Your New Favorite Old Songs
by Summer Anne Burton
While I devour a lot of different types of music (complicated feelings about Lana Del Rey, anyone?), my heart has always rested with the oldies. I remember lying in bed at night as a preteen, listening to the oldies station and trying to force myself to stay awake so I could hear one. more. song. I was obsessed with the idea of becoming a sock-hopping, sick-in-love teenager. Now, thanks to YouTube, I can time-travel and share with you some of the best old jams you’ve never heard.
“7 a.m.” by Jacqueline Taieb (1966)
Jacqueline was a teenage “yé-yé girl,” which was the 1960s French version of “twee as hell.” In this song, she wakes up in the morning (guess what time?) and starts spinning records by The Who and Elvis and looking for her toothbrush. The lyrics are a meandering inner dialogue, complete with pauses and sighs to drive home to point that Jacqueline is just singing every single thing that goes through her head on this uneventful school day morning. “It’s, uh, Monday, isn’t it? Oh, I have an English exam today. Mm, I wish I had Paul McCartney to — [long pause] — help me.”
“Pink Shoe Laces” by Dodie Stevens (1959)
This song is about Duckie from Pretty in Pink, except like 25 years too soon.
“Johnny With The Gentle Hands” by Eartha Kitt (1960)
Here’s the gist: Eartha had a lover, Johnny, who was a shy, tender, peaceful man who loved her and she loved him. But “rich and mean” Big Joe wanted her for himself. One night, he finds her and attempts to rape her, at which point Johnny hears her holler and runs over and kills Big Joe with his “gentle hands.” Heartbreaking, right? There’s more: The sheriff catches Johnny and puts him in jail and Eartha waits loyally for him to be released. And if she never sees him again? “I’ll meet him on the other side.” SOMEONE MAKE A MOVIE.
“Aged & Mellow” by Little Esther (1951)
Esther Phillips, also known as Little Esther, was born in Galveston, Texas, in 1935. She grew up singing in church but, as this song evidences, she came a long way. The track is about how she likes her men like she likes her whiskey: aged and mellow.
“Little Gun, Little Me” by Diana Darrin (1961)
I’m not a proponent of gun owners’ rights by any means, but there’s something empowering about this song, especially given its era. When I’m listening to more obscure singles from the ‘50s-’60s, I often come across songs where the message is something like “my man hit me and now I know he really loves me,” which is, y’know, horrifying. Different times, I know, but that’s exactly why it’s so refreshing to hear Diana Darrin (who was also an actress in many of the later Three Stooges movies) sing about how she warded off the unwanted advances of the boy next door with a “little gun.” This song also features really loud gunshot sounds — a precursor to Paper Planes? Oh and, SPOILER ALERT, she does end up admitting that she has a little crush on her admirer/victim by the end of the song. But still, she waited until she was into it, and before that she chased him with her gun to get him to leave her alone. Sounds perfectly sensible to me.
Summer Anne Burton lives in Austin. She once made a six volume breakup mix titled “I love you better.”