I listen to a lot of talk type radio, I mean a LOT. Probably my brother, and a couple of others who really know me, know this. It’s a topic for another article, but having stated that I listen to a boat load of talk program, some might get the impression that I don’t know much about music. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I believe that, next to visual art, music was the earliest form of communication of inner feelings in other ways besides regular conversation. Without being to cliche it was a demonstration of your soul for others. I think music can instantly change a mood for a person whether it be happiness, loneliness, anger, and so on. It also churns up memories, for example some songs can take you back to those moments when you were in love with a significant other, as well as tear your heart out lamenting the loss of the relationship. If there was ever one sense I couldn’t live without it would be hearing if only to lose the ability to hear music.
So with that long introduction, I am starting a new piece from time to time breaking down a specific year and what music was like. Not just the stuff I liked either, but significance, impact, etc. For no other reason than the year contains one of my favorite albums of all time to be released, I chose 1969.
1969 was a pretty tumultuous year for the world and the United States in general. Vietnam, the counter culture revolution, the world had been changing dramatically in the few years previously, and this particular one was no different. It was changing in style of sound, as well as seeing the tail end of major game players. So lets start with the beginning of the year 1969.
Perhaps one of the biggest ways 1969 kicked off was the debut album from one of Rock’s greatest bands, Led Zeppelin. While I am not a fan of theirs, I do give credit for their place in rock history. Led Zeppelin contained future Classic Rock tracks like Communication Breakdown, and Dazed and Confused and within 2 months it hit #6 on the charts. Also early in the year a little band known as Credence Clearwater Revival released Bayou Country which included Born on the Bayou, and a hit that many covered since Proud Mary.
Other major releases of the year was The Who’s rock opera Tommy, Genesis’ first studio album From Genesis to Revelation, Johnny Cash At San Quentin, My Cherie Amour by Stevie Wonder, and near the end of the year, the debut album from The Jackson 5 Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5. Now I can go on and on ad nausea about every single release that was done in 1969 but this isn’t really Wikipedia, its a editorial column, and also a bit biased. The biggest news for music, as well as news that affected things around the world centered around the kings of music for the decade: The Beatles.
The Beatles last LIVE performance was done on a rooftop on January 30th, filmed for the Let It Be movie, a movie that showcased inner turmoil for the band that almost was statement on the inner turmoil the US and the world were in at the time. Paul married Linda, and 8 days later John married Yoko. Legal and managerial representation changed. John was going around holding bed ins for peace and love. George Harrison was arrested for possession of hashish, and the Beatles were also in a major battle with trying to own the rights of their music catalog that was being sold by Northern Songs. In the middle of all this tension, on September 26th they release what some call to be their greatest album of all time: Abbey Road.
There are few out there who could disagree with the impact of Abbey Road even though, at the time, it didn’t quite receive the greatest of reviews from the music industry. Now that we can look back on it in hindsight, all the musical experimentation that The Beatles started in the mid 60’s, along with the talent to play and harmonize came together in one great, final product. Go down the track listing, and you could make up a good selection of hits that are still played on any Classic Rock station every day: Come Together, Here Comes the Sun, Something, I Want You (She’s So Heavy), Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. On top of that, my favorite part of the album was the B side. The Medley of songs that they put together I could listen to on a loop for long periods of time. It was a sound that helped usher in the sound of rock for the 1970’s.
Now this sounds like I just turned it into a Beatles butt lapping disguised in a year retrospective, and maybe it has, but you can’t argue on the impact that band had on music and world events. Hell 1969 was the year of the Sharon Tate murders that was orchestrated by Charles Manson who used Beatles song titles and meanings on his crazy crusade. The Beatles were, at the time, the biggest players in the industry and for good reason.
So as to not make this entire column about The Beatles, rock festivals were also the major talk of the music scene in 1969. Altamont Speedway Free Festival in California was major for the musicians they had on, but also its notoriety with the death of concert patrons and the awful security done by Hell’s Angels. The other concert was even more massive, and had a bigger legacy – Woodstock. It was billed as 3 days of Peace and Music, and it held up to that.
Just to put who was on this bill at the time is a who’s who of 60’s music: Ravi Shankar, Joan Baez, Santana, The Grateful Dead, The Who, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, CCR, Jefferson Airplane, the list goes on. It was revolutionary, it showcased counter culture, and people have been trying to have festivals as successful as well as impacting as Woodstock was ever since.
69 was the year of the moon landing and music had an impact on that as well, because David Bowie’s Space Oddity was used during the theme on telecasts of the Moon Landing. 1969 was not the specific change date on when you could pinpoint the evolution of modern day culture, but it had some significant high spots that we still feel today. If they say that music is the soundtrack of life, then the music that came out during that time fit in perfectly.
I will be picking other years out randomly, and I’m not even going with huge impact on the world at times, although it makes it more fun to do so. What albums or musicians from that era do you enjoy to this day? Let me know share your memories on how this music affected your own lives.