Rolling Stone Readers Pick the Top 10 Songs of the Sixties
Tracks by The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys And The Doors all make the cut
10. The Beach Boys – ‘God Only Knows’
Last weekend we asked our readers to vote for their favorite song of the Sixties. We have counted the votes and the results are in. As usual, if you're unhappy about the results, you only have yourselves to blame. We're just the vote counters.
Coming in at Number 10 is "God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys. Recorded during the Pet Sounds sessions in 1966, the beautiful love song was actually considered controversial when it came out because the word "god" was in the title. Brian Wilson originally planned to sing lead on the track, but he gave it to his brother Carl. Many fans consider the song the high-water mark of the Beach Boys' long career – including Paul McCartney. "Very emotional, always a bit of a choker for me," the Beatle once said. "It just hits home."
By Andy Greene
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9. The Jimi Hendrix Experience – ‘All Along The Watchtower’
Jimi Hendrix's cover of Bob Dylan's "All Along The Watchtower" forever changed how everybody hears the song – even Dylan himself. "He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them," Dylan said a 1995 interview. "He found things that other people wouldn't think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I took license with the song from his version, actually, and continue to do it to this day."
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8. Led Zeppelin – ‘Whole Lotta Love’
Originally conceived as a tribute to blues legend Willie Dixon and his 1962 classic "You Need Love," "Whole Lotta Love" became Led Zeppelin's first (and last) top 10 hit in America. Since then it's been played about a trillion times on classic rock radio, and there's always at least one guy at Robert Plant solo gigs screaming in vain for it at the top of his lungs after every song. Its massive popularity led to Willie Dixon suing the band over it in the mid-Eighties. He now receives co-writing credit on the song. "Page's riff was Page's riff," Robert Plant said. "I just thought, 'Well, what am I going to sing?' That was it, a nick. Now happily paid for."
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7. The Beatles – ‘Hey Jude’
Written by Paul McCartney for John Lennon's son Julian as he dealt with the pain of his parents' divorce, "Hey Jude" spent nine weeks at Number One – making it the most successful single of the Beatles' entire career. It was also their longest, clocking in at over seven minutes. John had a different take on the song's meaning. "I always heard it as a song to me," he said. "If you think about it… Yoko's just come into the picture. He's saying. 'Hey, Jude — Hey, John.' I know I'm sounding like one of those fans who reads things into it, but you can hear it as a song to me … Subconsciously, he was saying, 'Go ahead, leave me.' On a conscious level, he didn't want me to go ahead." McCartney says that's rubbish, and that the song began as "Hey Jules" unitl he changed it to "Hey Jude" simply because it was easier to sing.
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6. The Doors – ‘Light My Fire’
This 1967 single – written by guitarist Robbie Krieger – launched The Doors' entire career. Originally five minutes long, it was cut down to three for the radio by removing the organ and guitar solos. The song's success got them an invite to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show, under the condition that Morrison not sing the line "girl, we couldn't get much higher." He did anyway, and they were never invited back onto the show. The Doors had many other hits during their brief career, but "Light My Fire" remains their most famous composition.
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5. The Who – ‘My Generation’
Everything about the Who's "My Generation" works perfectly – from Roger Daltrey's snarling, stuttering delivery to John Entwistle's thunderous bass solos to Keith Moon's reckless drumming that often ended with the whole kit destroyed. Most of all, however, it's Pete Townshend's lyrics that propel the song. Has anybody ever expressed a rock & roll sentiment more eloquently than "I hope I die before I get old"? The song has been a staple of their live set since Townshend wrote it in 1966, and somehow Roger Daltrey manage to not sound totally ridiculous while recently singing the famous line at age 67.
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4. The Rolling Stones – ‘Gimme Shelter’
The Rolling Stones perfectly captured the turbulent end of the Sixties with "Gimme Shelter." "It’s a very rough, very violent era," Jagger told Rolling Stone in 1995. "The Vietnam War. Violence on the screens, pillage and burning. ['Gimme Shelter'] is a kind of end-of-the-world song, really. It’s apocalypse; the whole record’s like that." The best part of the song may be singer Merry Clayton's haunting background vocals. A few years later she sang back-up on "Sweet Home Alabama."
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3. The Rolling Stones – ‘Satisfaction’
"Satisfaction" turned The Rolling Stones into superstars after it came out in the summer of 1965, but Keith Richards wasn't originally wasn't very fond of the track – even though he wrote the famous riff. "He didn't want it to come out as a single," Jagger told Rolling Stone in 1995. "It’s a signature tune, really, rather than a great, classic painting, 'cause it’s only like one thing – a kind of signature that everyone knows. It has a very catchy title. It has a very catchy guitar riff. It has a great guitar sound, which was original at that time. And it captures a spirit of the times, which is very important in those kind of songs."
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2. The Beatles – ‘A Day In The Life’
"A Day In The Life" is one of the last Beatles songs that John Lennon and Paul McCartney truly wrote as a team. It's seen by many critics and fans as their single finest piece of work. "It was a peak," Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1970, speaking about the Sgt. Pepper period. "Paul and I were definitely working together, especially on 'A Day In The Life' … The way we wrote a lot of the time: you’d write the good bit, the part that was easy, like 'I read the news today' or whatever it was, then when you got stuck or whenever it got hard, instead of carrying on, you just drop it; then we would meet each other, and I would sing half, and he would be inspired to write the next bit and vice versa. He was a bit shy about it because I think he thought it’s already a good song." In recent years Paul McCartney has begun singing the song in concert, and the original lyrics to the song sold for $1.2 million.
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1. Bob Dylan – ‘Like A Rolling Stone’
In 2004 Rolling Stone named Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone" the greatest song of all time. Seven years later our readers agree that it's at least the greatest song of the Sixties. The song – which features Al Kooper on the organ and Mike Bloomfield on the guitar – was a hit in the summer of 1965. But when Dylan played it at that year's Newport Folk Festival he was famously booed, though the debate rages to this day over what exactly upset the crowd. When he took The Band on tour in Europe and Australia the next year nobody disputes that many in the crowd were livid over Dylan "going electric." The anger in the crowd only spurned Dylan on, leading to some of the most intense performances of his career. Dylan has performed the song over 1,800 times (second only to "All Along The Watchtower"), but he still busts it out it almost every time that he takes the stage.
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