The Music of 1968

Dave from A Sound Day (check out the other posts on Dave’s “Turntable Talk”) posted this on November 5, 2022. He wanted a group of us to write about what we thought was the best year in music…I ended up picking the turbulent year of 1968.

When I think of the best year of music …for me it’s between 7 years. I would pick 1965 through 1971. I cannot pick all so here it goes…I pick 1968. It had some of the greatest albums and singles ever.

It was a turbulent year, to say the least. We lost two proponents of peace—Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. Other events include the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive, riots in Washington, DC, the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and heightened social unrest over the Vietnam War, values, and race.

The music was also toughened up by moving away from psychedelic music. The social climate and The Band’s album Music from Big Pink had a lot of influence on this. You still had psychedelic music released but overall, music was more stripped down to the basics.

My favorite album of all time was released by The Beatles. My favorite album by The Rolling Stones was released that year as well. Let’s look at the albums released in 1968…it’s outstanding.

The Beatles – The Beatles (The White Album)

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet

The Kinks – Are the Village Green Preservation Society

The Band – Music From Big Pink

Small Faces – Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake

The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland

Cream – Wheel Of Fire

The Byrds – Sweetheart Of The Rodeo

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Big Brother and Holding Company – Cheap Thrills

Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison

The Zombies – Odyssey and Oracle

The Grateful Dead – Anthem of the Sun

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul

Simon and Garfunkel – Bookends

Traffic – Traffic

That list could be on my desert island list… those albums are still being played today. I’ve only scratched the surface of the albums that year.

The Holy Trinity of Rock all released music that year… which would be The Beatles, The Who, and The Stones. I can’t imagine living in the era when these bands were in their prime and roamed the earth. The Who didn’t release an album, but they did release some singles and were gearing up for the following year. Let’s look at some of the singles of that year.

The Beatles – Hey Jude/Revolution

The Beatles – Lady Madonna

The Who – Magic Bus

The Rolling Stones – Jumping Jack Flash

Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild

The Doors – Hello, I Love You

The Rascals – People Got To Be Free

Cream – Sunshine Of Your Love

Otis Redding – The Dock of the Bay

The Supremes – Love Child

The Chamber Brothers – Time Has Come Today

Janis Joplin – Piece of My Heart

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Suzie Q

Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends

The year featured the debut album of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Brian Jones made his final album with the Rolling Stones and it was the start of their great 5 album stretch. The Who started to record the album that would break them worldwide with Tommy. Dock of the Bay would be released posthumously after Otis Redding died in a plane crash on December 10, 1967. The Grateful Dead would release their second album Anthem of the Sun and continue to build one of the largest fan bases ever. Jimi Hendrix was breaking barriers with his experimentation in the studio as well as live.

The Band would change the game by releasing Music From Big Pink. It influenced nearly everyone at the time to go back to a rootsy kind of music. Fleetwood Mac would release their debut album this year. Jeff Beck would release his legendary album Truth.

FM radio was getting huge at this time and showed that audiences didn’t have to have top 40 hits to buy albums. Take Van Morrison for instance. Astral Weeks didn’t have a “hit” on the album but continued to be played and sell. The Beatles  The White Album is as diverse as you can get… Pop, Rock, Country, Folk, Reggae, Avant-Gard, Blues, Hard Rock, and some 20’s British Music Hall thrown in for good measure. No singles were released from this album or Sgt Pepper the previous year. They treated singles and albums as two different things. Hey Jude and the hit version of Revolution was recorded during the White Album but yet they left those two off. The Stones would do the same and leave off Jumpin’ Jack Flash from  Beggars Banquet.

1968 set the stage for the coming decade’s rock music. Bands like The Who, Beatles, Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin didn’t need hit singles. You bought the album now and listened to the music in the context of that format. There were still pop/rock singles but the albums were gaining traction.

To wrap it up…I think any of the years between 1965-1971 could have a strong argument for my tastes. If you are into disco or synth music…not as much.

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

37 thoughts on “The Music of 1968”

    1. Oh yea…I always thought and this is just me…but 1971 had the greatest albums… two of them were Who’s Next and Led Zeppelin IV

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      1. Two great albums!

        I picked 1968 mostly because my favorite album was released. It was almost impossible to pick in that time span. My first pick was 1965 and then 1966…I couldn’t decide.

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  1. The best year for rock music. We had a couple of FM stations in Dallas that would play cuts off the albums, not so much the single the company released. I remember one of the stations playing the complete White Album without a commercial, then Tommy the same way. They called them FM Alternative stations or pirate stations back then. Probably paid the poor employee’s nothing. KZEW was one of them, the other KNUS.

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    1. I’ve always wondered Phil about Pirate stations in the US…I know in London they were on ships and that is the reason they were harder to shut down. I never knew much about the US Pirate stations.

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  2. 1968 was the year i started doing personal charts so its kinda year zero for me, but i love 64 through 73. Ive seen convincing cases for 1979 being the greatest year, so many diffetent genres being invented and on fire commercially at least in the UK. Again see them as a batch though from 76 to 84. More as a general pop fan than albums fan, obv though 🙂

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    1. 1964 was the huge transition year I agree. I could have picked many but this is the year the world was on fire and some good music came out…which usually happens during bad times. I stayed in the sixties because also…that is what I know best….even though I wasn’t aware of what was going on at the time.

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    1. Jude/Revolution- I loved that 45. You sing along for 6 minutes or so to a nice slow but sustained build, take a breath, flip the disc over and the opening riff of ‘Revolution’ fills your ears, like an aural smack to the brain.

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    1. lol… I could have picked so many years but this one had my favorite album along with the world being on fire…it just seemed right. 1971 was the first year I thought of and then 65-66

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      1. The world was definitely on fire in ’68. Ken just finished watching History Channel’s Vietnam series. Having been there ’67 to ’68, he’ll always be watching those & ‘nam movies. He was never drafted. His dumb ass volunteered. He wanted to be Brown Water Navy but, wound up as Seabee. Had he retained his original training from his Fleet Navy years, he would have been a Corpsman. The Navy screwed him out of that.

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  3. Nice stuff Max. I enjoy your write-ups on these years. The Who in 68 would have been something to have seen live whereas if I had seen the Door I would have been that guy trying to turn down the electric organ lol

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  4. You make a strong case!

    I’d have to think and research a bit, but I suspect somewhere between 1969 and 1974 would triumph for me. I’m closing in on the top albums of 1972 in the “72 From ’72” series (having laboured through 1970 and 1971). But basically, I agree with you. Practically any year in the decade 1965–1974 would yield treasures a-plenty.

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    1. Oh yea there are no right or wrong answers…totally up to you. The only reason I picked that year also was because of the White Album….that swung my vote lol.

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  5. Your list of singles there is just absolutely top notch. I think 68 was better for singles than albums actually. A lot of those came from albums that were kind of touch and go, but those songs are fantastic for sure.

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  6. As I said at the time your post first appeared on Dave’s blog, you certainly made a strong case why you picked 1968. So much great music there, including what I would consider the best rock remake of all time: Joe Cocker’s “With a Little Help From My Friends.” I prefer his rendition over the original – certainly not something I say often when it comes to other artists doing Beatles songs! There are many other longtime favorites in your post, such as the Beatles’ “Hey Jude”, the Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”, Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild” and Cream’s “Sunshine Of Your Love”. I could go on, but I would basically repeat your post! 🙂

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  7. I agree that 1968 remains one of the greatest years for music ever, and I think that overall, 1965-72 is the greatest period for music. I know you’re not a fan of 80s music, but I’d pick the years 1981-87 as my second-favorite period for music, followed by 2013-2018. I also love a lot of today’s music as well.

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    1. Well….someone picked 1985 and with his argument I agreed. I love alternate music or college rock from that decade. It was one of the best decades for alternative music like REM (before they hit) and my favorite band of the 80s The Replacements.
      You are completely right though Jeff…it depends on the person. There is no right or wrong answers…there are years that music changed more…than others.

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  8. 1968 is just about the first valid choice for pop/rock I think. Just weren’t enough major acts around until around then.

    1968 debuts include James Taylor, Fairport Convention, Agnetha from ABBA, Fleetwood Mac, Isaac Hayes, Os Mutants, Jimmy Webb, Randy Newman, The Band, Nazz, Joni Mitchell.

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    1. I could have picked many years…and I still beleive that 1971 was the best for albums…68 is when music got tougher to me. I didn’t know about Agnetha from Abba!

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