My “Six from the Sixties”September 18, 2018
This is a response to the #sixtieschallenge from @slobberchops to educate the youth – musically speaking – about the best pop tunes from the 1960s.
- Link SIX singles from the 1960’s and let us know why the song is memorable to you.
- Make sure they are not too obscure, we are trying to teach the younger readers what was good, not about old ‘B-sides’.
- State the year of release, we are trying to educate people!
- Add a Wikipedia link to each song so the uneducated can learn a little about the song. If there isn’t one available, then choose something a little more popular.
- Use the # sixtieschallenge tag in your article.
I was born in 1962, and as a child of the Sixties, I was fascinated as well as entertained by the lively and energetic pop music of that era. Actually I doubt that any decade had as many infuriatingly bubbly child-friendly songs as the 1960s. The closest phenomenon I can compare it to is the Spice Girls of the late 90s.
No wonder so many kids of that decade became committed pop obsessives in their teens and 20s. I’m certainly not the only one of my friends who used to sit recording the Top 20 show on Sundays, even taking notes!
Here are just a few of the songs I loved as a child:
• Yellow Submarine – The Beatles
• Octopus’s Garden – The Beatles
• Puppet on a String – Sandie Shaw, who also went barefoot on stage, and she looked like my Sindy doll!
• My name is Jack – Manfred Mann
• I’m a Tiger – Lulu (I had a doll called Lulu)
• Boom Bang-a-Bang – Lulu
• Baby Come Back – The Equals. Me and my sister were so excited that someone had made a record about a baby!
Was Sixties pop music designed to appeal to children? Certainly some of it seems to have been! And it probably made me a music fan for life. I think music had an extra-special attraction for me in the late 1960s, because I’d had this terrible illness, bronchial pneumonia, that had kept me bed-bound and in and out of hospital for much of the time from the age of 18 months to four and a half years old.
I recovered from that illness in 1967, just in time to start primary school. I remember that it was a time of awakening for me, in that everything seemed new and exciting, in vivid colours and sounds. I was drinking in all these new experiences, as if for the first time.
So here are my six choices!
Fire Brigade by The Move (1968)
As a six year old, I LOVED this record, and as I grew up, Dad used to remind me of how I used to sing “Get Da Fya Brigade!” over and over again.
Dad only had himself to blame, as every week he put on Top of the Pops (a weekly chart hits show) for us to watch. It quickly became my favourite TV programme.
Another favourite was The Move’s later hit in the same year, “Goodbye Blackberry Way”. I must have driven my parents mad “singing” this one over and over and over again, making weird noises for the words I didn’t understand (ie all of them, except for the chorus lines). Maybe that’s why I love blackberries so much.
Roy Wood was the singer, songwriter and guitarist with The Move. He went on to form the Electric Light Orchestra with Jeff Wayne in the 1970s, leaving after the release of their first album to form Wizzard, one of my favourite glam rock bands when I was in my early teens. They were responsible for the Christmas classic, “I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day”.
Do you know the way to San Jose? by Dionne Warwick (1968)
1968 was a good year for me. I have a vague memory of going to stay with my godfather, who had a house in Portpatrick, a seaside town on the west coast of Scotland. We watched Top of the Pops, and there was a film shown to cover Dionne Warwick’s hit Do You Know the Way to San Jose?
I vaguely remember a clip of donkeys wearing straw hats – and that, together with all the “Wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo-wo”s in the background made it a very memorable song for the six-year-old me (and my four-year-old sister). I can remember singing it as we bounced on the beds in our room.
I grew up loving Dionne Warwick’s beautiful soft voice, and enjoying the songs of Burt Bacharach. Walk on By was a favourite of me and my sister’s when we were in our late teens.
All Along the Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix (1968)
My next choice is more about giving people who weren’t around in the Sixties an example of some of the best music from that era. I’d be lying if I tried to say that I was precocious enough to be into Jimi Hendrix at the age of six!
I discovered Hendrix’s music in my late teens, long after his untimely death. All Along the Watchtower, released in 1968, is a perfect example of a classic from the era of protests and change, written by the rebel poet Bob Dylan and expressed with vocal intensity, explosive guitar work and sheer dynamism by Hendrix. This music expresses a feeling that behind the happy positivity and postwar and rations optimism of the 1960s there was also a lot of turmoil and confusion, with the Vietnam War, US civil rights struggles and young people fighting against the hierarchical structures of the past.
The Israelites by Desmond Dekker (1968)
This is another song that we used to watch on Top of the Pops. I always remember Dad (who was from the Bahamas) gasping with astonishment that a song with such a strong reggae sound had got to number 1 in the UK.
The Israelites was Britain’s first reggae number 1, and it was also the first reggae song to reach the US top 10. That memory of watching it on Top of the Pops at the impressionable age of six never faded, though I didn’t see the original again until I started watching YouTube.
No apologies for the fuzzy, grainy footage with truly dreadful camera work – I think this version has to be seen for Dekker’s amazing outfit, his excellent dance moves and his strange scowling expression, which is no doubt the main reason it was so memorable for me.
In the late seventies and early eighties me and my sister loved bands like Madness, UB40 and the Specials, and I think Dekker was a big influence on many bands of that era.
Make it easy on yourself by The Walker Brothers (1962)
It’s about time I introduced a non-1968 hit. This is another Burt Bacharach classic. But it’s not so much the song as the voice that makes this a stand-out song for me. Scott Walker’s voice is one in a million – so expressive and resonant, and not a vocoder in sight.
Make it Easy On Yourself was released in 1962, the year I was born, so I don’t have a first-time memory of it (unless I somehow absorbed it while in the cradle!).
In the late 1980s Scott Walker took a sharp turn away from “easy listening” and entered the world of avant garde and experimental music. Much of his more recent work has been greeted with critical acclaim, while keeping him well away from the pop charts. Good on him! So many great artists slavishly followed the allure of fame, fashion and fortune long after their chart success had evaporated, and ended up destroying themselves. Walker is following his art.
So I’ve come to my last choice. What will it be? So many wonderful tunes to choose from this magical decade. The Rolling Stones? Elvis? Neil Young – I loved his work when I was a student.
Hmm… let’s go for something really original. Something to make the young folks wrinkle their brows and say “WTF??”
A song that captures the crazy positivity and sheer exuberance of the 1960s. I think we could do with some of that in this decade! And there’s a crazy video too. So here it is:
Cinderella Rockefeller by Esther and Abi Ofarim (1968)
Another joyful song from what was quite a joyful year for me. I remember singing it with my best friend as we walked – yes, walked! – to school. This is a re-edit of the original video.
Cinderella Rockefeller, performed by husband and wife duo Esther and Abi Ofarim, was number one in the British charts for three weeks in 1968. To this day they are the only Israeli act ever to have reached number one in the UK charts (according to Wikipedia).
I think we’ve lost a lot of the adventurousness and open-mindedness of that era. The Sixties wasn’t fun for everyone by any means, but it was a time when many people were trying to tear down the old structures and strictures, and discovering a new freedom of expression. It was a great time to be a child.
How would a young person today react to music from the 1960s? Well, there is a popular YouTube genre of first-time reaction videos. This video shows Joey Da Prince reacting to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
I wonder what he’d think of my Sixties selection?
Main photo by Ron Kroon/Anefo