Pickled Priest Mixtape: Our Favorite Songs of 1962
This is the first mixtape in our Yearly Mixtape Series where we weren’t even born yet when the music first was released. Hence, every song had to come to me for one reason or another after the fact. I may not revisit the early 60s again soon because it is a pain in the ass trying to ensure a song’s initial release date. I found some on the list were released in 1961 or 63, when they were originally noted to be from 1962. Which means songs from 1961 and 1963 could actually be from 1962! It was maddening. So many records have conflicting release dates, multiple labels involved, or just bad documentation associated with them. In other words, I’ve done my best, but I can’t quit my day job so expect a few songs in the wrong spots, especially from an era that was single-based and juke-box oriented. That said, I stand by all these songs. They mean as much to me as songs recorded during my lifetime.
26 “Beechwood 4-5789” / The Marvelettes
Back when I was a kid, people used to use a word in place of the first two digits of their telephone numbers. I assume it was to make remembering telephone numbers easier. I always wondered who got to choose the word for each two-letter number combination. It sounded like a fun job. Our phone number then was TUxedo 9-0442 (or 889-0442). Just typing the number right now I got an instant pang of nostalgia for my youth—I haven’t written it down in a long, long time (and man was that fucker hard to dial on a rotary). We didn’t even use an area code back then. With all the home phones and cell phones and area codes today I think we’re ripe for a return to the mnemonic device approach of yore. I’ve already come up with the word I’m going to use in place of my first two numbers (redacted so nobody calls me). Which brings me to the Marvin Gaye co-write “Beechwood 4-5789” by Motown’s first great girl group, the Marvelettes. You could’ve done this easily yourself, but that makes their phone number 234-5789 (conveniently, with the exception of a 6, in proper order). I can only imagine how many phone calls that number got back in 1962 when this song became a hit–an issue reprised years later when Tommy Tutone released “867-5309 (Jenny).” Perhaps someone to this day is in an insane asylum as a result. Nonetheless, it’s a great little pop song about a girl wanting a love interest to call her “any old time.” A bit desperate, but the girl knows what she wants, you’ve got to give her credit for that. And that girl, in this case, is the amazing Gladys Horton (also singer of Motown Records’ first #1 hit “Please Mr. Postman” in 1961). She’s got a young girls voice (no insult, she was 16 at the time), but it had a wonderful sandy texture to it. And the song is catchy as can be as well. Someday soon, I’m going to make my ultimate mixtape of phone number songs and this is going to be the opening number. I’ll call you when I’m done making it. Or you can reach me at Cummerbund 5-6279 for updates.
25 “Your Mind Is On Vacation” / Mose Allison
When I was assembling this mixtape, I rechecked this entry a couple times to ensure accuracy. Could this song really be from way back in 1962? It seems more contemporary than that. But it’s true. I have to think this was ahead of its time back then. Mose Allison was certainly one of a kind and I guess that’s why his music seems timeless. If you’re one of a kind you can come from any time or any place. Who’s to say? To this day, there are few similar reference points. In fact, Mose has occupied a rarely visited parlor of jazz history where a man at a piano is waiting to charm even the most inebriated lush with his witty lyrics and laid-back persona. And if that doesn’t work, “Your Mind is On Vacation,” one of the original diss tracks, is always at the ready should he need it:
You’re sitting there yakkin’ right in my face
I guess I’m gonna have to put you in your place
Y’know if silence was golden, you couldn’t raise a dime
Because your mind is on vacation and your mouth is working overtime.
24 “Intoxicated Man” / Serge Gainsbourg
Serge, the patron saint of every suave and/or creepy French guy everywhere, certainly wasn’t shy about his proclivities. Nor did he have a filter (on his mouth or his cigarettes, which he reportedly smoked to the tune of five packs a day—take that John Mellencamp!). And nobody else in France pushed the needle of their songwriting to such highly uncomfortable, often scandalous levels (inspired by Nabokov, perhaps?). And he was rewarded for his behavior with a long and illustrious career—not to mention Brigitte Bardot as his lover—as a result. He was still in the early years of his recording career in 1962, but he was already quite the lush, milling around his house in a drunken stupor on “Intoxicated Man” to the accompaniment of a Hammond organ and some lightly tickled tom-toms. Even when he’s bladdered he sounds amusingly charming! The song makes us party to a comical series of events as if they’re playing out in some whimsical French film as we witness Serge grappling with pink elephants, spiders on his shirt, and bats on the ceiling after coming home from what I assume was a spectacular night out. (You think otherwise?) The song is in French and is all the better for it. After all, the language was created so it could be spoken by intoxicated people. Why do you think there’s so many silent letters?
Side note: In 1995, Mick Harvey, most known for his time with Nick Cave's Bad Seeds, released a very good Serge-only song collection titled Intoxicated Man. Not to be outdone, and to give equal time, he followed it up in 2017 with yet another Serge collection titled Intoxicated Women. Both are worth hearing. Stop by and you can borrow my copies.
23 “Party Lights” / Claudine Clark
We can thank Claudine’s strict upbringing for this one (or whoever wrote the song, that is). Here, we enter into the middle of a classic daughter vs. parent argument. There’s a big party going on next door, but Claudine’s stuck inside, watching through the window, brooding. Her pleas for clemency ignored, all she can do is throw herself on the mercy of the court. And suffice it to say, the verdict will not be in the plaintiff’s favor. Why she doesn’t just say goodnight, put some pillows under her blanket, and crawl out her bedroom window like any other precocious teenager is unknown, but we never find out what happens. I can only presume the parents will never ever be forgiven.
22 “Bachelor Boy” / Cliff Richard
In the early-60s, most Americans were still watching Leave It To Beaver and other family-centric comedies, so Cliff Richard’s “Bachelor Boy” certainly went against the conservative grain in its day. Playboy was already a thing, however, and there was a growing curiosity around postponing (perhaps permanently) the inevitable conventions expected at the time (marriage, work, family, house in the suburbs, station wagon in the driveway) in favor of a more robust and freewheeling lifestyle. It wasn’t a hard sell. Unfortunately for Cliff, despite being a sensation in the UK (only the Beatles and Elvis have sold more records), he never really took hold in the US (a few hits, but that’s it). I would argue his irrelevance here was more than justified. I doubt it has ever been formally studied in academia, but I wonder if “Bachelor Boy” had any impact on marriage rates in the UK after its 1962 release. It’s a simple song with a father giving advice to his young son, “Son, you are a bachelor boy and that’s the way to stay.” He makes a cogent argument by song’s end. I’ve always thought this song was ripe for an “answer song” from mom (“Bachelorette Girl”). And I’m confident it would be a stinging rebuke.
21 “(Dance With the) Guitar Man” / Duane Eddy
If you’ve ever danced with someone wearing a guitar, you’d know it’s almost impossible to do without getting smacked across the face by a swinging neck at some point. It’s just impractical. It’s easier to dance with the tuba man than the guitar man. Even Springsteen had the sense to hand his guitar to a roadie when it was time to pull a young lady from the crowd during “Dancing in the Dark.” I think a better title would’ve been “(Dance to the) Guitar Man.” That would imply that the teenage girls who sing on this song are dancing while he plays on stage. They can fuck him later when the gig is done. This song is so early-rock ‘n’ roll and I’ve always loved it because it has that 1960s Elvis-movie feel. And for guitar fanatics, there are plenty of vintage Eddy licks in case listening to the guitar man is your bag.
20 “Soul Twist” / King Curtis
My love for R&B instrumentals is as much a part of my musical makeup as any other type of music and the sweet soul horn of King Curtis is right up there will my favorite sounds ever heard on this earth. Chubby Checker’s take on Hank Ballard’s song “The Twist” was co-opted many times after its initial release with everyone trying to cash in on the shockingly long-lasting dance craze (today, I’d give it two months, tops). King Curtis wasn’t an innocent bystander either. He realized the dearth of soulful twisting in the marketplace and filled a need. While everyone else was keeping the same general tempo, Curtis slowed it down considerably, added some heavier bottom end, and brought home a nasty little version for the more soulfully inclined dancer.
19 “Comin’ Home Baby” / Mel Torme
Mel Torme didn’t blip on my radar until he became a running gag on the hit TV show Night Court in the 1980s. I never loved the show, but I distinctly remember Mel making a cameo on one episode. Some time later, while perusing the jazz rack at a local record store I came upon a CD titled Mel Torme’s Finest Hour and soon after realized that Judge Harry Stone was right, the Velvet Fog was the very essence of nightclub cool. “Comin’ Home Baby” has always been my favorite because it swings to its own beat and features some sassy call and response vocals courtesy of the Cookies, Ray Charles’ frequent backing singers. For you trivia buffs, the lyricist for “Comin’ Home Baby” went on to write “Three is a Magic Number” and several other math-related songs for the Schoolhouse Rock! franchise, a show I religiously watched, along with every other kid on the planet, during the 1970s.
18 “He’s a Rebel” / The Crystals
Teenage rebellion has always been a thing, but it never had its own soundtrack until rock ‘n’ roll rode into town with exhaust pipes rumbling. And as long as there are rebels, there will always be girls hopping on the back of their motorcycles, chasing some sort of independence from normality. Just ask Fonzie or the girls at Al’s Diner. Yes, there were female rebels, too, but not many songs about them—especially in the early-60s. (The riot grrrl movement still decades away.) Along with every rebel, there’s a girl who thinks he can be tamed. She thinks she understands what makes him tick—that he’s not really what the others think he is. We all know different, of course, but why not keep trying?
17 “Up on the Roof” / The Drifters
One day as a young man I was picking up some records at a local shop. At the time, I was just getting curious about 1960s R&B and one group kept getting referenced during my research. That group was the Drifters. Back then, you couldn’t just stream their entire catalog on a moment’s notice, so I spotted a discount copy of The Drifters Greatest Hits (above) and added it to my “stack.” When the clerk was ringing me up he stopped at the Drifters album, gave me a quick glance, and went back to his business. I don’t know why he did that, likely mild surprise, but ever since I’ve been a big Drifters fan. It didn’t matter who was taking lead vocals at the time—they were all great (original beloved vocalist Clyde McPhatter, the underrated Johnny Moore, the now legendary Ben E. King, the often forgotten Rudy Lewis, and others). The Drifters were the Harlem Globetrotters of vocal groups, more an entity of revolving members than a formal group (eventually becoming a corporation with a CEO at one point), but there’s no denying the simple beauty and soulful innocence of their earliest singles. “Up on the Roof” is one of their finest, most melancholy songs, sung beautifully by Rudy Lewis (who also sang “On Broadway”). “Up on the Roof” is about escaping life for a while; leaving the hustle and bustle of a complicated existence and finding your own private Idaho in order to clear your head, or make sense of, the day’s events. When I was a kid, me and my friends had our own way of getting away from it all (parents, chores). Conveniently, a house down the street had a tree growing behind it and we’d often climb up and use it to hop onto the roof so we could eat the berries hanging from the tree’s branches (surely toxic in retrospect). We relaxed and joked around on that roof until discovered and told to get down. So I can relate to the concept of finding your own little oasis, especially when that oasis is elevated above the madness of everyday life. Granted, I had no idea what was coming my way later in life, but it was a start. The roof is symbolic of getting away from it all no matter your age. Even as an adult with two boys, every once in a while I’d say “Let’s eat this pizza on the roof tonight! And soon it became a sporadic tradition. We’d take a couple slice and enjoy the novelty of eating elevated al fresco. It’s not the best parenting move admittedly, but I could sense the novelty would resonate with them some day. This song has always done a great job of re-creating that very feeling.
16 “Seven Day Weekend” / Gary U.S. Bonds
After Phase 2 and Phase 3 testing and several clinical trials, the seven-day weekend was deemed an unmitigated catastrophe by the CDC, but for a while it was an unrealistic dream we all shared and Gary U.S. Bonds wrote its theme song.
15 “Oh Oh Cheri” / Françoise Hardy
The second song on this mixtape sung completely in French. I call them as I hear them, people—faites avec! This was one of the original brilliant singles from the early wave of sexy (you expected anything else?) French pop designed to take the sounds of early American and British rock ‘n’ roll and translate it, literally, for oversexed French teens. It was classified, for lack of a better term, as “Yé Yé” pop (basically “Yeah Yeah” in English) and wasn’t exactly subtle in its raison d’être: beautiful girls* singing cute little pop songs about boys and being young. Indict the intent and dismiss the output at your peril, however, because many of the songs were positively marvelous, sparkling gems. And “Oh Oh Cheri” is among the best of the bunch. It’s the tale of a girl so smitten with a cute boy, he seems incapable of doing wrong in her deep, beautiful, hazel eyes. One line translated: “I like everything you do/Even when you do nothing.” If only I could bottle that sentiment. Later she points out that “You can dance/Even in pajamas,” which warms my heart and makes me long for the time when people actually wore matching tops and bottoms to bed. Who wouldn’t sing a cute little adoring pop song if the love of their life danced around the house in his jammies without a care in the world?
*If you’re crying sexism, you’re right, but there were some “Yé Yé” boys, too, but I’ll let you research that angle on your own time.
14 “Mucha Muchacha” / Esquivel
In 1962, Esquivel released an album called Latin-esque, credited with being the first album ever recorded with complete stereo separation (a little bone for you audiophiles). The album contained “Mucha Muchacha,” which has gone on to become Esquivel’s most beloved song. His peak creative period was during the exotica explosion in the late-50s/early-60s (named after the Martin Denny album of the same name), but his name recognition peaked in 1994 after the release of a compilation of his greatest songs titled simply
Esquivel! (sub-titled “Space Age Bachelor Pad Music” to enhance its appeal to the hipster crowd). That’s where many of my generation and beyond were first turned onto his music. You must seek it out if you ever plan on throwing a cocktail party in the suburbs ever again. “Mucha Muchacha,” is above all, a campy blast that absolutely dances out of your speakers with its goofy Latin charisma and supercharged arrangements. If that wasn’t enough, it’s educational, too—you’ll leave knowing the difference between “muchacha” (girl) and “muchacho” (boy) by song’s end. Me Tarzan, you Jane. It’s that simple.
13 “Duke of Earl” / Gene Chandler
Practice makes perfect. “Duke of Earl” evolved from vocal warm-up exercises the band used to do before a gig into a #1 smash. It’s now one of the most played and most recognizable “oldies” of all-time. You can skip over a lot of songs from the era without a second thought, but “Duke of Earl” has never suffered such a fate. Like everyone else on this planet, I love singing along with the “Duke, Duke, Duke, Duke of Earl” parts in my lowest possible register only to segue into my highest register moments later (thanks to my zero octave range). It’s also notable for inspiring my favorite chain of oil change service stations, The Duke of Oil.
12 “War Is Starting Again” / Lightnin’ Hopkins
This is a war song with an ulterior motive. Lightnin’ Hopkins, through his ominous tone, stark guitar chords, and worn voice, makes “War is Starting Again” one of the great anti-war songs. You can feel the quiet horror in his voice when he sings “Yeah, I believe they gonna start a war again/Yeah, there’ll be a-mothers start to worry…Right now they need a million men.” As the words settle in they gain frightening power. A million men. That’s staggering to wrap your head around, especially when you think of how many others are potentially invested in the lives of each one of them—mothers, fathers, siblings, dogs, relatives, friends—it almost gets overwhelming. But then, in the last verse, things get sinister, as Hopkins rubs salt in the wounds of every soldier risking his life overseas. “Yeah, you know my girlfriend got a boyfriend in the Army/That fool better go overseas/You know I don’t hate it so bad because you know/That’s a better break for me.” When I first heard the song, I wasn’t sure about that last line. Why ruin what could’ve been an era-defining anti-war song? But then, I realized that war is cruel in so many ways and while coming home alive should be all a soldier has to worry about, the fact of the matter is that’s really just the beginning of their worries in many cases.
11 “Night Train” / James Brown
Every artist should release a funky track like this to advertise an upcoming tour itinerary. James Brown wasn’t stupid. Put a city’s name in a song and DJs in that city will play it, thereby promoting your concert. It’s not rocket science. I’ve always loved the image of the James gang chugging through the Deep South as everyone else sleeps—fueled by funk, spewing out steamy sweat, locked on a literal groove—loaded with horns, drums, and guitars, making stops along the way from Miami to Boston and back down to New Orleans. If only he had mentioned Chicago I might’ve put it a little higher then. If you’re looking for the original Soul Train, get on board here.
10 “Do You Love Me” / The Contours
Imagine not being able to dance during an era of non-stop dance crazes? It must have been humiliating for some. This song is like the plot of a movie in less than three-minutes. Girl coldly dumps guy who can’t dance. Guy vows to win her back. Guy woodsheds with a record player and a stack of the latest dance hits (cue comical montage showing countless blunders leading to up to a “breakthrough” moment that shows he’s starting to “get it”). Guy returns to the big dance finale in order to showcase his new moves. He dazzles the room and everyone circles him as he struts his new moves. Original girl now wants him back. Guy leaves with another girl who always appreciated him from the beginning. Roll credits.
9 “Misirlou” / Dick Dale & His Del-Tones
It’ll forever be associated with Pulp Fiction, and rightfully so, but “Misirlou” has a long and rich history dating back to the 1920s. This isn’t Wikipedia, but you can look up its fascinating past there or wherever music trivia is sold. My attraction to “Misirlou” is simple. It’s an absolutely killer tune to jam on a sunny day in a fast car (which can be almost any car if you floor it). Guitar aficionados also froth at the mouth at the mere mention of the song, noting among several of Dale’s innovations, his use of the heaviest guitar strings available, which could be used to secure a cruise ship to a dock in a pinch.
8 “She’s Got You” / Patsy Cline
This is one of the great breakup songs of all-time. Poor, poor, pitiful Patsy is left with the artifacts of a broken relationship, but a new girl now gets the guy. And so it goes with any tale of loss for any reason. What does one do with the remnants of a home destroyed by a tornado or washed away by a flood? Answer: you salvage what you can and find a way to move on. The same goes for a broken heart. And from my perspective, Patsy got a pretty good deal in the long run:
I’ve got the records
We used to share
And they still sound the same
As when you were here
The only thing different
The only thing new
I’ve got the records
She’s got you
She got the records! What’s she crying about then? My recommendation: go find yourself someone who values music a little more. Why would you want to stay with a guy who so callously leaves his share of the records behind? What does that say about his character? I could see if the records were in crappy condition—maybe he could replace them with remastered versions on 180g vinyl—but Patsy points out that “they still sound the same,” which is almost doubly tragic. This song breaks my heart.
7 “Working for the Man” / Roy Orbison
Moments I’d like to have witnessed: the first time Roy Orbison auditioned for anybody. Roy may have released better songs than this one, but I’ve always loved it for Roy’s jaunty vocal and its devilish undercurrent. At the beginning, a lowly working man figures out who writes the checks and who gets the job done. The former much more attractive than the latter, he hooks up with the boss’s daughter with the intention of being "the man" himself someday. If he’s got to sleep his way to the top, so be it.
6 “Monster Mash” / Bobby “Boris” Pickett & the Crypt-Kickers
Some associate it with Halloween, but technically “Monster Mash” wasn’t initially intended to be a Halloween song. It was originally released in August of 1962 (far in advance of October 31st) as a parody of all the dance songs in vogue at the time (the Twist, the Hop, the Mashed Potato, the Swim, the Watusi, et al). There’s a difference between “holiday” songs and songs that are played primarily during a certain holiday. (Ask Joni Mitchell if she intended “River” to be a Christmas song.) While “Monster Mash” logically became affiliated with Halloween over the years due to its monster theme, it can be listened to at any time of year in much the same way a horror movie can be watched whenever you’re in the mood to wet your pants. True, its impact (and royalties) might be more pronounced during a peak period, but I see no reason to limit my pleasure. Many dismiss “Monster Mash” as a novelty song, and it is, but most novelty songs don’t last almost 60 years. Mainly because what sounds clever and funny in the moment can turn you into a homicidal maniac just a few plays later. (Exhibit A: “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” by Napoleon XIV.) The more the song holds up as an actual song, the better. “Monster Mash” crushes the average novelty song by relying on a knockout girl-group chorus as its main focus. Even if Bobby’s moderately effective Boris Karloff impression doesn’t do it for you, when the ladies kick in, you’ll wish you were there for the party, sipping your cocktail out of a beaker and heating up the cheese dip with a Bunsen burner. On a side note, the song never explains how to actually do the “Monster Mash,” but I’ve always assumed you just stick your two arms straight out like Frankenstein and keep your legs real stiff and walk around. Finally, a dance I can master!
5 “Cry to Me” / Solomon Burke
Many of you will know this already, but there’s a scene in High Fidelity where Rob, Barry, and Dick are listing their “Top 5 Songs About Death” and Barry (Jack Black) includes “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” on his personal list only to be shot down by Dick, who responds, “No. Immediate disqualification because of its involvement with The Big Chill.” Barry, from whom you might expect a harsh rebuke, instead validates the point reluctantly, “Oh God. You’re right.” The same logic could apply to “Cry to Me” by Solomon Burke, for its inclusion in the film Dirty Dancing. Any time a song is used in a film, there’s a risk of that song forever being associated with said film. It stings even more if you hate said film. It doesn’t always happen, but it did for the Rolling Stones’ classic song and it will forever be associated with the “sexy” first dance scene between Patrick “This Demon Life Has Got Me In Its” Swayze and Jennifer Garner at a pivotal moment in the movie’s “plot.” For a while, the song was ruined for many soul lovers. But time is the healer, at least for me, and this song is too great to leave off a list of favorites from 1962. So welcome back to the dance “Cry to Me,” you’re back in the rotation.
4 “Boom Boom” / John Lee Hooker
If it's a primal groove you seek, a primal groove is what you will get with John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom.” Many have tried to cover the song over the years, some to great effect (Springsteen's live version from Stockholm in 1988 is incendiary), but John Lee easily lowers the boom boom on all comers with this version. You can add all the wattage you want to the song in an effort to arena-size it, but the stripped-down John Lee original, done with quiet menace from a kitchen chair with only a pair of beat-up dress shoes to pound out the beat on a creaky wooden floor, is all you will ever need to groove into, and through, nirvana. Please, we beg of you, if you feel the need to boom boom, go to the source and get it in its purest distilled form.
3 “Bring It On Home to Me” / Sam Cooke
The first of two B-sides in our Top 3, Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me” was relegated to the back of his “Having a Party” single, which is somewhat understandable I guess. When everything you sing sounds amazing, how do you know what to put where? Sam was on such a roll in the early-60s, they could’ve just made everything an A-side and left the B-side blank if they wanted to. But “Bring It On Home to Me” was one of his special songs, showcasing what made his voice such a gift. Smooth and slightly gritty simultaneously, it was a marvel. The voice I would choose if I could pick one from all music history (apologies to Otis, but I just couldn’t pull that off in any world). Just imagine opening your mouth and getting Sam Cooke. I’m going to pause and fantasize about it for a minute or two right now and I suggest you do the same. What I love about “Bring It” is that it initially starts with Sam as the reason for the relationship splitting up: “I know I only laughed when you left/But now I know I only hurt myself,” but by the time the song ends, it’s the girl who’s at fault: “One more thing/I tried to treat you right/But you stayed out/Stayed out at night.” No matter, we end with the unbelievably cool Sam Cooke pleading on bended knee for his girl to come back to him. Must’ve been some girl because Sam was not hurting for ladies during his short career. If you like this version, check out the same song one year later on Sam’s electric live album Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963. It’s twice as long, twice as gritty, and twice as nasty. An amazing, but completely different, performance of a great soul song.
Side note: Features a nice cameo from Lou Rawls on backing vocals.
2 “These Arms of Mine” / Otis Redding
I won’t break the rules of list-making here, but if I did, I would grant a photo-finish tie to the final two songs on my list for 1962. Both are defining moments in the history of Stax Records, and music in general, and they are, at least for me, a dead heat. “These Arms of Mine” is the song that rocked Stax to the core and altered its future forever when Otis Redding stepped to the microphone for the first time in a converted movie theater recording studio in South Memphis. The story is legendary, with limo driver Redding asking for time at the end of another recording session to do a track or two. From that we got the incomparable “These Arms of Mine”! And it was an original composition, no less! If someone sent you the lyrics of this song in advance, you’d probably take a hard pass—they’re nothing spectacular, really, just some sad, sappy poetry. But when you overlay Otis’s natural passion, pacing, and phrasing you have a soul classic on your hands. When they call something soul music, this is what they mean. Summoned from depths previously unknown, possessed by emotion, compelled by feeling. The reason I love Otis Redding more than any other singer is his ability to become the song, not just sing the song. I’ll forever be in awe of his rare and raw talent. From the first few seconds of ‘These Arms of Mine” you’re hanging on his every word. Musicians used to sleep in the studio when he was in town to record so they didn’t miss one magical moment. And it all started right here.
1 “Green Onions” / Booker T. & the M.G.s
I’m pretty sure by the end of this year-by-year mixtape series only one year will have an instrumental at the #1 spot. It’s also a safe bet that this will be the only B-side at the top of a list, too (the original A-side, “Behave Yourself,” was also excellent, but much more of a steady simmer by comparison). When it was originally sent to radio stations, DJs smartly flipped the record over and played “Green Onions” instead. Soon it became a sensation and remains so to this day. Listening now, it’s shocking that someone could listen to both songs and not opt to put it on the A-side to begin with, but it’s not always clear in the moment I assume. “Green Onions” is without a doubt the foundation of the Stax sound in a nutshell, created by the house band that backed almost every major record the label produced in its glory years. Booker T.’s phat grooves on the B-3 organ (on display to this day in the Stax Museum), Steve Cropper’s famously restrained jabbing guitar licks, Al Jackson’s rock solid backbeat (one of the greatest drummers of all time), and the thick basslines of Lewie Steinberg (“Duck” Dunn wasn’t a member of the band until 1964) all combined into a multi-colored, pot boiling, deep frying, soul strutting groove machine. It set the tone for everything that was to come at Stax. The reason Stax is my all-time favorite record label can be found in the last two songs on this mix.
Well, there you have it. It was a labor of love, but worth it for a little time travel into the past. Next time we're going back to the future. See you in another year soon.