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Top 10 Oldies of 1967

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This list was compiled by me, your Oldies Guide at About.com, from various sources -- chart positions, sales figures from time of release to the present day, critical standing, and historical importance. Only 45 rpm singles that peaked on the pop Top 40 in 1967 are eligible; artists are only allowed one entry per year in order to give a more balanced view of the cultural landscape. (Click on "compare prices" to find the song on CD, hear a clip of the song, and buy it if you like!)

1. The Beatles, "Penny Lane" b/w "Strawberry Fields Forever"

Capitol 5810 (17 February 1967)
recorded 29 December 1966 - 17 January 1967, London, England

Arguably the crowning achievement of what many consider the greatest band of all time, it's also the clearest possible example of the dichotomy between John and Paul -- the a-side is whimsical, inclusive, a little naughty, a story that creates a whole world from small details, while the b-side is personal, reflective, psychedelic and ultimately a statement of an outsider. A high-water mark for both men.

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2. Aretha Franklin, "Respect"

Atlantic 2403 (16 April 1967) b/w "Dr. Feelgood"
recorded 14 February 1967, Memphis, TN

"That girl done stole my song!" Otis Redding exclaimed happily when he first heard Aretha's scorched-earth take. The arrangement -- featuring a bridge copied from Sam and Dave's "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby" -- is superior to Otis', but it's Aretha who makes it really work. A pledge of sexual satisfaction, female independance, or racial change? None, literally, but it's all there in her voice.

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3. The Rolling Stones, "Let's Spend the Night Together" b/w "Ruby Tuesday"

London 904 (13 January 1967)
recorded November-December 1966, London, England

The Stones' greatest two-sided Sixties hit, ironically only so because radio DJs, afraid of the direct come-on on the a-side, flipped the record and gave listeners the baroque ballad instead. The result is fascinating, a blistering yet ebullient tune about the liberating effects of the sexual revolution backed by a moody reflection on just what that freedom entails. One that stops just short of true regret.

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4. The Who, "I Can See For Miles"

Decca 32206 (September 1967) b/w "Mary-Anne With The Shaky Hands"
recorded 7 October 1967, London, England

This was the Who's attempt to make the nastiest, most sonically aggressive record possible, and songwriter Pete Townshend never really forgave England for ignoring it. In America, however, where aggression is king, it hit the Top Ten. And not everyone in Blighty missed the implications of this bitterest of cuckolded kiss-offs: Paul McCartney took it as a sign to unleash "Helter Skelter."

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5. Jackie Wilson, "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher"

Brunswick 55336 (August 1967) b/w "I'm The One To Do It"
recorded 7 July 1967, Chicago, IL

The return of Jackie Wilson was a welcome one, and not just because his voice was sorely missed in the mid-Sixties: with this, his finest moment on record, he finally found the earthy backing he'd been missing on cuts like "Baby Workout." Motown's own Funk Brothers sat in on this obscure Dells album track, and the result (dig those horns!) is as clear a document of secular ecstasy as can be imagined.

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6. Sam and Dave, "Soul Man"

Stax 231 (September 1967) b/w "May I Baby"
recorded July 1967, Memphis, TN

The fingerprint of the Memphis soul sound epitomized by Stax, this Isaac Hayes / David Porter song got the usual the dual-preacher overhaul from the pair, turning what might have been an ordinary statement of sexual prowess into a treatise on all things masculine. With a Bookerless MGs and the Memphis Horns literally and figuratively backing them up, it's impossible to deny the truth of their argument.

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7. The Doors, "Light My Fire"

Elektra 45615 (April 1967) b/w "The Crystal Ship"
recorded 4 January 1967, Los Angeles, CA

The Summer of Love blossomed into the public consciousness with this song... the full version, that is, whose extended solos create a trance that suggests certain fires being lit and tended already. Jim Morrison's Dionysian boom, Ray Manzarek's baroque mind trips, guitarist Robby Krieger's sun-dappled hippie dream... all the elements are already present. Some think they never reached these heights again.

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8. The Buffalo Springfield, "For What It's Worth"

Atco 6459 (15 December 1966) b/w "Until You Love Someone"
recorded 1 December 1966, Los Angeles, CA

Written and recorded quickly after member Stephen Stills recoiled from the LAPD's violent reaction to teenage protests on Sunset Strip, this bluesy, somber, and ominous little number (recognizable by the chorus "Stop! Hey, what's that sound") proved to be a prophetic omen of the violent and socially destructive miasma that the generation gap was fast creating. Hooray for our side, indeed.

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9. Procol Harum, "A Whiter Shade Of Pale"

Deram 7507 (June 1967) b/w "Lime Street Blues"
recorded May 1967, London, England

Imagine Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman" filtered through Bach's "Sleeper's Awake" (although "Air on a G String" was the real inspiration), and you have a good preliminary idea of this, perhaps the first classical classic-rock song to go American Top 40. The fact that vocalist/organist Gary Brooker sang like Ray Charles didn't hurt; nor that the lyrics remain more obscure than a thousand "American Pies".

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10. Otis Redding, "Try A Little Tenderness"

Volt 141 (14 November 1966) b/w "I'm Sick Ya'll"
recorded September 1966, Memphis, TN

Just barely sneaking into its peak position on the charts in early January 1967, Otis' real breakthrough was founded on a pop standard so established (and so Establishment) that Jack Webb had already done a cover. Inspired by drummer Al Jackson's double-time hi-hat, though, Otis transformed this treacle into a call for romantic devotion, one that spiraled into a frenzy only a fade could contain.

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What do you think?

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