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before the Beatles

Reading old and more recent posts in this board, I've read a certian number of times that music that was made before 1965 (let's say the appearance of concept albums and modern production, the beatles and the beach boys) of no interest.
I'm really shocked by such ignorance and shortsight.
i grew up listening to what was on the radio (so mostly rock, pop and urban music) but I remember, as a kid, being stunned by early rock and r&b material (Ray Charles, Elvis of course), and by the blues collection my father had.
Very soon while developping a strong interest in rock I wanted to know where all this came from
that's how I became so fond of roots music
you know Enstein said we are dwarves standing on giant's shoulders
I'm not alone in this case of course but I'll stand for those forgotten pilgrim fathers and musicians.
this ignorance is shared by a lot of people. Most of my friends and people from my generation (let's say born from 1965 to 1975) and younger never go back before 1965. they always praise Stevie Wonder but I'm sure most of them do not even know jackie Wilson, sam Cooke or Clide McPhatter ! they love Dylan but very few of them are aware that guys named Woody Guthrie, Hank Wiliams, Jimmie Rodgers ever existed
Most striking example :I have a good friend who started a small record company called 3rd side records. The guy has a good musical culture made me discover a lot of things (Big Star, Black Mountain, Iron & Wine..). saturday night we were at a wedding, the DJ played Hound Dog and believe me or not, he didn't know it was Elvis Presley singing !
there seems to be a massive amnesia, and I'm afarid our children wil do the same to the Beatles and the Stones.
I'm new in this board, and it helps me updating my collection and with recent records.
I may sound like an archeologist, but even if I'm a minority by myself, I'll defend all those sounds and all those musicians that made good songs without any wall of sound.

Re: before the Beatles

I second that emotion, nicolas.

The music of the 50s is the DNA of all pop music since then. That decade marked the single most dramatic shift in popular music in history--MUCH more dramatic, I would argue, than the arrival of the Beatles.

Of course, just because something is important doesn't mean anyone has to like it, but the amazing thing about 50s music is that it is NOT a chore to listen to it. No other music I know is so fun, so...exuberant.

I think our ears have become so accustomed to elaborate instrumentation and sophisticated studio production that music from the 50s sounds (to some people) like a 120-year-old wax recording. And that's a shame. I mean, I think Martin, Q. Jones, Moroder, Eno, Timbaland--fill in your favorite producer here--are brilliant and I appreciate what they've contributed to pop music, but I think we should still be able to appreciate music w/o multitracked studio polish...to appreciate the steak, not just the sizzle.

I'm also prepared to argue for the brilliance and importance of music from the 30s and 40s--but I imagine that's an even harder sell!

Re: before the Beatles

Thanks Schleuse

thanks Schleuse, I'm feeling less lonely.
I guess all this is a question of ear education, if I may say so.
A lot of rock musicians took inspiration from the pre-Beatles era : Kurt Cobain was very fond of Leadbelly and sang Black Girl, The White Stripes owe a lot to pre-war blues, not talking of the Stones or Led Zep
Of course it is not hype at all, and most of all not usual to play 50s rock n roll and r&b and even less honky tonk, old time country, rural blues or old rhythm & blues like Louis Jordan.
Well, let's stop going on and on about the same old thing, but it's a pity to see that so many people focus their tastes on a very small field (pop-rock from 1965 to nowadays and sometimes even smaller fields like 90's alt rock)when there are so many new and remote territories to discover.

The same thing happens when I go on other boards more specialized in blues or country : those people are often like Pete Seeger who wanted to cut Dylan's guitar jack when he played electric at Newport : they can't stand rock and consider it as a perversion.
I feel more at home amongst rock and pop lovers because that's the music of my youth, and the core of my musical culture. But (and I promise you I won't bother you anymore with that, I don't wanna play the role of the wittering grandpa )I 'll never stop improving my musical richess by listening to all kinds of music and especialy hose which have the strongest appeal to me : roots and world music.
(i was abou to say "thank you" as if it were a big statement)

Re: before the Beatles

I've always felt that the reason why Pet Sounds and Revolver (both 1966) are the two most acclaimed albums of all time is not merely down to just how consistent, compulsive and innovative they are. I feel there is one important aspect that singles these albums out and adds insurmountably to their acclaim:

They were, at the time, simply the best albums anyone had ever heard by a country mile. They drastically raised the bar by which popular music would be judged henceforth. And the world took note - acts like The Kinks and The Rolling Stones made a sudden and obvious effort to keep their albums filler-free, while new bands (Pink Floyd, The Doors and The Velvet Underground, for instance) were suddenly releasing the most ambitious, artistic and consistent debuts yet seen.

The mid-sixties really saw a wave of artists who made the album an art-form. And while there was lots of great music prior to that time, the full-length album wasn't generally considered worth a hoot. Great though Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra all were, all were more singles-based creatures, than album beasts.

And the album, naturally, is a far more durable medium.

None of which is to say that pre-'66 music isn't worth investigating. But it's certainly much trickier to navigate (even Elvis: should one get the original albums, and miss many of the hits, or stick with a Best Of and never hear his album tracks?), and considering how much amazing music we've had these last forty years, you can't blame most people for just not being too interested.

(Jazz is obviously a different kettle of fish, as jazz fans naturally embraced the full-length LP long before pop, rock, country, blues and soul fans).

Re: before the Beatles

Well, I have to admit I have been in a very sentimental mood this afternoon when I posted this (excuse me for being so French sometimes), and I didn't want to blame or judge anybody. I wanted to defend a kind of music that I feel is neglected by the majority. and that is a big injustice.
Twister, what you say about albums is not entirely true
Of course the album was not the media at that time, specially in popular vocal music (I do not include jazz, I think jazz is a different matter : it is much more acclaimed and documented than blues, country, 50s rock and old pop.)
But there are plenty of excellent compilations and guides, and a great site : All Music Guide.
Of course, like you say, it is trickier to go through; you need to be an historian as much as a music lover.
But you get rewarded.

Re: before the Beatles

It can’t be denied that a huge shift happened in the 50’s. And it’s true nicolas – 50’s music is probably neglected by the majority. But keep in mind that most of the people who contribute to this forum understand and appreciate the value of 50’s music (and music from earlier decades).

For me, it’s because 50’s music is fun and exuberant is why I’d take the 60’s over the 50’s. In the 60’s, artists began to make serious music; it wasn’t all Blue Suede Shoes and Rockin’ Around The Clock. Plus, like twister said, the 60’s saw the arrival of the album, and I’d much rather listen to a cohesive work like Sgt. Pepper’s over a 50’s hits compilation.

and I'm afraid our children will do the same to the Beatles and the Stones. Not if people like us teach our children the true value of this music. Good music will always carry on.

Re: before the Beatles

In the 60’s, artists began to make serious music

Anthony, it may be true for 50's rock n roll that the music was fun and exuberant, but what about the blues ? I doubt that the lives of most bluesmen were always fun and exuberant (robert johnson was poisoned, JOhn Lee Sonny Boy Williamson was stabbed to death with an icepick, Bessie smith died because, after being injured in a car crash, no hospital would admit her because she was black). And what about Hank Williams (found dead in his car)
The sixties are an excellent decade, I agree with you, maybe because, thanks to 50's rockn roll and soul that were a fusion of styles (mostly blues + country + gospel + pop), artists had the opportunity to create this wonderful music, and to discover what was before (british blues boom.

Re: before the Beatles

Some of my most favorite artists are Billie Holiday, Hank Williams Sr., Louis Armstrong, and Frank Sinatra. They all hit their primes well before 1965 - even before 1955. In my view, their music is every bit as serious and artistic as anything that has come since.

It is a mistake to say that the big musical innovations happened only in the 1950s and 1960s (and in later years). The innovation of jazz music at the beginning of the twentieth century (combining the African and European music traditions in America) was a huge development that still greatly influences current popular music.

We focus on the more recent innovations because they are better documented in high-quality recordings. Where music used to be passed from one generation to the next by musicians learning and re-interpreting songs from each other, we now have compact discs to document exactly what the music sounded like when it was made. Recording technology has had a huge impact both on how music is made and how it is remembered.

Also, before we annoint Pet Sounds and Revolver as the first true albums, let's not forget about "In the Wee Small Hours" by Frank Sinatra, which is a beautiful piece of work that was intended to be consumed as a whole album.

Re: before the Beatles

It is true that the album and its physical medium -the CD, has become THE medium for ourselves.
Before the 50's, for technical reasons, it was the single and the jukebox.
But today, with computers and i-Pods, every one has his own jukebox.
So if you want to listen to popular vocal music from the middle of the century (let us say 1925-65, which is a very rich period) the all-album approach is not the right one, but downloading songs on an i-pod and make playlists like I do is the perfect solution.