Mention the sixties and a couple of fixed images come to mind. Men with long hair, women in mini-skirts, hippies in denim etc. Music-wise, the sixties represented the flowering of pop music expression in artistic terms before evolving to rock by the decade’s end. Here are ten songs (in alphabetical order) which I feel epitomise sixties pop music.
(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction – Rolling Stones (1965)
The bad boys of rock certainly cemented their reputation with songs like this. Filled to the brim with a cocky, rebellious attitude that branded the Rolling Stones perfectly. Youth culture would rule from the sixties onwards!
She Loves You – The Beatles (1964)
“Yeah yeah yeah” was the hook that catapulted the fab four universally across cultural and social boundaries. Despite this obvious mass appeal, The Beatles still had enough artistic nous to include aeolian cadences in their vocal arrangements!
Good Vibrations – The Beach Boys (1967)
Probably the commercial apex for Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, a tour-de-force that featured psychedelic lyrics, a vocalising canon and a ground-breaking arrangement which highlighted cellos and a theremin!
In Dreams – Roy Orbison (1963)
Deceptively complex, the Big O’s top 10 hit demonstrated experimental songwriting which eschewed standard verses and choruses to drive the emotional lyrics in a suite of seven distinct movements. Listen carefully!
I Heard It Through the Grapevine – Marvin Gaye (1968)
Written by Gamble and Huff in 1966 and originally recorded by Gladys Knight and the Pips a year later, it is Gaye’s version that is the most memorable and certainly an influence on the numerous (white) R&B-based rockers to come later.
I Second that Emotion – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (1967)
Motown singles dominated the hit parade in the sixties as a seemingly unceasing supply of superstar singers/groups and popular songs emanated from the ‘hit factory’. Probably the best known of Smokey’s tunes is this clever turn of phrase.
My Girl – The Temptations (1965)
Smokey Robinson co-write this familiar soul classic which The Temptations took to the very summit of the singles chart. Instantly recognisable.
Like A Rolling Stone – Bob Dylan (1965)
Ground-breaking for its length (over six minutes) and confrontational tone, “Like a Rolling Stone” confirmed Dylan’s transformation from folkie to rock ’n’ roll superstar.
Purple Haze – Jimi Hendrix (1967)
Heralding the era of psychedelic rock – though Hendrix protested that the song had nothing to do with drugs – the song was the perfect showcase of Hendrix’s unique talents.
You Really Got Me – The Kinks (1964)
Songwriter Ray Davies came into his own with this ferocious number, a seminal track which would influence the heavier rock music to come in its wake.
Well, of course, narrowing this list down to just ten songs seems a ridiculous task. But that’s the fun of this exercise. Hopefully, you will discuss your own choices over at the Power of Pop Facebook page.
… still there’s more …