1962 – 1964. Stylistically, no real “theme” per se. Dionne Warwick and Dusty Springfield sing solo, no girl group. The Beach Boys surf in. Phil Spector perfects the Wall of Sound with “He’s a Rebel” and “Be My Baby.” The latter blows Brian Wilson’s mind. The Four Seasons! The Supremes! Stevie Wonder! And Otis makes his statement.
- You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.
- You Belong to Me. The Duprees. “See the pyramids along the Nile.”
- Don’t Make Me Over. Dionne Warwick. There were few teams as great as that of songwriters Hal David and Burt Bacharach with Warwick.
- He’s a Rebel. The Crystals. Written by Gene Pitney.
- Twistin’ the Night Away. Sam Cooke.
- Tell Him. The Exciters.
- Surfer Girl. The Beach Boys. Brian Wilson – who was not a surfer – pens his first composition.
- Walk Right In. The Rooftop Singers.
- Da Doo Ron Ron. The Crystals. Is there a better lyric than, “I met him on a Monday and my heart stood still. Da Doo Ron Ron, Da Doo Ron Ron.”
- Easier Said Than Done. The Essex.
- Denise. Randy & The Rainbows.
- Sukiyaki. Kyu Sakamoto. Some genius record executive decided the American public wouldn’t relate to this lovelorn song unless they named it after a recognizable food. Or something. Dumb. A beautiful melody.
- Donna the Prima Donna. Dion.
- Have You Heard. The Duprees. Doo-wop was by now fading but here’s a great one.
- It’s My Party. Lesley Gore.
- I Only Want to be With You. Dusty Springfield.
- Be My Baby. The Ronettes. The song that Brian Wilson obsessed over. A prime example of the Phil Spector Wall of Sound.
- Our Day Will Come. Ruby & The Romantics.
- Ruby Baby. Dion. Check out Donald Fagen and Bjork’s versions.
- Since I Fell For You. Lenny Welch.
- So Much In Love. The Tymes.
- When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes. The Supremes. This, not “Baby Love” or “Where Did Our Love Go,” was their first hit. Also the first song written for them by Holland-Dozier-Holland. I always loved this song and it is, I think, almost forgotten.
- South Street. The Orlons. “Where do all the hippies meet?” South Street in Philadelphia, that’s where.
- One Fine Day. The Chiffons.
- Fingertips – Part 2. Little Stevie Wonder. Stevie’s first hit. Drums by Marvin Gaye.
- You Don’t Own Me. Lesley Gore.
- Anyone Who Had a Heart. Dionne Warwick. “Would surely take me in his arms and always love me.”
- Dawn (Go Away). The Four Seasons.
- Walk On By. Dionne Warwick.
- Fools Rush In. Ricky Nelson. Another Forties song redone for a rock audience.
- Rag Doll. The Four Seasons.
- The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss). Betty Everett.
- Promised Land. Chuck Berry. Elvis used to do a great version of this.
- Fun, Fun, Fun. The Beach Boys.
- That’s How Strong My Love Is. Otis Redding.
- Under The Boardwalk. The Drifters. Is this song a regular part of Springsteen’s repertoire? If not, why not?
Well, there you have it. The – or at least my – Indispensable 150. Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did researching and writing it. Are they all really indispensable? I dunno. Many of them, yeah, sure. Perhaps this could just as well have been called “One Man’s Journey Through Early Rock ‘n Roll.” I tried to show throughout the series how the next generation of rockers (Raitt, Springsteen, Browne, Petty, etc.) listened to, loved and was influenced by this stuff.
The Beatles’ first two UK albums, Please Please Me and With the Beatles reveal what an impact this music had on them. The Beatles used to tour with these bands. So did the Stones. Per Keith Richards’ autobio, he and Ronnie Spector were an item.
Beatlemania had been flourishing in England throughout 1963. And after The Fab Four appeared on Ed Sullivan’s show on Feb. i9, 1964, the world would never be the same.
Here’s a list of “oh-so-close” songs I wanted on the list. I went back and forth but eventually put them on this secondary list. These are by NO means lesser songs but again, one has to draw the line somewhere. They are totally worth checking out:
Be-Bop-A-Lula, Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps; Nadine, Chuck Berry; My True Story, The Jive Five; Wishin’ and Hopin’, Dusty Springfield; Personality, Lloyd Price; Shout, Shout, Knock Yourself Out, Ernie Maresca; Only You, The Platters; One Summer Night, The Danleers; Oh, Boy!, Buddy Holly; Volare, Bobby Rydell; You Never Can Tell, Chuck Berry; If You Wanna Be Happy, Jimmy Soul; Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye, The Casinos. (A 1967 doo-wop song that sounds like 1957.) And lastly, the song that was effectively George Harrison’s Beatles audition, Raunchy, Bill Justis.