The sixties were a time of increasing freedoms, characterised by the Civil Rights Movement and the Feminist Movement. Following rising relaxations on social norms, music transformed into a medium of expressing both personal and political views. It was also the beginning of rock music as we know it today, with the British Invasion of the US music industry and controversy sweeping the whole genre because things were getting too ‘saucy’. With all this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of my top ten songs from the era.
10. Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys | 1966
From one of the greatest pop albums of all time, Pet Sounds, this song has become quite a popular jingle for The Good Guys in recent years. However, this song had much more potential than being solely used as a catchy advertisement. In its day it was one of the most popular tracks from the albu, as well as the era. Some would attribute this to the song’s psychedelic sixties feel, with its notorious use as a ‘tripping-out’ song. Regardless, this song made waves in the sixties and is still recognised today which is not a common feat for many songs older than thirty years.
9. You Really Got Me by The Kinks | 1964
Originally, this song was inspired by the likes of blues greats akin to Lead belly. The guitarist Dave Davies who plays the famous riff on the track called it a love song for street kids, and it certainly was. With some ripping power chords and fantastically catchy lyrics, this song was a huge hit and continues to entertain people to this day.
8. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell | 1967
Probably the biggest R&B hit of the decade (and the next as it was revived by Diana Ross), this Grammy nominated song was a top twenty hit. The first recording only included Terrell’s vocals, with Gaye’s voice added after some serious production discussions. To think this great track could have escaped Gaye’s contribution is astounding. In fact, it became a signature duet for the two singers, and in ’99 the song was included the Grammy Hall of Fame for being one of the most important songs released by Motown Records.
7. I’m A Believer by The Monkees | 1966
Written by Neil Diamond, most would know this song from the popular family film Shrek. However, the original song was performed by The Monkees, a group that was put together (with little or no knowledge of music) for a television show. A common misconception as a result of this is that many believe that the members did not actually play their instruments. The Monkees actually learnt to play and perform their instruments on the go, which is a difficult and impressive accomplishment on their part.
6. The Twist by Chubby Checker | 1960
In a time where dance crazes were great in number, this one probably was and still is the most famous of them all. Although this version is a cover of the original, it is by far the best. Billboard even names this song as the biggest hit of the decade.
5. The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens | 1961
This song, and this particular version, although being plagued by copyright issues is probably one of the most enduring songs of the era. The original (which this is not), was produced by the South African Gallo Record Company in 1939 under the title Mbube which was sung in Zulu. This version, being more westernised, became a massive hit for the group and sparked a wave of non-singer A Cappella renditions by adults and children alike. Awimbawe awimbawe…
4. (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones | 1965
Written by two of the band members, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction was the band’s first number one in the US. Many opposed the bad-boy influence on teenagers, with the track’s terrifically naughty lyrics being banned in some places across the UK and US. It was futile. The song was a massive hit, and still is today.
3. I Want to Hold Your Hand by The Beatles | 1963
In a completely contrasting track to the previous, this song put the boys from the Beatles in good favour with parents all around the world. They were the good influence, the good-boys-next-door. This was also the track that began the British Invasion of the American Music Industry, with the song staying at number one for five weeks.
2. God Only Knows by The Beach Boys | 1966
Another track from their pop masterpiece Pet Sounds, this track was a rarity for its time with barely any mentionings of a god in any pop song. The song itself is a creative mesh of pop and classical sensibilities, with instruments such as the French Horn and accordion, as well as classical techniques such as perpetual rounds and counterpoint used. Not to mention the fact that it’s one of the few pop songs (that isn’t a Christmas carol) that uses sleigh bells. How much more creative can a pop song get?
1. Be My Baby by The Ronettes | 1963
Described as the best pop song by none other than Brian Wilson, the brains behind Pet Sounds, Be My Baby was one of the most catchy tunes of the decade. Putting aside the fact that it was composed by music-great Phil Spector using his wall-of-sound technique (which I will not go into because I’d bore you all to tears with technical jargon), the ladies from The Ronettes were some of the greatest performers of their era. A well-deserved first place for this song.