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/