The 200 Best Songs of the 1960s - Page 2 (2023)

  • Laurie Records, 1965

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  • The Barbarians



This song is best known for being the inspirational tale of the band’s hook-handed drummer, but I’ll put up the chorus of “Moulty” against any other from the decade—“Louie Louie,” “Mony Mony,” anything—as being the biggest, loudest, and most unintelligible, made all the more dynamically triumphant by the aw-shucks verses. –Rob Mitchum

Listen: The Barbarians: “Moulty”

  • 1969

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  • Bembeya Jazz National

“Armée Guinéenne”


Updating an old folk song honoring warriors and dedicating it to Guinea’s then-fledgling armed forces, Bembeya Jazz created a hypnotic masterpiece. Balafon and percussion underpin Cuban-influenced horns and vocals, but Sekou Diabate’s lead guitar steals the show as the fluid lifeblood of the song. –Joe Tangari

Listen: Bembeya Jazz National: “Armée Guinéenne”

  • Volt, 1965

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  • Otis Redding

“I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)”


Few performer/musician combos have enjoyed better, tighter dynamics than the ones forged between Redding and the Stax house band. The players follow his lead at every note, offsetting his soul-wrenching performance with austere horn ascensions and demonstrative punches. Redding makes the climax massive, but the band downplays it sweetly, internalizing his proclamation and making it an intimate exchange as much between the singer and band as between a man and a woman. –Stephen M. Deusner

Listen: Otis Redding: “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)”

  • United Artists, 1963

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  • The Tammys

“Egyptian Shumba”


It’s not just that this girl group’s gone wilder than any garage band on the list—it’s that they’re possessed. The Tammys bop hard and bratty, but by the chorus they’re literally growling, barking, and squealing like sexed-up hyenas; in the bridge you can hear them shudder and jerk their way into a frenzy. It’s their party and they’ll scream if they want to. –Nitsuh Abebe

Listen: The Tammys: “Egyptian Shumba”

  • Elektra, 1969

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  • MC5

“Kick Out the Jams”


This one’s a classic before it even starts, thanks to Rob Tyner’s still-startling introduction (take the title, add “muthafuckahhhs!”). Though punk more in intent (“Let me be who I am!”) than action (essentially, post-Who/Jimi Hendrix blooze-rock, but sloppier), this remains an eternal rallying cry for anarchy in the USA. –Stuart Berman

Listen: MC5: “Kick Out the Jams”

  • Decca, 1967

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  • Loretta Lynn

“Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)”


Loretta Lynn hates drunk sex (or something). Loves the Iraq War, though. She said as much at a pre–Jack White Taste of Chicago. But “Liquor and love, they just don’t mix,” teases Lynn on 1967’s “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’”, with honky-tonk pedal steel and juke-joint piano. See, lady is crazy! –Marc Hogan

Listen: Loretta Lynn: “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)”

  • Philles Records, 1963

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  • Darlene Love

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”


Love’s woe-steeped holiday ballad is the best Xmas present Phil Spector ever gave. The track features all of the producer’s trademarks and his dense arrangement provides the perfect backdrop for Love’s rich voice, making it easy to understand why this has become an integral part of the Christmas music canon. –Cory D. Byrom

Listen: Darlene Love: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”

  • Elektra, 1965

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  • Phil Ochs

“I Ain’t Marching Anymore”


Of all the protest songs Ochs penned, “I Ain’t Marching Anymore” is the strongest. Ochs’ narrow tenor and staccato guitar propel this anthem about a soldier who up and stops killing. It’s an urgent rebuke against the war in Vietnam, but Ochs also takes the high road: He doesn’t rip into the old men who start the wars that get young men killed—he just puts down his gun and walks away. –Chris Dahlen

Listen: Phil Ochs: “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”

  • Atlantic, 1969

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  • Archie Bell & the Drells

“Here I Go Again”


Whether it be “Tighten Up,” “I Can’t Stop Dancing,” “Dancing to Your Music,” “Dance Your Troubles Away,” or “Dancin’ Man,” these dudes sure liked to dance. But with this Gamble & Huff swift-string strut, Bell and Co. took on a different kind of hustle. “I should have learned my lesson, you hurt me before/But every time I see ya, I keep running back for more,” blows Bell, breaking down romance’s inexplicable two-step with a purposeful stride. –Ryan Dombal

Listen: Archie Bell & the Drells: “Here I Go Again”

  • 1969

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  • Neil Diamond

“Sweet Caroline”


When I was little, my best friend’s mom—who’d seen Neil Diamond in concert a dozen times—told me he had “a nice tush.” It was a strange moment—almost traumatic. I was just a kid for chrissakes, and this was an authority figure. But Neil had that kind of power over women and this single is one reason why. It also explains why 12 Songs was a bad idea. –Mark Richardson

Listen: Neil Diamond: “Sweet Caroline”

  • Disques Vogue, 1964

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  • Françoise Hardy

“Tous Les Garcons et Les Filles”


The beat sways, Hardy sings, you swoon. The space between the guitar, bass, drums, and vocals—and that’s all there is on this song—is palpable, and Hardy’s vocal is a nonchalantly solitary midnight waltz through swinging Paris. Makes me want to learn French. –Joe Tangari

Listen: Françoise Hardy: “Tous Les Garcons et Les Filles”

  • Tamla, 1966

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  • Stevie Wonder

“Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”


After two years without a major hit—an eternity in the Motown days—and with his voice making the troublesome transition from “Little” to big, 15-year-old Stevie Wonder (with help from a cavalcade of horns) literally laughs through his woes on this No. 3 smash. It’s all in this rich girl/poor boy tale: the freakish optimism, opulent funk, and sneaky sociology. Here, the full breadth of Wonder’s talent starts to come into full view. –Ryan Dombal

Listen: Stevie Wonder: “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”

  • Impulse!, 1964

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  • Albert Ayler



Ayler first recorded his signature piece “Ghosts” in 1964, and it eventually became his most frequently played composition. The shortened version that appears on his 1967 Impulse album Love Cry is perhaps the purest distillation of Ayler’s ecstatic marching-band mode, as he and his brother Donald volley the theme’s simple fanfare back and forth with a joyous, Pentecostal fervor. –Matthew Murphy

Listen: Albert Ayler: “Ghosts”

  • Capitol Records, 1967

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  • Stone Poneys

“Different Drum”


It’s not you, it’s Linda Rondstadt. Only in her 1967 Stone Poneys version of Monkees guitarist Mike Nesmith’s “Different Drum”, the country-pop diva would never put it so blandly. “I ain’t saying you ain’t pretty/All I’m sayin’ is I’m not ready,” she avers, standing proud with Nashville strings and “In My Life”–like harpsichord. So… can we stay friends? –Marc Hogan

Listen: Stone Poneys: “Different Drum”

  • Deram, 1969

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  • The Flirtations

“Nothing But a Heartache”


This is girl-group pop with all the swoony drama that the genre demanded, but it’s also tense and brittle: The horn stabs and string whooshes anticipate the funk and disco that were in their embryonic stages in 1969, and the group sings about heartache like they’re sharpening their teeth. Northern Soul kids picked up on this one for very good reasons. –Tom Breihan

Listen: The Flirtations: “Nothing But a Heartache”

  • Polydor, 1966

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  • The Monks

“Monk Time”


It’s beat time, it’s hop time, it’s Monk time! It’s American punk GIs in Germany destroying everything in sight with overdriven organ, guitar feedback, and electrified banjo. This was not your rank-and-file Army beat group, raging against Vietnam, the Bomb, and complacency. –Joe Tangari

Listen: The Monks: “Monk Time”

  • Reprise, 1965

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  • Frank Sinatra

“It Was a Very Good Year”


Frank walks the same balancing act as Jay-Z, somehow pulling off the aging Don Juan character and even making himself sympathetic. Strings weep and oboes hum while Sinatra looks back on all the girls he’s fucked with a fond, eloquent melancholy, never dropping his swagger but still letting weariness seep in. Masterful. –Tom Breihan

Listen: Frank Sinatra: “It Was a Very Good Year”

  • ESP Disk, 1969

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  • Cromagnon



A stately funereal march for a whole army of whispering maniacs, “Caledonia”—with its pre-industrial stomp and pre-modern bagpipery—evokes nothing so much as the distant and terrifying future. Like pretty much everything else on the ESP-Disk label, Cromagnon made songs so far ahead of their time we’ve yet to catch up. –Zach Baron

Listen: Cromagnon: “Caledonia”

  • Classic Records/Track Record, 1967

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  • The Who

“I Can See For Miles”


At the time of this song’s release, the Who weren’t pleased with its chart success—it only reached No. 10 in the UK. But while it found them stretching out a bit, it’s really classic Who, with loose, airy verses, tight, catchy choruses, and plenty of wailing from both Pete Townshend and Keith Moon. –Cory D. Byrom

Listen: The Who: “I Can See For Miles”

  • Decca, 1964

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  • The Zombies

“She’s Not There”


It’s counterintuitively groovy, with its minor-key darkness and halting drum part, but “She’s Not There” is as arresting and mysterious as the girl it describes. Singer Colin Blunstone exudes cool on the verses, obeys the frenzy of the chorus, and lets Rod Argent unload on one of rock’s best electric piano solos. –Joe Tangari

Listen: The Zombies: “She’s Not There”

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