The 100 Best All-Time Singles In My Head
Well, I couldn't let Mr. Pleasant have all the fun, could I? As soon as he posted his 100 Best Singles list, I couldn't stop contemplating a list of my own. Like the estimable Mr. P, I wanted to list the best "singles," not just the best "songs," so I'm limiting myself to songs that were released on 7-inch vinyl. And just to keep it real, it has to be a record I myself owned, if not in the 7-inch format then at least on an album.
Never fear, I owned a LOT of singles back in the day. I'm getting nostalgic all over again, thinking about those little black plastic disks, the contrast between the reflective borders and the matte grooved band of the track itself. I never understood why 45s had to have that extra large hole in the center -- remember those adapters you had to slip over the spindle of your turntable? And how you needed a special tall one if you wanted to drop a stack of singles one after another? Remember, too, how much faster the label spun around at 45 rpm? I can still visualize the yellow-and-orange swirl of those old Columbia labels. Here's another sense memory: the feeling of idly spinning a 45 around my forefinger, getting up some nice centrifugal force, until the plastic dug into my skin. Ah yes, better than a Slinky toy.
As I worked on my list, I decided to add one more criterion: It has to be a song I remember hearing in those classic singles venues, on the radio or on the dance floor. (Sadly, this will limit the number of Nick Lowe songs I'll be able to include -- but hey, more room for the Lovin' Spoonful!) Inevitably, this means that my list will be weighted heavily towards the years when I was a singles customer -- the mid-1960s through the early 70s, with a brief explosion from my late-70s-to-early-80s club years. In other words, the years when the art of making radio-ready singles was at its zenith.
My other criteria are a little different from Mr. P's. He's married to the idea of the uptempo three-minute pop song, with a distinctive intro and clever lyrics. I agree with these qualities whole-heartedly, but I don't want to impose too many rules. I'm more about the subjective earworm factor -- melodies, hooks, riffs, refrains, vocal embellishments -- and, even more important, the memories that make them sacred to me. So, yes, expect some guilty pleasures and soppy girl stuff. It's my party and I'll gush if I want to.
Warning: I'm not going to spring the whole list on you all at once. I plan to release the list 5 songs at a time, so that I can write properly about each candidate. Where I've written about the songs before (which seems to be at least half of the songs), I'll give give you links to my original posts. That'll free up more space for writing about the remainder.
In homage to the many New Year's Eves I spent with my ear pressed to the radio, following the countdown of the year's top singles (howEVER did they manage that in 1967?), I'll begin with the bottom 5 and work my way to the top. That way, blog readers can read the list in sequence when it's all done. But since I'm starting at the bottom, I have to browse around one more time to make sure that I haven't left out any crucial singles, which most likely would fit better in the 90s than in the top 25.
Before the list is finalized, though, this week I'll give you a little foretaste by getting out of the way half a dozen very special singles -- six singles where the A and B sides are both so good, both would have made it onto my list if they'd been released separately. Any guesses as to which records those would be?
Tune in tomorrow . . .