Every year here in Retro Beat City we put together an end of year chart featuring some of the great tunes of the year.
In the spirit of the late great John Peel’s Festive Fifties you will hear a combination of hits, less well known songs and downright obscure tunes.
You can stream or download the chart rundown completely FREE in two parts:
30. THE FOUR PENNIES “Black Girl (In The Pines)”
Blackburn’s The Four Pennies with a traditional American folk song from the Appalachian mountains made famous by Leadbelly
which sounds excellent with a British Beat Group arrangement.
Nirvana apparently did it a few years later under the name Where Did You Sleep Last Night.
29. MARTIN CARTHY “The Queen Of Hearts”
“The Queen Of Hearts” is taken from folk singer Martin Carthy’s self-titled debut album which consists entirely of his settings of traditional folk songs.
Martin Carthy should really be better known among music fans in general – although in folk music circles he’s pretty much royalty, both in his own right and in having married Norma Waterson of the Waterson clan. He still regularly performs and records to this day often with Norma or his daughter Eliza.
His adaptation of the traditional balled “Scarborough Fair” was copied by Paul Simon (without credit) on Simon And Garfunkel’s “Parsley Sage Rosemary And Thyme” album in 1966. Good old Paul, when he steals, he steals from the best.
This is another track from the album, “High Germany”
28. JOHNNY NASH “Lets Move And Groove”
A slow soul stormer which barely dented the US charts on its release in September 1965, one of a few soul records in the Festive Fifty of 1965 that could reasonably be said to be ten years too early.
There was a rather overblown version of this song by Byron Latimore that featured in Piper’s striptease scene in “Orange Is The New Black” but you’re probably better off watching that with the sound turned down.
Johnny Nash would become more famous for his reggae hits in the late sixties and early seventies including this Bob Marley cover:
27. JOHN FAHEY “I Am The Resurrection”
John Fahey was a unique and uniquely influential guitarist, blending the old tyme picking style of old folk and bluegrass with the sonic palette of 20th century classical composiers like Bela Bartok and Charles Ives. His 1965 album “The Transfiguration Of Blind Joe Death” refers to his sometime alter-ego on record.
This is another track from the album, called “The Death Of The Clayton Peacock”. As one of the Youtube comments points out, it actually does sound like a dying peacock.
26. DUSTY SPRINGFIELD “I’ve Been Wrong Before”
When people think of Dusty Springfield albums these days they tend to go for 1968’s “Dusty In Memphis” which has all the hip criteria of being recorded in Memphis with the Muscle Shoals house band some of the best soul producers of the era (Tom Dowd and Jerry Wexler)
However, 1965’s “Everything’s Coming Up Dusty” (that couldn’t possibly be an ironic double-entendre, could it? Could it?) is for me her greatest album. If you overlook an ill-conceived, by-the-numbers take on “La Bamba” the album is wall-to-wall gold.
Her cover of Randy Newman’s “I’ve Been Wrong Before” is comfortably the best version of that song, and you could say the same about “Oh No Not My Baby”, Rod Stewart notwithstanding.
25. THE ZOMBIES “Sticks And Stones”
A track from the Zombies debut album “Begin Here” which also features their debut hit and best-known song “She’s Not There”, covered later by Santana. Whether you prefer that version or this one is down to whether you like guitars better than keyboards I suppose.
24. THE RATS “Rats Revenge Part Two”
For completeness’ sake here is the equally deranged “Rats Revenge Part One”.
There were at least three bands called The Rats who got to make records. One was a punk band from Portland, Oregon active from 1980-1984 or thereabouts. One was a psychedelic band from Hull which featured future Bowie sideman Mick Ronson on guitar and recorded “The Rise And Fall Of -Bernie Gripplestone” in 1967. Its nowhere near as good as its title.
23. FELA KUTI “Igba l’aiye”
This track comes from a session by Fela Kuti and his Koola Lobitos recorded for Leo Sarkisian’s then-relatively new Music Time In Africa show (available on the Voice Of America and going strong to this day under the care of the excellent Heather Maxwell)
Click Fela Kuti 1965 Session for Music Time In Africa for more details and further tracks.
22. THE RAMSEY LEWIS TRIO “The ‘In’-Crowd”
Fifty years ago, the Ramsey Lewis Trio sat in a Washington, D.C. coffee shop, musing over what it could add to its set that evening. It was booked for a run at Bohemian Caverns — the group had issued a live album made at the nightclub, and it was gearing up to record a follow-up live album. Over walked a waitress, who inquired about the band’s predicament.
Fifty years later, Lewis still remembers her name: Nettie Gray.
“She had a jukebox,” Lewis says. “Jukeboxes in coffee shops — people don’t know about that any more, but she went over to the jukebox and played: ‘You guys might like this! Listen to this!'”
Her recommendation was “The In Crowd,” sung by Dobie Gray — a popular hit at the time. Lewis and the band worked out an arrangement quickly, then ended their set with it that evening, to wild applause.
Fifty years later, that song remains Ramsey Lewis’ biggest hit.
“If somebody had come up with another song that fit the style of what we wanted, there would not have been an ‘In Crowd,’ ” he says.
A much-covered song, I’m quite partial to Bryan Ferry’s Roxyfied – if not Enossified – take on it from 1974.
21. THE STRANGELOVES “I Want Candy”
Although producers Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer used their real names in the writing and production credits of this single, they claimed The Strangeloves were actually three Australian brothers (and ex-sheep farmers) named Giles, Miles and Niles Strange. Feldman, Goldstein and Gottehrer dressed up in shaggy wigs and exotic clothing for publicity photos as The Strangeloves.
They hoodwinked enough American teens with their phony story, “Aboriginal” drums and cheap Beatle wigs in 1965 to send “I Want Candy” to number 11 on the US charts. For some reason it failed to trouble the scorers in the “brothers”‘ supposed “native” country, Australia.
If they’d never recorded anything else, the Strangeloves’ footnote in music history is assured. “I Want Candy” is a revelation – a Bo Diddley jungle beat, jazzy guitar line, and massed, slightly out of tune vocals sounding like a fraternity at the most drunken part of the evening.
Bow Wow Wow did a great version in 1981. Sorry if it reminds you of that fecking Candy Crush advert. #notsorry