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1963 - 1973 - Top Ten Greatest Years for Rock 'N Rollobiwonknowz 1963 - 1973 – The Greatest Years of Rock 'N Roll
Part I, 1963 – The Quiet Before the Storm
1962 was a "business as usual" year for Rock n Roll. Diversity reigned where you could find almost every type of sound on the radio, but the sound was not that much different than that of the late 1950s.
In 1962, Neil Sedaka was singing Breaking Up is Hard to Do and Bobby Vinton's was crooning Roses Are Red– old fashioned pop songs that grandmothers would approve for teen listening.
The Beach Boys (#5 on my list of Greatest Rock Groups of All Time) could have been awarded Best New Sound for 1962, and had the #1 hit of the year with Surfing Safari. Little Eva’s Loco Motion and the Isley Brother’s Twist and Shout were huge R&B and Rock N Roll hits, continuing the trend for R&B to cross over to Pop charts. Chubby Checker’s 1962 hit Twist is perhaps the most influential dance song of all time.
Elvis’ reign as the King was over, although he still had the "voice" and in 1962 he released Good Luck Charm and Return to Sender – both well oiled songs, but missing the immediacy, fun and fire of his 1950s All Shook Up and Jailhouse Rock.
1963 was a transition year for Rock n Roll…the year started very much like 1962 with a disproportionate share of vocalist pop songs reaching #1 on the charts.
Bobby Vinton came back with yet another syrupy grandmother-approved crooner, Blue Velvet and vocal groups like The Four Seasons were hot. Stevie Lawrence hit #1 with Go Away Little Girl and Leslie Gore also reached the top of the charts with It’s My Party.
The surf music craze and hence the Beach Boys were at their apex in popularity. Brian Wilson wrote a large number of Beach Boy songs in 1963, and collaborated on several Jan and Dean songs including Surf City. Several of their all-time biggest hits were released in 1963 such as Surfin USA, Surfer Girl, Catch a Wave, Little Deuce Coupe and In My Room (best song written in their early years). The Beach Boys engrained in Americans the teen-dream lifestyle of beaches, hot rods, surfing, bikinis, making-out with your girl/boyfriend around a beach fire, and fun, fun, fun in the sun and sand. Without living in that era, it is hard to envision just how big the Beach Boys were then, but in 1963 America (and before the British Invasion), they were the Crowned Princes of American Rock n Roll.
President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 stopped the world in its tracks and kick-started an introspective song writing trend for some artists, and for many others, a keen sense of living life for today.
A radical change in the direction of music was overdue, and in Greenwich Village, Bob Dylan led the American music revolution releasing perhaps the most important Folk/Rock album of all time, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. Blowing in the Wind (A Top 20 hit by Peter Paul and Mary in 1963), A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall, and Girl from the North Country rank as three of Dylan’s best songs (and remarkable sounding album especially if played from audiophile source such as SACD or re-mastered vinyl)
The "sound" of Rock n Roll was about to change forever, and all those who came before would be eclipsed by the Beatles (#1 on my list of Greatest Rock Groups of All Time) starting in early 1963.
Without question, The Beatles were the most influential Rock n Roll group of all time.
They started and led the British Invasion, heavily influenced (admitted or not) practically every Rock n Roller for the next 20 years, set a standard of constant evolution and creativity, inspired many, and fostered constructive competition with other artists, giving impetus for The Rolling Stones (#2 on my list of Greatest Rock Groups of All Time) to write songs and experiment, not just cover Chuck Berry songs, and eventually influenced Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys to abandon their surf music formula (this sound getting very tired by 1965) for a more experimental sound (coming full circle, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds released in 1966 had influence on the Beatles in continuing to experiment with different instruments and recording techniques)
The Beatles sounded great from day one, honing their skills in Germany and Liverpool in front of restless audiences of teens and young adults. Once they got in the studio, their creativity exploded. They worked hard at their art and pushed themselves to constantly record new sounds on every consecutive album they released (listen especially to the transition in sound through the 3 albums Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper in the Beatles’ middle years). They ended their 7-8 year run with Abbey Road (along with Who’s Next, two albums I could be "forced to listen to every day" and never complain) and Let It Be.
Regardless of who wrote what and how much collaboration occurred or not between Paul and John, together, John, Paul, George and Ringo synergistically produced a brilliant product that would be unlikely to ever have occurred individually.
Perhaps the most important ingredient of the Beatles’ success was this magic mixing of their individual personalities. Their genius was magnified by their quick wit and truly engaging chemistry (the 1964 movie A Hard Day’s Night directed by Richard Lester is great time capsule of this).
Add in George Martin’s production and inspired magic occurred.
Beatlemania swept through the UK in 1963 with two UK-only released albums Please Please Me and With the Beatles (which was released in 1964 as Meet the Beatles in the U.S. - same famous black & white album cover, but with a slight re-mix of songs for our market, combining some of the best songs we missed here in the U.S. from Please Please Me with the best of With the Beatles, and included individual bios "introducing" the Beatles to America).
The Beatles conquered the UK in 1963, and now BeatleMania was about to take over America.
Our country was on the edge of going through it’s most significant cultural changes and music would play a central part in our society – In 1964, music would explode into different directions and sounds...
The Beatles would overshadow every other artist in 1964, and dominant the music scene for the next 6 years. They would end the predominance of pop vocalists like Bobby Vinton on the top 40 charts, and would be engrained in the massive cultural changes that occurred in the western hemisphere during the 1960s.
Coming soon…Part II – 1964 - The Invasion