Here’s the final batch of Music Musings and Miscellany’s unapologetically subjective selection of the twentieth century’s best 1000 singles.
CANDI STATON – Young Hearts Run Free / I Know (Warner 1976)
Looking back at their careers, I would hazard a guess that most of the great soul singers would probably look at their disco period and cringe a bit. You can count on the fingers of one hand how many of the best disco singles were made by established soul stars. Young Hearts Run Free is a glorious exception to that rule, a tale of ‘don’t do what I did’ that sounds euphoric rather than full of regret. Soulful and cheese-free.
BOB & MARCIA – Young, Gifted and Black / version (Harry J 1970)
It was common practice in the late sixties and early seventies in Jamaica to take the latest hot new soul and R&B tunes and cover them in a reggae style. Very occasionally, the cover struck a chord more neatly than the original. That was the case with Bob Andy and Marcia Griffiths’ Harry Johnson produced version of the Nina Simone anthem, certainly in the UK. Possibly because it sounds purely celebratory and untinged with the weight of history, or perhaps because it just fits with the island rhythms.
CLOVERS – Your Cash Ain’t Nothin’ But Trash / I’ve Got My Eyes On You (Atlantic 1954)
A funny song about the come-uppance of a blameless fellow who thinks he’s going to enjoy his new roll. Wrong. Even the mugger sees him as pitiful. It sounds like classic Lieber & Stoller, but in fact was written by Atlantic veteran, the multi-talented Jesse Stone. The Clovers saw themselves primarily as a ballad group, but with one or two exceptions, it’s their uptempo and humorous numbers that still resonate more than half a century later.
KRISTIN HERSH – Your Ghost / The Key / Uncle June And Aunt Kiyoti / When The Levee Breaks (4AD 1994)
I think Hips and Makers is a neglected masterpiece, every bit as good as any Throwing Muses album (bar the first). With Michael Stipe aboard (and remember, REM were just about the biggest band on the planet in 1994), this was definitely a calculated push towards the mainstream. It didn’t quite happen. Stellar guest aside, it’s simply a great song.
LOVE – Your Mind and We Belong Together / Laughing Stock (Elektra 1968)
Forever Changes bombed in the US when it came out. It didn’t in Blighty, but even so, it’s one of those weird quirks of history that a record so venerated down the years was a commercial failure on its release. The band were falling apart, and by the time Four Sail came out in 1969, Arthur Lee had gotten rid of the lot of them. This 45 was a last hurrah by the classic line-up, and although it’s probably owned by hundreds of thousands of people in the form of bonus cuts on their CD copies of Forever Changes, it’s still obscure. But they’re great songs – a little ragged, perhaps, but certainly deserving more than postscript status.
THIRTEENTH FLOOR ELEVATORS – You’re Gonna Miss Me / Tried To Hide (International Artists 1966)
That weird burbling noise is the electric jug, a sound pretty much unique to history’s greatest acid-drenched garage band. Lysergic punk of the highest order.
ESG – You’re No Good / UFO / Moody (Factory 1981)
These three songs originally comprised the first side of ESG’s debut mini LP for 99 Records. Factory took them, and put them out as a seven inch in the UK. Sparse and airy, and dominated by Leroy Glover’s walking bass line, the Scroggins sisters sounded like nothing else around before or since. Absolutely hypnotic music. I saw them nearly a quarter of a century on at ATP, and live they were just incredible.
JAMES CARR – You’ve Got My Mind Messed Up / That’s What I Want To Know (Goldwax 1966)
An apt title for a singer who struggled with severe depression all his life. When it comes to the southern soul ballad, nobody can touch Carr – not even Otis. He should have been a huge star, but it never really happened for him, partly because of his mental health problems.
RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS – You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ / There’s a Woman (Philles 1964)
I’m not a huge fan of Spector’s Wall of Sound productions. Granted they were tailored for AM radio, but too often they sound like they were recorded at the bottom of a well. This one works, though. Serious melodrama on an epic scale. The birth of the power ballad?
MIRACLES – You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me / Happy Landing (Tamla 1962)
Nearly ten per cent of this list is accounted for by the Motown group of labels, so it’s fitting to end with one of the songs that really put them on the map.
And that, my friends, is that. This list started in October 2008, and the whys, whats and wherefores were all dealt with here. I hope that I’ve inspired a few people to dig out old tunes they’d forgotten, or to seek out stuff they’d not heard.
My disclaimer at the beginning of each part that it’s a purely subjective list is important. Nobody’s trying to be definitive here. And if I did it again, I’m sure there’d be plenty of changes. No Beatles – well that probably seems absurd to most people. I’m not being deliberately iconoclastic. I just don’t like any of their singles as much as I like these ones. If Tomorrow Never Knows, Within You Without You, Helter Skelter or A Day in the Life had been 45s, they’d have been in – no question.
A few stats. My favourite year appears to be 1966 with 55 entries. By decade, they break down as follows:
1900s – 0
1910s – 1
1920s – 25
1930s – 12
1940s – 23
1950s – 81
1960s – 274
1970s – 222
1980s – 218
1990s – 144
Top act is the Temptations with 11.
Finally, the honoury 1001st 45 goes to Limmie & the Family Cooking’s You Can Do Magic (Avco 1973). A breezy pop soul tune, and the first single I ever bought.