The Year 1960
Following the year theme, I’ll sneak another in before I change it up again. Leaving the 1950’s behind ushered in something very different in the age of music but it didn’t happen overnight. You have to look for the most part, beyond the Billboard Hot 100 to see anything actually ‘new’ from the year before. That said there were still many great songs produced they were just by a lot of the same people from the late 1950’s. Elvis returned from Military Service and placed two top 10 hits on the year end chart. Others to have multiple hits on the Year-End Billboard Hot 100 were the Everly Brothers (4), Connie Francis (4), Brenda Lee (4), and Paul Anka (3). Rock and Roll took a bit of a beating as the “Payola” (or pay for play) investigations were in full swing and Alan Freed was the highest profile target. It was fairly common practice for DJ’s and other radio personnel to collect under the table payments to favor playing certain songs. So Rock and Roll began to get a bad name. In truth styles were changing, hits were a bit more ballad like or even getting a bit bland to say the least, hence the need to dig a bit deeper to see what was percolating.
|John Wayne ‘The Alamo’ 1960
because this is cooler than a Summer Place
Case in point, “Theme from A Summer Place” written by Mack Discant and Max Steiner, performed by Percy Faith & His Orchestra. This #1 hit of the year from the movie “A Summer Place” is lovely but let’s be honest it’s a bit of a yawner. So deeper we shall go!
One song that was a lot more exciting was recorded by “Little Ann” Bullock. It was written by Ike Turner to be sung by a male lead from a male perspective, but Art Lassiter left the band so back-up singer Ann Bullock filled in on lead vocals at the recording session. “A Fool in Love” was sent to the record companies by Ike Turner as more of a ‘Demo’ looking for a male voice to re-record the song, after getting turned down several times Juggy Murray, the President of Sue Records said to keep it just the way it is; it reached #2 on the R&B chart and #27 on The Hot 100 in the fall of 1960.
The persona we now know as Tina Turner was born. Try as they might some songs are just not reproducible as is the case with many of her performances, so I suggest just stop as it will never get any better than Tina’s original “A Fool in Love”.
A cover version of a song originally released in 1959 would set off a trend in the 60’s that lasted for years. First performed by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters “The Twist” written by Hank Ballard was re-done by of course Chubby Checker. Talk about a song and artist being at the right place at the right time, twice! Via success on Dick Clark’s ‘American Bandstand‘ it hit #1 September 19, 1960 then again January 13, 1962.
This song got some good airplay late 1960 and it did chart if ever so briefly, but not until January 1961 where it hit #85 on the Billboard Hot 100. I mention “Sugar Bee” (1960) written by Eddie Shuler and performed by Cleveland Crochet (and Band) because apart from being an awesome song it was the first ‘Cajun’ song to break the top 100. It would influence several artists and opened many listeners ears to a new sound, covered 20 times including Sir Douglas Quintet (1964), Mitch Ryder (1969) and Canned Heat (1970).
Released in 1960 under the name June Alexander (June being short for Junior believe it or not-as simply ‘Jr.’ thankfully won that battle) , “Sally Sue Brown“. Written by Arthur Alexander it would not chart and was relatively unknown outside of his native Alabama, so why blog about such a song you might ask? As an example of just how regional music was back then, based on that song being played almost exclusively by Alabama radio stations he came to the attention of some of the other ‘locals’ in the Alabama music business and he would go on to record a year later with Rick Hall at the legendary Fame Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Again big deal you say, lots of people recorded there but no one else has been covered by all ‘four horses of the modern music apocalypse’ – Ok I just made that up 😉 The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley. The Beatles would do “Anna (Go to Him) ” in 1963, the Stones would do “You Better Move On” (1964) and Bob Dylan did “Sally Sue Brown” (1988). All three songs were written by Alexander so this alone sets him apart as unique. Elvis did “Burning Love” in 1972 and although written by Dennis Linde, Arthur Alexander was the first to record the song in 1971. Here are the original versions of the the other two songs, “Anna (Go to Him)” in 1962, “You Better Move On” (1961). In total 23 of his songs have been covered by the likes of Pearl Jam, Van Morrison, The Guess Who, Ry Cooder, Robert Plant, Dr. Hook and Nick Lowe, so yeah he’s kind of a big deal…quietly beginning in 1960!
There was also a group called the ‘Silver Beatles’ in 1960, formerly the ‘Quarrymen’. Stu Sutcliffe, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Johnny Hutch and George Harrison, recorded this song, perhaps at Paul McCartney’s house. “I’ll Follow the Sun” written by Paul McCartney is rough sounding but it’s amazing there is a recording at all. This was a song they would stick with and refine for release on ‘Beatles for Sale‘ in 1964.
On April 14, 1960 Barry Gordy Jr. incorporated the fledgling Tamla Records into a new name “Motown Record Corporation“. Their first ‘hit’ song was actually released under the old Tamla label in 1959. “Money (That’s What I Want)” written by Janie Bradford and Berry Gordy, performed by Barrett Strong. Re-released nationally under the Motown banner it would peak at #23 on the Hot 100 in April 1960 and surprisingly (not because it’s not a great song) still ended the year in the top 100, at #97. They wasted little time producing great music, “Shop Around” written by Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy, the official name was ‘The Miracles featuring Bill “Smokey” Robinson’ later of course referred to as ‘Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’. It was released in the Detroit market Sept. 27, 1960, after national release Oct. 15 it began its climb up the charts and would peak on Billboard Hot 100 at #2 and #1 on the R&B Chart in February 1961. One of the smartest moves he (Berry Gordy) ever made was hiring Eddie Holland, who had such stage fright as a singer turned to writing and production, his brother Brian would join as a staff writer and later Lamont Dozier from another Gordy label. By 1961 this trio known as Holland–Dozier–Holland, would team up and write and produce not only some of the greatest Motown hits but the some of the best songs of all time. Here is a cover of “Money (That’s What I Want)” by The Beatles from 1963.
References: https://secondhandsongs.com/, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page images: https://www.itc.edu/about/history/itc-dialogue-workshop-2-1960/, https://beatles.fandom.com/wiki/The_Silver_Beetles
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