Sunday, November 18, 2018

In the Studio - Rock's Most Productive Year

From 1965 through 1968, there were three distinct shifts away from rock 'n' roll and toward rock. Dylan crafted a focused socio-political bent electrifying the results; the bad boys of rock like The Who and The Stones took the stage in a JD stance of mayhem and volume, while The Beatles and The Beach Boys took to the studio.

Simultaneously, a shift away from rock 'n' roll's country/blues roots arose alongside the complexities of the free jazz of Coltrane and Miles Davis. Rock was born at the confluence of blues and country, but after '66, blues and country/folk became mere ingredients (two among many) of a much more complex recipe. The lengthy "acid" jams of the Velvet Underground, of Jefferson Airplane, of the Grateful Dead and of Pink Floyd, relied on a loose musical infrastructure that was no longer related to rhythm 'n' blues (let alone country music). It was, on the other hand, very similar to the format of jazz music played in the lofts and the clubs that many psychedelic rock musicians attended. The indirect influence of free jazz gained prominence in the psychedelic era, fueling its musical revolution and emancipating rock music from its blues foundations.

Record Plant
Rock "festivals" played a major role as well in this (r)evolution with the "Human Be-in" in January 1967 the first of its kind. The music of the hippies was an evolution of folk-rock. It was renamed "acid-rock" because the original idea was that of providing a soundtrack to the LSD parties, a soundtrack that would reflect as closely as possible the effects of an LSD "trip." The Dead took it so far as to have an acid test (did you study?). Psychedelic music was the rock equivalent of abstract painting (Jackson Pollock), free-jazz (Ornette Coleman) and beat poetry (Allen Ginsberg).

By Revolver, the psychedelic era came to prominence finding its zenith in Sgt. Pepper. In-between were rock freakouts like The Mothers, Kaleidoscope, Days of Future Passed, The Dead’s "That’s It For the Other One" and Pink Floyd’s Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

1968, though, was a year in which rock truly diversified. Psychedelia met its match with The Beatles (The White Album), a full reversal of its legendary predecessors Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour, by venturing more fully into rock; and Dylan fucked with our sensibilities yet again with the acoustic John Wesley Harding – a wishy-washy response to the negativity surrounding the electric Dylan of Blonde on Blonde, or Dylan once again more simply being defiant. In 1968, the acid wore off, and while the music would veer off into a myriad of experimentation and innovation, the concentration was seemingly hardcore "rockin' out," a term coined sometime that same year. 

The shear wealth of 1967 far overshadows 1968, which, while still a stellar year (Bookends, Electric Ladyland, Music From Big Pink, Beggars Banquet, Cheap Thrills, White Heat/White Light and Waiting for the Sun), was more about the emergence of new music with the forming of Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, Alice Cooper, Joe Cocker, The Flying Burrito Brothers, CSN + Y and Yes. Indeed, something was brewing to bring about Abbey Road, Led Zeppelin I and II, Tommy, Let It Bleed, Hot Buttered Soul, In the Court of the Crimson King and Trout Mask Replica. With that said, 1968 may have been Rock's most important year in the studio.

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