On a previous thread, young Kathryn scoffed at people my age, suggesting that we think the music that was popular when we were in high school (and I would add, college) was great just because it came along when we were young.
I think people of any age are going to have a special feeling for music that was played when their hormones were raging at their peak. But while I hesitate to invoke an “objective” standard, I think you can demonstrate with some degree of detachment that the period in question for, say, Burl and me (roughly 1965-1975) was one of extraordinary creativity on many popular fronts.
There were so many genres just exploding:
- British pop groups and their American imitators (what everyone thinks of first). And I’m not going to bother splitting this into its many sub-genres.
- Folk, evolving from acoustic to electric, in numerous directions (Dylan and Simon and Garfunkel are very different)
- Varieties of soul, from Motown to Memphis
- Burt Bacharach — He gets his own category. If you want to create a 60s feel in a movie, you’re as likely to turn to Bacharach as the Beatles — if not more so
- Latin (Spanish variety), spanning a broad spectrum from Herb Alpert to Trini Lopez to Jose Feliciano (Alpert is as essential as Bacharach to a 60s soundtrack)
- Latin (Brazilian variety), from Girl from Ipanema through Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66
- Old folks/Rat Pack-style — Dean Martin and others reached broadest audiences ever on TV
- Crossover country — spanning a wide spectrum from Glen Campbell to Johnny Cash, enjoying wide popularity not seen before or since
- West coast beach music (surf music) — Yes, it came along earlier, but there was still a lot going on in the early part of this period (“Wipeout,” the later Beach Boys stuff
- East coast beach music — This movement started in the 40s, but some of the big hits came along in the early part of this period (“Can’t Help Myself”)
- Even Broadway show tunes — Almost every show tune I’m familiar with was sung repeatedly on the 60s TV variety shows
- White blues — big overlap with British groups here (The Animals, Cream, early Led Zeppelin), but Paul Butterfield and others sort of stand alone
Then there are all those bands and individuals that can’t be easily categorized — Warren Zevon, Randy Newman (late in the process), David Bowie, The Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Linda Ronstadt, Elton John, Blood, Sweat and Tears…
I just can’t think of a time when so many kinds of music were so huge, and reaching such a diverse audience (in the pre-cable age, everyone was exposed to pretty much the same cultural influences — if it got on TV, the audience was immense), with so much energy and creativity exploding out of every one of them.