A nostalgic random selection of great popular music from the 60s and 70s mostly; an era that is a treasure trove of styles from pop, rock, blues, psychedelia, reggae, ska, folk, funk, metal, R&B, Motown, surf rock, punk, new wave and including jazz, country and big band elements. Musical tapas you could say from the most influential, diverse decades in musical history.
Countdown of 100 favourites:
Bonus. Billy Field - You Weren't In Love With Me
Gravely-voiced Aussie funkiness from 2 hit wonder Billy Field. This is the better of his two hit songs, the other being Bad Habits.
#100. Mason Williams - Classical Gas
Love the acoustic guitar. The orchestration is a tad over-blown though.
#99. Alive 'n' Kicking - Tighter, Tighter
70s soft rock written by Tommy James of The Shondells who covered Crystal Blue Persuasion but also came up with shite like Mony Mony and Crimson & Clover. A mixed bag was Tommy.
#98. Tommy James & The Shondells - Crystal Blue Persuasion
A quasi-religious tune inspired by the Book Of Revelation but mistakenly believed to be a drug reference.
Tommy James & the Shondells were invited to perform at Woodstock but turned it down to sit around a pool and drink margaritas in Hawaii instead. I guess they had to do what the Lord inspired them to do.
#97. Lovin' Spoonful - Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind
A poppy, upbeat number that I wasn't sure should be included. But the song title won me over.
#96. Men at Work - Who Can It Be Now
Love the sax, love the lyrics, love Men At Work, love the fact that Colin Hay wrote this in a tree house at beautiful Bermagui.
#95. Five Man Electrical Band - Signs
Funky guitar intro and lyrics:
And the sign said "Long-haired freaky people need not apply" So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why He said "You look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you'll do" So I took off my hat, I said "Imagine that. Huh! Me workin' for you!"A
A perfect song for its time.
#94. Percy Faith - Theme From A Summer Place
This is the sort of music favoured for elevators and doctor's waiting rooms. If you're waiting on a prostate check then this is what you'd like to listen to.
#93. Scott McKenzie - San Francisco
I went to San Francisco once; but well after the Summer Of Love. Haight-Ashbury had become drug pusher central and the city had a beggar on every corner. Bubble burst. But this song still evokes hippydom, Janis Joplin, psychedelic rock and flowers in everybody's hair.
#92. The Shadows - Apache
If the Brits can borrow from blues and reggae then i guess they can have a shot at instrumental surf music as well. The Shadows did a good job with this.
#91. Norman Greenbaum - Spirit In The Sky
If Norman Greenbaum, as an observant Jew, can write this overtly happy clapper number then i guess, as an avowed atheist, i can enjoy it without subscribing to the sentiment. Same goes with George Harrison's My Sweet Lord and gospel music - I can listen without feeling any urge to shake a tambourine, speak in tongues or upgrade to a new BMW SUV ala the Jesus-shopping, god-wants-me-to-be-rich hypocrites.
#90. Sir Douglas Quintet - Mendocino
It was a coin toss whether this went into Funky But Forgotten or So Crap They Were Good. Heads won.
#89. Split Enz - Message To My Girl
Australia likes to nick things from New Zealand and claim them as our own but we couldn't get away with it with Split Enz. We had to wait, post-Enz, for when the outrageously talented Neil Finn formed Crowded House with a couple of Aussie members before we could do it.
Dear New Zealand - you can have Russell Crowe back but we'd like to keep Neil. Regards, Australia.
#88. Seals & Crofts - Summer Breeze
You can feel the warm breeze and smell the jasmine. This song doesn't need to do any more than that to qualify as funky.
#87. Leon Russell - Roll Away The Stone
Can an inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and the Songwriter's Hall of Fame be forgotten? I haven't heard any Leon Russell played for decades so perhaps so.
#86. Manfred Mann - Pretty Flamingo
There's a lot of Manfred Mann stuff i don't like that much - but this is pretty good.
#85. George Benson - Breezin'
The instrumental signature tune for Benson's Breezin' album that included other jazzy, bluesy soul such as On Broadway and The Masquerade. However you want to label them they are all funky.
#84. Zager & Evans - In The Year 2525
This dystopian view of our future was released in the same year than man first set foot on the moon, Planet Of The Apes and 2001: A Space Odyssey were released and David Bowie's Space Oddity hit #1. Given subsequent dark developments in ubiquitous technology, the alarming lurch to the right in politics and accelerated environmental destruction it's time this was re-released.
#83. Midnight Oil - Wedding Cake Island
Midnight Oil is front of mind when it comes to politically-edged Aussie rock but many forget, or never knew of their instrumental surf rock number Wedding Cake Island. This could be 1960s Altantics if you didn't know better (see #27).
#82. Harry Nilsson - Everybody's Talkin'.
It took this cover version of a Fred Neil song when featured in Midnight Cowboy to get Nilsson noticed. Not a fan of performing he was befriended by the Beatles who recognised his talent. Taking part in a performance of Monty Python's Lumberjack Song he fell off stage and disappeared, to be found 2 days later in hospital.
#81. 10cc - Dreadlock Holiday
A peppy tune about being mugged by rastas. The lyrics "don't you walk through my words" came from a bloke who was challenged when he walked through a group of black guys talking together.
#80. Roxy Music - Avalon
Avalon, More Than This, Jealous Guy, Don't Stop The Dance - magic. Roxy Music's Avalon album reached number 1 in Australia, NZ, Canada, UK, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands. It reached number 53 in the US. A country that elected Donald Trump as President. Case closed.
#79. Otis Redding - Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay
A posthumous #1 hit that Redding predicted but never got to see, dying in a plane crash only days after recording it. Co-written by Steve Cropper of Stax Records' house band Booker T & the MGs and a member of the Blues Brothers.
#78. Freddy Fender - Wasted Days & Wasted Nights
Freddy was a co-founder of the Texas Tornados, branded the "Tex-Mex equivalent of the Traveling Wilburys and Grateful Dead". Freddy had a bit of a tough gig - 3 years of porridge for possessing ganja, a drug and alcohol problem, with diabetes and hepatitis C he underwent kidney and liver transplants and a son died in a traffic accident. Funky song though Freddy.
#77. Lou Christie - Lightnin' Strikes
1966 - the hippie and anti-Vietnam movements ramped up as Frank Sinatra and The Sound of Music were the big award winners at the Grammy and Academy Awards. Lightnin' Strikes was a suitable segue into a new era when four of the most iconic albums in rock 'n' roll made their debuts - The Beatles' Revolver, The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and The Doors' self-titled LP.
#76. Smashmouth - Walking On The Sun
Can an American band with a song inspired by a particularly American event sound more British? Inspired by the 1992 police bashing of Rodney King i reckon this sounds more like The Clash than does Booker T's Time Is Tight (#75).
The first line is "It ain't no joke I'd like to buy the world a toke", a reference to a famous 1971 Coca-Cola commercial with "I'd like to buy the world a Coke." When the song took off, Smash Mouth heard from Coke's lawyers, but nothing came of it. Songfacts
#75. Booker T & the MGs - Time Is Tight
Mid-60s soul instrumental from 4 session musos that was covered by The Clash as a warm up number. Most un-Clashlike i would've thought, but funky is funky.
#74. Bob Seger - Roll Me Away
Whenever Bob Seger gets airplay it's always Old Time Rock And Roll while his other hits were far better - Night Moves, Against The Wind, Still The Same and Roll Me Away.
When i listen to Roll Me Away i can forgive Americans their jingoistic, parochial exceptionalism, their oxymoronic belief that freedom equates to an armed-to-the-teeth religiosity and their materialism. This belter of a song is pure old school Americana that i don't just enjoy, i freaking love it!
#73. Blue Oyster Cult - Don't Fear The Reaper
Funky cowbell and guitar riff - I want to play this really loud on my deathbed. But the management of the old folks' home probably won't be too happy about that.
#72. Skyhooks - Toorak Cowboy
A great complement to Australian Crawl's Beautiful People in pricking the pretensions of Melbourne's wankerati.
Skyhooks' Toorak Cowboy, Balwyn Calling and Lygon St Limbo together with Paul Kelly's songs helped kill off the cultural cringe with unashamed Aussie references and not a single kangaroo in sight.
#71. Boz Scaggs - Low Down
All of Silk Degrees is funky - all of it. Only Bryan Ferry can compete with this for urbane cool.
Trivia: Boz's backing band went on to form Toto.
#70. Dire Straits - Sultans Of Swing
I will always remember when i first heard this - 1978 in a mate's car transiting Tom Ugly's Bridge in Sydney and exclaiming "Ferque! What was that?" So, not forgotten but well funky as the world moved on from disco - and it was guitar-riffed creativity like this that helped drive a stake through the cheesy heart of disco's dreadfulness.
Trivia: The "Guitar George" and "Harry" in the lyrics are our very own George Young and Harry Vander of Easybeats and Flash & The Pan fame (see #43).
#69. Carol Bayer Sager - You're Moving Out Today
A simplistic tune with funky lyrics that will resonate with anyone who's ever had a deadbeat roomie.
When i Googled this for some background the most prominent search results were for the meaning of the lyrics. If you need those lyrics explained to you then you are the type who is not likely to take hints; you will need to be forcibly evicted.
Trivia: This song was co-written by Bette Midler.
#68. Louis Armstrong - Wonderful World
Cheer up - play this. Louis Armstrong's father left when he was young, his mother worked in a brothel and by his teens, young Louis was in trouble with the law after firing a pistol on New Year’s Eve 1912. He was arrested and sent to the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs. The Waif’s Home gave him music lessons and the rest is history.
So, all you critics of discharging firearms in public places should think again.
#67. Steppenwolf - Born To Be Wild
It's 1968; fuck the rules, give The Man the finger, jump aboard the big Harley and head off over the horizon for bad women, good weed and poor behaviour.
I am listening to this with a warm blankie over my knees and a mug of hot cocoa at my elbow. Maybe i was born to be wild and just never realised my potential.
#66. Roberta Flack - Killing Me Softly & The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
I couldn't decide between these two songs so I'll post them both, deserved Grammy winners in consecutive years 1973 - 74. As a curmudgeonly geezer i no longer need to cover up a lack of cool and can willingly confess that i love both of these schmaltzy songs.
#65. UB40 - Kingston Town
Cultural appropriation? None of these guys is Jamaican, they're all from Birmingham. Who cares? Brits have long co-opted African-American blues to the betterment of popular music and they did it again with reggae. UB40 captures the reggae vibe without any ludicrous cultural affectations ala freckled suburban gingers pathetically imitating the pretensions of hip-hop "gangstas".
#64. Mental As Anything - The Nips Are Getting Bigger
Satirical, good humoured and inventive the group's art school background saw them as pioneers of the music video. Their piss-take approach is reflected in Martin Plaza's and Reg Mombassa's stage names and another fun song - If You Leave Me Now Can I Come Too.
Terrific Aussie/Kiwi pop-rock that will put a smile on ya dial.
#63. Canned Heat - Going Up The Country
Authentic hippydom, Canned Heat debuted this at Woodstock. It is an anthem for the festival, you can almost smell the weed but Canned Heat was edited out of the movie. The band's Alan Wilson who wrote this was an early member of the 27 Club, dying of a drug overdose in 1970. The song is complemented by the laid-back style of their On The Road Again, not to be confused with Willie Nelson's song of the same name.
#62. Merrilee Rush - Angel Of The Morning
A song about a one night stand, while considered risque by the 'uptight' of the time it still received plenty of airplay in the 1966 hippy era of free love and reached number 1 in Oz, NZ and Canada. If you think the tune sounds much like a slowed down version of the Trogg's hit Wild Thing that's because it does. Both were written by the same bloke - Chip Taylor, brother of Jon Voight and the uncle of Angelina Jolie.
#61. Summer In The City - The Lovin' Spoonful
You can feel the heat and imagine the traffic, grit and grime when listening to this. The inclusion of sound effects like the car horns and a jackhammer was innovative at the time (1966). This being the '60s many thought the band's name was a drug reference but according to the Spoonful's John Sebastian it's actually a reference to cunnilingus, creating some awkward moments when the question came up during live interviews.
Did You Ever Have to Make up Your Mind? was another of their hits that deserves a re-listen.
#60. Lemon Pipers - Green Tambourine
The Lemon Pipers preference was psychedelic music, a style they never had the chance to develop as they were pressured by their record label to record material like Green Tambourine.
This song has been described as bubblegum. Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep and Sugar Sugar are bubblegum. This is far better than that tripe.
#59. Albert Hammond - It Never Rains In Southern California
Albert Hammond wrote this song on a miserable, rainy day in Fulham, London. He'd never even been to the US. I wish I didn't know that because this song can otherwise conjure up iconic images of cruising Route 66 in a convertible Mustang through the Californian deserts and old ghost towns. It's just as evocative of that as America's Horse With No Name. Well done Albert!
#58. The Pretenders - Back On The Chain Gang
Chrissie Hynde formed The Pretenders at 27 - a better alternative than co-membership of the 27 Club of Jimmi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, and Jim Morrison. Before that she worked as a shopgirl for Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, almost married Sid Vicious, cleaned rooms with Johnny Rotten, played in an early version of The Clash and had a daughter with Ray Davies of The Kinks.
"I was learning that people didn’t care if you were a total quack. If you were more famous than they were, they were impressed. But that didn’t feel OK to me.” Inspiration for the band's name perhaps but there's no pretending with their music. All good stuff!
#57. Doobie Brothers - Long Train Running
Initially a throw-away song that was unrecorded for years. Tom Johnston wrote the words while astride the can but I reckon it's their best song followed closely by Listen To The Music and Black Water.
The band's name alone sells it to me. They had a high turn over of personnel, one of whom, Michael McDonald, often provided the vocals for Steeley Dan - another enduring icon of cool.
Trivia: Bananarama scored a #30 hit in the UK with their cover version but we won't mention that.
#56. Jimmy Cliff - I Can See Clearly Now
There’s been a lot of covers of this Johnny Nash number but Jimmy Cliff’s has to be the best. Upbeat, cheerful reggae mon.
#55. Jimmy And The Boys - They Won't Let My Girlfriend Talk to Me
Their first studio album was Not Like Everybody Else. A truer statement has never been made. Iggy Jones (Juan Ignacio Trapaga) and transvestite Joylene Thornbird Hairmouth (William O'Riordan) were friends from exclusive private Sydney schools. There’s hope for exclusive private school boys after all - I’d rather mix with a transvestite than with a merchant banker.
#54. Iggy Pop – Candy
The song is a duet with Kate Pierson of The B-52s. It’s pretty good, but FFS Iggy, put a fkn shirt on.
#53. Dionne Warwick - I'll Never Fall In Love Again
It’s 1968, my pubes have kicked in, my voice has dropped an octave and my interest in girls is awakening and then this gets released. Eeeew – germs! Burt Bacharach’s and Dionne Warwick’s warning on the dangers of STDs put my development back 12 months. It’s to my credit as a burgeoning sophisticate that it was only 12 months. What about you?
#52. Manfred Man - Pretty Flamingo
Fans of jazz and blues Manfred Man didn't like this song when it was brought to them. Thankfully they chnaged their minds - "I didn't like it much as it didn't have a black flavour, but I see now that it could have been done by The Drifters. Ben E King could have done a great job on it."
#51. Las Bravos - Black Is Black
The distinctive guitar riff is from Pinball Wizard, and the very first line has a mispronunciation. Listen carefully and you’ll clearly hear “goddess” being sung as “godness”.
Their “Never Marry A Railroad Man”, which not too many people will have heard of, is not bad either.
#50. Sam Brown – Horse To The Water
Horse To The Water was George Harrison's last performance on a record; he was too weak from battling cancer to play guitar and he died just over eight weeks later.
Sam Brown does George’s song total justice in the way she belts this number out at the Concert For George. Goose bumps all over. She has performed the famous vocals on Pink Floyd’s Great Gig in the Sky, although it was Clare Torry’s powerful voice on the recorded version on Dark Side Of The Moon.
#49. Joe Jackson – Steppin’ Out
The simplicity of this snappy number does not detract from its funkiness. Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out with Him”, as likeable as it is, is more humorous than funky so "Steppin’ Out" gets the nomination.
#48. Gheorghe Zamfir & James Last - The Lonely Shepherd
Pan flute music can be funky? Yes it can – here’s your proof.
#47. Jo Jo Zep and the Falcons – Hit And Run
Pre-Black Sorrows, Joe Camilleri R&B with a hint of reggae and loads of funk. Also loved “Shape I’m In” and what Camilleri did with Burt Bacharach’s “Walk On By”. Cool as!
#46. Nicolette Larson – Lotta Love
This has been described as “blue-eyed soul LA-style”. What? It’s just a great rendition of a Neil Young song. Such a shame she died at only 45.
#45. GANGgajang - Sounds Of Then
We need a new national anthem. This is it.
#44. Concrete Blonde – Joey
It’s only relatively recent - from the 90s, but I’d forgotten all about it. But when it came onto the radio the other day I remembered just how funky it is.
#43. Flash And The Pan - And The Band Played On
Harry Vanda and George Young; significant funky credentials being members of the Easybeats, originators of Friday On My Mind and George is the older brother of Accer Daccer’s Malcolm and Angus Young. They produced much of AC/DC V1’s albums.
Brush with Fame: I had a brief chat with Harry and George (first name terms – nyah!) over a beer at a Sydney pub in the early 80s.
#42. Russell Morris – Wings Of An Eagle
Russell Morris rightfully claimed iconic status with The Real Thing – a psychedelic 60s classic written by Johnny Young and produced by Molly Meldrum, two other icons of Oz music. It’s a bit gimmicky but it’s been rightfully included in the National Film and Sound Archives.
As much as I love The Real Thing - Wings Of An Eagle is a much better song and one that he wrote himself. Sweet, Sweet Love and Rachel are further funky examples of Morris’s talents.
#41. The Troggs - With A Girl Like You
I’ll bet you’re thinking “I haven’t forgotten The Troggs”. I’ll bet you’re remembering Wild Thing.
Don’t forget With A Girl Like You. Or for that matter, Love Is All Around.
#40. JJCale - They Call Me The Breeze
Country-blues style and attitude, with a touch of folk and jazz thrown in. And a fair bit of funkiness.
#38 and #39. The Stranglers – Always The Sun and Golden Brown
A double dose of funkiness! You’d never guess from these two songs that these guys were some “of the instigators of the UK punk rock scene”.
I love their original name – the Guildford Stranglers, while I also acknowledge the tragic loss of all those with dear ones who were strangled in Guildford.
#37. Traci Chapman – Baby Can I Hold You
A sublime song, a beautiful voice and thoughtful lyrics. I am a big, big fan of this.
#36. John Fred & his Playboys-Judy In Disguise
These guys were taking the michael out of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds when they produced this number with its obtuse lyrics. It’s bubblegum, but somehow it’s also funky.
#35. 4 Non Blondes – What’s Up?
90s lesbian grunge. What I like about this, apart from the significant funkiness that is so scarce in post-70s music, is the Non Blondes’ attention to good punctuation. And this from within a generation whose adherence to such common sense practice is not typical.
The Huffington Post rated this as "without question, the worst song of the 1990s". Fekk off...the Huffington Post needs to replay the 90's Achy Breaky Heart to reset their perspective. I like What's Up?....it's ballsy :O.
#34. Zombies – She’s Not There
The Zombies recorded this in one take after they won a talent contest at their college. They had a follow-up hit after they broke up – Time Of The Season, which didn’t have the funky factor like this has with its early use of the electric piano as the lead instrument.
It was written by Ron Argent the organist after his girlfriend broke off their wedding just weeks before. She did us a favour there Ron.
#33. Joan Armatrading – Call Me Names
Joan Armatrading BA(Hons), MBE, singer, guitarist, keyboardist and writer of this funky song. Joan can call me any names she wants.
#32. Sandpipers – Guantanamera
This doesn’t pass the cool test but it is funky. Funky is different from cool. Hipsterism is based on this principle.
Speaking of Hipsterism, how can almost an entire generation subsist as baristas? Although that does explain their second-hand, horn-rimmed, lens-free specs and their fixation with fixed-wheel bicycles - you can’t afford lenses or a properly geared bike if your income is derived from making deconstructed, sustainably-sourced latte macchiatos.
Mondegreen: We heard this song as “One ton Monaro, I’ve got a one ton Monaaaaro”.
#31. Burt Bacharach - This Guy's in Love with You
OK, it’s not forgotten but it always stirs memories of otherwise long forgotten young lovelies. And as always with Burt Bacharach songs it’s funky.
#30. Robert Palmer - Addicted To Love
The song’s a bit forgettable, but not that video clip. One of the best ever. I feel like I wanna be naughty and chastised for it by a severe looking black-clad woman in heavy make-up. Phwoooaaar!
#29. Masters Apprentices – Hot Gully Wind
Hot Gully Wind was the Masters’ second single and it may have been the first record I ever bought (it was either that or Deep Purple’s Black Night). They had a string of funky numbers such as Buried And Dead, Turn Up Your Radio, Undecided and Living In A Child’s Dream. This Aussie outfit were as good as anyone else from anywhere else but went largely unnoticed outside of Oz.
My oldies threw out my collection of singles and EPs when I left home and I’ve never been able to find Hot Gully Wind in “hard copy” since. My oldies did not have the funky factor.
#28. Dave Edmunds - I Hear You Knocking
Great sax and piano on Fats Domino’s version but it was Dave Edmunds who made the charts with it.
What’s that? You’d love to hear a psychedelic version of the Sabre Dance? You’re in luck – look up Dave Edmunds’ band of 1969, Love Sculpture/Sabre Dance on YouTube. No-one has ever heard of it so it can’t be forgotten. But it's funky.
#27. Atlantics – Bombora
Despite the band name these guys were Aussies.
This is early 60s pre-Beach Boys instrumental guitar riffed surf music from a time when surfers were well groomed; unlike our late 1960s to 70s era when credibility at a surf break required shabbiness – threadbare jeans, faded t-shirt (a couple of holes was a common accessory), tangled, salt-encrusted hair - the longer the better, scuffed desert boots. Pre-Grunge homelessness chic you could say. Good times.
#26. Jeff St John – Teach Me How To Fly
Jeff St John used a wheel chair due to spina bifida pulling wheel stands and skids during performances, and what a voice. What a song!
#25. Boyce & Hart - I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight
We blokes all know that the subtle meaning is “I wonder who she is doing tonight”.
"All right, Bobby, let's go" - a particularly funky inclusion into this old funky favourite.
#24. Sniff 'n' the Tears - Driver's Seat
A one hit wonder, but it’s worthy nostalgia from 1978 when they were accused of ripping off Dire Straits - true or not i love this song!
#23. Manhattan Transfer - Boy From New York City
Finger clickin’ good. I have an urge to buy a white tuxedo, top hat and cane. Their rendition of Chanson D'Amour is outstanding.
#22. The Equals – Baby Come Back
The unkind amongst you could accuse this of being typical 60s bubblegum pop – contrived and aimed at the pre-teen/early teen crowd ala Sugar Sugar, Yummy Yummy Yummy, Chirpy Chirpy Cheap Cheap and similar mulch. That would be unfair; the Equals weren’t manufactured and I challenge you to play this without bopping along.
I can't see why Baby wouldn't go back upon hearing this.
#21. Kinks – Lola
Not as challenging to a naïve young man’s binary view of gender as was Lou Reed’s darker, concurrent Take A Walk On The Wild Side. It was intriguing to find out that there were ambiguous people out there. Each to their own after all and they are both funky numbers.
Trivia: If you hear “cherry cola” it’s the Brit version. If you hear “Coca Cola” it’s the American version.
#20. Thunderclap Newman – Something In The Air
Thunderclap Newman was a band cobbled together by a pre-Who Pete Townsend. One of the founding members, Andy “Thunderclap” Newman, was a telecoms techie who performed in a trilby, spectacles, braces and bow tie. Who knew that telecoms techies could be dapper or talented?
Trivia: Guitarist Jimmy McCulloch later spent 3 years with Wings. We can forgive him that because of Something In The Air.
#19. Fats Domino - Ain't That a Shame
Significant funk from the 50s. Despite the melancholy lyrics this is an upbeat toe-tapper. Love it! Fats’ Blueberry Hill is also a pearler.
#18. Box Tops – The Letter
"No American group since the Righteous Brothers had looked whiter and sung blacker than the Box Tops on that sensational first single in 1967.”
#17. Janice Joplin – Cry Baby
Janice Joplin’s been gone since 1970 and while she is far from forgotten maybe Cry Baby is not as well remembered as it should be. Joplin’s style and voice at their best; better even than on Me And Bobby McGee. Full on funky; it gives me shivers.
#16. Mr. Bojangles - The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
Written about an old drunk and a dead dog - credible inspiration for funkiness. Covered by the likes of Sammy Davis Jnr, Elton John and Bob Dylan but never bettered.
#15. Barry Ryan - Eloise
A tad melodramatic and heavy on the orchestration, but funky nevertheless.
Trivia: It was written by Paul Ryan and sung by his twin brother Barry, whose one-time father-in-law was a filthy-rich Malaysian sultan.
#14. Dr John - Such A Night
Don’t confuse this with the vacuous salvage-yard reject of the same name from Racey. Dr John’s song is racier than Racey’s. And far funkier
#13. Verdelle Smith – Tar and Cement
A one hit wonder – and even then, only in Australia. This rightfully reached #1 in Oz but only #38 in the US where it was made. What’s wrong with those Seppos? – this is a very good song.
#12. Small Faces - Itchycoo Park
Terrific 60s psychedelic pop. At the time I had not the slightest inkling about the drug references (“What did you do there? I got high”… “I feel inclined to blow my mind”). To me it was, and still is, a very funky number.
Lazy Sunday Afternoon and Tin Soldier are also crackers but Itchycoo Park is far out. Man.
#11. Cowsills – I Love The Flower Girl
An inspiration for TV's Partridge Family, the Cowsills was 6 brothers, a sister and “mom”. Definitively cheesy and unhip – but they put out some cheerful, enjoyable hits such as Indian Lake and Hair.
They looked like Mormons; you would've turned the hose on them if they'd turned up at your front door with their wholesome toothy American-ness. But hip or not, their stuff is likable.
#10 Rodriguez - I Wonder
If you have to put any effort into being cool then by definition you aint cool. Sixto Rodriguez is cool.
#9. Hurricane Smith - Oh Babe What Would You Say
Smith was an engineer on all the Beatles' sessions between 1962 and 1965; the last Beatles album he recorded was Rubber Soul. In the late '60s Smith produced Pink Floyd's early albums. Oh Babe was a demo of a song that he had written with the hope that John Lennon would record it.
It's a doofus song but given Hurricane's work with the Beatles and Pink Floyd I'll class it as funky. I think I liked it better before I saw what a geezer he looked like.
#8. Iron Butterfly - Inna Gadda Da Vida
“Inna gadda da vida” arose from a pissed slurring of the intended lyric "in the garden of Eden," by the band’s Doug Ingle.
17 minutes of psychodelia/prototype heavy metal. It took dedication (or a spliff) to listen all the way through.
#7. Whistling Jack Smith - I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman
It just does not get any better than this.
#6. The Vapors – Turning Japanese
Rude, crude and lewd? The Vapors’ David Fenton has denied that Turning Japanese is a euphemism along the lines of working on upper body strength/playing hands solo/being home alone and so forth. Who cares if you want to play with a sword, samurai or pork, this peppy number will get people bopping along.
#5. Jona Lewie – In The Kitchen At Parties
Not as tragic as it seems from a casual first listen. Perhaps it’s a call for more open plan living.
Trivia: Some say one of the backing singers in the video clip is Kirsty MacColl, known for one of the best ever Awful Song Titles: “There's A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis”.
#4. Squeeze - Cool For Cats
What’s not to love, from the Cockney-accented delivery to the witty lyrics to the TV show references to cowboys & indians and The Sweeney. It’s terrific fun and it’s cool. For cats.
Trivia: The prolific Jools Holland was an original member so no shortage of talent with Squeeze.
#3. Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys – Different Drum
Blue Bayou, When Will I be Loved, You’re No Good – Linda Ronstadt had some popular funky folky, country-ish numbers but none better than this early hit with the Stone Poneys. It didn’t hurt that Ms Ronstadt was also a hornbag.
Trivia: Different Drum was written by Mike Nesmith of Monkees fame, whose mother made a fortune by inventing liquid paper, while Linda Ronstadt’s father made a fortune by inventing the rubber ice cube tray.
#2. Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant
Perhaps not so much a song as a satirical anti-war, anti-The Man, hippy-ish monologue put to music. At 18 minutes Alice’s Restaurant didn’t get much airplay in full but it was popular anyway. Maybe it was the place and time (recently post-Vietnam war) but I loved Alice’s Restaurant – if not the cheapo movie that was made as a follow-up.
Trivia: Guthrie's dad Woody was a folk music hero of, and significant influence on Bob Dylan.
#1. Melanie Safka - Lay Down
Turn the volume up and let Lay Down belt out from your speakers; Melanie's voice is brilliant. It makes my testicles re-ascend; no small achievement given my vintage. Ruby Tuesday is another cracker rendition of hers.
Favourite songs. Nifty Fifty Part 1
Shit List. The worst songs ever
Kitsch List. Songs so crap that they're good