I’m in the middle of a two-part feature concerning three of the best groups of the ’60s (Herman’s Hermits, The Young Rascals and The Turtles) and figured I’d make this week’s theme about ten bands whose 45’s were a staple of my collection. For those born later, AM radio was king, and WMCA and WABC in New York City were among the kingmakers. After an era of crooner pop and teen idol mania, the charts were invaded by surf rock, Motown soul, garage/psych sides and that multi-wave British Invasion. Radio would never be the same.
Many artists have gotten their due critically and financially, from The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to The Beach Boys and Simon and Garfunkel. Many have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, although several are either awaiting nomination or seemingly have no shot despite making a huge impact in a short and magical time.
I’m going to use today’s list to tout ten worthy artists who I feel are very under-appreciated. They’re enshrined in my Hall of Fame and I still enjoy hearing their music today. Not all have decent video clips, so I’m linking to a site where you can at least hear some audio samples and hopefully pick up a greatest hits collection, if not a few of their catalogue albums or a larger anthology.
If you’re a powerpop or garage fan, there are probably no surprises here. But if you only know these bands from a hit or two on oldies radio, I promise you there is more worth digging for.
Tommy James and the Shondells: A pretty fascinating story of how a guy accidentally becomes a bubblegum idol, hates it, and then becomes one of the more interesting purveyors of commercial psychedelic pop. How can a guy who strung together that many hits not be more highly respected? One of the era’s better producers as well. Wiki.
Gary Lewis and the Playboys: Even the involvement of Snuff Garrett and Leon Russell couldn’t overcome the fact that Gary was the son of Jerry Lewis, so how could you take this stuff seriously. But Gary was no Dino, Desi and Billy; the band kicked out seven Top Ten hits in two years (!) and this new collection reveals how much great stuff you never got to hear. Wiki.
The McCoys: The band that spawned Rick Derringer had an immediate hit with the iconic “Hang On Sloopy” and never hit #1 again, but their singles included covers of “Fever”, “Come On Let’s Go” and the underrated “Don’t Worry Mother”. Great stuff on the albums, too; “Mr. Summer” is an unknown wonder. The core of the band would up backing Johnny Winter during his transition from Texas bluesman to arena rocker. Wiki.
The Buckinghams: Another band whose hits came fast and furious and then they were gone. Catchy songs that added horns and time changes resulting in songs more progressive than most. Sometimes it didn’t work out (the middle section in the expanded version of “Susan” doesn’t age well) but Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears leveraged some of these tricks in their arrangements. Still kicking today. Wiki.
The Grass Roots: Not certain why they never get included in the discussion of great groups of the era. Like The Turtles, they recorded the work of great songwriters (P.F. Sloan was even an original member) and had a string of radio hits that extended into the 70s. The songs were not only ear candy but many were socially observant, and they featured a great lead singer in Rob Grill. And yes, that’s Creed Bratton from The Office on guitar. Wiki.
Paul Revere and the Raiders: Started as a raucous garage band in the Pacific Northwest, launched into America’s living room on an iconic television program and parlayed the opportunity into a string of hit singles, yet those costumes they became famous for led many to dismiss them as cartoonish wannabees. Wrong! Mark Lindsay’s looks got them onto teen magazines but singles like “Kicks”, “Hungry”, “Just Like Me” and the dynamic “Him or Me” cemented their legend. Wiki.
The Box Tops: I’m still amazed how powerful “The Letter” is forty years later, especially for a song that didn’t even hit the two minute mark. And while “Cry Like a Baby” was their only other Top Ten, that only scratched the surface of this great band. “Neon Rainbow”, “Soul Deep”, “Sweet Cream Ladies”…Alex Chilton would reinvent himself with Big Star and time has proven just how valuable Dan Penn, Wayne Thompson, Spooner Oldham and Chips Moman were to have around. Soul Deep was not only a great song, but a perfect description of the band. Wiki.
The Troggs: Another band often mistakenly dismissed as a one or two hit wonder, they had several great sides. And as anthemic as “Wild Thing” might be, “With a Girl Like You”, “Love is All Around”, “All of the Time” and “I Can’t Control Myself” are superior songs. A great blend of garage band and druggy music with Reg Presley’s nasal sneer the icing on the cake. (Also famous, of course, for the legendary taped argument where one member suggests that a track needs a little more fairy dust on it). Wiki
Mitch Ryder: Mitch and The Detroit Wheels burned like a comet and recorded arguably the hottest rock’n’roll single of all time in “Devil With a Blue Dress / Good Golly Miss Molly”. Bad management and naive decisions broke the band up within a couple of years, but they had a few great singles and recorded a treasure trove of killer rave-ups. Most don’t know that Ryder continued to make great albums over the next forty years because he gets no airplay. (Hell, even his Wikipedia page isn’t up to date). Wiki.
The 1910 Fruitgum Company: Yeah, I know it’s a bubblegum group, but I will unashamedly put “Indian Giver” out there as one of the best singles of the late ’60s. “Simon Says”, “1-2-3 Red Light” and “Special Delivery” all got serious spin time at my house and remain irresistable hooks. Listen – if Joan Jett covers your song, you’ve passed the cool test. Wiki.