Monday, May 2, 2011

The Heavy Second Wave

British Invasion: Part 9 (Second Wave, 1967-1970)

By 1967, the term 'roll' was generally dropped and the rock style of the 1960s emerged, also marking the end of the Invasion. However, from 1967-1970, the Brits did send off a much smaller 'second wave' of this newer rock sound (however, the official Second Invasion wouldn't take place until the 1980s). As the decade progressed, you can not only hear how much 'heavier' the music gets, but can also see a distinctive change in appearance, and boy, did hair get long! So hang on, we've got a whopping seven groups in this post!

First up, Cream was a British rock supergroup with bassist Jack Bruce on lead vocals, the bluesy guitarist/vocalist Eric Clapton (of The Yardbirds), and jazz-influenced drummer Ginger Baker, who created a hybrid of blues rock, hard rock, and psychedelic rock. They were the world's first notable and successful supergroup, selling over 35 million records in just the short two years that they were together. From their third album Wheels on Fire (the world's first platinum-selling double album), "White Room" was released as a single in September 1968, reaching #6 on the US charts and later becoming another among the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Recorded using an eight-track tape recorder (rare at the time), Clapton makes great use of the wah -wah pedal guitar effect on this classic psychedelic tune, a style he learned from fellow guitarist Jimi Hendrix. Here's live footage from their Farewell Performance in 1968.

Joe Cocker was an English rock/blues musician known for his gritty voice and is ranked among the 100 greatest singers of all time. In 1968, he gained his biggest success with a radical re-arranged version of The Beatles' "With a Little Help from My Friends," which features a longer introduction, is in a slower, 6/8 meter, and uses different chords in the middle section. Reaching #1 on the British singles charts, this songs is considered one of the greatest music covers of all time, and is sometimes referred to as "The Wonder Years" song as it was the theme for that American TV series from the late 1980s. The Beatles were so impressed with this version that they gave Cocker permission to sing some of their other songs including "She Came in Through the Bathroom Window" and "Something." In the recording, Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin played the guitar lines.

Speaking of Led Zeppelin, they were another English rock group that formed in 1968 and are considered as influential to rock music of the 1970s as The Beatles were to the '60s. With a heavy, bluesy guitar-driven sound, they are founding fathers of heavy metal and hard rock, however, about a third of their music is acoustic and they drew from several other styles including Celtic, Eastern Indian, and folk music. Some sources say they have sold over 300 million records, making them one of the world's best-selling artists of all time. Consisting of guitarist Jimmy Page (of The Yardbirds), singer Robert Plant, drummer John Bonham, and bassist John Paul Jones, they were probably the biggest band of the 1970s. However, here they are early in their career in the late 1960s performing "How Many More Times." Definitely no "Stairway to Heaven" (1971), but interesting to see their beginnings.

In 1967, the English rock group Traffic was formed by Steve Winwood (from The Spencer Davis Group), Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood, and Dave Mason, whose first singles were influenced by The Beatles. Initially starting out as a psychedelic rock group, they expanded their sound with the use of keyboards like the Mellotron, reed instruments, and included jazz and improv techniques in their music. Released in August 1967, the psychedelic pop classic "Hole in My Shoe" was written by guitarist Dave Mason (one of the chief songwriters with Winwood) and with its "Beatles-esque" sound, reached #2 on the UK charts. The little monologue in the middle was spoken by the stepdaughter of the boss of their record label, a simple effect, along with the sitar, that were typically traits of psychedelic music.

Like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple was another English rock group from 1968 that are also considered pioneers of modern hard rock and heavy metal. Once listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for being "the loudest pop group," these guys are ranked among the greatest artists of hard rock and have sold over 100 million records worldwide. They have had many different personnel line-ups over the years and are still touring to this day. Their breakout success started with their first hit single "Hush," released in June 1968, reaching #4 on the US charts (though was overlooked in the UK). This song was originally performed by Billy Joe Royal (known for "Down in the Boondocks"), however, Deep Purple's hard rock version became better known and is still remembered today. Definitely a classic, however, I'm not a fan of the band's attire here.

One of the most commercially successful and influential rock bands of all time was Pink Floyd, selling over 200 million albums worldwide. With their progressive and psychedelic rock music, they were known for their philosophical lyrics, audio experimentation, innovative album art, and their ornate live shows. Founded in 1965 by college students Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Richard Wright, and Syd Barrett, they got their start playing in London's underground club scene, and released their first single, "Arnold Layne," in spring of 1967. This psychedelic pop song was written by original frontman Syd Barrett, however, due to his unstable mental health, he was soon replaced by guitarist David Gilmour who was a part of the lineup when the band achieved worldwide critical success with albums in the 1970s such The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall. Once again, it's interesting to hear the early sound of these mega groups-to-be in the 1960s.

At last, we've reached the final group of the day: The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Okay, I know we're talked a little about guitar-wizard Jimi Hendrix before and we all clearly know that he was American, however, this "power trio" included Brits, bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, and originally formed in London. Not only influential to the development of hard rock and heavy metal, The Experience will always be known for the skill, style, and charisma of one of the greatest guitarists of all time as their frontman. The group came to prominence in the US after the infamous performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 where Hendrix set his guitar on fire. After seeing the Festival, The Monkees actually asked The Experience to go on tour with them as their opening act (definitely a mismatch!), but Hendrix and the guys only lasted a few concerts before they couldn't stand the 'boos' from the unappreciative teenage audience. Released as their first single in December 1966 (in the UK), the band's blues-rock version of "Hey Joe" failed to chart in the US, however has since become one of those 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and remains the most well-known version of this song.

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