October 26, 2016
#8 – Tommy James & The Shondells – “Crystal Blue Persuasion” – (1969)
This single came out in 1968 and the album it was released on was released in January of 1969. So there. This is one of those “classic oldies” hits that is definitely 1960s. It has a soulful, psychedelic feel – and it has been stated that the song might be about James’ meth habit in the 60s. This was a #2 hit on the Hot 100 – the second highest-charting single off of this album.
October 24, 2016
#9 – The Rolling Stones – “Sympathy For the Devil” – (1968)
Here is one of the Stones’ greatest songs. Lyrically, it’s brilliant, as it tells the story of the devil and his interactions with human history from his point of view. Listen carefully to the percussion here – it’s awesome and completely un-rock-and-roll. As far as great Stones songs go, this might be the best composition.
October 21, 2016
#10 – The Foundations – “Build Me Up Buttercup” – (1968)
Here’s another classic you’ll likely only find on oldies radio stations today. The Foundations were a soul band that was actually from the U.K. and they were not a one-hit wonder, because they had two smash hits, with this one getting all the way to #3 in the U.S.
October 19, 2016
#11 – The Band – “The Weight” – (1968)
The Band was obviously from a time where self-promotion on the internet was not a thing, because you’d be crazy to call yourself that now as no one would ever be able to find you online. The Band was actually a band that backed other musicians (namely: Bob Dylan) before venturing out on their own. “The Weight” is one of those songs that just brings the 1960s to mind and I’m not quite sure how they pull that off, but it’s brilliant.
October 17, 2016
#12 – Cream – “Crossroads” – (1968)
As I often tell people: no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, you will never be as good at anything as Eric Clapton is at guitar. And it is on display here for sure. Originally recorded by Robert Johnson as “Cross Road Blues” in 1936, Cream’s take of “Crossroads” is a thing of beauty.
October 14, 2016
#13 – Big Brother & The Holding Company – “Piece of My Heart” – (1968)
While Janis Joplin might get all of the credit here oftentimes, this song was actually recorded by Big Brother and the Holding Company and it is a cover of a song originally recorded by Erma Franklin (Aretha’s sister). This version absolutely rocks and might be Janis’ best work. Big Brother is one of the most important bands of the late 60s psychedelic rock scene that came out of San Francisco – the epicenter of 1960s counterculture. Side note: if you’re familiar with “Smooth” by Santana and Rob Thomas, listen to this song at the 3:30 mark and then go listen to “Smooth.” See if you can spot the striking similarity.
October 12, 2016
#14 – The Turtles – “Elenore” – (1968)
It always seems like when bands record a song as a send-up or parody, that it goes on to become a big hit. That’s the case here as they were satirizing themselves (and “Happy Together”). They sound similar, but the beautiful lyric “You’re my pride and joy et cetera” really sets it apart.
October 10, 2016
#15 – The American Breed – “Bend Me, Shape Me” – (1968)
The American Breed got their start in 1962 but didn’t take this name until 1967. This was their biggest hit and it’s a good one. After breaking up in 1970, some of the members would later reunite and become Rufus, which would launch the career of Chaka Khan. This is a classic oldie.
October 7, 2016
#16 – The Byrds – “Hickory Wind” – (1968)
This beautiful country rock tune was written by Gram Parsons and, while considered his “signature song”, it isn’t the signature song of The Byrds, who released a lot of great music like this. This song is actually the perfect example of 1960s country rock. It’s just pretty.
October 5, 2016
#17 – The Rascals – “People Got To Be Free” – (1968)
The Rascals were originally known as The Young Rascals, before, obviously, growing up and changing their name. If only Boyz II Men would follow suit (c’mon Men II Grandpaz would be an awesome band name). Anyway, this song is definitely a product of the 1960s when tolerance (and intolerance) were two social mainstays.
October 3, 2016
#18 – Classics IV – “Spooky” – (1968)
Classics IV, as opposed to the Classics I through III, had a couple of hits in the late 1960s and this is the coolest. It’s been covered a lot, but was originally released as a single by this band in 1967 (the album came out the following year). It was originally instrumental, but the lyrics were a good add, making it perfect for Halloween.
September 30, 2016
#19 – Steppenwolf – “Born To Be Wild” – (1968)
Here is one of the definitive songs of the 1960s and what probably has to be the most motorcycle-related song in history. It has appeared nearly everywhere, but nowhere more famous than as the sort of theme song for Easy Rider. Steppenwolf had other big hits, but none larger than this #2 hit from their debut album.
September 28, 2016
#20 – Gary Puckett & The Union Gap – “Young Girl” – (1968)
What was the deal with the 1960s and the Civil War? Was it the whole “100 Years Later” thing or what? The Union Gap, so named for the Civil War costumes they wore, was Gary Puckett’s band in the 1960s. This was one of their biggest hits, reaching #2 on the Hot 100. It’s catchy, but it’s also kind of creepy, being about a guy who just realized the girl he was after was under 18.
September 26, 2016
#21 – Harry Nilsson – “Everybody’s Talkin'” – (1968)
“Everybody’s Talkin’ is a song originally written and recorded by Fred Neil. Nilsson’s version reached the top 10 in the U.S. and was the theme song for the film Midnight Cowboy, which really helped its success.
September 23, 2016
Sam Smith – “Writing’s On The Wall” – (2015)
We featured every Bond song a few years ago, and since then a new movie has come out, Spectre. This is the theme from that film and Sam Smith was an excellent choice to sing it. There’s always a lot of second guessing these songs, but it did win an Oscar, so there’s that.
September 21, 2016
Billy Joel – “The Longest Time” – (1983)
An Innocent Man might be my favorite Billy Joel album – mostly because it plays with doo-wop music on multiple hit singles, including this which only features two instruments (a bass and a drum played with a brush) and a bunch of layered vocals, all provided by Joel himself. Because of this, “The Longest Time” is popular among a cappella singers. But if you want to hear how good of a singer Billy Joel was back in the day, this is all you need.
September 19, 2016
AC/DC – “Whole Lotta Rosie” – (1977)
This is a classic AC/DC tune from the Bon Scott era. It is the last song on Let There Be Rock and the third and final single released from the album and remains not only the most popular track from the album, but one of the band’s most popular songs overall.
September 16, 2016
#1 – The Rolling Stones – “Gimme Shelter” – (1969)
Here it is, the best song of 1969 – and one of the greatest rock recordings of all time. The guitar riff is incredible but what really puts this song over the top is Merry Clayton, the female voice you hear belting – and we mean belting out those lyrics. The last part she sings she is practically screaming (you can even hear Mick go “Whoo!” in the background after her voice cracks). It’ll give you chills. Merry was recruited in the middle of the night to come in and record her part. The legend is that it was so strenuous that Merry, pregnant while recording, suffered a miscarriage upon returning home. It’s an amazing piece of work with excellent performances from everyone involved.
September 14, 2016
#2 – The Beatles – “Here Comes The Sun” – (1969)
Abbey Road was the second-to-last Beatles album to be released, but it was the last to be recorded (for the most part). It’s one of the greatest albums ever recorded and we could spend an hour writing about the cover of the album in itself. The greatest tracks on Abbey Road were written by George Harrison, the most likable Beatle. And this is one of those songs. It was written by George at Eric Clapton’s house and is downright beautiful. Ritchie Havens performed it famously at Woodstock. Because Beatles songs aren’t available on YouTube, here’s an awesome performance of George doing it solo.
September 12, 2016
#3 – Crosby, Stills & Nash – “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” – (1969)
“I am yours, you are mine… you are what you are.” This song is a lesson in vocal harmony and it is a “Suite” in the classical sense of multiple pieces of music arranged to be played together. The song can be divided into four sections, each a little different. But as one cohesive piece of music, it’s amazing. And quite possibly the best thing Crosby, Stills or Nash ever did.
September 9, 2016
#4 – Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Fortunate Son” – (1969)
Don’t forget, 1969 was a turbulent time and songs like this are quick to remind you of it. John Fogerty wasn’t subtle when it came to writing anti-war songs, and this among the best there has ever been. Its use in Forrest Gump certainly cemented that. From the opening chords, you know that you’re about to experience some of the best 60s rock ever recorded.
September 7, 2016
#5 – Blood, Sweat & Tears – “And When I Die” – (1968)
Blood, Sweat & Tears’ self-titled second album was released at the tail end of 1968, with this being a single in late 1969. This song was written by Laura Nyro and first recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary. This version though, is amazing. It hit #2 on the Hot 100 and has such a unique style to it – from the Ragtime-style piano breakdown to the horns and that thematic lyric delivery. This is the magic you can create when your entire band comes together perfectly.
September 5, 2016
#6 – Norman Greenbaum – “Spirit In The Sky” – (1969)
This song (which hit #1 in the UK, but only #3 in the U.S.) has to be one of the most famous songs of 1969. It’s one that everyone just knows – maybe because it still receives radio airplay and has been featured in movies and TV many times. Boston-born Greenbaum was a one-hit wonder, but it was a good one.
September 2, 2016
#7 – Stevie Wonder – “My Cherie Amour” – (1969)
Here is Stevie Wonder’s most beautiful song. Oh, and no big deal, but he recorded it in 1967/68 when he was 17 years old! If you ever wonder why Stevie Wonder was a big deal, just remember he’s been insanely talented since he was a kid. No one can sing like this anymore.
August 31, 2016
#8 – Led Zeppelin – “What Is And What Should Never Be” – (1969)
“What Is and What Should Never Be” is from Led Zeppelin’s second album – and second album of 1969 (yes, they put out their first two albums in the same year). This was the first song Led Zeppelin recorded that gave Robert Plant writing credit, as it was written by Plant and Jimmy Page. It’s one of the best songs the band ever made.