380. “Flying on the Ground is Wrong”– Buffalo Springfield (1966): While Stills got most of the attention in Buffalo Springfield, that chapter of Neil Young’s career was an important apprenticeship. His falsetto lift (“then I’m sorry to let you down”) into the bridge is the first great rock and roll moment that he is responsible for as a composer.
379. “This Will Be Our Year”– The Zombies (1968): On the verge of breaking up, British Invasion band The Zombies recorded one of the best albums of the 60s, Odessey and Oracle. (The title isn’t a bad pun. The band just didn’t know how to spell “Odyssey”.) “This Will Be Our Year” is one of the finest tracks on that release. Pitchfork put it on their list of the greatest 1960s songs, comparing it to “the rose-colored finale of a feel-good musical.”
378. “Songs to Aging Children Go”– Joni Mitchell (1969): Even at this early hour, Joni Mitchell was refining the folky Southern California sound that would lay the groundwork for introspective 70s soft rock. With her trademark ethereal melodies and evasive lyrics, Mitchell evokes an otherworldly sound from Laurel Canyon.
377. “A Quick One While He’s Away”– The Who (1966): The Who were always ahead of the curve, and their mid-decade release A Quick One shows plenty of ambitious themes, and a conceptualization of how an album could work as a cohesive piece. It narrates a brief interlude of infidelity in a relationship throughout a nine-minute suit. It prepared the band to work on rock operas in the future, and some fans have speculated that the song narrates the conception of the hero of their rock opera “Tommy.” It offered one of the first glimpses of rock music as a vehicle for real drama.
376. “Laughing”– The Guess Who (1969): Never really respected by anyone who mattered in the 60s and 70s, Canada’s best-loved rock group was one of the most reliable hit-producing outfits that thrived in rock’s most competitive years. Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman prove that they have developed into solid, if unspectacular, tunesmiths by the time “Laughing” came out.
375. “Time Was”– Canned Heat (1969): Great psychedelic blues from a band that was once the toast of Woodstock.
374. “Twist and Shout”– The Beatles (1963): This is The Beatles’ first appearance on this list, and the only one of their cover songs to crack the top 400. They take the “Slow jam” feel of the Isley Brothers’ original record, and infuse it with raw Merseyside energy. Small wonder this song opened or closed nearly every concert they did afterward. A tip of the hat to John Lennon who nearly shredded his larynx, recording this in one take after a 12-hour recording session, with a head cold.
373. “Dirty Water”– The Standells (1966): True to the song’s title, the sound is murky and muddled, in the best garage band style. It’s a lovely warts-and-all tribute to Boston, a city that didn’t contribute very many of the artists on this list. Including, it seems, the LA-based Standells.
372. “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore”– The Walker Brothers (1966): I can’t think of a single British invasion track that captured the essence of early 60s soul records more than this one. The were popular enough in Britain, but it’s a shame the band never had a follow-up hit in the U.S.
371. “A Summer Song”– Chad & Jeremy (1964): Sure, it is shlock, but “A Summer Song” is a sweet encapsulation of a feeling many teens in the 60s had to face: saying goodbye to a sweetheart as summer tore them apart. Good British-invasion harmonies and a strong melody carry this track nicely.
370. “The Pied Piper”– Crispian St. Peters (1966): Crispian was vain, arrogant, and elusive, but he managed to write a very strong song with multiple hooks that wanders from a low-register drawl to a Beatlesque crescendo. If his talent and focus had matched his opinion of himself, he could have had a career instead of languishing with the one-hit wonders.
369. “19th Nervous Breakdown”– The Rolling Stones (1966): Unfortunately, misogyny directed at spoilt middle-class girls was becoming a calling card by this point in the Rolling Stones. Even still, one can’t dismiss the power and proficiency of this track that shows by the Stones succeeded in ways that outshone almost all their British counterparts. For this period in their career, anyway, they dismiss their blues background in favor of a more straightforward rock approach.
368. “A Groovy Kind of Love”– The Mindbenders (1966): This song has a fine melody that lends itself to a certain sense of intimacy. I really appreciate how its mellowness contrasts from the overwrought vocals of someone like Paul Anka earlier in the decade. Despite the title containing the most dated word in the hippie lexicon, Phil Collins managed to make the song a hit again in the 1980s.
367. “People Are Strange”– The Doors (1967): I think The Doors are rather overrated, but there’s no question that Morrison taps into something very strong on this track- a sense of alienation heightened by the song’s sudden stops, dreary atmosphere, and Ray Manzarek’s anachronistic barrelhouse piano.
366. “Blue Bayou”– Roy Orbison (1963): Orbison’s voice is perfectly matched for a song about longing to go back home. Linda Ronstadt’s version is more polished and affecting, but it is hard to deny the mournful power in Roy Orbison’s original.
365. “A Salty Dog”– Procol Harum (1969): Procol Harum thrived on creating atmosphere without resorting to kitsch. They are at the top of their game here, evoking a nautical theme for a dramatic number on the high seas that slowly builds up to an almost cinematic conclusion.
364. “Remember (Walking in the Sand)”– The Shangri-Las (1964): The Shangri-Las weren’t the most talented of the 60’s girl-groups, but they did record some of the most interesting material. Spooky and atmospheric, “Walking in the Sand” moved the band into darker territory than many of their contemporaries were permitted to occupy by their producers.
363. “Eli’s Coming”– Three Dog Night (1969): They would go on to be the top vocal group of the early 70s, but Three Dog Night was just getting started here, with an urgent, organ-laced interpretation of this Laura Nyro song. Although it pointed to the great things this combo would eventually accomplish, “Eli’s Coming” is also perhaps their least radio-friendly hit. (It’s the only major song of theirs that the band did not perform when I saw them back in 2009.)
362. “You’re All I Need (To Get By)”– Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (1968): Ashford and Simpson were, at this point, becoming a Motown Goffin and King. They deliver in the songwriting stakes again giving Motown’s strongest vocal duo at the time another big hit. It is all the more remarkable because Terrell was suffering from brain cancer and was confined to a wheelchair during the song’s recording.
361. “Hurdy Gurdy Man”- Donovan (1968) I almost forgot this one, but Jared reminded me that this Donovan hit existed. Usually a folky, Donovan evokes a mythos and mysticism with this track, with the tambla providing a drone (the single most distinctive element of Indian music, substituting for the universal “Om” sound). It also helps that the men who would become Led Zeppelin back him up.