Those Were the Days: The 40 best songs from 1961 – 1969

In a brief break from writing, I have been spending the bank holiday immersing myself in the music of the 1960s – because ever since I can remember, I wanted to have been born in 1950 (I wasn’t – I was born in 1975): for the sole reason of being a teenager in 1967/8 and experiencing the fundamental shift in the music of that time. One of my earliest memories is of dipping my hands deep into a plastic carrier bag full of vinyl and feeling the slippery black grooves of the 45s between my fingers. Few of the records had sleeves; most were just stacked against each other in the bag that was desperately heavy for a seven year old. We had an old box-style record player and I used to spend hours picking out the records, lining up the stylus and listening to my dad’s collection of singles.

Add to that the fact that my dad is a talented guitarist, constantly strumming chords or complex riffs in his bedroom where the strains of The Beatles, The Searchers and The Hollies would wind through the house. And there develops my simple and unswerving commitment to love the music of the 1960s – in my opinion, the best decade for any music.

As he was ultimately the inspiration for my love of the 1960s, I decided to create the ultimate 60s compilation for my dad’s birthday.

Choosing the best of the best

I agonised over the choices and deliberated over what I should consider to be ‘best’ – should they be ground-breaking pieces of music? Number 1s? Have appeared in the American Billboard Top 100 songs of all time? Should I include one song from the most influential bands? What about songs with the same chord progression? (there are a LOT of them in the 60s). In the end I went with those songs that I feel are the best. By definition, this list is incredibly subjective – and to me, controversial. Regrets? I have a few.  There’s nothing by Simon & Garfunkel, which is almost criminal and needs to be rectified. I will choose For Emily Wherever I May Find Her (1966) which is the B-side to the song that comes a close second – A Hazy Shade of Winter. I could have picked between five and ten songs by The Beatles but I settled for two – one from ’67 (A Day in the Life) and one from ’68 (Lady Madonna). The release of the ground-breaking Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album in 1967 has three songs that could be included in their own right but in the end I decided upon A Day in the Life.

So what was the best year?

The list is split over two CDs, starting with the 1961 classic Runaway by Del Shannon and ending with Space Oddity by David Bowie.  It’s listed chronologically by year and although there’s a little artistic licence in there with some of the recordings, I’m fairly happy that it reflects the best of the best decade.  A quarter of the songs come from one year alone – 1967 (of course) and 44% of songs are from either ‘67 or ’68. I could write some more stats but, quite frankly, only I would be interested in them. Some are chosen because they link specially to people (mostly my dad) or because they feature in my favourite films. I was first exposed to the excellent Runaway, for example, while watch Children of the Corn in the early 80s and Bad Moon Rising in An American Werewolf in London. Two of my favourite films: two of my favourite songs.

I could comment on every song and its personal meaning but these songs are classic in their own right, without me adding my own meaning to them. So here’s the list in all its glory (with a bonus track at the end). Enjoy.

CD1: 1961 – 1966

Runaway Del Shannon
Nut Rocker B Bumble & the Stingers
Breaking up is Hard to Do Neil Sedaka
Bad to Me Billy J Kramer & The Dakotas
Foot Tapper The Shadows
Stand by Me Ben E King
The House of the Rising Sun The Animals
I Get Around The Beach Boys
Needles & Pins The Searchers
Leader of the Pack The Shangri-Las
She’s Not There The Zombies
Love Potion Number Nine The Searchers
Tobacco Road Nashville Teens
California Dreamin’ The Mamas & The Papas
Concrete & Clay Unit 4 Plus 2
I Got You Babe Sonny & Cher
These Boots are Made for Walking Nancy Sinatra
Paint it Black The Rolling Stones
Bus Stop The Hollies
Good Vibrations The Beach Boys

CD2: 1967 – 1969

Ode to Billie Joe Bobbie Gentry
To Sir with Love Lulu
Ruby Tuesday The Rolling Stones
Puppet on a String Sandie Shaw
A Day in the Life The Beatles
The Letter The Box Tops
Waterloo Sunset The Kinks
I’m a Believer The Monkees
Itchycoo Park The Small Faces
Happy Together The Turtles
Son of a Preacher Man Dusty Springfield
Young Girl Gary Puckett & the Union Gap
Wichita Lineman Glenn Campbell
Those were the Days Mary Hopkin
Lady Madonna The Beatles
Build me up Buttercup The Foundations
Dream a Little Dream Mama Cass
Crimson & Clover Tommy James & the Shondells
Bad Moon Rising Creedence Clearwater Revival
Where do you go to (My Lovely) Peter Sarstedt
Space Oddity David Bowie

Thanks Dad – and happy birthday.  Now you’re no longer 64.

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3 Responses to Those Were the Days: The 40 best songs from 1961 – 1969

  1. Steve says:

    Hi Ceri, a great selection being a 49’r I can really appreciate the songs you’ve chosen, as you ‘d expect not all would be in my favorites list. I’m glad you picked Where did you go to my lovely, as you know it holds a special meaning for me, from the age. A magic start with Del Shannon’s Runaway its among those songs bridging the Rock n Roll and the 60’s eras stored in your carrier bad, well done. Steve

  2. Scriptonite says:

    I must have this CD…I simply must

  3. Mike Cohen says:

    Some good music, I haven’t set down and done mine, but yours are nice. add John Lennon, and Janis Joplin, just to name a few, there is so much more, and thats the beauty of it.

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