Ten ’60s albums that changed everything
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.