Rock Music was the life-blood of the sixties, the glue that held us together, a unifying force. It was not merely a soundtrack to be enjoyed, an entertainment or sounds to be appreciated; it was a philosophy to be discussed, a tribal anthem to identify with, a bold statement of uniqueness and difference.
As a generation it was a line in the sand between us and the older generation. They hated it and all it stood for (hedonism, fun, excitement, sex, wildness) and we loved it. It was ours. We were creating something the world had never seen before, at least not since the days of the dandy apprentices of Shakespearian times – a youth culture that separated us from the drabness and routine of the older generation. They were so boring and staid they might as well have been dead. But we were alive.
We had our clothes, our language, our style, our drugs, our philosophy – and it wasn’t at all concerned with earning money, securing a career, becoming qualified, buying a house, marrying and starting a family – it was about getting a girl, impressing your mates and having a lot of fun.
There were different clans – Mods/Rockers, Beatles/Stones, Chart/Obscure, R&B/Rock, Blues/Pop, Authentic/Plastic.
The excitement of it. I can remember rushing out to the record shop to buy the latest single by the Stones, Beatles, Pretty Things, Who, Yardbirds or Downliners Sect; putting it on the old dansette with the arm up and playing it a dozen times or replay until I’d absorbed every chord, note and word. Then flipping it over and doing the same with the B-side.
I’d scour shops and Radio Luxembourg for more obscure offering that I really loved – Like the Others, Paramounts, Measles or Bo Street Runner.
At school we would endlessly argue about the new releases and their merit, what would go up the chart and what wouldn’t. We’d parade our precious Blues albums, appreciated by a small cognoscenti, and arrogantly regard the Pop Chart fans with disdain. For us the jewels were the brilliant sounds that didn’t make the charts. That made them all the more precious. They were ours. Blues was authentic where Pop was plastic.
There were arguments about the Stones and Beatles that nearly came to blows.
As the sixties progressed so did the music. It became more experimental, varied and complex. It moved into a more adult orientated style. With Dylan’s poetry leading the way the words became more important. With the burgeoning underground the attitude became divisive. The commercial charts moved more from Pop singles to the more sophisticated albums.
It seems incredible to me that Revolver is fifty years old. How did that happen? I bought mine on the day of release and can still remember rushing home to put it on. I was sweating with excitement. I must have played it non-stop for days. There was so much to take in. Rubber Soul had been a sea-change but this was a revolution. Every track a gem and tracks like Tomorrow Never Knows so extraordinary that they blew my mind. It had everything. There was a hard edge to it, but light, bright songs too. The range was extraordinary. No other band had the ability to produce genius on such a diverse scale. From the electronic experiment of Tomorrow Never Knows to the haunting beauty of Here, There and Everywhere, the hard Rock guitar of Taxman to the foolery of Yellow Submarine. Then Good Day Sunshine, Eleanor Rigby with those strings.
The Beatles were experiments with instruments, arrangements, sounds and techniques in a way that had not been done before. They had taken on Brian Wilson’s production and taken it from Beachboy Pop to something else. It was the start. They were going to develop it even further. In many ways it was the coming of age for Rock Music.
It was fifty years ago today – the Beatles taught the world to play.
It is a bit different to the way music is consumed today.