When Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around The Clock’ exploded like a ‘big bang’ upon the world in the mid ‘50s, it triggered the evolution of rock 'n' roll that eventually gave us the ‘golden era of rock’ – the period from the late ‘60s to early ‘70s. A number of significant events along this historic timeline from the release of ‘Rock Around The Clock’ on May 20, 1954 to the Woodstock festival on August 15-17, 1969, helped shaped this development. From Elvis' 'Heartbreak Hotel' to Chubby Checker's 'The Twist', from the British invasion to the birth of psychedelic rock, and from the summer of love '67 to Woodstock '69, the period from the 'big bang' to Woodstock was nothing short of revolutionary.
Rock Evolution Timeline
'Rock Around The Clock' hits #1
Elvis Presley's first #1 single 'Heartbreak Hotel'
Bill Haley & the Comets bring rock 'n' roll to Europe. The American invasion begins.
The day the music died.
Chubby Checker's 'The Twist' starts a new dance craze
Motown's first #1 single "Please Mr. Postman".
Surf rock dominates the charts lead by the Beach Boys
The British Invasion begins
Bob Dylan goes electric at Newport Folk Festival
Psychedelic rock storms the charts
'The Summer of Love'
Birth of rock 'n' roll
Rolling Stones magazine named it one of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". It was also included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll"
“The birth of rock ‘n’ roll for me?” said Pete Townshend several decades later, “Seeing Bill Haley and The Comets….God, that band swung!”
“The first time I really ever felt a tingle up my spine was when I saw Bill Haley and The Comets on the telly,” said Paul McCartney.
Buddy Holly is often described as the most influential of the early rock and roll musicians, and has been cited as such by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (McCartney owns the publishing rights to Holly's catalog of songs).
Chubby and the Twist got adults out and onto the dance floor for the very first time. Before the Twist dance phenomenon, grownups did not dance to teenage music."
By the early 1960s, the Motown Record Company had three major labels with Tamla Records, Motown Records and Gordy Records. Tamla's artists included the Miracles, Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. Motown Records' roster featured Wells, the Supremes, Four Tops, Jackson 5, Commodores and Boyz II Men. Gordy was home to the likes of Martha & the Vandellas, the Temptations, Rick James and Debarge.
Surf music is a genre of popular music associated with surf culture. It was especially popular from 1961 to 1966 and was highly influential on subsequent rock music. It has two major forms: largely instrumental surf rock, with an electric guitar or saxophone playing the main melody, largely pioneered by Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, and vocal surf pop, including both surf ballads and dance music, often with strong harmonies that are most associated with The Beach Boys.
The Beatles were its undisputed leaders. In 1963, the Fab Four released their first U.S. single, "Please Please Me." That same year, the term Beatlemania was coined to describe the phenomenal outburst of enthusiasm in England. But 1964 was the year of the Beatles' American conquest, and it began with the January 25th appearance of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" on Billboard's Top Forty chart and the February 7th arrival of the band in the States for a two-week promotional blitz. Overnight, Beatlemania swept the nation. Young girls abandoned themselves to hysteria and schoolboys started dreaming of long hair and electric guitars.
Britannia ruled the airwaves in 1964. In the front ranks, marching in formation behind the Beatles, were the Dave Clark Five, the Rolling Stones, Herman's Hermits, the Searchers, the Hollies, the Animals, the Kinks, the Yardbirds, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Freddie and the Dreamers, Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, Peter and Gordon and Chad and Jeremy.
This was a controversial but significant event. To understand the significance of Newport 1965 requires an understanding of how Dylan’s performance consciously transgressed key facets of authenticity that were deeply held within the folk movement. Furthermore, the events at Newport can also be seen as a key moment in the transferral of these markers of folk authenticity into the emerging genre of rock. Because of this, the performance has taken on a mythological significance, as though it was this performance, and this performance alone that changed the course of popular music. Marcus, for example, states that “within a year, Dylan’s performance would have changed all the rules of folk music – or, rather, what had been understood as folk music would as a cultural force have all but ceased to exist” (1997:13). The Newport performance is thus seen as a decisive act heralding a new musical world.
"Eight Miles High" is a song by the American rock band the Byrds, written by Gene Clark, Jim McGuinn (a.k.a. Roger McGuinn), and David Crosby and first released as a single on March 14, 1966. Musically influenced by Ravi Shankar and John Coltrane, "Eight Miles High", along with its McGuinn and Crosby-penned B-side "Why" was influential in developing the musical styles of psychedelic rock, raga rock and psychedelic pop. Accordingly, critics often cite "Eight Miles High" as being the first bona fide psychedelic rock song, as well as a classic of the counterculture.
The year was 1967 and the place was San Francisco. It was the Summer of Love; a season of creative expression, free society, cultural revolution and arguably the beginning of what we now enjoy as modern music festivals.
In the late 1960s, nearly 100,000 young people from across the country poured into the Haight and Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco in search of personal freedom and cultural and political rebellion. This unexplored counterculture hippie movement was focused around “free society.” The freedom to dress the way you wanted, free creative expression, free to dance, free music shows, rent-free housing. It was the Summer of Love — sharing ruled. It all came into public focus the year of 1967 and it took over San Francisco like a hurricane.
One of the strongest exports during this time was the music. New “acid rock” music came into play, pop and rock gained popularity, and the majority of shows took the form of day-long community hangs in Golden Gate Park — friends bonding over music and personal expression. Of those people, you may have found Janis Joplin, the members of Jefferson Airplane, Grace Slick, and the Summer of Love personified, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead.
Woodstock was the pop culture music event of the decade and arguably to this day the single most profound event in the history of music. Acts from all around the world met at Max Yasgur's Farm in Bethel, NY on August 15-18, 1969 for a celebration of peace and music. What began as a paid event drew so many viewers from across the world that the fences were torn down and it became a free concert open to the public. 500,000 youthful individuals gathered peacefully at Woodstock 1969 creating the largest gathering of human beings in one place in history. Woodstock 1969 defined an entire generation and its effects on music and American culture can still be felt today.
At Woodstock ’69, rock music was at its zenith. The event featured one of the most prolific musical lineups in history including such icons as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Santana and The Who. Fans got a taste of a variety of music styles which came together in perfect harmony. The crowd at Woodstock in 1969, which reached near a half a million people sent a message to the world that individuals could come together peacefully to celebrate peace and music.
The music at Woodstock in 1969 embodied extraordinary popular acts from all over the world. Legendary performances by such music icons as Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, Joe Cocker, Santana, the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin are still considered landmarks in music history. Woodstock in 1969 was also among the last performances of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin who are seen as some of the best in their respective fields. The entire psychedelic music vein became popularized at Woodstock 69 and still influences bands of all ages to this day.
Woodstock was a spectacular event that made real all the things that hippies believed in--peace, music, harmonious living, and an abundance of acid. Hippies might have had Greenwich in New York and the Haight-Ashbury in California, but Woodstock was the one place where hippies could come together and feel united. There are those that did not attend Woodstock that remember their youth fondly, that remember the days where they fought for the freedoms of black students and tripped on acid while listening to Jefferson Airplane. And those people still proudly call themselves members of the Woodstock generation because Woodstock was the place where couterculture reached its peak and hippies finally had the chance to be a part of an entirely Utopian society.
Woodstock had both positive and negative effects on the rock groups of Counterculture. Groups like The Beatles and Creedence Clearwater Revival broke up soon after Woodstock, but neither of those disbandings can be directly attributed to the festival. The Beatles' breakup was more likely due to the tensions between Paul McCarteny and John Lennon, especially those tensions traced to Lennon's second wife, Yoko Ono; George Harrison's deepening friendship with Eric Clapton and his gradual separation from the group; and the very different artistic directions that each member of the band wanted to go. Creedence Clearwater Revival broke up because of the egos and infighting between band members. Both Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, two of the most famous Counterculture musicians, both died of drug complications within a year of Woodstock, perhpas because they knew that their fame had peaked at Woodstock. However, Woodstock helped make gains in the careers of many musicians. Carlos Santana, now considered to be one of the greatest modern guitar players, had his career take off after his performance. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, who were having trouble in their relationship as a band during the time they performed at Woodstock, regrouped and became very successful in the decades to come and remain successful today.