1. “Honey” Bobby Goldsboro
I HATE this song! So wimpy, I had to endure it endlessly in the pre-FM car radio days.
And when FM finally hit cars, it was really spotty. Sometimes we had to tune in the AM band just to get reception. Now in ’68, I was fully an album guy, my single purchasing days were far behind me. But because of this auto situation, I knew the radio hits. I can sing every lick of this song, it’s an insidious number that gets in your head that you can’t get out.
But all these years later, every time I hear it, I smile.
Explain that to me! How songs you hate you end up liking decades later.
Note – liking, not loving…
2. “Tighten Up” Archie Bell & The Drells
I reference this song every time I go skiing. When I get off the lift, I tell my compatriots I’ve got to do the TIGHTEN UP! Yup, buckle my boots tight for my next run.
My older sister bought this single. Girls seem to get soul first, they’ve got the rhythm in them, isn’t it interesting so many play bass…
That’s just to say I didn’t really get “Tighten Up” at first, but hearing it in my house I came to enjoy it. And just like with “Honey” above, I smile every time I hear it…
3. “Young Girl” The Union Gap Featuring Gary Puckett
I don’t know if they could have released this song today, what with the politically correct army and the religious zealots…
Then again, this is an undeniable smash, and when we were young the lyrics oftentimes went over our head, we were enraptured by the sound and the feel, and from beginning to end, “Young Girl” works. It’s the apotheosis of the Union Gap. Which may not sound like much, but they had a run…this song was ubiquitous on the radio, I never changed the channel when it came on initially and continued to listen to it as time went by, some classics you can never burn out on. I won’t say it still sounds fresh today, but its magic is intact. It’s a mini Phil Spector production, there are horns, a whole bunch of stuff, the wall of sound is porous, but we can’t help but immerse ourselves in it.
4. “The Good, The Bad And The Ugly” Hugo Montenegro, His Orchestra And Chorus
I never saw the movie. Oh, I had buddies who waxed rhapsodic about the charms of Clint Eastwood, but I didn’t get hooked until he went American, and then I saw everything he did…both the dramas and the comedies, from “Dirty Harry” to “Bronco Billy,” he was truly talented.
Every baby boomer knows this track. They can name it within one second of hearing the riff, the hook, the cry from the desert, the western of your mind.
5. “Cry Like A Baby” The Box Tops
Nothing can top their initial single, “The Letter,” but I loved this too, primarily because of Alex Chilton’s vocal, he had the same name in Big Star, but never sounded the same. And although the production sounds a bit cheesy, you can still hear the drama, and that solo is akin to a George Harrison masterpiece, simple yet so right. The track is only two and a half minutes long, but there’s so much in it, from the aforementioned guitar solo to the brass to the backup vocals, it’s exquisite work.
6. “A Beautiful Morning” The Rascals
It looks like they’re finally getting their victory lap.
The Rascals were the biggest thing on the east coast. They held their own against all the British groups. To hear this in the morning was to start your day with a bounce in your step.
7. “Cowboys To Girls” The Intruders
I remember when I used to play shoot ‘em up
This is another track where the lyrics didn’t truly resonate until I got older, when it was a hit I was done with guns, but I wasn’t fully grown up. Then again, it was a girl in Old Greenwich who turned me on to it. I met her skiing at Stratton and we used to correspond, it’d make my heart pitter-patter when I arrived home and a letter was on my blotter, where my father put my mail. Wish I still had those missives, but I threw them out in a fit of pique, angry she’d moved on. Once again, I was relatively immune to so many soul classics, but this girl turned me on to this one. Every time I hear it I think back to her and those days…
And once again, could this lyric make the hit parade today?
I remember when I chased the girls and beat ‘em up
We know what he’s talking about, but there are certain things you don’t say today, for fear of the backlash. Then again, that’s what you do with girls, disdain them until you do a 180…I know, I saw it on the “Rugrats,” where physicality turned to affection on the playground!
8. “The Unicorn” The Irish Rovers
I haven’t heard this since. I couldn’t even place the title. But as soon as it started to play…instant recognition, that’s what endless airplay did back then, burn these songs into our subconscious.
“The Unicorn” is kind of like Donovan’s “Atlantis,” you laugh at it, but you still like it!
9. “Mrs. Robinson” Simon & Garfunkel
“The Graduate” dominated discussion…it was controversial and poignant. But in an era where everybody wanted to be hip, wanted to not only acknowledge the new reality but partake, backlash was close to nonexistent. Today the same baby boomers who embraced the movie decry the loss of everything they know, like CDs, while lamenting the fast pace of the future.
Then again, I don’t think today’s graduates would understand the movie, which was all about finding yourself after college graduation. Nobody has time to lose, nobody can trust their instincts and emotions these days, everybody’s chasing the big bucks…or being left behind.
As for the power of song… “Mrs. Robinson” single-handedly brought Joe DiMaggio back into the public consciousness. He was not happy about it, but there would have been no Mr. Coffee ads on TV, no latter-day bucks, without this song. The younger generation knew Joe, but we’d never seen him play, he’d retired when our hero, Mickey Mantle, took the field in 1951, but suddenly, in this pre-Internet era, his visage was everywhere, tied up with Marilyn Monroe and dignity and…
Then again, this was when artists were kings, when the personal statement was key, before money trumped everything.
10. “Lady Madonna” The Beatles
Of course this is not on Spotify, the Beatles led fifty years ago, today they come last. But once upon a time, even four years after their American debut, a Beatles song would blast out of the speaker outshining everything.
McCartney says Fats Domino was an inspiration. I’m gonna attach his cover to this playlist, but he’s not the only one who did it, so did the dearly-departed Richie Havens and Booker T. And The MG’s and…THE UNION GAP, on their YOUNG GIRL album!
P.S. This is the “Billboard” Top Ten, your mileage may vary, because at this point in time radio was still local, and some stations ran songs up the chart and kicked them to the curb quicker than others.