Music 50 Years Ago

(What were people listening to half a century ago?)

Led Zeppelin, 1968

Victoria Lapinson, Staff Reporter

Think of 1968 as a year of great beginnings and sad endings in the world of music. The era of mop tops and suits was over, ushered away by long unkempt hair and ‘finding’ oneself through transcendental meditation. Or head-banging to heavy english blues rock. Or softly singing along to some sweet Southern California tunes. Half a century later it’s easy to observe the vast changes in the music industry that came that year.

    Johnny Cash started the year with a bang, that being his famous controversial concert at the Folsom State Prison. The next month, The Bee Gees made their american television debut. Pink Floyd experienced a shift, as guitarist Syd Barrett left the band and David Gilmour took his place.

    Some of the larger parts of the year would focus on the three most powerful musical figures. The Beatles, who were the oldest and most innovative, The Rolling Stones, who appealed to the masses in music and personality, and Led Zeppelin, who was just coming to fruition.

    The Beatles were ‘busy at work’ writing songs for a new album whilst experiencing a transcendental meditation course in India that spring. The production for this album but start in May and go until October.

    There were a lot of signs of the slow demise that would come for the Beatles during this time. An new element was that John Lennon‘s new partner Yoko Ono was introduced to the band and attended many sessions, which didn’t agree with the bandmate’s policy on girlfriends.

    This album ended up being known as the white album, that had no official title. Critics did praise it  more so than other previous Beatles albums. It had many satirical elements but also took the political climate and social climate into consideration. Nonetheless it of course reached number one in both the United Kingdom and in the United States as a double album.

    The Rolling Stones also had a very busy year. Guitarist Brian Jones had reached his peak drug use. It is said that he often showed up under the influence, wouldn’t cooperate with the band, or just didn’t show up to recording at all. However this did prompt secondary guitarist Keith Richards to be very productive.

    In this year they produced the record Beggars Banquet, which would be a success. It went back to their rock ‘n’ roll roots after making a more psychedelic pop album the previous year. They felt that the music was much more meaningful than their earlier pop efforts that were meant for public enjoyment.

    After release of this album in December 1968, the band held a television extravaganza where themselves, as well as John Lennon, Eric Clapton, Jethro Tull, The Who, and more played together.

    Besides the successes of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, there would be the end of an era. The Yardbirds were very influential group, especially in England and around the United Kingdom.

    Some big names from this group included Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page, who all played guitar for the group at different points. The group however, disbanded in 1968.

    Jimmy Page didn’t take long to mourn, as he immediately set out to form a group he called the New Yardbirds. However that name wouldn’t stick. They quickly donned the name “Led Zeppelin”. That group would soon release a self-titled album that rose them to fame.

    Other noteworthy musical events would be Cream’s final concert, Janis Joplin officially beginning a solo career, the Doors releasing “Waiting for the Sun”, and Jimi Hendrix making Electric Ladyland.

    It’s obvious that 1968 was a great year of change in the music industry, and its accomplishments are parallel with few other times. Rock had the spotlight, and everyone was watching. In comparison to today, music was substantially more powerful. So pop on a vinyl, protest ‘nam, wear some fringe, and kick it back half a century, where music replaced oxygen in the air.