The year 1967 was one of the most influential in all of rock music history. There was a whole new sound, and people started to become one with each other and allow the music to bring them together. A time where war was a huge topic, and a big contributor to the thriving music scene and a controversial subject matter that musicians could not stop talking about.
This was the year of the famous Summer of Love which aided in the hippie counterculture, and brought social awareness, as well as being open with a lot of drug use. Being creative and being an artist was encouraged during this time, and it was one of the most loving and accepting time periods that our nation has seen. It began much of the forward thinking we see today. There were many fantastic albums that came out, but here are some of my favorites. In no particular order.
1. The Beatles- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
This is arguably the best Beatles album out there. Not only was this album a huge step musically for The Beatles, it’s also incredibly creative. They created an alter ego for themselves as a group! This was the first album they had made after their decision to permanently retire from touring. So, there was a lot of room for experimentation, and to take a more psychedelic approach. The album is all over the place, and does not have one distinct sound. It truly is an art rock album, and opened the door to prog rock. You can feel inspiration coming from everywhere, everyone, and sometimes the most random things. “Being for the benefit of Mr.Kite” captures that eerie old school circus sound perfectly. While my favorite song off the album, “A Day in the Life” uses the lyric, “I’d love to turn you on” gets banned on several radio stations because these amazingly pundit musicians had guts and didn’t care what others thought. And no, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” does not refer to LSD. John took the inspiration from a drawing by his four year old son, at the time.
2. The Jimi Hendrix Experience- Are You Experienced
First of all I just love the name of the album. Are you experienced with music. Maybe? or for that time, drugs? Maybe even in just life itself. It leaves a lot of room for interpretation. This is the album that put our beloved Jimi on the map. People finally got to see his diverse guitar playing that would be talked about for decades after. It’s psychedelic rock that has the upbeat and consistency of hard rock. The Ooh’s and Ah’s of “Purple Haze” are fucking majestic. This album showcases the union between psychedelic, funk and R&B. The lyrics are beautiful, paint a picture and show the story-telling abilities of Hendrix. “Oh strange grass of green/with your majestic silken scene” from Third Stone from the Sun. The song talks about aliens coming to Earth, before the hipsters made it a thing. The album is an experience, and a journey. You travel through aliens abducting the Earth, fights with significant others, and lots of feedback.
3. Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band- Safe as Milk
The Captain is the most fascinating weirdo that ever graced this Earth. The first song I ever heard off this album was, “Abba Zabba.” I was about ten years old, and my brother showed it to me on a long car ride, and I was instantly hooked. It was goofy and fun, much life Beefheart himself. Although many people like to say this is a blues rock album, I think it is more of a blues rock album, with incisions of pop. This album did not make it to all the crazy top charts and what not, but that’s because Beefheart for some odd reason has always been underrated. He’s a musical tyrant, and incredibly quirky and smart. He’s unconventional. Locking his band mates in a house to record and album for 8 months, but he does it for the art. This is Beefheart’s most accessible album, but you will still need to give it a few listens to fully grasp and understand what he’s doing. He does not follow traditional song structures, and that is what might be the most amusing, yet frustrating part for many people.
4. The Who- The Who Sell Out
A band that doesn’t take themselves too seriously or can poke fun at themselves is a band for me. That is exactly what this album does. The Kings of the Mod’s mock and pay tribute to a pirate radio station on this album, using fake funky jingles, and commercials throughout. Listening to the album I can’t help but wonder how fun it was to record it. “Armenia City in the Sky” is what I want to listen while driving in that infamous L.A. traffic that I endure on a daily basis. It’s incredibly psychedelic and the perfect opener for the album. It lures you in with Daltrey’s voice, and it’s peculiar effects. Then “Relax” brings us down to a softer and easy to listen to song. It rhymes perfectly and The Who is letting us know to just take a step back, chill out, and enjoy the world. Townshend’s short and sweet solo on this is just hard enough to be rock n’ roll, but still calm enough to match up to Daltrey’s silky voice.
5. The Velvet Underground- The Velvet Underground & Nico
Many philosophers believe that you will reach pure bliss when you die and are released from your body. I disagree with this. Listening to Lou Reed for 50 minutes is pure bliss. The Velvet underground were the guys who openly sung about drugs, prostitutes, and sex. The opening track, “Sunday Morning” describes that feeling we have on a typical Sunday. Much more melancholy and looking out at the world that can engulf our lives at any minute. Many of the songs are fun, and have a good energy, but the subject matter is dark, and we cannot forget that. “Venus in Furs”(my favorite song) is about BDSM, and even if you didn’t listen to the lyrics, and just the instrumentals of that song you would be able to tell. It’s gritty and dark, with this overwhelmingly sexualy deviant sound. Lou Reed is kind of like the John Waters of music. He wrote about stuff that he liked, and thought was cool, and was not doing it for shock value, it just kind of followed him.
6. The Doors- Strange Days
You either love The Doors or you hate them. Personally, I adore them. Jim Morrison gets a lot of heat for all his drunken debauchery and heavy use of drugs, but like many musicians and artists it was his inspiration as well. They used Sgt. Pepper’s as a guide for the album, and to take the album to the psychedelic sound that was being so popularized that year. This album like Morrison is very strange. His voice in many songs is eerie and distorted. In “Moonlight Drive” Morrison sings, “Let’s swim to the moon/Let’s climb through the tide” with a slight malevolence. There’s really not many rock songs on this album, and not many mainstreamed hits as well. This was an experimental album, that only the true Doors fan would love. “When the Music’s Over” has always been the most heartbreaking song in my eyes. Morrison carries an important message explaining to us how crucial music is on our lives. “Music is your only friend/until the end.” It is the one thing that will always be consistent in our lives, and will never hurt us. Without music we may as well “turn off the lights.” Morrison himself did not play any instruments, but he knew how to use his voice. It highlighted the keys we hear, and blended with guitars.
7. The Kinks- Something Else by The Kinks
This album steers away from a lot of the psychedelic rock that was invading our ears at the time. It’s a pop album. When I think about British bands, The Kinks are at the top for me. They really did define British pop music. This album describes the everyday lives of regular people, and never goes too deep, and needs to make us feel like we are going through an existential crisis. There are strong brass sections and it’s extremely melodic. “Let’s all drink to the death of a clown” Dave Davies sings calmly with a slight Bob Dylan influence. The high pitched keys “Two Sisters” cannot dismissed. It touches on a girl who is jealous of her sister, and how much more extravagant her life is. Unfortunately this album did poorly all over, and did not get the credit it deserved until much later.
8. Pink Floyd- The Piper at the Gates of Dawn
If you listened to “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” it is totally different from Roger Waters Pink Floyd. It is still psychedelic, but doesn’t have as much of that epic or stadium sound as later Pink Floyd. Syd Barrett is one the top psychedelic rock kings, and unfortunately was kicked out of the band shortly after this album. With being such a prominent figure in psychedelic rock, he also was kind of crazy and everyone thought he was going to constantly lose his mind. That craziness translated well into the music. Without it we wouldn’t have gotten such heroic songs like, “Interstellar Overdrive” with the opening riff slowly going into a weird alien like cacophony. Other songs like, “Lucifer Sam” bring us back half way down to Earth. It’s got a little bit of pop, but still mysterious. When hearing this song as a young kid I always felt like I was some bad ass 1960’s British spy who was about to capture a bomb that had been planted in some millionaires expensive car. this album is exciting and feels like you are going on some space journey that Syd Barrett is piloting.
9. The Mothers of Invention- Absolutely Free
The name of the album describes the style well. The album is all over the place, and even a bit crazy at times. Frank Zappa lead singer touches on political matters, media and just the social situation in America at the time. “Brown Shoes Don’t Make it” is a strange story going from a social commentary to talking about having sex with a minor, with a very cool and laid back guitar in the background. He has silly lyrics, telling people to be jerks or to be a plumber. Zappa is whimsical, and knows how to make someone laugh. He’s a story-teller mixed with a musician, and a comedian. “America Drinks & Goes Home” has a Frank Sinatra style to it, with nightclub effects in the background. You hear glasses clinking, women laughing, people fighting, and just showing us how it is America takes over the night time. It’s a little chaotic and overwhelming.You can easily imagine the cigarette smoke covered rooms, and the men drinking their whiskey, while the women sip on martinis. The night in the back starts off calm and fun, and turn into this crazy brawl with Zappas voice staying smooth and harmonious, and telling us at the end, “Goodnight.”
10. The 13th Floor Elevators-
The first time I ever heard The 13th Floor Elevators my initial thought was, “Did the Rolling Stones take a bunch of acid and record an album?” The best way I can describe them to people is exactly that way. They covered “It’s all over Now Baby Blue” by Bob Dylan, without taking away from the original, doing it justice, but adding their own unique charm and style. The lead singer Roky Erickson is like the original Daniel Johnston. Has been struggling with Mental Illness for a very long time, and used music as an outlet. “Postures (leave your body behind)” is groovy with a bit of a Motown inspired sound to it. This song is a bit philosophical talking about leaving your body behind, and only using your thoughts to propel you through life. Erickson is completely and totally connected with the music, and his bandmates. His voice is graceful and sweet. This is the 13th Floor Elevators album that I think defines them as a band, and sums up the sounds of 1967.