Thursday, September 30, 2010

Psychobabble’s 20 Greatest One and No Hit Wonders of 1965!

Psychobabble’s 20 Greatest One and No Hit Wonders of 1965!

Tomorrow is October 1st, and that means Monster Movie Month will be returning to Psychobabble, and that means the Rock & Roll half of this site’s Jekyll & Hyde personality is going on hiatus. In the final Rock post until November, we’ll be taking a nice, long look at twenty phenomenal singles by twenty phenomenal one and no hit wonders released 45 years ago. These artists either only managed a single placing in the Top Twenty of Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart or never managed to get in there at all. So turn up the volume as loud as it will go and get ready to go-go to Psychobabble’s 20 Greatest One and No Hit Wonders of 1965!

20. “What’cha Gonna Do Baby” by Jason Eddie & the Centremen

Sweeping down from the cosmos with a burst of sci-fi organ, “What’cha Gonna Do Baby” by Jason Eddy & the Centremen is instantly identifiable as the work of producer Joe Meek. Meek is sometimes referred to as “the English Phil Spector,” both for his distinctive production style and his legendary madness (Meek’s life ended in a murder/suicide). Unlike Spector, Meek rarely worked with singers of the caliber of Darlene Love or Tina Turner. That Jason Eddy’s voice isn’t the strongest instrument matters little, though, as Meek swathes his sub-Gene Pitney croon in a luxurious shroud of otherworldly textures, making this single by the hitless Eddy and his Centremen a truly dramatic experience.

19. “The Rebel Kind” by Dino, Desi, and Billy

Considering their hopelessly unhip credentials as the sons of Desi Arnaz and Rolling-Stones-disser Dean Martin, Desi Jr. and Dino Jr. (joined by Billy Hinsche) had no right to cut a record as groovy as “The Rebel Kind”. Penned by freaky cult crooner Lee Hazelwood, this fuzzed out hunk of garage bubblegum outclasses Dino, Desi, and Billy’s sole top-twenty hit, “I’m a Fool”. No one would ever mistake these dewy teens for rebels, but that might not stop them from fruging madly to “The Rebel Kind”.

18. “Lies” by The Knickerbockers

A decade before Klaatu tried to pass themselves off as a reformed Beatles, New Jersey garage rockers The Knickerbockers pulled a similar trick and scored themselves a top twenty hit. Rumors abounded that “Lies” was the latest Beatles record, and who could blame the wags when Buddy Randell slipped into his best Lennon shout and Jimmy Walker kicked that backbeat so Ringo-ly. Poor distribution caused their second single, the even-better “One Track Mind”, to stall at #46 on the Billboard charts the following year. The original Knickerbockers managed to hang on until 1970 but never came close to matching the impact of “Lies”.

17. “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” by The Silkie

This track’s Beatles-related credentials are far stronger than those of The Knickerbocker’s one wonderful hit. Lennon and McCartney, of course, wrote “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” for the Help! soundtrack, but The Silkie’s recording was also produced by McCartney and features Lennon on guitar and Harrison on tambourine. Although this version doesn’t best The Beatles it is one of the few Fabs covers to develop a genuine personality removed from the original. Rather than the raspy vocals and wash of acoustic guitars that distinguished the Beatles’ version, The Silkie add new dimensions to “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” with a Byrdsy descending electric guitar riff and co-ed vocals.

16. “A Public Execution” by Mouse

Like “Lies”, the charm of “A Public Execution” lies in its shameless attempt to pull one over on the public. Ronnie “Mouse” Weiss affects Dylan’s signature whine while Harry “Bugs” Henderson appropriates the recurring guitar riff from “Like a Rolling Stone”. Since Dylan fans had more than their fill of the real deal in ’65 with the releases of Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and the “Positively 4th Street” single, there was little need for Mouse’s clone, so it never made it past a bit of regional success in Texas. Fortunately, “A Public Execution” won a stay of execution in 1972 when Lenny Kaye chose to include it on his groundbreaking garage rock retrospective, Nuggets.

15. “You Stole My Love” by The Mockingbirds

An early release on Andrew Oldham’s independent label Immediate Records, “You Stole My Love” is the work of hit machine Graham Gouldman. As a writer, Gouldman whipped up stellar stuff like “For Your Love”, “Evil Hearted You”, and “Heart Full of Soul” for The Yardbirds, “Look Through Any Window” and “Bust Stop” for The Hollies, and Herman’s Hermits’ best song, “No Milk Today”. As a recording artist he is best known for ‘70s mock-rock group 10cc. His work with The Mockingbirds was less successful; their pre-Yardbirds version of “For Your Love” being rejected by Columbia Records, who deemed it “uncommercial” (dummies). Consequently, The Mockingbirds’ had to settle for an undistinguished role as warm-up act on “Top of the Pops”. But “You Stole My Love”— with its doomy garage rock verses, poppy waltz-time bridge, and mid-song Mod rave-up—suggests a band that could have developed into a really interesting unit if it just got a few more breaks.

14. “I Ain’t No Miracle Worker” by The Brogues

Singer Gary Cole tosses some Eric Burdon sweat into this defiant statement of ordinariness. But despite their name, The Brogues were born not in Burdon’s Newcastle but in Merced, California. Still this is one of the most authentic stateside appropriations of British pre-punk garage rock, with its lowdown bass riff and squeals of Hammond B-3. Cole later changed his name to Duncan and dragged drummer Greg Elmore into San Fran hippie horde Quicksilver Messenger Service.

11. “The Little Black Egg” by The Nightcrawlers

One of the weirdest pop records of ’65, “The Little Black Egg” was a number one hit on The Nightcrawlers’ local Daytona Beach, Florida, radio station. Although it made far less an impression on a national level, the elliptical tune has haunted many a garage rock enthusiast. “The Little Black Egg” is a surreal nursery rhyme about a paranoid fellow and his overly protective relationship with a “little black egg with the little white specks” that apparently has the ability to rat-out wrongdoers. With its utter lack of dynamics and methodically measured rhythm lending it an air of insanity, and its jangly guitars and folky harmonies lending it a Byrdsy allure, “The Little Black Egg” is some kind of masterpiece.

10. “I’m Not Sayin’” by Nico

Nico never thought highly of her debut single for Immediate Records, and indeed, “I’m Not Sayin’” couldn’t be further removed from the avant garde works, such as The Marble Index and Desertshore, that were closest to her heart. Rather this Gordon Lightfoot song is a breezy folk-rocker with a detailed acoustic arrangement by Jimmy Page. The record would have been less remarkable had it featured another vocalist, but the combination of Page’s warm production and Nico’s icy wail imbues it with sweet-and-sour complexity.

9. “I’m Your Witchdoctor” by John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers

John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers were probably the most famous British band of the ‘60s to never score a significant hit. While there’s no accounting for their lack of commercial success, their fame is easily traced to the parade of soon-to-be celebrities that sat in with The Bluesbreakers at various points: Peter Green, John McVie, and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac; future Rolling Stone Mick Taylor; Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton of Cream. Clapton can be heard on the group’s best and most renowned single, the frenzied “I’m Your Witchdoctor”. Like Nico’s record, this was another Immediate record produced by Jimmy Page, and it bears a clearer stamp of his work than “I’m Not Sayin’”. The evil hoodoo Mayall, Clapton, and the rest of the band whip up could easily pass for the latest Yardbirds hit.

8. “Rescue Me” by Fontella Bass

Fontella Bass managed to put a couple of other songs in Billboard’s R&B charts, but amazingly, her only entry in the pop charts was “Rescue Me”. With a heavy backing track that couldn’t sound more like a product of Motown if it had been produced by Berry Gordy, “Rescue Me” was a smash for Bass in late September of ’65. The record was also a milestone for Chess Records, scoring the label its first million-selling record since Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” ten years earlier.

7. “I Want Candy” by The Strangeloves

One of the best albums I heard for the first time last year was the one and only album named after the one and only hit by The Strangeloves. The pounding “I Want Candy” was a tribal wad of bubblegum that hit #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in mid 1965 and went on to become a pop standard, most famously covered by Bow Wow Wow 17 years later. Not bad considering that The Strangeloves were essentially a hoax conjured up by “FGG Productions” (Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein, and Richard Gottehrer). According to press releases, The Strangeloves were a fraternity of Australian sheep farmers rather than a trio of cheeky New York producers. This amusing ruse might have been a big deal in the ‘60s when The Monkees were nearly lynched for being “phony” by the hip press, but it is a mere footnote today that doesn’t detract one iota of fun from “I Want Candy”. If anything, it enhances it.

6. “Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love)” by The Swingin’ Medallions

Released in late ’65, “Double Shot (Of My Baby’s Love) became a top twenty hit in early ’66 for Greenwood, South Carolina, residents The Swingin’ Medallions. Bridging the unison shouting of The Premiers and the Farfisa-fueled garage rock of Question Mark & the Mysterians, “Double Shot” can be enjoyed by beer guzzling frat boys and long-haired hooligans alike.

5. “A Lover’s Concerto” by The Toys

The sweetest song on this list swipes its unforgettable melody from Bach’s “Minuet in G Major”, hence the classically tinged title. Of course, Bach never conceived his piece to be matched with a cuddly lyric sung with a total lack of affect by a trio of girls from Jamaica, New York. Endlessly modulating, tugging harder on the heart strings with each step up the scale, “A Lover’s Concerto” is as magnificent a soundtrack to teenage puppy love as has ever been recorded.

4. “You Were On My Mind” by We Five

Originally recorded in unremarkably folky fashion by Ian and Sylvia the previous year, “You Were On My Mind” was transformed into a veritable folk-rock “Bolero” by We Five in ’65. Beginning with a mere whisper of a backbeat, the We Five’s version builds and builds and builds in intensity across two and half minutes until its euphoric climax. With nowhere left to go, a jangly guitar has the final word in one of the most perfect pop epilogues you’ll ever hear. We Five never managed to match this top five hit, but “You Were On My Mind” achieves more than most group’s entire catalogues.

3. “Next in Line” by The Birds

Igniting with a burst of searing distortion, “Next in Line” clearly can’t be mistaken for the work of the folk rockers responsible for “Turn! Turn! Turn!” Rather the UK based Birds were a raw Mod quintet in the vein of Small Faces and The Creation. And, like The Creation, The Birds featured a young guitarist named Ronnie Wood. If any group on this list deserved to make it big, it was The Birds, but legal action taken by their manager Leo de Clerck against the US Byrds impeded their journey to success. As a result, their biggest chart showing was a lowly #45 in the UK with a cover of the Motown standard “Leaving Here”. A decent version, but the real evidence of The Birds’ greatness is found on the flip side. “Next in Line” is as representative of pilled-up Mod arrogance as “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere” or “Making Time” or “All or Nothing”, and that’s saying a hell of a lot.

2. “Liar Liar” by The Castaways

The Castaways looked mighty square, but they sure made a freaky racket. James Donna’s way-spooky Farfisa and Robert Folschow even weirder falsetto are as instantly recognizable as the Theremin in “Good Vibrations” or Keef’s fuzz riff in “Satisfaction”. Folschow’s androgynous call matched by a tough, monotone response, and some mid-song screams certainly inspired a generation of punks to get strange in front of the mic. Watching the barely pubescent Castaways smile away beneath their blond tresses while creating such an otherworldly din in the 1967 exploitation flick It’s a Bikini World has to be one of the most bizarre sights in ‘60s cinema.

1. “Psycho” by The Sonics

Considering their impact as perhaps the definitive American garage rock band, it’s kind of amazing to consider that The Sonics never had a national hit. Groups from The Cramps to Nirvana to The White Stripes have covered them and/or sang their praises, and one listen to their eardrum-shredding gumbo of shrieked vocals, overdriven wall of guitars and sax, and Neanderthal drumming explains precisely why this is so. The Tacoma, Washington, combo’s masterpiece is “Psycho”, originally released as the flipside of the almost-as-good “The Witch”. The band couldn’t ignore the power of “Psycho”, so they reissued it as an A-side backed by a cover of Little Richard’s “Keep A-Knockin’” (which was also the original flip of “The Witch”). The record flopped both on its initial release and when it was re-released yet again in ‘66. Perhaps “Psycho”, with its pre-John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band bout of primal screams, was just too much for listeners in the mid-‘60s. Fortunately, the world eventually caught up with The Sonics, particularly during the Punk era, and they are now among Rock & Roll’s most deservedly revered no-hit wonders.

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