Some further information and links on the tracks making up numbers 20 down to 11 in the Festive Fifty of 1965.
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20. FREDDY CANNON “Action”
Freddy Cannon’s heyday was well behind him by 1965 but he still managed to put out the odd great record – so what if this is essentially a retread of his classic million seller “Way Down Yonder In New Orleans”?
19. THE GESTURES “Run Run Run”
Great things looked like they were on the cards for Minnesota’s The Gestures in their home state of Minnesota – “Run Run Run”, their only hit, was an effortless blend of British invasion beats into the northern US garage band palette.
But they only got to release one more single (“I’m Not Mad”) as their record company, a local outfit called Soma Records, found it impossible to compete with the big boys.
They recorded an album which is available to download here and although it is chock full of cover versions that was pretty much standard in those days for everyone from the Beatles down.
Also there’s an eclectic choice of tracks (“Things We Said Today” in both vocal and instrumental versions, “Can I Get A Witness”, “Long Tall Texan”) that points to a band happy to wear their influences on their sleeve while maybe looking to blend them further on future recordings. Listening to it only emphasises what a damn shame it is that they didn’t get to make more music.
18. THE SAPPHIRES “Got To Have Your Love”
The Sapphires were a trio consisting of Carol Jackson, George Gainer, and Joe Livingston, although Kenny Gamble was also closely associated with the group very early in its history, arranging the vocals on their first album. The trio came out of Philadelphia in the early ’60s, where they were signed by producer Jerry Ross and initially released their songs on the Swan label.
The group’s first record was the romantic ballad “Where Is Johnny Now,” backed with “Your True Love.” The backing group for these and other early Philadelphia recordings by The Sapphires included Leon Huff and Thom Bell on keyboards, Bobby Eli on guitar, Joe Macho on bass, and Bobby Martin playing vibes. When this record failed to chart, Ross turned to Gamble for their next single, “Who Do You Love,” which reached number 25 on the pop charts. Their next single, “I Found Out Too Late,” failed to repeat that success, but its release was accompanied by the issue of the group’s first LP.
The Sapphires left Swan shortly after the release of a third single, “Gotta Be More Than Friends,” moving to ABC-Paramount in 1964, which also led to their recording in New York City. Perhaps not coincidentally, their first ABC single, “Let’s Break Up for a While,” had a sound reminiscent of the Drifters from this same era.
The group entered its most productive and musically ambitious period during late 1964. The Sapphires’ next single, “Thank You for Loving Me,” was written by the Brill Building talents of future Monkees songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.
Their next single, “Gotta Have Your Love,” finally gave the group the second hit they’d been waiting for, with a smooth Motown-type sound and an infectious beat that helped carry it to number 33 on the R&B charts, with an appearance on the pop charts at number 77 in the spring of 1965.
The song also featured a trio of background vocalists who would go on to bigger things in the years to come: Valerie Simpson, Nick Ashford, and Melba Moore.
The group was never able to build on this record’s success, though not for lack of trying. Their next three singles, “Evil One,” (above), “Gonna Be a Big Thing,” and “Slow Fizz,” all had pleasing hooks and, in the latter case, a wonderfully danceable beat, but failed to sell. “Slow Fizz,” released in 1966, marked the end of their contract with ABC-Paramount, and the trio broke up soon after.
The Sapphires left behind an extraordinarily high-quality body of work, a match for anything Motown was releasing at the same time. Their lack of staying power on the charts can be attributed largely to many factors, including the vast array of competition from various soul acts at the time — had they maintained a somewhat more consistent sound, or broken nationally a little earlier with a slightly higher profile, they might have achieved the success they deserved. As it was, they left behind a very fine, occasionally stunning body of songs, and provided some valuable early experience for Gamble, Bell, and Huff.
17. GANTS “Road Runner”
There’s a terrific piece on Mississippi’s The Gants here
Expect to hear a few more Gants tunes here during the course of 2016 – Retro Beat Sixty-Six (new show every Thursday from Jan 6th)
16. OTIS REDDING “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”
From the 1965 liner notes to “Otis Blue:Otis Redding Sings Soul” from which this, his signature track, is taken:
“Soul is a word that has many meanings. In the pop-R&B world of today it usually means an intensely dramatic performance by a singer, projected with such feeling that it reaches out and visibly moves the listener. It means that the singer is saying something, sometimes even more than the lyrics themselves might normally convey. Soul is not something that can be feigned – you either have it or you don’t. Otis Redding has it, to a degree almost unrivaled by any other young singer in sight”.
True dat. This is “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” from the same album.
15. JAMES PHELPS “Love Is A Five Letter Word”
Before his solo career, of which “Love Is A Five Letter Word” was the peak, took off, James Phelps was in the Soul Stirrers gospel group with Sam Cooke, and before THAT he was the lead voice with The Clefs Of Calvary. I’m not a religious man these days (thank God) but it’s hard to listen to this and not feel that there’s a higher power at work. The two songs featured here are “Wait A Little Longer” and “Father Forgive Them” (from 1961)
14. THE McCOYS “Hang On Sloopy”
Ah the “Louie Louie” riff (1-4-5 if you’re a muso) – so many songs on this chord structure, especially in the garageland of the sixties. The McCoys hit huge with this song which reached #1 all over the world, and for the follow-up basically played the same chords under a cover of Peggy Lee’s “Fever” which surprisingly reached #7 and even more surprisingly was pretty good.
13. DOBIE GRAY “The ‘In’ Crowd”
Strange records this, if you think about it. Sure, its one of the best-known mod / Northern Soul anthems but it’s just a bit too slow for a backflip surely? And I’ve always been fascinated by the use of quotes around the word ‘In’ in the title. Surely they can’t be ironic? It would put a completely different spin on this song if it was being sung ironically.
This is Dobie Gray’s earlier hit, an actual dance record instead of one that comments on the “scene”.
12. THE BYRDS “Mr Tambourine Man”
Bob Dylan’s lyrics are wonderfully esoteric and opaque but it seems this song is actually about Greenwich Village folk guitarist Bruce Langhorne who “had this gigantic tambourine, It was,like,really big. As big as a wagon wheel. The vision of him just stuck in my mind. Disappearing through the smoke rings in my mind, that’s not drugs. Drugs were never that big a thing with me”.
The Byrds recorded this after an early Beatles soundalike single “Don’t Be Long” (below) / “Please Let Me Love You” had flopped. With “Mr Tambourine Man” they fused the folk style of Bob Dylan with the British Invasion sound.
The final recorded version features no contributions from any Byrd apart from Roger McGuinn’s iconic 12-string Rickenbacker solo, but that is enough to cement the Byrds’ sound for five years or more, and also to create a stepping-stone on the path to indie rock many years later.
However, most musical innovations of the 60s go back to one place, and McGuinn has generously admitted the debt he owes to George Harrison (who playes a similar guitar all the way through the movie “A Hard Day’s Night”)
11. EDWIN STARR “Agent Double O Soul”
First single and the first hit for Edwin Starr (making #21 on the Billboard chart).
He settled in the UK from the early seventies and if you look at the man’s grave (in West Bridgford cemetery in Nottingham) you can see how important this song was to him:
The follow-up “Back Street” deserved more than peaking at #95: