(Pictured: Dionne Warwick with Burt Bacharach at the piano, 1971.)
I have a 60s playlist sourced from the Time-Life AM Gold and Classic Rock series, and another of MOR that comes from the Lifetime of Romance series. I dipped into both of them on a recent all-day car ride, and here are some notes.
“She’s Just My Style”/Gary Lewis and the Playboys
“This Diamond Ring”/Gary Lewis and the Playboys
“Save Your Heart for Me”/Gary Lewis and the Playboys
“Count Me In”/Gary Lewis and the Playboys
Between January 1965 and May 1966, Gary Lewis and the Playboys hit the Top 10 with their first seven releases, a feat matched only by the Lovin’ Spoonful (according to Wikipedia, so who the hell knows). “This Diamond Ring” hit #1; “Count Me In” and “Save Your Heart for Me” were #2. Lewis is the son of comedian Jerry Lewis, but his band got its first job at Disneyland without anyone knowing the family connection. He isn’t the greatest singer you’ll ever hear, but he was surrounded by some of the best studio musicians in Hollywood: Leon Russell, Hal Blaine, Joe Osborn, Tommy Allsup, and others, although Lewis says his bandmates also played on every record they made. The best of the bunch is “Count Me In,” the first hit for songwriter and eventual Elvis Presley band member Glen Hardin, which features some clever wordplay. The arrangement (possibly by Russell, although I can’t say for sure; he might also be on piano) and Snuff Garrett’s production are as good as 60 pop ever got.
“Fun Fun Fun”/Beach Boys
“I Get Around”/Beach Boys
“Help Me Rhonda”/Beach Boys
We do not often get to hear old warhorses as if they were new, but I was gifted with that ability as I traversed 500 miles of Midwestern interstate earlier this week. Although the boys themselves got around SoCal in modified hot rods, all of these records cruise like high-powered Cadillacs, and they blew the doors off most of the songs that surrounded them on my playlists.
“Danke Schoen”/Wayne Newton. The combination of stilted love song tropes (written in English by Milt Gabler to music by Bert Kaempfert), the German title (which means approimately “thank you every much”), and Newton’s weirdly pubescent voice (which sounds as though it could bore through several inches of concrete), make “Danke Schoen” a deeply strange record.
“Wonderland by Night”/Bert Kaempfert
“Stranger on the Shore”/Acker Bilk
“Tonight”/Ferrante and Teicher
“Moonglow-Theme From Picnic“/Morris Stoloff
“Canadian Sunset”/Hugo Winterhalter
I have written at this website previously of the way certain instrumentals of the 1950s and 1960s can “take me back as far back in memory as I am capable of going.” And in memory, they’re always on the radio.
“Do You Know the Way to San Jose”/Dionne Warwick
“I’ll Never Fall in Love Again”/Dionne Warwick
In our Rock and Roll Hall of Fame discussion earlier this spring, I suggested that I would vote for Auntie Dionne “for bringing Black pop (as distinct from R&B or Motown) to the mainstream.” These two Burt Bacharach/Hal David songs might mark the peak of that accomplishment, in 1968 and 1969.
“Mack the Knife”/Bobby Darin. This is the biggest hit of Bobby Darin’s career, with nine non-consecutive weeks at #1 in the fall of 1959, a remarkably dark song turned into a swingin’ good time. In college, I spent a lot of quarters playing it on a lot of jukeboxes. (You got your bar party music and I got mine.)
“It’s Not for Me to Say”/Johnny Mathis
“Love Me With All Your Heart”/Ray Charles Singers
“I Love How You Love Me”/Bobby Vinton
These three played all in a row as I was flying around Chicago at 80 miles an hour. (You got your highway music and I got mine.) The first few Mathis hits, “Wonderful Wonderful,” “It’s Not for Me to Say,” “Chances Are,” “Wild Is the Wind” (covered by David Bowie), and “Misty” define the easy-listening genre. “Love Me With All Your Heart” also belongs in the easy-listening power rotation, but this Ray Charles is not the one you think: he was a prolific composer of music for radio and television. And what I love most about pop music and the record charts is contained in this single factoid: in December 1968, the ultra-sappy “I Love How You Love Me” shared the Top 10 of the Hot 100 with “Hey Jude,” “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” and “Magic Carpet Ride.”
It took me approximately 180 songs to travel my 500 miles. That leaves over 400 songs still unheard on my two playlists. I’ll have to think of some more places to go.