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60’s Rock Presentation at RC

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Matthew Othus

On Tuesday night, CAB sponsored a multimedia presentation of 60’s rock to a very diverse crowd of Roanoke College students and members of our local community. Barry Drake, the presenter, took the reins after an introduction by Mark Peterson. T

Mark said, “Barry Drake is often called a walking encyclopedia of rock and roll.” After listening to his presentation, I could tell that he was not exaggerating in the slightest. Throughout his entire demonstration he named off more 60’s rock bands and all of their biggest hits without a single hiccup.

To open his presentation, Barry talked a little bit about his recent history on the tour, his past appearances on RC and he brought up the unfortunate fact that after 42 years on the road, this would be his last tour.

He introduced the decade of rock with a quote by John F. Kennedy, “We stand today on the edge of a new frontier; the frontier of the 60’s, a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.”

This is a great introduction to the 60’s music period, because it was a time of change and evolution of the music that was playing at the time. The beginnin of rock and roll was considered a fad by the older community. No one thought that it would last because it was so foreign and unknown.

The Drifters were one of the first hybrids of rock and roll was a sort of rhythm and blues with “On Broadway”.  They were quickly followed by Dion, of Dion and the Belmonts. Deon decided to fire the Belmonts and come out with the classic “The Wanderer.”

The 60’s was a time of change, and in order to survive the upcoming British invasion, you had to be able to come up with original songs, and you needed the ability to perform live. Only 2 American bands did this successfully, they were The Four Seasons and The Beach Boys.

Next came instrumental rock, with bands like The Surfari’s and their song “Wipeout”, which has one of the most recognizable drumrolls in all of music. Barry continued into the new generation of female singers. It was an interesting to notice that all of the bands so far had been completely male. Bands like The Ronettes came in and started taking over the show until the dance craze hit.

The dance craze was a weird period of music where the elder generations started coming into the picture and dancing to songs like Chubby Checker‘s version of “The Twist.”  This would be the equivalent of being forced to listen to your parent’s music while in the car with them; the younger generation did not get too into this type of music.

Next up was folk music, as college students started shifting towards music that actually meant something with artist like Bob Dylan. Bob Dylan started writing his songs about realm world issues.

Bob Dylan’s song “The Times They Are A-Changin'” was a perfect song for this period of the 60’s. The country was moving into harder times as JFK was assassinated. Also, The Beatles came over to America and into the spotlight.

Initially, The Beatles were relatively unknown. They had released 3 albums with an independent record label that flopped. However, the Beatles came over to America and performed life on the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. After their performance on his show, they secured a deal with Capitol Records releasing their 4th album in the U.S. On April 4th 1964, just 2 months later, The Beatles held all top 5 singles on Billboards top 100 songs, a feat that will probably never happen again.

With The Beatles came the British Invasion. Lots of cute bands tried to follow in their spotlight, but The Rolling Stones stood out among the crowd due to their contrasting “rebellious” image and “harder” rock and roll. Their first hit was “Can’t Get No Satisfaction” a song that was originally thought to just be a good song for an album.

Around this time, American bands were starting to get a bit nervous as these new bands were taking over their spotlights. To respond to this, they turned to Folk Rock with bands like The Byrds. The Byrds was a band that took Bob Dylan’s songs and played them with electric instruments and drums which appealed to the general public much more than Dylan’s music at the time.

Also, record labels thought that these British bands looked “weird” so they started finding weird Americans to support and release. Bands like Sonny and Cher and The Lovin’ Spoonful.Next came the singers and songwriters around the time protests were going on against the Vietnam War. Bob Dylan was tired of people using his songs to get hits and he finally came out with “Like a Rolling Stone” and hit the top. England tried to match Bob Dylan’s solo artistry by sending out bands like Donovan who were a one man show.

Next up was a wave of garage bands like The Kingsman from the Pacific Northwest and their song “Louie Louie.” These bands mostly used their own money to get demo tapes to give to record labels. Most of the time, these bands were out of tune, and the lead singers had no idea what the lyrics were. For example with “Louie Louie” it’s clear almost no lyrics are audible.

Soul music made a comeback around this time with artists like The Supremes, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and Otis Redding. Nobody but Elvis and The Beatles had more hits than The Supremes and Otis Redding wrote many songs by these soul artists before his untimely death in December 1967.

Finally, the “Hippie Movement” hit the late 1960’s introducing thoughts of freedom and psychedelic drugs. Scott Mckay wrote and released a song in less than a week called “San Francisco” which just tells travelers going to San Francisco what they are going to need.

During the Hippie Movement, bands came out with music that had the genre “San Francisco Sound.” For example, Jefferson Airplane and their song “White Rabbit” is a great example of this time’s music. There was also The Doors with “Light My Fire” and Jimmy Hendrix with “Purple Haze.” Unfortunately, a lot of the “good” and “popular” artists were overdosing. This is a new thing to the music world with the introduction of hard drugs.

The Beatles also stormed back for round 2 with their album “Revolver.” They stopped touring in 1966 due to the fact that their music was getting far too complex to play live.

Overall, Barry did a great job incorporating slides, video, his talking and music into every single genre and period of time. It is unfortunate this is his last time visiting RC, because it is something that I would recommend to anyone that has the chance to see one of his presentations.

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