Matti.Alakulju@upm-kymmene.com (08/28/08)

My issue is:

If you are reading this review page, it is safe to suppose that most of your favourite bands / musicians started their career in the late 60's or early 70's. I happen to feel that the total output of "rock world" between 1965 and 1975 was quality-wise far superior to any other decade. My simple question is: WHY?

I could give dozens of band names to support my opinion, but I'll leave that to other commentators.

There is an interesting sub-title to this. I also feel that it's useless to discuss "what would he have done, if he hadn't died of drugs or something in 197?" Just name your favourite rock hero of this era, who did something remarkable after 1975!

Andrew Lamoureux (armlamoureux@aol.com) (08/13/11)

In case this debate page is still active. Really? No-one has commented on this topic yet for the three years it's been here? I think it's a great question, very worthy of discussion. I mean, look at this! I didn't think I'd go on for this long! (Sorry about that, by the way.)

Well I think there are a couple of reasons why people tend to love Sixties' and Seventies' rock music so much. The first is that it's just changing cultural norms. For example, Starship's We Built This City was a good song in its time; it conformed to contemporary musical ideas. Needless to say, values have changed and it is now often called the worst song ever. There's dated music from the Sixties and Seventies, and wouldn't we dismiss the most egregious examples of dated Sixties music as quickly as the most egregious examples of dated Eighties music? Except perhaps that dated music from the Eighties is usually characterized by an over-reliance on synthesizers and such, while earlier eras at least typically had more tolerable arrangements. Imagine listening to a lot of non-human, emotionless, bombastic, uninteresting music. Imagine legions of people fawning over said music and going crazy at concerts for it. That's the Eighties for you.

Or at least that's the stereotype. The current consensus, more or less, seems to be that the Sixties and Seventies were great, the Eighties mostly sucked, the Nineties weren't really better, rock was dead by the 00's, and the Teens have just begun so let's not be too harsh yet even though we've given up hope. And the Fifties? Why, rock then was just "hard" pop! These are the generalizations I've encountered. Anyway, I asked someone who was young during the 1980s (I wasn't born yet, so I wouldn't know) if the songs of the 1960s that we know and love today were seen as cheesy the same way we see songs from her era today. She said YES; The Beatles, Frankie Valli, and all the others who were big then were not cool in her time. They didn't know what My Generation was. Of course, this is one perspective and it comes from someone who generally hates The Beatles and co. and loves hair metal.

So my information may or may not be completely reliable, but it makes sense: our parents are not cool, they're old! Their music is old too! It sucks! Why do you think all those teens in the Fifties bought Presley and all those college students in the Sixties bought The Who? 'Cause they were rebels, rebels without a cause in the former case (sorry but I had to). The thing now is that we also have "classic rock" as an alternative to what our parents like, which was not the case when rock was just being born, and the mainstream of the period that term covers was more diverse than the mainstream has been since (more on why that's important later). So we'll listen to Jethro Tull instead of, say, Def Leppard (though they and their kin tend to get tagged under the same title of "classic rock") or Lady Gaga.

And once we grow up with music, well, there's little chance of us not having that music be important to us later in life. As far as "the music of our parents" goes, though, it depends on our stage in life when we are introduced to that music. For example, I grew up (gradually) with The Moody Blues, my father's favorite band. I don't see them as practically infallible like I used to, and they have made their share of mediocre to GOOD-GOD-WHAT-IS-THIS? songs, but I still love them much more than an "objective" person probably would. Still my favorite band. But that was from when I was younger. Now I'm at the age when my parents, as much as I love them, are burdens and are always wrong. That includes ideas about music. So I say no to cheesy Seventies bubblegum music. No Partridge Family. I'll play some Yes and scare my dear mother instead.

The second, and probably more significant, is that the Sixties and the Seventies were a time of cultural transformation. Political changes, sexual revolutions, technological innovations, and so on. This spirit of change was also present in music. This is, after all, the time when rock turned from harder, blues-based pop to a more artistic and more powerful form of music. And it matters because this new music was 1. diverse and 2. original. And yes, I got those criteria from George Starostin's site, but they make sense to me. Neither of those things makes music good or bad on its own, but they lend themselves to our enjoyment of it.

1. Diversity: Take the Fifties as an example. They don't call it the "Fifties chord progression" for nothing. Many, many pop songs from the late 40's to the early 60's, except for the early rock songs, had that same sequence of chords. Sure they were at different tempi and in different keys, sure they had different lyrics (almost always about love, however), sure they had different arrangements, sure they were performed by different- and often talented, don't get me wrong there- individuals and groups, sure they even had different moods sometimes. But once you've heard one, really, you've heard them all. How different is In the Still of the Nite compared to Heart and Soul? This does not affect the objective quality of either song. What it does do is it makes us very, very tired of hearing "Doo-do doo-do, doo-do doo-do, doo-do doo-do, doo-do doo-do" every time there's a new song. So when John Lennon gave us I Am the Walrus, we might have just liked that it was so different in a variety of ways (I know I skipped a chunk of time there; I'm making a point).

And this musical revolution gave us plenty of different styles from which to choose: folk rock, glam rock, punk rock, hard rock, and so on- and each of those has an array of artists with their own styles. If you don't like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer's brand of prog, there's King Crimson's version! Don't like Black Sabbath's metal? Try Led Zeppelin! The problem that has occurred since then is that many people have taken the "go with it until it stops working" ethic and latched onto previous ideas. Hair metal, for instance, has essentially two types of song: the rocker and the (power) ballad. The rockers can be different from one another but I have a really hard time seeing why I should listen to one power ballad instead of another. I myself like some of each type; I'm sure, though, that's just because I heard those before most others. Now take your favorite "post-revolutionary" artists. Isn't it fair to say they all tended to be innovative in some way? They stand out. Same with the "revolutionary" artists.

2. Originality: John, in your introduction to your page for The Byrds, you talk about why originality is important in music. I agree very much with your view on that, so I'll just stop taking up space and direct people to read what you've already written. Other than that, I'll just add that originality is coming up with something different and therefore tends to come when people focus on the music itself, on conveying some emotion, which would mean something slightly different to each person, rather than just getting a hit by emulating what's already popular. Or I don't know. Maybe all those post-grunge bands like Daughtry and Lifehouse do feel the same way as one another all the time and express themselves accordingly by having most every song they make have the same structure and mood (that's how I see the genre, with a few exceptions). Also, if you just put out a lot of generic, commercial... stuff, relying primarily on current trends instead of other aspects of music, you risk becoming dated.

But the reason I put originality as the second sub-point here is that I think as far as enjoying music, originality is otherwise just a sub-criterion of diversity. It just means that they were the first to be different and, therefore, the ones everyone's going to give credit and the ones you're probably going to hear before anyone else. Besides that, please see The Byrds' page on why originality is important. Oops- I was going to stop taking up space. Looks like that didn't work. Sorry.

I'm sure other people have different opinions on this question and I know I haven't addressed everything. COME ON! Write something! It's a fascinating question and it deserves to have more than ONE POST EVERY THREE YEARS. And it deserves better than just my long-winded, pedantic (and rather incompletely educated, I ought to add) ramblings.

And for your final question, I could point to Stevie Wonder, whose Songs in the Key of Life was released one year after your 1975 deadline. Or, since he's more "pop" than "rock" and since that's so close to the cut-off, I'll go with Peter Gabriel. His solo career started after he left Genesis in 1975. But I agree it is pointless to say Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin or anyone else would have done great things after the time of his or her death because they didn't. It's sad, but they died and their talent died with them, along with any hypothetical revolutions.