This playlist is rather different from my normal playlists. Normally, I try to mix up obscure tracks, new things I’ve only just discovered, and old classics. This time, however, this is (almost) on commission.
Talking by email with Plok earlier today, he said he knew a teenager who wanted to learn more about ‘sixties music’, naming a couple of tracks she liked. He told me a couple of other things about her (she’s bright and cheerful, very innocent, etc) and asked me for suggestions.
So I’ve tried to put together a playlist that covers *ALL* of ‘sixties music’, which is frankly impossible. To make it more difficult, I’ve tried to structure it like a mix tape (it’s 90 minutes to within a minute or so), and I’ve also used 8track.com , a site that allows you to create streaming playlists of MP3s, but no more than two tracks by each artist per playlist, because that (unlike Spotify) should be accessible in Canada. I wanted to *try* to get everything from folk-rock to freakbeat to Brit-Blues to psych to soul in there, but 90 minutes is not a long time… I also wanted to put in tracks that would be interesting pointers to other stuff.
I’ve tried to go for a mix of obvious hits and obscure but interesting, but with the emphasis on the former. The notes below should be taken as a guide for teenagers, rather than for people who already know this music, so apologies if it seems patronising to my normal readers. Spotify playlist here, 8track playlist here.
Wouldn’t It Be Nice by The Beach Boys opens what many consider the best album ever, Pet Sounds. While it seems like just a simple pop song, it has layers of instruments and vocals that reward repeated listening.
You’re No Good by The Swinging Blue Jeans is included not just because it’s a great little pop record, but also for historical value. The Beatles didn’t come out of nowhere – they were part of a scene, Merseybeat, that produced dozens of successful bands in the early 60s. The Swinging Blue Jeans were the best of the other Merseybeat bands, so this gives some idea of what the competition was like for the Beatles.
Time Of The Season by The Zombies is actually musically quite similar to You’re No Good, but is from the other end of the sixties. From another contender for ‘best album ever’, Odessey And Oracle (yes, it’s spelled that way), the Zombies had already split up by the time this charted.
The Door Into Summer by The Monkees shows just how fast music was changing in the 60s. A year before this, the Monkees had been a manufactured band for a TV show, but now they were busy inventing country-rock, and not just country-rock, but psychedelic country-rock based on a Robert Heinlein science fiction novel…
Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys is pretty much undoubtedly the best single ever released. You may think you know this one from commercials or whatever, but actually *listen* to it and you’ll be astonished.
Do You Believe In Magic? by The Lovin’ Spoonful is one of the most *fun* tracks of the decade.
Days by The Kinks may be the most beautiful song ever written. Nothing more to say about that.
How Does It Feel To Feel? by The Creation is one of the most influential records of the sixties, even though it was never a hit. Listen to this and you realise that Oasis were nothing more than a tribute act to The Creation, but with slightly less talent. Seriously, this is *every* Oasis record ever, but better, and it’s from 1965.
Summer In The City by The Lovin’ Spoonful is a song pretty much everyone already knows, but is here just in case.
Tin Soldier by The Small Faces is actually very like Summer In The City, structurally, but just listen to the dynamics of this record, the way it moves between sections. And that VOICE. Steve Marriot was a short, white lad from London, but his voice here could blow away any soul or rock singer ever.
Dark End Of The Street by James Carr is the best soul ballad ever, and another incredible voice.
You Don’t Have To Walk In The Rain by The Turtles is the single from Turtle Soup, their attempt at making an album like the Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society – even getting Ray Davies of the Kinks to produce it. It’s a great pop single, and funny with it (“I look at your face/I love you anyway”)
Making Time by The Creation is a more typical 60s garage track than How Does It Feel, but powerful.
Shakin’ All Over by Johnny Kidd And The Pirates is the first great British rock record, from well before the Beatles ever recorded. Just listen to that great guitar riff, and the drum break….
While Seven And Seven Is by Love invented punk and heavy metal while most bands hadn’t even got round to the whole ‘flowers in your hair’ bit yet – this is, staggeringly, from 1966.
Even more amazingly, Alone Again Or by Love is the same band a year later.Hard to believe, isn’t it? From another of the general contenders for ‘best album ever’ – Forever Changes.
This Will Be Our Year by The Zombies is another track from Odessey And Oracle, and one of the best songs about being happy in love ever. Shame Rod Argent and Hugh Grundy can’t keep in time with each other…
Some Mother’s Son by The Kinks is one of the saddest anti-war songs ever. World War I was being reassessed in the 60s, and that time period had a huge influence on British music of the period, and you really need at least one song about it on a compilation like this.
Be My Baby by The Ronnettes bom, bom-bom BOM, bom, bom-bom BOM
Lies by The Knickerbockers isn’t by the Beatles. Honestly. It’s a group of jobbing musicians from New Jersey. HONESTLY…
Look Out, There’s A Monster Coming by The Bonzo Dog Band is hilarious.
We’ve Got To Get Out Of This Place by The Animals is the greatest of all the British R&B singles, mostly for Eric Burdon’s astonishing vocal.
I’ve Been Good To You by The Miracles was one of John Lennon’s favourites – enough so that he stole a chunk of it for Sexy Sadie from the White Album.
Keep On Running by The Spencer Davis Group is included partly because it’s one of the best singles of the 60s, and partly because Jonathan Calder would look sternly at me if I didn’t include something with a Steve Winwood vocal.
The Old Laughing Lady by Neil Young from his first album is a pointer to a style that no-one really followed up on, not even Young himself, a sort of progressive-psych-folk-country but with orchestral arrangements. The nearest things I can think of to this track later on are Dennis Wilson or some of Gram Parsons’ music…
Sure ‘Nuff ‘n’ Yes I Do by Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band is about as commercial as the good Captain ever got, and has some great slide guitar by Ry Cooder.
Hold On, I’m Coming by Sam & Dave is one of the great soul tracks.
Walk Away Renee by The Four Tops is here to kill two birds with one stone – the original of this, by The Left Banke, is a classic of baroque pop, but the Four Tops manage to make it fit their Motown style perfectly.
I Say A Little Prayer by Aretha Franklin is an obvious choice, but sometimes obvious choices are obvious for a reason.
And The Intro And The Outro by The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band sees us out…