Sunday, November 2, 2008

1966: Righteous Brothers, Mamas & The Papas, Beatles, Spoonful

Righteous Brothers -- (You're My) Soul and Inspiration

This was baritone Bill Medley and tenor Bobby Hatfield's final Top Ten  and the last one they would enjoy until 1974's "Rock and Roll Heaven." It was composed by Brill Building stalwarts Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil a couple of years before, when Medley and Hatfield were still under the tutelage of maestro Phil Spector. After Spector sold their contracts to MGM and its subsidiary Verve for $1 million in 1966, the Righteous Brothers wanted to make a solid impression right away and revisited the song, which was the right choice as it became all-time biggest hit. But the two never clicked again at MGM the way they had with Spector.

Mamas and the Papas, Monday, Monday

At three weeks at Number One "Monday, Monday" was likewise this California quintet's biggest smash. John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, Denny Dougherty and Ellen "Mama Cass" Cohen had all previously performed in folk groups in Southern California and wound up together in the Virgin Islands; all this is given the Readers' Digest condensation treatment in a later smash, "Creeque Alley."  Oddly the Mamas and the Papas were the first equally sexually integrated pop group in the rock and roll era, with two men and two women.

Composed by John Phillips and with a lead by Denny, "Monday, Monday" is a general lament of the least-preferred day of the week; the topic would later be revisited by the Boomtown Rats in "I Don't Like Mondays." Phillips said in interviews that he had no idea what the song actually meant, though. It has one of the great false endings in pop, too.

The Beatles: We Can Work It Out

This was the Beatles' Christmas single in 1965, backed with "Day Tripper" which was a Top Ten charter itself; rare was the Beatles 45 that wasn't a hit on both sides of the disc. Rubber Soul came out the same day, so Christmas 1965 was a very good year for the lads, who were nearing the top of their game by then. 

Starting with this song, however, a pattern started that would persist, with some exceptions, till the Beatles broke up in 1970: a song sung by Paul would be the A, and a Lennon on the B. Eventually this would come to rankle John to no end, though the cracks in the lads' armor were nowhere near showing at this point. "We Can Work It Out" was composed equally by Paul, who did the optimistic verses "try to see it my way" and John, who did the middle eight "there's no time for fussing and fighting, my friend." There is no lead guitar on this track, so George has not much to do except play the  tambourine, while John's harmonium is prominent throughout.

Lovin' Spoonful, Summer in the City

Pretty much no song evokes the hot, humid, blistering summer of New York City better than "Summer in the City," co-composed by Mark Sebastian, John Sebastian's brother. Released in July '66 "Summer" was the Spoonful's 5th single on the Kama Sutra label and their sole Number One. It boasts a more muscular production that their previous hits, as well as traffic and jackhammer sound effects. Singer John Sebastian and guitarist Zal Yanovsky ran in the same circles in the California clubs that members of the Mamas and the Papas did; Cass Elliott brought the two together. The band was formed in Greenwich Village, taking its name for a line in a song by bluesman Mississippi John Hurt. 


Joe Hedio said...

"Summer In the City" is one of my fave rave songs of all time. I remember listening to it when it was a hit as a wee lad o' four. The Lovin' Spoonful had a very hot streak of songs from '65 to '67. John Sebastian actually played here in the Witch City about nine years ago. He did a mostly acoustic jugband set w/very few Spoonful songs.

Kevin Walsh said...

In 1968, a WMCA deejay played a John Sebastian single to begin his show, and kept playing it for his entire shift. I forget who it was...