I’m disappointed in Paste.
I like Paste. I think it does some fine pop culture coverage, and I look forward to its lists of the best albums of the year or best singles of the month so I can fool myself into thinking I’m keeping up with music.
But the publication had a surprising misstep Friday when it published a list of the top 100 songs of the 1960s.
Now, this is a subject that will start bar fights among aged baby boomers and oldies-playing DJs. (I’m not so sure about millennials; they can fight over the best Weezer song, which is, of course, “Island in the Sun.”) Hell, the original “Book of Rock Lists,” which came out in 1981, had a Top 40 best-of ranking for every year of the rock era — requiring that the songs actually made the Billboard Top 40 — and still managed to leave out some essentials. (In my humble opinion, of course.)
So I was curious to see what Paste, which very much tries to combine revisionism with the tried and true, was going to come up with. The answer: Not just the tried and true, but an unsurprising tried and true with bizarre additions.
First of all, if you’re picking the top 100 songs (or records, as the case may be) of the ’60s, are you going to allow deep cuts? Did they have to be released as singles? Did they have to make the Hot 100 or Top 40? It’s hard to tell from Paste’s list; some selections seem to included simply because they were on notable albums (such as King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man,” No. 82, or Love’s “Alone Again Or,” No. 61) or were essential in non-pop genres (Nina Simone’s “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” which hit the R&B Top 10 but ended up in the lower reaches of the Hot 100).
There was at least one limiter: an artist could have a maximum of two songs on the list, so that the thing wouldn’t be filled with the Beatles, Stones, Dylan and the Ray Conniff Singers.
(Aside: It would be interesting to read an oral history about being part of the Ray Conniff Singers. Was it fun? Painful? Was it like traveling with Up With People or Lawrence Welk? There’s a story there!)
The list does have some offbeat choices. I was pleased to see “Bernadette,” my favorite Four Tops song (and Levi Stubbs performance) at No. 89, though surprised no other Tops song qualified. And the Sonics’ “Have Love Will Travel” (No. 69) is inspired — a garage-band classic that often gets overlooked in favor of “Psychotic Reaction,” “Pushin’ Too Hard” and all the others on the original “Nuggets” collection. (Hell, it’s not even on the “Nuggets” boxed set.)
But — and here’s where things get nitpicky, because that’s what these lists are all about, right? — Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” over “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” or “Solitary Man”? (Must be Red Sox fans.) “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” as the only Four Seasons representative? Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” at No. 9? (Not sure I’d include it at all — you could substitute Blue Cheer’s “Summertime Blues” and call it even.)
And though it’s hard to argue with the canon — “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Satisfaction,” “Stand By Me,” “Like a Rolling Stone” — that’s why calling these the “best” songs, when mixed up with “Wooden Ships” and “My Way” (a Paul Anka-written tune Sinatra hated), is a fool’s errand.
“Essential” songs, sure. “Notable,” absolutely. (For reasons why, Dave Marsh’s “The Heart of Rock and Soul” is, well, essential.)
But “best”? Them’s fightin’ words. You may have wanted to dig a little deeper, Paste.
A couple fact checks: the Righteous Brothers’ version of “Unchained Melody” came out in 1965, not 1967, and Edwin Starr’s “War” shouldn’t even be on this list, as it wasn’t released until 1970 (and recorded in May of that year).
I will now turn the floor over to my many friends and web correspondents. who will take issue with my choices. (But, dammit, “Summer in the City” should definitely be there.)