Tag Archives: 1966

CSOTD 12/25/16: The plow will bury the sword

Merry Christmas everyone!  I hope you’ve enjoyed my Christmas Song of the Day feature again this year, and I hope it has added to your enjoyment of the season. Perhaps you discovered a new favorite song you’ll want to make part of your own holiday traditions.

My Christmas Song of the Day for December 25 is one I’ve known for almost 50 years. I first heard it in 1967, when my parents bought the album A Very Merry Christmas at the local W.T. Grant store, which at the time was in the Souderton Shopping Center just outside Souderton, Pa. (I grew up in neighboring Telford.) It was the first “grown-up” album I can remember being allowed to play on my dad’s stereo system, and I really liked it. It started my lifelong love of Christmas music.

Probably because of the kind of music we listened to on records (i.e., kiddie records for us and my dad’s classical albums for him), there was a disconnect between what was on LP and what was on the radio. They seemed to be two different universes. And then, I heard today’s song on the radio. For the first time, something we had on record was coming from the FM dial! It was yet another life-altering event.

The song that bridged the gap between records and radio was “Touch Hands on Christmas Morning” by Mike Douglas.

Douglas was a well-known daytime talk-show host based in Philadelphia. His nationally syndicated show started a couple years before Merv Griffin’s similar program; for years, they dominated daytime talk until Phil Donahue came along. For the most part, Douglas’ show was a mellower version of The Tonight Show, with celebrity chit-chat and music.

It turned out that Douglas could sing, too. In early 1966, at the same time that “Barbara Ann” by the Beach Boys and “Nowhere Man” by the Beatles were in the top 10, his salute to “The Men in My Little Girl’s Life” was right there with them. He would go on to make several LPs, one of which was a Christmas album in 1967. A year before the holiday LP, “Touch Hands on Christmas Morning” was issued as one side of a 45.

The song has some great lyrics, including its chorus: “Pray that with tomorrow, the plow will bury the sword,” a restatement of the theme of “peace on earth” found in both Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3 in the Old Testament. It’s an uplifting number for a glorious Christmas Day, and I hope you find it that way, too.

Updating a legend into the top 10

I’m starting to prepare for returning to the radio as a DJ after more than 30 years off the air. A lot has changed since then, most notably in that there are no more D’s to J.  The station doesn’t even have a compact disc player any more, much less turntables or – as disc jockeys of the past will remember – carts. (They were kind of like 8-track tapes, only even more ornery.) Everything is on computer files now.

It does present some challenges for someone like myself who believes that music is best in some kind of physical format. I’ve been starting to transfer some CD compilations I made a few years back onto a stick or thumb drive (I guess those are the same thing).  This thing, a quarter the size of my phone, holds something like six hours of music! And that’s in the form of uncompressed WAV files, too. Think how many MP3s would fit! (They’d sound pretty icky on the radio, though.)

The station is WSWE-LP, 92.7 FM, the college radio station of Sweet Briar College, just south of Amherst, Va. Right now it has a power of about 100 watts, but depending on elevation, weather and other obstacles, I’ve been able to hear it a good distance south of campus, though there are certain areas where it doesn’t come in at all. The station’s pretty free-form; even their automated system is eclectic. In between songs released just this year, they threw in “Pretty Ballerina” by the Left Banke, a hit in early 1967, which I think is the oldest song I’ve heard on the station so far.

Once I know more, I’ll let you know more. I’ll probably be doing two hours a week for now. The station also isn’t yet set up for streaming, but that, I am told, will come soon, too.

Anyway, I know you’re here for another entry from The Top 1,000 Hits of the 1960s, and I’m happy to oblige.

Early in their career, Peter & Gordon had three straight hits, including a #1, with songs written for them by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (actually McCartney by himself; Lennon contributed nothing to any of those three hits).  But their second biggest hit had nothing to do with the Beatles, but with a much older British legend.

# 698
Lady Godiva / Peter & Gordon /
Capitol 5740
(Total points: 1,051 /  Chart debut: 10/8/1966 / Chart peak: 6 / Weeks on chart: 14)

Lady Godiva – a real person – was the wife of 11th century Anglo-Saxon nobleman Leofric, Earl of Mercia. She lived just before and after the Norman conquest of 1066 and, after surviving her husband, was one of very few Anglo-Saxons who continued to own significant amounts of land after the invasion. She died sometime before 1086. But she is best known for a mythical event: According to the most common version of the legend, which first was told some 200 years after her death, she rode naked through the streets of Coventry on a dare, covered only by her long hair, to protest her husband’s oppressive taxation of the townsfolk; after she did so, he rolled back the levies.

In 1966, songwriters Mike Leander and Charles Mills brought the legend into the modern era with “Lady Godiva,” Peter & Gordon’s second-biggest American hit single and the first of two songs they have in the Top 1,000 Hits of the 1960s.

The modern Lady Godiva is a 17-year-old beauty queen who, during her famous ride, is seen by a Hollywood director who promises to make her a star, but he turns out to be in the X-rated film business. Paul Jones, shortly after he left the group Manfred Mann, recorded the original version for his LP My Way. John Burgess, Peter & Gordon’s producer, who also produced the Jones album, brought “Lady Godiva” to the duo as a possible single. Gordon Waller loved it, but Peter Asher didn’t; he had to be talked into recording the song.

Performed in the British music-hall style that was popular in the U.S. during the early years of the British Invasion, “Lady Godiva” took some time to get going, but it eventually peaked at #6 just before Christmas in 1966. It was Peter & Gordon’s first Top 10 single since “I Go to Pieces” had reached #9 in early 1965.

Collector’s notes: “Lady Godiva” was originally released in the U.S. with a Geoff Stephens composition, “The Town I Live In,” on the B-side. Both an advertisement and the 45 review in the October 26, 1966 Billboard mention this as the flip. But this record was taken off the market, possibly less than a week after it was issued. Today, it is considered to be among the rarest Capitol 45s. It is known to exist on both East Coast and West Coast pressings.

The “standard” version of the 45 has “Morning’s Calling,” the same B-side as on the British release of “Lady Godiva,” on the flip side. This is common on both East Coast and West Coast extra-bold editions. A variation of the East Coast pressing has the perimeter print at the bottom of the label in yellow rather than the standard white.

“Lady Godiva” was not issued with a picture sleeve.

Fast fact: Peter & Gordon’s follow-up single, “Knight in Rusty Armour,” done in a similar style to “Lady Godiva,” made the top 20 in early 1967, and “Sunday for Tea” made the top 40. But those would be the duo’s last hits.

Having a rave-up with Count Five

In the 1960s — indeed, for many years thereafter — a great way to get a hit single was to imitate someone else’s sound and do it well.  There were numerous examples of this, but one of the biggest (and best) was from a group that heard the Yardbirds’ Top 20 hit version of “I’m a Man” and wrote their own song that followed a similar format. In so doing, they not only had their only hit single, but it was bigger than anything the Yardbirds ever had in the United States!

In today’s TimNeelyStuff entry from The Top 1,000 Hits of the 1960s, read about the song inspired by both the Yardbirds and a freshman health class in college.

# 754
Psychotic Reaction / Count Five /
Double-Shot 104
(Total points: 1,011 / Chart debut: 9/10/1966 / Chart peak: 5 / Weeks on chart: 12)

Sometimes, a great imitation is every bit as good as the real thing. In the case of “Psychotic Reaction,” it was not only as good, it was bigger.

The record had all the qualities of the Yardbirds as heard in their version of “I’m a Man,” a #17 hit in 1965: wailing harmonica; wild guitar; a singer who, though not technically proficient, was perfect for the song; and, finally, a so-called “rave-up,” where the instrumental portion became faster and louder until, finally, the tension broke. Yet not only was it not the Yardbirds, Count Five didn’t even come from England.

Instead, it was the first single by a five-piece band from San Jose, California that had gone through several names before deciding on Count Five (originally Count V, with the Roman numeral for five rather than the spelled-out number). Consisting of John “Mouse” Michalski (lead guitar), Roy Chaney (bass guitar), Jean “Sean” Byrne (rhythm guitar and vocals), Kenn Ellner (tambourine, harmonica, vocals) and Craig “Butch” Atkinson (drums), they were turned down by several labels before signing with Double-Shot.

“Psychotic Reaction” started as a lyric by Byrne, inspired by a lesson in a Health Education class he took his freshman year at San Jose City College. Each member of the band contributed to the final product; all five received songwriting credit on the record. In the end, their Yardbirds homage peaked one position higher than any Yardbirds song ever did, and it’s remembered as both a garage-rock classic and as an early influence on punk rock and heavy metal.

An album centered on the hit failed, and several other singles failed to excite. By 1969, Count Five had broken up. But “Psychotic Reaction” was exciting then, and it remains exciting today.

Collector’s notes: The single stayed in print on the Double-Shot (later Double Shot with no hyphen) label for more than a decade with the same catalog number.

Original copies have the company logo at the top of the label, a “target” in the letter O, and the slogan “every shot counts” underneath. They also have the address of the label as “1608 Argyle Ave., Hollywood, Calif.” Some 1966 pressings also contain a phone number and the added credit “Promotion in Motion: Irwin Zucker”; these came after the 45s that don’t have these items.

Later copies moved the logo to the left side of the label, have different addresses, and still have the Irwin Zucker credit. Some of these even have both sides of the single in stereo rather than the original, powerful mono mix.

Fast fact: Hal Winn and Joe Hooven, who founded and ran Double Shot Records, Count Five’s label, wrote two songs found elsewhere in our countdown: “Cindy’s Birthday” by Johnny Crawford and “Theme from Dr. Kildare (Three Stars Will Shine Tonight)” by Richard Chamberlain.

Dionne Warwick sends a “message”

Today we’ll take a look at a song that was a Top 10 hit for Dionne Warwick in 1966, even though the composers of the song didn’t want her to record it!  Read on for the full story as I continue to highlight some of the entries in the unpublished book, The Top 1,000 Hits of the 1960s.

In case you haven’t been following, the final positions are based on a mathematical formula applied to every Billboard magazine Hot 100 chart from the first week of January 1960 to the last week of December 1969, with weeks in 1959 and 1970 added in where needed to compile a song’s complete consecutive chart run. (By doing so, no songs were unfairly omitted because they peaked too early in 1960 or too late in 1969.)

# 986
Message to Michael / Dionne Warwick /
Scepter SCE 12133
(Total points: 884 / Chart debut: 4/2/1966 / Chart peak: 8 / Weeks on chart: 12)

By the time “Message to Michael” became Dionne Warwick’s third Top 10 single – and her first in almost two years – the song already had a long, convoluted history. Warwick’s version marked the third different title for the previously luckless Burt Bacharach-Hal David composition. Adding to the intrigue was that its co-writers adamantly did not want Warwick to record it!

The first of eight Warwick recordings in the top 1,000 of the 1960s originated with Jerry Butler, whom you’ll also encounter several times in this countdown. He recorded it under the title “Message to Martha” in 1962. It remained unreleased until his December 1963 album Need to Belong (Vee-Jay 1072), the cover of which was reissued in 1964 using the title Giving Up on Love, though the labels retained the original name. Even on that first release, it was given no respect; both the LP cover and the label give credit to “Leiber-Stoller” (Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) as the composers!

Next, Lou Johnson, who recorded many Bacharach-David songs without ever having a Top 40 hit with one, waxed it under the title “Kentucky Bluebird” on Big Hill 553. The best his version could do was the Bubbling Under the Hot 100 chart, peaking at #104. Johnson’s version also was released in England, where Adam Faith quickly covered it on Parlophone (R 5201) using the combined title “A Message to Martha (Kentucky Bluebird)”; his version made the top 20 in the U.K. Faith’s version was not issued as a single in the United States, though it did appear on the self-titled album (Amy 8005) his U.S. label compiled in early 1965 to capitalize on the Top 40 success of the song “It’s Alright.”

And there the song rested until in early 1966, Dionne Warwick suggested that her co-headliner at the Paris Olympia Theater, the popular French singer Sasha Distel, use “A Message to Martha” as part of his show. A backing track was prepared, but then he decided against singing it. Hating for that instrumental to go to waste, Warwick then contemplated using it herself. But when she told Bacharach and David of her plan, they strenuously objected, as they still regarded it as a male song. David added that “Michael,” a name he hated, was the only man’s name that would work in the lyrics. Warwick took his objection as a suggestion, though, and recorded it that way while she was still in Paris. It would be the only one of her Scepter hits not produced by Bacharach and David.

Scepter still had to battle the composers to sign off on releasing the newly rechristened “Message to Michael” as a single. Steve Tyrell, who later became a popular interpreter of jazz and pop standards, was working at Scepter in 1966 and believed in Warwick’s version; he was able to convince Bacharach and David to have it released, but agreed to bury it on the B-side of “Here Where There Is Love.” Indeed, when Billboard reviewed the new 45 in its March 12, 1966 issue, it noted the chart potential for “Here Where There Is Love” and mentioned “Message to Michael” only in passing, in its role as the flip side.

However, Scepter worked to undermine Bacharach and David on other fronts. Every copy of the original Scepter 45 has the number “SCE 12133 A” on the “Message to Michael” side. In the same March 12 issue in which Billboard reviewers essentially ignored the song, the label took out a front-page ad in Billboard to promote it. Finally, Tyrell personally flew to New Orleans, which is mentioned prominently in the lyrics, and got the city’s WTIX radio to start playing it immediately. The song spread nationally from there.

Not only did Warwick’s recording peak at #8 on the pop charts, it also did even better on the R&B chart, making it to #5. And Hal David did finally admit that the song worked as sung by a female; he wrote in his book What the World Needs Now and Other Love Lyrics in 1968, “Dionne’s vocal was so brilliant that it was obvious we had subconsciously written the song for her, even while we thought we were writing it for a man.”

Collector’s notes: All copies of the original Scepter 45 are basically identical. It was not issued with a picture sleeve.

Fast fact: Warwick debuted her version of “Message to Michael” on the TV show Hullabaloo on March 9, 1966, the same week as the aforementioned Billboard ad and non-review.