Team Beatles or Team Stones? To this day the 60s' biggest two stars are still seen as music's high watermarks, but there were more to these years than just John and Jagger. This was the decade when Motown shimmied in and produced a raft of in-house superstars, where the first wave of psych bubbled up and twisted young minds and where global megastars like Johnny Cash reigned supreme. Here are the tracks that defined the most swinging years of them all... Words by Matthew Horton, Tim Chester, Priya Elan. 100 best tracks of the '60s - Spotify playlist


30The Weight

Inspired by the films of Bunuel and quasi- Biblical in its lyrical bent, ‘The Weight’ became an anthem of American counterculture (see its use in Easy Rider and later Girl, Interrupted). Dylan’s backing band charmed generations of drifters with this future country-rock classic.

29Louie Louie

By the time The Kingsmen came to record their version ‘Louie Louie’ was already a firm cult classic. Originally written by Richard Berry in 1955, The Kingsmen put the track through the inner garage band grinder and created this walloping jive. As the ultimate stamp of grungy approval it would later be squished into submission by Iggy Pop.

28Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay

Recorded just 6 weeks before his death and released posthumously, this track was Redding looking back at a life that had seen him move to San Francisco from Georgia to seek stardom. Its reflective mood was retrospectively haunting and the whistling solo was a happy accident - Redding meant to finish the lyrics before his fateful plane crash.

27Gimme Shelter

Released at the butt end of the 60s, Jagger and Richards captured the changing moods of the time, as race riots, Charles Manson and Vietnam had soured the hippie dream. A stabbing at their infamous Altamont gig added an extra dimension of bitter twang as the soulful crisis of the track signaled the end of an innocent era.

26My Generation

Taking in a timeless sense of youthful disaffection via a countercultural, Mod lens, Pete Townshend's age-defying ditty distilled what it feels like to be young, energised and in the prime of life into 3:18 minutes of bristling hedonism. According to legend, Who manager Kit Lambert suggested that Roger Daltrey stuttered in order to sound “like a kid on speed.” Either way, it's still a clarion call for a youth in revolt.

25For What It’s Worth

Stephen Stills’ famous protest song is not, as many mistakenly believe, an anti-war missive. Instead it was penned in reaction to the police shutting down various clubs on the Sunset Strip, enforcing strict curfews and inciting several riots. That it's been re-appropriated as a soundtrack to the chaos of Vietnam just proves the incendiary power of what is really quite a sedate track.

24She Loves You

From the frantic tumble of toms and urgent harmonies of the ten second intro onwards this track doesn’t mess about. Two and a half minutes of world class pop later and it’s gone, but in your head forever. While any number of The Beatles’ early tracks could sit pretty in this list, ‘She Loves You’ has a taut, economic charm that wallops you upside the head and scarpers before you know what’s hit you.

23Son Of A Preacher Man

It’s hard to believe that this perfect soul pop nugget was turned down by no less than Aretha herself, but following Dusty’s sultry take on the track she was quick to correct the error of her ways. It was too late, however, as Ms Springfield’s slinky horn-packed effort had already written itself into the history books. Nice bell work on the cymbals too.

22Kick Out The Jams

It’s easy to underestimate the raw power and sheer importance of the Motor City Five, who let’s not forget were writing punk tracks seven years before the Pistols. Less breaking boundaries than headbutting them into submission, the MC5 exploded into a clueless ’69 with their debut album of the same name, and this nitrous calling card would stamp firm their legacy forever.

21You Really Got Me

Trying to trace the roots of heavy metal? Many musicologists trace them to the red raw chords of this track, the ludicrously heavy third single from The Kinks and the one that sent them stratospheric. Unleashed in 1964, at a time when even The Beatles were still trading in 'Eight Days A Week'-style pop hits, this track was a sexually-charged bolt from the blue that still sounds as vital and untamed 50 years later.

Share This

Comments
Don't Miss
Latest Tickets
NME On Social
NME Store