On Dateline 1st January 1960, the charismatic Frankie Avalon was top of the music charts with his ballad “Why.” An equally charismatic young man, John F. Kennedy, was campaigning to become the 35th President of the USA, and most people thought they were on the dawn of a golden age. Unfortunately, that was not to be, and by the end of the decade, America seemed to be falling apart at the seams. However, the one thing that most Americans had to comfort themselves during those unforgettable times were old-school record players, which they used to listen to what, in my opinion, was marvelous music ever written, played, or sung. Join me as we explore the beautiful sounds of the 1960s.
If like me, you were one of the so-called baby boomers, the chances are that you fell in love for the very first time during the 1960s. You can remember the nostalgia of dancing with him or her while listening to one of the many ballads that seemed to be everywhere. For me, one of these was the “Theme from a Summer Place,” written by Percy Faith and performed by his orchestra. It’s still played today and always throws me back to the smell of popcorn and hotdogs found in the cinema’s foyer. “Theme from a Summer Place” was one of the big band’s final hits as we all turned towards the classic singer and 4 pieces rock and roll lineup.
Who can ever forget the magic of Duane Eddy (still alive at the grand old age of 81) with hits such as “Rebel Rouser,” “Because They’re Young,” and the raw twangy sound of “Peter Gunn.” This fresh new sound and the British instrumental group, the “Shadows,” caused me for the very first time to pick up a guitar. It is a guitar that I still have today and one I pick up whenever I have the time to relax.
Although the early sixties’ music seemed to be entering into a metamorphic state of change, many top singers of the 1950s were still around. This includes the king himself, Elvis. The king would, during the 1960s, continue to enjoy many top ten hits. As would America’s top ballad and romantic singer Roy Orbison. The music, mainly because of civil unrest in the USA, would complete its metamorphosis with the arrival of folk singers like Joan Baez and Bob Dylan.
Both Joan Baez and Bob Dylan burst onto the music scene when they joined the Washington civil rights march. The protest ended in front of the Lincoln Memorial, where over 300,000 people listened to Martin Luther King Jr as he delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. It is said that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would not have passed if this protest had not taken place. King would later be assassinated as he was leaving his motel room in 1968.
Both Dylon and Baez would achieve worldwide fame, and would with songs like the haunting “Blowing in the Wind” and “Masters of War.” be sung throughout the ’60s as the protests of America’s involvement with Vietnam grew to enormous proportions.
Folk music usually played on acoustic instruments, was at the beginning of the 1960s kept separate from mainstream rock and roll. In 1964 a British group called the Animals first attempted to combine jazz, blues, folk, and rock. They succeeded with the mega-hit “House of the Rising Sun.” This song reverberated around the world and is still played today on most music channels. It is also a song I can remember as if it were yesterday, being played by a local group in the city of Gloucester, England, in a smoke-charged church basement. Incidentally, the bass guitarist was to become my sister’s husband.
It was after this that both folk and rock merged for a while into one. Climaxing with the Byrds rendition of “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” the date was 1964, and something rather big was about to happen.
The British Invasion
On a dull and overcast morning on the 7th of February in 1964, four very young lads from Liverpool, England, stepped off a plane and started to become known as the “British Invasion.” Beatlemania and the Beatles had arrived in America. Two days later, this fresh-looking longhaired four-member rock band would be introduced on the then top-rated family entertainment program, “The Ed Sullivan Show.” 45% of the American public would see John, Paul, Ringo and George perform number one hits, including “Love Me Do” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” Music in the USA would never be the same, and many other British groups would join in this British invasion.
It has to be said that when the Beatles first arrived in the USA, America was still in mourning. Following the assassination of their young President John F. Kennedy the previous November, many broadcasters of the day suggested that the Beatles’ arrival helped make way for the revolutionary social changes that were just about to happen within the USA. Their long hairstyles, long for that period in time, became a badge of rebellion worn with pride by the youth of the time.
At the end of the decade
Following the British Invasion, and towards the end of the decade, folk music had come of age thanks mainly to acts such as the “Mamas & the Papas.” (once again, Ed Sullivan gave them a big break on his show) Crosby Stills and Nash, like Bob Dylan, had changed to using electric guitars whenever they performed. This change from acoustic instruments may have been a result of watching the British invasion bands, or it may have been because of America’s own top performers of the time, “The Beach Boys.” Who can forget “The Monkees,” who, by the way, were pretty good musicians? Many do not know that “The Monkees” were not allowed to play their own instruments because of contractual reasons. Why? Well, it was the 1960’s and everything was possible. Superstar bands could be created with novelty in mind only, and a TV show was born.
In this short narrative, there was not enough room to cover all the bands and music of the 1960s. I can assure you that there will be a part 2 to this article covering this period, and it will include “The Summer of Love,” the rise of the Hippies, and of course Woodstock.
So many thanks for reading, and don’t forget if you still have good old vinyl records from the 60s but do not have a traditional record player to play them on, fear not, as BargainBrute.com has old school looking record players made with modern technology in stock and will deliver free of charge to you the next day. Imagine having what looks like a 1960’s record player on the outside but state-of-the-art technology on the inside. You will love it.
Once again, thanks for reading, and long live the 1960s. I will try and remember—a time I most definitely would love to go back and visit.