Thinking about Sixties and Seventies music

The first album I can remember holding in my hands was a Beatles album: A Hard Day’s Night. Until then, my musical upbringing was largely Western classical, jazz through the ages, fifties musicals and crooners. Not surprising, given that I was born in 1957 and lived in India.

It was a good upbringing to have, as far as Western music was concerned: Perry Como and Pat Boone, My Fair Lady and South Pacific, all interspersed amongst the Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Lionel Hampton, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and accentuated by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Mussorgsky and Ravel. It wasn’t a question of choosing either: we listened to what our parents listened to, and that was that. It didn’t occur to us that some people thought musical taste was an individual thing; music, like food, like reading, like life itself, was a social thing, enjoyed best in the company of others.

I must have been around 10 when we bought ourselves a new gramophone player for the house, and shortly after that a few albums emerged that were different from the others. Peter, Paul and Mary’s seminal In The Wind. The Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Time Out. And of all things, Edmundo Ros’s Bongos From The South.

And the Beatles, with A Hard Day’s Night. The start of a wonderful trip through the music of the age.

Over the next ten years, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of albums flowed through the house. No sense of ownership. We bought some; traded some; some were parked there by friends, loaned indefinitely; some just turned up, forgotten leavings.

We were eclectic in our listening; if there was a bias, it was towards singer-songwriter folk rock, but it went a lot further than that, starting with the Beatles (together and solo) and Peter, Paul and Mary. Dylan. Simon and Garfunkel. The Grateful Dead. Traffic. Cream. John Mayall. Jethro Tull. Joan Baez. Dave Mason. Crosby Stills Nash and Young, together and separate. Buffalo Springfield. The Who. Emerson Lake and Palmer. Yes. Neil Diamond. America. Janis Joplin. Kris Kristofferson. Joe Cocker. Creedence Clearwater Revival. Santana. Donovan. Don McLean. Clapton. Hendrix. Jim Croce. Cat Stevens. Leonard Cohen. Allman Brothers. Elton John. Lindisfarne. Led Zeppelin. The Rolling Stones. The Doobie Brothers. Joni Mitchell. James Taylor. Carole King. The Band. Jose Feliciano. Melanie. Seals and Croft. Loggins and Messina. The Doors. The Eagles. Steely Dan. Poco. New Riders of the Purple Sage. Ten Years After. Deep Purple. The Kings. Herman’s Hermits. Iron Butterfly. King Crimson. Pentangle. Queen. Police. Elvis. Stevie Wonder. The Temptations. The Jackson Five. The Moody Blues. Pink Floyd. John Martyn. Gordon Lightfoot. Chicago. Blood Sweat and Tears. Van Morrison. Harry Nilsson.

You get my drift. One paragraph. My pantheon from 1967-1980. Not that much into heavy metal. Not that much into pure pop. Deeply into rock, but mostly based around a folk-rock foundation. Usually singer-songwriter, usually able to play an instrument or two, usually in harmony.

I just loved the music. Really really loved it. At the time I felt like there were a couple of hundred albums that were all I ever needed to listen to, with songs that were full of life and stories and joy and sadness and melody and poetry. And memories.

That’s how I used to think, in my teens and early twenties. I felt rich in the music I knew and loved, and felt no real reason to step out beyond that area.

Guess what? It’s largely stayed that way. Thirty, forty years on, that’s pretty much all I listen to. And I’ve been very privileged, able to watch many of my childhood idols live since then. In fact, tonight, I’m off to see Bob Dylan at the Hammersmith Apollo, and already holding tickets for Jethro Tull next April. I was always sure I’d spend most of my life listening to Sixties and Seventies music. I hadn’t quite considered that it would mean going to concerts where the musicians were in their sixties and seventies!

To all of them, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude, for filling so much of my life with pleasure, with joy, with delight.

Thank you Sixties and Seventies musicians. Particularly those who believe that music is a performance art, not something to can once and exploit forever.

7 thoughts on “Thinking about Sixties and Seventies music”

  1. Wow, JP, this hits home. My parents trended to classical (Rachmaninoff, Tchaikowsky, Chopin) and jazz (Brubeck, Stan Getz, Getz/Gilberto, Chet Baker), but they settled on a playlist very similar to yours, although less rock. BUT, it’s weird, I must’ve been 4 when we got (in US) Meet the Beatles! which was the first album I held. To this day, it’s a rare album for me.

    We were less rock, more folk. The PPM “In Concert” was a favorite. Biff Rose. Fleetwood Mac. Abba. Herb Alpert. S&G were huge, also their solo stuff. Stuff we listened to I don’t like today is refined (as in sugar) pop stuff: Steisand, Carpenters, ugh.

    However, I’ve moved on, although listen to rock and folk a fair amount, I’ve reverted to Jazz, Blues, Bluegrass and moved into Brazilian and Latin. What I rediscovered in Chicago (opera, jazz clubs, blues) is the sophisticated rhythms and complexity in Jazz and Classical, and I also appreciate them in latin music. The basic pop and rock rhythms are less interesting to me now. My latest exploration (I would’ve never predicted this) is remixes, mashups of Billie Holiday and Lounge, etc. Mylene’s _Melene is a tour de force, the sophistication of the electronics, yet substantial acoustic work. Fado. Cesaria Evora.

    All that said, never put on Meet the Beatles! in my presence, I can’t resist singing every word!

  2. I like it that you list The Band twice – they are certainly deserving. I was born in 1978 and I also love all this music. I would add Arlo Guthrie and Tom Waits as big favourites and probably others if I took a bit more time to think about it or look through my records.

  3. Joel – I like that JP listed Buffalo Springfield twice, too :)

    Reading this was a walk through my youth (I’m actually a little older than JP, but you didn’t hear that from me) … but I have to admit that I keep looking for new stuff (and I do enjoy some good “power pop for now people”!). JP has already mentioned Wolfgang’s Vault recently for live stuff from the hippie’s favourites; eMusic was great for independent stuff before it came over all mainstream … my biggest gripe is regional licensing that means Amazon MP#, Spotify and Google Music aren’t available in Australia at all, and even iTunes is shackled. Still looking for a decent subscription to fill the gap since I ditched eMusic.

  4. ec·lec·tic/i?klektik/
    Deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources.

    Nothing other than Western?
    I would definitely call your music journey and experience to be very deep and intense but I will hesitate calling it “eclectic” since there seem to be ZERO non-western influences. A slight smattering of Sufi, Baul, Rabindra sangeet, Sitar, African music, even Hindi or Bengali filmi etc. would have made it truly eclectic.

  5. JP, I was born the same year and I have the same strong emotional bonds to the same music (and to my first love who became my wife in 1978 and still is today).
    Yes the music of our childhood and teenage years sticks to us and yes learning experiences with strong emotional content at a yong age deeply influence what we are for the rest of our life.
    But I felt a bit disappointed by this post — each generation has its music and I can tell you that swing jazz had the same impact on the post-war generation as west coast music on ours and punk/new wave on our younger cousins.
    And even though most of us love to get back to the music of our childhood and teens, we also learn to broaden our horizons and listen to other musics as we age and mature.
    And while our generation often had narrow tastes when we were young (rock and folk is not that broad), my son who was raised with Oasis and Nine Inch Nails was conversant with “classical” rock and jazz and soul of the 60es and 70es and reggae and newwave and electronic by the age of 21… thanks to downloads and curiosity.
    And by the way, the revenue loss linked to the dematerialization of the “disc” caused music to turn more than ever into a performance art (as I think you yourself highlighted in very early posts to this great blog)!

  6. i am with Benoit – i am sure i posted a reply to JP on this very topic – maybe on Facebook ?? I am hoping that there is a follow up post – because though music didn’t stop in the 80s – a lot of our generation did stop listening – but not JP I am sure – there is too much passion. In the post I replied to before – I referenced bands like Talking Heads, Tears for Fears, Underworld, Radiohead … and and – all stunning complex new bands that can definitely give the old world a run for their money. In particular – one Steven Wilson who leads Porcupine Tree is the guy responsible for the remix of the Jethro Tull 40 Year Aqualung album – aswell as the 40 year King Crimson Back catalogue. On his new solo people like Steve Hackett and Tony Levin are in their as part of his super group – JP – a new post on new music – you do it so well :-)

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