1966: More popular than Jesus

1966 was one of the greatest, most transformative years in music history - and here are 365 songs that prove it.

From London to Laurel Canyon, artists were creating all-time classic hits while redefining the possibilities of what popular music could sound like.

The established acts of the British Invasion were at the top of their game, including the Beatles, the Stones, the Kinks, the Who, Dusty Springfield, the Yardbirds, Spencer Davies, Manfred Mann, the Hollies and the Animals.

Across the ocean, California was exploding with the sounds of the Byrds, the Mamas and the Papas, the Monkees, Jefferson Airplane, Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, the Doors, and Love. This year also saw the emergence of the likes of Simon and Garfunkel, Jimi Hendrix, the Velvet Underground, and Frank Zappa.

Soul music was rarely better, with the Supremes, Four Tops, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, Temptations, Percy Sledge, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye and Wilson Pickett all in the charts.

Dylan was at the height of his creative powers, and even Sinatra had a #1 song. Aretha Franklin was on the cusp of stardom, a young David Bowie was cutting his first records, and Elvis released a steady flow of songs. Rarely was so much music royalty active at the same time.

All this was happening against a backdrop of military, social and generational conflict - not to mention increasingly open drug experimentation - and this fact was reflected in many songs of the time.

So here are, day by day, 365 songs from that momentous year. Enjoy.


(Come ‘Round Here) I’m the One You Need’ (The Miracles)

31 DECEMBER 1966


The Miracles’ single ‘(Come ‘Round Here) I’m the One You Need’ entered the UK charts during this month in 1966. It went on to peak at #37 there, and had been to #17 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and #4 on the R&B charts. It did better in the UK when it was re-released in 1971, hitting #13 on that occasion.

The feel and driving beat of this splendid song is strongly reminiscent of 1967's ‘Tears of a Clown’ (which became a massive #1 hit for them three years later).

This was the last single they released under the name 'the Miracles', and in 1967 Smokey Robinson started to get top billing on their name on the record covers.

B-side: 'Save Me'
Recorded: Hitsville U.S.A. (Studio A), 13 September 1966
Released: 19 October 1966 
Highest chart position: #37 (UK), #17 (US) 
Length: 2:30 
Label: Tamla T 54140 

(Come ‘Round Here) I’m the One You Need’  (The Miracles)

(I Know) I’m Losing You (The Temptations)

30 DECEMBER 1966


The Temptations ‘(I Know) I’m Losing You’ entered the British charts during this week in 1966. It went on to peak at #19.

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(I Know) I’m Losing You (The Temptations)

Sitting in the Park (Georgie Fame)

29 DECEMBER 1966


Georgie Fame capped off a good year for himself (and his band the Blue Flames) when his reggae-ish single ‘Sitting in the Park’ entered the UK charts during this week, and went on to peak at #12. It did not chart in the US.

Maybe it's just that lilting beat, the flutes, the slightly spacey feel, and the imagery of sitting in the park, but the song has a distinctly stoner vibe about it. It's also rather summery for a single released in December, and might well have charted a bit higher six months earlier.

This had already been a US hit for Billy Stewart in 1965, when it reached #24 on the Billboard Hot 100. Stewart's original had more of a 'soul' feel, but Fame adds new sounds and does an excellent job.

Sitting in the Park (Georgie Fame)

Mustang Sally (Wilson Pickett)

28 DECEMBER 1966


Wilson Pickett’s ‘Mustang Sally’ entered the UK charts during this week in 1966. It went on to peak at #28.

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Mustang Sally (Wilson Pickett)

That’s Life (Frank Sinatra)

27 DECEMBER 1966


Sinatra charted again with ‘That’s Life’, which peaked at #44 in the UK charts during this month in 1966.

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That’s Life (Frank Sinatra)

I Feel Free (Cream)

26 DECEMBER 1966


‘I Feel Free’ by the recently-formed rock 'supergroup' Cream entered the British charts during this week in 1966. It reached #11 there, but got no higher than #116 on the US Billboard charts. This was their second single, following on from their atrocious '1920s-pastiche' debut 'Wrapping Paper' (or, as Ginger Baker himself called it, 'the most appalling piece of shit I've ever heard in my life'). 'I Feel Free' was much more like it, effectively showcasing the real talents of the group for the first time. After a distinctive a capella opening, the bass, heavy guitar and drums kick in, and Cream were in business for a two-year career that had a big impact of the serious British rock scene.

B-side: 'N.S.U.'
Recorded: September 1966 at Ryemuse Studios, London
Released: December 1966
Highest chart position: #11 (UK), #116 (US)
Length: 2:49
Label: Reaction Records 591 011 (UK), Atco 6462 (US) 
Writers: Jack Bruce and Pete Brown
Producer: Robert Stigwood

I Feel Free (Cream)

Foxy Lady (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)

25 DECEMBER 1966


The Jimi Hendrix Experience -  'Foxy Lady'.

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Foxy Lady (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)

Any Way That You Want Me (The Troggs)

24 DECEMBER 1966


The Troggs’ ‘Any Way That You Want Me’ entered the UK charts during this week. It peaked at #8, and the fact that this was their lowest-charting single of 1966 (after two #1s and a #2) shows just what a great breakthrough year they had. Despite this, the song did not reach the US charts.

Another version of this song had already been released in 1966 by the Liverpool 5, and although that one had barely scraped into the UK Top 100, it was in some ways superior to this. And then both these versions were left in the dust by Evie Sands' 1969 cover. For all the simple exuberance of songs like 'Wild Thing', the Troggs were somewhat musically limited, and after one more UK Top 10 hit during the following year, their recording career died a bit of a lingering death.

Any Way That You Want Me (The Troggs)

In the Country (Cliff Richard and the Shadows)

23 DECEMBER 1966


Cliff Richard and the Shadows entered the British charts with the rather OK song ‘In the Country’. It peaked at #6.

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In the Country (Cliff Richard and the Shadows)

What Becomes of the Brokenhearted (Jimmy Ruffin)

22 DECEMBER 1966


Jimmy Ruffin’s ‘What Becomes of the Brokenhearted’ entered the Top Ten in Britain during this week in 1966. This was another all-time Motown classic that had peaked at #7 on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts (and #6 on the R&B).

Jimmy had recorded a few unsuccessful singles as part of the Motown stable since 1961 (a period interrupted by a few years in the Army), and in 1964 was offered a place in the Temptations - a place that instead went to his younger brother David Ruffin. Jimmy continued a solo career and ‘What Becomes of the Brokenhearted’ was his first and most enduring hit. The distinctive and unusually long instrumental intro was the result of removing his spoken introduction during the final mix for the disc.

He enjoyed only moderate US success after this, although he did achieve six Top Ten singles in Britain. This song was reissued there in 1974 and reached #4 on that occasion, becoming his highest charting single there.

B-side: 'Baby, I've Got It'
Recorded: Hitsville USA (Studio A); 1966
Released: 3 June 1966
Highest chart position: #8 (UK), #7 (US)
Length: 3:00
Label: Soul S 35022
Producers: William Weatherspoon, William 'Mickey' Stevenson

What Becomes of the Brokenhearted (Jimmy Ruffin)

Friday on My Mind (The Easybeats)

21 DECEMBER 1966


The greatest Australian song of all time? The Easybeats’ fantastic ‘Friday on My Mind’ was at its peak UK chart position of #6 in this week in 1966. This was to be the biggest hit from this band, who - like several other Australian bands of the time - was made up of members who were all European immigrants (see the Bee Gees and the Twilights). The Easybeats were two Englishmen, a Scotsman and two Dutchmen who met at the Villawood Migrant Hostel in Sydney in 1964.

This song is bursting with exuberance, perfectly capturing that excitement of being a young working man who can't wait for Friday night to come, when 'I'll spend my bread, I'll lose my head'. The unmistakable intro has that distinctive du-du-du-du-du guitar riff.

The Easybeats had several big hits in Australia and then moved to London before this song was released. It became their third Australian #1 of that year, and also went to #16 in the US. Further success seemed assured, but their follow-up single flopped, and they only ever had one more top 20 in the UK, in 1968. In fact they ever had one more top 10 hit in Australia (although lead singer Stevie Wright had a solo #1 there in 1974). After this big hit, the rest of their material just wasn't good enough to keep them at the top.

Two of the Easybeats - George Young and Harry Vanda - went on to have a great songwriting and producing career (including for AC/DC, which contained two of George's younger brothers).

In 2001, the Australasian Performing Right Association placed 'Friday on My Mind' at No.1 on their list of the best Australian songs of all time, as judged by a 100-person industry panel. It was one of two songs from 1966 in the Top 10.

B-side: 'Made My Bed, Gonna Lie in It'
Recorded: 1966, IBC Studios, London
Released: 17 November 1966
Highest chart position: #6 (UK), #13 (US)
Length: 2:47
Producer: Shel Talmy

Friday on My Mind (The Easybeats)

Pretty Ballerina (The Left Banke)

20 DECEMBER 1966


New York band The Left Banke released their second single ‘Pretty Ballerina’ during December 1966. Like their inspired debut 'Walk Away RenĂ©e', this was a gorgeous piece of what some called 'baroque rock', a genre that never quite gelled in the way that folk-rock and others had. 'Pretty Ballerina' climbed to #15 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, and unfortunately was their last record on that chart apart from a #98 with 'Desiree' in 1967.

B-side: 'Lazy Day'
Recorded: World United, 1595 Broadway NYC
Released: December 1966
Highest chart position: #15 (US)
Length: 2:41
Label: Smash
Writer: Michael Brown
Producers: Harry Lookofsky, Steve Jerome, Bill Jerome

Pretty Ballerina (The Left Banke)

I Can Take You To The Sun (The Misunderstood)

19 DECEMBER 1966


'I Can Take You To The Sun' - The Misunderstood.

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I Can Take You To The Sun (The Misunderstood)

I'm Glad I Waited (The Players)

18 DECEMBER 1966


'I'm Glad I Waited' - The Players

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I'm Glad I Waited (The Players)

Sunshine Superman (Donovan)

17 DECEMBER 1966


‘Sunshine Superman’ by Donovan entered the UK charts.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTuPbJLqFKI

Hey Joe (The Jimi Hendrix Experience)

16 DECEMBER 1966


The Jimi Hendrix Experience released their first single in Britain on this day in 1966. 'Hey Joe' went to #6 there, but did not chart in the US.

It would be fair to say that the song had already been done to death over the previous twelve months - the Byrds, Love, the Standells, the Surfaris and the Leaves had all recorded 'garage thrash' versions of this, and generally very well, too.

British band the Creation and US folksinger Tim Rose had recorded or performed slower versions of the song earlier in '66, and Hendrix basically covered Rose's take on it, with its ghostly backing vocals and dramatic arrangement. If this song was a movie, it would be a spaghetti western. All that Hendrix added to the Rose version was his own otherwordly guitar sound and splendid voice, and he took it to another sonic level. It became the most commercially successful recording of the song, was placed at #201 on the 'Rolling Stone' magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, and was the last song played at Woodstock. Legendary.

B-side: 'Stone Free'
Recorded: De Lane Lea Studios, London, 23 October 1966
Released: 16 December 1966 (UK)
Highest chart position: #6 (UK)
Length: 3:30
Label: Polydor (no. 56139)
Producer: Chas Chandler

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXwMrBb2x1Q

The Ecstasy of Gold (Ennio Morricone)

15 DECEMBER 1966


The movie ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ was released during this month in 1966. The third part of the 'Man with No Name Trilogy', this was a cinematic masterpiece was elevated by a genius score from Italian composer Ennio Morricone. The theme music is well known, but there are several great pieces of music throughout the movie, such as the mournful 'The Story of a Soldier' and the tense 'The Trio' (during the climactic three-way standoff). Featured here is the thrilling 'The Ecstasy of Gold', heard while Eli Wallach is running madly around the cemetery (actually a set made just for the filming of this movie) looking for the Stanton grave.

The live performance in the above clip was directed by Morricone himself.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

My Mind’s Eye (The Small Faces)

14 DECEMBER 1966


The Small Faces’ slightly hippy single ‘My Mind’s Eye’ was at its peak British chart position of #4 during this week in 1966. It was a good way to end what had been a very good year for the band (four Top Ten hits), even if they weren't too happy about this one. Their notorious manager Don Arden wanted them to release a single before Christmas and he put this unfinished demo copy of an intended album track out without their knowledge or consent while they were away on tour. Despite its success, it spelled the end for his relationship with the Small Faces.

Steve Marriott later admitted that the melodic similarities between parts of 'My Mind's Eye' and the Christmas song 'Gloria in Excelsis Deo' were not entirely accidental.

B-side: 'I Can't Dance with You'
Recorded: 1966
Released: 11 November 1966
Highest chart position: #4 (UK)
Length: 2:04
Label: Decca (US RCA Victor)

My Mind’s Eye (The Small Faces)

Sugar Town (Nancy Sinatra)

13 DECEMBER 1966


Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Sugar Town’ entered the US Billboard Top 20.

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Sugar Town (Nancy Sinatra)

My Back Pages (The Byrds)

12 DECEMBER 1966


The Byrds finished recording their fourth album 'Younger Than Yesterday' during this week in 1966. The album came out in early 1967 to mixed reviews and moderate success (#24 on the Billboard chart), but its reputation has grown over time and it is now acknowledged as one of their best.

One thing that the Byrds did better than just about anybody was a Dylan cover, as their early singles 'Mr. Tambourine Man' and 'All I Really Want to Do' had shown. After a commercially disappointing year, another Dylan cover seemed like a safe bet (despite the objections, as usual, of David Crosby), and a chiming, jangling recording of the 1964 song 'My Back Pages' was the very splendid result. It was released as a single in March 1967 and reached #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 but failed to chart in Britain. This was their last single to reach the US Top 40. Despite a continued output of sometimes brilliant material, the Byrds were falling out of favour with the record-buying public at large.

 My Back Pages (The Byrds)

A Hazy Shade of Winter (Simon and Garfunkel)

11 DECEMBER 1966


Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘A Hazy Shade of Winter’ was at its peak position of #13 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, making it their fifth Top 30 hit of the year. It also reached #30 in the UK.

Although this song was recorded during the sessions for their third album 'Parley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme', it was released as a stand-alone single, and then later included on their 1968 'Bookends' album. It certainly rocks by their own standards, with a prominent (acoustic) guitar hook and incessant beat. Lyrically, Simon returns to one of his favourite themes - intellectual urban social alienation.
'Funny how my memory skips
Looking over manuscripts
Of unpublished rhyme
Drinking my vodka and lime'
In the 1980s, the Bangles' took a cover of this song to #2.

Recorded: 7 September 1966, Columbia Studio A, New York City
Released: 22 October 1966
Highest chart position: #30 (UK), #13 (US)
Length: 2:17
Label: Columbia
Writer: Paul Simon
Producer: Bob Johnston


 A Hazy Shade of Winter (Simon and Garfunkel)

Sunny South Kensington (Donovan)

10 DECEMBER 1966


The B-side to Donovan's hit single 'Mellow Yellow' in the US was 'Sunny South Kensington', a song good enough to possibly warrant the record being a double A-side. In fact, as good as 'Mellow Yellow' was, it could be argued this was the better of the two songs here. With a rhythm that is quite reminiscent of 'Sunshine Superman', it paints a name-dropping picture of the hippy, trippy mid-'60s scene in the London district around Portobella and Cromwell Road (Jean-Paul BelmondoMary Quant and Allan Ginsberg get a mention). As Donovan says in the song, it was indeed 'a groovy place to live'.

Sunny South Kensington (Donovan)

Mellow Yellow (Donovan)

9 DECEMBER 1966


Donovan’s ‘Mellow Yellow’ was at its peak position of #2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts. A few months later it would climb to #8 in the UK.

By late '66 young Donovan (still only 20 years old) had moved on from more traditional folk fare and his music had taken on a psychedelic hue that brilliantly captured the groovy zeitgeist of the times. Songs like this one provided a commentary on the hip London scene that Donovan moved in, and no doubt the eponymous mellowness had a lot to do with marijuana. There was a rumour that the title referred to the smoking of dried banana leaves (wrongly believed at the time to get you high), and Donovan later admitted that the 'electric banana' was a reference to vibrators.

There are connections between this and other 'yellow' song of 1966. Donovan had a 'small part' in writing the lyrics for the Beatles' 'Yellow Submarine', and Paul McCartney played bass on some of the 'Mellow Yellow' album.

B-side: 'Sunny South Kensington' (USA), 'Preachin' Love' (UK) 
Recorded: October 1966
Released: 24 October 1966 (USA), February 1967 (UK)
Highest chart position: #8 (UK), #2 (US) 
Length: 3:42
Label: Epic 5-10098; Pye 7N 17267 
Writer: Donovan
Producer: Mickie Most

Mellow Yellow (Donovan)

For What It's Worth (Buffalo Springfield)

8 DECEMBER 1966


Buffalo Springfield’s self-titled debut album was released in the US this week, around the same time that the band recorded the song 'For What It's Worth'. This was not the original album, but the band were not happy with the production of the album and insisted on a remix and re-release, which did feature this song. Which made a lot of sense, because as a single it went to #7 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming their only Top 40 hit.

The lyrics were inspired by the Sunset Strip curfew riots of November 1966, sparked when protesters  - upset about a 10pm curfew on the popular strip - clashed with police. Buffalo Springfield were a house band at the legendary Whisky a Go Go club on the strip. The protests were ongoing but sporadic when this song was recorded.

B-side: 'Do I Have to Come Right Out and Say It?'
Recorded: 5 December 1966, Columbia Studios, Hollywood
Released: 9 January 1967
Highest chart position: #7 (US)
Length: 2:37
Label: Atco
Writer: Stephen Stills

For What It's Worth (Buffalo Springfield)

There Won’t Be Many Coming Home (Roy Orbison)

7 DECEMBER 1966


Roy Orbison’s single ‘There Won’t Be Many Coming Home’ entered the UK charts during this week in 1966. It reached #12 in the UK and Australia, but did not chart in the US. His US chart career had already dried up, and this was to be his last Top 20 hit in the UK until 1989.

This song was taken from his only leading-role movie ‘The Fastest Guitar Alive’. His acting talent was inversely proportional to his singing ability, and although he had signed a five-movie deal, this one was so bad that no more were made.

Although ‘The Fastest Guitar Alive' was set in the US Civil War, it is easy to interpret the anti-war lyrics in the context of the ongoing Vietnam War. Orbison - who wrote the song - said that it was 'a reflection of all wars' and 'in fact refers to the Civil War, although it is true that could relate well World War III.'
'Now the old folks will remember
On that dark and dismal day
How their hearts were choked with pride
As their children marched away
Now the glory is all goneThey are left alone.'
'There Won't Be Many Coming Home' was featured in the 2015 Quentin Tarantino western 'The Hateful Eight'.

There Won’t Be Many Coming Home (Roy Orbison)

Georgy Girl (The Seekers)

6 DECEMBER 1966


The Seekers' breezy ‘Georgy Girl’ - the theme song to the hit movie of the same name - entered the US Billboard Hot 100 charts during this week. It eventually climbed to #2, and reached #3 in the UK, enough to make it their biggest transatlantic hit. It also marked the end of a brilliant two-year run of hits, and the years to come proved to be generally leaner for the group.

The lyrics were written by Jim Dale (of 'Carry On' fame), who along with co-writer Tom Springfield was nominated for the Best Original Song Academy Award, but this lost out to the theme song from 'Born Free'. Although it might be considered something of a 'lightweight' easy-listening tune in some quarters, it was actually listed at #36 on Rolling Stone magazine's '500 Greatest Pop Songs of all time' in 2002.

Another version was recorded for the closing scene of the movie, in which - SPOILER ALERT - don't read this if you haven't seen the movie - our Georgy ends up married to the rich old man and adopting her friend's baby, and the new lyrics take a very cynical turn:
'Hey there, Georgy girl
Now that you’re no longer on the shelf
Better try to smile and tell yourself
That you got your way
(You’ve made it!) 
Hey there, Georgy girl
Now you’ve got a future planned for you
Though it’s not a dream come true
At least he’s a millionaire
So don’t despair! You’re rich, Georgy Girl!'
The juxtaposition between the insanely happy melody and arrangement, and these dark lyrics is quite striking.
Released: 10 October 1966 (US), 17 February 1967 (UK)
Highest chart position: #3 (UK), #2 (US)
Length: 2:21 
Label: EMI Columbia DB 8134
Writers: Tom Springfield (music), Jim Dale (lyrics)

Georgy Girl (The Seekers)

Sunday Morning (The Velvet Underground)

5 DECEMBER 1966


The Velvet Underground’s second single ‘Sunday Morning’ was released in the US during this month. They were aiming to have a hit with this record in advance of the release of their debut album, but it failed to chart despite improved production levels for this track. It is a rather lovely song, supposedly about paranoia but the effect is to conjure up a dreamy Sunday morning feeling, especially with the prominent use of the very pretty sound of the celesta.

It had been intended to have the dreadful Nico on lead vocals with her threatening drone again, but thankfully Lou Reed took over singing duties during recording. This is one of the great non-hits of the year.

B-side: 'Femme Fatale'
Recorded: November 1966, Mayfair Recording Studios, Manhattan
Released: December 1966 (single), March 1967 (album)
Length: 2:56
Label: Verve
Writers: Lou Reed, John Cale
Producer: Tom Wilson

Sunday Morning (The Velvet Underground)

I’m Your Puppet (James and Bobby Purify)

4 DECEMBER 1966


James and Bobby Purify’s splendid single ‘I’m Your Puppet’ was at its peak US Billboard Hot 100 chart position of #6 during this week in 1966. It was also a #5 R&B hit. It did not chart in the UK that year, but a re-recorded version reached #12 there in 1976.  

The duo were cousins James Lee Purify and Robert Lee Dickey, and ‘I’m Your Puppet’ was their first single for Bell Records and proved to be their biggest-ever hit. They released numerous singles over the next couple of years but only had middle-to-low chart success with them. Despite that, this song (a cover of the original released by Dan Penn in 1965) is a fine moment in soul history.

B-side: 'So Many Reasons'
Released: September 1966
Highest chart position: #6 (US)
Length: 2:59 
Label: Bell

I’m Your Puppet (James and Bobby Purify)

Happy Jack (The Who)

3 DECEMBER 1966


The Who release ‘Happy Jack’, which went to #3 in the British charts.

Page under construction, more information to follow.

Happy Jack (The Who)

Gimme Some Loving (The Spencer Davis Group)

2 DECEMBER 1966


‘Gimme Some Loving’ by the Spencer Davis Group peaked at #2 in the UK charts.

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Gimme Some Loving (The Spencer Davis Group)

Green, Green Grass of Home (Tom Jones)

1 DECEMBER 1966


Tom Jones finished what had been quite an ordinary year for him in a massive way with 'Green, Green Grass of Home', a single that hit the top of the UK charts in December 1966 and spent a whole seven weeks there. It reached #11 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. This was Jones' first #1 since his 1965 debut 'It's Not Unusual', some eleven or twelve singles earlier, and heralded the beginning of the most commercially-successful period of his career. 

The country song about a man and his last night on Death Row had been already recorded in 1965 by Johnny Darrell, Porter WagonerBobby Bare, and Jerry Lee Lewis (the version that Tom Jones learned it from).

B-side: 'Promise Her Anything'
Released: November 1966
Highest chart position: #1 (UK), #11 (US)
Length: 3:05
Label: Decca Records F22511
Writer: Curly Putman
Producer: Peter Sullivan

Green, Green Grass of Home (Tom Jones)