Rock and roll… the “evil demon” that we listened to in our youth that was going to make all of our generation into a hopeless cause, turns 60 this year and it has me all nostalgic for my early rock n roll years.
Rock and Roll’s 60th birthday is earmarked as the anniversary of the year that Elvis Presley came out with his debut album, “That’s All Right” (1954) but for most of us here, the 60th birthday of rock means so much more than Elvis, although I remember him fondly.
I do remember back to the day, very early in my life, when Elvis was only allowed to be televised from the waist up because swivelling hips was not considered proper for prime time television in the 1950s. Surprising to think that censorship was ever this severe.
I can remember my first record my parents gave me for my 15th birthday – Help! by The Beatles. It was my most favourite album and I played it non-stop for months. That’s when rock ‘n’ roll really started for me and ever since I have been collecting records (I’m so glad they have had a resurgence of late) – I now have over 300.
When I heard that rock ‘n’ roll was turning 60, it really took me back to the late 60s/early 70s when I was a teenager. Although I was a little young for Elvis, my mother was a special fan and knew a friend who had gotten his signature. Rock stars were something different back then: they were effortlessly cool and we would swoon over them so much. I loved seeing men with guitars and The Beatles were just a revelation to my friends and I and when I think about their career, I often think back to other important moments in rock and roll history. I reminisce quite a lot about these moments and while they’re not necessarily what some would regard as the “greatest” times of rock and roll, I see them as defining musical milestones.
Some of them are obvious choices: The Beatles on Ed Sullivan – while I didn’t see it on the TV, I heard about it in the paper…these days I could just Google it. Rock ‘n’ roll just epitomises my youth and I know plenty feel the same way. I would dance with my friends and I was even swooned by my late husband as he played his guitar and held my hand.
So, on this anniversary year of rock ‘n’ roll, we shall look back at the most important moments in the genre! Feel free to add any more that you remember (my memory isn’t that great – I had to enlist the help of my nephew):
- Elvis Presley breaks into “That’s All Right” while at Sun Records (July 5, 1954): Elvis was a 17-year-old truck driver turned ballad singer (and not a good one), then suddenly he takes blues, country, sex, and freedom to reinvent himself as something completely new and exciting: Rock and roll’s first idol.
- Bob Dylan “plugs in” at the Newport Folk Festival (July 25, 1965): People boo, people cheer, people scream in outrage…and modern rock and roll is born.
- Jimi Hendrix plays “The Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock (August 18, 1969): The greatest guitarist of all time reinvents the US national anthem at the peak of psychedelic rock and roll at the iconic Woodstock festival.
- The Beatles appear on The Ed Sullivan Show (February 9, 1964): Four young British guys become household names
- MTV launches with the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” (August 1, 1981): It’s funny to look back at this now when it really has happened. Or maybe not so funny! MTV isn’t what it used to be either.
- Chuck Berry plays the guitar intro to “Johnny B. Goode” (January 6, 1958): One of rock and roll’s first guitarist plays his most famous riff and one of most familiar songs of our generation.
- Aretha Franklin records “Respect” (February 14, 1967): The Queen of Soul stormed onto the scene with this feminist song!
- Ray Charles records “What’d I Say” (February 18, 1959): A legendary soul classic by this amazing man.
- James Brown “I Feel Good” is released (October, 1965): One of the most iconic performers of the century comes out with his most famous song
- Bob Dylan records “Like a Rolling Stone” (June 16, 1965): Arguably his best song…
- Led Zeppelin release “Stairway to Heaven” (November 8, 1971): A heavy metal band releases an acoustic ballad that still influences musicians to this day.
- The Ramones debut (August 16, 1974): With Dee Dee Ramone’s shout of “1-2-3-4!,” they were off, wearing matching leather jackets and jeans.
- The Kinks release “Sunny Afternoon” (3 June 1966): Such a lovely song that evokes, well, a sunny afternoon!
- Elvis Presley is shown from the waist up on The Ed Sullivan Show (September 9, 1956): Elvis gets censored for his gyrating but still catapulted him to stardom…60 million people watched!
- The Monkees debut (September 12, 1966): One of my favourite groups – good fun and really fantastic (albeit a bit prepackaged)
- The Supremes’ “Where Did Our Love Go” hits the top of the pop charts (August 22, 1964): The Motown sound had well and truly emerged and this group had 12! number one songs by the end of the 60s.
- Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon spends its 741st consecutive week on the Billboard Top 200 chart (1988): An iconic album that’s still loved today; it ended up selling an estimated 45 million copies (and counting)
- The Doors’ Jim Morrison found dead at age 27 (July 3, 1971): A great musician and frontman of such an irreverent band. The Doors were no more..
- David Bowie releases Ziggy Stardust (6 June, 1972): A truly odd masterpiece, Bowie makes a name for himself as a cult icon with his alter ego
- Michael Jackson’s Thriller video clip starts a revolution (1983): His title track from the best-selling album of all time had a very big video clip which set the pace for all music videos that came after.