Top 10 Gold Songs

@ 1:13pm, 18/4/2014

Young Phil O'BrienPhil O'Brien is Technical Director and all round video whiz at The Golds every year. He has helmed Radio New Zealand's Matinee Idle every summer and most public holidays since 2004. 

With 40 years of radio under his belt, we figured Phil (pictured left: back in the day) would be a good person to ask about the best "Gold" songs.

So here are his Top 10 favourites - starting with...

Sister goldenhairNo 10.   SISTER GOLDEN HAIR – America
A bit of a guilty pleasure this one. There was some great music in the ‘70’s (no, wait…come back) and this was a big hit in 1975. Produced by George Martin, it was one of a string of hits for this geographically challenged trio (they all had American fathers and British mothers, and met at a US Air Force base in London where their fathers were stationed). The song been covered by a few acts over the years, but gained a whole new credibility in my eyes when it appeared in an episode of The Sopranos.


No 9.     THERE'S A GOLD MINE IN THE SKY -  Bing Crosby
A great song from 1937, one of Bing’s best years. Overshadowed by his Oscar-winning “Sweet Leilani” released a few months earlier, this nevertheless showcases his fantastic crooning. It sounds so easy, but it ain’t… no matter how good you think you sound in the shower!

No 8.     'THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM'  (Main Title Theme)  
– Jet Harris
In the 1955 film, Frank Sinatra plays a heroin addict who gets clean while in prison, but has problems again when he’s released. The movie was pretty controversial at the time for highlighting drug addiction, and the “dirty” sax and twangy guitar all over this instrumental do a great job of describing the conditions portrayed in the film. The music was written by Elmer Bernstein, and this version was released in 1963.

No 7.      HEART OF GOLD – Johnny Cash
I know Neil Young wrote it, and that he did the first version of this song. But Johnny Cash takes it to a whole new level, helped along by the brilliant production of Rick Rubin. Plus, I can’t stand Neil Young. *

No 6.      SILVER THREADS & GOLDEN NEEDLES– The Springfields
The Springfields were a Peter, Paul & Mary-style folk trio comprising one of the greatest vocalists ever Dusty Springfield along with her brother Tom, and their friend Tim Field. The song was originally a country number, recorded by Wanda Jackson in the mid fifties. Apparently The Springfields heard Jackson's version and recorded their own version, turning it into a pure pop song. GREAT guitar solo, too….

No 5.      SILENCE IS GOLDEN – The Four Seasons
Written by Bob Gaudio of the Four Seasons in (supposedly) under ten minutes, it was only ever released by that group as a B-side to the hit song “Rag Doll”. However, Essex band The Tremeloes got hold of a copy and, with very few changes, made it a #1 hit in mid 1967.

No 4.      GOLD – Spandau Ballet
Don’t laugh at the hair – this is still one of the finest songs to come out of that otherwise fairly ordinary year of 1983. Completely pointless trivia alert: the music video that was produced for the song contains the longest-held note by any male artist in any song released during the entire decade! (It’s at 3’24”…)


No 3.      GOLDEN BROWN – The Stranglers
Everyone’s had a go at guessing what the song’s about - possible theories range from heroin to marmite. The band say that you’ll hear in the song whatever you want to hear. However, vocalist and guitarist says “Golden Brown' works on two levels. It's about heroin and also about a girl. And they’ve both provided me with pleasurable times".  Featuring a fairly clunky harpsichord intro, the song has a certain “down” feel about it, not helped by the fact that it’s also recorded in one of those pesky minor keys. 

No 2.      GOLDEN YEARS – David Bowie
Let’s be honest – his work has been bit patchy at times. Even hardcore Bowie fans struggle to come to terms with his late 80’s, early 90’s efforts (has anyone actually listended to Tin Machine, or the Labyrinth soudtrack?). However, he reigned supreme in the early 80’s, and Golden Years is one of his best (love the finger-snapping in the intro..) He keeps to himself these days – so much so that no-one realised he’d spent the last two years working on a new album “The Next Day”, which was released in March 2013. It’s brilliant, by the way…. 

No 1.      GOLDEN SLUMBERS – The Beatles
Not really a “song” as such – more just a part of the big finale of the Abbey Road album. It acts as a long intro to the song “Carry That Weight” and is based, in part, on a 17th century poem called “Cradle Song”. Despite the first few lines of the song being almost a word-perfect copy of that poem, the original author (Thomas Dekker) gets no credit. But it’s the Beatles, so it’s #1.

* Note: It was Neil Young who was once asked to list his favourite Top Ten songs. He agreed to, on the condition that a disclaimer was published saying that he could well have a completely different Top Ten list the next day. Phil subscribes to that view….






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