Sunday, January 27, 2013

Music Sunday: The 1968 Edition

I've been reading a lot about 1968 the past couple of days, so I thought it would be interesting to see what was going on in music that year.

The first thing that jumped out at me about the year was that 1968 was when The Beatles recorded their double album, "The Beatles", known nearly universally as "The White Album". The recording sessions for the album when on from May 30 to October 4, and the record was released on November 22.

The first song on the first side of the album (remember when there were "albums" and they had "sides"?) was "Back in the U.S.S.R.", and it was predictably controversial, with some right-wing political groups, including the John Birch Society, insisting that the song was the band's way of declaring that they were in sympathy with Communism. What is so funny about that was that the U.S.S.R.'s official position was that The Beatles were "the belch of Western culture", and as late as 1980, Paul McCartney was refused permission to perform there.

While The Beatles were, by that time, not a new group and yet still had some time to go before they broke up, the other notable thing I found about 1968 were the comings and goings of bands.

Led Zeppelin performed together in front of an audience for the first time On September 7, albeit under the name The New Yardbirds. That performance was at a teen club in Gladsaxe, Denmark. Later on, on October 25, they played their first show under the name Led Zeppelin, at the University of Surrey.

Zeppelin also recorded their first album in 1968, and it was released early in 1969. One of the songs on that album was "Dazed and Confused", here in a live performance at Royal Albert Hall in 1970, with bonus Jimmy Page playing electric guitar with a bow, which is just always amazes me:

Another band that had their first performance in 1968, on August 4, was Yes. I have to admit to not being a huge Yes fan, but there are some of the band's songs that I do like. The first one I recall being aware of was "Roundabout", from 1971. Here is a live performance of the song from 1973:

But there were bands who also turned in their final performances in 1968.

The Buffalo Springfield, for example, performed together for the final time in Long Beach, California, on May 5. The band had formed in 1966, and while it had a short run, it was hugely influential as one of the first North American bands to hit it big in the United States in the wake of the British Invasion. Probably the band's best-known song is "For What it's Worth", written by Stephen Stills, recorded in 1966 and released in early 1967. Here is a television performance of the song from 1967, with bonus Neil Young acting silly:

That Long Beach performance in 1968 was not, in reality, The Buffalo Springfield's final final show. In 2011, the band reunited for six concerts, beginning with a June 1 show in Oakland, California.

Later on in the year Cream, often cited as the first rock supergroup, played its farewell show at Royal Albert Hall, in London. They, too, reunited, however, for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and again in 2005. Like the Buffalo Springfield, Cream only lasted for two years, from 1966 to 1968.

I think my favorite song from Cream is "Tales of Brave Ulysses", from the band's second album, "Disraeli Gears". I always love it when classical literature finds its way into rock music, so that's probably why I like this so much. This performance of the song comes from The Smothers Brothers Show on May 17, 1968:

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