Bands That Changed The World Part 1 by David Stanowski
The opening guitar licks on "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" signaled that something very fundamental had changed; that the world would never be the same! It was 1965, and The Rolling Stones sensed the change and embodied it into a song; but more than that, they were pioneering a new musical genre!
Early Rock and Roll
From the early 1950s until the mid 1960s, American musicians were still developing, and dominating the new music that they had created. Allan Freed coined the name for this music, with its powerful new energy and rhythm, in 1951. This "Rock & Roll" recognized, and channeled the overwhelmingly positive mood of that time into mostly happy, upbeat love songs. Although this music was embraced and enjoyed by a large segment of the public, it struck a chord in the most profound manner with young girls who connected with its focus on the enjoyment of dancing and dating, and the whole realm of romantic fantasy.
These songs were all about the vocals. The solid-body electric guitar was there, along with the electric bass and drums, and often a piano, but in those days, the role of the instruments was to back up the singers! These early artists did not seem to grasp the potential of what these instruments could really offer! This meant that the instruments, for the hit groups, were often played by anonymous stage or session musicians, who were not considered part of the band, unless they also did vocals. Sometimes, when they played on stage, these musicians were put behind the curtain while the vocalist, or vocalists, performed in front of it, in view of the audience.
The Tipping Point
A "Counter Culture" made up of those who opposed traditional American Patriarchal values, and who were followers of Karl Marx, and other collectivists, had strengthened their Matriarchal culture to the point where it began to control the country in the mid 1960s. Their economic policies spelled the end to the long post-war boom, and marked the historic high-water mark of many measures of the financial health of American households. This Matriarchy, with its new world view, and resulting dictates, brought forth changes in the government, the educational system, social services, the medical profession; and most importantly the family, that set loose all sorts of social ills such as Dependency, Illegitimacy, widespread divorce, and drug use.
In short, 1965 was the Tipping Point where America reached its high water mark in almost every important measure except its technological capabilities. Those who stood on this crest, and looked ahead, saw a long painful decline into a dark abyss from which no return seemed likely. The mood turned very dark, so Rock & Roll musicians had a choice to make.
Some continued churning out happy, upbeat love songs, since they would provide an escape from the darker reality setting in. After 1965, these tunes offered a brief respite from the changes taking place, but seemed to be more like cotton candy. Very sweet, but with little substance!
Another choice was to reflect the dark mood ahead with more darkness. America and the other Western nations were slipping into a spiritual crisis, and some would choose to embrace and wallow in the dark side, but others sought a path to redemption; a connection to the Power of the Universe in the midst of the darkness. Fortunately, there would be a source of light in the abyss, and it would come through the new musical genre that The Rolling Stones introduced to the world!
It's All About The Guitar!
America invented Rock and Roll, so it was no surprise that American musicians dominated the early years. The music flowed in one direction, from America to the rest of the world, because there was little that others could offer in return. British musicians listened to what they heard, and copied and emulated American artists. However, one school of British Rockers were also heavily influenced by another American musical form; The Blues. They sought to marry Rock & Roll to The Blues.
These musicians gave their instrumental work equal prominence to the vocals, and, after a time, developed a guitar-driven form of Rock & Roll that is often called Hard Rock, but more accurately might be dubbed Blues Rock. Since the instruments were now important, the musicians who played them were, too, which allowed self-contained bands to develop. The guitar player, the bass player, and the drummer often became as important as the vocalist or vocalists. These new units also began to write their own music, as opposed to early American Rockers, who often relied on outside songwriters, at places like the Brill Building, for their material.
Blues Rock is not simply guitar driven; it uses the electric guitar in ways never dreamed of before its inception! Players employed a wide range of effects to achieve the plaintive wail, the haunted searching sound, the scream of pain or joy, and the cry for help from the gods, that characterizes their guitar work. However, even as the guitar gained prominence, the bass and drums were emphasized in the music much more than in the past, too. Later, some bands added keyboards and synthesizers, as well as a variety of other instrumentation to achieve an even fuller effect.
Even though vocals were not the sole emphasis in Blues Rock, they were still the primary component of most songs. This genre merely added passages to most tunes where the guitar had the opportunity to step out and play a solo part, which often became the most compelling section of the entire piece. The bass, keyboards and drums were each also allowed to have a distinctive voice and contribute in such a way that they became MUCH MORE than background decorations!
The subjects of songs, and their lyrics entered new territories, too! There were still plenty of love songs, but most explored the darker side of human relationships, along with the positive. "Satisfaction" lamented about how difficult it was to achieve Peace of Mind in the New Era that The Rolling Stones were writing about. "Dazed and Confused", "Purple Haze", "Comfortably Numb", "You Can't Always Get What you Want", and "Can't Find My Way Back Home" expressed similar sentiments.
Many songs dealt with the social problems that began to develop like "We Don't Need No Education" and "Wooden Ships", while other tunes directly addressed spiritual issues such "Simple Man" and "Stairway to Heaven".
With the cultural divide, and its resultant vacuum already reaching critical mass in 1964, the time was right for British musicians to invade America. The Beatles were the dominate force in The British Invasion, and they set loose a firestorm with their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on 09 February. They brought the British concept of the self-contained Rock band to America, by not using session musicians to backup their vocals, and by writing many of their own songs, but they were still like most of the early American Rock bands, because their primary emphasis was on their vocal work. They brought their version of traditional Rock and Roll to America, but was it that different? The fans loved the intimacy of knowing the whole unit, the vocalists, AND the musicians, and their songs were "fresh" compared to what American groups were churning out in 1963 and 1964, but they were not as innovative as those who were fusing the Blues with Rock & Roll!
That is why it wasn't until 1965, with those opening fuzztone riffs on "Satisfaction" that it was clear that the 6-string electric guitar would be the dominate force in the New Era of Rock & Roll. This instrument would become the "spiritual device" that would provide comfort and direction in the dark days ahead. Vocal-oriented groups did not see this! A new type of High Priest or Shaman was needed to play the electric guitar in such a way that the Power of the Universe would flow through him; and out into and through the listeners!
These High Priests would lead a new raw, gritty and edgy music form. One that was more masculine, mature and tough; one that spoke to the harsh realities of life after society's high-water mark, rather than romantic fantasies. "I've Got You Babe" was replaced by "Under My Thumb"!
The Rolling Stones may not be the best band to ever to play Blues Rock, but their success with "Satisfaction" (#1 in the US) opened the door for the other British Blues Rock bands to ply their trade. However, when a band is founded in 1961, and is still in business in 2005, with the core of its original members in tact, it makes them the longest running Rock & Roll band in history! They have now cast their shadow on this genre for over four decades! When you also consider the unprecedented catalog from the Jagger/Richards songwriting team, which has generated sales that rank in the top ten in the history of Popular Music; it is hard to overstate their influence on the guitar-driven Blues Rock sound they helped to pioneer!
The segment of the British Invasion that brought Blues Rock, or what is often called Hard Rock, to America, was lead by The Rolling Stones, but three other bands also had a profound, although less widely recognized influence, on this new genre.
The Kinks can be credited with having a Blues Rock song on the charts even before "Satisfaction"! "You Really Got Me" was on the charts in late 1964, complete with the loud distorted guitar riffs that would characterize this new musical form. Other hits followed, but it wasn't long before The Kinks began to stray from the Hard Rock format.
The Who added weight to the Tipping Point with their release of the "My Generation", another prototypical Hard Rock tune. This is a band that has sustained their roll in the music business for decades, and developed the Rock Opera format.
The Yardbirds brought three major High Priests of the 6-string guitar into prominence in the mid 1960s: Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. They were a bit heavier on The Blues than they were on Rock & Roll, compared to The Stones, and their three noted lead guitarists, who were with the band at different times, were pioneers in exploring what the electric guitar could really do. They experimented with fuzz tone, feedback, distortion and different amplifiers. Their hit "For Your Love" added to the Hard Rock momentum that was still just beginning when it was released.
After Eric Clapton had left The Yardbirds to Jeff Beck, and Beck had departed in favor of Jimmy Page; it wasn't long before Page turned The Yardbirds into a little-known band called Led Zeppelin!
It is somewhat ironic that the primary force behind the development and popularization of Hard Rock was these four British bands, who invaded America between 1964 and 1966, and yet the first Hard Rock song to become a hit was "Louie, Louie" by an American band, The Kingsmen!! This was a tune that had been around since 1955. It was written in the style of a simple Jamaican ballad, and it had been covered by dozens of bands. However, it wasn't until 1963, when The Kingsmen gave it their gritty guitar-driven arrangement, that the first Hard Rock tune can be said to have been played!
The Kingsmen must be given their due respect and kudos for their accomplishment, but these one-hit wonders hardly had the sustained influence of The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Yardbirds, or other Hard Rock bands that followed them.
This was the final year that British bands dominated the American music scene the way they did in 1964 and 1965, so the British Invasion was waning as American musicians were inspired to form new bands in the Hard Rock tradition, and other developing genres.
However, the biggest news of the year was the little known invasion of Britain by an American guitar player named Jimi Hendrix. On 01 October, Jimi sat in with Cream, at a live performance, and Eric Clapton's hold on the title of the top Blues Rock guitar player in the world was immediately shaken! As Jimi began to play the local clubs, with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Britain's top guitar players became his biggest fans.
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About the Author
David Stanowski is the owner and publisher of Galveston Music Scene, a web site with coverage of and commentary on the live music business, with an emphasis on the local music scene in Galveston, Texas.