Bob Lefsetz: Welcome To My World - "Sixties Instrumentals Primer"
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
This was a number two hit for Hugo Montenegro back in 1968, it was a cover of the original theme from the flick done by Ennio Morricone.
Yes, it's strange, but the sixties were full of instrumental hits, and when this broke most people had no idea who Clint Eastwood was, it was only after this that we started to hear about spaghetti westerns, Clint didn't break through big in American films until the seventies, so this certainly wasn't a hit on his coattails.
Many boomers can whistle the riff, just ask them!
NO MATTER WHAT SHAPE (YOUR STOMACH'S IN)
The original number three hit was by the T-Bones, who ultimately morphed into Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds. Sure, it became ubiquitous as the soundtrack to that Alka-Seltzer commercial, but that does not mean we loved it any less, it's HOOKY!
LOVE IS BLUE
This one went to number one, in the iteration by French composer Paul Mauriat. Yes, a Frenchman had a number one! Baby boomers loved this, despite it being the antithesis of the youth sound prevalent 1967, because a hit is a hit, you can't deny it.
Mason Williams was a writer for the Smothers Brothers' TV show, but he recorded this cut that although having the term "classical" in the title definitely seemed part of the youth oeuvre.
If you can play this on the guitar, you're really good, at least in my book, I certainly couldn't!
The track is loaded with changes, it's infectious.
A TASTE OF HONEY
There wasn't a household with a record player that did not own Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass's "Whipped Cream & Other Delights." I was either too young or too ignorant to be turned on by the cover, but you can do some web research and find out about the model and where she is today, I certainly did!
THE LONELY BULL
The Beatles had done a take of "A Taste Of Honey," back in '63, albeit with lyrics, but at that time most people had no idea who Herb Alpert was, even though he hit with this back in '62, when the Beatles were unknown in America. Once "A Taste Of Honey" broke, we all looked backward, "The Lonely Bull" regained airplay. I always preferred it to "A Taste Of Honey," now that's a HOOK!
The Bar-Kays are most famous for being decimated by the plane crash that took down Otis Redding, but before that they had a hit with this lighthearted romp, that always makes me feel good, because of the swagger, because of the trumpet trill.
Speaking of the trumpet, this was a huge hit alongside the Beatles and the rest of the British Invasion back in '64. But it was so left field, we didn't resent it, we embraced it. Listening all these years later, it's astounding how little is on the record, how it breathes in the verses.
Yes, there was a long history of surf instrumentals before the Beatles, but this was the greatest, featured at every bar mitzvah party and school dance, I even owned the single. You can dig deeper with the Ventures, but this Surfaris hit is the piece de resistance.
LOVE THEME FROM ROMEO AND JULIET
Felice's father had one of the last instrumental hits of the decade, Nino Rota wrote it, but Hank had the number one hit.
The movie was a phenomenon, and so was the single.
THEME FROM A SUMMER PLACE
This was a hit for Percy Faith way back in 1960, but it continued to get airplay throughout the decade. It always made you feel good, footloose and fancy free, thinking about the good times.
THEME FROM EXODUS
This powerful and meaningful cover of the soundtrack song by pianists Ferrante and Teicher went to number two at the turn of the decade, from the fifties to the sixties, back when it didn't have to be British to be good. You can just see the movie in your head. Life is full of thrills and disappointments, we do our best to soldier on with the goal in mind.
David Rose's classic was cut in 1958, but didn't see release until it was chosen to be a b-side of "Ebb Tide" in 1962. Is there anybody who doesn't know this?
I don't think so.
THE IN CROWD
This was a live take, and it made it all the way up to number five! Sure, it's a great song, but this recording just swings! Something happens live that just doesn't go down in the studio. Listen, this will blow your mind, from the era when being able to play was a given.
WALK, DON'T RUN
Can I really leave this Ventures smash out? I don't think so! The kings of instrumental surf music created an indelible hit that everybody who picked up a guitar played, however inefficiently! Meanwhile, the magic is in the break!
And if I'm mentioning "Walk, Don't Run," I guess this list can't be complete without the Tornados smash, which had no lyrics, but we all sang along to!
OUT OF LIMITS
The Marketts surf hit has also withstood the test of time, so I must include it.
I wanted to leave this off for two reasons, one, I wasn't going to mention any more surf tracks, and two, I already listed a Ventures cut, but despite being famous as a TV theme, the truth is this is one of the hits that has sustained over the decades. It sounds like Hawaii and surf, doesn't it?
Lonnie Mack is being forgotten to the sands of time, but guitar players all knew him from this 1963 instrumental take, if not more.
A monster hit for the Champs, "Tequila" has become indelibly linked in my mind with Pee-wee Herman's big shoe dance in his first film, "Pee-wee's Big Adventure."
At the time we didn't know Tim Burton was a genius, this was his feature film debut, we thought it was about Pee-wee, whose big screen follow-up, "Big Top Pee-Wee," was a disappointment.
But Pee-wee recovered on TV, but it was this film that put him over the top, before this he was a joke, who guest spotted and annoyed.
And "Big Adventure" is great throughout, but the big shoe dance is the peak.
GRAZING IN THE GRASS
I actually prefer the Friends Of Distinction's vocal version, with the "I can dig it, he can dig it, she can dig it, we can dig it, they can dig it, you can dig it" part, but the truth is Hugh Masekela's instrumental iteration is superior.
This Booker T. & the MG's cut had its initial chart success in 1962, but it got a rebirth via inclusion in the soundtrack to "American Graffiti," that's how many people found out about it.
Originally I saw this playlist as having three components, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," "Love Is Blue" and "A Taste Of Honey." But then the more I streamed and the more I researched, I kept remembering iconic hits, back from when it didn't have to fit a formula to succeed, music was inclusive and instrumentals were a regular feature on the hit parade!