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Pickled Priest Mixtape: Our Favorite Songs of 1965

1965? Fuck me. No way I'm doing that. Beatlemania, Dylan in his prime, the early stages of great bands like the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, and the Who, a deluge of gritty soul from Stax, the sound of young America from Motown, real folk blues, country-rock, nascent punk; you name it, it was all happening in the mid-60s. On top of that, we have a one-song-per-artist rule for our year-end mixtapes, which means we'd have to pare some of the most legendary bands and artists of all time down to one song. Fuck that noise. Not worth the effort. We ain't doin' it.

It'll never last.


26 "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)" | Frank Wilson

1965 was a killer year for Motown, which meant some acknowledged all-time classics were left on the cutting room floor here, including three #1s from the Supremes, "Shotgun" by Junior Walker, "I Do" by the Marvelows, two smashes from Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder's "Uptight," and, wait for it, the Temptations incomparable standard, "My Girl." Most of you know we skew Stax in most cases, but this year is one of the few where we have an equal dose of Motown thanks to a bumper crop of Motor City magic. We start with this overlooked Frank Wilson barnburner (and also one of the rarest and most valuable singles extant). Until Bruce Springsteen added it to his recent well-intentioned, but too polished R&B covers record many had lost track of it, but rest assured, this thoroughbred holds its own against a stable full of Motown's freshest horses.

25 "Outrage" | Booker T & the MGs

The Stax house band hit it big with "Green Onions" (Pickled Priest's #1 song from our 1962 mixtape), but dig deeper than that, I beg of you. There's instrumental gold all the way into the early 1970s if you're up for it. "Outrage," the B-side of the equally great, if more conventional, "Boot-Leg," is one of the band's most cacophonous singles, relying on a wild keyboard jag from Booker T and some tough, raw dog drumming from the incomparable Al Jackson Jr., both almost teetering on the brink of chaos at times. It's a deliriously wonky cut, a bit atypical of the band's usual sound in a good way, perhaps influenced by some mid-take bathroom psychedelics. If you want to hear the hottest backing band in the land get loose, look no further.

24 "Butterball" | Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass

I have great affection, along with several million others, for Herb's Tijuana Brass records from the 1960s and none were better than their beloved Whipped Cream & Other Delights. It's basically an entire of album of upbeat game show music (the title track, "Whipped Cream," was used on The Dating Game, popular from the mid-60s to the early 70s). Whenever I have something to mull over or I'm trying to figure something out, songs like "Butterball" are what I hear triggered by the DJ in my brain. It's delightfully perky, fun, and stress-reducing. What bad could come your way when this song is playing? Answer: nothing. It's also the perfect mixtape palette cleanser when you need to make a complicated transition and you're not sure how to get from point-A to point-B.

23 "Treat Her Right" | Roy Head & the Traits

A good old-fashioned go-go dancing tune from Roy Head, so much so you can clearly picture a 1960's-styled variety show set in your mind about ten seconds into the song. With jaunty horns and guitar licks that come off like cartoon sound effects, there's not a trace of a vocal for the first 30 seconds (and the last 30 seconds) of this brisk two-minute romp. "Treat Her Right" is basically a short PSA on how to treat a lady, provided discretely and on the down-low by Roy himself, mano y mano. But is his advice reliable? Early on, he offers up this pearl: If you want a little loving now / You gotta start real slow. Solid, gentlemanly advice. Take your time, let the relationship breath for a while. Good job so far, Roy. But from there things become troublesome, courtesy of this impatient nugget dropped just one line later: She's gonna love you tonight, now / If you just treat her right. In other words, Roy's idea of "taking it slow" is relegated to the daytime hours only. Later that same night, feel free to jump her bones. Like a two-minute pop song, you knew his good intentions wouldn't last long.

Extra credit to Roy Head for inspiring Mark Sandman (later of Morphine) to name his first band Treat Her Right after this song.

22 "Love Bug" | George Jones

This perky little tongue twister with a Bakersfield beat is an absolute blast to sing along with and that's why it's here, triumphing over many better songs. I defy you not to feel better about life and love after hearing it. When he first uncorks the hook... Oh, that little bitty teenie weenie thing they call the love bug... it provides that giddy rapid-heartbeat feeling often the byproduct of newfound love—the kind of love where you find yourself saying and doing things you never thought possible prior. Like ripping off the chorus from Brian Hyland's 1960 smash hit, "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," I assume. Either way, it's a hoot to hear the great George Jones having fun with this itsy bitsy ditty and he brings me joy every time I hear it.

21 "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" | The Four Tops

As the title suggests, this song is simply irresistible. It's such a sweet confection that I personally have never seen anyone, anywhere, anytime, not immediately overjoyed at the opportunity to sing along with Levi Stubbs with nothing but pure joy in their hearts and minds. Dance party gold.

20 "Agent Double-O-Soul" | Edwin Starr

Starr...Edwin Starr. Capitalizing on the recent popularity of the James Bond films, which numbered only three going into 1965, Edwin Starr was a pretty solid choice to become the presumptive black Bond, but sadly no corresponding movies ever surfaced. Just this single. Perhaps it was the weak character sketch provided by the puzzling lyrics of "Agent Double-O-Soul," which I think I could've written on a bad day around the Pickled Priest offices. Is it odd that I sometimes like songs with bad lyrics? That said, Double-O Soul is still one funky not-so-secret agent who loves rock and roll, wears continental suits, and won't ever be seen in a fake mustache or carrying a purse (wait, what?). In theory, a black Bond is a great concept, and one might actually surface someday if Barbara Broccoli has the bold vision to let it happen. It's time.

19 "Strychnine" | The Sonics

Once used as a bowel stimulant in humans, later to kill rats dead, strychnine has a colorless and toxic past. Ah, there's nothing like primitive medicine to make you forget about your real problems! The Sonics, the pride of the American Northwest, Tacoma to be specific, were an equally nasty pill to swallow, but at least they wouldn't kill you on contact (I think). When Here Are the Sonics debuted in 1965, it sported the usual assortment of soul covers (a la the early Stones records), but there were also a few sinister originals peppered into the setlist from the pen of singer/keyboardist Gerry Roslie, the demented leader of one of America's most influential garage-punk bands. These songs included "The Witch," "Psycho," and my personal favorite, "Strychnine," about a guy who likes to drink his rat poison straight from the bottle, thank you. To this day, nothing from the same period sounds quite like this lethal vile of audio poison.

18 "Snatch It Back and Hold It" | Junior Wells

Once upon a time, I had a table right in the front for a Junior Wells show at the Cotton Club in Chicago. On the way to the stage, he stopped by our table and handed us his still lit, partially finished cigarette to mind while he performed. We didn't quite know the protocol. Were we required to keep the cigarette alive with a light inhale now and then? Were we allowed to just let its flame die out? We didn't want to let him down because he's Junior fucking Wells, after all. Thankfully, shortly after his first song he came over, post harmonica vamp, and retrieved it much to our relief. Years later, as I listen to the classic "Snatch It Back and Hold It" from his seminal 1965 LP, Hoodoo Man Blues, I realize how stupid we were. The directions were right there in the song's title. We were only meant to be foster parents, keeping his lung dart safe until he inevitably returned to snatch it back and hold it.

17 "You Don't Know Like I Know" | Sam & Dave

Double Dynamite could do no wrong in the mid-to-late 1960s and this was another example of their mastery of the tandem vocal. It's not their best single ever, but the energy was always there in spades, capable of taking any material and turning it into onstage magic (see video). I do have a quibble with the lyrics, however. The song begins as follows...

You don't know like I know

What that woman has done for me

In the morning, she's my water

In the evening, she's my cup of tea

My question is, why 'water' in the morning? Wouldn't "coffee" have fit the flow much better? It's the ultimate morning jolt, after all. The perfect analogy for a lover who puts some pep in your step from the moment you wake up. And isn't tea an afternoon thing? Or is that just in England? These things bother me, but not enough to keep it off my 1965 mixtape.

You don't know like I know

What that woman has done for me

In the morning, she's my coffee

In the afternoon, my cup of tea

16 "Unchained Melody" | The Righteous Brothers

The Righteous Brothers get to work quickly on "Unchained Melody"—the opening 16 seconds are as close to instant bliss as music gets. I could be in the middle of plunging a clogged toilet when this comes on and then suddenly be in complete rapture moments later until the song comes to its epic, dramatic conclusion a little over three minutes later. Therein lies its everlasting power. It's amusing to me that the song was originally written as the theme to Unchained, a 1955 prison movie starring ex-football star Elroy "Crazylegs" Hirsch, of all people. With that new information in mind, the lyrics do take on a whole new meaning. Nobody yearns more convincingly than a convict pining for a past love. Since then, the song has elevated to standard, recorded by everyone known to man. In fact, international law mandates that every man, woman, and child must record their own version of this song at some point during their lifetime and we are well on track to complete that task by roughly 2035 at the current pace. Even Bono recorded a version, albeit one that sounds like he was passing a turd full of sharp, undigested Dorito shards at the time, so what's stopping you? It goes without saying, of course, that the #1 version for now and for all time belongs to the Brothers Righteous. Nobody has a Ghost of a chance to top this moody masterpiece.

Unchained! Yeah, you hit the ground runnin'!

15 "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" | The Rolling Stones

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14 "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better" | The Byrds

They had jangle rock way, way back in 1965. Don't tell anyone.


13 "A Well Respected Man" | The Kinks

The official kroniklers of everyday British society, the Kinks have several gems from 1965 to pick from, but I like this stately tribute to the average straight-laced, responsible, 9 to 5 businessman, as predictable as a Swiss watch, as plain as a basket of fish and chips. The pillar of the community. Meanwhile, his parents are up to no good behind the scenes, which makes you wonder if this dignified gentleman will eventually suffer the same fate. Will he too eventually lose his grip on propriety, shagging the maid while his wife is off ogling other men at a town council meeting? That layered dynamic highlights the subtle genius of the band's music, which in 1965 started going in a totally different direction from early singles like "You Really Got Me." By holding up a mirror to the everyday residents of Great Britain, they became a national treasure in the process.

12 "Got to Get You Off My Mind" | Solomon Burke

One of the greatest soul singers ever built, King Solomon was the ultimate businessman, always on the lookout for that spare dime in your pocket. Written on the way to Sam Cooke's funeral (reportedly) "Got to Get You Off My Mind" is one of his "big three" songs, along with "Cry to Me" and "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love." For a sad song (also informed by his divorce), it positively swings. So big and bold, it almost makes me want to get a divorce myself.

11 "Death Letter" | Son House

You know, I went in my room, and I bowed to pray

But the priest came along, and drove my spirit away

Priests can be that way, trust me. This haunting, harrowing tale of a man going to identify his dead lover was recorded when Son House was convinced to lay down a bunch of his best tunes for posterity in 1965. This song had been his de facto calling card and has influenced generations of musicians. The White Stripes amped-up version slays, but this is the genuine article—even Jack White would agree. It doesn't just cut to the bone, it is the bone. You can't cut any deeper. You can feel the dirt on his shoes, the arthritis in his old hands as they work the fretboard, the hard-earned experience in his weathered voice. It's a master class in the blues delivered by the real Delta deal, unfiltered and raw, the way it is meant to be.

10 "Linus and Lucy" | Vince Guaraldi Trio

Fact: It's not really a Christmas song, but it's also one of the greatest Christmas songs of all time. Nice trick, Vince. While it's the first song I reach for every year when I break out the family box of holiday records to soundtrack tree decorating and complaining about it already being Christmas again, I also like to slip it on in the off season, too. It holds up because it has none of the predictable trappings of a holiday song. It's been pigeonholed by affiliation, yes, but this cheerful slice of accessible pop-jazz sounds positively delightful year-round.

09 "Feeling Good" | Nina Simone

If there's a better time-release payoff than the one found at the beginning of Nina Simone's now ubiquitous version of "Feeling Good,"* I want to hear it. The acapella opening hints at a late-night blues club affair, but when the big band eventually swaggers in full-force at the 40-second mark, it's always a bandstand thrill. We never find out exactly what is making her feel so good, of course, which is probably for the best—such knowledge might've limited the universality of the lyrics. In the end, it doesn't really matter why you feel good, just that you do (within a framework of morality, of course). So celebrate it, let your hair down, and allow your heart soar. You deserve this. Yeah, I agree, the song has been overused and abused like a fur coat in a frat house by film and TV shows in recent decades, but in the end the song remains the same, always ready and willing to soundtrack your most triumphant moments.

*The song was originally from the 1964 musical, The Roar of the Greasepaint — The Smell of the Crowd, written by British composers Anthony Newley and Lesley Bricusse.

08 "It's Not Unusual" | Tom Jones

How sexy was Tom Jones in the 1960s? Well, the BBC wouldn't even play his music because it was too sexually charged for conservative ears. And, unlike our current era of wet ass pussies and rampant "suck my dick" rap songs, there wasn't a suggestive lyric to be found anywhere near Tom's early hits. In fact they were downright tame by comparison. Now that's the power of Welsh testosterone, baby! Could you break me off a piece of that please, I could use the boost. His career trademark, "It's Not Unusual," may evoke "The Carlton Dance" to a generation of kids who grew up in the early 90s, but behind the dance is actually just a goofy little song about unrequited love that wouldn't have amounted to much of anything if not for the powerful pipes of Tom "The Tiger" Jones. Was there any song he couldn't conquer?

07 "Rescue Me" | Fontella Bass

06 "Nowhere to Run" | Martha Reeves & the Vandellas

Undoubtedly, two of the greatest female R&B records of the 1960s. Check that, two of the best R&B records of the 1960s period. One about being rescued by a man, the other about running away from one, and hopefully this wasn't the same girl at different stages of her relationship. Fontella's third take at Chess Studios for Checker Records (clever) in Chicago yielded the evergreen and unturnoffable "Rescue Me," one of the great one-hit wonders of all-time. It, like the Motown-produced, Holland-Dozier-Holland-written "Nowhere to Run," shoots the chorus off like a firework seconds into the song, which is never a bad idea.

05 "In the Midnight Hour" | Wilson Pickett

The song with so much juice they had to put it on an album twice. Yep, it was on 1965's In the Midnight Hour and 1966's The Exciting Wilson Pickett. Famously written in the Lorraine Motel (site of MLK Jr.'s assassination) by Pickett and Steve Cropper and recorded at Stax Studios, the song's deliberate, delayed backbeat (courtesy of Al Jackson Jr. and Duck Dunn) generated a chicken-neck response from listeners as Wilson Pickett told prospective girlfriends what to expect from him come the midnight hour. And love sweet love wasn't on the menu. In the midnight hour, when Wilson's love "comes tumbling down" (yuck), I think it's safe to say he means a good, long fucking is in order courtesy of the Wicked One and self proclaimed "Man-and-a-Half."

04 "My Generation" | The Who

If it was decided by edict that we needed to establish a single song as the official International Anthem for Rock & Roll, and may that never happen, the list of possibles would be a long one. There are iconic songs from every era meriting consideration each the correct answer to someone, but I'm not sure there's another one that so perfectly and so succinctly captures the big bang of youthful rebellion quite like "My Generation." That it's not specifically about rock & roll, rather the conditions that allowed it to explode in the first place, makes it the ideal choice. To hear this classic rock radio warhorse now for the thousandth time, far closer to rock & roll's 100th birthday than to its birth, there's the risk of losing sight of its original "Hope I die before I get old" spirit, but if you ever need to connect with that feeling again you know where to find it.

*Side note: Listening to the kinetic drum fills on "My Generation" I couldn't help but think that, if Allstate created their "Mayhem" advertising campaign in the mid-60s, Keith Moon would've been the absolute most effective spokesman for the insurance company's ad campaign. I can see him now, with that impish, shit-eating grin delivering the payoff, "Save money and protect yourself from me." Sales would go through the roof.

03 "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" | Bob Dylan

An avalanche of ideas, some social, some political, some personal, some not otherwise classified. Overwhelming in its entirety, mindblowing in cultural context, infinitely quotable when broken down into pieces. It's easy to forget that so many beloved Dylan lyrics come from this one song: "Even the President of the United States must stand naked," "Money doesn't talk, it swears," "He not busy being born is busy dying," "Don’t hate nothing at all, except hatred," and, "The masters make the rules, for the wise men and the fools." And that only scratches the surface. It's one of those songs I engage with much like I would a work of art in a museum. I can stand there all day contemplating the depths of the song, but I know I'll never approach full cognition. Which is why, in a year that brought us two masterpieces, Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited, the latter containing "Like a Rolling Stone" no less, I always return to the brilliantly-titled "It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," a song Dylan himself recalls with astonishment as if it were written by a higher power. Maybe it was.

02 "We Can Work It Out" | The Beatles

One Beatles song from 1965? You have got to be kidding me! Who made these stupid, arbitrary rules? With no recourse, we've selected "We Can Work It Out" with our hands up in sweet incredulous surrender mainly because it features a McCartney vocal, a Lennon bridge, and a Harrison tambourine (although some disagree), not to mention a hopeful, uplifting, free-use chorus. It's a perfect, albeit incredibly selfish and one-sided, synopsis of a typical lover's spat, but still, it rings of the truth; the universal desire to be heard and understood. In retrospect, it would've been a killer duet candidate for the Beatles, a group that notably never had much of a female presence in the studio. How great would it have been to hear this song with Paul and Dusty Springfield swapping verses? Or Diana Ross? Or Shirley Bassey? The possibilities are limitless. The karaoke revenue alone could stop world hunger.

01 "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)" | Otis Redding

Recorded with an urgent purpose, to hold on to his girl, Otis Redding's "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)" isn't so much a love song as it is a desperate, down-on-his-knees plea, a slow burn meant to heat up a cooling romance, a streetlight serenade from a giant man with an aching heart. All that's missing is some pouring rain. Very few songs in recorded history approach the level of authenticity heard on the song. This is emotion on a physical level. Otis puts everything he's got into it. In fact, it unfolds as if it wasn't necessarily written, but recorded live mid-supplication, even though we know if was actually a co-write between Redding and the Impressions' Jerry Butler. Here we find a man attempting to work out his feelings on the spot, not always 100% sure what's going to come out of his mouth next. Buoyed by an all-star Stax backing band, elevated by a swooning horn section, and held together by that powerful force-of-nature voice, there are few who could resist such a convincing declaration of intent. And unsurprisingly, it worked. The girl in question, Zelda, married Redding a year after the song was released and carries his torch to this day. It's been too long to stop now.


I told you I'm not doing it! 1965? You're fucked. Get out of here. Can't be done.


The Priest


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