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
|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.