THE GREATEST SONGS OF THE 1960s THAT NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD
Someone once quipped that many bands could have made their careers off of Lennon and McCartney throwaways. Well, in some cases, they actually did . . . .
520) The Beatles — “Bad to Me”
The best thing that Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas ever recorded was “Bad to Me”, their winsome #1 UK hit in 1963. It was written as a favor by John Lennon:
In 1980 Lennon claimed to have written ‘Bad To Me’ while on holiday in Barcelona, Spain, in April 1963. “I was on holiday with Brian Epstein in Spain, where the rumours went around that he and I were having a love affair. Well, it was almost a love affair, but not quite. It was never consummated. But it was a pretty intense relationship. It was my first experience with a homosexual that I was conscious was homosexual. He had admitted it to me. We had this holiday together because Cyn was pregnant . . . . We used to sit in a cafe in Torremolinos looking at all the boys and I’d say, ‘Do you like that one, do you like this one?’ I was rather enjoying the experience, thinking like a writer all the time: I am experiencing this, you know. And while he was out on the tiles one night, or lying asleep with a hangover one afternoon, I remember playing him the song ‘Bad To Me’. That was a commissioned song, done for Billy J Kramer, who was another of Brian’s singers. . . .”All We Are Saying, David Sheff, https://www.beatlesbible.com/songs/bad-to-me/
The song would have fit perfectly on one of the Beatles’ first few albums. Luckily for us, we can listen to their take and just imagine. The Beatlesbible notes that” [t]he ‘Bad To Me’ demo was recorded in either May or June 1963. . . . The purpose of the demo is unclear, since Kramer later recalled Lennon teaching him the song at a piano. It was quite possibly for publishing purposes . . . . Kramer’s version was recorded at EMI Studios, Abbey Road, on 26 June 1963. . . . The single was released on 26 July 1963 . . . . The single was released in the US in 1964, and reached number nine in the charts. (https://www.beatlesbible.com/songs/bad-to-me/)
“If you ever leave me, I’ll be sad and blue. Don’t you ever leave me. I’m so in love with you. The birds in the sky would be sad and lonely if they knew that I’d lost my one and only. They’d be sad if you’re bad to me. The leaves on the trees would be softly sighing if they heard from the breeze that you left me crying. They’d be sad. Don’t be bad to me. But I know you won’t leave me ’cause you told me so. And I’ve no intention of letting you go. Just as long as you let me know you won’t be bad to me. So the birds in the sky won’t be sad and lonely, ‘cause they know that I got my one and only. They’ll be glad you’re not bad to me. But I know you won’t leave me ’cause you told me so. And I’ve no intention of letting you go. Just as long as you let me know you won’t be bad to me. So the birds in the sky won’t be sad and lonely, ‘cause they know that I got my one and only. They’ll be glad you’re not bad to me. They’ll be glad you’re not bad to me. To me. . . .”
521) The Beatles — “Goodbye”
“Goodbye” is one of Paul McCartney’s seemingly throwaway trifles that grows and grows on you until you realize that only a true genius could come up with such a song, one that in a brief moment perfectly captures innocence and yearning and love.
Richie Unterberger tells us that:
It was the British supermodel Twiggy who alerted Paul McCartney to the Welsh singer Mary Hopkin when Apple Records was looking for talent in 1968. The waifish soprano scored a huge worldwide smash with her first Apple single, the melancholy but rabble-rousing ballad “Those Were the Days,” in late 1968; it actually knocked the Beatles’ own “Hey Jude” out of the number one position in the U.K. Paul McCartney lent Hopkin a further hand by producing her first album and writing her second single, “Goodbye,” which was also a hit. More comfortable with refined, precious ballads and folky pop than rock, Hopkin scored several more hit singles in the U.K. . . .
Mary . . . suffered the fate too common among teenage performers to have a worldwide #1: she tends to be only remembered for that one song, 1968’s “Those Were the Days.” It gets somewhat forgotten that she did have one more fairly big hit, “Goodbye,” which made #13 in 1969 (and did quite a bit better in the UK, where it went all the way to #2). . . . [I]t has the kind of light, chipper, sentimentally romantic vibe that McCartney could exude on his most lightweight compositions . . . . Like other Lennon-McCartney songs in the sugary pop romantic mold (such as “Step Inside Love,” covered by Cilla Black), it was probably given to Hopkin in the thought that it was just too lightweight to be suitable for the Beatles. “Goodbye” might be a rather trifling song in comparison with most of the Lennon-McCartney catalog, but it’s still a fairly pleasant and catchy romp, rather like a Continental European folk love ballad in tone, with a dash of music hall. That’s particularly true of the chorus, which consists largely of the word “Goodbye,” sung with a variety-show like tone. Hopkin’s high, trilling voice was thus well-suited for the number; you could imagine it growing out of McCartney or Hopkin singing it on ukulele to their families.https://www.allmusic.com/artist/mary-hopkin-mn0000316096, https://www.allmusic.com/song/goodbye-mt0039580387
Rob Sheffield wrote not too long ago in Rolling Stone that: “Paul shines in his demo of ‘Goodbye,’ a fetchingly flirty ditty he gave away as a hit to his protege Mary Hopkins. . . . It’s Paul in his most coquettish upper-register voice, reminiscent of how he sang ‘Can you take me back where I came from?’ on the White Album.” (https://web.archive.org/web/20190930001945/https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-album-reviews/beatles-abbey-road-890229/)
The Beatlesbible notes that “[o]n ‘Goodbye’ Hopkin sang and performed acoustic guitar, while McCartney played bass guitar, an acoustic guitar introduction and solo, thigh-slapping percussion, ukulele and drums.” (https://www.beatlesbible.com/1969/03/01/paul-mccartney-produces-mary-hopkin-goodbye/)
Paul McCartney later recalled that:
“I didn’t have in mind any more Russian folk songs so I just wrote one for her. I thought it fit the bill. It wasn’t as successful as the first one but it did all right. My main memory of it is from years later, going on a boat trip from the north of Scotland to the Orkney Islands. The skipper of the boat was called George, and he told me it was his favourite song. And if you think of it from a sailor’s point of view, it’s very much a leaving-the-port song. . . . He was quite proud of the fact that that was his favourite song.”Many Years From Now, Barry Miles, https://www.beatlesbible.com/1969/03/01/paul-mccartney-produces-mary-hopkin-goodbye/
Mary Hopkin later mused that: “Although I’m flattered that Paul wrote ‘Goodbye’ especially for me, it was, I believe, a step in the wrong direction for me. I’m so grateful that he chose ‘Those Were The Days’ as my first single. . . . being originally a Ukrainian folk song, has a timeless quality, but ‘Goodbye’ is set firmly in the sixties pop era.” (Goldmine Magazine. https://www.beatlesbible.com/1969/03/01/paul-mccartney-produces-mary-hopkin-goodbye/) As if that is a crime. Ah, gratitude . . . .
“Please don’t wake me up too late. Tomorrow comes and I will not be late. Late today when it becomes tomorrow, I will leave to go away. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye, my love, Goodbye. Songs that lingered on my lips excite me now and linger on my mind. Leave your flowers at my door, I’ll leave them for the one who waits behind. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye, my love, goodbye. . . . Far away my lover sings a lonely song and calls me to his side. When a song of lonely love invites me on I must go to his side. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye, my love, goodbye.”
522) John Lennon — “I’m the Greatest“
It was a joke, guys, a joke, as Paul Zollo relates:
Inspired by the line spoken often by Muhammad Ali, [John Lennon] wrote “I’m The Greatest” [in 1970] as a joke. [But t]he man who sang “I’m A Loser” to the world, would not sing “I’m The Greatest.” “I couldn’t sing it,” John said in 1980. “But it was perfect for Ringo. He could say, ‘I’m the greatest’ and people wouldn’t get upset. Whereas if I said `I’m the greatest,’ they’d all take it so seriously.” “It’s very tongue in cheek,” said Ringo. ” Only [John] could have written it and only I could have sung it.” . . . Richard Perry produced the sessions, the first being the basic tracking session for the song with Ringo on drums, Lennon on piano and scratch vocal, George [Harrison] on electric guitar and their old pal Klaus Voorman on bass.
Although the common assumption was that Ringo and/or John invited [George] to participate, they did not. George had heard that John and Ringo were recording together, and called up Perry to ask if he could join the party. Perry asked John if that was okay. John was delighted. “Hell, yes!” he answered.” Tell him to get down here right away and help me finish this bridge!” In subsequent sessions came many overdubs, including George Harrison adding several layers of electric guitars—including rhythm, arpeggios and slide. Many writers have suggested that it’s his playing that makes this the most Beatlesque record made since the breakup. Ringo recorded his lead vocal, replacing some but not all of Lennon’s singing. And “fifth Beatle” Billy Preston played organ. Perry added applause to the track, a connection to the first appearance of Ringo as Billy Shears, on Lennon’s “With a Little Help from My Friends” on Sgt. Pepper.https://americansongwriter.com/behind-the-song-im-the-greatest-by-lennon/
The Beatles Bible adds that:
Lennon recorded a home demo containing two takes of “I’m The Greatest” in late 1970 . . . . The 1970 recordings showed how Lennon originally conceived the song with a jazz-style piano backing. At this stage the lyrics were largely unwritten, and lacked much of the final version’s self-deprecating humour. . . . In February 1971 . . . Lennon tried out the song in the studio for the first time. This time his band included Klaus Voormann on bass guitar and Jim Gordon on drums. Although he later claimed he’d never considered recording his own version, this studio attempt featured a telling line: “Yoko told me I was great.” . . . Early in 1973 Lennon was invited by Starr to . . . help contribute to Ringo . . . . Starr had sent requests to each of the former Beatles for new material, and Lennon revived “I’m The Greatest”. He rewrote several of the lines to make them relevant to Starr . . . . From behind the piano Lennon led a version with Starr on drums, Harrison on electric guitar and Voormann on bass. They recorded 12 takes, four of which were complete, with Lennon singing guide vocals. . . . The best attempt formed the basis for the album version, which had lead and backing vocals, lead guitar by Harrison and an organ part by Bully Preston overdubbed at a later date.https://www.beatlesbible.com/people/john-lennon/songs/im-the-greatest/
“When I was a little boy way back home in Liverpool, my mama told me I was great. Then when I was teenager, I knew that I had got something going. All my friends told me I was great. And now I’m a man, a woman took me by the hand. And you know what she told me, I was great. I was in the greatest show on earth, for what it was worth. Now I’m only thirty-two, and all I wanna do Is boogaloo. [chorus: “hey”] I looked in the mirror, I saw my wife and kids. And you know what they told me? I was great. Yes, my name is Billy Shears. You know it has been for so many years. Now I’m only thirty-two, and all I wanna do is boogaloo. Hey hey hey. I’m the greatest, and you better believe it baby. I’m the greatest in this world. In the next worlds and in any worlds. Alright, [chorus: “alright”] alright, [chorus: “alright”] alright [chorus: “alright”] . . . .”
Check out the site’s new page: Stick It to the (Fish)Man: Feedback — the coolest comments I have received!
Pay to Play! The Off the Charts Spotify Playlist! + Brace for the Obscure 60s Rock Merchandise
Please consider helping to support my website/blog by contributing $6 a month for access to the Off the Charts Spotify Playlist. Using a term familiar to denizens of Capitol Hill, you pay to play! (“relating to or denoting an unethical or illicit arrangement in which payment is made by those who want certain privileges or advantages in such arenas as business, politics, sports, and entertainment” — dictionary.com).
The playlist includes all the “greatest songs of the 1960’s that no one has ever heard” that are available on Spotify. The playlist will expand each time I feature an available song.
All new subscribers will receive a Brace for the Obscure 60s Rock magnet. New subscribers who sign up for a year will also receive a Brace for the Obscure 60s Rock t-shirt or baseball cap. See pictures on the Pay to Play page.
When subscribing, please send me an e-mail (GMFtma1@gmail.com) or a comment on this site letting me know an e-mail address/phone number/Facebook address, etc. to which I can send instructions on accessing the playlist and a physical address to which I can sent a magnet/t-shirt/baseball cap. If choosing a t-shirt, please let me know the gender and size you prefer.
Just click on the first blue block for a month to month subscription or the second blue block for a yearly subscription.