Firstly a proviso: This is my list, so it almost certainly won’t match with anyone else.
Secondly, I’m English so this maybe a bit Anglocentric, so apologies there too. Actually, looking at it again there’s only two British bands in my list, so not guilty!
I’m also no spring chicken, so my picks tend to fall in my formative years during the late 60s and 70s — when the music was better, right?
Coming in at number 5: ‘Dark Side of the Moon‘ Pink Floyd – EMI 1973 This had to make my top 5. Everything from the concept, production, musicianship, lyrics… is top notch.
Coming in at number 4: ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water‘ Simon & Garfunkel – Sony 1969. A wonderful collection of songs that have stood the test of the last 50 years.
Coming in at number 3: ‘Aja‘ Steely Dan – MCA 1977. This is not actually my favourite album by this band now. This maybe partly due to the fact it got ‘played to death’ whilst I was at college. Nevertheless, head ruling heart, I have to acknowledge the sheer painstaking craftsmanship that has gone into this, producing something almost peerless; intellectual yet accessible; sophisticated but easy on the ear.
Coming in at number 2: ‘Blue‘ Joni Mitchell – Reprise 1971. Again, this is probably not my favourite of Joni’s repertoire these days. But the songwriting is just wonderful, heart on sleeve stuff, so painful at times, but always simply beautiful. The best of a singer songwriter at their peak.
And finally, coming in at number 1: ‘Revolver‘ The Beatles – EMI 1966. Ok, I know — what about ‘Sgt. Peppers..’? I just think this is better. So much variety in one album, fantastic songs which are very short and wonderfully produced. The Beatles at their peak in my opinion, at the turning point of their first era of predominantly love songs, looking towards the future of experimentation… and so influential: ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ anyone?
Billboard #1 Hits: #189: “All You Need Is Love” -The Beatles. August 19, 1967. #1 for 1 week. Single: “All You Need Is Love” – The Beatles Record Company- Capitol Genre: Pop Written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney Time: 3:57 B-side:”Baby, You’re A Rich Man” Album- Magical Mystery Tour Grade:A Peaked at #1 1 […]
Imagine being a young kid in a still seemingly stuffy mid 1960s Britain. Anyone would think that even sex hadn’t been truly invented until this wild decade came along. Some of my earliest memories are of fresh, new, exciting sounds over the radio — and two emerging British rock bands in particular.
So you were either a Beatles or a Stones fan, right? Well, I liked them both. I remember when the Rolling Stones eponymous 1964 album (Decca) arrived in our little household and was put on our cheap mono turntable. I was immediately transfixed by the music.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t really know whether the Stones were British or not. My mother certainly did not like the look of them! She preferred the Beatles, particularly John Lennon‘s humour.
I didn’t know what rhythm and blues was either. I just liked what I heard and played that record until it was virtually worn out! My favourite track, and still one of my favourite Stones songs, is ‘Route 66‘.
Written by Bobby Troup, this was also my first real exposure to the idea of America and Americana in music, about travel for travelling’s sake, not an easy concept to grasp when you are born and bred in an obscure town in eastern England which was so conservative it seemed like Queen Victoria had never vacated the throne.
Evocative Rhythm and Place Names
I was especially entranced by the surging rhythm, evoking movement and travel, but also by the names of towns, cities and states along that famous route. Even now when I here the word ‘St Louis’ or ‘Missouri’, for example, it sends my imagination flying just as it did back then. Sad to say that I have still to actually set foot in the hallowed United States. The nearest I have been is viewing Buffalo across the Canadian Niagara Falls.
So my views have changed a bit over the years. Conservatism and tradition do indeed have a place after all, although I still have very fond memories of that crazy time, particularly the mid 60s, when the Stones were playing American covers so brilliantly.
Of course, messrs Jagger and Richards went on to be great song writers in their own right. Nevertheless, the Stones’ take on this classic, especially influenced by the purist insistence of the late great Brian Jones who did so much to create this superb band, has more than stood the test of time.
Released towards the end of 1965 on Parlophone, just as the ‘swinging sixties‘ were reaching their apogee, I always preferred ‘Day Tripper‘, largely because of the catchy riff and driving rhythm. Nowadays I probably prefer the flip side, but there’s not a lot in it. They’re both great and sum up the period perfectly.
Although they are contrasting Lennon/McCartney songs – one upbeat and a little bit ‘sleazy’ lyrically for the time, the other more reflective and philosophical – they are both incredibly well constructed. ‘We Can Work It Out’ even drops to a 3/4 time signature during part of the middle eight – pretty radical for the time but a sign of what was to come as the crazy 1960s progressed.
Don’t forget to check the two videos. Although in black and white they’re still great to watch – and the lads were obviously having a great time too.
Of course, the mid 1960s cultural revolution is the stuff of legend. I am just about old enough to remember significant parts of it.
I started school in January 1964, less than two months after the Kennedy Assassination, a matter of weeks before the Beatles made their first iconic appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in the United States in February.
The world really was changing and although few may have suspected it at the time, we had just got on board a big roller coaster. By the end of the decade the world really was a very different place.
As someone who has had a long standing interest in astrology, I thought it was about time I had a look as to what was happening during this period.
Better astrologers than me, such as the great Dane Rudhyar, were assessing the situation with true vision around the time of the mid 1960s. They realised the significance of the Uranus Pluto conjunction in Virgo of 1965/6, that human culture and society was about to be seriously shaken up.
I have recently posted a couple of other pieces in regard to the important 127 years Uranus Pluto cycle, and in particular the conjunction. I believe that this has encapsulated symbolically the vast cultural changes of humanity, particularly since 1710-11 and most especially with the 1850-1 and 1965-6 cycle inceptions.
The power of the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto have emerged significantly into human consciousness since the discovery of Uranus 1781. I think they represent concepts which can be ‘utilised’ for generational effect.
Uranus brings the idea of thinking differently, revolution, turning things upside down, often for the sake of it. Neptune brings new beliefs, new ways to ‘unite’, concepts but also accompanying delusion, confusion. Pluto is fundamental power which is often hidden and all the potential danger that can bring.
The two planets Uranus and Pluto were drawing relatively close by late 1963. The shock of the Kennedy Assassination on November 22 1963 cast a long shadow over the entire world, but particularly in the United States of course, the most powerful country militarily and culturally.
This awful event acted almost like a psychological primer for the emergence of the so-called Swinging Sixties and counter culture. Maybe here was evidence of the foreshadowing effect of the Uranus Pluto conjunction, the urge for change merges with fundamental power – a cultural revolution fostered at all levels of society.
I think we should also briefly examine the sign in which the conjunction was to occur, namely Virgo, the mutable earth sign. Virgo and the sixth house represent many totally practical facets of everyday life, our efficiency, work and health. In other words, this conjunction was potentially going to turn upside down all of that, it would be felt by everyone in their everyday lives.
You Say You Want a Revolution?
And certainly from early 1964, with the cultural phenomenon that was the Beatles, the ensuing ‘British Invasion’ and everything that went with it, to important events like the true beginning of the Vietnam War in August with the Gulf of Tonkin incident, began to set the scene for the rampant cultural dichotomy of the period.
Very interestingly, Uranus Pluto were first exactly conjunct on John Lennon’s twenty fifth birthday, on October 9 1965. By this time the Beatles had virtually conquered the world through their music and films.
The conjunction in Virgo was roughly opposed by Saturn in Pisces, but was in easy aspect to Neptune in Scorpio. I think this is highly significant. Saturn represents the conservative (often religious) reaction to the societal changes, whilst Neptune essentially being in step with both from watery Scorpio cast an other worldly veneer over all of the growing melee.
Although I contend that the three outer planets do not rule any signs, and do not have personal influence – unless they are brought into the equation either through being angular or in strong aspect – I think they do have a transpersonal effect which needs to be carefully examined, even warned against.
Sex, Drugs and Rock n Roll
Although drink and drug abuse are often associated with this planet, I think Neptune also has much to do with music, particularly modern, sometimes formless, chaotic music. Neptune in Scorpio could be said to epitomise that ‘sex, drugs and rock n roll’ culture which developed at this crazy time.
Neptune’s transition through Scorpio from 1957 to 1970 witnessed this whole period of world in transformation and the planet’s sextile (60 degree) aspect to the Uranus Pluto conjunction in the mid 1960s particularly allowed mediums like music and also art to manipulate the masses into general acceptance. Music, after all, has a profound effect on the emotions.
Perhaps it was almost like an escape valve in which we were all invited, through the words of Timothy Leary, to ‘turn on, tune in, drop out’ – all very ‘druggy’ and Neptunian.
It was a concept which was to mushroom with all the power of a nuclear explosion in the ensuing years, encapsulated astrologically and symbolically by the transformative meeting of Uranus and Pluto in Virgo. The changes instigated at that time have only cast stronger ripples in our world since then.