The swinging 60s might be more than half a century ago now, but their revolutionary impact still remains to this day. Whether you were Team Beatles or Team Stones, the two bands still stand as arguably the biggest this country has ever produced, but there were more to these years than just John and Jagger. From the hit machine and conveyor belt of in-house stars produced by Motown to the burgeoning, melon-twisting dawn of psychedelia, it was a decade of exploration and experimentation. Here are the tracks that defined it... Words by Matthew Horton, Tim Chester, Priya Elan. 100 best tracks of the '60s - Spotify playlist


Shocking in both its lyrical frankness and its musical sparseness, ‘Heroin’ was Lou Reed at his most cliff-edge doomed and romantic. Spitting the lyrics with a bit too much realness, the music spins into a frenzied “high” aided by Moe Tucker’s jiggling percussion and John Cale’s freakish viola. Hauntingly brilliant.

49Jumpin’ Jack Flash

According to legend this track was inspired by Keith Richard’s gardener (along with the effect of quaffing too much acid ), The Stones’ ‘…Jack’ was led by Richards' propulsive, open tuned guitar riff which he likened to “levitation.” Meanwhile Jagger’s vocal was the perfect blend of bullish and petulant.


Proto-Krautrock duo the Silver Apples flew miles ahead of the pack with this stunningly unique track. Aided by a rudimentary synthesizer and a non-traditional song structure, ‘Oscillations’ appropriately enough, spoke of the beauty of the new, in an effortlessly forward- looking way.

47I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better

Led by Jim McGuinn’s distinctive 12-string Rickenbacker, and Gene Clark’s pitch perfect lilt, this was originally the b-side to ‘All I Really Wanna Do’. With its gentle jangle and angelic harmonies this track set the template for all future alt-country jams.

46Some Velvet Morning

Like an American version of Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot, Nancy and Lee were a sultry pairing who radiated with danger and mysterious sexual allure. No less than on the mythology referencing ‘Some Velvet Morning’ which has gone on to become a much covered alternative duet (perhaps most famously by Primal Scream and Kate Moss).

45Waterloo Sunset

A shimmering slice of 60s Britannica which honed in on a vision of the capital via the narrative grace of Ray Davies. Dave Davies’ lilting guitar chords corralled the tale of “Terry and Julie” (Terence Stamp and Julie Christie) and future histories yet to be written with a waltz-like grace and a timeless charm. Everyone from Blur to The Libertines owes a reasonable debt to this slice of wistful British storytelling.

44Venus In Furs

Based on the counter-culture novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the VU’s tale of S&M curdled with its own bedraggled charm, thrusting forth with John Cale’s droning viola and Lou Reed’s dully ceremonial vocal. Gothic before "goth" existed.

43(Reach Out) I’ll Be There

Penned by Motown dream-team of Holland/Dozier/Holland, Levi Stubbs sang this track with an urgency which was said to mimic Bob Dylan. The result was a Motown classic that pulsated with the knowledge of the depths of desperation and loneliness which found its beating, soulful heart beneath in the broad swells of the music.

42I'm A Believer

Penned by Neil Diamond and played by session musicians, ‘I’m A Believer’ was a brilliant slice of 60s boyband pop, claiming its rightful place atop the US Billboard charts for seven glorious weeks. A cheery bolt of daydream escapism, amongst a background of social upheaval.

41Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag

Following a legal battle with his label King Records, a reinvigorated James Brown re-emerged revitalized. Showcasing his new, JB Horns assisted new direction with a slick funk loop, the song would signal a new turn not just for Brown but for R'n'B music as a whole.

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