Compact discs that compile the greatest hits of a particular era are always difficult to compile, especially when that era is as diverse and influential as the 1960s. It's impossible to tell the story of that decade in just a handful of songs, especially when you can't get the rights to anything by the most important acts of the day.
But you don't look to these discs for historical accuracy. You buy them to fill holes in your collection. If you want, say, "My Boyfriend's Back" or "Lightning Strikes," you don't have to waste money on a Best-Of CD loaded with filler. You can simply buy 60s Pop Number '1s, part of a 20-disc series that compiles some of the biggest pop and soul hits of the 60s, 70s and 80s, as well as discs for jazz and country classics.
Sequenced chronologically, 60s Pop: Number 1's revisits the glory days of AM rock, beginning with wonderful fluff like Little Eva's "The Loco-Motion," Lesley Gore's, "It's My Party," and "1-2-3" by Len Barry and ending with some of the lighter psychedelic hits of the late-60s, including "Green Tambourine" and "Crimson & Clover."
Along the way there are delightful nods to folk-rock ("Eve Of Destruction," "Monday, Monday," "Happy Together"), blue-eyed soul ("1-2-3," "The Letter") and garage rock ("Wild Thing").
Of course, the inherent problem with these discs is that there are always a few songs you already own. No doubt you already have "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" when you purchased that Phil Spector box set with a record store gift certificate for your birthday, and "Incense & Peppermints" resides on the haven't-played-in-years Austin Powers soundtrack.
And there's always a few songs on there that you've gone on record as saying that you would rather jam a rusty nail into your eye than hear again, like "Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)" by John Fred & His Playboy Band, or worse, Zager & Evans' "In The Year 2525 (Exordium & Terminus)."
But there's also the probability that they will make you hear a forgotten song in a different light. While "Windy" pales in comparison to some of The Association's other hits, hearing those complex harmonies for the first time in years has given me a newfound respect for it, and I've always had a soft spot for "This Diamond Ring," which deserves to be covered by someone who can bring out the heartbreak in the lyric.
In these days of iTunes, where you can complete your mp3 library one download at a time, collections like these seem a little dated. But for those of us who have fond memories of commercials for K-Tel Records on Saturday morning TV, discs like 60s Pop Number 1's are an integral part of the joys of discovering music from before my time.