Rock, and also Roll…
It’s always enjoyable for me to learn about and discuss older music and bands (I say ‘older’ because it was, well, made a while ago, and was before my generation, so it’s old to me). At least 80% of the music I love was created before I was born.
In my opinion, the 1960s and 70s are unsurpassed in the quality of music they cultivated. The music climate of those years produced real, honest, gritty and bold works – the music was meaningful, and in turn valuable to the entire spectrum of the arts.
Plus I just love listening to it – rock and roll has a feel that nothing compares to.
So I enjoyed reading a recent blog from Tim Dalton entitled “The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, in response to David Hepworth deeming 1971 as the greatest year for popular music (in his book Never A Dull Moment). Tim debates this, writing that “his book should have been about the era from 1969 to 1981”; calling this “the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll”. He says that 1971 should be viewed “as part of the twelve-year continuum of popular music’s most prolific era” – 1969 to 1981.
I agree that pinpointing a single year is a little daft. I think it is too subjective a claim to stamp. A ‘golden age’ of any genre in music is difficult enough to define, let alone an isolated year.
However I do agree that 1971 was a hugely prominent and fruitful year in music. Thanks specifically (in my book) to albums such as ‘Electric Warrior’ (T. Rex), ‘Who’s Next’ (The Who), ‘Sticky Fingers’ (The Rolling Stones), ‘Hunky Dory’ (David Bowie), ‘Tago Mago’ (CAN), ‘What’s Going On’ (Marvin Gaye), ‘Man In Black’ (Johnny Cash), ‘Led Zeppelin IV’ (Led Zeppelin), ‘Songs of Love and Hate’ (Leonard Cohen) and ‘Imagine’ (John Lennon).
Hepworth reasoned 1971 as the year as “it saw the release of more ‘monumental’ albums than any year before or since”. Which is fair enough… He's probably right. The year did seem to be circumstantially ideal within the development of popular music, and breed some brilliantly experimental works of art.
In terms of determining a ‘golden age’ though, it depends how one defines the term.
Is it when the most expansion and progress happened? When the largest amount of artists worked; exploring and developing their own craft? When the most success was gained? When the most ‘monumental’, timeless works were created? I’d say it’s when the most genuinely innovative works were produced – when people were experimenting and literally informing the course of music.
As difficult as it is to specify, it is interesting to try! And I guess there is value in even thinking about a ‘golden era’… It means we’re analysing the chronicles of music – who was important and what styles were significant and influential.
If I was to decide on what I thought was the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll, I would agree with the years stipulated by Tim… But would extend the dates to encompass a wider range of years (specifically, stretching earlier than 1969).
Acts such as Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Elvis and James Brown are the ones who crafted the art form that was to be developed and built upon by successive artists.
Even the Beatles alone were changing the landscape of music prior to 1969. I would definitely place their first 10 albums within the ‘golden era of rock ‘n’ roll’.
And one cannot go past the fact that prolific bands such as The Rolling Stones and The Who began to create works in the early-mid 60s that directly informed the expressive progression of their music.
There are also several artists who I believe released their greatest material pre-1969 – Bob Dylan, The Kinks, The Byrds and Cream, for example.
I definitely would give credit to the first 9 years of the 60s, as being fundamental to the creation and definition of what we consider to be ‘rock ‘n’ roll’.
In terms of extending past 1981, I would concur that that is a good place to stop the ‘golden-ness’, and agree with Tim’s statement that “1981 is the end of rock ‘n’ rolls’ most creative and productive era”. Tim offers an interesting reason for this, being that “in many ways these albums signal the end of rock ’n’ roll’s creative and profitable golden years, and signal the start of a new era; a new way of conducting business”.
The main release, actually probably the only one, past this date I would feel the need to include would be ‘Combat Rock’ by The Clash (released in 1982). But as far as rock ‘n’ roll goes I think that’s about it, so it is an apt generalisation to end at 1981.
To slightly derail, I can’t go past Tim writing that The Rolling Stones’ ‘Brown Sugar’ is “the last truly great Rolling Stones single” (charted number one in 1971). He does have a valid point – in terms of consistency of great singles, this era doesn’t compare to their earlier work.
But personally, ‘Exile On Main Street’ (released in 1972) is one of my favorite ever albums, and I think singles such as ‘Tumbling Dice’, ‘Rocks Off’, ‘Happy’ and ‘All Down The Line’, are some of The Stone's funkiest, most spirited, lively and soulful singles. As well as ‘Beast of Burden’ (from ‘Some Girls’), which I consider one of their best! However you could say the hits are definitely more sporadic and within a mix of more average pieces.
Anyway, how we judge the greatest eras of music is of course, like all issues pertaining to the arts, a subjective and personal derivation of our individual experiences, thoughts and sentiments...
Which is exactly what makes art so special... And good for our soul.
Reference: “The Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll”. Posted on April 7, 2016 by Dalton Koss HQ. https://daltonkosshq.wordpress.com/2016/04/07/the-golden-age-of-rock-n-roll/
Hear and See...
I attended a very interesting talk recently, presented by SAE, from film and television sound designer Tristan Meredith, and composer Dale Cornelius.
It was great to be in a room with such highly-acclaimed professionals within the music industry – it served a nice reminder that it is possible to have a successful career within music, for those who are passionate about sound and dedicated to creating top-quality work.
This talk brought to light for me how much impact sound does have on the message of a story, and that even environmental sounds, for example, are calculatingly placed into scenes in order to make them realistic and believable. It is such a complex and intricate art form.
I found it amazing to see/hear examples of what directors and film-makers have given Dale and Tristan to work with – I couldn’t believe the absolute bareness of the pre-edited versions of film, which they would then turn in to full, natural-sounding products (the style we inherently expect from a television show, documentary or film). It elucidated for me how little we consciously regard the amount of work and effort that actually goes into formulating a ‘normal’ state of viewing.
As George Martin, not only The Beatles producer but an esteemed film composer, wrote:
“In many ways, film music has become a part of our culture. The audience know, for instance, when a murder is about to happen, or the cavalry are on their way, or the lovers are about to kiss, because the music tells them so, and the convention is understood. Without that musical build-up, most films would seem clinically sterile. But the audience need not necessary be aware of the music” (Martin, 1979, p.233).
The work of sound-designers does often go unnoticed – the projects turn out to be such cohesive wholes that viewers habitually look past the very fine details the sound professionals engage, in order to create that unified product.
In contemplating the integration of sound and film, Martin uses an example of a highly-tense car scene from the Bond film ‘Live And Let Die’ –
“Now I’m certain that if you asked any member of the audience what the music was like in that sequence, he would have proved unaware that there was any music at all. But there was – and without it, and the sound effects, most of the excitement would have been stripped from that scene” (Martin, 1979, p.233).
As Dale said, it is like trickery – it is intended that the layers are seamless, to make the scene believable, and allow the audience to feel the whole effect of the visual with the aural, and their combined impact on us (after all this is how we experience these sensory forms in real life).
It really highlights the way in which our senses are interwoven – that a full and deep impact of the arts can derive from a natural experience of their connectivity.
That point was really explicit in footage Dale and Tristan showed us of a scene from the Doctor Blake Mysteries. When I watched the clip in its original state, completely devoid of sound (aside from a little dialogue) I couldn’t grasp the effect of the scene - what its intention was and how I was meant to feel... There was even a part, where a man fell off a horse, that actually made me laugh a little! Not at his ill-fate, but because seeing him roll on the ground looked humorous - the silence made the acting seem so unrealistic!
Then we were shown the scene with the sound they applied to it... Everything was different. The mood felt intense! I even got quite emotionally involved in what was happening, never even having seen an episode before! And this time when the man fell off the horse, I physically reacted from the shock of the impact (even though it obviously wasn't a 'shock' - I had just seen the footage).
It’s absolutely amazing how the sound basically created the true effect of the scene.
In deliberating this theme, Alfred Hitchcock comes to my mind - I think he was someone who really understood the power of sound, and used it every bit to his advantage to build suspense and anticipation in his films. He knew exactly how to augment the impact of a scene through the creative use of the aural (to amplify the sense of uneasiness, confusion, fear), and importantly, in the balance and contrast of sound – often applying the unexpected silence, or deliberate minimalism.
This clip freaks me out thanks to the audio.
A particular example I found absolutely brilliant from Tristan and Dale was their work on 'Uranium'. Tristan made sounds to represent what we believe certain technologies, elements, and events would sound like - sounds that we haven’t actually even heard, or that are unable to be captured in reality.
It’s also very cool how they work together to complement the work of one another; providing the various aspects of the sound (Dale's dramatic percussion underlying the more sporadic, story-telling, ‘sounds of science' from Tristan).
Introduction from beginning to 57 seconds. URL:
As someone who is attracted to the thought of potentially pursuing this career path, I found it extremely enlightening to hear first-hand the sort of tasks this profession entails - the difficulties, the rewards, the hours, the liaising and the enjoyment factor.
It would yield great satisfaction seeing one’s work, especially through a collaborative project, helping to inform and/or entertain, and affecting people’s emotions and experience of creative projects... Possibly even thousands of people at a time! Even though they may not realise it.
Reference: Martin, George. (1979). All You Need Is Ears. New York City: St. Martin’s Press.