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

40See Emily Play

With its use of backwards tape, reverbed piano and hop-scotching rhythms this track was a psychedelic masterpiece from the tie-dye pen Syd Barrett. A scrambling epic, the truth of “Emily”’s existence ( was she real or just a hallucination?) was never revealed, adding to the track's infamy.

39You Can’t Hurry Love

Based a gospel song (‘You Can’t Hurry God’), this provided The Supremes with their seventh number one and became a signature Motown track. Written and produced by the in house team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, the shimmering song was their attempt to re-construct the previous Supremes hit ‘Come See About Me’, but the joyous results were above and beyond those limitations.

38Then He Kissed Me

A Phil Spector co-write and production, it featured his legendary 'Wall Of Sound' stylings. The innocent, fairy tale romance nature of lyrics that cradled at young love like a Disney movie (Spector was helped by Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry) so touched Brian Wilson that he covered the track with The Beach Boys two years later in 1965.

37(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher And Higher

Originally done by vocal group The Dells, Jackie Wilson re-recorded the track in Chicago with members of the Motown in house band, The Funk Brothers. For many, it’s the epitome of a “feel good tune” with it’s sunny backing vocals, chugging guitars and Wilson’s ecstatic vocals, so happy that he’s found “The One.”

36White Rabbit

A heady bolero that divvied up Alice In Wonderland references with not-so-subtle winks at drug assisted mind expansion. Grace Slick perfectly captured the mid-60s hope that narcotics could change perceptions and the world. A counter-culture classic.

35Time Of The Season

The closing track on seminal 1968 LP 'Odyssey And Oracle', 'Time Of The Season' was perhaps The Zombies finest moment. Although the band broke up shortly after this song’s release, the arid R’n’B stylings of this track would live on decades after their demise. Inspired by Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ and the very real Summer Of Love, it was anchored by Colin Blunstone’s coolly soulful vocals and Rod Argent’s galloping keyboard solo.

34Stand By Me

A hymn-like universal anthem which King penned with songwriting legends Leiber and Stoller, that was not only later to be covered by Jimi Hendrix but also used for the classic coming of age film of the same name and would become a by-word for 50s nostalgia.

33You’re Gonna Miss Me

A rip roaring slice of garage rock, this classic was made by Rory Erkison’s squawking vocal style and harmonica solo. The result was spine-tingling and urgent, it would later feature on the ‘Nuggets’ compilation and with its dizzying energy was way ahead of its time.


A lover letter to a real life dancer and traveler but also to the ethereal beauty of Montreal, this track began as a poem (‘Suzanne Takes You Down’) before being recorded by Judy Collins. Forthright and literate with a flowery orchestration from producer John Simon, Cohen’s definitive version appeared on the troubadour’s classic debut ‘Songs Of Leonard Cohen’.

31Wichita Lineman

Penned by Jimmy Webb (who also wrote ‘Galveston’), this was another tale of blue-collar blues. Framed by producer Al DeLory’s wistful orchestration, Campbell’s honey-soaked croon perfectly captured the sadness of a long distance telephone lineman.

Share This

Connect With Us
This Week's Magazine