Diving deeply into 6,886 hits from 1960s
Dave Kinzerwaded through 4,172 songs when putting together his book, “The 80s Music Compendium.” Published in 2015, the book plowed through every song that landed in the Billboard Top 100 in that decade, and found tidbits such as the biggest hit with a gong (“Africa” by Toto, if you care).
As if that year- long task wasn’t crazy enough, Kinzer has done it again. This time, he’s stepped back two decades to look at songs of the 1960s.
“Has American popular music ever had a decade quite like the 1960s?” he asks in the introduction to “The 60s Music Compendium.” No, it hasn’t. A K- 8 music teacher in Springfield, Ill., Kinzer meandered through 6,886 songs this time, taking a musical walk that included everyone from the Beatles to the Supremes, Elvis Presley to Alvin and the Chipmunks.
He waded through muck such as the syrupy instrumental schmaltz of “A Summer Place,” which was No. 1 for nine weeks in 1960, a record matched only by the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” in 1968.
He forced himself to listen to the longest hit in the 1960s, the 8: 15 comedy routine of “The Astronaut (Parts 1 & 2)” by Jose Jiminez. It hit No. 19.
He tallied up the artists that had the most Top 100 singles: The Beatles, the Four Seasons and the Beach Boys. The Four Seasons?
At 441 pages, the fun- toflip- through book includes Remakes, Songs with Deaths and Songs with Chipmunk Voices (11, and not all by Alvin and the Chipmunks). He discovered six songs with a kazoo. What, yo u don’t remember that 1966’s “The Eggplant Shawn Ryan That Ate Chicago” by Dr. West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band?
He even went as deep as “Songs That Modulate” and “Songs with a Countermelody.”
And he documented that public taste sometimes stinks. Some of the Worst Songs of the 1960s actually hit the Top 10 — “MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris at No. 2 (“Someone left the cake out in the rain”) and “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!” by Napoleon XIV at No. 3. If you’ve heard it, you’ll never forget it. “The Jolly Green Giant” by The Kingsmen — yeah, the ones who did “Louie Louie”— rose to No. 4.
But even with all the dreck, the 1960s were amazing for the sheer breadth of popular-music offerings. The Beatles took the world by storm and the Rolling Stones created a darker storm of their own. Motown ruled the charts with the Supremes, the Temptations, the Four Tops and Stevie Wonder. The Who’s “Tommy,” the first rock opera, was released. Jimi Hendrix appeared and made every other rock guitarist feel inadequate.
As Kinzer writes: “The musical journey you can take from 1960 to 1969 is wild.”