Rock ‘n Roll is dead! I’m serious. All those things I said about the last two years of the 50s come true now. 1960 is a particularly terrible year for music and 61 isn’t much better. Anyways, I found these 40, some of which are not that great.
40. My Little Corner of the World – Anita Bryant (Ballad) – 1960
It gets points because Yo La Tengo has covered it. It loses points because it sounds like it should have been out in the 1930s.
39. Runaround Sue – Dion (Pop) – 1961
This was a really popular song so I’m probably overrating it a little.
38. Cupid – Sam Cooke (Rhythm & Blues) – 1961
I hear of so many people loving this song and I just don’t get it. It’s catchy yes, but so what? So is “Lollipop.” Is it because of the tragic death factor?
37. It’s Gonna Work Out Fine – Ike & Tina Turner (Rhythm & Blues) – 1961
Anyone can point to the title and say, “Now it’s not Tina! Run!” Hearing her and Ike go back and forth in this one is tough. Apparently Ike is a Dapper Dan man though according to the lyrics.
36. I’m Sorry – Brenda Lee (Ballad) – 1960
Here’s what I don’t get about 1960 so far, it’s apparent rock ‘n roll is dead yes, but ballads make a comeback? This has got to be just a coincidence with the song selection. Right?
35. Big Boss Man – Jimmy Reed (Blues) – 1961
I always thought this Grateful Dead cover was a little boring, and I found out that’s because it’s a pretty boring song to begin with.
34. Gee Whiz – Carla Thomas (Rhythm & Blues) – 1961
What makes this ballad a little better than the others is the soul in this broad’s voice.
33. Chain Gang – Sam Cooke (Rhythm & Blues) – 1960
Nothing spectacular about this one, but I suppose the memories I have of the Pretenders covering it in the early 80s are good enough to place.
32. I Pity the Fool – Bobby “Blue” Bland (Blues) – 1961
Among the ways of qualifying for my list, add “something Mr. T would turn into a catch phrase” a couple decades later as your song title.
31. Fool In Love – Ike and Tina Turner (Rhythm & Blues) – 1960
I’m not sure how much I like this song, but this chick can WAIL! Go Tina.
30. That’s All You Gotta Do – Brenda Lee (Pop) – 1960
29. Spanish Harlem – Ben E. King (Rhythm & Blues) – 1961
As I try to find fault with everything bad that happens in 1960 & 1961 musically, I haven’t pointed out how bad sappy strings sound over an otherwise decent song. Unnecessary backup vocals and strings in this era kill songs.
28. Shop Around – Smokey Robinson (Rhythm & Blues) – 1960
I love the image of Smokey’s mom telling him that his woman isn’t good enough and he should go after as many as possible.
27. Rank Strangers – The Stanley Brothers (Bluegrass) – 1960
If this song came out a couple decades earlier, I easily would have labeled this hillbilly. Now that country is bigger (sound and popularity wise), this is more on the bluegrass side.
26. Love You So – Ron Holden (Rhythm & Blues) – 1960
He was signed by a former cop. Holden’s story was that the cop heard him singing in jail and signed him. His voice does have a nice criminal thing going on.
25. Hats off to Larry – Del Shannon (Pop) – 1961
Is Del Shannon a guilty pleasure? He’s always got a gimmick here and there, but there’s always something interesting happening within his songs musically. He’s possibly a genius. I probably shouldn’t judge only knowing two of his pop songs.
24. Little Red Rooster – Howlin’ Wolf (Blues) – 1961
A howling rooster? This I gotta see. (Jokes like this are what happens when I should’ve stopped writing an hour ago).
23. Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair – Nina Simone (Piano Ballad) – 1960
I can’t really relate, but Nina’s soul is incredible.
22. Beatnik Fly – Johnny & the Hurricanes (Surf Rock) – 1960
Rock ‘n roll is failing at a pop level, but going in many different directions. Here’s a good young surf rock song.
21. Wang Dang Doodle – Howlin’ Wolf (Blues) – 1960
20. Money (That’s What I Want) – Barrett Strong (Rock ‘n Roll) – 1960
This is a pretty decent rock ‘n roll song. It does expand the genre a little, even though it sounds a little soulless.
19. The Twist – Chubby Checker (Pop) – 1960
Obviously a landmark pop recording, it still sounds pretty good today. It’s just too bad Chubby could only do songs about dance crazes and never have any real soul.
18. Spoonful – Howlin Wolf (Blues) – 1960
It’s a good tune and all, but the fact that Howlin’ Wolf is one of the best artists of 1960 (and possibly thee best), says a lot about how shitty of a year this was for music. No offense to Howlin’ Wolf of course.
17. Little Sister – Elvis Presley (Rock ‘n Roll) – 1961
Sure, the genre may be dead, but Elvis is definitely back from the army with this one. Even though he’s past his prime, he finds a way to sound relevant.
16. The Big Hurt – Miss Toni Fisher (Pop) – 1960
It’s strange because the phasing effects almost sound like a bad recording, but they are indeed intentional and this is the first recording with phasing effects.
15. Walk Don’t Run – The Ventures (Surf Rock) – 1960
Is that Toast’s “Shadow of a Doubt” I here? Nope, it’s the Ventures! Get your surfboards everyone, so gnarly tubes are coming in!
14. Nite Life – Willie Nelson (Country) – 1960
It’s incredible how much Patsy Cline and Willie Nelson sound alike. Not their voices, just what they’re doing with their music. This isn’t a put down or anything, it’s great. Just kinda weird.
13. Let’s Go Trippin’ – Dick Dale (Surf Rock) – 1961
Full blown surf rock. I just wonder if it’s about … you know … trippin. Ultimately a song without lyrics probably isn’t about anything, but that’s the strange thing about acid …
12. Turn on Your Love Light – Bobby “Blue” Bland – 1961
Speaking of acid, this song is much better when it’s not 20 minutes long and sung by Pig Pen.
11. Gypsy Woman – The Impressions (Rhythm & Blues) – 1961
… closer and closer to funk … closer …
10. Runaway – Del Shannon (Pop) – 1961
It’s as if I try not to like this song, but then that solo kicks in and it’s impossible. This is a great tune despite the “wah-wah-wah wonder” part.
9. Hit the Road Jack – Ray Charles (Rhythm & Blues) – 1961
It’s amazing how well rhythm and blues survives the death of rock ‘n roll, and even grows stronger. That whole silly argument of rock ‘n roll being stolen aside, isn’t the longevity of R&B a greater victory?
8. Ya Ya – Lee Dorsey (Rhythm & Blues) – 1961
It’s true, it’s funky (still not funk though).
7. Back in Baby’s Arms – Patsy Cline (Country) - 1960
6. Giant Steps – John Coltrane (Jazz) – 1960
When Coltrane isn’t trying to be crazy, he’s pretty much untouchable. If I got to sit in on bass, I would not only be laughed at, I’d laugh at myself.
5. Back Door Man – Howlin’ Wolf (Blues) – 1960
I’ve always wondered if this was about a) being a guy that goes after married women or b) a guy who likes to put it in the back door. If you’ve ever wondered that yourself, it’s “A”.
4. I Fall to Pieces – Patsy Cline (Country) – 1961
If you take Patsy Cline out of the early 60s, I’m not sure what’s left … and then SHE dies. It’s crazy how the music gods almost conspired against some of this time’s best artists.
3. My Favorite Things – John Coltrane (Jazz) – 1961
I love the mood the beginning of this song creates. I’d rank this much higher if I didn’t have to endure 13 plus minutes of it.
2. Crazy – Patsy Cline (Country) – 1960
Patsy Cline’s voice and sadness are such a beautiful combination.
1. Stand By Me – Ben E. King (Rhythm & Blues) – 1961
It’s incredible how many times I’ve heard this song, and it still sounds soulful every single time.