The 100 Most Influential Singles of the 1960s
March 18, 2013 11:04 AM   Subscribe

The 100 Most Influential Singles of the 1960s. [via mefi projects]

Mefite jonp72 says, "I liked Pitchfork's list of the 100 best songs of the 1960s* for creating a canon of great 1960s songs instead of keeping the focus solely on albums, but I wanted to create my own revisionist take on such a list with the constraint that I limit myself to songs that were actually released on 45rpm singles. In addition, to make the list more interesting, I decided to focus on records that I thought were the most influential rather than songs that I considered the coolest or the best or the most pleasurable."

*It's actually Pitchfork's 200 best songs of the 1960's, but who's counting? Besides, jonp72's list is far more interesting than smelly old Pitchfork's.

It's an extremely well thought-out article that profiles each of the hundred songs in a well-written and informative fashion. I felt that it'd be nice to have links to the songs, as there were a few tracks that even a music supersnob such as myself wasn't immediately familiar with. Here's youtube links to around 99% of the tunes:

1. The Everly Brothers - Cathy's Clown / Always it's You
2. Roy Orbison - Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel) / Here Comes That Song Again
3. Johnny Kidd (& The Pirates) - Shakin' All Over / Yes Sir, That's My Baby
4. Wanda Jackson - Let's Have a Party / Cool Love
5. The Shadows - Apache / Quartermaster's Stores
6. Chubby Checker - The Twist / Toot
7. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles - Shop Around / Who's Lovin' You
8. John Coltrane - My Favorite Things (Parts 1 & 2)
9. Bobby Parker - Watch Your Step / Steal Your Heart Away
10. Tony Sheridan - My Bonnie / The Saints
11. Bruce Channel - Hey! Baby / Dream Girl
12. Ray Cathode - Time Beat / Waltz in Orbit
13. Dick Dale - Miserlou / Eight Till Midnight
14. The Tornados - Telstar / Jungle Fever
15. Booker T. & The M.G.'s - Green Onions / Behave Yourself
16. The Ventures - The 2,000 Pound Bee (Part 1) / The 2,000 Pound Bee (Part 2)
17. The Rooftop Singers - Walk Right In / Cool Water
18. Bob Dylan - Mixed Up Confusion* / Corrina Corrina
19. The Beatles - Please Please Me / Ask Me Why
20. The Kingsmen - Louie Louie / Haunted Castle
21. The Ronettes - Be My Baby / Tedesco and Pitman
22. The Jaynetts - Sally, Go 'Round the Roses / Instrumental Background to Sally, Go 'Round the Roses*
23. The Beatles - She Loves You / I'll Get You
24. The Rolling Stones - I Wanna Be Your Man / Stoned
25. The Trashmen - Surfin' Bird / King of the Surf
26. The Beach Boys - I Get Around / Don't Worry Baby
27. The Animals - The House of the Rising Sun / Talkin' 'Bout You
28. Chuck Berry - You Never Can Tell / Brenda Lee
29. The Kinks - You Really Got Me / It's All Right
30. Nina Simone - Mississippi Goddam / Sea Lion Woman
31. Them - Baby Please Don't Go / Gloria
32. The Primitives - The Ostrich / Sneaky Pete
33. The Sonics - The Witch / Psycho
34. Yardbirds - For Your Love / Got to Hurry
35. The Byrds - Mr. Tambourine Man / I Knew I'd Want You
36. Gloria Jones - Tainted Love / My Bad Boy Is Coming Home
37. Kim Fowley - The Trip / Big Sur*
38. The Rolling Stones - (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction / The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man
39. James Brown - Papa's Got a Brand New Bag (Parts I & II)
40. Bob Dylan - Like a Rolling Stone (Part I) / Like a Rolling Stone (Part II)
41. The Kinks - See My Friends / Never Met a Girl Like You Before
42. Yardbirds - Evil Hearted You / Still I'm Sad
43. The Who - My Generation / Shout and Shimmy
44. Monks - Complication / Oh, How to Do Now
45. Gypsy Trips - Rock 'n' Roll Gypsies / Ain't It Hard
46. The Great Society - Someone to Love / Free Advice
47. Prince Buster - Al Capone / One Step Beyond
48. The 13th Floor Elevators - You're Gonna Miss Me / Tried to Hide
49. The Byrds - Eight Miles High / Why?
50. Love - Hey Joe / My Little Red Book
51. The Rolling Stones - Paint It Black / Long Long While
52. The Beatles - Paperback Writer / Rain
53. The Creation - Making Time / Try and Stop Me
54. The Velvet Underground - All Tomorrow's Parties / I'll Be Your Mirror
55. Four Tops - Reach Out I'll Be There / Until You Love Someone
56. The Beach Boys - Good Vibrations / Let's Go Away for Awhile
57. Frank Zappa - Trouble Comin' Every Day / Who Are the Brain Police?
58. Godz - Lay in the Sun / I Want a Word With You
59. The Velvet Underground - "Loop"
60. The Ethix - Skins* / Bad Trip
61. The Doors - Break On Through / End of the Night
62. The Beatles - Penny Lane / Strawberry Fields Forever
63. Soft Machine - Love Makes Sweet Music / Feelin' Reelin' Squeelin'
64. Pink Floyd - Arnold Layne / Candy and a Currant Bun
65. Jimi Hendrix - Purple Haze / 51st Anniversary
66. Scott McKenzie - San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) / What's the Difference
67. The Parliaments - (I Wanna) Testify / I Can Feel the Ice Melting
68. The Chambers Brothers - Time Has Come Today / People Get Ready
69. The Velvet Underground - White Light/White Heat / Here She Comes Now
70. Sly & the Family Stone - Dance to the Music / Let Me Hear It From You
71. The 1910 Fruitgum Company - Simon Says / Reflections From the Looking Glass
72. Bob Dylan - All Along the Watchtower / I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
73. Cream - Sunshine of Your Love / SWLABR
74. Larry Williams & Johnny Watson - Nobody / Find Yourself Someone to Love*
75. Les Yper Sound - Psyché Rock / Too Fortiche
76. Blue Cheer - Summertime Blues / Out of Focus
77. MC5 - Looking at You / Borderline
78. The Byrds - You Ain't Going Nowhere / Artificial Energy
79. The Rolling Stones - Jumpin' Jack Flash / Child of the Moon
80. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown - Fire! / Rest Cure
81. The Temptations - Cloud Nine / Why Did She Have to Leave Me (Why Did She Have to Go)
82. Desmond Dekker & the Aces / Beverley's All Stars - Israelites / The Man
83. Os Mutantes - A Minha Menina / Adeus Maria Fulô
84. Silver Apples - You and I / Confusion
85. Lothar and the Hand People - Machines / Milkweed Love
86. James Brown - Give It Up or Turn it a Loose / I'll Lose My Mind
87. The Inner Space - Agilok & Blubbo / Kamera Song
88. MC5 - Kick Out the Jams / Motor City Is Burning
89. James Taylor - Carolina in My Mind / Taking It In*
90. Dick Hyman - Topless Dancers of Corfu / The Minotaur
91. The Winstons - Color Him Father / Amen, Brother
92. David Bowie - Space Oddity / Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud
93. Funkadelic - I'll Bet You / Qualify and Satisfy
94. Creedence Clearwater Revival - Fortunate Son / Down on the Corner
95. Jackson 5 - I Want You Back / Who's Lovin You
96. John Lennon & Yoko Ono - Cold Turkey / Don't Worry Kyoko (Mummy's Only Looking for a Hand in the Snow)
97. The Stooges - I Wanna Be Your Dog / 1969
98. King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King (Parts 1 & 2)
99. Led Zeppelin - Whole Lotta Love / Living Loving Maid (She's Just a Woman)
100. The Shaggs - My Pal Foot Foot / Things I Wonder

and finally, I get to add one of my own because I just did a lot of computering to make this list. They're not really very good songs, and probably not all that influential, but who cares - I wanted it to be on this list and now it is:

101. Zager & Evans - In the Year 2525 / Little Kids

*denotes shit that wasn't on youtube in an easily-findable spot. Feel free to prove me wrong.

I did my half-assed best to try to link to the single versions of each song, but even in this infotainment superage I had trouble with some songs. Instead, I linked to the closest approximation of each single. I'm going to assume right here and now that there're likely a few mistakes in my linking, as I made this post while watching Dredd 3D (minus the 3D).
posted by item (61 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

Anyone not agreeing with this list 100% is a fool.
posted by mazola at 11:10 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

FWIW, I passed this on to a friend, and after getting the official okey doke from Jon, it is also being serialized here.

A most excellent piece of work.

I've been playing and seriously listening to music for over 40 years, and this guy just has a way of seeing/hearing/thinking about music that amazes me.

Pretty much every record he covers has a "Now why the hell did I never notice that/think that" moment.

Well worth reading twice.
posted by timsteil at 11:12 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well done! I love music lists even when I don't agree with them just for the conversations they start. But in this case it's quite a commendable list with a nice mix of obvious choices and surprises. Now I'll spend rest of the afternoon alternating between "nice choice!" and "if he crazy?".
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:13 AM on March 18, 2013

I'm a fool. Lots of great selections ... but Like A Rolling Stone is #1. Has to be. The 60s we all talk about would not have happened without it. FULL STOP.

Also, no Beatles in the Top Two!?!
posted by philip-random at 11:20 AM on March 18, 2013

I can't remember ever reading a Top-whatever list and thinking "Yup, that pretty much nails it" before, but this one does.
I'm struggling to think of any genuine omissions that aren't just personal faves I'd like to see mentioned..
posted by anagrama at 11:23 AM on March 18, 2013

(the order is just roughly chronological, no?)
posted by anagrama at 11:24 AM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, kudos for tackling such a project and finishing it with such great results. After reading Scott Miller's Music What Happened? (where the former Game Theory frontman writes about his favorite songs from each year between 1957-2011) I started making my own list. But gave up pretty quickly when I realized that I would never be happy committing to a definitive list of songs.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:25 AM on March 18, 2013

(the order is just roughly chronological, no?)

Yup. I double-checked, got this.

Since this a list about historical influence (although I like a lot of these songs too), I have listed these singles in rough chronological order according to order of release, not according to order of preference.

But why number them then?
posted by philip-random at 11:26 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


Years ago I gave up on my quest to find a digital version of Haunted Castle by the Kingsmen, after I lost my 45 along the way.
posted by freakazoid at 11:27 AM on March 18, 2013

No Donovan?
posted by quazichimp at 11:30 AM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

I started making my own list. But gave up pretty quickly when I realized that I would never be happy committing to a definitive list of songs.

Lists are enormous fun. I've contributed to a few in my time. In fact, I'm currently pursuing one right now via my radio show (you can find it via my profile). The secret is not to really care too much about being WRONG. Or, as in my case, just create a fictitious character, attribute it all to him (or her).
posted by philip-random at 11:30 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

That Wanda Jackson single... wow.

It's a song I'm familiar with but don't listen to very often so hearing it blast through headphones just now was revelatory. There was a moment when rock and roll really was dangerous music, wasn't there? Two perfect minutes of teen lust and wanton abandon all dressed up as "Let's Have A Party". That's Saturday night bleeding into Sunday morning.

What good stuff.

Great list, great post. My afternoon = made.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:33 AM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

No Donovan?

In fact, I just heard it argued last week that Hurdy Gurdy Man was pretty much the invention of heavy rock as it got John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page together, playing hard as gods.
posted by philip-random at 11:36 AM on March 18, 2013 [4 favorites]

Also, no Zombies.

But to be clear. This is a great list. I just take such things as inducement to argument. Pretty much reflex.
posted by philip-random at 11:40 AM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

Thank you for this list. I read the original post start-to-finish last week in Projects and like to think my wishes and dreams helped will this into being.

This list also brings up a question that my brother and I were discussing this weekend -- how did somebody as, for lack of a more accurate word, square as my dad (seriously, even in the 70s/80s, he seemed like a 1950s dad stereotype) end up with such a good record collection. Don't get me wrong - I love him. But I only realized recently how much my taste in music was shaped by him.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:42 AM on March 18, 2013

I'm not gonna argue the entries here. Thanks for all the work item! I thought I had the sixties back catalog in the back of my head, so many wonderful new tunes. Great! I'll secretely put them on my kids' ipods.
posted by ouke at 11:49 AM on March 18, 2013

Bobby Parker 'Watch Your Step' is so huge it's ridiculous.

Very much disagree with 'Rain' (Paperback Writer b-side) included but no 'Ticket to Ride'. Loads of things sound like 'Rain' but still nothing sounds like Ticket to Ride.
posted by colie at 11:52 AM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

SPOILER: The full-length version of "I'll Bet You" is even better.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:57 AM on March 18, 2013

It's interesting to note that we went from "Let's Have A Party" in 1960 to "I Wanna Be Your Dog" and "Kick Out The Jams" in 1969. What a groovy time to be young.

(But then the Boomers all grew up and we got stuck in 1968 for the next fifty fucking years......)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:58 AM on March 18, 2013 [7 favorites]

The song on the list I wasn't familiar that's become a new instant fave is Les Yper Sound's "Psyché Rock". What a fun burst of fuzzed out weirdness. I'm actually a little bummed it took this long for that song to get on my radar. Thanks for turning me onto what I'm sure will be my new musical obsession.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 12:18 PM on March 18, 2013

Very much disagree with 'Rain' (Paperback Writer b-side) included but no 'Ticket to Ride'. Loads of things sound like 'Rain' but still nothing sounds like Ticket to Ride.

Wouldn't that be the best possible argument against what you're saying? If you're making a list of the most influential stuff, that should include the singles that inspired everyone to go out and make their own version, rather than the stuff that makes you go "cool!" but never spawns a ton of knock-offs.
posted by Palindromedary at 12:22 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

If we're talking about "influential", I'd like to see Sam & Dave on there, but great work.
posted by dry white toast at 12:25 PM on March 18, 2013

But why number them then?

To make it easier for (filthy) music pirates to turn into a shell script?

for TOPTRACK in `cat jons_list.txt`
wget ...

Naaah, couldn't be.
posted by wenestvedt at 12:25 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Palindromedary: It's just that Ticket to Ride is so experimental harmonically and structurally and melodically, whereas everything about Rain is experimental in terms of surface tension and layered effect... it's great but it's superficial. Underneath all that acid clanging and trip lyrics you've got a 3 chord plod.

But agree that Rain is more 'influential' so deserves its place.
posted by colie at 12:30 PM on March 18, 2013

An interesting list, but he often loses sight of the supposed nature of the project. "Influential" is often not what he has in mind so much as "first indication of X or Y trend" or even "interesting obscure footnote." Just to take one obvious example, "Please Please Me" is in there because it's the Beatles first #1--and it's a fine song, to be sure. But it's not even in the top thirty or so of the most influential songs by the Beatles, let alone of the decade.
posted by yoink at 12:35 PM on March 18, 2013

A similar point could be made about Dylan's "Mixed Up Confusion"--I mean, sure, it's an early indication of a direction that Dylan would eventually take that, itself, would be hugely influential. But "Mixed Up Confusion" itself never influenced much of anything.
posted by yoink at 12:45 PM on March 18, 2013

I wish I could have heard rock 'n' roll when hearing rock 'n' roll was hearing it for the first time.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 12:49 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

"I Feel Fine" - first fuzz guitar in a commercial single, that I know of. I guess "Satisfaction" is covering this role.
posted by thelonius at 1:04 PM on March 18, 2013

The author called the first fuzz for the Ventures in 1962.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 1:07 PM on March 18, 2013

CTRL + F: Small Faces


No "You Need Lovin' " (as the road map for Plant's vocals in "Whole Lotta Love")? No "Tin Soldier," just on account of its sheer awesomeness?
posted by scody at 1:23 PM on March 18, 2013

"I Feel Fine" - first fuzz guitar in a commercial single

"I Feel Fine"'s claim to fame is first deliberate use of feedback in a rock record (there are some jazz guitar precedents though).
posted by yoink at 1:24 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Amazing amount of wrong in the Stooges write-up...
posted by AJaffe at 1:27 PM on March 18, 2013

A hate-on for Eric Clapton results in a bent truth or two, too.
posted by tapesonthefloor at 1:28 PM on March 18, 2013

Great stuff. I tried to upload Mixed-Up Confusion to YouTube and got the bright red "Content blocked worldwide" thing, so that explains that.
posted by Lorin at 1:34 PM on March 18, 2013

Kick out the jams, Motherfucker!
posted by sety at 1:38 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

A pretty good list, though I would add "If I had a Hammer" by Peter, Paul and Mary, and "Keep on Runnin' " by the Spencer Davis Group.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:54 PM on March 18, 2013

That's a pretty phenominal list. Also, as I remembered the songs, I remembered where I was when I first heard them. (Mostly snoozing in the back of the VW van with the peace sign on it my folks drove from 1962 to 1970.)

That was a hell of a decade.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:22 PM on March 18, 2013

Six more, conspicuous by their absence ...

Sir Douglas Quintet
Flying Burrito Bros
Walker Bros
Neil Fucking Diamond

also, because I'm Canadian and they're the best looking band ever ... The Guess Who
posted by philip-random at 2:47 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Fantastic. Big fat props to jonp72 for this brilliant labor of love, and thanks, item, for putting this on the blue. A reminder that I should head over to Mefi Projects a little more often!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:51 PM on March 18, 2013

A couple that I probably would've included in the list would be 96 Tears and Wild Thing.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:59 PM on March 18, 2013 [7 favorites]

"Influential" is such a weasel-word. "Most influential" is therefore a complete crap-shoot.

There's a lot of good music on this list, and some complete unknowns who TTBOMK were never influential. There are dozens of much more "influential" 60s artists who didn't make this list. Leaving off, for just two examples, Little Richard and Simon and Garfunkel, proves just what a crap-shoot "influential" is.
posted by Twang at 3:13 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well done, sir.
posted by jonmc at 3:26 PM on March 18, 2013

right - it was feedback, my bad
posted by thelonius at 3:57 PM on March 18, 2013

A hate-on for Eric Clapton results in a bent truth or two, too.

Which of Eric Clapton's 60s singles (which is what the list is all about) would you have included in the list?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:10 PM on March 18, 2013

Was White Room a single? Sunshine Of Your Love? Hard to ignore those two.
posted by philip-random at 4:13 PM on March 18, 2013

Of course, Clapton was in the Yardbirds for For Your Love ... although, as the story goes, its success is what drove him to quit. Things were getting too commercial.
posted by philip-random at 4:17 PM on March 18, 2013

BitterOldPunk - well said. That track must have sounded like Ramones x 10 to a teenager of that era.
posted by davebush at 4:17 PM on March 18, 2013

I've made a Spotify playlist of the songs I could find.
posted by stop....hammertime at 4:52 PM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

It was great to hear the "Ray Cathode" tracks for the first time. I never appreciated that George Martin had come from that background. I often think of the BBCs Radiophonic workshop as being a bit like a musical Bletchley Park.
posted by rongorongo at 5:20 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

downtown- petula clark - where traditional pop/broadway melody, harmony and arrangement met rock music and pretty much created a strain of 60s pop that was continued by the association, the 5th dimension and many, many others, which would later become adult contemporary

i know, it's woefully unhip of me to trot this out, but the influence can't be denied
posted by pyramid termite at 5:40 PM on March 18, 2013 [3 favorites]

I would not have numbered the list. That would make it too easy to spot that there are 317 songs in my hot hundred.
posted by jfuller at 5:54 PM on March 18, 2013 [1 favorite]

Great list! I'd throw in Del Shannon Runaway (1961!) for the sick synth/organ solo in the middle.
posted by Bron at 6:46 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

In a better world, Colonel Parker gets hit by a train in 1958. Elvis, grieving, adrift, runs into Wanda Jackson, she tells him "Elvis, sweetie, you've just got to sing your way out of it." and they tour together, eleven months later they marry. He doesn't make near the money but it doesn't matter, they are rock and roll royalty, they are *the* American cultural ambassadors to the world, and they tour with The Beatles, and the Rolling Stones, co-headlining, showing them the US, being shown the rest of the world by musicians from there, they have two children who carry the banner to this day, and John Lennon doesn't get shot, either. And they never play Vegas.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:50 PM on March 18, 2013 [6 favorites]

For my money, Jumping Jack Flash is the best rock and roll song ever. It just has it all, the thing stomps and wails, the lyrics are all imagery that mean nothing but they paint one hell of a picture anyways, I can't say that it makes me happy because that's not it exactly, it makes me jump, it make my heart sing, if I'm driving I hit the gas, I turn the radio to 11, it makes me want to fight, it makes me want to fuck, it just is pure rock and roll. I love it.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:57 PM on March 18, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hell yeah, Jumping Jack Flash is a killing rock song, no doubt about it. Always loved the "spike right through my head" lyric.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:34 PM on March 18, 2013

There's a lot of great music on this list, and I won't even attempt to suggest that any of the selections are undeserving. But I do like some of the proposed additions, like "Wild Thing," and further would propose that the Temptations "My Girl" is another significant omission.

Yes, "Cloud Nine" is a fantastic record, too, and was influential at the time. But the success of "My Girl" not only helped fuel Motown and inspire a bunch of other male vocal groups over the next 10-15 years, the record has been played pretty much everywhere in the English-speaking world, more or less continuously, since it first came out.

Not only that, I dare say that every bar-band and wedding-band musician who's been at it for any significant length of time can probably play a cover version at the drop of a hat, as could many, many other musicians. How much more "influential" can one record be?
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 12:50 AM on March 19, 2013

Antonio Carlos Jobim's music seems like a significant absence since the global sales of his songs were right up there with the Beatles. Serge Gainsbourg too on numerous counts - such as attempting to persuade the world that France Gall's Les Sucettes was about a liking for lollipops.
posted by rongorongo at 2:32 AM on March 19, 2013

ooooh yeh...almost forgot just how much I love Desmond Dekker and the Aces..
posted by quazichimp at 3:52 AM on March 19, 2013

"downtown- petula clark - where traditional pop/broadway melody, harmony and arrangement met rock music"

I was going to argue that Laura Nyro's "And When I Die" was the original in this genre, but I looked it up, and Petula won by about two years.
posted by tizzie at 6:45 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was going to argue that Laura Nyro's "And When I Die" was the original in this genre

we'll wait until someone comes out with "the most influential albums of the 60s" - i'd be glad to argue that "eli and the 13th confession" was one of them

she took it to a whole other level
posted by pyramid termite at 5:14 PM on March 19, 2013

Item - thank you for the links. I just made my iTunes account a bit more robust.
posted by sundrop at 7:23 PM on March 19, 2013

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