The swinging ’60s were the era of love and peace, when teenagers shook off the adage of being seen but not heard. Finally we had a voice and let the world hear it. As far as I am concerned the ’60s were the greatest era for music.
Teenagers were not just listening to music but making their own and buying their own. The decade did not start in a way we expected of the swinging ’60s with Australia’s number one record ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport’ by the now infamous Rolf Harris. From the United States came the dance sensation sweeping the world, ‘The Twist’ with Chubby Checker.
In August of 1960 an unknown group from Liverpool, England, started a three-month engagement at the Indra Club in Hamburg, Germany; little did we know then The Beatles were to turn the music industry on its head in a few years.
The post-army Elvis Presley period was in 1961 when he gave up the rock ‘n’ roll for the big ballads, ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’; ‘Wooden Heart’ etc.
Even in Australia rocker Johnny O’Keefe was following the trend with ‘I’m Counting On You’, but from the US a ray of hope was emerging from Detroit when the Motown label had its first number one ‘Please Mr Postman’ by The Marvellettes. It was the start of a golden decade for Motown and its sister label Tamla.
For me 1962 was the real start of the swinging ’60s, we were still twisting to ‘The Peppermint Twist’ by Joey Dee and The Starliters, but also in the US came the rocking sound of Dion and The Belmonts ‘The Wanderer’ and ‘Runaround Sue’ while from New Jersey came the distinctive sound of The Four Seasons featuring the remarkable voice of Frankie Valli singing ‘Sherry’ and ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’. In the UK The Beatles released their first single ‘Love Me Do’, which was only a moderate hit.
In 1963 the US was in the surf music craze with The Beach Boys “’Surfin’ Safari’; The Chantays ‘Pipeline’ and The Surfaris ‘Wipeout’. Meanwhile in Australia The Atlantics were top of the charts with ‘Bombora’ and The Delltones were ‘Hangin’ Five’. The UK was creating a storm of music which will be felt all over the world, apart from The Beatles, we had The Animals, Gerry and The Pacemakers, Brian Poole and The Tremeloes, Freddie and The Dreamers, The Searchers, The Swinging Blue Jeans, and Billy J. Kramer and The Dakotas.
The Rolling Stones were starting to get a following in London and The Dave Clark Five hit the top spot with ‘Glad All Over’.
Phil Spector started his own Phillies label in 1964 and we heard the wall of sound for the first time with huge hits by The Crystals, The Ronettes and The Righteous Brothers and in Australia Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs knocked The Beatles from number one with ‘Poison Ivy’.
Another Aussie group was hitting the high spots worldwide The Seekers.
Thorpie was still riding high in Australia in 1965 but having some competition from Normie Rowe and The Playboys ‘Que Sea Sera’ and The Easybeats ‘She’s So Fine’ but it was 1966 when The Easybeats had their biggest hit ‘Friday On My Mind’.
From The UK we had a new wave of groups in the mod era, The Who, Manfred Mann, The Hollies, The Kinks and The Small Faces. This was also the era of protesting with Bob Dylan ‘Blowin’ In The Wind’ and ‘Like A Rolling Stone’; Barry McGuire ‘The Eve Of Destruction’; Donovan ‘The Universal Soldier’; and the morbid ‘In The Year 2525’ by Zager and Evans.
While swinging London vibrated to the mod sound in 1966 and 1967, an entirely different youth scene was developing half the world away. Centred in San Francisco’s Haight/Ashbury district a new generation calling themselves Hippies were instrumental in making records like Scott McKenzie’s ‘San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear A Flower In Your Hair)’; The Flowerpotmen ‘Let’s Go To San Francisco’ and Eric Burden ‘San Franciscan Nights’.
LSD advocate Timothy Leary invited everyone to “Turn on, tune in, drop out” to the sounds of The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and Big Brother and The Holding Company.
In the UK we had probably the most innovative rock guitarist who ever lived, Jimi Hendrix a consummate showman, starting his short-lived career.
In 1968 it was revealed that worldwide album sales were now out-selling singles, a sign for the future, with the Led Zeppelin eponymous albums and Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’. The Bee Gees had their first number one in Australia with ‘Spicks And Specks’ and their talent was finally recognised overseas with ‘I Gotta Get A message To You’ starting them on a long successful career.
In August 1969 we had the greatest festival of all at Woodstock in the US. Three days that produced a movie, a handful of albums, two births and many more children conceived, and three deaths.
Forty thousand people watched Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, Canned Heat, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Joe Cocker, Sly and The Family Stone, The Grateful Dead, and many more.
The decade of peace, love and music was tempered with the Charles Manson murders and at The Rolling Stones concert in Altamont Speedway, California, when a day of drug overdoses and high tension climaxed with the brutal beating to death of teenager Meredith Hunter by the appointed security staff Hells Angels, all because he had accidentally knocked over one of their motorcycles.
Where were you in the swinging ’60s? What was your favourite type of music during this decade?
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