50 Years Ago This Week, On The Cusp Of The Rock Revolution

mamasandpapasWhen it came to music, 1966 might have been the most magical year of the Sixties. People knew that Rock & Roll was here to stay, that much was clear. But most people also felt that something even bigger and more exciting was happening, something bigger than the sum of all its parts. But what was it? The ultimate directions music and culture would eventually take remained up for speculation.

The pop charts in June 1966 reflected this giddy sense of wonder and exploration, offering up a dazzling range of musical styles and approaches. Exactly one year later – June 1967 – the Monterey Pop Festival and the release of Sgt. Pepper pretty much laid the foundations of Rock as we came to know it. But in ’66, everything was wide open, destination unknown.

Here are selected entries from the Billboard Hot 100 for the week of June 4-11, 1966. Maybe the most notable thing was that there were no Beatles songs on it, a real chart rarity between’64 and ‘67. That would be corrected the following week when “Paperback Writer” debuted at #28 and “Rain” came in at #72.

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79. Along Comes Mary – The Association

I’ve already gone out on a limb calling this one of the greatest Rock songs ever written, best to limit the damage and not say any more at this point.


73. Solitary Man – Neil Diamond

Brilliant song and melody, his first and maybe best hit. Diamond was a pioneer of the singer-songwriter genre and he wrote some beautiful songs, but his was a less political and more accessible substrain that eventually veered into the middle of the road, all the way to Vegas.


61. Wang Dang Doodle – Koko Taylor

Legitimate blues numbers were still hanging on the pop charts in 1966, but they’d all be gone in a year or two. No matter how you slice it, this track kicks serious ass.


51. Hey Joe – The Leaves

There were so many bands like this in 1966, thrashing about with their tinny, trebley electric guitars, searching for magic. Everybody and his brother covered this song of disputed origin in 1966. Hendrix probably drew more inspiration from this version by English folkie Tim Rose.


46. Dedicated Follower Of Fashion – The Kinks

Every cultural revolution needs a Ray Davies to keep everyone grounded. Who would have guessed that the traditional sound of the English music hall would prove to be so popular in 1966 America?


45. Dirty Water – The Standells

Now we’re getting somewhere. Great guitar hook, great lead vocal, great raggedy, grungy vibe, these guys were definitely onto something.


44. Ain’t Too Proud to Beg – The Temptations

1966 was also a golden age for R&B and Soul music, with no fewer than 25 songs on this chart falling into those categories.


32. Eight Miles High – The Byrds

A landmark moment in the history of Rock. Most historians agree this was the first genuine psychedelic Rock song to reach a wide audience. This would be the song’s last appearance on the charts, since it was suddenly and widely banned for its apparent drug references. Although why this one would be banned and not the Dylan song listed below always mystified me.


31. Gloria – Shadows Of Knight

This garage rock staple was written by a young Van Morrison and performed best by he and his band Them, but U.S. radio stations wouldn’t play the Them version because of the line “she comes to my room and makes me feel alright”, which the clever Shadows changed to “She called out my name and…” Old-fashioned mores were creaking under the cultural weight of the new music.


30. Don’t Bring Me Down – The Animals

A great song written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and a great performance from Eric and the band, this one stands the test of time. The reverby delay on the guitar chords in the chorus was ahead of its time and still sounds grungy-sweet.


29. Hold On, I’m Coming – Sam & Dave

The Stax/Volt version of soul and R&B was always so much more ballsy and earthy than anything Motown ever came up with.


27. Sloop John B – The Beach Boys

Another gem from the Pet Sounds album, a huge influence on Rock. Sure, people dug the intricate songs that Brian Wilson laid down, but what many Rock musicians really admired and tried to emulate was Wilson’s creative control in the studio.


15. Good Lovin’ – The Young Rascals

It’s gotta be one of the greatest pop singles ever. Three chords and a cloud of dust. It still smokes today.


7. Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 – Bob Dylan

There’s never been a song like it, before or since. Talk about blowing down the doors of convention. And did the lyric police really believe he was talking about stoning in the biblical sense?


6. Monday, Monday – The Mamas & The Papas

Four top 10 hits in both 1966 and 1967, then the band disappeared as quickly as they burst onto the scene, like a Sixties supernova. Yet they continue to influence: see The Lumineers.


3. Paint It Black — The Rolling Stones

This revolutionary song firmly distanced the Stones not just from the Beatles but from all the “bad boy” groups too. Bringing hints of satanism into pop music was a game-changer that only the Stones could pull off, setting a foundation for the band’s distinct Rock persona that lasted 50 years and counting.


1. When A Man Loves A Woman – Percy Sledge

This one’s a bit of an outlier, sounding more like 1962 than 1966. Still, a great song and vocal performance, and you can just sense its massive crossover appeal.

You can see the full chart here. In three months we’ll take a look at what gems September 1966 brought us.


Photo: The Mamas & The Papas; Credit – By CBS Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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