Here’s my top ten favorite pop songs. This does not cover all of the different genre’s that make up my favorites. These are those songs that I think should be immortalized in popular music. Most of them are from the Sixties, the decade where as Little Steven suggests, the choice of the populace was accidentally the best music produced. Nothing like that is so today. I kept off the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, although Brown Sugar and I Feel Fine are some of many honorable mentions. Also, Don’t Bring Me Down by the Animals (not ELO!). There was no intention of leaving out The British Invasion. The Beach Boys – Brian Wilson wrote so many great songs that I chose not to represent them. God Only Knows is my favorite, but others make better representatives since these choices were actually top-of-the-chart singles.
These songs were chosen, not only because they represent different genre’s of music – they actually make me crank up the radio.
10. I Heard it Through the Grapevine – Gladys Knight and the Pips Motown has so many great songs, but I had to single out those that touch me the most. Motown isn’t known for that soul beat that I love and is represented by the other soul numbers on this list. The groove is what touches me here. A lot of times a single in a singer’s catalog will pop out of the myriad of others that may be more representative of them. I’ve like Knight’s music, but this one stands out.
9. Mustang Sally – Wilson Pickett Another soul masterpiece. I’ll admit I’m not a big Pickett fan. I think it has to do with the musicians. STAX Records had my favorite soul backing band with Steve Cropper and Donald “Duck” Dunn, as well as the rest of Booker T. and the MGs. This one pops out of his catalog.
8. Witchita Lineman – Glen Campbell Representing The Wrecking Crew is no easy task. These musicians, and Glen Campbell is one of them, were on thousands of records, including others on this list. I chose this one because of Carol Kaye’s opening bass line. I think of it and am a sucker for great intros (like numbers 10 and 7 of this list).
7. Someday, We’ll be Together – Diana Ross and the Supremes Why this over all of the other great Supremes’ music? The introduction. The opening strings gives me chills.
6. Hold On, I’m Comin’ – Sam and Dave Soul music has a rhythm that I love. It’s hard to choose a favorite song for the top ten; this represents STAX Records’ great contributions to entertainment.
5. Double Shot of My Baby’s Love – The Swingin’ Medallions I don’t know anything about this band. They were a one-hit wonder and this song was a great choice. The vocals are all in unison without doing so perfectly, which makes them sound like a party band. This song couldn’t have this feel with today’s technology. Imperfection is the key to making this feel human. It’s like the rawness of Rock and Roll to give one a sense that it’s breaking the rules. The next song does that, making it my favorite rock and roll song:
4. Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On – Jerry Lee Lewis This is why the Beatles didn’t make my list. George Martin was a perfectionist. Watch Lewis’ performance from the Steve Allen Show on YouTube. Raw energy is what makes good rock and roll. I believe it to be so for any human musical performance.
3. River Deep, Mountain High – Ike and Tina Turner Phil Spector was a genius before he went crazy; perhaps his genius led to his insanity. Tina’s vocals may be a little too edgy, keeping this from topping the charts. They would do better later, but this song pops. With anything produced by Spector, it comes down to the performers. The background music is always performed by the best studio musicians in the business with much of the Wrecking Crew. The “Wall of Sound” was Spector’s trademark. The perfect storm for me, comes at number one – another Spector production.
2. Sugar Sugar – The Archies These producers and engineers might have made Disco a lasting genre. This is a pure pop song, one that was my number one for many years. Number one was my number two, but I had to switch them. The disco beat was played by a real drummer, perhaps why I like it so much. Funny that I should say that, Giorgio Moroder is one of my favorites. Moroder doesn’t make my top ten, with or without Donna Summer. But the makers of this studio driven pop song did everything right, including a simple, catchy tune.
1. He’s A Rebel – The Crystals Gene Pitney writes a song. Phil Spector has to record it, but his choice girl group, The Crystals are on tour. So he calls on The Blossoms to record it. The problem: Darlene Love, the lead singer of the Blossoms, is the best girl group singer ever. The real Crystals wouldn’t have made this song my number one. This is the perfect storm. Pitney is such a good songwriter – his own recordings are in my top twenty.
Will this list change? Probably not. With the exception of the top two, they could’ve been in any order. It’s hard to leave anyone out. My next list may be songs that represent genres that don’t have ten songs I love, though every genre has songs that pop out.