The sixties and the seventies gave rise to some of the most popular music of all time. The popularity of this type of music had been on a steady rise for years, but in the early sixties it exploded with many famous singles. One of the most notable of these was Don Revie’s “I Want To Hold Your Hand”, which reached the top ten in the UK and went onto reach number one in the US. More popular music of this era was influenced by pop/rock and soul, the two major genres that dominated music during this time.
The early 1960s brought a whole new wave of music to the forefront. This was a period when a number of political issues were on the agenda, such as the war in Vietnam. Music was used as a way to convey the feelings of the times. Many bands, including the Beatles, released singles that expressed their disillusionment over the war. It is perhaps this decade that is known as the ‘counterculture’ era.
Another important milestone in this time was the birth of the first large-scale music festival, Woodstock. This was an annual event which took place in the USA during the months of April and May. People brought guitars, sound effects equipment and a variety of other musical instruments to the rural California location, which was just about an hour from San Francisco. This was the first large-scale gathering of music fans from across the country.
The summer of’1967 witnessed a massive cultural shock among people in America. This was the year that the Beatles hit the big time, with their album ‘Love Actually’. In addition to this, another huge hit single came out from another band that was synonymous with the 1960s music scene – the Beach Boys. Though they are often thought of as being a part of the hippy generation, the Beach Boys actually began as a more underground entity.
Though not as well known as the Beatles and the Stones, the Beach Boys actually achieved some mainstream success during the mid-1960s. Though their popularity waned somewhat in the late seventies, they retained their place among popular music acts of the day. One of the things that helped them retain their fan base was their consistent and innovative use of unique surf rock songs. Although there were some outright hits, it was the interesting surf rock songs that made for great ’60s hits. Some examples of this can be heard on albums such as Surf, My Sweet Lord, and Hey Jude.
As the decade progressed, more bands attempted to buck the trend and incorporate psychedelic and folk elements into their songs. Some of these efforts included the Beach Boys, who experimented with folk and bluegrass music in their effort to be more ‘authentic’. The Beatles were also notorious for their experiments with new wave styles. All of these fusions helped to create an atmosphere that was anything but conventional, which is evident in the titles of many of the albums that emerged from this decade.
What about the counterculture? This movement arose as a reaction to the more overtly political and materialistic impulses of the Beatles and the Stones. Though counterculture did not achieve the commercial heights of the Beatles and the Stones, it was famous for the unique and often radical artistic expressions that emerged from it. The most widely known is the infamous ‘stones’ worn by punks, which are a form of expression that emerged in the early 1960s. Other forms include skull caps and other clothing items associated with the era.
Though many would argue that the rise of the hippie and Beatle generation owed much to the influence of the Beatles and Stones, others attribute their popularity to the impact of the early 1960s. Though they reached a level of popularity rivaling that of Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith, they still fell short of the epicenter of rock and roll, the Beatles. Their hard-rock sound lacked sophistication for many listeners, and their approach to recording music was complicated and expensive. They also failed to popularize the use of synthesizers, which ultimately helped rock music become as sophisticated and innovative as it has become today. Though the Beatles definitely contributed to the growth of rockabilly, the Stones and the hippie generation were much more important.