another interesting subset of ’60s pop songs: girl sings song about how she’s a total fuck-up because she rejected (or broke up with) a guy.
this one is the most incredible example to me, because the contrast is so striking: the lollipop voice of ginny arnell singing these very violent lyrics about how she needs to “bang her head against the wall” because she’s such a “dumb head, stupid little girl, goofy little girl, just a dumb head.”
every time i hear this song, i have to stop whatever i’m doing and hold my breath for 2 minutes. this song is so intense.
this is the peak of this phenom to me, but here are some other examples:
an interesting bedfellow is linda scott’s “don’t lose your head,” in which she counsels herself to reject a guy because to do otherwise would be giving into her silly emotions and foolish head. opposite action, similar shameful feelings!
not that there aren’t ’60s pop songs about women being OK after a breakup! like irma thomas’s “time is on my side" (recorded before the rolling stones’ version), or patsy ann noble’s "it’s better to cry today"… as well as fantastic bits of rebellion, like lesley gore’s "you don’t own me.” not as prevalent as the “i’m just a silly dumb girl” songs, but still bopping alongside them. (more empowered protagonists in lady pop songs started to take over as the ’60s went on and blossomed into the ’70s, which gave us folk and disco on the airwaves. more on that later.)
and there are some great songs that tell boys to cut it out:
as well as some that really turn the screw on the guys, like “he cried" by the daughters of eve — an ultra rare perspective, but worth mentioning. this song nearly ties us back to the vindictive pop songs, except the narrator of the daughters of eve song doesn’t sound vengeful; she passively reports that she fell in love with another person and made the guy cry. there’s no joy, just a feeling of “how about that?” which makes it all the more spine-tingling!
del shannon - hats off to larry (1961)
so, i really love (and know a lot about I GUESS) 1960s pop music. this love extends beyond the ’60s — i love standards and pop hooks from any era — but the ’60s has the highest concentration of stuff that i like and taught myself about as a kid.
my favorite thing is the pop song (or garage song, for that matter) where it follows a formula, but has just one element that’s a little off; a little unique, a little strange, causing some kind of tension within the song itself.
within these songs, there is a tiny but significant number of songs from this time that are pretty fucked up. like, the lyrics, the story that they’re telling. sometimes the narrator even admits that they’re fucked up (like this one, where del says “it may sound cruel…”). these vindictive little pop songs.
and god help me, there is something entrancing about the vitriol hidden in these peppy tunes.
other examples that i can think of off the top of my head:
(although songs like “under my thumb” by the rolling stones are related to this phenom, they aren’t what i’m talking about… “under my thumb” is a rock strut, whereas these other songs are twinkly; sugar poured on pastry with a side of arsenic.)
marlena shaw - california soul
happy birthday!! she’s still out there and performing at the age of 72!
marlena shaw - go away little boy
"mi tía maría," ismael rivera
ella fitzgerald - all of me
aretha franklin “it won’t be long” - live on the steve allen show, 1964
tommy chong (of cheech and chong) wrote this ballad about interracial relationships in 1965 and in 1968 diana ross recorded a version of it
diana ross & the supremes - no matter what sign you are :)
mort garson - mellow mood for maidenhair
laura mvula - she (live)
moko - summon the strength
marvin gaye and tammi terrell - i can’t help but love you