Listen To This Eddie is a weekly column that examines the important people and events in the classic rock canon and how they continue to impact the world of popular music.
1967 is the peak moment of the era we lovingly refer to as the sixties, at least so far as it concerns rock and roll. The so-called “Summer Of Love” hosted seminal events like the Monterey Pop Festival and the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park, but it also saw the release of some of the biggest, most impactful rock records of all-time from the likes of the Beatles, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. Even more impactful, it marked the recorded debuts of artists as impactful as Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, the Velvet Underground and Pink Floyd.
While we continue to look back on the year in music in 2017, I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to re-examine this all-important moment 50 years hence, when some of the most ground-breaking rock and rollers of all-time tapped into their wilder sides, and produced albums filled with intricate, explosive psychedelic jams, down-home country ballads, and avant-garde sonic tapestries.
20. The Yardbirds, Little Games
After Jeff Beck bailed on the Yardbirds while on a tour of the US at the end of 1966, many wondered if the band was destined for the dustbin of history. Jimmy Page, Beck’s childhood mate, and the group’s second lead guitarist was not among them. Page compelled the rest of the Yardbirds to soldier forth and re-enter the studio. The results were promising, showing glimpses of the heavy, psychedelic proclivities that would come into stunning focus the next year when Page settled in with his new band Led Zeppelin. In fact, he would eventually nick “White Summer” from this record and re-purpose it along with John Paul Jones, Robert Plant and John Bonham for that band’s debut two year’s in the future.
19. The Rolling Stones, Between The Buttons
“I would like to just list what [The Beatles] did and what the Stones did two months after on every f*ckin’ album,” John Lennon told Rolling Stone in 1971. Though I’m not sure that’s entirely fair — except in the case of the Stones other ’67 release Their Satanic Majesties Request, which followed the Fab Four’s Sgt. Pepper — generally speaking, if you squint hard enough, one can draw a straight line between what the Beatles were up to and how the Stones responded throughout the ’60s. As they got weirder and more psychedelic on Rubber Soul and Revolver, Mick, Keef and company followed suit on Aftermath and this album. In a vacuum, however, you can’t deny the power and potency of “Let’s Spend The Night Together” or “Ruby Tuesday,” both of which appeared on the US pressings of Between The Buttons.
18. The Beach Boys, Smiley Smile
Smiley Smile is not the sprawling, rock epic that Brian Wilson first conceived when he entered the studio after creating Pet Sounds. The mental effort it took to try and top that release, combined with his own excessive drug intake almost destroyed him. In the end, the Beach Boys cobbled together pieces of music here and there and put it out into the world. Carl Wilson later called this album a “bunt,” though I’d be more generous and say it’s a pop-fly single that notched an RBI. Any record that contains “Heroes And Villains” and “Good Vibrations” can’t be as bad as the band, and it’s fans first thought.
17. Moby Grape, Moby Grape
Moby Grape might be the most exciting band from the 1960s who’s popularity failed to transcend their era. The group’s 1967, self-titled debut is a masterpiece of jittery guitar lines, crossways vocal harmonies, and plunky percussion. Running just 30-minutes long, it feels less like a collection of songs, and more akin to a series of disparate musical ideas, smashed into each other like a 13-car pile up. Blues, pop, rock, psychedelia, it’s all here and it’s all superb. “8:05” is a particularly beautiful, acoustic guitar ballad, that cuts to the quick with its message of desperate yearning, delivered through gorgeous, intricate vocal harmonies.