hint at drug use of any kind, let alone psychedelia. “Day Trippers are people who go on a day trip, right? Usually on a ferryboat or something,” remarked John Lennon. “But the song was kind of—you’re just a weekend hippie. Get it?”

Lew: This is the answer to my musical question, “What’s the best single with a flip that’s as good or better?” Other contenders (off the top of my head) include:

Beatles: Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever
Standells: Dirty Water / Rari
Yardbirds: Shapes Of Things / You’re A Better Man Than I
Yardbirds: Goodnight Sweet Josephine / Think About It

Neal: In the late ’60s in Northeastern Pennsylvania, the terms “day tripper” and “weekend hippie” were effectively synonymous: someone who dressed and acted straight five days a week and then dressed and acted hip and “with it” on the weekends. (Of course, that also describes the lot in life of many closeted gay men at the time.)

Lew, maybe we should consider compiling a list of our favorite double-sided singles.

John: I’d be up for a list like that. And this would be on that list. The Beatles were at their best being opaque.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (3 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (January 6, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: 3,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 SimonGarfunkel SoundsOfSilence 600

January 26

Simon & Garfunkel
The Sounds Of Silence
Columbia 4-43396
(1 week)

The Fab Four were followed to the top spot on the Top 100 by the last great folk-rock record to make it to #1: Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sounds Of Silence. This record was the first step towards Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel becoming the most successful and highly regarded duo of the decade.

According to Paul Simon: “I tried very hard not to be influenced by [Bob Dylan], and that was hard. I never would have wrote [The Sounds Of Silence] were it not for Bob Dylan. Never. He was the first guy to come along in a serious way that wasn’t a teen language song. I saw him as a major guy whose work I didn’t want to imitate in the least.”

Lew: When Dylan went electric, my music tastes did too, and this was a huge record for me. Symbolically, it started out as an acoustic track on the first Simon & Garfunkel album, WEDNESDAY MORNING, 3 A.M., where nobody heard it. Producer Tom Wilson decided to overdub electric guitars and drums without telling Paul and Artie (who had gone their separate ways), and got himself a #1 record and reunited the duo in the process.

Neal: I loved “The Sounds of Silence” on first hearing and bought it immediately. It was one of the first rock-pop records that proved that lyrics could aim higher than “I went to a dance looking for romance, saw Barbara Ann and said I wanna hold your hand.”

Like Lew, The Sounds Of Silence is an important record for me, as it became so associated with a certain period in time (the last quarter of 1965 and the first quarter of 1966) that whenever I hear it I am magically transported back in time like I’m in a Wellsian time machine!

For the few minutes that the record is playing, it is 1966 and I am 14-years-old and I have just let my hair grow out from the brush-cut crew-cut that I’d sported since childhood and girls were starting to glance in my direction and LBJ is President and the Vietnam “conflict” isn’t a big deal yet and then “The Sounds of Silence” is over and it’s 2018 and Trump is President and the Vietnam War never ended and everything is as the Electoral decreed it be.

I call these few special 45s that take me back to those days when I was young enough to know the truth time travel records.

John: I swear that somewhere there is an interview with the session man who overdubbed the electric guitar on this. He claimed that when Artie and Paul got out to the coast, Simon approached him just before he was about to appear on a live TV show. The guy was in the house band.

Simon started instructing him on how to play this really tricky guitar part he had written for The Sounds Of Silence. The guy said, “Paul, I played the part on the record.” I’ve never been able to find that interview again, but, if true, it would be the ultimate Paul Simon story. I hope I didn’t dream it.

Neal: John, I read the same story years ago. I found it repeated on the Old Enough to Know Better website, although the story may be just that—a story.

John: And just a final note here. I don’t agree with Neal’s contention this was the last great folk-rock record to top the charts. There are several records below I think qualify on both counts (folk-rock and great).

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (February 14, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 BeachBoys BarbaraAnn PS EC 600

Medium 45 1966 BeachBoys BarbaraAnn 600

February 5

The Beach Boys
Barbara Ann
Capitol 5561
(1 week)

After being admonished that life is much too short and there’s no time for fussing and fighting and that silence like cancer grows, some good vibrations returned to the top of the charts for a week of fun fun fun with the Beach Boys’ engagingly goofy version of Barbara Ann. This record was the group’s remake of the Regents’ 1961 hit, which they did in a more recognizably doo-wop version.

Barbara Ann was recorded as part of the BEACH BOYS’ PARTY! album (see Lew’s comment below) and was not intended by Brian Wilson to be a single. In fact, Brian and the group’s latest single, The Little Girl I Once Knew, had only been out a few weeks and was bounding up the charts when Capitol rush-released Barbara Ann out as the Beach Boys’ “new” single.

On the day Barbara Ann was released, The Little Girl I Once Knew was #16 with a bullet. Two weeks later and it was dropping off the charts while Barbara Ann was vaulting to the top. Why would Capitol torpedo the new single of one of the biggest selling artists in the company’s history?

Reputedly, company execs did not like the daring direction of the production of The Little Girl I Once Knew. They wanted to keep Brian and the boys churning out simplistic sing-along songs about girls in cars looking for boys on boards.

While this may have been the first time that Capitol undercut Brian Wilson’s ambition, it would not be the last.

Lew: BEACH BOYS’ PARTY! is a prime example of the “fake live” recording. It was actually recorded in the studio with invited guests, including Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean, who shares lead vocals on Barbara Ann. Most of the party noises and ad-libs were dubbed on afterward.

Cannonball Adderley did the same trick for the same record company with his 1966 album, MERCY, MERCY, MERCY! LIVE AT THE CLUB. The album was actually recorded in Capitol’s Hollywood Studio at the top of the famous round Capitol Tower, again with an invited audience and an open bar. The original liner notes lied and claimed it was recorded at the Club DeLisa in Chicago so that Cannonball could give some free publicity to a friend.

As to The Little Girl I Once Knew, supposedly there was massive pushback from radio stations because the single included a clean break and 2 full bars of silence before the chorus. Program directors hated “dead air,” fearing somebody would switch to KLIF (for example, the big Dallas station), not hear anything, and quickly move on to KFJZ. Another station, KLIF, dealt with this by inserting a massively annoying “K-L-I-F!” into the silence.

Other stations responded by dropping the song from their playlists. I had heard the single was already in free fall when Capitol released Barbara Ann. Too bad, because it’s a classic.

Neal: I hated Barbara Ann as a teenager but learned to love it as an adult. Despite being an egghead (a ’60s term that more or less meant the same as a nerd) that wasn’t in any of my school’s major sports and didn’t have a girlfriend, I made fun of those classmates of mine who dug stupid songs like this.

BEACH BOYS’ PARTY! has a slightly longer version of Barbara Ann where the guys’ sophomoric humor takes over at the end and they sound silly. At least they sounded silly until I started smoking pot, after which they sounded stoned. But that’s another story.

John: BEACH BOYS’ PARTY!, which never quits and closes with The Times They Are A-Changin’ segueing into Barbara Ann, is my pick for the greatest concept album ever.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 LouChristie LightninStrikes 600

February 12–February 19

Lou Christie
Lightnin’ Strikes
MGM K-13412
(2 weeks)

Lou Christie’s Lightnin’ Strikes is one of the most powerful sexual double-entendres ever to receive major airplay on Top 40 radio. Christie’s falsetto on the choruses is hysterically orgasmic:

“I can’t stop!

I can’t stop!!

BECAUSE LIGHTNING IS STRIKING AGAIN!!!”

And he does it with a melody based on Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet.

(I know the title is Lightnin’ Strikes, but I hear a “g” at the end of the first word each time Lou sings it. I also hear the girls in the background singing, “Plenty of ‘Oooh’,” like “Oooh-la-la!”)

How the hell Lou got this past the station programmers or why the people who suggested stations not play Eight Miles High for encouraging us to experiment with mind-bending drugs didn’t suggest the same stations not play Lightnin’ Strikes for encouraging us to experiment with body-bending sex will probably never be known.

The groovy sound of this record was the work of producer Charles Calello working out of Olmstead Recording Studio in New York City. Calello also recorded the Toys’ A Lover’s Concerto and the Four Seasons’ Let’s Hang On at the same place. As both of these were #1 records in 1965, it has me wondering why the studio doesn’t have a greater historical reputation.

Later in the year, Christie would repeat this trick and get “Rhapsody in the Rain” onto AM radio. Another song about sex (“In this car our love went much too far—it was exciting as thunder”), it was as good as “Lightnin’ Strikes” but not as big a hit.

As I was still a virgin at the time Christie’s records were being played all over the place, I really didn’t get what he was singing about. But I made it a point to find out and he was right, about the you-know-what’s being hysterical. Sometimes.

Hey, Lou, I really dig the drummer on this track.

John: The search for an Italian falsetto even wilder than Frankie Valli’s ended here. Though Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco (Mr. Christie’s real name) had a nice earlier hit with The Gypsy Cried, this one blew the roof off. I always did a good Frankie Valli imitation in youth. The chorus of this one nearly blew out my vocal cords—but I couldn’t stop! That’s probably why my high range is now gone.

Neal: Ummm, John, you’re a guy—your high range went for other reasons, just like mine and Lew’s did. 

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (March 3, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: 2,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 NancySinatra TheseBoots 600

February 26

Nancy Sinatra
These Boots Are Made For Walkin’
Reprise 0432
(1 week)

After years of releasing flop records, Nancy Sinatra found the right combination of sexy and sassy with a dose of camp in These Boots Are Made For Walking. Originally intended for a male singer, Frank’s little girl made it hers: “When a guy sings it, the song sounds harsh and abusive,” observed Nancy. “But it’s perfect for a little girl.”

John: And then there was the album cover. When I moved to my house in 1995, I refused to commit to my life-long dream of decorating my den with my favorite album covers until I scored a pristine Boots album cover.

Which I managed in January of 1997. For three dollars. Can’t tell you how big a score that was in North Florida.

And, yes, I loved the record and the video, too.

Neal: In the ’60s, a company called Color-Sonics made video jukeboxes for bars. You’d drop a quarter into the machine and watch a video accompanied by the record. For some reason, Color-Sonics marketed the machines to an older audience and few rock & roll records were included in their catalog.

But they made one for These Boots Are Made For Walking where Nancy lip-syncs and snakily dances to her song, accompanied by six sexy female dancers. All seven are scantily clad: basically, it’s lots of boots and lots of legs. The idea seems to have been to present Nancy in a sex-kittenish manner similar to Ann-Margret—and she pulls it off!

Boots is one of the most well-known and well-watched music videos in history. The video has been on YouTube (in various states of quality) for almost ten years and currently has more than 120,000,000 combined views!

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (February 25, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: 4,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 BarrySadler BalladOfTheGreenBerets PS 600

Medium 45 1966 BarrySadler BalladOfTheGreenBerets 600

February 26–March 26

Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler
The Ballad Of The Green Berets
RCA Victor 47-8739
(4 weeks)

One week we were all bopping along to “One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you“ ‘ the next week, we’re humming, “One hundred men will test today, but only three win the Green Beret.” US Army Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler took The Ballad Of The Green Berets to the top of the charts for four weeks.

Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler’s ode to the Army Special Forces was one of the unlikeliest hit records of all time, sounding like it should be played over the closing credits of a John Wayne movie, not like it should be played round-the-clock on every Top 40 station in the country.

One way to look at this record’s huge success was to see it as a kind of support by the middle class for our military’s efforts to stop an invasion by a horde of sallow-skinned, commie-infected gooks taking over the San Francisco Bay Area and then sweeping east in a reverse Manifest Destiny, polluting our precious boldly fluids along the way.

That this was an impossible scenario didn’t enter into many conversations among true-believers. But it probably entered many minds subconsciously, placing America in a state of cultural denial. So as a way of dealing with the guilt so often a part of the denial process, we bought millions of copies of a record by a soldier with a green beret.

Another way to see its success was as a novelty record, its novelty is that it’s practically a recruitment call for young males—there was no chance for a female to be in the Special Forces in 1966—who thought of themselves as fearless men who might just win themselves a green beret (and jump and die along the way).

John: One of the few records here I somehow heard in the ’60s. I heard it as a story song, though I can now hear how it might have played as a recruitment record.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (5 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (February 17, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: 5,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew: 
Neal: 

 

Medium 45 1966 RollingStones 19thNervousBreakdown PS a 600

Medium 45 1966 RollingStones 19thNervousBreakdown 600

April 2

The Rolling Stones
19th Nervous Breakdown
London 45-9823
(1 week)

The Rolling Stones followed “One hundred men will test today, but only three win the Green Beret” with this: “You’re the kind of person you meet at certain dismal, dull affairs: center of a crowd, talking much too loud, running up and down the stairs. Well, it seems to me that you have seen too much in too few years. And though you’ve tried, you just can’t hide: your eyes are edged with tears. You better stop, look around—here comes your nineteenth nervous breakdown.”

According to Mick Jagger, “We had just done five weeks hectic work in the States and I said, ‘Dunno about you blokes, but I feel about ready for my nineteenth nervous breakdown.’ We seized on it at once as a likely song title. 

“People say I’m always singing about pills and breakdowns, therefore I must be an addict—this is ridiculous. Some people are so narrow-minded they won’t admit to themselves that this really does happen to other people besides pop stars.”

John: Irma Thomas gave her opinion of Time Is On My Side once and it was to the effect that it was bad enough to have a chance for a big pop hit stolen by a white boy . . . but a white boy who couldn’t even sing. Please! I don’ t think she mentioned that her version of Time Is On My Side was a B-side. I’d be surprised if she remembered. But I still agree with her about Mick’s early singing.

Neal: In 1965, I hated the Rolling Stones because I hated Mick Jagger’s voice. I have been a Stones fan for so long now I can’t remember actually hating the Stones, but I did. I somehow resisted “Satisfaction” but I think it was Bill Wyman’s bass on this recording that caught my attention and I grudgingly started to like the Stones. A little.

In 1965, I would have agreed with Irma Thomas’s take on Mick’s singing. Today I think of Jagger as one of the great singers of our time and that greatness was easily heard in 1964. I just didn’t, and neither did Ms. Thomas.

Finally, the line “On our first trip I tried so hard to rearrange your mind, but after a while, I realized you were disarranging mine,” could certainly be referring to an LSD trip. That doesn’t make this a psychedelic record or drug song—it makes it a song that alludes to a possible psychedelic experience.

Lew: In the ’60s, I preferred the Stones to the Beatles. I was a drinker rather than a pot smoker, and I was drawn to the blues and R&B. Eventually, I realized that what I really liked were the records the Stones were covering—Hitchhike by Marvin Gaye, Mercy, Mercy by Don Covay, Let The Good Times Roll by Sam Cooke. The Beatles kept growing on me as my music tastes got more sophisticated, and they finally pulled ahead of the Stones somewhere in the ’80s.

John: I’ve had the opposite history to Lew’s: In youth, I much preferred the Beatles, just as I preferred Howard Hawks to John Ford and Audrey Hepburn to Vivien Leigh. Nearing old age, taught by bitter experience, I’ve learned to accept that the world is a harsh place. Without losing my love for any of the former, I’ve gradually switched what I’ll call my spiritual allegiance to the latter in each case. Such is time.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 LovinSpoonful Daydream PS 600

Medium 45 1966 LovinSpoonful Daydream 600

April 9

The Lovin’ Spoonful
Daydream
Kama Sutra KA-208
(1 week)

In 1965-1966, the Lovin’ Spoonful were everywhere: the girls loved them because they were so darn cute so they were on the covers of all the teenybopper magazines. Girls and boys loved their music and bought their records, so their first seven singles made the Top 10. For eighteen months, they were one of the biggest bands in the world!

John Sebastian remembered, “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 10 record right now, right then. Everything else is unexpected.”

Lew: The rhythm pattern for Daydream was so difficult that the Spoonful couldn’t get a complete take, and producer Erik Jacobsen had to make a tape loop of just a couple of bars where they managed to lock the rhythm tight. I have that straight from Erik’s mouth:

“On Daydream, Zally played I guess a straight-four guitar, that was just chuck-chuck-chuck-chuck-chuck-chuck, whereas all the finger-picking styles are oohm-chick oohm-chick, a shuffle type stuff. That was very, very hard.

“We went into the studio, and I guess maybe Steve was trying to play along at first, but it just could not lock up at all, and we took a break, and then we came back, it couldn’t lock up. I mean, we tried that so many different ways, and I finally said, ‘Let’s just try a whole ‘nother approach,’ because we just couldn’t make it with the drums with the big back-beat.

“It came down to just trying to get it coordinated between Zal and Johnny. And they played a couple of takes, three, four, five, six takes, and we just could not get it to maintain a rhythmic cohesion. And I said, ‘Roy, will you help me work on this thing? I want to find little pieces that sound right, and I’m going to make the whole tune up by splices.’

“I made one little loop where it just went around and around and around. I made copies of the one part that did pull together and we overdubbed the bass on it. I think Joe plays spoons on it. And John whistled during the break. So it was just kind of a hothouse flower that we did with Roy Halee. He was the greatest.”

John: Great research by Lew there—much info I never heard about this, one of my favorite records by one of my favorite bands. As we’ll see below, there was nothing they couldn’t do. Like a lot of ’60s bands, it was over way too soon.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 RighteousBrothers SoulAndInspiration PS 600

Medium 45 1966 RighteousBrothers SoulAndInspiration 600

April 16–April 23

The Righteous Brothers
(You’re My) Soul And Inspiration
Verve VK-10383
(2 weeks)

Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley had been around for a few years, failing to reach the Top 40 with any of their first six singles. In late 1964, Phil Spector, the hottest producer in the country, made them his next project. He gave them the kind of song and the kind of attention that every artist dreams of, and You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ became one of the most successful recordings of all time.

The brothers righteous had three more Top 10 hits with Spector’s Philles imprint, then moved over to MGM’s Verve affiliate for a huge advance and artistic control. Their first single for their new company was the Spector-sounding Soul And Inspiration, produced by Medley.

A glorious record, it went straight to the top, becoming their second #1 record. Verve believed in Medley and Hatfield and allowed them a generous recording and promotional budget, but the magic was gone: due to various internal complications (including “sibling” rivalry), Soul And Inspiration was the Righteous Brothers’ last really big hit for eight years.

John: I’d like to say here that I don’t hear a drop-off in the quality of their late ’60s records, though some may. In those days, the times changed even faster than Bob Dylan predicted. The Righteous Brothers were among many who kept making great records but dropped by the wayside.

Neal: I love the Righteous Brothers, but the singles that followed this were He, Go Ahead And Cry, and On This Side Of Goodbye. Fine records all, but not even in the same league as the Spector hits or Soul And Inspiration. Which may be why people stopped buying them in huge quantities.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (3 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (May 9, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 YoungRascals GoodLovin 600

April 30

The Young Rascals
Good Lovin’
Atlantic 45-2321
(1 week)

In early 1965, singer Limmie Snell released the original version of Good Lovin, written solely by Rudy Clark, on Mercury Records. It was issued under the somewhat silly pseudonym Lemme B. Good. It was a good song given a good reading but it wasn’t a hit.

Later in ’65, the Olympics recorded Good Lovin’, but their version featured new lyrics by Artie Resnick. This version was a little harder and little more polished than Snell’s but still lose and rhythmic. And like Snell’s, it also failed to set the charts afire.

When the Rascals recorded the song for Atlantic Records, they played it fast and hard. For some reason, the group didn’t care for the finished recording but—fortunately for them and for us—producer Tom Dowd loved it.

And released it.

Felix Cavaliere stated, “We weren’t too pleased with our performance. It was a shock to us when it went to the top of the charts.” The record launched their career as a top recording and performing act, a position they held through 1969.

Lew: I always liked the Rascals, and one big reason has to be their drummer, Dino Danelli. Not only was he great in the studio, but he was also amazing to see live, with his stick-twirling, arm-whirling show drumming. It was almost enough to make up for the idiotic Little Lord Fauntleroy costumes they wore in their early days.

This is another song (like Hang On Sloopy and so many more) that I never knew was a cover at the time it was a hit. It was part of the implicit racism of the period not to give any credit to the R&B artists who laid the groundwork for these white success stories.

John: I second all Lew says about Dino Danelli—both audibly and visually—and highly recommend anyone interested in the drummers of this period seek out Max Weinberg’s The Big Beat: Conversations With Rock’s Great Drummers, where Dino features prominently. As for the rest: This is one of the greatest rock & roll records ever made and the Rascals blew every other version out of the water.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 MamasPapas MondayMonday 600

May 7–May 21

The Mamas & The Papas
Monday, Monday
Dunhill D-4026
(3 weeks)

In 1966-1967, the wonderfully if absurdly named Mamas & Papas were almost as big as the Beatles. Hell’s Belles, they were almost as big as the Monkees! Cass Elliot, Denny Doherty, and John Michelle Phillips placed seven sides in the Top 10, with Monday, Monday being their only chart-topper.

But it was with the older record-buying crowd they really scored: their albums reputedly sold in the millions, although ABC has never sought certification from the RIAA beyond the basic Gold Record Award for $1,000,000 in wholesale sales.

While some historians now consider The Mamas & The Papas to have been folk-rock, I never heard anyone refer to them that way in their heyday.

John: Again, I’m coming at it from the ’70s, when every single rock history I read (there must have been a dozen by the ’80s) called The Mamas & The Papas folk-rock. If nobody was calling them that in the ’60s, I’d say somebody was falling down on the job.

Neal: By “heyday” I was referring to 1966-1968, but there was no rock press until ’67 when Crawdaddy and Rolling Stone came along and by then folk-rock was passé. But who’s dumb enough to rely on fifty-year-old memories?

So I pulled out The New Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll (1979), The New Rolling Stone Record Guide (1983), and Rolling Stone Album Guide (1992) and sure enough, they referred to The Mamas & The Papas as folk-rock.

Maybe by then, it was cool for Rolling Stoners and members of the Crit-Illuminati to call groups like them and the Spoonful and the Springfield folk-rock in hindsight.

Finally, according to Denny Doherty, when presented with the song by Papa John, “Nobody likes Monday, so I thought it was just a song about the working man. Nothing about it stood out to me. It was a dumb fucking song about a day of the week.”

But he sang it anyway.

John: And then The Mamas & The Papas went on to live out one of the great, white-hot career arcs of the turbulent half of the ’60s. John Phillips: “We had so much fun in two years, there was no more fun to be had.” Whatever the words mean, the great thing about Monday, Monday is that they sounded like they already knew. (And for those wondering, I’ll be explaining about the Crit-Illuminati in an upcoming piece under my own name.)

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (3 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (June 10, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes
• Grammy Award: Best Contemporary Rock & Roll Group Performance – Vocal or Instrumental 1966

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 PercySledge WhenAManLovesAWoman 600

May 28

Percy Sledge
When A Man Loves A Woman
Atlantic 45-2326
(1 week)

When A Man Loves A Woman was the first record cut at Rick Halls’ Fame Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, to reach #1 on the pop charts. The studio and its band would find international fame by playing on major hits by major artists such as Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, and the Rolling Stones.

Bass player David Hood recalled that Atlantic Records head Jerry Wexler “thought the horns on the original version were out of tune—and they were—and he wanted them to change the horns. They went back to the studio and changed the horns, got different horn players to play on it. But then the tapes got mixed up and Atlantic put out their original version. So that’s the hit.”

John: One of the most important records of the Rock & Roll Era. Aretha Franklin found her sound looking for what Percy had caught in that little studio. The rest is history.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (July 15, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 Mindbenders GroovyKindOfLove 600

June 4

The Mindbenders
A Groovy Kind Of Love
Fontana F-1541
(1 week)

They started out as Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders, topping the charts in 1965 with Game Of Love. Following this, Fontana opted out of the group in search of success as a solo artist. Guitarist Eric Stewart took over as lead singer and the Mindbenders went looking for a hit of their own.

A Groovy Kind Of Love was written by Carole Bayer Sager (age 22) and Toni Wine (age 17), who were inspired by the word groovy, then enjoying wide use. According to Wine: “We knew it was the happening word, and we wanted to jump on that. We wrote it in twenty minutes. Just flew out of our mouths, and at the piano, it was a real quick and easy song to write.”

The music was based on the Rondo from Sonatina in G Major Opus 36 No. 5 by Muzio Clementi.

Lew: Lead singer Eric Stewart, who took over from Fontana, would later find fame as a founder of 10CC.

Neal: A Groovy Kind Of Love answered the age-old question, What do you get with a corduroy condom? Also, it’s a wee bit ironic that in the year in which mind-bending psychedelic music would start to get serious airplay on AM radio, the group named the Mindbenders made pop music for 14-year-old girls.

To this day, when people ask, “How you doin’?” I usually respond, “Groovy!” It makes just about everybody feel groovy in return.

John: I think Neal would like to know I used “groovy” frequently and un-ironically for decades, beginning in the ’80s. Still do on occasion. I’d probably use it more even now if I interacted with humans as regularly as I used to! And, yeah, I like this record just fine.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 RollingStones PaintItBlack PS 600

Medium 45 1966 RollingStones PaintItBlack 600

June 11

The Rolling Stones
Paint It Black
London 45-901
(1 week)

Okay, the title of the song is Paint It Black and the singer is depressed, angry, even suicidal and wants everything around him painted black to match the way he feels. “I see a red door and I want it painted black. no colors anymore I, want them to turn black.”

Why?

His lover has died and is being buried: “I see a line of cars and they’re all painted black; with flowers and my love, both never to come back.”

Yet everyone at London Records in the US involved with okaying and making the record’s labels and its picture sleeve erroneously added a comma to the title, making it “Paint It, Black.” This title means that the singer is telling someone named “Black” to paint something identified as “it.”

Maybe it was a bad hair day at the London offices that day.

Lew: Paint It Black is an example of Raga Rock, which was a thing in the 60s. The first song in this genre to chart was Heart Full Of Soul by the Yardbirds, where Beck simulated a sitar on his guitar. Other notable examples include Norwegian Wood, with George on sitar, Donovan’s Sunshine Superman album, where US folkie Shawn Phillips plays sitar on several cuts, the Byrds’ Eight Miles High, and Mike Bloomfield’s guitar playing on the song East-West from the EAST-WEST album.

Maybe the earliest example is UK guitarist Davy Graham’s performance of the traditional tune She Moved Through The Fair, which Jimmy Page stole and retitled White Summer. Brian Jones is playing the sitar here, and you couldn’t ask for a better demonstration of what the Stones lost when they crushed and discarded him.

Neal: In 1966, my ongoing hatred for the Rolling Stones was seriously eroded by this record.

John: Lovely menace. Mick Jagger had by now transformed himself into one of the great rock & roll singers. I’ve already explained how (see July 10, 1965, entry), but I suppose those of you stuck in the regular time-space continuum could just say he practiced a lot.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 FrankSinatra StrangersInTheNight 600

June 18

Frank Sinatra
Strangers In The Night
Reprise 0470
(1 week)

In between Paint It Black (above) and Paperback Writer (below), the top spot was occupied by what may have been the most unexpected hit of the year, Strangers In The Night. Frank Sinatra hadn’t been near the Top 10 since 1957, but—as odd as it may seem in hindsight—teens ran out and bought this record as well as adults, giving Ol’ Blues Eyes his first #1 record in twelve years!

Just as interesting is the fact that Sinatra reputedly did not even like the song, calling it a “piece of shit.” The blue-eyed singer’s opinion notwithstanding, Strangers In The Night won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year!

At this time, most rock & roll records went unnoticed by the Grammy people. There was a joke that the Grammys had been devised to give some notice to old farts—I mean “old-fashioned”—pop singers like Sinatra and Dean Martin, as they weren’t getting as much attention (or sales) as the young rock & rollers.

John: If I could step further out of the time-space continuum and dream up a new Pop Chart for 1966, I wouldn’t change much. But I would put Nancy Sinatra’s Bang, Bang (a big hit for Cher in ’66) where Strangers In The Night stands.

Nancy and Bang, Bang had to wait for Kill Bill, where she redeemed Quentin Tarantino’s perpetual castration of period music at a single throw. Excepting Jackie Brown, where he pickpocketed Elmore Leonard, it’s the only moment in any of his movies that transcends kitsch.

Neal: Boy, do we have different views on Tarantino.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No
• Grammy Award: Record of the Year 1966
• Grammy Award: Best Pop Vocal Performance – Male 1966
• Grammy Award: Best Arrangement Accompanying a Vocalist or Instrumentalist 1966
• Grammy Award: Best Engineered Recording – Non-Classical 1966

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew: 
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 Beatles PaperbackWriter PS EC 600

Medium 45 1966 Beatles PaperbackWriter 600

June 25–July 2

The Beatles
Paperback Writer
Capitol 5651
(2 weeks)

The Beatles returned to the toppermost of the poppermost for two weeks with Paperback Writer, in which they nodded toward the Beach Boys with the layered backing harmonies. At this time, many of the artists in the world of rock and pop music were feeding off of each other with the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Stones, the Byrds, and Dylan especially influencing countless other artists.

And Dylan was affecting everyone’s approach to lyrics. Instead of singing about the usual boy-girl stuff, the lyrics of Paperback Writer are spoken by a man (the singer) who wants to sell his novel to a publisher of novels: “Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book? It took me years to write, will you take a look?”

The singer’s novel is about a man who wants to write novels: “It’s a dirty story of a dirty man and his clinging wife doesn’t understand. His son is working for the Daily Mail, it’s a steady job, but he wants to be a paperback writer.”

Many people wrote this off as just another clever bit tossed off by McCartney to hold ground without advancing or even risking anything.

Like me.

It only took me a few decades to realize it’s an excellent record and that seems to be getting better with age.

Unlike me.

Lew: I thought the lyrics were too silly. Still do. The flip, however, Lennon’s Rain, is brilliant.

Neal: Rain would have made a fantastic A-side and placed the Beatles at the forefront of the difficult process of getting psychedelia played on the radio. Alas, they went with the more commercial McCartney side and left the hard work to others, notably the Byrds, who had the balls (the temerity?) to follow Eight Miles High with the transcendentally lovely if uncommercial (anti-commercial?) mystical trip that is 5D (Fifth Dimension).

John: Along about here, you could start reading anything into a Beatles’ record you wanted to—if you wanted to. I had a brief go at it in the late ’70s/early ’80s. Final decision? They sure sound great!

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (July 14, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: 2,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 TommyJames HankyPanky 600

July 9–July 16

Tommy James & the Shondells
Hanky Panky
Roulette R-4686
(2 weeks)

In 1963, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich (who wrote the #1 hits Be My Baby and Leader Of The Pack), wrote a simple song titled Hanky Panky. The two of them recorded the song using the name the Raindrops. In their version, the line “My baby does the hanky-panky” or “My baby loves to hanky-panky” is sung seventeen times. It went unnoticed by everyone—except young Tommy Jackson from Nowheresville, Ohio.

With his group the Shondells, he recorded the song in 1964 but forgot the lyrics and basically repeated “My baby does the hanky-panky” a total of twenty-three times. Eventually, it was noticed by everybody.

Lew: The Tommy James record was originally released in 1964 (as the Shondells on Snap 102) and was a minor success in the Midwest, but failed to chart nationally. The band broke up, and that would have been that except that a Pittsburgh disc-jockey started playing it and getting a great response. The record was re-released by Roulette Records and the then-two-year-old song went to #1.

The song, an obscure Barry and Greenwich number, was recorded live at a Michigan radio station and is a prime piece of evidence in my argument that rock lost something vital when multi-tracking replaced the documentation of a live performance. Arguably Hanky Panky would never have caught on if it had been a pristine, multi-track bit of aural perfection.

Instead, you can hear the inaudible on this record: the overflowing hormones of the 16-year-old singer, the thrill of the imagined big break just ahead, the incredible charge that came from being able to (just barely) make music come out of their instruments.

Neal: For two minutes and fifty-nine seconds, teenager Tommy Jackson bragged that his baby did the hanky-panky. In 1966, my friends and I weren’t exactly sure what hanky-panky was, but we sure wished that our girlfriends did it, too. Except, of course, we were 15-year-old nerds and didn’t have girlfriends.

Hanky Panky was one of the records that I hated as a teenager and never really warmed up to as an adult. These days, I can take it or leave it.

(I read this to Berni for feedback and she said, “Honey, you’re still a 15-year-old nerd.” To which I replied, “Yeah, but now I’ve got a girlfriend and I know how to do the hanky-panky.”)

John: I didn’t hate Hanky Panky when I heard it (again in the late ’70s). But I didn’t appreciate it until I heard the story related above. Then I realized that, without it, we might not have all those other Tommy James records that I do love. I wouldn’t want to be in a world without Sweet Cherry Wine. It just wouldn’t be worth it somehow.

Also, if you want the full, bizarre story of how Hanky Panky (and the rest of Tommy James’s career) ended up in mobster Morris Levy’s hands, you should read Tommy’s autobiography Me, The Mob, And The Music: One Helluva Ride. It delivers on the promise of that title.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: 

 

Medium 45 1966 Troggs WildThings Fontana 600

July 23

The Troggs
Wild Thing
Atco 45-6415
Fontana F-1548
(1 week)

Wild Thing was first recorded by the Wild Ones and their version owed a thing or two to Dylan, notably Chuck Alden’s vocals and the wailing harmonica. Released in November 1965, it didn’t make either the Cash Box or Billboard surveys.

The Troggs picked up the song and their minimalistic version was released in April 1966. Due to a foul-up, the rights to manufacture and distribute the record in the US ended up with two companies, Fontana Records and Atco Records. Both pressings were “authorized” and therefore legitimate and both records are listed on the Cash Box and Billboard charts.

Wild Thing was such a big thing that it’s easy to forget that the Troggs were not a one-hit-wonder: their next three singles reached the Top 10 in the UK and they scored a Top 10 hit on both sides of the Atlantic in 1967 with the lovely Love Is All Around.

I mention this so I can direct everyone to one of my favorite movies Love Actually (2003), which is built around a remake of the song (Christmas Is All Around) pathetically performed by over-the-hill, ex-junkie rock star Billy Mack (brilliantly played by Bill Nighy).

John: Coming along a generation later, this was one of those records that sounded like it had always existed, that it wasn’t possible anyone had thought it up. The great critic, Lester Bangs, wrote one of his best rave-ups about the Troggs. And they cemented their legend with a record’s worth of endless, arrogant, sometimes unintentionally hilarious, blather captured at one of their recording sessions.

It was later bootlegged and, much later still, officially released as an album, THE TROGG TAPES. All of that fades to black when this record is playing. Hearing it in the late ’70s, it was possible to close your eyes and believe the ’60s might still amount to something.

Neal: Um, among my then-teenaged cohorts, we often altered the lyrics of songs (who didn’t?) to fit our teenaged perception of humor, especially sex-based humor. Hence, “Wild Thing, you make my thing swing.”

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 NapoleanXIV TheyreComingToTakeMeAway 600

July 30

Napoleon XIV
They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!
Warner Brothers 5831
(1 week)

Napoleon XIV was the pseudonym for Jerry Samuels, a recording engineer at Associated Recording Studios in New York. On They’re Coming Io Take Me Away he sounded like he had just escaped the local psychiatric hospital and was singing about how the hospital’s people (the schizophrenic’s ubiquitous “they” in the lyrics) were coming to take him back where he clearly belonged.

This is really not a musical record—it is essentially a comedic, spoken-word, novelty record.

John: I’ll paraphrase Rooster Cogburn from True Grit: It was funny the first tw0-and-a-half times I heard it.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 SamTheSham LilRedRidingHood 600

August 6

Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs
Lil’ Red Riding Hood
MGM K-13506
(1 week)

Sam the Sham hit the top spot by doing a pretty good imitation of a pervert insisting that he could be trusted walking a little girl through the woods. Alone. In the song, the singer is a wolf in sheep’s clothing:

“What big eyes you have, the kind of eyes that drive wolves mad. So just to see that you don’t get chased, I think I ought to walk with you for a ways. What full lips you have! They’re sure to lure someone bad. So until you get to grandma’s place, I think you ought to walk with me and be safe.”

Sam punctuated his singing with the kind of leering howl associated with wolves in Warner Brothers cartoons who are aroused and have some kinda hanky-panky in mind.

While Lil’ Red Riding Hood is almost always categorized as a rock & roll record, it doesn’t rock and it doesn’t roll. And it doesn’t have to because it is essentially a comedy song, a novelty record with more in common with Hello Muddah! Hello Fadduh! than with Johnny B. Goode or Wooly Bully.

Lew: Domingo Samudio (aka Sam the Sham) is part of the secret history of Latino pop stars that includes Richard Valenzuela (Ritchie Valens), Cannibal & the Headhunters (Land Of A Thousand Dances), ? & the Mysterians, and, believe it or not, Redbone (Come And Get Your Love).

I don’t remember anybody at the time making reference to their ethnicity, the way people did with more “out” Latino artists like Trini Lopez, José Feliciano, or Freddy Fender, who would occasionally sing in Spanish.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (August 11, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: 

 

Medium 45 1966 LovinSpoonful SummerInTheCity PS 600

 Medium 45 1966 LovinSpoonful SummerInTheCity 600

August 13–August 20

The Lovin’ Spoonful
Summer In The City
Kama Sutra KA-211
(2 weeks)

Summer In The City was the second #1 record for the Spoonful on the Cash Box Top 100 but their first on Billboard: Daydream and Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind peaked at #2 on that magazine’s Hot 100 survey. It was the last chart-topper for the group although lead singer and songwriter John Sebastian would score a #1 hit with his Welcome Back in 1976.

Lew: Echo effects on Summer In The City courtesy of the marble stairwell at Columbia Records studio in New York. Engineering by Roy Halee, who would later make history producing Simon & Garfunkel. Comparing this song with Daydream (see April 9, 1966) shows you the incredible versatility of the band.

Neal: As John Sebastian stated (see April 9, 1965), many of the Spoonful’s records have had a long shelf-life, especially on the now-defunct Oldies radio format. In early 1967, the group split with Erik Jacobsen, who had produced all their hits.

In mid-1967, Zal Yanovsky left the group over differences with the band’s direction and Sebastian’s songwriting. Then in early 1968, lead singer and chief songwriter Sebastian left the group for a solo career. And their hit-making days were behind them.

Lew: Well, they did make it to the Hot 100 with two Joe Butler songs after Sebastian split: Never Goin’ Back (To Nashville) and Me About You. For another view of the Yanovsky/Jacobsen firing, read my interview with Jacobsen.

John: Another miraculous record. The music came easy for them, it was the getting along that was hard.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (3 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (September 19, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 BobbyHebb Sunny 600

August 27

Bobby Hebb
Sunny
Philips 40365
(1 week)

In late 1966, Bobby Hebb seemed to come out of nowhere, have a big hit with Sunny—which everyone seemed to like—and then disappear. Actually, he was a journeyman musician who had been a member of Johnny Bragg’s Marigolds and replaced Mickey Baker as half of Mickey & Sylvia and cut one single as Bobby & Sylvia.

Hebb continued to record and write songs, including A Natural Man for Lou Rawls. Nonetheless, as a solo artist, he was essentially a one-hit-wonder, but with a self-penned hit that was recorded by many other artists.

John: Bobby Hebb was part of a great, undersung tradition of dry-voiced black male singers (Arthur Alexander had preceded him on the charts, Bill Withers would follow in a few years), who weren’t quite soul, weren’t quite pop, weren’t quite folk or country, but somehow suggested everything at once. This didn’t sound like anything else and could only have hit big in the wide-open spaces of ’60s radio.

Neal: A notable version of Sunny is the one that Frank Sinatra recorded for his 50th birthday with Duke Ellington in December 1967 for the Francis A. and Edward K. album. At the time of Hebb’s death in 2010, Sunny was listed as the 18th most-performed song in the BMI catalog. 

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (October 4, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 Donovan SunshineSuperman PS 600

Medium 45 1966 Donovan SunshineSuperman 600x

September 3

Donovan
Sunshine Superman
Epic 5-10045
(1 week)

Sunshine Superman was the first #1 record that seemed to openly allude to LSD. Whether or not the song is about acid depends on how you interpret such lines as “Could’ve tripped out easy but I’ve changed my way,” “I know a beach where it never ends,” “you can just sit there thinking on your velvet throne about all the rainbows you can have for your own,” and “blow your little mind.”

My rule of thumb about so-called drug songs is that any rock or pop record from the ’60s with words such as high or trip in it can be assumed to have more than one meaning. That is, if getting high on pot or taking a trip on acid makes sense in the context or setting of the song, then it probably is an allusion to that drug.

Unlike most pop lyricists, Donovan actually has some poet’s blood in his veins, so allusions are usually intentional and not accidental. Donovan later admitted:

“Sunshine did come softly through my window the day I wrote it, just like in the lyrics, but sunshine can also mean LSD,” recalled Donovan I’d just read The Doors Of Perception, Aldous Huxley’s book about taking mescaline, and wanted to get to the invisible fourth dimension of transcendental superconscious vision. I tried LSD, mescaline, and finally meditation.” (The Guardian)

Lew: “Could’ve tripped out easy” is, I believe, actually “Could’ve tripped out easier,” which makes a lot more sense in context: The Sunshine came softly through my window today (and tripped me out). I could have tripped out easier (by taking acid) but I’ve changed my ways (gone natural). I looked at some of the lyrics sites, and most of them have “Could’ve tripped out easy a-but I” which makes no sense at all.

Neal: As Lew’s observation does make more sense out of the lyrics, I set about trying to decipher that one phrase. I listened to a variety of sources including mono 45s and mono and stereo LPs and these are the lyrics I hear (the punctuation is mine):

Sunshine came softly through my a-window today,
could’ve tripped out easy a-but I’ve a-changed my ways.
It’ll take time, I know it, but in a while
you’re gonna be mine, I know it, we’ll do it in style.
‘Cause I made my mind up you’re going to be mine.
I’ll tell you right now, any trick in the book, now baby, a-that I can find.

Everybody’s hustling just to have a little scene.
When I say we’ll be cool, I think that you know what I mean.
We stood on a beach at sunset, do you remember when?
I know a beach where, baby, a-it never ends.
When you’ve made your mind up forever to be mine.
I’ll pick up your hand and slowly blow your little mind,
’cause I made my mind up you’re going to be mine.
I’ll tell you right now, any trick in the book, now baby, a-that I can find.

Superman or Green Lantern ain’t got a-nothing on me—
I can make like a turtle and dive for your pearls in the sea.
A-you can just sit there a-thinking on your velvet throne
’bout all the rainbows a-you can a-have for your own.
When you’ve made your mind up forever to be mine.
I’ll pick up your hand and slowly blow your little mind,
when you’ve made your mind up forever to be mine.

The use of the prefix “a-” in so many words pops up in many old folk-type songs (Froggie Went A-Courtin’ comes to mind) and seems to be either an attempt to duplicate the cadence of the “common man,” or just a device to make the singing flow smoother. The “a” is easy to hear in each instance except the one in question: on one listen I hear “could’ve tripped out easy a-but I’ve a-changed my ways,” on the next I hear “could’ve tripped out easier but I’ve a-changed my ways.”

In 1967, a batch of LSD called Orange Sunshine quickly became the most widely asked-for street acid ever made. The name was used by underground manufacturers of the drug for years. I remember barrel Orange Sunshine in the early ’70s (my own psychedelic heyday) was a pill that looked like a tiny barrel rather than the normal tablet that most acid came in before blotter and windowpane became so popular. The plus was that the barrel size contained two full doses (or hits) and while a normal hit was $1, a barrel was only $1.50—and frugality was a hallmark of hippiedom.

John: This one had to grow on me. In time, it did. I have no idea, though, why Donovan’s record company did not release his contemporaneous Season Of The Witch as a single. It’s been ubiquitous in the culture for decades now, perhaps most notably as the great Illeana Douglas’s skating music at the end of the 1995 movie To Die For. If Sunshine Superman being such a big hit helped that happen, good on it.

Neal: I think everybody that heard Season Of The Witch in ’66 thought it should have been a single and knew it would have been a hit single! And it does pop up in movies at the oddest moments.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 Beatles YellowSubmarine PS EC 600 1

Medium 45 1966 Beatles YellowSubmarine 600

September 10

The Beatles
Yellow Submarine
Capitol 5715
(1 week)

And so our heroes John, Paul, George, and Ringo visited a magical place where the denizens dwelt in brightly colored submarines, living a life of ease and every one of them had all they needed. Not coincidentally, getting to this magic place required getting high: “So we sailed up to the sun, till we found a sea of green, and we lived beneath the waves in our yellow submarine.”

Despite the overt silliness of the lyrics and the fact that this is essentially a novelty done in a children’s record manner, people interpreted Yellow Submarine in different ways: some did hear it as a children’s song, some heard it as a musical joke, and some heard it as a delightful reference to a psychedelic state of mind.

According to Paul McCartney: “I was thinking of it as a song for Ringo—which it eventually turned out to be—so I wrote it as not too rangey in the vocal. I just made up a little tune in my head, then started making a story, sort of an ancient mariner, telling the young kids where he’d lived and how there’d been a place where he had a yellow submarine.

“It’s pretty much my song as I recall, written for Ringo in that little twilight moment. I think John helped out; the lyrics get more and more obscure as it goes on but the chorus, melody, and verses are mine. There were funny little grammatical jokes we used to play.

“It should have been ‘Every one of us has all he needs’ but Ringo turned it into ‘every one of us has all we need.’ So that became the lyric. It’s wrong, but it’s great.”

Yellow Submarine might be considered a bit of a failure by Beatles standards as it failed to make it to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #2 there. All that changed on July 17, 1968, with the world premiere of the animated feature-length movie Yellow Submarine. The song is now and always will be one of the most well-known and well-loved Beatles recordings.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: No
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (September 12, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 Supremes YouCantHurryLove PS 600

Medium 45 1966 Supremes YouCantHurryLove 600

September 17

The Supremes
You Can’t Hurry Love
Motown M-1097
(1 week)

You Can’t Hurry Love was the Supremes’ seventh #1 hit in three years, second only to the Beatles’ fourteen chart-toppers. It was also their tenth consecutive Top 10 single on Cash Box. (Oddly, Nothing But Heartaches failed to make the Top 10 on Billboard, breaking their string on the magazine’s survey.)

By this time, they were easily the most successful female pop group of all time and were still in the middle of their heyday! By extension, it also effectively made Diana Ross the most successful female singer of the decade.

According to writer and producer Lamont Dozier, “We were trying to reconstruct Come See About Me and somehow it turned into You Can’t Hurry Love.”

The Supremes recorded a new vocal track sung in Italian against the same backing track and released L’amore Verrà as a single in Italy in early 1967. It was backed with an Italian version of You Keep Me Hanging On.

John: This is one of the Supremes’ very greatest. And Phil Collins later had big hits with two #1 records from this year: Groovy Kind Of Love and You Can’t Hurry Love. I like Phil Collins, but I don’t think he improved either one. 

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 Association Cherish 600

September 24–October 8

The Association
Cherish
Valiant V-747
(3 weeks)

Many critics have unfairly—well, actually, stupidly—dismissed the Association from their histories and their recognition. The group made the Top 40 with relatively sophisticated rock like Along Comes Mary and Windy (and almost everyone forgets how astounded they were hearing these records for the first time fifty years ago), psychedelic pop like Pandora’s Golden Heebie Jeebies (and almost everyone just flat-out forgets this Top 40 hit record, if they even knew about it), and lots of gorgeous love songs, the first being Cherish.

Despite their music being of extremely high quality and that it was hugely successful at the time and much of it has remained extraordinarily popular through the intervening decades, so-called “serious” rock critics simply can’t seem to take them seriously. Like folks over at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The music licensing company BMI claims that Cherish is #22 on their list of the most-played songs of all time on television and radio in America. The Association’s 1967 hit Never My Love is #2.

Lew: First chart-topper by the Association, who were at the center of a group of Los Angeles singers, songwriters, and producers who essentially invented a sub-genre eventually called sunshine pop.

• Tandyn Almer, who later collaborated extensively with Brian Wilson, wrote their first hit, Along Comes Mary.

• Curt Boettcher produced their first album, which included Cherish.

• Guitarist Jim Yester’s brother Jerry produced the later Association sessions and joined the Lovin’ Spoonful in 1967.

When the band, famous for their love songs, tried to change their direction, they were abandoned by their fans and their record company.

John: Singers are always underestimated by rock critics. Especially harmony singers. They’re forgiven if—and only if—at least one of the singers also writes or produces.

Neal: First, while I understand the need to categorize this kind of music made by groups in California that emulated the Beach Boys, I don’t think I will ever cotton up to the term sunshine pop. Second, as John points out, “serious” rock critics tend to denigrate these types of artists unless there’s a single creative genius like Brian Wilson, Gary Usher, Curt Boettcher, or Gary Zekley in charge.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (3 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (October 18, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 FourTops ReachOut PS 600

Medium 45 1966 FourTops ReachOut 600

October 15

The Four Tops
Reach Out I’ll Be There
Motown M-1098
(1 week)

Reach Out I’ll Be There was a much harder record than we were used to from Motown at the time. Not just Levi Stubbs’ fantastic singing but the arrangement and production didn’t “feel” like any Motown record that had come before it. The percussive clippety-clopping that underscores parts of the arrangement keeps moving the record forward almost propulsively.

According to songwriter and producer Lamont Dozier: “Brian (Dozier), Eddie (Holland), and I often had discussions about what women really want most of all from a man, and after talking about some of our experiences with women, we all three agreed that they wanted someone to be there for them, through thick or thin, and be there at their beck and call! Thus this song was born.”

Supposedly, lead singer Levi Stubbs was instructed to sing like Bob Dylan ala Like A Rolling Stone, which he did on some of the verses. While a 21st-century listener might see little connection between Dylan and Stubbs on this record, in 1966 we all thought Reach Out I’ll Be There was Motown’s answer to Dylan.

John: Someone, I think it was Phil Spector, actually referred to this as “Black Dylan.” That might be underselling it. Outside of Like A Rolling Stone Dylan never came close to this kind of vocal power in the studio, and even then, he only came close. Then there are the haunting harmonies, and the kind of production leap only Motown could manage at that point.

Yes, it was a new sound for them, but it didn’t spring from a vacuum—they’d been building towards it. People speculated that Spector retreated from the business after his production of Ike & Tina Turner’s River Deep, Mountain High flopped in the states. It’s just as likely he heard this and said “I give up,” though of course, he didn’t say it where anyone could hear.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 Mysterians 96Tears 600

October 22

? & the Mysterians
96 Tears
Cameo C-428
(1 week)

Out of nowhere came this group with the absurd name of ? & the Mysterians—not “Question Mark” but “?” as the leader. And he’s fronting a band who apparently took their name from The Mysterians, a grade-D Japanese science fiction movie from the ’50s! And they’ve got a record that was even more primal and technically primitive than the Troggs’ Wild Thing!

(And right about now I expect Lew will be admonishing me for using way too many exclamation marks but, goldarnit, I’ve got to!)

96 Tears was originally released on itty-bitty Pa-Go-Go Records and then picked up by Cameo-Parkway, who gave the record national distribution and promotion and got it to the top. While many fans think of ? & the Mysterians as a one-hit-wonder, their follow-up single, I Need Somebody, reached #22 in the last week of 1966.

Lew: See my comments above about Sam the Sham (August 6, 1966, entry). These guys are the kids of migrant Mexican workers who settled in Michigan. This is a deserved classic of garage rock, proof that you didn’t need a fancy studio or crack session players.

John: A great year for the garage band ethos (as with “girl groups” it’s a bit limiting to call it a style), with this being Exhibit A, for all the reasons Lew mentions.

Neal: Like several other chart-toppers from this year, I hated 96 Tears as a teenager—possibly because the singer reminded me of Mick Jagger. When I learned that they were Chicano, I experienced a twinge of bleeding heart liberal guilt. Then I thought, “To hell with this!” and went back to hating them. But as I get older, this record just gets better.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (November 11, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 Monkees LastTrainToClasrksville PS 1st 600

Medium 45 1966 Monkees LastTrainToClasrksville 600

October 29–November 5

The Monkees
Last Train To Clarksville
Colgems 66-1001
(2 weeks)

In late 1967, Jann Wenner launched Rolling Stone magazine, and by that time there was a quickly evolving countercultural scene in the San Francisco Bay Area that embraced the hip new publication. And that scene was fully embraced by the staff.

There was an appealing countercultural hipness to the editorial stance taken by most of the contributors, but hip was often defined as being all things San Francisco and all things non-San Franciscan were dubbed unhip, not cool, almost evil, especially anything and everything to do with the music and cultural scene in and of Los Angeles.

San Francisco is real.

Los Angeles is plastic.

And what could be more plastic than a rock group assembled from a bunch of guys who answered an ad for a job? It was hip and easy to take down the Monkees and their records because, after all, the four members of the group were hired to play the parts of musicians in a rock group for a television show.

Davy, Mike, Mickey, and Peter had no creative control over their music:

• The songs were written for them.
• The arrangements were worked out for them.
• The instruments played for them.

The four Monkees were told to sing and look good and everyone will make money. For this, they were referred to as the Pre-Fab Four, a denigrating spin on the nickname given the Beatles a few years earlier, the Fab Four.

This was a far cry from how the industry usually operated. Let’s look at how Berry Gordy handled many of his artists and recorded the records that these same Rolling Stone critics gushed over. Let’s use the Supremes as an example—when Diana, Florence, and Mary were making their hit records:

• The songs were written for them.
• The arrangements were worked out for them.
• The instruments played for them.

The three Supremes were told to sing and look good and everyone will make money. For this, they were referred to as the Sound of Young America

Wait . . .

Am I missing something? That sounds exactly the same!

Okay, that was my attempt at humorous irony (even though I know that irony rarely works on Americans and almost never works on the Internet) (which is why I’m pointing it out now).

Thankfully, those days of the Pre-Political Correctness Era are over and we can happily acknowledge that Last Train To Clarksville was a fine pop-rock record and everyone involved with its production deserve a pat on the back, including the four guys hired to sing the song.

Lew: I loved Last Train To Clarksville and especially Mickey’s soulful vocal. Still love it today. The Monkees’ debut was one of the first albums I ever bought. Your argument, as usual, is well-reasoned and convincing. 

Let it also be noted that both Nesmith and Tork were experienced musicians (Tork was on the folk scene in Greenwich Village), and Davy Jones didn’t need any talent to play the tambourine. Dolenz was the only real imposter, and with a voice like that, who cares?

John: While I agree with most of Neal’s take on the absurdity of the situation, I think the main objection of the hipsters was that (unlike the Supremes and many other vocal groups), the Monkees had been assembled by management, and not just any old management but Hollywood management. Talk about the dread Establishment!

Of course, highly respected acts like Peter, Paul & Mary and the Byrds had been wholly or partially assembled in a similar fashion (though the taint of television was at least not present). If it comes to that, so had the Beatles, who weren’t exactly given a choice about replacing Pete Best with Ringo, even if it was what they all wanted anyway.

I don’t concede the hipsters had a point as I prefer Neal’s take, just that some of the distinctions were real if a touch pedantic. However made, Last Train To Clarksville was a terrific record which caught a lot of people by surprise when it took off—and made the Monkees much more than television stars.

Neal: Yes on the “assembled by management” by there were lots of “serious” rock  fans who bitched, “They don’t play their own instruments!” and “They don’t write their own songs!” And that was not just some Crawdaddy/Rolling Stone/Creem-hipper-than-thou-’60s thing . . . that argument lasted for decades!

I understood that argument as I too wanted to romanticize rock artists as “real” artists, but I was also a huge fan of ’50s rock & roll in general and Elvis in particular and the same arguments applied to many of those artists so I didn’t make that argument. I enjoyed the television show (“Hey! Hey! We’re the Monkees! And people say we monkey around, but we’re too busy singing to put anybody down”) but I dismissed their records as “manufactured” and lightweight.

But that was then and this is now and so be it and so be here now because now there is.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (October 27, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 JohnnyRivers PoorSideOfTown PS 2 600 

Medium 45 1966 JohnnyRivers PoorSideOfTown 600

November 12

Johnny Rivers
Poor Side Of Town
Imperial 66205
(1 week)

After his first eleven singles flopped, Johnny Rivers reached the big time with his reading of Chuck Berry’s Memphis, which almost topped the charts in 1964. He followed that with a string of hits all the way through 1978, but Poor Side Of Town was his only #1 record.

After Poor Side Of Town, Johnny’s next two singles were renditions of Motown classics, Baby I Need Your Loving and The Tracks Of My Tears, in which he held his own with Levi Stubbs and Smokey Robinson! Both were Top 10 hits on Cash Box.

In 1967 he released Summer Rain, perhaps the most evocative record about the so-called Summer of Love ever recorded. (“All summer long, we were dancing in the sand. Everybody kept on playing Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”) The first time I heard it, I thought it was going to be his second #1 record but it peaked at #10.

Lew: Poor Side Of Town was the first original song Johnny Rivers ever put on a record and may be the best single he ever cut.

Neal: There aren’t a lot of comments from John, Lew, and I on Johnny Rivers here because we assume everybody is already a fan of some sort.

John: Just another terrific record—and again, one of the few from that or any period which addressed the realities of economic class. To sing “Welcome back baby, to the poor side of town” without a trace of bitterness or condescension was a touch of genius, while “Together we can make it baby” as fine a testament to the persistence of good old American “can-do” as anyone has ever managed in any medium.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: No
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 BeachBoys GoodVibrations PS 600

Medium 45 1966 BeachBoys GoodVibrations 600

November 19

The Beach Boys
Good Vibrations
Capitol 5676
(1 week)

If I had to pick one single recording from all the 45s and all the LPs issued in the ’60s to sum up “the Sixties,” it would be the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations.

‘Nuff said?

Lew: Neal talks at length about this song in his Coda, and certainly reams have been written about Brian Wilson’s “pocket symphony,” which took eight months and ninety hours of tape to record. None of that can convey what a joy it was to hear it on the radio when it first came out when we would crank it to ear-splitting levels on our AM radios and hit the gas.

John: The creation process of this monumental record plays a big role in the great Brian Wilson 2014 biopic, Love & Mercy.

Neal: If I had to pick one single recording from all the 45s and all the LPs issued in the ’50s to sum up “the Fifties,” it would be Elvis Presley’s Hound Dog. I wanted to get that in as John, Lew, and I have no intention at this time of doing a series of articles on the #1 records of 1950-1959.

Right, John?

Right, Lew?

John: Er . . . right. How about 1955-59? 

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (1 week)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (October 10, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 NewVaudevilleBand WinchesterCathedral 600

November 26

The New Vaudeville Band
Winchester Cathedral
Fontana F-1562
(3 weeks)

Winchester Cathedral ranks with Strangers In The Night as perhaps the most unexpected chart-topper of 1966. The New Vaudeville Band was British songwriter and record producer Geoff Stephens with a group of uncredited session musicians.

It is performed in a style that hadn’t been popular since movies were made without sound, what would be termed “retro” today. Perhaps it was the novelty of the sound that caused people to buy millions of copies.

After one week at #1, Winchester Cathedral was bumped out of the top spot and then returned to #1 on December 10, 1967, for two more weeks as the nation’s best-selling record for a total of three weeks at #1.

Lew: Proof that you can’t take two steps forward (Good Vibrations) without at least one step back.

John: This is the kind of record that would have seemed harmless in the ’50s or early ’60s. With so much going on by this time—on the radio and elsewhere—this sounds dead-in-the-water. Throw it back.

Neal: Despite this clearly being a novelty record with nothing to do with rock & roll (except its sheer sense of silly fun, which Elvis had put on display during his first television appearances on the Dorsey Brothers show in 1956), it did not stop the Grammy people from naming it the Best Contemporary Rock & Roll Recording of 1966. This should tell you all you need to know about what the Grammy people were about in those days.

There really is a Winchester Cathedral in Hampshire, England. It is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, with the longest nave and greatest overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe. Fortunately, it’s too busy with its own conservation to be bothered bringing anybody down.

Aging has mellowed my response to many of the #1 records of 1966 and many that I hated then I love today (Barbara Ann and 96 Tears are prime examples). That said, I have actually come to enjoy hearing Winchester Cathedral but I do not attribute it to the mellowing of maturation.

I attribute it to one of two things: too much LSD in my twenties, or too much Jack Daniels in my fifties. Either works for me.

Finally, check out this version of Winchester Cathedral.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (3 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (November 28, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: 3,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No
• Grammy Award: Best Contemporary Rock & Roll Recording 1966

But do you like it?
John:
Lew:
Neal: ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 Supremes YouKeepMeHanginOn PS 600

Medium 45 1966 Supremes YouKeepMeHanginOn 600

December 3

The Supremes
You Keep Me Hangin’ On
Motown M-1101
(1 week)

Another Supremes record, another #1 record. The Supremes recorded a new vocal track for You Keep Me Hangin’ On sung in Italian against the same backing track and released Se Il Filo Spezzerai as a single in Italy in early 1967. It was backed with an Italian version of You Can’t Hurry Love.

Lew: This record is the answer to my musical question, “What rock song has inspired the best and most varied covers?” The Vanilla Fudge version is the most obvious, but there is an outstanding reggae version by the wonderful Ken Boothe. Lesser takes include a big-shoulders ’80s rock version by Kim Wilde, and a country-disco version by Reba McEntire, among dozens of others.

Neal: By 1969, cities and towns around the country had converted an old building into a psychedelic dance hall for teens to dance the night away. This usually meant painting everything black, tacking black-light posters to the walls, and hanging a strobe light from the ceiling. Then they gave the place a groovy, drug-induced-sounding name, usually The Purple Haze.

Most local rock bands who wanted to be taken seriously had to be considered heavy and to be heavy a band had to include the funereal Vanilla Fudge arrangement of You Keep Me Hangin’ On in their repertoire. Hell, some bands made that one song a whole set!

John: And here I always thought anybody who tried to take on Diana Ross on You Keep Me Hangin’ On was a mumbling fool.

Neal: Lew, I checked out those other versions and it was fun seeing the over-the-top psychedelicness of the Fudge video and hearing the Boothe rendition which owes a bunch to the Fudge. I couldn’t even remember Kim Wilde and then remembered the ’80s was when the acid-dropping was tapering off for me and the bourbon-swigging was picking up.

And Reba’s live version might be considered countrified big-shoulders (a term I’m not sure I understand but don’t want to look up—I’ll get it osmotically eventually).

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (2 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: No
• Accumulated sales: Unknown
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: No
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Yes

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

 

Medium 45 1966 NewVaudevilleBand WinchesterCathedral 600

December 10–December 17

The New Vaudeville Band
Winchester Cathedral

(2 weeks)
This record spent one week at #1 on November 26, 1967, for a total of three weeks at the top. Refer to that date for more information.

 

Medium 45 1966 Monkees ImABeliever PS 600

Medium 45 1966 Monkees ImABeliever 600

December 24–December 31

The Monkees
I’m A Believer
Colgems 66-1002
(2 weeks, 8 weeks total)

Anyone who thought the four actors hired to pretend to be musicians couldn’t sing were severely disabused with I’m A Believer, where Mickey Dolenz’s lead vocals were perfect for one of the decade’s most enduring #1 hits.

According to Joseph Murrells, accumulated worldwide sales for I’m A Believer are approximately 3,000,000, which sounds very conservative. I would think 3,000,000 sales in the US and 3,000,000 more for the rest of the world sounds more realistic.

I’m A Believer was #1 for the last two weeks of 1966 and the first six weeks of 1967, staying at the top for eight consecutive weeks.

And I included the modifier “enduring” above so that I could remind everyone of the 2001 movie Shrek, which closes with a rousing version of I’m A Believer. (And I will not hyperlink to the scene as it would be a spoiler for those cloistered few who haven’t seen the movie.)

John: A great way to close a great year. Just knowing that the holier-than-thous at Rolling Stone and the rest of the New Puritans were gnashing their teeth makes me smile. Sometimes, the little girls really do understand.

• Billboard Hot 100 #1: Yes (7 weeks)
• Million-seller: Yes
• RIAA Gold Record: Yes (November 28, 1966)
• Accumulated sales: 3,000,000
• 500 Songs That Shaped Rock: Yes
• Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: No

But do you like it?
John: ✮ ✮ ✮
Lew: ✮ ✮ ✮
Neal: ✮ ✮ ✮

The Beatles’ ‘We Can Work It Out’ and Barry Sadler’s ‘Ballad of the Green Berets’ were the biggest hits of 1966. Find the other big hits of the year here! Click To Tweet

NancySinatra white mini boots 1500 bw crop

FEATURED ARTIST: Nancy Sinatra had been releasing singles since 1961 without setting the charts on fire. She didn’t even place a single side on the national Top 100 until her eleventh single in 1965, So Long Babe, which sounded like a Cher-wanna be recording. During a session for her next single, she came across These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ and cut one of the biggest hits of the year. For two years she was a top pop star, with two more Top 10 hits, How Does That Grab You Darlin’? and Sugar Town with another six in the Top 40.

In 1967, she had her own television special, Movin’ with Nancy.

In 1968, she co-starred opposite Elvis in Speedway, another in his assembly line of forgettable movies.

In 1969, she had her last big hit when Here We Go Again reached the Top 20 on the Billboard easy-listening chart.

Year-end observations

There were thirty-four records that reached #1 on the Cash Box Top 100 chart in 1966. Here is the breakdown of #1 records based on how many weeks they spent at the top of the chart:

8 weeks: 0
7 weeks: 0
6 weeks: 0
5 weeks: 0
4 weeks: 2
3 weeks: 3
2 weeks: 6
1 week: 22

The year 1966 was an interesting one for rock music as more artists picked up on what Dylan and the Byrds had done in 1965 and began making “serious” rock records instead of merely “commercial” rock & roll records. It was the year of the first real flowering of psychedelia: the Byrds released Eight Miles High. Author Domenic Priore accurately referred to it as the “psychedelic shot heard round the world.”

Records that hinted at mind-bending experiences received airplay and sales, although only one topped the charts. This would be an argument that rock & roll and related pop music were “growing up,” taking on topics beyond the normal Moon-June-spoon that it had inherited from the Tin Pan Alley tradition.

1966 was the year that the Beatles gave their final concert, giving up touring so that they could concentrate on becoming better recording artists.

1966 was the year of the Monkees, whose television series charmed millions of people who would normally not be caught dead or alive listening to rock & roll music (like my father). I could use political language and argue that the Monkees phenomenon (Monkeemania) was reactionary, but I always thought that was a bit of a stretch—most people who listen to popular music don’t listen to have their minds engaged in ratiocination. They listen for pleasure or to be distracted. That’s always been true and most likely always will be true.

Soul music was represented at the top of the charts by Percy Sledge, Bobby Hebb, the Supremes, the Four Tops, and the blue-eyed soul of the Righteous Brothers.

Finally, for many people—both those who lived through 1965-1969 and those who weren’t even born then—the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations is perhaps the most indelible and durable hit of the year. The best moments and highest ideals of that time we refer to as “the Sixties” are felt every time I hear the guys sing “Good, good, good, good vibrations!”

Although only #1 for one week in November, in terms of popularity and long-term effect, Good Vibrations may be the biggest hit of the decade!

Lew: Critic Jon Savage called 1966 “the year the decade exploded.” He points to the explosion at the end of Love’s 7 And 7 Is as “symbolic as well as representational, and certainly, there’s an argument to be made here. 1965 began the fadeout of the straightforward three-chord rock & roll exemplified by Louie, Louie and Gloria, and 1966 began the ascendency of just rock, represented by the sophisticated chord structures and more intellectual lyrics of songs like Paperback Writer and Sounds Of Silence and Sunshine Superman.”

It may also be symbolic that the latter two songs had been recorded earlier but only charted when the world was ready for them. Those same two songs also showed how folk-rock, which had started to look like a dead-end, was starting to morph into psychedelic music as it continued to electrify and move away from its roots.

Neal: Lew mentioned Love’s 7 And 7 Is, a single released in July 1966. While the group had embraced folk-rock on their first album, their second Da Capo was moving boldly into new territory. The new single that was one of the most aggressively punk singles ever issued by an established record company. It is also proto-psych but little of it bears any resemblance to folk-rock of the first album.

7 And 7 Is made its way into the national Top 40 for a couple of weeks and then went unheard by most of us. I don’t think it was helped by its title, but then My Mind In An Ice Cream Cone or Oop-Ip-Ip-Yeah wouldn’t have helped much either.

Love followed this killer 45 with She Comes In Colors, a much gentler approach to Top 40 fare but also pointing toward the full-blown psychedelia of 1967. Both these tracks were issued on the first side of Love’s DA CAPO album, issued in November 1966. That one side of that record is better than both sides of many albums that are better known.

Gold Record Awards

Of the thirty-three records that reached #1, Joseph Murrells lists thirty-one of them as million-sellers. Record companies sought certification from the RIAA for official Gold Record Awards for nineteen singles.

RIAA certification rate: 58%

A year of novelty

By 1966, young music fans were beginning to take rock music seriously. Novelty records were considered a frivolity associated with the pre-Beatles past: records like The Ballad Of Davy Crockett (1955), The Chipmunk Song (1958), The Battle Of New Orleans, (1959), and even The Monster Mash (1962) were thought of as belonging to the past.

Yet 1966 was filled with novelty records that did very well indeed with the following records making it to #1:

The Ballad Of The Green Berets
They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!
Lil’ Red Riding Hood
Yellow Submarine
Winchester Cathedral

Wild Thing was also a Top 20 hit as a novelty record in 1967 when comedian Bill Minkin recorded an imitation of Democratic Senator Robert F. Kennedy performing the song. The flip-side was Minkin imitating Rep*blican Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen stumbling through the same song. The record’s labels credit Senator Bobby and Senator Everett McKinley.

 


 

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Great article on this site