Styles & Forms | Sixties Pop

As the 1960s approached, the controversy associated with rock’n’roll was superseded by an array of inoffensive smoothies on both sides of the atlantic. However, the ongoing popularity of artists such as Elvis Presley, Bobby Darin, Ricky Nelson, Sam Cooke, and, in the UK, Lonnie Donegan, Billy Fury and Cliff Richard, ensured a degree of continuity in the music scene.

Likewise the success of singers such as Roy Orbison endured into the 1960s, and the trend for pop instrumentals grew, courtesy of groups such as The Shadows in Britain and The Ventures in America, where Dick Dale & His Del-Tones were purveyors of the ‘surf guitar’. The remains of white doo-wop could be heard in recordings by The Four Seasons and Dion (both with and without The Belmonts); and the last vestiges of Gene Vincent-style rock’n’roll was performed in Britain by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates.

Still, while the controversy associated with rock’n’roll had also been superseded by an array of parent-friendly smoothies on both sides of the Atlantic, there is little truth in the often-expressed notion that the US pop scene was uniformly bland before The Beatles came along. On the contrary, from 1960 to the end of 1963, there was a prevalence of material that epitomized the art of the perfectly crafted three-minute pop song.

Among the most successful exponents in this regard were Chubby Checker, whose renditions of ‘The Twist’ and ‘Let’s Twist Again’ incited a new international dance craze; the teams of young composer/producers such as Gerry Goffin & Carole King and Jeff Barry & Ellie Greenwich housed inside New York City’s Brill Building, who turned out hit after classic hit for artists such as The Shirelles, The Shangri-Las, The Chiffons, The Drifters, Little Eva, Connie Francis, The Crystals and The Ronettes; Phil Spector, whose slick, echo-bathed ‘Wall of Sound’ creations added an entirely new dimension to record production; the in-house roster of songwriters, producers and artists assigned to Detroit’s Motown label, whose dynamic soul- and R&B-based numbers were just starting to create waves; and, on the west coast, the surf-and-hot-rod bands led by The Beach Boys, whose brilliant singer-songwriter/arranger Brian Wilson was setting new pop standards by distinguishing fairly basic three- or four-chord songs with intricate four- and five-part harmonies.

In essence, although rock’n’roll had rebelled against the overt professionalism and sterility of the popular music that preceded it, the logical progression that took place during the early 1960s consisted of the aforementioned exponents, drawing on Tin Pan Alley’s skilled and methodical approach towards songwriting in order to raise pop to the next level. What’s more, while the likes of Brian Wilson helped set the precedent for artists writing and even producing their own songs, thanks to Wilson and Spector there was an increasing emphasis placed on the record’s sound as well as its musical content. Not only was the studio evolving...

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Source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music, general editor Paul Du Noyer


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