5 The Beach Boys
For those lucky enough to catch their reunion, the rest of us are jealous. Fans of The Beach Boys belong to a special set of music-lovers who idolize the Beach Boys’ representation of California sun. Of course, the perfect harmony was all on the surface, and anyone who knows anything about The Beach Boys knows of the volatile history between the band members. Headlining at Bonnaroo this year, The Beach Boys performed (apparently) for the last time with all remaining members of the original group. With a classic sound that is near impossible to match, The Beach Boys represent the innocent flower child flipside of the counter culture chaos that existed in the mid 60’s. The Beach Boys are the band to play any time you go to a beach, regardless of whether you’re in sunny California, or muscle-head-ridden New Jersey. Who knows, maybe The Beach Boys will shock us in ten years with another reunion. Hey, we can dream.
4 Martha and the Vandellas
Martha and the Vandellas are one of Motown’s biggest success stories, next to The Temptations. Lead by Martha Reeves, this group of women was groundbreaking in their perfect harmony and the unbridled passion in their lyrics. They paved the way for female musicians everywhere to create bands (Riot Grrrls should show some gratitude). Martha and the Vandellas may not be a household name anymore, but they should be. With songs like “Love is Like a Heat Wave” “Jimmy Mack” “Nowhere to Run” and “Dancin’ in the Streets” (famously covered by another 60’s iconic band the Mammas and the Pappas), Martha and the Vandellas were an unstoppable force of woman-powered music that emphasized racial equality, and female strength and talent – quite poignantly for their time.
3 The Doors
Poster child for Dionysian ecstasy, The Lizard King himself, Jim Morrison represented all that it meant to be a child of counter culture chaos. Dark, dystopic, lustful, and without boundaries, The Doors pushed against the musical envelope. One of the most inventive bands, with a sound all their own, The Doors’ music was more mythology than anything else. With novel-like lyrics, as featured in The End, and Jim Morrison’s jaw dropping, awe inspiring, stomach churning live performances, The Doors were like nothing anyone had ever seen before – and nothing anyone will ever see again. A brief flash of freakish talent, Jim Morrison unfortunately joined the ranks of Hendrix, and Joplin, in the 27 Club – dying before all of his talent had been fully enjoyed by the masses. The Doors would not have been, however, without the support of keyboardist Ray Manzarek (who brilliantly orchestrated the Ed Sullivan Debacle of 1967). Cut too short, The Doors’ musical library speaks far beyond its years, and still sounds innovative and fresh 50 years later.
2 The Rolling Stones
As The Beatles only real competition for the number one spot, The Rolling Stones are one of the best rock n’ roll bands to ever exist. Forming in 1962, The Rolling Stones recently celebrated their 50th anniversary. Still going strong, the foursome has released over twenty-four studio albums. The Rolling Stones’ unique talent, outlandish front-man, and ability to evolve throughout time has made them, hands down, one of the most long term successful bands of the 20th and 21st centuries. To list all of The Rolling Stones’ achievements would take far too long. True artists, The Rolling Stones continue to change and grow throughout their musical careers allowing them to constantly develop a new fan base, while maintaining the same fans who followed them from their inception fifty years ago.
1 The Beatles
If you need a background on who The Beatles are then you must have been living under a rock for the past 50 years. The Beatles are, without a doubt, the most influential bands to ever hit the western world – and beyond. John, Paul, George, and Ringo together make the best-selling band in history. With eleven full (original UK) LPs spanning from 1960 – 1970, The Beatles broke ground not only with their musical style, but their appearance, attitude, and sheer talent. Each musician brought something special to the group; it was, in every sense of the word, kismet. After 1970, each musician would go onto solo projects with varying levels of success, but no band would surpass The Beatles in nostalgic legacy or impact on music today.
The 60’s are extremely hard to dissect musically. It was a decade awash in unparalleled talent and honorable mentions should be made to the likes of Big Brother & The Holding Company, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Simon & Garfunkel, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, and all other performer at Woodstock, as well as countless other musicians. As the renaissance of rock n’ roll, the 1960’s were the golden age of music. The five bands on this list were some of the spearheads of an irreplaceable time in music history, and no matter how much dye you put in your hair, or how many peace signs you wear on your clothes, you will never be able to experience it the way the generation who lived it did. All we can do is be true to the message in the music, and as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young so poignantly say, “Carry On”.