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.