John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

Songs of the Sixties Trivia By John William Tuohy


The little old lady from Pasadena was a kind of folk archetype in Southern California in the mid-20th century. Early in the century, many white couples from the Midwest had moved to the region, especially to Pasadena, California. The trend was accelerated by the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression and World War II. Since men tended to die earlier, Pasadena became known for its high percentage of elderly widows. As political columnist and language expert William Safire has noted, the phrase "little old ladies in tennis shoes" was used in the 1960s to refer to social and political conservatives in Southern California. Part of this lore was that many an elderly man who died in Pasadena would leave his widow with a powerful car that she rarely if ever drove, such as an old Buick Roadmaster, or a 50-some-odd Cadillac, a vintage Ford, an old Packard, Studebaker, DeSoto, La Salle. Used car salesmen in California, so the story went, would tell prospective buyers that the previous owner of a vehicle was "a little old lady from Pasadena who only drove it to church on Sundays," thus suggesting the car had little wear. This joke became part of the material of some comedians based in Los Angeles, and because of television, the phrase "little old lady from Pasadena" became familiar to a national audience. From this premise came the comic song, about a little old lady from Pasadena who had a hot "Super Stock Dodge" a 1964 Dodge Polara or Dodge 330 in her garage. (These vehicles had low production number "Max Wedge" (Maximum Performance Wedge Engine) lightweight race specials built in 1964 for drag racing. These are highly collectible today.) The twist was that unlike in the usual story, this little old lady not only drove the hot car, but was a peerless street racer

Things We Said Today by The Beatles was written by Paul McCartney in May of 1964 while cruising the Caribbean aboard a yacht called Happy Days with his girlfriend, model Jane Asher. The couple was on the verge of a breakup and as music critic Ian MacDonald said, The somber lyric—provoked by the frustrating interruptions of a relationship between two career people—matches the lowering gloom of the music. McCartney said of the song I wrote this on acoustic. It was a slightly nostalgic thing already, a future nostalgia. We’ll remember the things we said today, sometime in the future, so the song projects itself into the future.

Singer Johnny Horton as known in the late 1950s and very early 1960s for his  saga songs such as the 1959 release  The Battle of New Orleans, North to Alaska, and Sink the Bismarck.  Horton had premonitions of his death and told his friends and family that he saw himself, dead, standing before a man that was drunk. On November 4, 1960, Horton was driving back from a gig when he was killed in a crash with  19-year-old truck driver, James Davis, who was intoxicated.

Tobacco Road was written and recorded by John D. Loudermilk in the late 1950s as a semi-autobiographical story of growing up in the poverty stricken East Durham area of Durham, North Carolina. Columbia Records released the song but it essentially flopped until it was picked up in 1964 by a one-hit wonder group of the British Invasion The Nashville Teens. The group fell apart because its label, Decca failed to promote it and because the act lacked any real sense of distinctive personality.

Turn Around, Look at Me was a standard hit for almost a dozen sixties acts including Glen Campbell, The Bee Gees', The Vogues', The Lettermen and Eddy Arnold.
The Lettermen started in 1959. They have had 16 Top 10 singles including one #1, 32 consecutive Billboard Magazine chart albums, 11 gold records, and five Grammy nominations. Their hits included 1965's "Theme From A Summer Place", "Goin' Out of My Head"/"Can't Take My Eyes Off You", and in 1968 with "Put Your Head on My Shoulder", plus 1969's "Hurt So Bad", which reached #12.

Chubby Checker (Born Ernest Evans) took the charts with The Twist in 1960. The song was written by a country and western singer named Hank Ballard as a B-side to Teardrops On Your Letter.  Ballard got the idea for the song by watching his backup group, The Midnights, on stage.  He noticed that as they played they moved onstage like they were trying to put a cigarette out. That gave him the dance. The idea for the melody came from an old song called Is Your Love For Real? which in turn was borrowed from The Drifters' 1955 song What 'Cha Gonna Do? A Philadelphia a deejay named Buddy Dean had a TV dance party show and played the song which got a good reception. Dick Clark picked up on it and played the song on American Bandstand and also saw a great reaction to the song. For a number of reasons, Ballard couldn’t introduce the song on the show. It so happened that Clark had Chubby Checker under contract.  Check was a chicken plucker at Fresh Farm Poultry on Ninth Street and at the Produce Market in Philadelphia. The store’s owner Henry Colt had heard Checkers sing and recommended him to his friend Karl Mann, who worked as a song-writer for Cameo-Parkway Records who in turn introduced him to Dick Clark, just at the time that Clark was trying to Ballard on his show.  Instead, he hired musicians and Check’s to duplicate the Ballard version of The Twist.  Checker’s version was so good it was recorded and became the   biggest chart hill of all time.

Paul Anka went on to write the theme for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and one of Tom Jones's biggest hits, She's a Lady, and the English lyrics for Frank Sinatra's signature song, My Way.

Tell Laura I Love Her, is the ultimate teenage tragedy song written by Jeff Barry and Ben Raleigh and was a hit for Ray Peterson in 1960 on RCA Victor Records, reaching #7 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. Decca Records in England decided not to release Ray Peterson's 1960 recording on the grounds that it was “too tasteless and vulgar” and destroyed about twenty thousand copies that had already been pressed.

True Love Ways was recorded by Buddy Holly in October of 1958, four months before his tragic death. The record was his last hit after it was released posthumously in March of 1962.  In some early versions of the song, a faint audio records a piano player and a tenor saxophone player start to play some notes and Holly  says Okay, and clears his throat. In the background another voice is heard to say Quiet, boys! and then says Pitch, Ernie meaning to signal the piano player to give Holly his starting note, a B-flat.

The Theme from A Summer Place was an early 1960 hit, having been recorded for the film A Summer Place with Sandra Dee (Born Alexandra Zuck) and Troy Donahue (Born Merle Johnson). The songs actual title is Molly and Johnny Theme, and was not the films theme but rather was the love theme for the characters played by Dee and Donahue.

The Last Time by The Rolling Stones was inspired by a 1955 Gospel song called This May Be The Last Time by The Staples Singers. The Stones changed the meaning of the song, making it into a stern message to a girl. The Staples version had a more uplifting message and was much more spiritual.

The Pusher is a rock song written by Hoyt Axton, made popular by the 1969 movie Easy Rider which used Steppenwolf's version to accompany the opening scenes of drug trafficking. The lyrics of the song distinguish between a dealer in drugs such as marijuana—who "will sell you lots of sweet dreams"—and a pusher of hard drugs such as heroin—a "monster" who doesn't care "if you live or if you die". The song was made popular when rock 'n' roll band Steppenwolf released a cover version of the song on their 1968 album Steppenwolf. When performing the song publicly in the late 1960s, the repeated lyric "God Damn" was often controversial, most notoriously in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where City officials attempted to force the band to use a euphemism (such as "Gosh darn") rather than the actual lyric. Though the band promised not to sing the line, at John Kay's urging, the audience obliged by loudly filling in the offensive words at the appropriate places in the song.

Time Is on My Side by The Rolling Stones was originally recorded by Soul singer Irma Thomas. The lyrics were most likely written by Jimmy Norman, who was a member of The Coasters.

This Is My Song by Petula Clark was written by silent movie star Charlie Chaplin for his movie A Countess from Hong Kong, starring Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando. Chaplin offered the song to Clark, who was his neighbor in Switzerland.

These Eyes, a song by the Canadian group The Guess Who was released in 1969 and charted at Number 6. Group member Randy Bachman wrote the song while waiting for his date, a girl named Denise (Whom he later married) The song got the group a US record deal. The original title was “These Arms”

Twist and Shout was originally titled Shake It Up, Baby and recorded by the Top Notes and then covered by The Isley Brothers, The Tremeloes, The Mamas & the Papas, Cliff Richard and the Beatles in February of 1963 with John Lennon on the lead vocals. Producer George Martin knew Lennon's voice would suffer from the performance, so he left it until last, with only 15 minutes of scheduled recording time remaining. When Lennon sang it, he was suffering from a cold and a sore throat (He drank milk to sooth it over) and his coughing can be heard on the album. Lennon said that after he cut the song, on one take, that his voice was not the same for a long time afterward. Martin attempted a second take on the track but “John's voice had gone.”

The Way You Do The Things You Do was written for the Temptations in 1964 by Smokey Robinson after Berry Gordy, a Motown executive, told his writers  to come up with something for The Temptations whose  s previous 7 singles all flopped.  Otis Williams of The Temptations recalled “The first time we heard the song, we loved it. The melody swung, and the lyrics had lots of charm. They were silly in a way, talking about a girl you loved as a candle, a handle, a schoolbook, a cool crook, a broom, a perfume, but, typical Smokey, he made it work. It got a good response whenever we did it live, so our hopes were up. We knew from past experience that even the best tracks don't always click.”
The Rain, The Park And Other Things by The Cowsills was co-written and produced by Artie Kornfeld who later went on to be one of the concert promoters of Woodstock. This was the breakthrough hit for the family group, The Cowsills, who were the forerunner of The Osmonds, a group that would appear on the same record label a few years later. In 1968 they had an American #10 hit with Indian Lake The Cowsills were from Newport, Rhode Island. The band was formed in the spring of 1965 by brothers Bill, Bob, Barry and John. After their initial success, the brothers were later joined by their siblings Susan and Paul and their mother Barbara. Bob's twin brother Richard was the road manager. When the group expanded to its full family membership by 1967, the six siblings ranged in age from 8 to 19. Joined by their mother Barbara, the Cowsills were the inspiration for the 1970 launch of the television show The Partridge Family.    The Cowsills' musical interest started while their father Bud Cowsill was stationed in Canton, Ohio in the late 1950s as a US Navy recruiter. Billy and Bob taught themselves how to play the guitar. The boys developed their musical talent and harmonized vocals, and they performed at school church dances in Stark County, Ohio. The boys' first television appearance was on the Gene Carroll Show on WEWS in Cleveland. Bud retired from a long career in the US Navy and, along with his wife, managed his children's career.     In late 1965, the Cowsills were hired as a regular act on Bannisters Wharf in Newport, where they would sing Beatles songs hour after hour. A handful of singles were released on JODA Records and Philips Records in 1965 and 1966, to only modest success. The band was signed by MGM records in 1967, and Barbara, who would become known to their fans affectionately as "Mini-Mom" due to her diminutive stature, joined the group just in time to record the band's first album, including the hit single "The Rain, The Park and Other Things".  The song sold over one million copies.   In 1968, the band scored another million-selling hit with the song "Indian Lake" which reached #10 on the charts and in 1969, the band had another number two hit and another million seller with their version of the title song from the musical Hair. From 1968 through 1972, the band played an average of 200 performance dates per year, and were among the most popular acts on the American concert circuit.    In 1971, Bill was fired from the group by his father after he was caught smoking marijuana. By 1972, Barbara, Paul, and Susan had all left the group and Bill returned, reforming the original quartet. They released one more single, "Covered Wagon", which failed to chart. Shortly afterward, The Cowsills stopped playing together as a band amid a series of internal personal squabbles.

The Girl from Ipanema ("Garota de Ipanema") a  bossa nova song, was a worldwide hit in the mid-1960s and won a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1965 Ipanema is a seaside neighborhood located in the southern region of the city of Rio de Janeiro. The song was composed for a musical comedy entitled Dirigível (Blimp), then a work-in-progress of Vinícius de Moraes. The original title was "Menina que Passa" (The Girl Who Passes By); the famous first verse was different. Jobim composed the melody on his piano in his new house in Rua Barão da Torre, in Ipanema. In turn, Moraes had written the lyrics in Petrópolis, near Rio de Janeiro, as he had done with Chega de Saudade six years earlier. The song was inspired by Heloísa Eneida Menezes Paes Pinto (now Helô Pinheiro), a fifteen-year-old girl living on Montenegro Street in the fashionable Ipanema district in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Daily she would stroll past the popular Veloso bar-café, not just to the beach ("each day when she walks to the sea"), but in the everyday course of her life. She would sometimes enter the bar to buy cigarettes for her mother and leave to the sound of wolf-whistles.

The Good Life (originally "La Belle Vie" in French) is a popular song originally from the 1930s. Tony Bennett had a hit with it in 1963.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down is a song written by Canadian musician Robbie Robertson, first recorded by The Band in 1969 and released on their self-titled second album. Robertson said that he had the music to the song in his head but had no idea what it was to be about: "At some point the concept blurted out to me. Then I went and I did some research and I wrote the lyrics to the song. When I first went down South, I remember that a quite common expression would be, "Well don't worry, the South's gonna rise again." At one point when I heard it I thought it was kind of a funny statement and then I heard it another time and I was really touched by it. I thought, "God, because I keep hearing this, there's pain here, there is a sadness here." In Americana land, it's a kind of a beautiful sadness.

The House of the Rising Sun is a folk song from the Deep South that was a hit for the Animals in 1964. Alan Price of The Animals has claimed that the song was originally a sixteenth-century English folk song about a Soho brothel, and that English emigrants took the song to America where it was adapted to its later New Orleans setting.

The Beat Goes On was a 1967 Billboard Hot 100 top ten hit written by Sonny Bono and recorded by Sonny & Cher. "The Beat Goes On" was sung at Sonny Bono's funeral, and the phrase also appears on his tombstone.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is the theme to the 1966 film of the same name, which was directed by Sergio Leone and was composed by Ennio Morricone, with Bruno Nicolai conducting the orchestra. A cover version by Hugo Montenegro in 1968 was a pop hit in both the U.S. and England. Montenegro himself "grunted something which came out like 'rep, rup, rep, rup, rep'" between the chorus segments.

The Times They Are a-Changin by Bob Dylan.  Dylan recalled writing the song as a deliberate attempt to create an anthem of change for the moment. "This was definitely a song with a purpose. It was influenced of course by the Irish and Scottish ballads ...'Come All Ye Bold Highway Men', 'Come All Ye Tender Hearted Maidens'. I wanted to write a big song, with short concise verses that piled up on each other in a hypnotic way. The civil rights movement and the folk music movement were pretty close for a while and allied together at that time."


Unchained Melody was made famous by The Righteous Brothers in 1965 when it topped out at Number 4 on the charts and number one in England (Sam Cooke’s version is much, much better by the way)  The Righteous Brothers, of course, although they may have been righteous, were not actually brother.  They were Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield. (Hatfield died in his sleep in a hotel room in 2003 of a cocaine overdose that caused a fatal heart attack) The act was named after a fan remarked of their singing, that's righteous, brothers. As for the song, its first appeared in a 1955 prison saga Unchained. Then Lex Baxter had a number one hit with it as a musical and the tune was nominated for Best Song at the 1955 Academy Awards (It lost to Love Is a Many Splendored Thing) In all, between 1955 to 1981 eight different artist have made the Top 100 with Unchained Melody. The lyrics were more than probably written in 1954 or 1955 by a Tin Pan Alley songster named Hy Zaret and composer Alex North (Born Isadore Soifer). North penned the scores for dozens of films including Viva Zapata, 2001: A Space Odessy and Rich Man, Poor Man. However, fifty years later a man named William Stirrat claimed to have penned the song in 1936 when he was 16 and in love with a young girl in his Freehold New Jersey neighborhood.

Under the Boardwalk was recorded by The Drifters in 1964. The opening line of the song references the Drifters' prior hit Up on the Roof. The group was scheduled to record the song on May 21, 1964, but on the night of May 20, the band's lead singer, Rudy Lewis, y died of a suspected heroin overdose. Rather than reschedule the studio session to find a new lead singer, Johnny Moore (He had been with the group but left it several years before)

Undone by The Guess Who. This tune came around when band member Randy Bachman heard the Bob Dylan Ballad in Plain D on the radio. It was a very long song, and just as Bachman was about to turn off the radio, Dylan sang the line She came undone. Bachman tooled it around, basing his version about a girl Bachman saw at a party who went into a coma after dropping acid. It was released as the B-side of Laughing.


Vanity Fare was a British band formed in in 1966. The group never broke up and continue to perform from time to time, though they have long since stopped being a full-time venture. They had hits with Hitchin' a Ride and Early In The Morning 


Walk, Don't Run is a rock'n'roll instrumental composition written and first performed by Johnny Smith in 1955. It became a hit single in autumn 1960 for the  instrumental rock band The Ventures.  It is believed to be one of the first surfing songs to make the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at #2.  The band's original drummer, George T. Babbitt, Jr., went on to become a four-star Air Force general, had left the band before Walk, Don't Run was released.

Walking to New Orleans was a 1960 hit for Fats Domino. The song was written by Bobby Charles.  Domino had recorded the Charles tune Before I Grow Too Old and when the singer was on tour and stopped in Lafayette Louisiana he invited Charles into his dressing room, and invited Charles to come visit him in New Orleans. To which Charles replied I don't have a car. If I'd go, I'd have to walk.  Later, in thinking over what he had said to the singer, Charles penned the song Walking to New Orleans in less than 15 minutes. The strings in the song were played by the string section from the New Orleans Symphony.

Wild Thing by The Troggs hit number 1 in 1966. It was written by Chip Taylor, (Born James Wesley Voight) brother of actor Jon Voight’s and the uncle of Angelina Jolie. He also wrote Angel Of The Morning, which was a hit for Merrilee Rush in 1968. The Troggs recorded the song in 20 minutes. In 1967, Wild thing was revived as a parody recording by a comedy troupe called The Hardly Worth it Players. Their version hit #20 in the US, and was recorded under the name Senator Bobby. It was a send-up of  Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and loaded with in-jokes about Democratic party politics and RFK's family.
The Peppermint Rainbow were from Baltimore and formed in 1967 under the name New York Times, before changing their name to the Peppermint Rainbow in 1968. They were signed to Decca Records at the behest of Cass Elliot, (Who was from just outside of Baltimore) who saw them play and sang with them on-stage when they performed a medley of The Mamas & the Papas tunes. The group put out several good tunes including "Will You Be Staying After Sunday", which hit the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at #32 in 1969. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.

Wonderful World was written in the late 1950s by Sam Cooke, Lou Adler and Herb Alpert. It was first attributed to the pseudonym Barbara Campbell who was Sam's high school sweetheart for fear it would turn off his enormous following in Spiritual music. The Hermits' also put out a version.

We Gotta Get out of This Place, occasionally written "We've Gotta Get out of This Place", is a rock song written by Brill Building writers Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and recorded as a 1965 hit single by The Animals. It has become an iconic song of its type and was immensely popular among United States Armed Forces during the Vietnam War.


You Really Got Me by The Kinks was released in August 1964 as the group's third single, and reached Number 1 on the UK singles chart for two weeks and made it to number 7 on the US charts. Musicologist Robert Walser wrote that it was this song that invented heavy metal sound.

Johnny Burnette had a hit with "You're sixteen" in December of 1960.  On August 14, 1964, Burnette's unlit fishing boat was struck by a large cabin cruiser on Clearlake, California. The impact threw him off the boat and he drowned.

(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher was a hit R&B song originally performed by Jackie Wilson in 1967 and hit again in 1977 for Rita Coolidge.

You Can't Always Get What You Want was recorded by the Rolling Stones on November 16 and 17 in 1968 at London's Olympic Sound Studios. It features the London Bach Choir opening the song, highlighting throughout, and bringing it to its conclusion. Jimmy Miller, the Rolling Stones' producer at the time, plays drums on this song instead of Charlie Watts. Al Kooper plays piano and organ and also played the French horn intro, while Rocky Dijon plays congas and maracas.   A popular story of the song's origins involves Jagger's experience at a drug store in the town of Excelsior, Minnesota in 1964, when Mick Jagger, having played at the Danceland ballroom the night before, was standing in line to get his prescription filled at the Excelsior drugstore. A local man named Jimmy Heutmaker started a conversation with him about how he loved his cherry coke but that morning he was given a different flavor and shrugged “Mr. Jagger, you can’t always get what you want…”

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