Saturday, March 06, 2010

The 100 Best Singles In My Head
Nos. 1-5


[ . . . drum roll, please!]

Well, I told you it would be subjective. These are not the top five singles of all time on Rolling Stones' list, or Mojo's list, or any other list put together by rock snobs or music pundits. I haven't jiggered it to showcase my favorite bands (look, no Kinks! no Nick Lowe!) or to make a political statement or to show off my superior taste. You'll notice I've already written about all of these songs -- BUT OF COURSE!! These are simply the five singles that knocked me hardest off my feet in the course of my life.

And yeah, they're all from the 1960s, because that was the decade that made me the music fan I am. Or more importantly, that made me the person I am. Which is really what the music's all about, isn't it?

[Click on the highlighted links to read my earlier posts on those songs]

1. "The Letter" / The Box Tops (1967)
I hear those knocking lead-in drum beats, and I am GONE. When all is said and done, the essence of rock and roll is nothing more or less than hormonal teenage cravings, and nobody has ever expressed that randy yearning better than an absurdly young Alex Chilton, fronting this seminal Memphis pop group.


2. "Happy Together" / The Turtles (1967)
They were hardly one-hit wonders, but even the Turtles never again hit such a sweet spot, a magical convergence of lilting melody, playful rhythms, and intimate vocals that will forever be the soundtrack of my eighth-grade nirvana.


"She's Not There" / The Zombies (1964)
The first 45 I ever owned -- if only my taste had always been this impeccable!


4. "If I Fell" / "And I Love Her" / The Beatles (1964)
Desperately in love with the Beatles -- okay, okay, in love with Paul McCartney, who was in 1964 the most beautiful man on the planet -- of course I had both of these tracks on the Hard Day's Night album, the first LP I ever owned. But I simply had to buy the single too, so smitten was I with this matched set of John/Paul declarations of love.

"Wouldn't It Be Nice" / "God Only Knows" / The Beach Boys (1966)
Honestly, I wasn't a Beach Boys fan, not really. And by 1966, I already had the Beatles to keep me warm -- what did I need with these clean-cut California boys in their squaresville striped shirts? But then they unleashed this pair of gloriously inventive tracks, back and front of one 7-inch vinyl masterpiece, and set a new gold standard for rock-pop brilliance.

And now, YOU tell ME -- what would your #1 be?


The Modesto Kid said...

Nice top 5 list!

Hard to say what my #1 single would be -- I came of age musically in the late 80's, when singles had fallen out of fashion. The only singles I can remember owning are "I Love Rock n Roll" and "Down Under", neither would make an appearance on any top 5 list I can imagine compiling. So it's more a "favorite song" competition (constrained to songs released in the 50's, 60's and 70's, the age of the 45), and that has a different winner every time you ask me. Sorry!

Anonymous said...

My number one is "Light My Fire," the Doors' single version, not the LP(I don't care much for the extended jam). It really defined the Summer of Love 1967. It was hypnotically brilliant and so cleverly original. And I'm not even a big Doors' fan...just that particular song was a masterpiece. A very close second is the Stones "Satisfaction." It's quite simply Rock and Roll perfection, both musically and could never be improved on. I do really appreciate your selections, Holly.
Have you done a "Desert Island Discs" set yet?
Clyde Crashcup

Holly A Hughes said...

Excellent choices, CC -- though they are both defnitely what I think of as "boy music." My older brother owned those records, I didn't. (Now there's a post I've always been meaning to write . . .). But yours are two heavenly cuts that really do bring back the time and the place.

Kid, it's interesting that just a few years' difference would cut you off from being part of the singles generation. Before the British Invasion, pop music was mostly singles-driven; the rise of the LP as the premier unit in pop music was a real sea change. Singles hung on as a concept, but only as the track that got radio play (or MTV play). Nowadays, however, with downloading, single tracks are back in a big way, aren't they?

The Modesto Kid said...

Yep, true -- though somehow I seem to mostly download mix tapes and concerts (and the occasional album) when I'm downloading music -- I like a song to be part of an album I guess.

wendy said...

Impossible! (read that with a French accent in your head, please)

If you held a loaded gun to my head, and using your definition of being knocked off my feet ... I could possibly narrow it down to 5, but not one, but just as an exercise. And then we'd have to argue about it for a few hours over copious adult beverages.

Whiter Shade of Pale - Procol Harum
When A Man Loves A Woman - Percy Sledge
She's Not There! complete agreement there
I Saw Her Standing There - Beatles
Love is Like An Itching in My Heart - Supremes

Now I'm going to go second guess myself.

Holly A Hughes said...

Bring on the adult beverages!!

I had forgotten that Supremes song; it really does deserve an asterisk. And I applaud your choice of "I Saw Her Standing There" -- genius songwriting, for sure.

I've never been a "Whiter Shade of Pale" fan -- ditto for "In a Gadda Davida," and yet very few songs bring the whole era back like those two do. Iconic, no question about it.

wendy said...

Procol Harum rearranged my molecules. My then-boyfriend and I saw them in concert whenever we could, bought all their albums, none of which were in the mainstream, and I would have been a Robin Trower groupie if I'd gone in for that sort of thing. A guitar hero like none other at that time in my life.

I wrote a post about Love Is Like An Itching in My Heart - for so many reasons it was head and shoulders above all the other Supremes fare. I sometimes deejay a local dance party and #1 on my last playlist was that - it gets people going like nobody's business. The unsung Funk Brothers at their absolute best.

Bob in CT said...

My number one single would be "Like A Rolling Stone" by Bob Dylan. There are many reasons, including a moment in the summer of 1965 when my parents took me to visit my brother, who was working as a busboy at Browns Hotel in the Catskills. As we got out of the car I heard music off in the distance, an incredible, unique sound that hit me in an unforgettable way. Although I prefer The Beatles and The Kinks (to name two) to Bob Dylan, this revolutionary song is still my number one.

And thank you Holly, for this excellent series. I looked forward to it each day and hope there will be similar countdowns in the future.

Vivalabeat said...

I LOVE your top 5! The Letter's just amazing, I agree. :)

The Turtles, The Zombies, The Beach Boys and The Beatles... Aren't they great?

My number one would be Waterloo Sunset. No other song can take its place. That's for sure.

Who knows, maybe one day I'll make my Top 100 (or whatever). :)

Anonymous said...

Picking 100 is nearly impossible, I think! To have done so in 20 days is impressive. And with such criteria--that's a lot of dance floors! Love all your pics! Would have also liked to see Lindsey Buckingham's "Go your own way" which took its place as the songinmyhead for more than one breakup over the years (giggle, giggle).

Holly A Hughes said...

Looks like we could make up an excellent second 100 with all your #1s that I couldn't make room for on my list. And I love the stories behind them ...

nat said...

You just covered my early years as a music lover and my joy in owning my own transistor radio. FABULOUS songs, each and every one.

What a great series! I loved reading your take on the songs.

Holly A Hughes said...

Indeed, the transistor was KEY! I really don't think I ever again enjoyed music as much, until I got my iPod. Being able to walk around with your own portable device, listening to what you wanted, when you wanted -- but of course, that was back when AM radio was worth listening to.

NickS said...

This whole project is fabulous. I confess, I had gotten out of the habit of reading you blog for a while, and now I come back and find this!

There are many songs that I know and love on your list, and look forward to reading your posts about them.

Holly A Hughes said...

Good to see you checking in, Nick. I look forward to hearing your nuggets of insight!