Why Is The Music Of 1968 So Enduring? 'It Was Allowed To Be Art' - TennisForum.com
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Why Is The Music Of 1968 So Enduring? 'It Was Allowed To Be Art'

Why Is The Music Of 1968 So Enduring? 'It Was Allowed To Be Art'

December 31, 20184:32 PM ET

Heard on All Things Considered

Joel Rose


The Jimi Hendrix Experience circa 1968. Left to right: Noel Redding, Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

In 1968, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were at the top of their game. Aretha Franklin released two great records. The Kinks, The Byrds and Van Morrison put out some of their best work, too.

One of the most tumultuous years of the 20th century also produced some of its greatest popular music. And it's not just baby boomers who are nostalgic for the sounds of their youth: Even to people born decades later, the music of 1968 stands out.

"There's this kind of blossoming in what was possible," says Meg Baird, a singer and musician who performs under her own name and in the band Heron Oblivion. She lives in San Francisco, the city that nurtured a flowering of psychedelic rock bands half a century ago, including Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead.

"I really don't know what was the magic formula," Baird says. But she's not the only who'd like to recapture it. "I think everybody is always trying to go back there, to be honest."

Maybe part of the fascination is hearing musicians trying to break free from the industry's formulas. "There was a cookie-cutter aspect to most pop music at the time," says John Simon, an in-demand producer during the 1960s and author of the 2018 book Truth, Lies & Hearsay: A Memoir of a Musical Life In & Out Of Rock and Roll. "People wanted to make hits," he says.

By 1968, that was changing. The world outside of the recording studio was in upheaval. And musicians wanted to capture of the spirit of what was going on.

"I realized that I was part of the rebellion, and not part of the establishment," says Simon, who earned a degree in music from Princeton University before getting a staff job at Columbia Records. "Part of being the rebellion is, you could rebel musically in the studio. You didn't have to be as formulaic as in the past."

John Simon worked on some of the most acclaimed albums of 1968, including Bookends by Simon & Garfunkel. He produced Cheap Thrills by Big Brother & the Holding Company — the record that introduced Janis Joplin to a wide audience.

And he produced the first record by a group of musicians who were best known for backing up Bob Dylan. He remembers the first time he heard the demos that became Music from Big Pink by The Band.

"What I heard was just great. It was just so different," Simon says. "The forms were different, the instrumentation was different, the attitudes. And so I said, yeah, count me in."

The Band recorded live in the center of the studio, trying to recreate the magic of the basement of "Big Pink," the house in the Hudson Valley where they'd spent much of the last year honing their material. They knocked out almost half of the album in a day, while other bands spent hours obsessing over a single track.

But no one pushed the recording studio — or the electric guitar — further than Jimi Hendrix.

"Nobody had recorded guitar sounds like that," says Vernon Reid, founder and guitarist of the band Living Colour. "No one had made sounds like that in the studio."

When Hendrix started out, he was a sideman who was supposed to play second fiddle to others. "He played in rock and roll and R&B bands where the lead singer was the was the king," Reid says. "He got fired all the time."

But Hendrix's very first album of his own was a Top 10 hit. So in 1968, he was free to pursue the sounds in his head on a groundbreaking double album called Electric Ladyland that brought together blues and R&B with jazz and space rock.

"He took this notion of freedom seriously," Reid says. "He was one of the great musical liberators."

Sometimes the musical rebellion of 1968 was about sonic abstraction. Sometimes, it was more direct.

James Brown recorded the song "Say It Loud — I'm Black and I'm Proud" in August of 1968. Saxophone player and bandleader Pee Wee Ellis co-wrote the song. He says it was Brown's idea to bring in a bunch of neighborhood kids to sing the chorus.

"Their part was very simple," Ellis recalls. "All they had to say was, 'I'm black and I'm proud.' It was done in one take."

Ellis says audiences across the country learned their part quickly, too. The band recorded the song in Los Angeles, and played a gig at New York's Apollo Theater a few weeks later.

"James Brown came on stage and said, 'Say it loud!' And the whole entire audience said, 'I'm black and I'm proud,' " Ellis says. "That gave me goosebumps."

So why does the music of 1968 still give audiences goosebumps half a century later?

"People were making music they wanted to be make," says Meg Baird. One of her favorite records of 1968 is not on many top-10 lists from that year. It's a double album — half live, half studio — by the British folk-jazz band Pentangle, called Sweet Child.

"You can feel how fun it must be to be in that band," Baird says. "They're so good, and the way they're playing together, it gets shared with the listener and the audience. This is music that was meant to be heard in a hall. It's not meant to be in a rock club, or a folk club. It was allowed to be art."

[NPR]

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post #2 of 42 (permalink) Old Jan 1st, 2019, 08:00 PM
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Re: Why Is The Music Of 1968 So Enduring? 'It Was Allowed To Be Art'

Yeah. Every year, every decade, produces it's own share of great music. But 1968 was special and while there are a lot of other musical years I look at with great fondness (66, 77, 86 among them) 1968 would get my nod as well as the greatest year of music our civilisation has ever produced.

Great article, thanks JN.

I should add, even as good as this article is, it is still just skimming the surfaces, along with those mentioned here, there was also The Velvet Underground, Sly And The Family Stone, Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, Marvin Gaye, Os Mutantes, Serge Gainsbourg, Captain Beefheart, Lee Hazlewood, Hugh Masekela, James Brown, Johnny Cash and so many, many more releasing some of their greatest music this year. It was a time where creativity flowed and all the great musicians inspired each other which is what happens during times of peak inspiration. I really hope we have more music of this calibre in 2019.
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post #3 of 42 (permalink) Old Jan 1st, 2019, 10:33 PM
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Re: Why Is The Music Of 1968 So Enduring? 'It Was Allowed To Be Art'

Yes, that was a good year
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post #4 of 42 (permalink) Old Jan 2nd, 2019, 12:00 AM
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Re: Why Is The Music Of 1968 So Enduring? 'It Was Allowed To Be Art'

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Yes, that was a good year
You were around then?

That was the year Peggy Fleming won gold.

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post #5 of 42 (permalink) Old Jan 2nd, 2019, 12:21 AM
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Re: Why Is The Music Of 1968 So Enduring? 'It Was Allowed To Be Art'

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Originally Posted by Shvedbarilescu View Post
Yeah. Every year, every decade, produces it's own share of great music. But 1968 was special and while there are a lot of other musical years I look at with great fondness (66, 77, 86 among them) 1968 would get my nod as well as the greatest year of music our civilisation has ever produced.

Great article, thanks JN.

I should add, even as good as this article is, it is still just skimming the surfaces, along with those mentioned here, there was also The Velvet Underground, Sly And The Family Stone, Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, Marvin Gaye, Os Mutantes, Serge Gainsbourg, Captain Beefheart, Lee Hazlewood, Hugh Masekela, James Brown, Johnny Cash and so many, many more releasing some of their greatest music this year. It was a time where creativity flowed and all the great musicians inspired each other which is what happens during times of peak inspiration. I really hope we have more music of this calibre in 2019.
Wait wait, Os Mutantes? The Brazilian Band from tropicalia? You like that? That's unexpected.
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post #6 of 42 (permalink) Old Jan 2nd, 2019, 12:51 AM
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Re: Why Is The Music Of 1968 So Enduring? 'It Was Allowed To Be Art'

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You were around then?

That was the year Peggy Fleming won gold.
And the Detroit Tigers won the World Series...

And Super Dave was born
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post #7 of 42 (permalink) Old Jan 2nd, 2019, 01:41 AM
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Re: Why Is The Music Of 1968 So Enduring? 'It Was Allowed To Be Art'

The late 60's are probably one of my favorite time periods in music history. Such revolutionary sound within such a short period of time.
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post #8 of 42 (permalink) Old Jan 2nd, 2019, 06:03 AM
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Re: Why Is The Music Of 1968 So Enduring? 'It Was Allowed To Be Art'

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Originally Posted by LewisCarroll View Post
Wait wait, Os Mutantes? The Brazilian Band from tropicalia? You like that? That's unexpected.
You don't know Shved well, then. He likes tropicalia a lot. We're a few. I'm a Gal Costa fan myself. From 1968, there's that Gilberto Gil album that is quite inventive and entertaining too.
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post #9 of 42 (permalink) Old Jan 2nd, 2019, 07:35 PM
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Re: Why Is The Music Of 1968 So Enduring? 'It Was Allowed To Be Art'

Meh, mostly hippie shit...
Decade later, when punk was born- thats the other story...

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post #10 of 42 (permalink) Old Jan 2nd, 2019, 08:26 PM
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Re: Why Is The Music Of 1968 So Enduring? 'It Was Allowed To Be Art'

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Meh, mostly hippie shit...
Decade later, when punk was born- thats the other story...
I grew up listening to a wide range of punk rock. I love punk. But I'd still say 1968 was as great as music has ever gotten.

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post #11 of 42 (permalink) Old Jan 2nd, 2019, 08:28 PM
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Re: Why Is The Music Of 1968 So Enduring? 'It Was Allowed To Be Art'

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You don't know Shved well, then. He likes tropicalia a lot. We're a few. I'm a Gal Costa fan myself. From 1968, there's that Gilberto Gil album that is quite inventive and entertaining too.
Yeah, all the Tropicalia music from Brazil in the late 60s rules, basically.

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post #12 of 42 (permalink) Old Jan 2nd, 2019, 09:13 PM
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Quote:
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LewisCarroll View Post
Wait wait, Os Mutantes? The Brazilian Band from tropicalia? You like that? That's unexpected.
You don't know Shved well, then. He likes tropicalia a lot. We're a few. I'm a Gal Costa fan myself. From 1968, there's that Gilberto Gil album that is quite inventive and entertaining too.
That's nice. Tropicália is really interesting, has a lot in common with psychedelic. Caetano Veloso also did some works on that area. Gal Costa is very good, I think in terms of Brazilian singers she's on par with Elis Regina. Cool that you Europeans enjoy this part of our music too, there's a lot of good stuff.
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post #13 of 42 (permalink) Old Jan 2nd, 2019, 10:12 PM
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Re: Why Is The Music Of 1968 So Enduring? 'It Was Allowed To Be Art'

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That's nice. Tropicália is really interesting, has a lot in common with psychedelic. Caetano Veloso also did some works on that area. Gal Costa is very good, I think in terms of Brazilian singers she's on par with Elis Regina. Cool that you Europeans enjoy this part of our music too, there's a lot of good stuff.
Staying on theme, this one's from 1968....

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post #14 of 42 (permalink) Old Jan 3rd, 2019, 01:51 AM
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Re: Why Is The Music Of 1968 So Enduring? 'It Was Allowed To Be Art'

Too bad so many of them died within a few years or otherwise got really badly fucked up for this art.
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post #15 of 42 (permalink) Old Jan 3rd, 2019, 02:07 AM
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Re: Why Is The Music Of 1968 So Enduring? 'It Was Allowed To Be Art'

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Originally Posted by Shvedbarilescu View Post
Yeah. Every year, every decade, produces it's own share of great music. But 1968 was special and while there are a lot of other musical years I look at with great fondness (66, 77, 86 among them) 1968 would get my nod as well as the greatest year of music our civilisation has ever produced.

.
What civilization is that?
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