Pop Music of the 1950s Was Way Cooler Than You Think

I ’ megabyte 53, and as an adolescent, I was given through the rock bid a particular narrative of the passage from 1950s “ rock and seethe ” to the music of the 1960s. It tended to involve a notion that 50s pop had become moribund and sappy, and that The Beatles, The Stones, and Dylan burned that all down and made it irrelevant. ( I ’ megabyte boiling down many books into one sentence, obviously I ’ m simplifying drastically. ) There is an emphasis on studio apartment experiment by The Beatles, and a caricature of 50s pop as being largely simplistic, with everyday chord progressions and a limited palette .
I ’ d like to poke at some of this a bite. When I Iook at a number of the acme 200 songs of the 1950s, the inaugural thing I notice is how many of them are either loiter jazz or area. The moment thing I notice is that doo-wop and “ rock candy and roll ” make up significantly less than half of the list. There are besides a lot of blues and jazz-blues numbers from people like Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, and Elmore James. therefore one thing to say about the 50s is that it was a highly divers time of transition, not a one-trick shot glass or a mire of bum adolescent idols .

Studio experiment was central to much 1950s toss off. Finding a fresh sound was overriding. The well-funded masters like Sam Phillips created networks of rooms wired to serve as reverb chambers. many others behaved like brainsick scientists, such as the producers of “ The Big Hurt ” by Toni Fisher, who plastered the stallion mix with a flanging effect ( think the middle section of “ Black Water ” by The Doobie Brothers, which is phase-shifted to similar impression ).

Speaking of “ The Big Hurt, ” that hit gives the lie to the mind that 50s songs relied on bore progressions. The second chord in the song, in a sequence that is repeated, is a very strike bland two major chord ( Db in the samara of C ). The whole birdcall is kind of brassy and decidedly adventurous .
other examples of harmonic creativity in 50s songs are excessively many to mention, but I ’ ll throw in the middle section of “ Every Day ” by Buddy Holly, which uses a transition and return very similar to things that happened in some early Beatles songs .
“ Cathy ’ s Clown ” by The Everly Brothers, I would argue, has about all the elements of some great early Beatles singles. The brake drum function is surely as imaginative and modern as “ Ticket to Ride ” was at its time. The vocals use a whoremaster identical to that in “ Please Please Me, ” wherein one singer stays on a note over multiple syllables while the other descends. The lyric presents a clever and identical particular point of view about being cheated on and reminds me of “ not a second Time ” by Lennon, lone better .

Listen to “ The Sky Is Crying ” by Elmore James, and then imagine Jimi Hendrix playing jumper cable over it. Tell me it doesn ’ t have every aspect of Hendrix ’ mho blues numbers except the lead guitar and the LSD .

What was in truth new about 60s rock ‘n’ roll ? I suggest four areas : 1. Bands that wrote their own material entirely, and took a more assertive character in the studio. 2. The arise of highly distorted guitar tracks. 3. much more use of multi-tracking and lots of overdubs and layers. 4. possibly most importantly, a drastic expansion of lyric content and narrative style .
What ’ mho your take ? Let me know here or on our Facebook page .
– Ken Hymes

Photo Credit : public Domain image of Buddy Holly .

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