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Ten ’60s albums that changed everything

May 12, 2010

1.Blonde on Blonde (Bob Dylan)

It’s soaked in what the master himself called “that wild mercury sound.” Reasons it’s stupendously great? “Visions of Johanna,” “Sad Eyed Lady,” “Just Like a Woman” – enough right there.  Oh yeah, and “Memphis Blues Again,” “I Want You,” “Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat”…

2. Blue (Joni Mitchell)*

OK, it came out in 1971, so sue me. Still a ‘60’s record. I’ve discussed this record in a previous post, here

3. Are You Experienced (Jimi Hendrix Experience) *

The most wrenching musical departure since Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The first time people heard the Stravinsky in Paris, they rioted. First time I heard Hendrix I was at someone’s house, he showed me this purple album cover with some really scary looking freaks and said, “Lay down on the floor, close your eyes…” When the music was over, I stood up, and music, life, the guitar, were never the same.

4. Rubber Soul (The Beatles)

Ah, for the days when you could slap on a new record, frown at the cover trying to figure out what had their faces so oddly elongated, then hear “It’s Only Love.” “In My Life.” “Norwegian Wood.”  No, you say, you should have picked Revolver.  Fine.  But not Sgt. Pepper. Meet the Beatles, maybe, Beatles ’65 ….gotta stop, deciding is giving me a headache.

5.The Beach Boys Classics (The Beach Boys)

Hey, that’s not an album, it’s a compilation! And what about Pet Sounds? Ain’t that supposed to rule? No. Half of it is brilliant. The rest… just plain weird.  So sue me again.

6.After Bathing at Baxters (Jefferson Airplane) *

A noble experiment in eclecticism, produced under heavy chemical duress, which improbably succeeded. Yes, they later made fools of themselves – they became Jefferson Starship!  But forgiveness is what it’s all about when it comes to ‘60’s bands. Do you hate “Here, There, and Everywhere” just because Paul went on to commit the sins he committed with Wings? Can you really hate Dylan just because of that Christmas Album?  (I haven’t heard it, but I’ve heard enough about it that I’m actually afraid to listen to it.) “I’ve got his arm, I’ve got his arm…I’ve had it for weeks!”  If that doesn’t take you back you need to go listen to it.

7.Live Dead (Grateful Dead) *

Maybe I’m prejudiced towards this, because this cycle of songs was exactly what I heard them do the first time I saw them in the dark fall of 1969.  A musical…trip.  No, really.  “Turn on your lovelight…and leave it on!”

8. East-West (Butterfield Blues Band) *

Forgotten today, they were the musicians’ musicians of the day. The same mood of exploration, of breaking down barriers that was transforming Jefferson Airplane is working here, taking them far from their native blue Chicago.

9. The Dionne Warwick Collection – Her All Time Greatest Hits (Dionne Warwick)

These songs, all but two of which are by Bacharach/David, didn’t change anything – except for music. Mesmerized by loud guitars (see 3. above) we ignored these gentle bossa nova flavored things – at our musical peril.  There are more brilliant moments in every one of these songs than in whole careers of other artists. “Do you know the way to San Jose?” Wish I were there now.

10. Peter, Paul and Mary ** (Peter, Paul and Mary)

Yeah, the ‘60’s are about Rock, High Rock, but the ‘60’s started with the “folk boom.”  Yes, these guys were there with M. L. King at the Lincoln Memorial, they introduced us to Dylan.  But it’s Mary’s voice, the crust on those angelic harmonies, so sweet and earnest and strong, that speaks the hope that ushered in the decade, and despite so much darkness, still shines in the heart of those that remember.

This in MY list, and I’m sure you don’t agree.  So bring it on. (With Peace and Love, of course.)

*I was privileged to hear these great musicians live in the ‘60’s.

** I finally heard them 7 years ago.  Mary’s voice was long past its prime, but her spirit was still there. It’s not fair that she and so many of the others above should have given so much and be gone.


From → 60's Music, Pop Music

  1. You pretty much nailed it! Nice selection! One might argue for Highway 61 or Bring it all Back Home. Anyway, those 3 make a holy trinity right there. I kept scrolling down thinking…What about the Airplane?- and there it is, and, What about PBBB/East West (a personal major revelation)…and there it is! OK… the Dead?…and there it is. As great as Rubber Soul is, Revolver is a smidge more amazing to me. (Definitely NOT Sgt. Pepper) I think the Byrds (always overlooked) deserve a spot in there, and, while we’re getting ornithological, perhaps- the Yardbirds. For me the first 2 Cream albums were and are quite noteworthy, and what about Freakout (Mothers) or, one of my all time faves- Quicksilver, Jeesh-How can one overlook Cheap Thrills? OK-Stop me now!

    • Well, it’s plain impossible with just ten. Yeah, Cheap Thrills, The Mothers, not to speak of Love Forever Changes…Marvin Gaye’s What’s Goin on.

  2. Nice List! Perhaps a little Stateside in flavour but that’s not surprising. On this side of the pond I’d probably add in some Who, Cream, Stones, Kinks and so on. But I’d also add Simon & Garfunkel (not sure which one – too difficult) and perhaps a dash of The Doors.

    • Yeah, I hemmed and hawed about the Stones…Let It Bleed, Beggars Banquet. Actually High Tide and Green Grass would do it. And what about Procol Harem’s Shine On Brightly? (Obscure, but something else.)

  3. Shine on Brightly…Great album-just the best! All the tracks! I wore the grooves out on that one. I recall turning my son on to that one (and a thousand others) but he really flipped over that one. I have a ‘best of’, but I don’t have that CD. Time to get the mp3 version-right now! Love’s- Forever Changes! Another timeless benchmark. We were just listening to High Tides and Green Grass, and have decided that the Brian Jones Stones were it! Well, we’re narrowing it down to a top 40 anyway, and yes, must include The Doors.

  4. Paul Reid permalink

    Great list. I’d exchange Highway 61 for Blonde on Blonde, as having a more seismic effect on both Folk and Rock. Traditionalists went boo-hoo at Dylan’s electrification, but what were the 60s about if not smacking down tradition? Two other albums might merit mention in a top 20 list: The Blues Project album, where Danny Kalb, Blumenfeld, Katz, and Kooper broke all sorts of new ground, especially in technique. Bye-bye Duane Eddy as the gold standard for aspiring guitarists in 1966. The band members went on to pollinate so many groups. And, Judy Collins, Fifth Album, which I think helped set the stage for the Peace and Love folks; no Judy, no Summer of Love. Curiously Danny Kalb sat in on that album. Coming of the Roads anticipated Big Yellow Taxi by five years, brought the destruction of the environment home for many young folkies.

    And, may I toss out five singles written or released in 1964-1965, without which the music story going forward (of Rock, Folk, Country) would have been radically different:
    The Sounds of Silence
    Mr. Tambourine Man
    (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction
    Ring of Fire (OK, so it was 1963)

    And let us not forget I Put a Spell on You, Screaming Jay Hawkins, 1956! He captured the hard edge and spirit of Rock in the 60s a full decade before Rock in the 60s.

    Keep up the good work, John

    • Thanks. Hey, I played Gloria in some of the original garage bands (actually they tended to be in damp basements.)

      Yeah, I shoulda gotten the Stones in there.

      And where is Danny Kalb???

  5. Thanks for commenting on my brief post. I followed you here and – yes – that’s about it. As someone commented, a few more US acts than I would have gone for. Definitely Ladies of the Canyon rather than Blue – it’s probably still in my top two or three albums of all time. Phenomenal songwriting and a sparse arrangement. I do some home recording, and that’s always a reference sound when I’m working with a female singer – if only I could get it. Are You Experienced – you said almost exactly what I’ve said to many people: sitting in a friend’s house, hearing the opening 10 seconds of Foxy Lady.. music would never be the same again. Beatles – fine, with maybe a nod to Revolver, but some of the songs on Rubber Soul are among the best ever written. I work in a school not too far from Rishikesh, surrounded by sitar sounds, so Norwegian Wood sounds even more classic today than it did in the far-off days when I was attending the school George and Paul went to in Liverpool. Cheap Thrills is a must-have – I played that to death on the family radiogram, which was previously mostly used for South Pacific and Light Classical Overtures. Led Zeppelin 3. What about Tommy? Very interesting for its time. And Cream, of course – Wheels of Fire? Experimental Syd Barrett-era Floyd? Mothers, Hot Rats (just to get Capt. Beefheart out of a financial jam, I believe). For pure British 60s pop look no further than the Hollies and the Small Faces.

    But here’s another angle: what do the kids today play? Based on my observation of student talent shows and bedroom jamming both in the UK (eight or nine years ago) and in India over the last seven years, and on the loudest response when our staff band play, the ones that have stood the test of time are: Sweet Home Alabama (ubiquitous), Sunshine of your Love; Another Brick in the Wall (or anything by Floyd); Foxy Lady; Born to be Wild; anything by Zep; Hey Jude (and many more); Smoke on the Water. I mentioned that last because our Middle School beginners jazz club performed a version of that with a mix of instruments that you wouldn’t believe. The result was hilarious in a good sort of way. I’ve posed a video on my blog http://petewildman/ . When heavy metal gets into the standard school music repertoire you know it’s a bit special!

    • Pete,

      Wow – you went to the same school as George and Paul! You’re argument for Cheap Thrills is persuasive. Maybe it’s too painful. Though many members of other bands on my list are gone, I had a small role in the Festival Express, and thus saw her right before she died. On another note, a few years back by some bizarre stroke of luck ended up in the south of France playing a gig with the man who made the cover of that album, R. Crumb. I’ll be posting about that and the Festival Express when I get around to it.
      As far as the other great UK bands, I admit that after the initial wave of Beatles and Stones, the sounds coming from your side of the pond didn’t quite speak to me, except for Procol Harem. I respected those bands – especially the Who – but as a budding guitar player my heroes were Mike Bloomfield, Jorma, Jimi of course, and then finally Garcia, whose style I for a time imitated before getting my own. HOWEVER, I recently heard the live “Crossroads” on the radio and yeah, I got Clapton in prime.
      Love to see your video, but the danged link won’t link.



  6. Just uploaded the video – it seems to be taking time to render. Try later – it’s hilarious. I liked the great blues guitarists, too. I have good memories of Super Session with Bloomfield, Kooper and Stills. I think their version of Dylan’s It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry is one of those cover versions which blow the originals away, like Jimi’s Watchtower.But Clapton’s first album with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers at the age of about 20 was a revelation. I honestly don’t think he recorded anything better. That’s what really turned me onto the blues.

    • Got the video to play by going to your website through google. Fun! Especially for some reason the title line with brass. Makes me want to sample it and do something crazy with it.

      On the other hand, that performance sounds like the LSO next to the folks: Must be heard to be believed.

      You make me realize I really haven’t given Eric a fair shake. Back in the day I resented him being called GOD when that honor obviously belonged to Hendrix.
      And his songs of the last decades make me snore. But…the original Layla is very fine, and his not so gentle weeping on “As My Guitar…” is very deep.

      • Your answer was just what I nedede. It’s made my day!

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