September 21, 2023


Art For Everyone

The Dream Was Over, However The Music Lives On

15 min read

Altamont Competition on December 6, 1969. Picture: Robert Altman/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Photographs

The summer season of 1969 noticed the world united in hope. By the top of the yr, nonetheless, the dying of the 60s introduced with it the top of the hippie dream of a brighter future. However the music that united a whole lot of hundreds of individuals at mass gatherings all through 1969 lives on at the moment. So what occurred to make 1969 such a fantastic but surprising climax to the 60s?

The reply begins with two consecutive days in September 1962 that witnessed a pair of portentous occasions that may change all the things. At the very least one was seemingly innocuous, however each would have far-reaching penalties that, by the top of the last decade, would redefine tradition and society, opening up hitherto unimagined prospects.

Listen to the Summer Of ’69 playlist on Spotify.

Defining moments of the last decade

Firstly, on the night of September 11, 1962, EMI producer Ron Richards oversaw the recording of “Love Me Do” and “PS I Love You” by Parlophone’s new signings, The Beatles. Paired collectively, they’d grow to be the Liverpool band’s first launch, signaling the beginning of a revolution that may reshape the world of music and artwork fully over the following seven years.

The subsequent day, on a sizzling afternoon in Houston, Texas, John F. Kennedy addressed a big crowd on the Rice College soccer stadium. The aim of his speech was to announce his nation’s purpose to land a person on the Moon by the top of the last decade, and return him safely to earth: “We set sail on this new sea as a result of there’s new information to be gained, and new rights to be gained, they usually have to be gained and used for the progress of all folks.”

Within the post-war years, the western world had gone some option to rebuilding itself, intent on forging a brand new world with out the bloodbaths that had marred the primary half of the century. Because the 60s took maintain, so too did a brand new sense of hope that something was potential. Gone could be the shackles that had tied humankind to its earthly toil.

The best journey in human historical past

“We select to go to the Moon on this decade and do the opposite issues,” Kennedy concluded, “not as a result of they’re straightforward, however as a result of they’re onerous; as a result of that purpose will serve to arrange and measure the very best of our energies and abilities, as a result of that problem is one which we’re keen to simply accept, one we’re unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.” In these few brief sentences, he had dedicated his nation on a trajectory to undertake the best journey in human historical past.

The following years witnessed triumph upon triumph for The Beatles and their fellow pioneers of pop music. As each timeless single was adopted by but extra groundbreaking albums, even the sky didn’t appear more likely to restrict the rise of pop’s masterminds.

The identical couldn’t be stated for the Apollo program in its pursuit of the assassinated JFK’s goal of reaching for the celebs. With the Soviets first to each landmark on the highway to the Moon, Apollo gave the impression to be struggling nothing however frustration and setbacks. Whereas The Beatles have been holed up in EMI’s studios at Abbey Street recording Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Membership Band, catastrophe struck in Florida, when all three of the primary Apollo crew have been killed in a hearth throughout a take a look at.

However, as the top of the last decade drew shut, it started to really feel as if all the things it had promised was going to return collectively in a single wonderful summer season. 1967’s Summer season Of Love had turned bitter in 1968: it had been a yr of riots in Paris, Chicago, London, and Prague (amongst many different cities); the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr, shocked the US; and an escalation of the conflict in Vietnam was proving more and more unpopular. And but Christmas Eve 1968 provided hope, within the form of maybe probably the most highly effective {photograph} ever taken, as Apollo 8 astronauts have been the primary to look again at Earth from the Moon. Hope springs everlasting, and from the eternity of area, the idea that the 60s was a particular decade was reborn.

The summer season of ’69

Regardless of the earlier yr’s confrontations, 1969 noticed the hippie dream of peace and love very a lot alive. Earlier years had seen plenty of more and more massive outside music occasions. After all, music festivals weren’t a brand new factor. Since historical occasions, folks have gathered in celebration of track. Within the trendy age, the Newport Jazz Competition had been an excellent annual gathering since 1954, showcasing an outstanding array of expertise, from Miles Davis, Nina Simone, and Muddy Waters to Johnny Money and Bob Dylan, who famously shocked the viewers in 1965 by enjoying with an electrical guitar and band.

Arguably the primary nice rock competition was 1967’s Monterey Worldwide Pop Competition, which featured The Jimi Hendrix Expertise, Otis Redding, Simon And Garfunkel, and The Who. The next yr noticed the primary of many free live shows in London’s Hyde Park in June 1968, with Pink Floyd, Tyrannosaurus Rex, Jethro Tull, and Roy Harper on the invoice (“I feel it was the nicest live performance I’ve ever been to,” mirrored John Peel).

Because the summer season of ’69 approached, and the Apollo program was lastly wanting like it might fulfill Kennedy’s promise, the foundations have been being laid for a collection of mass gatherings of the clans on either side of the Atlantic. In London, the summer season sprang into life with the much-anticipated debut outing from Blind Religion, a supergroup comprising Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Ginger Baker, and Ric Grech. Their free live performance in Hyde Park, on 7 June 1969, noticed them joined on the invoice by Donovan, Richie Havens and Edgar Broughton Band, in entrance of an unprecedented crowd estimated at some 120,000 folks. With followers anticipating one thing akin to a Cream present, all of them stood prepared for the freakout. However because it turned obvious that this was a extra bluesy, laidback providing, they received as near chilling out as was potential within the hovering summer season warmth.

“An amazing and epoch-making occasion in British social historical past”

Subsequent up for Hyde Park was an occasion that may go down within the annals of rock historical past. It had been two years since The Rolling Stones had appeared in public. In the mean time, that they had been front-page information after Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had been sentenced to jail phrases for drug offenses – sentences that had been quashed after public outcry, led by the shocking determine of William Rees-Mogg, whose editorial in The Occasions instructed that the Stones had been sentenced extra for who they have been, than for what that they had achieved. This in itself was one of many defining moments of the last decade, as mainstream pop acts and the counterculture collided publicly for the primary time.

By 1969, the Stones have been counterculture figures, and their look in one among London’s royal parks was a line within the sand. As an alternative of British bobbies, safety was dealt with by Hells Angels. However the Stones’ success within the park was removed from assured. With founder member Brian Jones turning into more and more estranged from the band, he was changed in early 1969 by Mick Taylor, an excellent younger guitarist making waves with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.

Whereas the reshaped Rolling Stones have been holed up in The Beatles’ Apple Studios rehearsing for the present, occasions took a darkish flip – one that may add an undesirable poignancy to the live performance. Within the small hours of three July, Brian Jones was discovered on the backside of his swimming pool. The coroner’s verdict was that he died by misadventure whereas below the affect of medication and alcohol. Two days later, Mick Jagger opened the Stones’ Hyde Park present – which he devoted to Brian – by studying from the poet Shelly’s Adonais in regards to the dying of his good friend, John Keats, earlier than a whole lot of white butterflies have been launched in tribute to their departed guitar participant.

Inevitably, Jones’ dying overshadowed the live performance, and but the band’s return to the stay stage was a triumph regardless of the somber beginnings. The Guardian described the present, which attracted an estimated 500,000 hippies, beatniks, Angels, and pop followers, as “an excellent and epoch-making occasion in British social historical past”. It was an occasion, a occurring, and, in some respects, the music was secondary. As Keith Richards instructed Rolling Stone journal, “We performed fairly unhealthy till close to the top, as a result of we hadn’t performed for years… No person minded, as a result of they simply wished to listen to us play once more.”

“Three days of peace and music”

In the meantime, in upstate New York, Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, Joel Rosenman, and John P Roberts have been struggling to discover a venue for their very own gathering of the clans. That they had hoped to placed on a competition round Woodstock, NY, dwelling to Bob Dylan and The Band, amongst different musicians, artists, and poets. Ultimately, they placed on what was billed as “three days of peace and music” an hour’s drive away, at Max Yasgur’s dairy farm at Bethel. The posters could have known as it “An Aquarian Exposition”, however the world got here to know the occasions of August 15-18, 1969 merely as Woodstock.

The invoice was extraordinary: Ravi Shankar, Tim Hardin, Joan Baez, Santana, Janis Joplin, Sly And The Household Stone, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joe Cocker, The Band, Crosby, Stills, Nash And Younger, and Jimi Hendrix have been only a number of those that carried out, with issues operating so late that it was round 9am on the Monday morning earlier than Hendrix took to the stage, enjoying his distinctive tackle the US’ nationwide anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”.

With advance gross sales of round 186,000 tickets, the organizers knew Woodstock was to be a significant occasion and braced themselves for a crowd of round 200,000. However as showtime approached, it turned evident that a minimum of twice that quantity was on its manner. Left with a selection between ending the fence or the stage, it was determined that, to any extent further, it might be a free competition. With provides restricted, the swollen crowd mucked in to make sure that, even when the heavens opened and turned the bottom to sludge, everybody would have a superb time.

Such was the spirit of the gang that, surveying his wrecked farmland within the wake of the occasion, Yasgur stated, “If we be a part of them, we are able to flip these adversities which can be the issues of America at the moment right into a hope for a brighter and extra peaceable future.” The 60s’ dream of constructing a greater world appeared as if it was lastly going to grow to be a actuality.

Going out with a bang

Again within the UK, Isle Of Wight Competition on the finish of August returned Bob Dylan to the stay stage, in entrance of an unlimited crowd that included three-quarters of The Beatles (Paul’s spouse Linda had given start to their daughter Mary the day earlier than the competition). After his present, Dylan joined The Beatles again at John Lennon’s Ascot mansion, closing the summer season with a summit of music’s main lights.

With The Beatles newest masterpiece, Abbey Street, now combined and prepared for launch, the return to the stage of Dylan and the Stones, and an unbelievable summer season endlessly synonymous with the best gatherings of individuals in Western tradition outdoors of warfare, the 60s regarded set to exit with a bang. And it wasn’t simply the heroes who had outlined the last decade who gave rise to optimism.

“One big leap for mankind”

New heroes had emerged over the summer season – not least the three astronauts who had hit Kennedy’s goal of placing a person on the moon and returning him safely to earth. Neil Armstrong, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, and Michael Collins turned family names when, on July 20, 1969, their Eagle Lunar Module touched down on the floor of the moon.

“One big leap for mankind” had been Armstrong’s phrases, and it appeared as if the 60s had been merely the launchpad for the 70s and past. Certainly these could be the a long time when humanity would lastly study that each one it actually wanted was love?

Again on terra firma, the long run was additionally wanting brilliant. New stars had emerged. David Bowie’s first hit single, “House Oddity,” had gone stratospheric within the wake of the Apollo landings. Heavy blues rock had been gaining momentum for a number of years, with the likes of Cream and Jimi Hendrix exhibiting the best way. In 1968, a brand new group had been launched, with session guitarist par excellence Jimmy Web page assembling a band by which each instrument performed loud, heavy, and onerous. With their eponymous debut quick turning into one of many albums of the yr, a brand new commonplace had been set.

And simply as Led Zeppelin contrived to convey virtuosity to the fore, so did one other strand of rock music emerge. King Crimson’s debut providing, in October, In The Courtroom Of The Crimson King, introduced jazz and symphonic music along with rock and blues to create one of many cornerstones of the burgeoning progressive rock style.

Diversifying greater than ever earlier than

In 1969, rock music was diversifying greater than ever earlier than. In Detroit, and on the reverse finish of the rock spectrum to the prog rising in Britain, Iggy Pop’s Stooges, alongside MC5, had adopted an anarchic strategy to rock’n’roll, their incendiary membership reveals paying homage to the nascent Beatles’ Hamburg days. Each bands launched vastly common and influential albums in 1969.

Sly and the Household Stone had proven at Woodstock simply how rock and soul might mix, bringing funk to a (largely) white viewers. And whereas Motown acts like Stevie Marvel and Marvin Gaye have been exploring the chances of experimental albums, the brand new youngsters on the block exploded onto the pop scene, as Jackson 5’s “I Need You Again” started its rise to the highest of the Scorching 100.

Loss of life of the 60s dream

And but all was not as rosy within the rock backyard as it might have appeared to the outsider. An August 20 mixing session for his or her new album at EMI Studios, at Abbey Street, was the final time John, Paul, George, and Ringo would work collectively. In Los Angeles, Seaside Boys drummer Dennis Wilson had fled his own residence after it had grow to be the de facto headquarters for his good friend Charlie Manson’s more and more erratic “household”. Not lengthy after Wilson’s departure, The Wizard, as Dennis knew him, acted on what he believed to be coded messages from The Beatles and unleashed his personal imaginative and prescient of revolution, brutally murdering Sharon Tate and plenty of others in early August.

The summer season of 1969 united all humanity in celebration of people’ best endeavor and introduced collectively the youth of the world at huge gatherings from Hyde Park to Woodstock, Isle Of Wight to Seattle. The constructive vibrations of that celebratory summer season have been tied up in new music, from David Bowie and Jackson 5 by means of Led Zeppelin to the rise of reggae, prog, and funk.

“All the pieces went completely mistaken”

However then simply because the astronauts splashed again to earth, so did the hippie dream crash, as that the majority spectacular of a long time got here to an in depth. Occasions that had taken a darker flip with the brutalities of Charles Manson and his killing spree have been introduced into sharp focus on the closing gathering of the last decade, a free live performance by The Rolling Stones on the Altamont Speedway, in northern California, on December 6, 1969 – a day that Rolling Stone journal known as rock’n’roll’s worst: “a day when all the things went completely mistaken”.

In hindsight, recruiting Hells Angels as safety was, in keeping with Keith Richards, not a good suggestion. “However we had them on the suggestion of the Grateful Lifeless,” he instructed the Night Customary. “The difficulty is it’s an issue for us both manner. For those who don’t have them to give you the results you want as stewards, they arrive anyway and trigger hassle.”

The all-day present additionally featured performances by Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Crosby, Stills, Nash And Younger. Because the day wore on, the scene among the many 300,000-strong crowd grew heavier. As clashes with an more and more intoxicated part of Hells Angels turned violent, Grateful Lifeless determined to not play. By the point the Stones took to the stage, issues had gotten out of hand. They needed to cease ‘Sympathy For The Satan’ in an try to calm the gang.

As Gimme Shelter, the Maysles Brothers’ movie of the live performance, paperwork with chilling readability, a combat broke out close to the entrance of the stage throughout “Below My Thumb” between 18-year-old Meredith Hunter and a number of the Angels. Through the combat, Hunter pulled a pistol, in keeping with some stories in response to having been stabbed. In return, Hells Angel Alan Passaro stabbed Hunter, who fell to the bottom and was additional attacked by extra Angels, dying on the bottom simply yards from the stage the place The Rolling Stones performed.

“The brand new technology will create a better order”

The Stones knew one thing had occurred, however not the total extent of the assault. Docs have been repeatedly known as to the entrance of the stage, however they continued their set, unaware {that a} homicide had taken place in entrance of them. Tempted as they could have been to cancel the present, the band was conscious about the possibly riotous penalties in the event that they tried to flee.

What had been billed as “Woodstock West” had gone horribly mistaken. In addition to the homicide of Meredith Hunter, two males have been killed in a reported hit-and-run, whereas a fourth dying got here when one other youth, apparently on LSD, drowned in a fast-moving irrigation canal.

Many commentators cited Altamont as not simply the location of 4 tragic deaths, however of the dying of the 60s dream itself. Writing in The New Yorker a long time after the very fact, Richard Brody stated: “What died at Altamont was the notion of spontaneity, of the sense that issues might occur on their very own and that benevolent spirits would prevail.”

Likening the occasions of Altamont to The Lord Of The Flies, he concluded, “What emerges accursed is the very thought of nature, of the concept that, left to their very own inclinations and stripped of the trimmings of the broader social order, the younger folks of the brand new technology will one way or the other spontaneously create a better, gentler, extra loving grassroots order. What died at Altamont is the Rousseauian dream itself.”

The music lives on

However whereas the catastrophe at Altamont signaled, looking back a minimum of, the second when the 60s died, the music would stay on. It’s telling that at the moment’s greatest stars nonetheless need to be related to these large stars of the 60s – Rihanna has labored with Sir Paul McCartney, whereas, in the summertime of 2018, Florence Welch joined The Rolling Stones on stage in London to carry out one among their basic songs, “Wild Horses.”

The musical freedoms that had been born within the 60s allowed all that got here after – and never simply from these new stars like David Bowie and Jackson 5. Although The Beatles have been no extra, their solo careers would ship but extra timeless classics. The Rolling Stones have been arguably solely simply hitting their stride as the last decade turned, with albums akin to Sticky Fingers and Exile On Predominant St pretty much as good as something they ever produced.

And that’s simply the tip of the iceberg. Each new technology that creates pop music owes an excellent debt to the 60s, a decade with an affect like no different.

The top of the 60s noticed a burst of creativity that cemented the last decade’s significance in music historical past. Discover a number of the best albums of the period, together with classics from The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Allman Brothers Band, on our Summer Of ’69 store page.

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