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.

Steppenwolf – Rock Me

This song was their 3rd top ten hit of 1968-1969. The song was on their album At Your Birthday Party released in 1969.

steppenwolf - At your Birthday Party

The song peaked at #10 on the Billboard 100 and #4 in Canada in 1969. This song was originally the B side to Jupiter’s Child but later on, they were reversed. This song followed the top ten hits of Born To Be Wild and Magic Carpet Ride. John Kays voice is one of those voices that you can pick out from a crowd. Like Neil Young, John Fogerty, Van Morrison, and other unique singers. 

I usually don’t research the meaning of a lot of songs but this one is interesting. The different meanings people get out of this one. Some say it’s a young woman looking for one good man, others say it’s about Mother Nature, and others say it’s about America at the time it was written. 

John Kay’s songwriting gets overlooked…he is a fine songwriter with usually a message. He wrote Rock Me, which benefitted from being in the 1968 feature film Candy, a period piece of permissiveness featuring Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, and even Ringo Starr.

John Kay: The recording sessions for “At Your Birthday Party” started to show the wear and tear of the road on all of us. In addition, some band members for the first time, tried their hand at songwriting and I had run out of tunes to contribute. This album nevertheless includes some of my favorite Steppenwolf tracks such as “Happy Birthday”, “Jupiter’s Child” and “Rock Me”. Nick St. Nicholas (who had replaced our original bassist Rushton Moreve) had an idea for a song titled “It’s Never Too Late”, which triggered me to work out the rest of the song. That one is an all time favorite of mine. Gabriel Mekler (our Producer) had his hands full trying to be fair to all band members and stay neutral to allow us to work out the difficulties on our own. The fact that the song “Rock Me” (which had been written for the soundtrack of the motion picture “Candy”) had already been a hit single before it was included in the “Birthday album” may have reduced the impact of the album because the initial sales of the LP were not what we had hoped for, although over the years, it became quite popular with many of our fans.

Rock Me

She asked me maybeI would share her sorrowFor all the men that tried to treat her wrong

Though just a babyA waiting her tomorrowIt’s rock me baby, rock me babyAll night long

She needs an answer to her confusionSomeone to guide her with tendernessBut if she’s asking for a solutionAll that she getsYou know it’s something like this

I don’t know where we come fromI don’t know where we’re going toBut if all of this should have a reasonWe would be the last to knowSo let’s just hope there is a promised landHang on till then as best you can

Everybody’s ills you know itFills her with compassionThat’s why she tries to save the world aloneShe helps the needy in her own fashionAnd tries to give them all her own

She needs an answer for her confusionSomeone to guide her with tendernessBut when she’s asking for a solutionAll that she gets you know it’s something like this

I don’t know where we come fromI don’t know where we’re going toBut if all of this should have a reasonWe would be the last to knowSo let’s just hope there is a promised landHang on till then as best you can

Rock me baby, rock me baby all night longRock me baby, rock me baby all night longRock me baby, rock me baby all night longRock me baby, rock me baby all night longRock me baby, rock me baby all night longRock me baby, rock me baby all night longRock me baby, rock me baby all night long

Steppenwolf – Snowblind Friend

The last time I posted a Steppenwolf song (Sookie Sookie)…a fellow blogger obbverse reminded me of this one and it had been a long time since I heard it.

Snowblind Friend was written by Hoyt Axton, who first released it on his 1969 album My Griffin Is Gone. The song was written about one of his musician friends who died of a drug overdose. Hoyt did not glamorize drug use in this song. He had his own problems with drug addiction and did what he could to warn of the dangers

Stoned on some new potion he found upon the wall
Of some unholy bathroom in some ungodly hall

Hoyt Axton wrote so many songs…one of them was Joy To The World, he wrote it around the same time as Snowblind Friend. Steppenwolf was offered Joy To The World but they passed. It ended up going to Three Dog Night… who took it to number 1. What I wouldn’t give to hear a Steppenwolf version of Joy to the World!

Songs written by Hoyt Axton | SecondHandSongs

This song introduced the word “snowblind” to the rock music lexicon to describe addiction, specifically to cocaine. The insidiousness of the drug and its grip on the user has never been conveyed so accurately and poignantly.

Steppenwolf 7

Snowblind Friend peaked at #60 in the Billboard 100 and #37 in Canada in 1970. It was on the album Steppenwolf 7 and it peaked at #19 in the Billboard Album Charts and #14 in Canada. This would be Steppenwolf’s last top 20 album in their career. They did have a Greatest Hits album that peaked at #24 the following year.

They are not in the Hall of Fame yet but were nominated in 2017 but didn’t make it. In 2018 the Hall did pick “Born to Be Wild” as one of the first five singles that shaped rock and roll to be inducted into the hall in its history.

Altogether they had 13 studio albums, 5 live albums, and 21 singles. 8 of the albums were in the top 40 and 7 of their singles were in the top 40. In Canada they were very popular…they had two #1’s in Born To Be Wild and Magic Carpet Ride and 11 singles in the top 40.

John Kay: “That song spoke to me because I knew the person that the song was written about. That’s why I decided, as a tribute to this young man, that we would do a version of it on the Steppenwolf 7 album.”

This is a TV special on the Steppenwolf 7 album

Snowblind Friend

You say it was this morning when you last saw your good friend
Lyin’ on the pavement with a misery on his brain
Stoned on some new potion he found upon the wall
Of some unholy bathroom in some ungodly hall
He only had a dollar to live on ’til next Monday
But he spent it on some comfort for his mind
Did you say you think he’s blind?

Someone should call his parents, a sister or a brother
And they’ll come to take him back home on a bus
But he’ll always be a problem to his poor and puzzled mother
Yeah he’ll always be another one of us
He said he wanted Heaven but prayin’ was too slow
So he bought a one way ticket on an airline made of snow
Did you say you saw your good friend flyin’ low?
Flyin’ low
Dyin’ slow

Steppenwolf – Sookie Sookie

Steppenwolf…they all look like badasses…all of them especially the ring leader John Kay. They had some danger in their rock and roll and Kay’s voice is just killer. I saw a version of Steppenwolf once in the 80s and John Kay demanded and commanded the stage swinging his mic stand like a weapon.

I met Mr. Kay one time very briefly…just shook his hand…a very nice guy so he wasn’t a badass that day. This song was written by Don Covay who wrote a lot of early rock songs about dancing. Don Covay was recording for Atlantic Records at this time. As they did with many of their artists, they sent Covay to Memphis to record at Stax Records, where the house band was top-notch. Covay wrote Sookie Sookie there with Stax guitarist Steve Cropper.

Steppenwolf had this song on their 1968 debut album Steppenwolf.  It was released as the first single that year but didn’t do too well. The song did peak at #92 in Canada and that was it. The next single did a little better…it was a song called Born To Be Wild.

The third single was“Magic Carpet Ride,” ABC-Dunhill saw the wisdom of re-releasing the “Sookie Sookie”….however, this time it was a “B” side. Like the “Born to be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride,” “Sookie Sookie” not only featured the extraordinary guitar work of Michael Monarch and vocals by John Kay, it had that Steppenwolf signature organ sound

The song also ended up being used by some radio stations as background music for promos and commercials.

Sookie Sookie

Let it hang out baby, let it hang out now, now na-na now
Let it hang out baby, everybody work out
Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sue

Let it hang out baby, do the Baltimore jig
Let it hang out baby, boomerang with me
Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sue

Really got it bad child, drink a bottle of turpentine
When you wake up in the morning, feelin’ kinda fine
Let it hang out baby, let it hang out now, now na-na now

You better watch your step girl, don’t step on that banana peel
If your foot should ever hit it, you’ll go up to the ceiling
Hang it in baby, hang it in baby
Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sue

Let it hang out baby, let it hang out now, now na-na now
Let it hang out baby, everybody work out
Hang it in baby, hang it in baby, hang it in baby
Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sookie, Sue

Steppenwolf – Born To Be Wild

Get your motor runningHead out on the highway

This song is iconic and known all over the world. I automatically think of motorcycles and bar bands. We played in a few bars that bikers were visitors…this song was a requirement if you wanted to continue breathing.

Born To Be Wild has been used in countless amounts of shows and movies…One request to use the song however was turned down in 2004. Paris Hilton wanted to use it as part of her reality show The Simple Life 2. Kay denied it, telling the Toronto Star, “There are certain things even a rock ‘n’ roller will not stoop to.”

After reading that…my respect for John Kay just took a giant leap!

The song was used in the 1969 movie Easy Rider, the counterculture classic. Another Steppenwolf song, “The Pusher,” was also used in the film.

When the movie was in production, this was simply a placeholder. Peter Fonda wanted Crosby, Stills, and Nash to do the soundtrack. It became clear that the song belonged in the movie, and it stayed. Being included in this movie cemented the song’s association with motorcycles… “Teach Your Children” just doesn’t have the same ring, does it?

This was written by Mars Bonfire, which is the stage name of Dennis Edmonton. He wasn’t a member of Steppenwolf, but his brother Jerry was the band’s drummer. Bonfire wrote a few other songs for Steppenwolf as well, including “Ride With Me” and “Tenderness.”

With the line “heavy metal thunder,” this became the first popular song to use the phrase “heavy metal,” which became a term for hard rock. William Burroughs is credited with coining the phrase, as he used it in his 1961 novel The Soft Machine, describing his character Uranian Willy as “the Heavy Metal Kid.”

The song peaked at #2 in the Billboard 100, #1 in Canada, #30 in the UK, and #32 in New Zealand in 1968.

Mars Bonfire (Writer): “I was walking down Hollywood Boulevard one day and saw a poster in a window saying ‘Born to Ride’ with a picture of a motorcycle erupting out of the earth like a volcano with all this fire around it. Around this time I had just purchased my first car, a little secondhand Ford Falcon. So all this came together lyrically: the idea of the motorcycle coming out along with the freedom and joy I felt in having my first car and being able to drive myself around whenever I wanted. ‘Born To Be Wild’ didn’t stand out initially. Even the publishers at Leeds Music didn’t take it as the first or second song I gave them. They got it only because I signed as a staff writer. Luckily, it stood out for Steppenwolf. It’s like a fluke rather than an achievement, though.”

Born To Be Wild

Get your motor runnin’
Head out on the highway
Lookin’ for adventure
And whatever comes our way
Yeah Darlin’ go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once and
Explode into space

I like smoke and lightning
Heavy metal thunder
Racin’ with the wind
And the feelin’ that I’m under
Yeah Darlin’ go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once and
Explode into space

Like a true nature’s child
We were born, born to be wild
We can climb so high
I never wanna die

Born to be wild
Born to be wild

Get your motor runnin’
Head out on the highway
Lookin’ for adventure
And whatever comes our way
Yeah Darlin’ go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once and
Explode into space

Like a true nature’s child
We were born, born to be wild
We can climb so high
I never wanna die

Born to be wild
Born to be wild

Steppenwolf – Magic Carpet Ride

The dynamic of the intro really works in this song. The wall of distortion and feedback starts and then it snaps into the song. It is incredibly catchy and bouncy for being a harder song. This song was on Steppenwolf’s “Second” album and the song peaked at #3 in the Billboard 100 in 1968. I’ve always liked John Kays voice and he also has a great stage presence.

Steppenwolf had 13 songs in the Billboard 100 and 3 top ten hits. This was the second big hit for Steppenwolf. “Born To Be Wild” was released a few months earlier. They were on different albums, with “Born To Be Wild” on their first and this on their second, although this was released well before their second album came out.

From Songfacts

The group wrote this based on the bass line their bass player, Rushton Moreve, came up with. The only words he had written for it were, “I like my job, I like my baby.” Lead singer John Kay wrote the rest of the lyrics. He got inspired when he put the demo tape in a home stereo system he bought with the royalties from their first album. That’s where he came up with the line, “I like to dream, right between my sound machine.”

John Kay of Steppenwolf teamed up with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to do a 1988 rap-rock remake of this song. It was similar to the Run-D.M.C./Aerosmith mash-up of “Walk This Way,” which was released in 1986.

This song first appeared in a 1968 movie called Candy by the French director Christian Marquand. It starred Ewa Aulin, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, Ringo Starr and Charles Aznavour. It’s an extremely strange movie, definitely of it’s time and kind of gives context to the song, intended or not. The movie was based on a popular counterculture novel.

In 2004, this was used in the “America Revolution” series of Chevy car commercials.

Magic Carpet Ride

I like to dream, yes, yes
Right between the sound machine
On a cloud of sound I drift in the night
Any place it goes is right
Goes far, flies near
To the stars away from here

Well, you don’t know what
We can find
Why don’t you come with me little girl
On a magic carpet ride

Well, you don’t know what
We can see
Why don’t you tell your dreams to me
Fantasy will set you free

Close your eyes now
Look inside now
Let the sound
Take you away

Last night I hold Aladdin’s lamp
So I wished that I could stay
Before the thing could answer me
Well, someone came and took the lamp away

I looked
Around
A lousy candle’s all I found

Well, you don’t know what
We can find
Why don’t you come with me little girl
On a magic carpet ride

Well, you don’t know what
We can see
Why don’t you tell your dreams to me
Fantasy will set you free

Close your eyes now
Look inside now
Let the sound
Take you away

Steppenwolf – Don’t Step On The Grass Sam

Hmmm, wonder what this song was about? When I was 18 I had a Steppenwolf complication tape that I would play driving around and this song will stick in your head. Love the riff and the build up.

John Kay the singer for Steppenwolf advocated for marijuana legalization during his band’s heyday in the late 1960s. The ‘Sam’ mentioned in the title refers to Uncle Sam. It was off of their second album…appropriately called “The Second” in 1968.

The song suddenly stops and then….after pounding on the door, a group of actors playing policemen storm in saying, “Alright you guys, you’re under arrest for possession of marijuana.”…then you hear flushing.

Don’t Step On The Grass, Sam

Starin’ at the boob tube, turnin’ on the big knob
Tryin’ to find some life in the waste land
Fin’ly found a program, gonna deal with Mary Jane
Ready for a trip into hate land
Obnoxious Joe comes on the screen
Along with his guest self-righteous Sam
And one more guy who doesn’t count
His hair and clothes are too far outWhile pushin’ back his glasses Sam is sayin’ casually
“I was elected by the masses”
And with that in mind he starts to unwind
A vicious attack on the finest of grasses

Well it’s evil, wicked, mean and nasty
(Don’t step on the grass, Sam)
And it will ruin our fair country
(Don’t be such an ass, Sam)
Well it will hook your Sue and Johnny
(You’re so full of bull, Sam)
All will pay that disagree with me
(Please give up you already lost the fight, alright)

Misinformation Sam and Joe
Are feeding to the nation
But the one who didn’t count counted them out
By exposing all their false quotations
Faced by a very awkward situation
This is all he’d say to save the day

Well it’s evil, wicked, mean and nasty
(Don’t step on the grass, Sam)
And it will ruin our fair country
(Don’t be such an ass, Sam)
It will hook your Sue and Johnny
(You’re so full of bull, Sam)
All will pay that disagree with me
(Please give up you already lost the fight alright)

You waste my coin Sam, all you can
To jail my fellow man
For smoking of the noble weed
You need much more than him
You’ve been telling lies so long
Some believe they’re true
So they close their eyes to things
You have no right to do
Just as soon as you are gone
Hope will start to climb
Please don’t stay around too long
You’re wasting precious time

Well it’s evil, wicked, mean and nasty
(Don’t step on the grass, Sam)
And it will ruin our fair country
(Don’t be such an ass, Sam)
It will hook your Sue and Johnny
(You’re so full of bull, Sam)
All will pay that disagree with me
(Please give up you already lost the fight alright)