Oldies – The Indispensable 150 (Part 2)

The late ’50’s were a great time for music: doo-wop, early rock ‘n roll, even mainstream pop artists like Bobby Darin had hits. American Bandstand – which had started in Philly in 1952 – had gone national in 1957. Teens would give ratinga (“85. It’s got a great beat and you can dance to it”) to hit tunes that artists would come on and lip synch to. Dancers became minor celebrities. 

1958

  • Rock and Roll is Here to Stay. Danny and the Juniors.
  • Little Star. The Elegants.
  • Yakety Yak. The Coasters.
  • Stagger Lee. Lloyd Price.
  • Two People in the World. Little Anthony and the Imperials.
  • Chantilly Lace. The Big Bopper. “Hello, bay-beh.”
  • Twilight Time. The Platters. Sweet soul music. For a time, the most successful vocal group in the world.
  • Sixteen Candles. The Crests.
  • La Bamba. Ritchie Valens.
  • Tears on My Pillow. Little Anthony & the Imperials.
  • Summertime Blues. Eddie Cochran. The Who did a killer version on Live at Leeds.
  • Since I Don’t Have You. The Skyliners. One of the greatest doo-wop songs of all time. First group I’m aware of to incorporate a woman.

1959 

  • Mack The Knife. Bobby Darin. Originally sung by Lotte Lenya (in German) in The Threepenny Opera. A great, uptempo song about a pretty bad guy.
  • Come Softly To Me. The Fleetwoods. Love the background “ooh-ahs” in this.  A gentle love song.
  • I’ll Be Satisfied. Jackie Wilson.
  • I Wonder Why. Dion and the Belmonts.
  • I Only Have Eyes for You. The Flamingos.
  • A Teenager in Love. Dion and the Belmonts. Dion is one of the most important artists of his generation. And then he came out with “Abraham, Martin and John,” in 1968.
  • Kansas City. Wilbert Harrison. Released (by another artist) several years earlier as “K.C Loving.” Apparently, some recording executive thought it sounded hipper. It went nowhere till this version. 12th Street and Vine is now a park.
  • Sleep Walk. Santo & Johnny.
  • Memphis, Tennessee. Chuck Berry. You can never go wrong naming songs after US cities. One of the most covered Berry songs ever.
  • There Goes My Baby. The Drifters.
  • Shout. The Isley Brothers. The Isleys used to sing Jackie Wilson’s “Lonely Teardrops.” The audience at one show got so worked up – like at church – that the group started an improvised call-and-response with the audience. That evolved into “Shout.”

1960

  • Save The Last Dance for Me. The Drifters.
  • New Orleans. Gary “US” Bonds. Bruce Springsteen is a big Bonds fan and did some collaborations with him.
  • Chain Gang. Sam Cooke.
  • Dream Lover. Bobby Darin.
  • Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go. Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. “There’s a thrill, upon a hill. Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.”
  • Stay. Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs. “Just a little bit longer.” Jackson Browne had a hit with this.
  • When Will I Be Loved. Everly Brothers.
  • Shop Around. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. John Lennon worshiped Smokey.
  • Wonderful World. Sam Cooke.
  • Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes). Carla Thomas. Daughter of R&B man Rufus Thomas who wrote “Walkin’ the Dog.”
  • Will You Love Me Tomorrow. The Shirelles. Perhaps King and Goffin’s greatest song. Initially banned from some radio stations as too “sexually charged. “

Next post: 1961-1962. Girl groups flourish, doo-wop continues. Motown starts to hit its stride. 

16 thoughts on “Oldies – The Indispensable 150 (Part 2)

    1. Great. Glad you’re digging it as I am your Springsteen countdown. That’s why we do this right? And BTW, I am literally not even going to mention ‘Memphis’ because well, {shy smile}, that’s the kind of guy I am. 😀

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    1. That’s very cool. Truthfully I’ve held off on these posts for a while, not really being sure whether people would be that interested. I underestimated the interest and so it’s quite gratifying. There is almost no greater joy in my life than sharing music that I love with people.

      For the record, I am 62 years old and grew up with these songs in the epicenter of Philadelphia. I can assert with some confidence that if you listen to these songs, you will have a very good sense of what it sounded like to grow up in that area at that time. BTW, the southern Jersey shore – should you get there with any regularity – is filled with Philly people, many of them my age and older. They know these songs cold and you will impress the hell of them by knowing them. You’ll fit right in. 😀

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      1. I’ve met a few people from Philly (a town that I absolutely love btw) in Jersey.
        And I’m well aware that Philly has been an epicenter for some of the greatest sounds of all time.
        You can be proud that you came from a town like that.

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  1. I gotta get back finish off your earlier takes (Blodwyn Pig) but I can’t help peeking in on this stuff. Yup, lots of good ones. Lots of work on your part. Labor of love. Where did you dig up those cool cartoon figures for your caption?

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  2. I was not even born while these songs were at there peak but have learned to love many of them over the years. Your Indispensable 150 parts 1 and 2 have brought back many songs that I haven’t hear in years and turned me on to some that I have never heard. Thanks so much for this awesome list and I’m looking forward to the other parts.

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  3. Some great choices here.
    I recall ‘Rock & Roll is here to stay’ being revitalised by Sha Na Na around the time of Woodstock.
    I just found it! 1969. (Not as good as the original, obviously)
    Best wishes, Pete.

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