John William Tuohy lives in Washington DC

Songs of the Sixties Trivia By John William Tuohy


Larry Verne had a hit in 1960 with the novelty song Mr. Custer about a reluctant Calvary solider under General Custer’s command.  The song sold over one million records in a month, hit the number two spot on the US charts and was number one in England.  Unhappy with music industries accounting procedures, Verne left the business and became a leading set builder in Hollywood films for the next three decades.

The wonderful Johnny Rivers was the second artist to have a hit with Mountain of Love. A guy named Harold Dorman wrote the song and released it in 1960. It landed in the top forty and then disappeared as did Mr. Dorman. Johnny Rivers 1964 remake charted at number nine of the Billboard Charts. Johnny Rivers was actually born in New York City in 1942as John Henry Ramistella.  The family’s roots are in Baton Rouge, but technically, Johnny Rivers is a New Yorker.  A 1958 chance meeting with music legend Alan Freed led John Henry Ramistella to change his name to Johnny Rivers.  As a child River taught himself to play the guitar. While a high school junior he sat in with a band led by a guy named Dick Holler who would later go on to write Abraham, Martin and John, (A hit for Dion) as well as Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron. (Other members of that group, The Rockets, included Mac Rebebback later known as Dr. John who had a series of hits in the 1970s including In the Right Place, and Don Smith and Cyril Vetter who penned the song Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)   Johnny Rivers considered leaving the music business when, in 1963, he recorded the theme song for an English TV show called Danger Man, starring Patrick McGoohan (Who was also born in New York to parents who came to the city looking for work and who was Irish not English) The American version of the song was renamed Secret Agent Man and in 1966 it reached number 3 on the charts and sold well over a million copies.  His other hits in that decade included Maybellene Mountain of Love, Midnight Special, Seventh Son, Poor Side of Town, Baby I need Your Lovin, Tracks of My Tears and Memphis. According to Elvis Presley’s friend and employee Alan Fortes, Elvis played his version of Memphis to Rivers to see if the singer liked. He did. Rivers recorded his own version of the song which outsold Chuck Berry’s original 1959 version and hit it big on the charts.   After that said Fortes Johnny was on Elvis's shit list and was persona non grata from then on. With or without Elvis, River sold over 30,000,000 records and in the mid-1960s, River opened his own label and produced a series of hits including The Fifth Dimension’s Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In and Wedding Bells Blues. He also commissioned their other hit Up, Up and Away written by Jimmy Webb. 

The 1965 hit it's My Life by The Animals only made it to number 23 in the US. Oddly enough it was a Brill Building hit. The Brill Building in Manhattan housed dozens of professional song writers which produced the Brill Building sound of the early 1960s.Amoung its writers was Carole King, a baby boomer favorite. The Brill Building influence died out with the British Invasion groups since the English usually wrote their own songs. However Brill Building writers also wrote We've Gotta Get Out of This Place and Don't Bring Me Down both hits for the Animals.  Carl D'Errico said  'It's My Life came about when Mickie Most, the producer of The Animals, said he was looking for songs for the group. The writers got busy writing and then handed in their acetates and there was a tall stack of them waiting for Mickie when he came in from London. Three of the songs in that stack were We Gotta Get Out of This Place, Don't Bring Me Down and It's My Life. Actually, the melody for It's My Life was the second one that I wrote for it. When I played the first one for Emil, he said that it didn't have enough punch and it was the wrong groove, so I rewrote it. After the rewrite everyone knew it was a hit. Some of the writers would play their songs for one another to get feedback - we used these small rooms with pianos in them, so people would hop around and check out what was happening next oor. Here’s a strange fact, The Animals were the warm up band for Herman's Hermits on US tour in the sixties.

Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter is a British popular folk song made famous by Herman's Hermits, who took it to number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in April 1965. The song was well known to British bands; it would often be performed at birthday parties, substituting the name of the girl whose party was being celebrated, i.e. Mrs. Smith or Mrs. Jones instead of Mrs. Brown.

Monday Monday by The Mamas & The Papas came around when Denny Doherty, the group’s lead male singer pushed the group’s songwriter John Phillips to come up with some new material. Phillips said he would come back in the morning with “with universal appeal.” And he did, he wrote Monday Monday.

My Love was a number 1 hit for Petula Clark in 1966, but she hated the song which was her second #1 hit in the US, making her the  first British solo act to have two #1 singles in the States. Her first #1 was Downtown, released the previous year. Tony Hatch wrote the song on plane from London to LA and recalled that he was somewhere near the North Pole when Hatch started writing it.

Mr. Bo jangles is a popular country song originally written and recorded by artist Jerry Jeff Walker for his 1968 album of the same title. Since then, it has been covered by many other artists, including The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, whose version (recorded for the 1970 album Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy) was issued as a single and rose to number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart in 1971. Walker has said he was inspired to write the song after an encounter with a street performer in a New Orleans jail and does not refer to the famous stage and movie personality Bill "Bo jangles" Robinson. Walker said while in jail for public intoxication in 1965, he met a homeless white man who called himself "Mr. Bo jangles" to conceal his true identity from the police. He had been arrested as part of a police sweep of indigent people that was carried out following a high-profile murder. The two men and others in the cell chatted about all manner of things, but when Mr. Bo jangles told a story about his dog, the mood in the room turned heavy. Someone else in the cell asked for something to lighten the mood, and Mr. Bo jangles obliged with a tap dance.

Moon River was composed by Johnny Mercer (lyrics) and Henry Mancini (music) in 1961 and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It was originally sung in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's by Audrey Hepburn. It later became the theme song for Andy Williams, who first recorded it in 1961 and performed it at the Academy Awards ceremonies in 1962. He sang the first eight bars at the beginning of his television show and also named his production company and venue in Branson, Missouri after it. Henry Mancini was a composer, conductor and arranger, best remembered for his film and television scores. He won a record number of Grammy Awards (20), including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously in 1995. His best-known works include the jazz-idiom theme to The Pink Panther film series, the Peter Gunn Theme from the television series, and back-to-back Academy Awards for the songs "Moon River" from the Blake Edwards film Breakfast at Tiffany's and "Days of Wine and Roses" from the 1962 film Days of Wine and Roses.  Mancini was born and raised Enrico Nicola Mancini in the Little Italy neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in the steel town of West Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. His parents emigrated from the Abruzzo region of Italy. Mancini recorded over 90 albums, in styles ranging from big band to classical to pop. Eight of these albums were certified gold by The Recording Industry Association of America.

Midnight Rambler by The Rolling Stones, released on their 1969 album Let It Bleed. The lyrics take the point of view of a roaming rapist/murderer; some of the words are reportedly quotes from Albert DeSalvo's confession to the Boston Strangler's crimes.

My Back Pages was written by Bob Dylan but was a small hot for The Byrd’s in 1967, the band's last Top 40 hit in the U.S. In the song's lyrics, Dylan criticizes himself for having been certain that he knew everything and apologizes for his previous political preaching, noting that he has become his own enemy "in the instant that I preach." Dylan questions whether one can really distinguish between right and wrong, and even questions the desirability of the principle of equality. The lyrics also signal Dylan's disillusionment with the 1960's protest movement and his intention to abandon protest songwriting. The song effectively analogizes the protest movement to the establishment it is trying to overturn.

Misty Blue' is a song written by Bob Montgomery in 1966.  Montgomery wrote the song for Brenda Lee; he recalls: "I wrote 'Misty Blue' in about twenty minutes. It was a gift and it was perfect for Brenda Lee, but she turned it down. Her producer Owen Bradley loved the song and as he couldn’t push her to do it, he cut it country style with Wilma Burgess." 

Massachusetts by the Bee Gees.  Shortly after it was recorded, Beatles manager Brian Epstein told him that it was beautiful and would be the hit of the summer. These proved to be Epstein's last words to Maurice; Epstein died a few days later. When Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb wrote the song, it was originally intended to be recorded by The Seekers, but they did not record it. The Seekers finally recorded it after Maurice Gibb's death in 2003, as a tribute to him. When the Bee gees wrote the song, they had never been to, "Massachusetts." They liked the sound of the word and wrote the song on a boat near the Statue of Liberty. The Bee Gees were originally made up of three brothers: Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb. Born in the Isle of Man to English parents, the Gibb brothers lived their first few years in England, then moved in the late 1950s to Brisbane Australia, where they began their musical careers. After achieving their first chart success in Australia with "Spicks and Specks", they returned to the United Kingdom in January 1967. It has been estimated that the Bee Gees' career record sales total more than 220 million, making them one of the best-selling music artists of all time.  Their second British single ‘New York Mining Disaster 1941", was issued to radio stations with a blank white label listing only the song title. Some DJs immediately assumed this was a new Beatles' single and started playing the song in heavy rotation. This helped the song climb into the Top 20 in both the United Kingdom and the United States. The Bee Gees' second single, "To Love Somebody", into the Top 2. The song   was originally written for Otis Redding. Another single, "Holiday" was released in the United States, peaking at #16 and "Massachusetts" hit #11 on the charts  Two more singles followed in early 1968, the ballad "Words" (#15 US, #8 UK) and the double A-sided single "Jumbo" b/w "The Singer Sang His Song". "Jumbo" was the Bee Gees' least successful single to date only reaching #57. Further Bee Gees chart singles followed: "I've Gotta Get a Message to You" (#8 US, #1 UK) and "I Started A Joke" (#6 US). Following Maurice's sudden death in January 2003, Barry and Robin Gibb ended the group after forty-five years of activity.

MacArthur Park is a song written by Jimmy Webb that was originally composed as part of an intended cantata. The song was initially rejected by The Association. Richard Harris was the first to record the song, in 1968.  The lyrics, which include the lines "Someone left the cake out in the rain/I don't think that I can take it/'Cause it took so long to bake it/And I'll never have that recipe again", are symbolic and metaphorical. Nevertheless, the song has found its way on to many "worst songs of all time" lists. The song begins as a poem about love, and moves into a lover's lament. When asked by interviewer Terry Gross what was going through his mind when he wrote the lyrics, Webb replied that the lyrics were meant to be symbolic, and they referred to the end of a love affair. Throughout his recording, Harris can be heard using the incorrect possessive form, "MacArthur's Park". Webb has said he tried correcting Harris during re-takes, but gave up when he simply could not (or would not) sing the correct words.

Mony Mony was a 1968 single by Tommy James & the Shondells, that reached #1 in England. The hook in the song is said to have been inspired by James' view of a MONY sign atop the Mutual of New York Building in the New York City skyline from his Manhattan apartment. As Tommy James said “True story: I had the track done before I had a title. I wanted something catchy like "Sloopy" or "Bony Maroney," but everything sounded so stupid. So Ritchie Cordell and I were writing it in New York City, and we were about to throw in the towel when I went out onto the terrace, looked up and saw the Mutual of New York building (which has its initials illuminated in red at its top). I said, "That's gotta be it! Ritchie, come here, you've gotta see this!" It's almost as if God Himself had said, "Here's the title." I've always thought that if I had looked the other way, it might have been called "Hotel Taft."

Mrs. Robinson by Simon and Garfunkel. When released as a single in 1968, it hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, for their second chart-topping hit after "The Sounds of Silence".  According to a Variety article by Peter Bart in the May 15, 2005 issue, director Mike Nichols had become obsessed with Simon & Garfunkel's music while shooting the film. Larry Turman, his producer, made a deal for Simon to write three new songs for the movie. By the time they were nearly finished the film, Simon had only written one new song. Nichols begged him for more but Simon, who was touring constantly, told him he didn't have the time. He did play him a few notes of a new song he had been working on; "It's not for the movie... it's a song about times past — about Mrs. Roosevelt and Joe DiMaggio and stuff." Nichols advised Simon, "It's now about Mrs. Robinson, not Mrs. Roosevelt."

My Cherie Amour was a 1969 hit for Stevie Wonder. The song was originally recorded in 1966, but not released (it was subsequently remixed for release in 1969). The song was co-written by Wonder and was an autobiographical account by him about a woman he was fascinated with while in school at the Michigan School for the Blind in Lansing, Michigan.  The song was originally written as "Oh My Marcia", for Stevie's girlfriend but after they broke up the lyrics were changed to cherie amour.

My Way was popularized by Frank Sinatra. Its lyrics were written by Paul Anka and set to music based on the French song "Comme d'habitude" composed in 1967 by Claude Fran├žois and Jacques Revaux, with lyrics by Claude Fran├žois and Gilles Thibault.  Anka's English lyrics are unrelated to the original French song.  Paul Anka heard the original 1967 French pop song, Comme d'habitude (as usual) while on vacation in the south of France. He flew to Paris to negotiate the rights to the song. "I thought it was a bad record” he said “but there was something in it." 

No comments: