Friday, February 16, 2018

Update - 1968

While psychedelia was still in full bloom, there was a back-to-the-basics reaction in 1968: Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding (released in the final days of 1967, his first single being waylaid by a motorcycle accident in '66), the Byrds' country-informed Sweetheart of the Rodeo and the debut album by the band called The Band reflected a new movement to escape the craziness and live a simpler life. Three refugees from other popular bands, simply calling themselves Crosby, Stills and Nash, got together to explore harmony and, along with merging singers like Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, launch the singer-songwriter genre that would flower in the 70s. 

Meanwhile, the earliest stirrings of hard rock and progressive rock marked a desire among some musicians to push beyond psychedelia into new territories: Bands formed in 1968 included Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Free, King Crimson, Rush, Yes and the New Yardbirds (soon to be coined The Led Zeppelin by Keith Moon). Possibly the most overlooked LP of all time, Vincebus Erectus, was released by genre bending heavy metal catalyst Blue Cheer. 

AM radio still played the hits. Indeed, 1968 offered this Top 5 early in the year: No. 1 – "Love" is Blue by Paul Mauriat, No. 2 – Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay," No. 3 – "People Got to Be Free" from The Young Rascals, No. 4 – Cream's "White Room" and No. 5 – Herb Alpert's "This Guy's in Love With You." While many of the year's hits were decidedly lightweight (the term bubblegum music was coined to describe purposely frothy tunes like "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy" and "Simon Says" that couldn't be any further from the turbulence that ruled the news), the inclusion in the mix of songs like The Chambers Brothers' "Time Has Come Today" and Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" showed a diversity that radio had never known. 

And of course, we still had the Beatles, whose self-titled double-LP (The White Album) let us know that they were drifting apart even as they continued to collaborate on some of the most diverse and brilliant music in their canon. The Kings of EMI would continue to mow down the AM charts as well with "Lady and Madonna" and "Hey Jude," starting off 1968 with the No. 1 smash "Hello Goodbye" BW "I Am the Walrus" released late December 1967.

The first few months of 1968 were historic on a myriad of levels. In January, Johnny Cash performed at Folsom Prison and the Doors were offered $500,000 to make a motion picture (the project never got off the ground). In February, The Bee Gees made their American TV debut, the Beatles left for India and David Gilmour was hired to replace Syd Barrett. The Summer of Love and Woodstock define the 60s, while the middle child, 1968, is often overlooked. 

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