Anyone who knows me knows that I love popular music. In an earlier column, I also mentioned that I love to make lists. My only lists of any importance to anyone else are the grocery list, the "what to take on vacation" list, and of course, the ever-popular "honey do list."
The lists I enjoy making, however - which I realize are of absolutely no importance to anyone but me - are entertainment-related lists. Normally, I keep these lists to myself, but -as a fellow columnist once said -sometimes you just have to find something to "fill the space" for a column. With that inspiring thought in mind, I will unveil today a list of great "first recordings."
For several years now, I have felt that the two best "first recordings" of the "rock era" were the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back" and Crosby, Stills and Nash's "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes." (The latter was not the group's first single, but it was the first track on their debut album). I often shared this opinion with anyone who would ask - which, it turned out, was no one. Rather than just accept this opinion from myself as a fact, I decided to look into it a little further (can you tell that I'm also the one who writes the occasional "Musings Of an Idle Mind" piece?)
The criteria I established for a song to qualify for this list was fairly simple: The artist had to have placed singles and/or albums on the Billboard "Top 40" chart over a period of at least 5 years (no "one hit wonders" here) after their initial success. As I went on, I developed a couple of other criteria: 1) The song in question might not actually be the artist's very first recording, but would be the first one to hit the Top 40 on the record label most associated with the artist (see Aretha Franklin) ; and, if the artist in question is a group, it would be the first record from the most popular group configuration (see Fleetwood Mac).
Now that I've set the rules (which of course I can, since I'm the only one "playing the game"), I proudly present my list of "great first recordings." I have listed the recordings in chronological order, as many of these songs are favorites of mine, and I've found that numbering such a list from #1 to whatever, is a hopeless task. I have limited the number of songs, though. Due to space considerations, I have included only records released between 1955- 1975 - "the Golden Age of Rock and Roll."
Without further adieu, then, I present (drum roll, please!) my list of great first records.
1956 - Heartbreak Hotel - Elvis Presley (first RCA Victor record)
I Walk the Line - Johnny Cash
1957 - Bye-Bye Love - The Everly Brothers
Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On - Jerry Lee Lewis
You Send Me - Sam Cooke
1958 - I Wonder Why - Dion (& Belmonts)
It's Only Make Believe - Conway Twitty
1960 - Only The Lonely - Roy Orbison
1961 - Shop Around - The Miracles
1962 - Sherry - Four Seasons
Green Onions - Booker T. & the MGs
1963 - Fingertips Part Two - Stevie Wonder
1964 - I Want to Hold Your Hand - The Beatles (first US release)
The Way You Do the Things You Do - Temptations
House of the Rising Sun - The Animals
You Really Got Me - The Kinks
You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling- Righteous Brothers
1965 - My Generation - The Who (UK release)
It's Not Unusual - Tom Jones
In The Midnight Hour - Wilson Pickett
Sounds of Silence- Simon and Garfunkel
1966 - Good Lovin' - Young Rascals
Tell It Like It Is - Aaron Neville
1967 - I Never Loved a Man - Aretha Franklin
Brown Eyed Girl - Van Morrison 1969 - Ramblin' Gamblin' Man - Bob Seger
These Eyes - The Guess Who
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes- Crosby, Stills, and Nash
I Want You Back - The Jackson Five
1970 - Close To You - The Carpenters
Fire and Rain - James Taylor
Your Song - Elton John
1971 - Maggie May - Rod Stewart
1972 - Taxi - Harry Chapin
Take It Easy - The Eagles
1974 - Piano Man - Billy Joel
1975 - Born To Run- Bruce Springsteen
Over My Head - Fleetwood Mac
A few outstanding "first record" songs didn't make the list simply because the artist didn't meet the "five years" criteria - often, unfortunately, due to the artist's early death. Included in this group would be such songs as "That'll Be the Day" by Buddy Holly and the Crickets (1957), "You Don't Mess With Jim" by Jim Croce (1972), "Light My Fire" by the Doors (1967) , "Sweet Home Alabama," by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and the two-sided hit by Ritchie Valens - "Donna/La Bamba." (1958), among others.
Gee, that would make a good list, too - The Top Ten "Couldabeen" artists!
- or maybe not.
That's all, folks!
- from that "Little Old List Maker," me