If you’re a lover of music lists, the list featuring the best songs of 1966 is your ultimate music playlist (alongside the list of the best music from the 50s). All kinds of styles, genres, artists, and even personalities. But above all, a variety of languages and the finest melodies of the decade. Naturally, this means that once we finish this list, we’ll start working on the list of the best songs from the 70s. In any case, until then, we’ll dedicate ourselves to the 60s without thinking about anything else. We hope you enjoy this journey that we will summarize below, in anticipation of what’s to come.
As you may have seen in the previous articles dedicated to the first half of the decade, our recommendation catalog is full of 1966 songs in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, and other romance languages (including all those from the state), but also songs in English by non-Anglo-Saxon artists (there’s no avoiding it). Because at Muros de Absenta, we spare no effort when it comes to music (it’s the most important thing). And since the music of the 60s was so special and diverse (you can explore 60s music in English here), we trust that our division of lists by languages will help you find or discover some melodies forgotten by time. And, given that Spanish is our language, we’ll try to prioritize it even more, in fact.
Not for nothing, if there’s one thing that Spanish music of this decade is also known for, it’s the number of translations and cover versions of Anglo-Saxon songs in 1966. A circumstance that occurred not only in Spain but also in neighboring and not-so-neighboring countries. That’s why we try not to repeat successes in both languages, even though it might happen sometimes if we really like the versions and the originals. But as a principle, it’s our way of giving voice and showcasing various presences, considering that these English bands that were covered (take The Beatles as an example) had so many hits that we can highlight other less legendary ones, perhaps, but equally admirable. If you’ve come here directly without going through previous years, discover the songs from the year 1965.
Top songs of 1966 in English
13th Floor Elevators – You’re Gonna Miss Me
Included in the album “The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators,” “You’re Gonna Miss Me” is one of the songs from the year 1966. This track, written by the band’s co-founder, Roger Kynard “Roky” Erickson, reached the 55th spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
It became the band’s only single to enter this national chart. The lyrics of this garage rock song convey a very specific message, “you’re gonna miss me,” which many associate with family issues in the author’s life.
Bobby Hebb – Sunny
It only takes a few notes to identify this soul jazz hit. Written by Bobby Hebb in 1963, it is considered by BMI as one of the best songs of the 20th century.
It has been covered by multiple performers including Mieko Hirota, Dave Pike, Cher, Boney M., Luis Miguel, and Bobby Hebb himself.
Diana Ross & The Supremes – You Can’t Hurry Love
Inspired by the song “(You Can’t Hurry God) He’s Right on Time” by Dorothy Love Coates & The Original Gospel Harmonettes, this single propelled The Supremes to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. It remained on that chart for two consecutive weeks and reached number 3 on the UK charts. Additionally, this version is included in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Greatest Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll.
Frank Sinatra – Strangers In The Night
Singer and actress Melina Mercouri rejected this song when it was initially titled “Broken Guitar.” This proposal then reached the hands of “The Voice,” who wasn’t entirely convinced by the lyrics and subjected them to several changes.
Thus, it was renamed with the title “Strangers In The Night.” This tango reached number 1 in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and even topped the newly born “40 Principales” chart in Spain.
Nancy Sinatra – These Boots Are Made For Walking
Following in her father’s footsteps, Nancy ventured into the world of music with this hit that was created especially for her by the versatile composer Lee Hazlewood. This unmistakable and genuine song, which topped charts in countries around the world, has been covered by multiple groups and singers. In Spain, for example, by Edurne on “Operación Triunfo.” Additionally, it has been used as a soundtrack for various blockbusters, like Austin Powers, and even as a theme song for television programs, such as TVE’s “Corazón.”
Percy Sledge – When A Man Loves A Woman
Percy Sledge recorded this iconic song that was created and arranged by Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright in the year 1966. Much has been said about the origins of this song, as Percy attributed its authorship to his colleagues Lewis and Wright, although he was its true creator. However, Sledge always emphasized that the success of this song was the result of great teamwork with his colleagues.
The Beach Boys – God Only Knows
The Beach Boys didn’t want to lag behind and also made innovative contributions to the pop music of the 60s. Who else could have thought of using instruments like the harpsichord or the French horn in a song of this genre?
Only God knows! What we do know is that Brian Wilson, one of the band’s founders, drew inspiration from none other than Bach to infuse this song with a touch of Baroque elegance.
The Beach Boys – Wouldn’t It Be Nice
“Why do we have to wait? Wouldn’t it be nice to be adults?” The Beach Boys aimed to capture in this song the yearning of young people to attain the freedom that adulthood brings and thus enjoy love to the fullest.
And boy, did they achieve that. This song, included in the album “Pet Sounds,” has been featured in numerous film soundtracks, becoming a charismatic piece in the history of cinema. Shampoo, The Big Chill, Summer Lovers, Roger & Me, 50 First Dates… The list is endless!
The Beatles – Eleanor Rigby
This single, included in the album “Revolver,” is for many the work that marks a before and after in The Beatles’ discography. The melody of Eleanor Rigby unfolds over a string quartet that conveys a sense of seriousness to the listener, contrasting with the type of music the band was known for.
Interestingly, this song was never performed live by the group, although Paul McCartney has included it in some of his solo concerts.
The Hollies – Bus Stop
Who hasn’t experienced a torrid romance at a bus stop? That’s probably what The Hollies thought when they released “Bus Stop” and hopped on at the 5th spot on the UK Singles Chart.
They also fared well during their journey through the United States, where this British group reached the same position on the Billboard Hot 100. You’ll never look at bus stops the same way again.
The Lovin’ Spoonful – Summer In The City
The year 1966 and its music were memorable not just because of the plethora of hits that emerged worldwide. New York City also remembers that year due to one of the hottest heatwaves in its history, at least up to that point.
The Lovin’ Spoonful took advantage of that surge of hot air to climb as high as the temperatures on the charts with “Summer In The City.”
The Mamas And The Papas – California Dreamin’
“California Dreamin’” was born out of Michelle Phillips’ nostalgia for her home state during her time in New York.
This piece, considered by many as one of the best songs of the sixties, was covered by artists like The Beach Boys, R.E.M., and even the Spanish group Mocedades.
The Mamas And The Papas – Monday, Monday
Mondays were not, by any means, a good day for The Mamas And The Papas. We suppose that’s why we empathize so much with them, making this song the first number one hit in the history of the “40 Principales” chart.
Notice how much John Phillips disliked Mondays, the song’s creator. It’s said he only spent twenty minutes writing the lyrics to the song… Damn you, Monday!
The Monkees – I’m A Believer
Many young and not-so-young people surely know this song from the famous movie Shrek, where Smash Mouth performs a version of this classic that achieved great success thanks to The Monkees.
What’s interesting is that this song doesn’t originally belong to this group from Los Angeles, as it had previously been released by Neil Diamond, who performed it in his shows.
The Monkees – The Last Train To Clarksville
Choo-chooooo! We’ve arrived at the Clarksville station, where The Monkees welcome us with their debut single, released in August 1966.
This song could be heard in seven episodes of the television series “The Monkees,” which narrated the story of four young people trying to find a name for their rock n’ roll band. Interestingly, the band The Monkees was born from this comedy, sharing the same name as the group itself.
The Rolling Stones – Paint It, Black
Mick Jagger and Keith Richards composed this piece of psychedelic rock that topped the charts in various countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia.
This single, included in The Rolling Stones’ album “Aftermath,” is noteworthy for being the band’s first track to feature the sitar as the principal instrument, following Brian Jones’ exploration of Maghrebi music.
The Troggs – Wild Thing
The Troggs needed only ten minutes to record their version of the song “Wild Thing.”
This song, originally composed for the American band The Wild Ones, didn’t achieve the expected success in the United States.
Fortunately, the demo of this garage rock piece reached the hands of The Troggs’ producer, subsequently reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and the second spot on the UK charts.
The Troggs – With A Girl Like You
“With A Girl Like You” is probably the song with the most “ba ba ba bas” in its lyrics. This track, created by Reg Presley, the band’s vocalist, topped the UK Singles Charts for two consecutive weeks. In the United States, this love song managed to climb to the twenty-ninth spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
The Young Rascals – Good Lovin’
This American group successfully covered this song written by Rudy Clark. The lyrics describe an atypical medical consultation, where the doctor tells the patient that all they need to heal is good love.
We don’t know if the prescription actually worked, but what’s clear is that listening to this catchy song must have positive effects on health. At least that’s what the number one position on the Billboard Top Singles suggests, marking the group’s first hit.
Wilson Pickett – Land Of 1000 Dances
This indefatigable song was covered by Wilson Pickett in 1966, reaching number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
Initially, this epic song was created and recorded by Chris Kenner four years before Pickett propelled it to stardom. You’re probably familiar with its distinctive “na na na na na,” but you might not have known that it didn’t appear in Kenner’s original version.
This repetitive hook emerged by accident when Frankie “Cannibal” Garcia forgot the lyrics at that part of the song while performing it live.
Top songs of 1966 in French, Portuguese, Italian and Spanish
Annie Philippe – C’Est La Mode
Annie Philippe became one of the greatest representatives of the French “yéyé era” thanks to hits like “Soeur Angélique,” “Cause donc toujours,” “Pas de taxi,” and this “C’Est la Mode.” These songs turned her into a celebrity of the moment.
Such was her fame that her image appears in the “Photo du siécle” (Photo of the Century), taken by Jean-Marie Périer in 1966 for the magazine “Salut les copains.”
Baden Powell & Vinicius De Moraes – Canto De Xango
“Canto de Xango,” recorded by Baden Powell and Vinícius de Moraes, is a significant piece within the musical and cultural context due to its fusion of African cultural sounds and Afro-Brazilian samba.
This song, over six minutes long, is included in the studio album titled “Os Afro-sambas” and holds the twenty-ninth position on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Brazilian Albums.
Jacques Plante wrote this piece that the bohemian Charles Aznavour would later turn into a French music classic in 1966. Aznavour, who left us in 2018, believed there were always only two types of music: “good and bad.”
And it’s safe to assume his music fell into the former category, as indicated by the various versions of “La Bohème” he performed in different languages, including Italian, Spanish, English, German, and even Portuguese, thus taking the chanson genre far beyond French borders.
Edu Lobo & Maria Bethânia – Cirandeiro
Edu Lobo proposed a collaboration to Maria Bethânia in various tracks for the album bearing their names, “Edu e Bethânia.”
The album consists of ten different songs, with Maria Bethânia performing two songs as a soloist and accompanying Lobo in three others.
“Cirandeiro,” written by Edu Lobo and José Carlos Capinam, is the second track on this masterpiece of Portuguese music.
Fausto Leali – A Chi
Roy Hamilton released the song “Hurt” in November 1954, which reached the eighth spot on Billboard’s R&B chart.
Many other artists, including Timi Yuro, Fausto Leali himself, The Manhattans quintet, and even Elvis Presley, wanted to capitalize on the success of this piece and tried to replicate its achievements in subsequent years.
This song is part of the soundtrack of “The Best of Youth,” the Italian film that captured our hearts in the mid-2000s.
France Gall – Les Sucettes
Serge Gainsbourg composed several French songs for the singer France Gall, including “Les Sucettes” and the famous “Poupée de cire, poupée de son.”
This song, classified as pop and part of the French “yéyé” genre, introduced a new paradigm in music of the time by containing double entendre eroticism in its lyrics.
I Giganti – Tema
Television music programs are an eternal source of new compositions and talents that keep playing on hit radios today.
A few years ago, the members of I Giganti had the opportunity to participate in one of these programs with the song “Tema,” landing in third place and staying on the charts for an impressive seven weeks.
Jacques Dutronc – Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi
Jacques Dutronc entered the music scene with this song included in an album bearing his own name.
“Et Moi, Et Moi, Et Moi” delves into pure and unadulterated selfishness, as one of the song’s verses suggests: “no matter how bad things are elsewhere on the planet, as long as I can enjoy the barbecue I’m having tonight.”
Los Bravos – Black Is Black
Who doesn’t know this well-known song by Los Bravos? “Black Is Black” was the first Spanish song to make a name for itself beyond the Iberian Peninsula.
It reached the second spot on the UK charts, fourth on the Billboard Hot 100, and even the number one position on the Canadian Singles Chart.
Additionally, this song received numerous covers, including versions by Johnny Hallyday, La Belle Epoque, Rick Springfield, and La Unión.
Los Bravos – La Moto
In the music world, the exchange of songs between artists is commonplace. This song by Los Bravos, “La Moto,” is a clear example of this phenomenon; initially, the group Los Pasos was supposed to release this song.
Los Bravos made their mark on the Spanish charts with this transport-related song.
Los Brincos – Giulietta
Considered the Spanish Beatles, this rock band was founded in Madrid in 1964.
Their golden years extended until 1996, when they became a massive phenomenon in Spain. From there, changes in band members and other circumstances led to the group’s dissolution in 1971, followed by a subsequent reunion from 2000 to 2003.
“Giulietta” is a declaration of love that surely enamored many young people of the time during the classic parties known as “guateques.”
Los Brincos – Mejor
Within their second album, Los Brincos included the song “Mejor.” It is considered one of the best songs in the Merseybeat genre performed by a Spanish group in the 1960s.
The lyrics of this single address the theme of heartbreak, suggesting that when things change in a relationship, it’s “better” to go separate ways.
Los Brincos – Un Sorbito De Champagne
Let’s take a break and join Los Brincos for a sip of champagne.
This song was one of the group’s biggest hits, reaching number one on the Los 40 Principales chart. The song was released in EP format alongside other hits from the band, marking the last release by Los Brincos before the departure of their legendary members Juan Pardo and Antonio Morales Barreto, better known as Junior.
Los Cheyenes – Tú No Llegaste A Mí
This track is a relatively unknown ballad by Los Cheyenes, a band from Barcelona. Along with “He Perdido Este Juego,” it’s part of a homemade EP recorded before Roberto Vercher, the group’s leader, left for military service.
Influenced by The Kinks and The Rolling Stones, their rough, distorted, and gritty sound became their trademark. The band members also sported long hair, which led to their ban from television but also became a promotional tool.
Los Gatos Negros – Cadillac
Although the journey of this group wasn’t very long, we can’t say that black cats bring bad luck. Five years after its formation in Barcelona, Los Gatos Negros released “Cadillac,” one of their standout tracks.
With Quique Tudela on guitar and harmonica solo, the song was an adaptation of a track by the British group The Renegades.
Los H-H – Aquel Amanecer De Mayo
Groups formed by siblings are not exclusive to the present, as demonstrated by Los H-H. This vocal group that emerged in the 1960s consisted of the Hermoso brothers: Jaime, Fermín, and Carlos.
“Aquel Amanecer de Mayo” was released on the ensemble’s first EP under the Philips label. Simple and melancholic, the song sings about a love and moments past and cherished.
Los Huracanes – Días Sin Mañana
Included in the EP of the same name, “Días Sin Mañana” is a protest song in which the band covers “Eve of Destruction” by American composer P.F. Sloan.
The original song, a hit worldwide, was performed by Barry McGuire, singer of The New Christy Minstrels.
It’s a chant against war, lack of freedom, and the stigma of thinking differently, which, in its Spanish adaptation by Los Huracanes, became one of the best-selling songs by this Valencian group.
Los Huracanes – El Calcetín
“El Calcetín,” also by Los Huracanes, is a fun and lighthearted song about a lost sock and a foot that will have to go without it.
Even if the owner of the missing sock has mismatched feet, the song’s catchy rhythm is captivating.
Los Mustang – Submarino Amarillo
Like many other groups of the era, Los Mustang brought English music to the Spanish audience by covering songs like “Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles.
Well-known among Spanish youth, the group was formed in 1960 by musicians Marco Rossi, Miguel Navarro, and Antonio Mercadé. They later added a singer, Santi Carulla, who came from the group Los Sirex. Drummer Antonio Mier from the same band also joined later.
“Submarino Amarillo” sold over 130,000 copies in Spain and became the most recognized of all the Mustang’s versions of original songs by the British band.
Los Pekenikes – Hilo De Seda
“Hilo de Seda” was the debut single of this Madrid-based group and the first preview of “Los Pekenikes,” their first studio album.
The lack of a singer led to this instrumental piece, featuring the trumpet as the main protagonist and alternating with female choruses. It unexpectedly became a success for the band, reaching number one in the charts in the Netherlands, Portugal, and Mexico, and achieving recognition in other countries such as France, Italy, and Germany.
Los Salvajes – Pienso En Ti
Los Salvajes is a rock band that emerged in Barcelona in 1962. With clear influences from groups like The Rolling Stones or The Who, they were pioneers of the “Garage Rock” style, which characterized other Spanish groups like Los Cheyenes or Los Huracanes.
The song “Pienso en Ti,” included in the EP “Al Capone,” is an ode to heartbreak, forgetting someone who doesn’t reciprocate and drowning sorrows without standing still.
Los Salvajes – Soy Así
Undoubtedly, 1966 was a busy year for Los Salvajes. “Soy Así” is proof of that, being part of another EP, “La Neurastemia,” also released in 1966.
This time, we have a much rockier song with the unstoppable presence of guitars and bass, defining the style of those times along with the lyrics.
Los Salvajes – Todo Negro
As mentioned, The Rolling Stones were one of Los Salvajes’ major influences, and the song “Todo Negro” clearly demonstrates this.
The band covered the original song “Paint It Black” by the British group, releasing it along with other hits from 1966. Aside from Los Salvajes, this song has been covered by various performers and groups. In Spain, it was covered in different styles by Azúcar Moreno, M Clan, and Medina Azahara.
Los Salvajes – Una Chica Igual Que Tú
Included in the same EP as “Todo Negro,” “Una Chica Igual que Tú” is also a cover. This time, the Spanish band adapts “With a Girl Like You” by The Troggs.
We could say that this love song is probably one of the versions with the most “ba ba ba’s” in its lyrics.
Marisol – Yo A Ti También
Josefa Flores, better known as Marisol, was a child prodigy in Spain during the 1960s. During that time, she starred in several musical films aimed at children and teenagers, thanks to producer Manuel J. Goyanes, who gave her first role in the 1960 film “Un Rayo de Luz.”
“Yo a Ti También,” a song about devoted love, is part of the B-side of the single “Amor y Juventud,” released by Zafiro Records.
Palito Ortega – La Felicidad
This joyful song about feeling loved is performed by Argentine artist Ramón Bautista Ortega, better known as Palito Ortega.
A versatile artist, he is a singer-songwriter, actor, music producer, film director, and even a politician. “La Felicidad” was one of the great successes in his extensive career.
Raphael – Yo Soy Aquél
Without a doubt, “Yo soy Aquél” is a timeless classic. Like “Mi gran noche,” it’s a song known by both older generations and probably by the younger ones as well.
Composed by Manuel Alejandro, it represented Spain in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1966, achieving seventh place.
Over the years, several artists have covered it. In fact, Raphael himself recorded a French version of the song in the same year, titled “Dis moi Lequel.”
In Spain, El Chaval de la Peca’s version in 1999 became well-known. It even reached beyond Spanish borders in 1994 as part of “Influencias,” an album by Puerto Rican singer Chayanne.
In addition, in 2019, it was chosen by popular vote as the best Spanish song of the entire 1960s decade.
Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Mas Que Nada
“Mas que nada” is a song composed by Brazilian singer Jorge Ben, who included it in his 1963 album “Samba Esquema Novo,” his first studio album.
However, the most well-known version of this song is the one released by Sérgio Mendes and his band Brasil ’66 in 1966.
This Portuguese-language song was a success both in and outside Brazil.
Forty years later, “Mas que nada” gained renewed popularity in the United States and Europe thanks to a version recorded by Sérgio Mendes and the group The Black Eyed Peas in 2006.
Who doesn’t remember the summery Antena 3 television commercials from that time, with this song as the soundtrack?
There are many more versions of the song by other artists. In fact, Sérgio Mendes and his wife Gracinha Leporace recorded another version for the movie “Rio,” released in 2011.
The Rokes – E’ La Pioggia Che Va
The Rokes wanted to replicate the success they achieved with “Che falla tenemos,” their previous single. For this purpose, they decided to cover a song by American singer-songwriter Bob Lind, titled “Remember the Rain.”
The Rokes’ version was transformed into a protest song, following the style of protest songs of that era, with rewritten lyrics by Italian composer Mogol. As the group desired, the song reached the number one spot on the Hit Parade music chart.
The Rokes – Piangi Con Me
Another song by this England-formed group, initially known as the Shel Carson Combo, is “Piangi con Me.”
Having been covered multiple times, the song was written by David Shapiro and Iván Mogull and included on the B-side of the LP “Che Colpa Abbiamo Noi.”
Following the song’s success in Italy, where the group relocated in 1963, a new version in English, titled “Passing Thru Grey,” was released.
Violeta Parra – Gracias A La Vida
The title might seem like a premonition or farewell, as Violeta Parra took her own life a year after releasing this song. “Gracias a la vida” is one of the most well-known and covered Chilean songs worldwide, included in the album “Las Últimas Composiciones,” which was composed by Violeta herself, her children Isabel and Ángel, and Uruguayan musician Alberto Zapicán.
With 11 albums in her discography, Violeta Parra was one of the greatest promoters of Chilean folk music. In honor of the artist and her birthday, October 4th is celebrated as “Día de la Música y de los Músicos Chilenos” (Day of Chilean Music and Musicians) in Chile.
(Madrid, 1987) Novelist by vocation, SEO specialist by profession. Music lover, cinephile and reading lover, but in “amateur” mode.