[May 16th marked the 50th anniversary of the releases of Pet Sounds and Blonde on Blonde, two iconic 1960s rock albums. So this week I’ve AmericanStudied those artists and other 60s rock icons and songs. This way cool crowd-sourced post is drawn from the responses of fellow RockStudiers—share your own in comments, man (used in a gender-neutral way)!]
On Twitter, Kendra Leonard asks a vital question for the whole series: “Do ppl in American Studies programs working on music get musicological training, historical or theoretical or ethno?” And in terms of additional topics, she adds, “I'd love to know more about non-Southern US roots rock, especially women creators.”
Following up Monday’s post, Jeff Renye notes that La Salle University has a special collection of Bob Dylan material. Jeff also shares the acclaimed documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, and highlights The Doors, who “certainly added a darker voice to the mid/late-60s west coast sounds of, for instance, Haight-Ashbury.”
Olivia Wirtanen writes about Dylan, “He is a classic American singer. He's not the greatest vocalist but his lyrics are timeless. Very poetic as well.”
Maria DiFrancesco shares this interesting article on Pet Sounds. Beazley Kanost adds, “The Beach Boys also makes me think of surer music--not the sweet harmonies Brian Wilson produced, but stuff like the Ventures' ‘Wild Things.’ If I understand it correctly, it's a kind of noir genre.”
Followng up Thursday’s post, Susan Williams writes, “Love it. I still listen to Joan Baez almost daily (I'm a child of the 60s). Along with her, I would nominate Judy Collins, Peter Paul & Mary, Phil Ochs, Tim Hardin, Buffy Ste. Marie, and Leonard Cohen. All masters of the protest songs that still resonate today.”
Responses to my requests for additional topics to RockStudy:
My colleague DeMisty Bellinger-Delfeld writes, “I would like to see something on protest music. I think we're heading back to music as message, but we seem to have collectively lost it there for a while. That, or women in rock in that time period. Was Grace Slick about yet? Yeah, because Jefferson Airplane was all psychedelic.”
Kelly Johnson echoes, “Protest rock for sure. I mean, good god man, what is it good for?!”
Philip Opere writes, “What about Hugh Hefner and Playboy's influence on the cultural and sexual revolutions?”
Seth Lewis Levin asks, “Where did The Ramones come from?”
Ian James highlights, “Iggy and the Stooges. The contrast in style, culture, philosophy, and everything between what they were doing and the biggest music of the day, the Beatles, is incredible.” And Kate Wells adds, “Garage rock in general as a precursor to 70s punk,” and mentions, “Please include my favorite, ’96 Tears’!”
Kate also goes in a different direction, focusing on “Exploitation and B movies—depictions of juvenile delinquents: Faster Pussycat, Kill, Kill; Easy Rider; Wild in the Streets; Night of the Living Dead, anything by Herschell Gordon Lewis.”
Tim McCaffrey focuses on a broader historical trend, namely “The Pill.”
Mike Parker writes, “If you go late 60s, you can see the beginnings of heavy metal. Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple, all formed in 1968 and all from England. Must be something in the water over there I tell you.”
Roi Aloupis Armstrong highlights Neil Young.
Nancy Caronia goes with “Folk music: Odetta, Phil Ochs.”
Jason Flinkstrom asks, “Was Captain Beefheart in the 60s?” [He was!], adding, “So, Zappa culture with an in-depth analysis of madness is my suggestion.”
Justin Mason writes, “I think Doo-Wop is often overlooked because the rise of groups like Beatles, rock bands like The Doors, Hendrix, etc. However groups such as The Coasters are still around today and have left a lasting legacy on music.”
Cynthia Lynn Lyerly reminds us to consider “how music was categorized and labeled...and how race played a role.”
Rob Gosselin notes, “I always thought the Velvet Underground to be in need of more attention. Their sound is timeless, and it was rare in the early sixties for a rock band to have a woman drummer: Maureen (Moe) Tucker.”
Michele Townes responds to many of those suggestions, writing, “Looked at all the cool music suggestions here and smiled. How about some of the ‘cornier’ ones...Surf music like Beach Boys or music that stemmed from TV pop culture like Davy Jones, The Monkees, Partridge Family, etc. Not the music that left an indelible mark from an artistic standpoint, but that shows trends of white teenage pop culture. Conversely, doo wop and the rise of Motown for a different teen demographic.”
Beazley Kanost highlights, “Motown: the music, the dancing, the economic and creative independence from exploitative white big business. Girl groups--Ronnettes, Supremes. The Philadelphia sound. The mellow strain: Lovin Spoonful, Simon and Garfunkel, etc. Grace Slick. The Velvet Underground--Warhol's POPism tells how the VU and his ethos/aesthetic (pale, all in black, on speed) clashed with the San Francisco flower power summer of love stoned stuff when they all went to CA. Enough stuff for years.” She adds, “To get outside of the US, looking into it, there's that early 60s generation of British rockers who came into music through a passion for Rhythm and Blues artists like Muddy Waters, T Bone Walker, Howlin' Wolf. It starts in the 40s and 50s. Transatlantic. Then the Beatles and Stones could become mega-stars with a ‘British Invasion’ of middle America. … Then look at American rock in Vietnam during the war. I was living on Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands. We got rock and soul from the Armed Forces Radio Service--and not really from anywhere else, for the most part. It would be interesting to explore from a Vietnamese point of view. We went to Hong Kong in 1970 and American soul music floated out of the clubs where GIs were on R&R.”
Finally, on the weekend of FSU’s graduation, a special mini-Guest Post on the Beatles and America from one of our wonderful graduating English Studies majors, Sara Moller:
“On February 9th, 1964, The Beatles debuted their music on The Ed Sullivan Show for a record 73 million viewers and introduced themselves to America, changing the course of history along the way. American culture had already been big in their lives, they frequently cited American artists when asked who their favorites were, and now they were ready to shape the culture themselves with their catchy lyrics, superb instrument playing, and charming looks. This day didn’t come without some trepidation going in. The four of them, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, insisted on having a number one record over here before they would cross the pond. That record was ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’ and it started a chain of hit singles for the Fab Four. They would tour all across both America and the world from this point on until their last scheduled live performance in 1966 at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, California.
While the group was together the four lived in England so they had easy access to Abbey Road Studios, but after their split in the late 60’s/early 70’s America became more a permeant fixture in their lives. Paul McCartney married American photographer Linda Eastman in March 1969 and after her passing in April 1998, he eventually married another American, Nancy Shevell, in 2011. John Lennon and his wife, avant garde artist Yoko Ono, moved to New York City in August 1971 and Lennon soon felt more at home there than he ever did in London. He lived in various apartment in the city before finally settling on The Dakota until he was murdered in December 1980. Ringo Starr married American actress Barbara Bach and currently frequently divides his time between living in London and California. George Harrison had less of a life associated with America after the break-up, his only connection was his older sister who still resides in Benton, Illinois to this day, and instead expanded his interests in Indian culture.
Americans and American culture were forever shaped by The Beatles’ music. They were the first group to play at various baseball stadiums, now a staple for a lot of tour stops. They stole the hearts of a generation who fell for their good looks and talent, often causing high amounts of shrieking and running into the streets for a chance to see their favorite member. Their music broke dozens of chart records and continues to be introduced to new generations, through parents playing their records, video games being developed based on the band, and their catalogue getting reissued first on CD, then on vinyl again, followed by digital copies, as released on iTunes. Numerous contemporary artists cite The Beatles as one of their musical influences. Without The Beatles and their touch on American culture, a lot of history would be altered.”
Next series starts Monday,
PS. What do you think? Responses to these thoughts or other RockStudyings you’d share?
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