Liner Notes

The Year That Was: 1967

by Benjamin Ray

One of the legendary years in rock music history, 1967 was a colorful musical kaleidoscope of folk rock, psychedelia, soul and introspective singer-songwriter releases, swirling together in an intense era of creativity and talent. There was groundbreaking music, defining albums, killer singles and influential releases that continue to resonate with new artists more than four decades later.

Probably the biggest release was the Beatles' epochal Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which – along with separate singles "Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever" and follow-up Magical Mystery Tour – broke nearly every rule for how an album was recorded and what could be accomplished. Ranking right up with that one in terms of influence was both Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced? and the Velvet Underground's Velvet Underground and Nico. The latter would go on to inspire the punk and alternative movements that defined the late ‘70s through the mid ‘90s, while Hendrix would become a guitar god, writing bluesy psychedelic rock songs with little precedent and establishing the guitar as the vehicle for rock music.

In British Invasion band happenings, the Moody Blues reformed as a psychedelic rock band and recorded the groundbreaking Days Of Future Passed, which married Brit rock with orchestral passages and became a classic ("Nights In White Satin" is timeless). Cream recorded Disraeli Gears and "Sunshine Of Your Love," Traffic debuted with Mr. Fantasy and the Who recorded the utterly original and entertaining The Who Sell Out, which featured their best song ("I Can See For Miles") and a cool album concept (a pirate radio station, complete with advertisements and jingles).


Other notable debuts included Pink Floyd's Piper At The Gates of Dawn, Moby Grape, Alice's Restaurant and Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow. 1967 also was the first appearance of the Doors, whose The Doors and "Light My Fire" introduced a strange sensation, the alluring yet dark side of the acid trip. The poetry may have been overblown at times but the band could rock. The other major rock band of the day, the Rolling Stones, were busy with their stilted, forgettable Sgt. Pepper's knockoff Their Satanic Majesties Request, although singles "Ruby Tuesday" and "Mother's Little Helper" were solid.

Aretha Franklin offered an impressive run of singles: "Chain Of Fools," "Respect," "A Natural Woman" and "I Second That Emotion," while on the Motown docket we had Smokey Robinson's "Tears Of A Clown" and Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell's soaring "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."

Folk rock was in full swing as well with Songs of Leonard Cohen, Tim Buckley's Goodbye And Hello, Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man," Dylan's John Wesley Harding, the Stone Poneys' "Different Drum" and Judy Collins' "Both Sides Now" all returning to simpler roots at a time when so many others were exploring areas uncharted.


Psychedelia was everywhere, of course, not just in Hendrix and Beatles records but in Love's Forever Changes, the Byrds' Younger Than Yesterday, singles like "Incense and Peppermints," "Green Tambourine," "Time Has Come Today" and "Mellow Yellow," and the Beach Boys' disastrous Smiley Smile, the remnants of Brian Wilson's attempt to write the greatest pop album ever. The Boys' 1966 single "Good Vibrations" soared to the top this year and new single "Heroes And Villains" was an interesting look at what could have been, but the rest of the album didn't come close to matching those two.

Other hit singles from the year: "Let's Live For Today," "Creeque Alley," "The Letter," "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," "The Beat Goes On," "I'm A Man," "(I'm Not Your) Stepping Stone," "Brown-Eyed Girl," "Dance To The Music," "Get Together," "Spooky," "Jimmy Mack," "Soul Man" and "Itchycoo Park," among others.

And that, friends, is the Year That Was in music.

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