320. “Sweet Talkin’ Guy”- The Chiffons (1966): This was one of the more complex girl-group numbers, with some excellent counterpoint. It’s a shame the Chiffons aren’t in the same conversation as the Shirelles or the Vandellas, because they were just as good.
319. “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye”- Steam (1969): Originally, Steam recorded this as a throwaway b-side. Instead, disc jockeys decided to play it over the intended single, and its been played to taunt losers at sporting events and election parties ever since.
318. “Rain”- The Beatles (1966): Forget “Lucy”. This is the Beatles’ best psychedelic track, using the mundane phenomena of rain to explore the otherworldly and transcendental. It’s also my favorite Lennon vocal of all time; John sounds the perfect mix of stoned and earnest.
317. “I Want Candy”- The Strangeloves (1965): Bizarre and repetitive, this girl-group song demanded sweet treats to the Bo Diddley beat.
316. “Care of Cell 44”- The Zombies (1968): This track led off their epic “Odessey and Oracle” album. It’s only about midway through the song that you realize that the singer’s girl is, in fact, getting released from prison, which makes the track’s Beach Boys-esque vocal bridges hilariously incongruous.
315. “I’m Yours and I’m Hers”- Johnny Winter (1969): The late 60s were a great time for blues revival. Zeppelin was beginning, Albert, Fred, and B. B. King were all returning to the spotlight, Clapton was king, and this amazing albino guitarist with a rough as gravel voice comes out.
314. “All Day and All of the Night”- The Kinks (1965): The Kinks nailed this rock track as the perfect mix of true love and teenage lust.
313. “Salt of the Earth” – The Rolling Stones (1968): The closing track to the Rolling Stones’ “Beggars Banquet” album. I hadn’t heard it until the Stones broke it out for the Concert for New York City in 2001, held in the aftermath of September 11th. At a time when the Kinks and the Beatles were satirizing high-class Edwardian society, the Stones wrote this peon to the everyman.
312. “Woodstock”- Joni Mitchell (1969): Mitchell desperately wanted to play at the legendary rock festival, but her manager had already booked her on Merv Griffin and wouldn’t let her reschedule. Joni was heartbroken, but wrote the best song about the festival (and perhaps one of the best songs ~about~ the late 60s), and fired her manager.
311. “21st Century Schizoid Man”- King Crimson (1969): Maybe “Nights in White Satin” was the first progressive rock track, but this codified the blueprints and sent them to the patent office. Bombastic, experimental, and filled with proficient solos.
310. “I Feel Free”- Cream (1967): It’s strange to hear a song this lightweight and almost poppy coming from Cream’s psychedelic blues pedigree. With a vocal intro that owed a debt to doo-wop and virtuoso performances by Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker, its no wonder Cream became rock’s first super-group.
309. “There’s a Kind of Hush”- Herman’s Hermits (1966): When I first started listening to Oldies when my mom drove my brother and I to school, this one was in frequent rotation on 98.3. I always loved its atmospheric qualities, and its ability to create a sense of lovers’ intimacy with primitive mid-60s recording material. The Hermits were kind of a joke band, like a Monkees that hadn’t decided to fully sell out, but this was one of their better efforts.
308. “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free”- Nina Simone (1967): Another classic freedom song from Nina Simone, the best, and most angry cabaret singer in the 60s.
307. “Quarter to Three”- Gary “U.S.” Bonds (1961): Bonds fell through the cracks of rock history, peaking at its dire years between the first wave of rock and the British invasion. Thank God Springsteen and the E-Street band revived this track in the 70s, and rehabilitated the Bondsman’s career.
306. “Heroes and Villains”- The Beach Boys (1967): Writing the “Smiley Smile” album cost Brian Wilson his already-tenuous sanity, but one great piece that did surface is this meandering, chaotic multi-movement song. It’s lesser-known middle-8 gives it a Mexican/Wild West motif that makes the whole piece make more sense (Heroes and Villains = sheriffs and desperadoes?). When I saw the reunited Beach Boys two summers ago, this song was the one where Brian Wilson snapped out of his fog and gave a committed, even inspired, performance.
305. “Who’s Making Love”- Johnnie Taylor (1968): Taylor thrived in both late 60s soul and mid-70s disco, and this taunting track picks on the cuckold whose lady he’s just taken. Taylor delivers this with such conviction that he sounds like a bizzaro jackass version of Wilson Pickett.
304. “River Deep, Mountain High”- Ike and Tina Turner (1967): You have to feel sorry for Tina, singing with and being married to one violent psychopath (Ike) and having her record produced by another violent psychopath (Phil Spector). It never became the pop masterpiece that Spector imagined (and the arduous process of recording it might have made him 50% less stable), but its still one of the best vocal performances of the decade.
303. “High Flyin’ Bird”- Richie Havens (1967): Havens gets into a pretty awesome groove here with some enchanting rhythm guitar and great ensemble playing from the rest of the band.
302. “Angel of the Morning”- Merilee Rush (1968): A historically important track, if only because it reflects women’s changing views on sexuality in the late 60s. Rush asserts her sexual independence throughout the song in lines like “I’m old enough to face the dawn”, and “there’s no need to take a stand when it was I who chose to start.” She clearly takes her man home, leaving him to take the “walk of shame” in the morning. An amazing lyric for 1968. Strangely, it was written by Chip Taylor, whose only other major hit was “Wild Thing.”
301. “I Go to Pieces”- Peter and Gordon (1964): This British Invasion folk duo crafted one of the sweetest and saddest songs from that era. Never did the Brits more successfully emulate the Everly Brothers.