Retro Dee joins us as a regular contributor to The Grooveyard’s website, writing about music, fashion and other trends of the 1950s. Check out her blog, Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever here, and her column every Wednesday. (Posts will be different most weeks, with the initial post being an exception.)
Hello again, guys and gals! I’m Retro Dee and Welcome to Retro Dee Reveals: My Picks for the Great 88! In the last entry of this blog, I talked about my personal experience listening to The Seventh Annual Grooveyard Great 88 Countdown. In this entry, I’m going to talk about the songs I voted for… and why!
To recap: “The Great 88” is an annual countdown of 88 songs as chosen by the listeners of WCWP’s The Grooveyard radio show hosted by D.J. Alan Seltzer on WCWP 88.1 FM.
In the First Round, we had a certain amount of days (usually a week) where we could vote for songs from a certain year. Listeners could vote for up to 10 songs per year, once per day until that section closed. At the end of each voting section, Alan Seltzer posted the Top 5 Results of each survey on WCWP’s website. But that was only Round One!
In the Second (Final) Round, there were three more surveys: Years 1957 and Before, 1958-1960 and finally, 1961 – 1963. You could choose up to 15 songs per list and you could vote every day (once per 24 hours) from November 14th to December 8th.
Remembering to vote each day was not that hard for someone who spends most of her time on the computer anyway. Still, there were a couple of days where I completely forgot to vote, so no, I didn’t vote every single day. I was very committed, however, and voted as many times as I could. As for my choices, what I lacked in variety, I made up for in loyalty.
SO! Here they are, my picks for the FINAL Round of The Grooveyard Great 88 Countdown, a total of 30 songs (it’s a nice round number.) Plus, I’m including some trivia and the reasons why I picked these particular songs. (Please note that the songs will be listed by number in the order of how they made the countdown.)
Retro Dee’s Great 88 Picks for 2018!
#61 “Think It Over” by Buddy Holly and The Crickets: Buddy Holly wrote this song and the lyrics are just so honest and straightforward. He was really very smart for such a young guy. I love the Crickets’ back up vocals on this one too. “Think It Over” was a huge hit in 1958.
#58 “Come Softly To Me” by The Fleetwoods: This song is so gentle and beautiful; it’s one of my very favorites. The melody in the doo-wop part is perfection. It just makes me want to cry. (Although I’m not sure if they’re happy or sad tears.)
#55 “Heartbeat” by Buddy Holly: This was written by Bob Montgomery, one of Buddy’s best friends whom he met in the 7th grade. They actually had a band together. This song is very sweet. Almost too sweet. Like those sugar cookies you get on Valentine’s Day.
#54 “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” by Buddy Holly: Paul Anka wrote this song. Buddy agreed to do it if he could do it in his own style. And fortunately for us, he definitely had his own amazing style! For me, this song has a special, personal story behind it. And lucky for you, I’m not telling it.
#53 “Poor Little Fool” by Ricky Nelson: This was also a Summer Song Survey pick of mine. I remember hearing it on the “Oldies” station when I was 12, and I immediately fell in love with. It was written by Eddie Cochran’s fiancee, Sharon Sheeley and was a big hit in 1958. Boy, that Ricky Nelson was not only super cute and a TV star, he could also actually sing! I think that qualifies him as a “triple threat”, don’t you?
#52 “Bird Dog” by The Everly Brothers: This song rocks and is adorable at the same time. You can’t say that about many things! It’s just a blast to listen to. It’s one of my very favorites– not only one of my favorites by Don and Phil, but one of my very favorite songs, period!
#51 “A Teenager in Love” by Dion and The Belmonts: This was literally, the very FIRST song I ever heard from the 1950’s era. I was about 7, I think, when I first heard it and I loved it. I remember running around singing it at school during recess! I still love it to this day, even if the material is a little young for me. I just have to remember not to sing it in public anymore.
#47 “Maybe Baby” by Buddy Holly and The Crickets: When I was a little girl, I thought my Dad made this song up! Every time I said “maybe” about something, he’d sing: “Maybe Baby...!” I think I was around 10 when I learned the truth: It’s one of the greatest early Rock n Roll hits of all time!
#46 “Lucille” by Little Richard: Who doesn’t love “LU-CIIIILLE!” ? It’s LR at his best, and Rockabilly at it’s best. It’s so classic, it doesn’t even sound out of place if you mixed it in with songs on a contemporary playlist. I actually used to think this song came from a lot later than the 1950’s, it’s kind of sophisticated for 1956, I think.
#45 “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry: Really I can’t believe this was only #45. This is like the quintessential 1950’s Rock n Roll song! (Other than Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock”, which didn’t make the countdown at all!) I don’t know why it didn’t get more votes. Maybe there should have been a campaign or something. No, I’m kidding.
#43 “La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens: This is an awesome song, or should I say an awesome adaptation of a pretty good song. I actually had to dance to this song onstage in a play, 8 nights in a row. (We used the Los Lobos cover version for the play, but I’m digressing.) NOBODY rocks “La Bamba” like Ritchie Valens. The guitar in this is phenomenal. Ritchie was a gifted young man; an amazing talent– gone way too soon.
#40 “Rave On!” by Buddy Holly: I love this song so much, I have dreams about it. But that’s normal, right? It’s the perfect 50’s song in every way: fun, upbeat and romantic. Listening to it is like getting transported back in time to The Best Era Ever. And you get those little growls and squeaks from Buddy that were uniquely his, plusthe Crickets’ doo-wop in the background as an added bonus. We Holly fans also like to use the title of this song to signify Buddy’s never-ending popularity in the industry, year after year after year. Rave On!
#39 “Sh-Boom” by The Chords: Not only were The Chords the first to record this song, they also wrote it. However I have to confess that I like The Crew Cuts’ version a lot better. But their version wasn’t on the survey and I had to give props to The Chords for creating it in the first place. If this song doesn’t cheer you up, nothing will! It encapsulates the innocence and care-free attitude of the 1950’s. Being from the first half of the 50’s (1954), it’s more Big Band than Rock n Roll, but so what, I love it.
#37 “Great Balls Of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis: One of the reasons I like this song is that I always laugh when I remember Beavis and Butthead watching the video from the movie and Beavis goes, “This song is called ‘Great Balls of…… FIRE!’ Heh-m-heh!” And his eyes get all flashy. Well, you had to be there. But please realize that Beavis and Butthead are not the reason I voted for it. I voted for it because it’s simply one of the best songs of the era. Maybe even of ANY era. I thought about voting for “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” (I voted for it in the Prelims), but there just wasn’t room in the Finals. Out of the two Jerry Lee Lewis songs, I had to go with this one. It was a tough choice, folks.
#36 “Maybelline” by Chuck Berry: Maybelline is another classic like Johnny B. Goode, that you really can’t say enough “goode” things about. And thanks to my relatively new-found love for Rockabilly music, the makeup brand is no longer the first thing I think of when I hear the name “Maybelline”.
#35 “Be-Bop-A-Lula” by Gene Vincent and The Blue Caps: This song is amazing. I’m new at writing about the musical elements in a song, but the blues in this is really what I find appealing. Gene Vincent was another Rockabilly King and he definitely deserves the title!
#34 “Everyday” by Buddy Holly: I didn’t even know who this was by until about 3 years ago when I fell in love with Buddy Holly. But it was many years before that when I fell in love with the song itself. It’s another one that encapsulates the sweet, romantic innocence of the era. And good news. I finally got the image of the kids from Stand By Me on their bikes out of my head. Now I just picture a general, 1950’s neighborhood with white picket fences, the sun shining on the newly paved asphalt and Mrs. Wilson trimming the rose bushes in her high heels.
#29 “(Til) I Kissed You” by The Everly Brothers: I fell in love with this song just last year, and I fell hard. It is so sweet, so romantic and the way Don and Phil harmonize is impeccable. Then I found out from The Grooveyard that Don wrote this after getting kissed by some amazing gal while on tour in Australia and I was riddled with jealousy. My eyes burned up like a thousand red-hot suns! But I’ll get over it. I think Phil was the cuter one anyway. Seriously, this song is another masterpiece by the Everlys. Although it can be argued that this song is more Pop than Rock, it’s Pop at it’s very finest.
#27 “Dream Lover” by Bobby Darin: This is the song that was my favorite song when I was 13. Of course, I didn’t tell anyone that or I would have gotten beat up. Then again, I don’t think any of my Pantera-loving schoolmates would have even heard of it. It’s a great example of the era and it’s by Bobby Darin who can pretty much sing anything. I have seen it listed as both from 1959 and 1960. But let’s not split hairs. It’s a great song and that’s that!
#25 “Whispering Bells” by The Del-Vikings: Each time I even think of this song, I sigh. It’s so hauntingly beautiful. “Awww… whispering bells..”. Funny enough this was also in Stand By Me, but unlike “Everyday”, I don’t recall the exact scene it was in.
#24 “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly: This, of course, is one of the most popular and memorable songs of the 1950’s. No one denies that. We love you, Peggy Sue. I was hoping it would make it all the way to Number One on 2018’s Great 88 countdown, but number 24 will do. I still don’t know how I missed it the night the Survey Results played!
#23 “Not Fade Away” by Buddy Holly: Okay, I’m finally getting used to the fact that this song was written and originally performed by Buddy Holly and not The Grateful Dead. I’ve mentioned my guilt over this before, and how I feel bad because I so closely relate this song to another amazing legend, Jerry Garcia. It’s kind of a mind-trip having to re-associate it with Buddy Holly, who I love more than anything. I mean, it’s Buddy’s song and I want to FEEL that, but I just kept thinking it’s a Grateful Dead song! Psychologically, it’s been a tough road. But I have to admit it’s getting better… It’s getting better all the time… Hmm… The Beatles, right?
#19 “Roll Over Beethoven” by Chuck Berry: This is like the third song I voted for by Chuck Berry. Ah, but whose counting? Yes, ole Chuck was really something. He managed to make Rock n Roll fun and exciting without being too loud or involving lyrics about drugs and homicide. You can’t say that for every artist.
#18 “Oh Boy!” by The Crickets: Oh boy, I love the way Buddy sings this. He didn’t have to actually say anything dirty, the subtext is all in his voice. This 50’s classic has just enough innuendo to make it feel slightly naughty. (I guess that’s why Ed Sullivan didn’t like it) What I think is really cool is the part where Buddy yells out: “OWWW!!”and the Crickets quickly jump in with “Dum-dum-de-dum, Oh boy…” It’s like the cross-street of the Raucousness of Rock n Roll and the Innocence of Doo-Wop. At least, that’s the way I see it. This huge 1957 hit was written by Sonny West and Bill Tilghman who also wrote the 1958 hit “Rave On!”
#13 “That’ll Be The Day” by Buddy Holly and The Crickets: How many times do I have to explain why I love this one? It’s the greatest song ever. Guh-doi!
#11 “Wake Up Little Susie” by The Everly Brothers: I love this song, but every time I hear it, I think of my older relatives from Boston talking about the time the Archbishop banned it from being played on the air for being too suggestive. This makes me wonder what, exactly, was the problem? If anything, the song is promoting chastity. The fella is worried that he and Susie will look like they did something wrong when they didn’t. Listen to the words, man! They just fell asleep!
#10 “True Love Ways” by Buddy Holly: This was the one and only song that was in the 60’s section that I voted for. However, it was actually recorded in 1958 during a 3-hour session in which Buddy also recorded “Raining In My Heart”, “Moonbeams” and “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.” I voted for this song in the Finals, but NOT in the first round, because I was voting for 1950’s songs and I didn’t even look at the 1960 list. Turns out it made it anyway, and it was on the Final Round Survey for the years 1958-1960. I had to vote for it then! I’d never heard of it until a couple of years ago, and within those couple of years, it’s become another of my favorites. At first, it kind of reminded me of “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”. Obvs, the melody is different, but it has what I call that “1940’s sound”. It’s like one of those songs my Grandpa would listen to in his Cadillac on the way to get milk at Stop and Shop. But don’t get me wrong, it is lovely. There was just an adjustment period for me personally, someone who grew up with Nirvana dominating the charts. Now that I have switched favorite musical genres, I can say that “True Love Ways” is undoubtedly the most beautiful, romantic, bitter-sweet love song that ever existed. (Bitter-sweet because the lyrics talk about sharing their days together through both the joys and sadness of life… Then, just mere weeks after recording it, Buddy Holly perished in a plane crash, making his beloved wife a widow.) Buddy’s voice is like pure crystal in this song; it almost brings tears to my eyes. He’s literally my favorite male vocalist, surpassing my other favorites such as Bobby Darin, Roy Orbison and Billy Joel.
#3 “I Wonder Why” by Dion and The Belmonts: Speaking of great male vocalists, Dion DiMucci also has one of the best voices in the business. Complimented by the spot-on doo-wop of The Belmonts, it’s no wonder why this song by those talented Italian boys from Brooklyn always gets so many votes!
#2 “Earth Angel” by The Penguins: There are two versions of this song and this is the one I prefer. This time, I dislike The Crew Cuts’ version. Theirs is very different and lacks the romanticism. The Penguins’ smooth vocal style is imperative because this is such a romantic song… you can just picture Prom Night, 1955… I always think of “The Enchantment Under The Sea” Dance in Back to the Future when Lorriane and George get together and Marty realizes he’s gonna be born after all. Yes, Sir. It’s always a memorable moment when you find out that you’re going to be born.
#1 “Come Go With Me” by The Del-Vikings: I love this song and were it not for the “Peggy Sue Missing Time Experience”, I’d have been thrilled to see it make Number One. I’m still really happy it did, just not thrilled. I love the doo-wop part of this song, you don’t get more 50’s than that. I got to see a local “Oldies” cover band warm up for a show at the Fair a couple of summers ago. They used this song for their sound check and no matter how many times they re-started it, I never got tired of it.
WOW! All 30 of my final picks made the countdown, including Number One. I can’t believe it! Many of my choices ended up in consecutive order. If I weren’t so mathematically challenged, I could probably figure out why that is. Maybe I’d even be able to figure out how much my votes helped Buddy Holly dominate the outcome with 11 songs. I sure thought that was swell, and in my head I pictured something like this:
Well, I just want to thank the folks at WCWP 88.1 FM in Brookville, NY. for giving us great public radio which I am fortunate enough to hear 3,000 miles away thanks to the miracle of the internet. It was a pleasure to be able to participate in the 2018 Great 88. Thanks also to D.J. Alan Seltzer for hosting a great show. If you’d like to see the FULL LIST of songs in video form, you can go to The Grooveyard’s Great 88 official website at WCWPgrooveyard.com.
Also, if you haven’t already, be sure to read my personal experience listening to The Seventh Annual Great 88, in my previous entry: Just For Fun: The Great 88 Experience!
Retro Dee writes about the Fifties at Retro Dee’s Guide to the Best Era Ever, and will be contributing to The Grooveyard every Wednesday.
Listen to “The Grooveyard” following “Rick’s Redneck Ranch” each Saturday night at 7 PM on 88.1 FM on Long Island, by clicking the 88.1 FM link on wcwp.org or via the TuneIn app. or the 88.1 FM button on the WCWP app for Android or iPhones. You can also follow us on Twitter.
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