Presentation on theme: "MUSI 3104 W12 Harder 1960s/70s rock. The June 1970 Festival Express tour provides an extremely valuable window onto some of the sociological, economic,"— Presentation transcript:
The June 1970 Festival Express tour provides an extremely valuable window onto some of the sociological, economic, political, and other conditions surrounding popular music in Canada at the time. So let's watch some excerpts and then discuss the question: what are the many ways in which such factors are illustrated here? DVD: Festival Express excerpts
As we've seen, some of the earliest Canadian artists to become internationally successful and to also have some kind of idiosyncratic style were in the folk field. They were also sometimes artists who blurred the boundary between folk and rock. This blurring is even deeper since there were some other, straight-out rock acts who were also becoming famous and distinctive at around the same time. So in addition to Canadian associations with folk and folk-rock music, there were developing Canadian associations with hard rock, and jazz-rock. The Guess Who was a major band in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and pretty much the first Canadian rock band to gain significant notice. They evolved from a Winnipeg band in 1962, led by Chad Allan and Randy Bachman. Burton Cummings joined in 1965, and Allan (the original leader) left shortly afterwards, making Cummings and Randy Bachman the front people. Quick discussion, "Bachman" pronunciation. Of course not a uniquely Canadian situation (consider Moog).
The origin of name is interesting. The original band was called Chad Allan and the Expressions. Their 1965 single "Shakin' All Over" was potential hit material, and the "Guess Who" name was attached to it to encourage a sense that the group may be a famous British one in disguise. Discuss: why would that be seen as a good move? Include here the general stylistic tone of Canadian rock bands in the mid-1960s The name stuck, partly because the single did well. The first self- written hit for The Guess Who was "These Eyes," followed by several others. Bachman left in 1970, after which it essentially became a Cummings solo project (albeit a very successful one into the mid-1970s). The Guess Who "These Eyes" (1969) Compare with blue-eyed soul like Righteous Bros. In general, The Guess Who were perceived as being more on the pop end of the rock spectrum, rather than the countercultural or heavy end.
Overhead: The Guess Who Canned Wheat LP cover Notice the marketing: as much regional (prairie) as Canadian. The one Guess Who song which seems to have more nationalistic significance, and also hints most at a harder rock edge, is "American Woman." Overhead: American Woman LP cover The Guess Who "American Woman" (1970) On the surface this is standard anti-Americanism of the time. It was also musically influential, especially in the lead guitar tone. Overhead: Tech21 American Woman pedal It's also noteworthy for the way it displays a typical 1960s rock misogyny.
But there are some complicating factors to the politics/nationalism angle... The band always presented the lyric as a toss-off and not a considered statement They did nothing else in this vein So in the end "American Woman" adds to the now fairly long list of 1960s and early 1970s Canadian artists who managed to achieve some political and nationalistic significance but seemed at the same time to want to distance themselves from it.
The origins of Steppenwolf were in a mid-1960s Toronto-based blues band called The Sparrow (the blues side of the Yorkville coffeehouse scene). Moved to San Francisco in 1967, adopted the name Steppenwolf, and had several hits. Generally seen as pioneers of the heavier, more menacing style that would evolve into metal (several people have attributed the name "heavy metal" to this song). The use of this song in Easy Rider (1969) also solidified the band's biker image and that of the whole style. Overhead: Steppenwolf Steppenwolf "Born To Be Wild" (1967) What are the hard rock elements here? How about psychedelic elements?
This is another case where the Canadian angle is fairly tenuous, especially because the leader of the group John Kay grew up in Germany, and lived in Canada for less than ten years. Nonetheless, the group is usually referred to as "Canadian" or "Canadian-American," so it ended up having an impact on the reputation of Canadian music in the rest of the world. This in turn helped to shift the perception that Canadian popular music was all about folkiness. As we'll see, this shift was echoed in an ambiguous/complex way by Neil Young, and in a more straightforward way by Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
DVD: Neil Young and Crazy Horse "Powderfinger," opening of "Cortez the Killer," "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)" all from Rust Never Sleeps (1979). So now we've seen two sides of Neil Young's early work: singer- songwriter and harder garage rock. Given what we've said about multiple identity strands emerging by the early 1970s, it's interesting that NY explored all of them in his own work. How does this Crazy Horse material differ from a track like "The Old Laughing Lady"? But how is it also working some of the same angles? In the long run, Neil Young was also influential in fashion terms, working the flannel from various angles that would have an impact on the visual style of both country rock and garage rock (especially into the 1980s-90s grunge era).
Bachman-Turner Overdrive was originally formed in 1970 as a country band (under a different name). In 1972 the band took the BTO name and moved in a hard rock direction. BTO was based in Vancouver but worked mostly in the U.S. It's an interesting irony that Bachman left The Guess Who partly because he disapproved of the hedonistic lifestyle. So the more "pop" band tended to have a more "rock" attitude backstage, and the much heavier band was in fact less into partying. Overhead: Bachman-Turner Overdrive LP cover YouTube: Bachman-Turner Overdrive "Takin' Care of Business" Live (1974) Elements of blues rock, British metal, and pop, with a blue-collar image. This was a mix that would be very successful for many stadium rock bands into the 1980s. In 1977 the band became on-again off-again, although they stood at that time as one of the most commercially successful groups of the day, and Bachman turned to solo projects and to mentoring younger musicians. He's been very active and well-respected, especially in the latter role. (Also recall his role in documenting the work of Lenny Breau).
Another style where Canadians made important early contributions was country rock (updating Canada's long-standing relationship with country). The Hawks coalesced around Ronnie Hawkins by around 1960 (some had been with him since 1958). The group was 4/5 Canadian. They were picked up by Bob Dylan as a live backing band in 1965, and also hung with him during his 1966-1968 period of seclusion in Woodstock, N.Y. The jamming and songwriting they did together during this period had a major impact on the country rock style they would both make public in the late 1960s. Released their first solo record as The Band in 1968, and quickly achieved a position as leaders in the new country rock genre. Overhead: Time magazine January 1970 Overhead: The Band publicity shots Discuss: the relationship between country rock and slightly earlier 1960s rock culture, as seen in these visual choices?
The Band "Up On Cripple Creek" (1969) First thing: what made The Band musically distinctive? Second thing: another good invented tradition example -- Americana and the role of Canadian (and British) fantasy in creating it. Country rock is another area where Neil Young made significant contributions. It was also responsible for his greatest financial/commercial successes. Overhead: Neil Young Harvest-era photos Neil Young "Heart of Gold" (1972)
Blood, Sweat & Tears was formed in 1967 in New York City. The concept was to take a rock band core and expand it with horns and other studio/jazz elements. The original lineup was promising but had internal problems, and a revised version came to be led by David Clayton-Thomas who had been born in the UK but grew up in Canada and had led some blues bands here. More importantly, as-of 1966 he was also leading a Canadian rock band that was incorporating jazz elements (one of the first anywhere to do so). The Clayton-Thomas-fronted BS&T became a huge commercial success in 1969. Ironically, as bands like Chicago who were partly modeled on BS&T became huge in the early 1970s, their own popularity waned. The Canadian connection may seem somewhat marginal, but consider how The Guess Who were doing similar things, and how Lighthouse would as well. That, combined with Clayton-Thomas's Canadian years, makes this style seem more closely linked to Canada.
Overhead: Blood, Sweat & Tears LP cover art Blood, Sweat & Tears "Spinning Wheel" (1969) Notice also the progressive-rock elements (another style that Canada will become associated with in the 1970s and 1980s). Lighthouse was formed in 1969 in Toronto as a rock orchestra combining people from various constituencies (the usual rock crowd along with studio and jazz horn players, strings, etc.). The group rose to prominence quite quickly, playing for example the Boston Pop Festival, Carnegie Hall, and the Newport Jazz Festival all in 1969. They were more like an orchestra than a rock band in that a very large number of people moved through the unit over the years.
Lighthouse was very successful on all levels up to about 1974, in an exceptionally wide range of venues: rock, jazz, orchestral collaboration performances, and hit records as well. Overhead: Lighthouse One Fine Morning LP cover Lighthouse "One Fine Morning" (1971) Back to Joni Mitchell, who continued to do important experiments by incorporating more obvious jazz influences into her music in the 1970s, putting her near the forefront of jazz/pop/rock fusion. Joni Mitchell "Help Me" (1974) The album this track comes from, Court and Spark, was a major critical and commercial success and exerted a strong influence on the sound of adult contemporary music for the rest of the 70s.
In Québec, the chansonnier tradition was becoming less vibrant by the later 1960s. But at the same time, the line between that tradition and rock/pop music was blurred by some influential artists who brought a more poetic and socially aware perspective into the rock/pop material. Several of the most influential of these artists were also respected and popular in France, continuing the connection begun with artists like Leclerc (this is true of both Charlebois and Plamondon). Maybe the best example of this is Robert Charlebois. He began around 1965 as a chansonnier. Almost from the start he incorporated contemporary rock elements and a flamboyant theatrical attitude: not easy to put him in either camp really. Overhead: Robert Charlebois LP cover Robert Charlebois "Protest Song" (1967) Discuss: what meanings or significance attach to the fact that he's imitating Bob Dylan in French?
But the thing that most caused Charlebois to represent a new era in Québec popular music was the song "Lindberg" and the album it came from. Overhead: Robert Charlebois/Louise Forestier LP cover Robert Charlebois / Louise Forestier "Lindberg" (1968) Discuss: what are the various layers of musical style being mobilized here? The lyrics of Luc Plamondon are less obviously revolutionary, but were no less influential. His greatest contribution was to take current Québec dialect, along with modern themes, and incorporate them into songs with a contemporary mainstream style. Luc Plamondon / André Gagnon "Dans Ma Camaro" (1969)