Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Ten cover songs that were better than the original versions

Cover songs have a bad reputation and sometimes it is easy to see why.

In the 1950s, there were a number of white artists, most notably Pat Boone, who ripped off black artists by recording their songs and having the hits that had been denied to the original artists because white radio stations would not play their music.

Boone's versions of songs that had originally been recorded by Little Richard (Tutti Frutti), Ivory Joe Hunter (I Almost Lost My Mind) and Fats Domino (Ain't That a Shame), were tame versions of the originals, but the quality of the songs and the packaging of Boone's image enabled him to land them in the top 10 on a regular basis in the mid-50s.

Boone always insisted that he was paying tribute to the music and perhaps he was, but he was the one who was raking in the money, while the original artists saw their music relegated to a much smaller audience.

As African-American music moved into the mainstream, cover versions refused to die and some were quite awful.

Who can forget Blue Suede's laughable version of the B. J. Thomas hit "Hooked on a Feeling" or Van Halen's interpretation of Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman?"

But with those songs, as well as most cover songs, it is not a matter of ripping off artists, but liking the songs and wanting to record them.

Sometimes, not often, the cover version is superior to the original. I offer 10 examples. I have a feeling some of you are going to completely disagree with me, but that is the fun of writing posts like this.

Baby It's You- Smith

The Shirelles original 1961 version of this song was a solid pop song and a deserved hit, but once the obscure Los Angeles base group Smith recorded its version of the song in 1969, featuring Missourian Gayle McCormick, it was Smith's song and as it turned out Smith's only song.

Like the best cover versions, Smith totally reimagined the song largely through McCormick's powerhouse vocals.

McCormick, one of the great voices of the rock era, never achieved the stardom she deserved, scoring only one more hit, as a solo artist in 1971, with "It's a Cryin' Shame (Love Walked Out the Door).

Suspicion- Terry Stafford

This is one of those cases where imitation was truly the sincerest form of flattery and took an obscure Elvis song and turned it into a number three song of the Billboard charts in 1964.

Terry Stafford was one of many Elvis soundalikes who made the charts in the 60s and this was his only hit.

There was nothing wrong with Elvis' version of the song, which was released on an album in 1962 and Stafford obviously does not have Elvis' voice (though many people still think the hit version was recorded by Elvis), but the addition of some female backup singers and the addition of an Ondioline, a French keyboard, made the song of my early favorites.

It's success caused Elvis to release his version as a single, but as it turned out, it was the flip side, "Kiss Me Quick" that was the hit.

Wonderful World- Herman's Hermits

It is hard to argue that any version of a song can be better than the way Sam Cooke did it and don't get me wrong, I love Sam Cooke's 1960 version of this song, but for some reason I have always preferred the Herman's Hermits 1965 remake.

Obviously Cooke is the better singer, so my only excuse is that I heard the British invasion version of "Wonderful World" before I heard the original.

But I will offer two other reasons- the lead guitarist on the song is future Led Zeppelin standout Jimmy Page and, let's face it, this is one of the best examples of what made Herman's Hermits so popular in the U. S.- it is an infectious, feel good song.

The song was released shortly after Cooke's death as a tribute to him and ironically, was a bigger success for the British group, reaching number four on the Billboard chart while Cooke's version had topped out at 12.

I Can't Stop Loving You- Ray Charles

One of the most influential albums of all times was Ray Charles' 1962 classic "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music."

On the album, Charles recorded his versions of Hank Williams songs, the Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love" and others, but it was his version of Don Gibson's 1957 song "I Can't Stop Loving You" that became not only a number one song, but the biggest hit of 1962.

When the song, which was written by Gibson, was released as a single, it was the B side of Gibson's biggest hit, "Oh, Lonesome Me," though it was a hit in its own right.

More than 700 versions of the song have been recorded, but no interpretation can hold a candle to Ray Charles' rendition.

Unchained Melody- Righteous Brothers

This was not a Righteous Brothers song- let's be clear about that. Only one Righteous Brother, Bobby Hatfield, performs on the song, backed by producer Phil Spector's famed Wall of Sound.

It doesn't matter. It works.

The song was originally written for a prison movie, "Unchained" in 1955. The lyricist did not use the word "unchained" in the song so "melody' was attached to the title.

Four hit versions were released that year, including instrumental versions by Les Baxter and Liberace and a number three hit by vocalist Al Hibbler. Baxter and Hibbler both reached number one on Billboard.

The best version that year, unreleased as a single as far as I can tell, is sung by actor Todd Duncan as a prisoner in the movie.

Hatfield and Spector's version is the classic.

Everybody Loves Somebody- Dean Martin

This song is so closely identified with Dean Martin, serving as his signature song for years, but it was already an old song when Martin released it in 1964.

Martin was not a big fan of rock and roll, so when the song was released, he told his son Dean Paul, who loved rock, that "Everybody Loves Somebody" was going to knock his pals, the Beatles, off the charts. It didn't knock them off the charts, but it did knock "A Hard Day's Night" out of the number one spot on Billboard.

When "Everybody Loves Somebody" was first released in 1948, it was performed by Frank Sinatra, the teen idol of that era. Both versions are good, but there was a reason why Martin's version climbed to the top of the chart and Sinatra's peaked at 25.

Respect- Aretha Franklin

By the time Aretha Franklin's version of "Respect" was released in 1967, it was a different song than the one released by its writer, Otis Redding, two years earlier.

Redding loved Franklin's feminist interpretation of the song and joked in the months prior to his death about the song "that woman took away from me."

Just Franklin's powerhouse vocal would be enough to make it her song, but there was so much more to it. Thanks to an idea from her sister, Carolyn, the famous R-E-S-P-E-C-T was added as well as the "sock it to me" backup vocals, which were provided by Carolyn and their other sister Erma.

The Franklin version went all the way to number one, while Redding's made it to 35.


Memphis- Johnny Rivers

It is hard to imagine anyone taking a Chuck Berry song and making it their own, but Johnny Rivers succeeded where Elvis Presley (Promised Land), the Beatles and Beach Boys (Rock and Roll Music) Waylon Jennings (Brown Eyed Handsome Man), Jerry Lee Lewis (Little Queenie), and Linda Ronstadt (Back In the U. S. A.) failed, with his 1964 debut song, a remake of Berry's 1959 song, which was a hit overseas, but not in the United States.

Rivers' remake was not the first cover version of the song to become a hit. Guitarist Lonnie Mack did an instrumental version in 1963 that reached number 5 on Billboard and it was Mack's arrangement that Rivers covered with his version which went to number 2.

The Rivers version was the first I ever heard and it immediately became one of my favorite songs. For the 11 years our cover band, Natural Disaster was together, it was almost always the song we used to open our performances.

Rivers' follow-up single, "Maybellene," was also a Chuck Berry cover, but was not as good as the original.

Twist and Shout- Beatles

When the Beatles released this song in 1964, the Isley Brothers' 1963 version was fresh on people's mind, but the song was originally an early Phil Spector production by the Top Notes in 1961 and changed considerably by the time it reached the Fab Four.

The Top Notes version never made the charts and the song's writer, Bert Russell, was not pleased with Spector's arrangement. It was Russell's arrangement that the Isleys took to number 17 and that the Beatles took to number two.

When Twist and Shout made it to number two, it was one of five Beatles songs that held the top five positions, the first time that had ever been accomplished. The song preventing it from reaching number one was "Can't Buy Me Love."

The Beatles further cemented their claim to bragging rights on the song when it became popular all over again in 1986 due to its inclusion in the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off.

What makes the song superior is one of the great all-time rock shouting vocal performances by John Lennon.

Here are all three versions and you can judge for yourself.

Little Darlin'- Diamonds

I will end this journey down memory lane with something that contradicts the beginning of this lengthy post.

In the 50s, when white artists were covering the work of African Americans and reaping the benefits with inferior knockoff versions of the songs, this one by the Canadian doo-wop group, the Diamonds, released in 1957, is generally considered to be the superior version, even though the original by the Gladiolas was also good.

One reason is because the Diamonds, whose lead singer Dave Somerville was one of the best doo-wop vocalists of all time and because the group had solid contributions from each of its members, including the "ai yi yis" and the "bum de wolly wollys" that are featured throughout and were a more rounded group than the Gladiolas, which were built around the vocal talents of Maurice Williams who wrote the song and became better known for his 1960 song "Stay." The background music was also superior.

The Gladiolas' version came close to making the top 10 on the rhythm and blues chart (where the African American songs were generally relegated) but barely made it into the Billboard Hot 100 while the Diamonds went all the way to number 3 and followed the hit with a number of top 40 hits through the rest of the '50s.

Williams and Somerville later performed the song together at a few of the doo-wop revival concerts.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The old timers who held off the British Invasion

Bobby Vinton was on a roll during the early 1960s.

His success, like the success of many in the music industry was a combination of talent and pure luck.

Though Vinton is known now as a singer, he was under contract to a record company as a bandleader, but the contract had not worked out well for either side. Vinton had no chart success and was about to be let go by the company when he took a chance on doing a song no one else wanted to perform.

"Roses Are Red," was a top 10 hit and began a string of chart successes like Vinton, with hits such as "Blue Velvet," "Blue on Blue," and the one that reached number one on the charts for four weeks right at the beginning of 1964.

Vinton, who had several hits digging into songs from previous decades, took a 1945 Vaughn Monroe song, "There I've Said It Again," and made it my own. "There I've Said It Again" was always my favorite Vinton song and also holds a significant place in rock history.

It was the last number one song before the British Invasion.

Vinton's song was knocked out of the number one slot the following week by "I Want to Hold Your Hand" by the Beatles and after that it was hard to find a week when the charts were not dominated by British groups with everyone from the ones with staying power like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Kinks and the Hollies to steadily reliable groups like the Dave Clark Five, Herman's Hermits, Gerry and the Pacemakers and the Searchers.

Many of those who had hits in the early 60s vanished from the charts. No more hits from Chubby Checker, Bobby Vee, Bobby Rydell, Neil Sedaka and the many child actors who recorded hits like Annette Funicello, Paul Peterson, Johnny Crawford and Shelley Fabares.

The idea that the Beatles and the British acts ran everyone else off the charts is fiction, however.

Some of the groups and performers that were having hits before the British invasion continued to crack the top 10 every time out.

The Beach Boys released their first number one hit, "I Get Around" and also charted with "Don't Worry Baby" in 1964, while the Four Seasons continued to ride high with "Rag Doll" and "Dawn (Go Away). All of the Motown performers were successful, including the Supremes who reached number one five straight times.

Bobby Vinton also continued to have success in 1964 with "My Heart Belongs to Only You" reaching number nine and "Mr. Lonely" taking him back to the top of the charts.

Two legends of early rock and roll also held their own with the British groups.

Though he was in the middle of his movie star phase, Elvis Presley charted with a number of songs, including "Such a Night" and "Kissin' Cousins," and the St. Louis' Chuck Berry had two hits, "No Particular Place to Go" and "You Never Can Tell."

Some of those who had great success during the British Invasion era were great talents of an earlier era who may have seemed a bit old fashioned but unexpectedly had success in 1964 and 1965, simply by turning out great songs.

Here's a look at three of those legends.

Louis Armstrong

After the Beatles knocked Bobby Vinton's "There I've Said It Again" out of number one, the Fab Four held the spot for the next three months with their first three singles, until an unlikely artist knocked them out of the top spot.

Louis Armstrong was the greatest jazz musician in history and was no stranger to success in the music industry, but his hits were in the '20s and '30s. His rendition of the song "Hello Dolly" from the Broadway musical of the same name made him the oldest performer to ever hit number one on the Billboard charts at age 63.

Dean Martin

The Beatles continued to dominate the charts later in 1964, with their number one hits including the title song from their movie "A Hard Day's Night."

Its reign at number one ended thanks to another oldtimer, though not quite as old as Louis Armstrong.

Dean Martin had not had a Top 10 hit since "Return to Me" in 1957 and it had been even longer since he reached number one in 1956 with "Memories Are Made of This." He had spent more time as an actor, but his return to the recording studio not only landed him an unexpected success with "Everybody Loves Somebody," but launched a string of hits and helped him land a spot as the host of the highly successful "Dean Martin Show" on NBC.

Martin, like Armstrong, was a major musical talent, though his seemingly carefree attitude caused a lot of his musical work to be overlooked.

Frank Sinatra

Unlike Martin, Sinatra had never left the charts, having been a fixture since the early '40s, but he, like Martin, had not been in the top 10 since 1957 when he reached number two with "All the Way" and his last number one was "Learnin' the Blues" in 1955.

While Sinatra continued to reach the top 40 the first and second years of the British Invasion, it wasn't until 1966 when "Ol' Blue Eyes' broke through, scoring with "That's Life" and then his number one hit "Strangers in the Night."

He was 50 at the time.

After that, he continued to chart into the 1980s, including recording such classics as "It Was a Very Good Year," "My Way," and "New York, New York."

Three interesting tidbits about "Strangers in the Night."

1. Sinatra hated the song.

2. Glen Campbell played rhythm guitar.

3. The scat phrase Sinatra used in the song, "dooby dooby doo," inspired the name of the cartoon dog Scooby Doo.

Friday, March 13, 2020

These famous country singers got their starts in other kinds of music

If there is one certainly about country music it is that every few years a controversy will pop up about some artist on the country charts not being "real country."

Of course, anyone who watched the recent Ken Burns' documentary knows that many influences go into the making of country music, everything from gospel to jazz and even rock.

In the mid-1970s, Conway Twitty was upset that Olivia Newton-John and Charlie Rich been nominated for Country Music Association awards. They weren't "real country."

As someone who was a big fan, then and now, '50s and '60s rock, I was amused by Twitty's remarks since he launched his career with a string of rock hits, including "It's Only Make Believe" and "Lonely Blue Boy."

I am not going to get into any argument over who is country and who is not, but I thought it would be fun to recall a few songs from famous country artists who had their beginnings recording songs in the pop and rock genre.

Some of them older readers will remember, but I am betting there may be a couple here that will surprise you.

Lonely Blue Boy- Conway Twitty 1959

Conway Twitty broke onto the rockabilly scene in a big way in 1959, reaching the Top 10 twice, with his signature song "It's Only Make Believe" and this one.

Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition was In)- Kenny Rogers and the First Edition 1967

Kenny Rogers made the jump from this song, a remnant of the psychedelic rock era. Rogers was no newcomer to music when this song was released. He had minor hits dating back into the 1950s, but this one put him on the map and on the charts and led to a string of hits including "But You Know I Love You" and the more country-oriented "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town" and "Reuben James."

Not Too Long Ago- The Uniques 1965

I loved this song when it came out, and they played it all on the time on WHB in Kansas City, but sadly, it was never more than a regional hit.

It did introduce the world to the Uniques' lead singer- the talented Joe Stampley, though.

Stampley had a string of top 10 country songs in the '70s, including two number ones, "Roll On, Big Mama" in 1974 and "All These Things," in 1975, which was actually a remake of a regional hit he had with the Uniques.

Stampley also teamed with Moe Bandy for some novelty hits, including the number one hit, "Just Good Ole Boys" in 1979.

Lonely Weekends- Charlie Rich 1960

During the 1950s and 1960s, Charlie Rich was a much-admired performer who had a pair of decent hits in "Lonely Weekends" and "Mohair Sam," but never reached the stardom his talent indicated he would have.

Rich finally broke through in 1973 with "Behind Closed Doors" and followed with a string of hits that lasted through the decade.

Once he hit the big time on the country charts (despite Conway Twitty's disapproval), with "Behind Closed Doors" and "The Most Beautiful Girl," Rich was also able to have hits with some of the songs he had originally released a decade earlier, including "There Won't Be Anymore."

Wanda Jackson- Let's Have a Party 1960

When Wanda Jackson's legendary career started, she was a rockabilly singer who had a string of minor hits, then broke into the top 40 with this one.

When rock music dried up, Jackson moved into country, recording the classic "Right or Wrong" and "In the Middle of a Heartache," both in 1961 and continued having hits through the '60s.

When she stopped making the country charts, Jackson remade herself many times over the next several decades, first as a gospel singer, then returning to her rockabilly routes in the '90s. She was elected to the Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame in 2009 and finally "retired" at age 82 last year.

Even in her retirement from performing she is continuing to record, however.

She has lasted the whole rock 'n roll era, from dating a pre-stardom Elvis Presley in 1955 to making a rock album with Joan Jett today.

Say- Mel Tillis 1960

Mel Tillis had far more success as a songwriters during the '60s penning such hits as "Detroit City" for Bobby Bare, "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," for Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, and "Emotions" for Brenda Lee.

This one from 1960 is less like his country hits of the 1970s, including "Coca Cola Cowboy" and "Send Me Down to Tucson" both in 1978, and more like the songs released by artists like Steve Lawrence and Bobby Rydell.

If you have never heard this one, you are in for a treat.

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Three great cover songs you may have never heard

For nearly 11 years, I was lucky enough to sing with the local band Natural Disaster in the Joplin/Neosho area of southwest Missouri and all we did was covers.

It was not that none of us could write songs- our group leader Richard Taylor is an excellent songwriter and I could crank out a novelty song every once in a while, but Natural Disaster did not perform those songs. Our play list consisted of covers of rock and country songs from the '50s through the '80s.

We loved the music.

Cover songs get a bad reputation, especially when the covers are a note-for-note recreation of the original, but there are great cover versions that dwarf the originals versions.

As good as the Isley Brothers' "Twist and Shout" was, and it was good, that the world at large that is a Beatles song and a classic.

I enjoy Otis Redding's version of "Respect," but once Aretha Franklin decided to sing that song it was hers forever.

Thanks to YouTube, music fans have been introduced to cover versions of nearly every song ever created and just as in the cases of the Beatles and Aretha Franklin.

Here are three I discovered that resonated with me and a few comments for each of them. I hope you enjoy these selections.

Bridge Over Troubled Water- Roy Orbison

I might as well get over with right at the beginning of this one. I am going to tick off a lot of people.

I never liked the original version of the song. I enjoy Simon and Garfunkel's music, but this one just seemed to last forever.

And to heap even more abuse on those who love the original- Roy Orbison's version is better.

Art Garfunkel's vocal were pure, clear, antiseptic and never had a hint of any real feeling. There is a reason why Paul Simon succeeded after splitting with Garfunkel and Garfunkel faded into obscurity.

Orbison, on the other hand, had one of the great voices of rock history and you can feel his pain when he sings. Though he wrote most of his songs, when he did a cover,  he owned it.

Judge for yourself.

Positively 4th Street- Johnny Rivers

Johnny Rivers has never received the respect he deserves.

How in the world is this man not in the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame. Rivers had a string of hits that lasted approximately 15 years, a lifetime in pop music and it appears he has been penalized for being great at what he does- he offers fresh interpretations of older songs and he doesn't write his own.

For the most part, it is Rivers' cover version of many songs that we remember. When you think of "Mountain of Love," you don't think of Harold Dorman,  when you think of "Seventh Son," you don't think of Willie Mahon, and when you think of Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu, you don't think of Huey "Piano" Smith and the Clowns.

Once his versions were released, Johnny Rivers owned those songs.

And he didn't just do it with songs originally done by lesser obscure acts. Rivers' cover of Motown hits "Baby I Need Your Loving" and "The Tracks of My Tears" did not surpass the originals, but they held their own with the Four Tops and Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.

To give you an idea of how good Rivers is as what he does, he even outdid the master on "Memphis," one of his signature tunes. Who thinks of "Memphis" as a Chuck Berry song?

When the song is played by cover bands, and it is a staple among oldie cover bands and country performers, it is arranged and performed the way Rivers did it.

Rivers' cover of Bob Dylan's "Positively 4th Street" was not a hit, but it was something even better- it was Dylan's favorite version of the song. He liked Rivers' version better than his own.

Suzi Quatro- Does Your Mother Know?

Fans of the Ron Howard-Henry Winkler Happy Days series in the 1970s and early '80s, may remember Suzi Quatro from her handful of appearances as rock singer Leather Tuscadero.

She had hit, "Stumblin' In," a duet with Chris Norman that reached number four on the Billboard chart in 1978, but that bouncy pop song was not the kind of music she liked to do. Quatro was a rocker and though she never had the success here that was expected for her, she became a superstar in Europe and has been a major influence on many female rock performers for the past four decades.

I stumbled across this performance of Abba's song "Does Your Mother Know?" several months back and loved it.

In this 2014 clip, she is 63 or 64 years old and she is still going strong.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Three more oldies that make me turn up the volume

After I finished writing the post Wednesday about songs that automatically turn up the volume on the car radio when I hear the first notes, I thought about more songs and thought I would share three more with a few thoughts on each.

Feel free to comment on these songs and tell me which songs make up turn up the volume.

Donna, the Prima Donna, Dion, 1963

This is one of the first songs I remember listening to as I was growing up and it was my introduction to Dion.

At that time, I had never heard of Dion and the Belmonts or of Dion's earlier solo hits such as Runaround Sue or The Wanderer, so this was my introduction to one of the most talented performers from the rock and roll era.

I had also never heard of a prima donna, so I had no idea what this song was really about until years later.

After my post yesterday, one of my favorite former students at South Middle School, Dylan Prauser, mentioned that The Wanderer was a song that made him turn up the dial and I immediately thought of this song.

Roll On Down the Highway, Bachman-Turner Overdrive 1975

You could probably put any song by Bachman-Turner Overdrive in this category. Taking Care of Business, Let It Ride and You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet all produce the same result, but this is the one for me because it took me more than 15 years to realize just how good this song was.

When it was first on the radio in 1975, I heard it, but I did not pay much attention to it. The first time I really listened to it was in the '90s, when I was doing a story on the Lockwood High School basketball team during one of its practices and the background music was one BTO hit after another.

Return to Sender, Elvis Presley, 1962

This is another of the first songs I remember listening to on the radio during my elementary schools. In the late '60s, when my cousin, Tony Testerman, went into the Army, he left my older sister Vicki and me his record collection, which included all kinds of great music from the '50s and '60s, including the soundtrack to Elvis' movie Girls, Girls, Girls.

The movie was forgettable, but this song wasn't.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Three oldies that make me turn up the volume full blast

Are there certain songs that make you automatically turn up the volume on your car radio when you hear them?

All you have to hear are the first few notes and you just have to crank it up as loud as it will go.

Several years ago, I noticed I was doing that on certain songs and I started thinking about it and came up with three songs from the '60s and early '70s that fit into that category.

This Ole Heart of Mine- The Isley Brothers 1965

How this song never made it to Billboard's Top 10, I will never understand, but then again, I don't even remember hearing this song on the radio when it was first released in 1965, but I came across it on an album I bought at a flea market and it is a staple now on oldies stations.

Devil With a Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly- Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels 1965

How can you not turn up the volume when this one comes on?

During the early '90s, I attended an oldies concert in Springfield that had a lineup that included Del Shannon, Gene Pitney and the host was an apparently heavily inebriated Wolfman Jack.

The opening act was Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and of course, this song, one of about four hits the group had, was a highlight.

The group was scheduled to be followed by Shannon, but for some reason, he was late, so it continued its set for another 20 minutes, playing mostly covers, but extremely well done covers.

Burning Love- Elvis Presley 1972

Even during his Vegas years, Elvis had the ability to rock and this was his last great rocker.

By all rights, it should have been the final number one song of his career and his first since Suspicious Minds in 1969, but it peaked at number two, its road to the top of the chart blocked by the only number one song in the career of another 1950s icon, Chuck Berry. Unfortunately, Berry's first chart-topper may have been the worst thing he ever recorded, the unfortunate My Dingaling.

What songs make you turn up the volume?

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

The worst song to make Sirius 60s on 6's Top 10 for the 1960s

When I was growing up in the '60s, one of the rituals on New Year's Eve was listening to WHB's countdown of the top songs of the year. I would grab pen and paper and write down each song as it was played all the way through number one.

I continued that tradition year after year until I reached the point where I found I really did not care for many of the songs that were making the list, even though my appreciation for many of those songs has grown over the years.

Yesterday, I listened as Sirius XM's 60s on 6 station counted down the top 600 songs for the entire decade. I did not listen to all 600, but it was in the background during all of my activities.

The list was compiled through online listener voting, conducted by using a list of a few thousand '60s songs and the entire decade was represented. Listeners did an admirable job, at least to my estimation, since I liked nearly all of the songs I heard.

As they reached the top 20, I noticed the influence of advertising, movies and television. It included Etta James' "At Last," a wonderful song that never reached the Billboard Top 40, topping out at 47 in 1961, but has since become a staple at weddings, in commercials and onscreen when couples finally get together after a long courtship or separation.

The impact of Ken Burns' recent "Country Music" documentary was also felt as Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" and Patsy Cline's "Crazy' were in the top 20.

As they reached the conclusion of the countdown and had only 12 songs left to go last night, I returned to my tradition of five decades ago and jotted down the songs. This is how the listeners voted with my commentary thrown in.

12. Cathy's Clown, Everly Brothers, 1960- The 1960s was the decade that had the Righteous Brothers and Sonny and Cher, among other duos, but the Everly Brothers sold more records during the decade than any other duo and this was their biggest hit.

11. The Lion Sleeps Tonight- Tokens, 1961- This was a giant hit in '61 and would have made this list somewhere, but Disney gave it a big boost.

And the Top 10

10. Yesterday, Beatles, 1965- 

9. My Girl, Temptations, 1965- This song has been used in a number of movies and shows, but this is simply a great song that has remained popular year after year for the past 54 years. When my eighth grade English classes had writing assignments, I always had some oldies in the background and this was one that the students knew and loved.

8. I Want to Hold Your Hand, 1964- Beatles- The song that launched the British Invasion. There is no one reason (other than talent) for the Beatles' success, but a lot of it had to do with the infectious enthusiasm they showed in songs like this and its American followup "She Loves You." Surprisingly, this was the last Beatles song to make the 60s on 6 countdown.

7. Downtown, Petula Clark, 1964- I have nothing against this song, but how on earth did this song make the top 10? How can a Petula Clark song rank above every Beatles song? Or for that matter every Elvis song (he did make the top 20 with "Are You Lonesome Tonight?") Was "Downtown" in some movie I missed?

6. Cara Mia, Jay and the Americans, 1965- Like "At Last," this is one of those songs that has seen its reputation enhanced year after year and like with that song, it is well deserved. This was a hit, reaching number four on the Billboard charts, but was not Jay and the Americans' biggest song, that was "Come a Little Bit Closer" the previous year. Jay Black's vocal range, then and now, is astounding.

5. California Girls, Beach Boys, 1965- "Good Vibrations" also made the Top 20 for the Beach Boys. I would have preferred "I Get Around" or "Don't Worry Baby," but "California Girls" is still a song that fits perfectly with the group's sun and fun image and has also been revived a number of times.

4. Oh, Pretty Woman, Roy Orbison, 1964- Several years ago, I had a state representative tell me that Van Halen's version of "Pretty Woman" was better than Roy Orbison's. Sadly, we live in a day and age when any fool can be elected. Though the song was featured in the Julia Roberts movie, you will never convince me that movie is what accounts for it ranking this high. This is one of those songs that has never lost its popularity.

3. House of the Rising Sun, Animals, 1964- There were a number of less than talented musicians from across the ocean who cashed in on the British Invasion. The Animals did not fit that label. This group was good, especially blues shouter Eric Burdon on vocals and organist Alan Price. This is another one that has stood the test of time.

2. Satisfaction, The Rolling Stones, 1965- Another one that has never seen its appeal wane a bit over the past 54 years. This one established the Rolling Stones as the bad boys of the British Invasion and the anti-Beatles. Whenever I hear the first notes of "Satisfaction," I am ready to rebel against something.

1. Unchained Melody, Righteous Brothers, 1965- I will agree with part of this choice. If number one was not going to be "Pretty Woman," "House of the Rising Sun," or "Satisfaction," it should have been a Righteous Brothers song, but that song should have been "You've Lost that Loving Feeling," which reached the top 20. "Unchained Melody" was a big hit, going all the way to number three through the power of Bobby Hatfield's vocals and producer Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, but this choice was made solely through its impact in the movie "Ghost" with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore. It would have been nice to have had a Righteous Brothers song that actually had Bill Medley participating.

Plus, it's a better song, which is why I am placing the video for "You've Lost that Loving Feeling" below.

What do you think of the list? Please feel free to leave comments.