I wrote a post about the 1970s and its musical sound a few months back. A new song I discovered has me thinking about the 1960s. It’s called “Just Yesterday” by Sun Room and it has all the hallmarks from that era: jangly, crunchy guitar and distorted vocals that sound like they’re straight from a Kinks deep cut or that iconic Woodstock performance by Jimi Hendrix.
The 1960s were, obviously, a decade of change and nowhere is that more evident than in its music. The Yardbirds gave rise to Led Zeppelin and codified the rock and roll that had begun in the 1950s. The Beatles hopped from genre to genre and shaped psychedelic, soft rock, and even EDM for decades to come. (Give “Tomorrow Never Knows” a listen and you’ll hear what I mean.)
Lyrics also became more self-referential: “Go Ask Alice” was a winking nod to the experimentation with substances that influenced experimentation with music. Social commentary became more common: “For What it’s Worth” and the “Fixin’ to Die Rag” are prime examples of early social justice through music.
The teenagers who had grown up listening to the Buddy Hollys of the 1950s were now burned out by political realities like the Vietnam War. It wasn’t quite time for punk yet, but you can hear the beginnings of it in “You Really Got Me” or even “Revolution.”
Give this excellent throwback a listen and tell me what you think:
I get my taste in music from my dad. This is not news. But it’s cool how you can use your music “education” (if informal) as a jumping off point for creating your own opinions.
I had been sheltering in place at home when one night he put on a playlist of ’70s tunes – the kind of sound he’d grown up with. What came across to me was the coherent sound of a decade. That’s not to say that each song sounded the same. It’s just that there were very clear, decade-defining musical components. You can say the same of other decades (the ’80s is an easy, iconic example). Maybe I’ll get there in other posts but right now we’re focusing on the groove.
What makes the sound of the ’70s? Soft disco, just like the Bee Gees (which I’m actually listening to as I write this post). You could argue that ABBA has more than a little disco in their veins too. Other elements include jangly, freewheeling guitar – think “Big Yellow Taxi” by the original, inimitable Joni Mitchell. Of course there’s funk, too: Earth, Wind, & Fire. Funkadelic. Sly and the Family Stone.
And like every decade, new genres come into being. The prime example of that is punk. Loud, screechy, unapologetic. It’s the Sex Pistols that brought this new genre to the fore. They were the ur-example of that in-your-face rejection of the music, politics, and attitudes that their parents had adopted.