Top 10 Songs of 1967
Nineteen-sixty-seven wasn't just a great year for albums — 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,' 'Are You Experienced,' 'The Doors' … oh my! — it was also a terrific 12 months for singles. Many of the tracks on our list of the Top 10 Songs of 1967 can also be found on some of our favorite albums from that year, but a handful of them were released as stand-alone singles, because that's the way they did things in the '60s. Either way, they remain some of the greatest songs ever recorded — classics that still sound significant 45 years later. So strap in and join us on this trip down memory lane as we count down the Top 10 Songs of 1967.
The Who's third album, 'The Who Sell Out,' was a concept record designed around a fictional radio station. It's filled with commercials, song fragments and a sense of free-form whimsy the band would rarely visit again. 'I Can See for Miles' was the album's only single and one of the few to feature a traditional song structure. The band would hit their creative peak within the next few years, but 'I Can See for Miles' remains their only Top 10 song in the U.S.
Like most bands in 1967, the Stones were eager to try something new. So they pushed aside their usual blues and R&B and headed in a more pastoral direction. Guided by a cello and recorder, 'Ruby Tuesday' is the British countryside version of American hippies' pre-psychedelic explorations — a song defined primarily by its peaceful sounds. These same sessions yielded the excellent 'Between the Buttons' album.
Jefferson Airplane's 1966 debut album was kinda spotty. They picked up a new singer by the next year for the follow-up LP, and Grace Slick announced presence with this terrific song that she had originally recorded with the forgotten San Francisco band the Great Society. Slick delivers one of her best performances and the entire band falls together brilliantly to create one of the Summer of Love's most defining moments.
Eric Clapton was the star of Cream, but from the very first note it's bassist Jack Bruce's opening riff (and vocal) and Ginger Baker's ever-rolling drums that propel the band's breakthrough hit. Still, Clapton's stinging but warm solo knocks it into high gear. And like so many other tracks on our list of the Top 10 Songs of 1967, 'Sunshine of Your Love' has become synonymous with the burgeoning hippie movement.
In between Them and a long, fertile solo career that drew on Celtic, R&B and jazz, Van Morrison recorded a handful of pop songs. The peppy 'Brown Eyed Girl' was the first and biggest hit of his short stab at mainstream success. Almost immediately after the song reached the Top 10, he went into the studio and recorded his stark, spare masterpiece 'Astral Weeks,' hoping to absolve his brief flirtation with the Top 40. Morrison may hate 'Brown Eyed Girl,' but we love it.
From its opening lines — “There's something happening here / What it is ain't exactly clear” — Buffalo Springfield's only Top 10 hit was the sound of revolution brewing. Stephen Stills wrote 'For What It's Worth' after L.A. police cracked down on young club-goers on the Sunset Strip. But over the years, the song has evolved into an anti-war anthem and is one of the more important statements in our Top 10 Songs of 1967.
The Doors' breakthrough single was released just as the Summer of Love was starting. And it was the perfect soundtrack to the varied and clashed emotions running through mainstream culture at the time. At seven minutes, 'Light My Fire' is an era-specific exercise in excess. What other time period would embrace a keyboard solo of that magnitude? But the band is in top shape here, backing Jim Morrison's bohemian howls with aplomb.
Recorded around the same time as 'Between the Buttons' and 'Ruby Tuesday' (see No. 9 on our list of the Top 10 Songs of 1967), 'Let's Spend the Night Together' served as a bridge between the Stones' earlier R&B-based tracks and the more musically adventurous records that would begin to surface within the year. Lyrically, it's all about Mick Jagger sexing up some girl. Everywhere else, it's a brave new world.
'Strawberry Fields Forever' marked the start of the 'Sgt. Pepper's' recording session, along with 'Penny Lane' (both tracks eventually ended up on the 'Magical Mystery Tour' album). The songs were released together as one single and make up one of the greatest-ever 45s, as both look back on childhood memories. 'Penny Lane' was Paul McCartney's take. 'Strawberry Fields Forever' was John Lennon's more surreal form of nostalgia.
'Purple Haze' is a seamless mash-up of what Jimi Hendrix did best — blues and psychedelia — but everything surrounding that center is what makes it our top song of 1967, starting with that monster guitar riff that opens the song. From there, it's one sonic wonder after another, as Hendrix and his bandmates roar through the track with immovable determination and close with ear-splitting wails, as Hendrix's guitar battles layers of overdubs and the rhythm's final march. The Summer of Love totally deserved this.