The Sixties has a rightful claim as the period in time that produced the most memorable contemporary music in human history.
So many genres came to prominence, including:
John F Kennedy – elected 1960, assassinated 1963. During those years, a seismic cultural wave across the Anglosphere was brewing. Motown began to assert itself in the USA, while in the UK, the post war blues were being thrown off with a vengeance.
The influence of the Modernists: The fifties in the UK saw the emergence of young working class men who had access to “Modern” jazz and soul records shipped over to (mostly black) GIs in the post war years (see also “Northern Soul”). These records essayed musical styles that had largely not been heard outside of black audiences in the USA. The UK’s “Modernists”, with their love of tailored suits, Italian scooters (Lambrettas and Vespas – accept no substitutes), cafes and most importantly amphetamine pills, began looking for something other than bebop to excite them. Unfortunately many of them eventually morphed into hippies, while their younger brothers ended up becoming the original skinheads out of sheer disgust.
The Beatles, the Stones and the Who came to prominence from 1963 onwards and the rest is history.
Bobbie Zimmerman (Dylan) decided to harness some electrickery for his new black Strat, resulting in a (mythical?) hippie cutting the cord at the Newport Folk Festival, 1965. Dylan would then go on to introduce the Beatles to Mary Jane while seeing many of his finest songs covered by artists that were able to do them justice (see for example, the Birds and others).
Soul – James Brown, Ike and Tina, Marvin, Gladys and the Pips, etc …
The Monterey Festival – the film is highly recommended.
Woodstock – the less said about it the better, although a chemically altered Pete Townshend giving Abbie Hoffman the mighty heave ho during a break in proceedings remains its most legendary incident (along with Jimmy’s Star Spangled Banner).
Altamont 1969, when the sixties died an inglorious death courtesy of a hopelessly inappropriate venue, very bad drugs, very bad choices in bouncers and to paraphrase Keef, “all those fat naked people”. The footage of Jerry Garcia and Phil Lesh fleeing the scene in a helicopter after hearing that the Angels were beating down on musicians remains a defining cultural moment. I’m not sure who borrowed whose image first, Peter Fonda for Cap’n America, or the Lesh at Altamont.
There are so many great songs from that decade I was at a total loss as to which two songs should wrap up the post – after polling some friends this afternoon, the choices are:
Mainstream – Petula Clark 1964: “Downtown”
Chemically crazed – Cap’n Beefheart 1969: “Moonlight on Vermont”
Honourable mentions – Dylan (1965), “Like a rolling stone” and the Stones (1967), “Out of time” (Chris Farley lyric version).
Enjoy and post those favourite classics, people!