The Mis-represented 60s
Thursday, 21 October 2010
These days on various radio stations, various D.J’s have developed a trend to concentrate on music of the 60’s – absolutely nothing wrong in that, some great music came out of the 60’s. It was probably the most creative period of popular music since…..well, since the beginning of time.

But, and this is a big but – the 60’s was a damn sight more than the usual stuff you hear played on these programmes by the so called 60’s experts – and yes you know who I’m thinking of! Every time we tune in we hear the usual selection of stuff that you can buy on any sickly supermarket compilation 60’s Summer of Love CD. But the 60’s music vibe had a damn sight more width and depth than these shows give it credit for. The 60’s music scene is like a great iceberg where those 60’s shows play the stuff that can only be seen on the surface. There is whole load of stuff that, for whatever reason, these shows do not, or will not play, the stuff that really counts. Their play lists seem to be so sanitized they could be re-branded as Disney plays the 60’s.

For a start where the edgy stuff? Where’s the stuff by the true experimentalists the bands the really were looking for new directions – in any 60’s radio show when did you last hear a track by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Captain Beefheart, Sun Ra, Kaleidoscope, The Shadows of Knight, The Royal Guardsmen or even The Grateful Dead, to name but a drop in the ocean.

It’s a bit like Mersey Beat – these days that particular 60’s sub-genre seems to have become narrowed down to The Beatles, Gerry and the Pacemakers, and The Searchers. It’s as if The Big Three never existed. What about bands like The Merseybeats, The Swinging Blue Jeans, The Toggery Five (whose song “I’d rather be out with the boys.” is the classic Mersey Beat song). Cilla Black always warrants a play but what about Beryl Marsden? What about playing records by The Paramounts, The Escorts, The Undertakers, Faron and the Flamingos, or Ian and the Zodiacs? For Gods sake it’s not as if this stuff doesn’t exist. In this day and age of the internet and digital downloads, it seems that every track that was ever released (and many that weren’t) are out there and available at the click of a mouse.

All 60’s sub genres suffer this fate – Surf music seems to have been distilled to just the Beach Boys, with a very occasional nod towards Jan and Dean. What about the Ventures or the Fantastic Baggy’s, The Surfaris, The Rip-Chords, The Chantays – or the hundreds of other surf based bands from California and Australia?

Early underground music is also completely misrepresented or ignored – when was the last time you heard a track by The Leaves, Strawberry Alarm Clock, the Lemon Pipers, It’s a Beautiful Day, Peanut Butter Conspiracy, or The Electric Prunes (whose “I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night” is one of the greatest records ever made – but that’s only my opinion and you have to hear it before you can disagree and you wont hear it listening to UK radio stations – that’s the whole point of this rant!)

What about UK bands like Spooky Tooth (whose version of “I am the Walrus” makes the Oasis cover version seem like it was recorded in black and white), Comus, Incredible String Band, Trees, Kippington Lodge, The Idle Race, Tomorrow, or even Sid Barrett’s two solo albums? When you take an in depth look at the stuff that was around you’ll being to realise that these so called 60’s record programmes are only scratching the surface. (Oops, pun not intended. Not the greatest line I’ve ever written, especially when you put it into context of playing records!).

I won’t even go into country music – I mean listening to the BBC you’d think that if it’s not The Eagles it’s just not country! When was the last time you heard Lefty Frizzell or Merle Haggard or Earl Scruggs on the radio?

I don’t know if any of you remember a series of albums called “Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era.” It was a compilation album featuring tracks by US based garage bands released in the mid to late 60’s. Its now available as a four CD box set, and well worth getting. There are other compilations sets around. I’ve got a couple myself. On all of them are tracks that are well worth listening to and stuff we should be listening to now! Is it that the programme compilers have forgotten them? Is it that radio stations like the BBC, paying the royalties to obscure lables and bands is too complicated a procedure? Is it that the researchers just don’t dig deep enough?

For gods sake don’t give us that old chestnut about there being no public demand to listen to such stuff – that’s the ultimate Catch 22, theres no demand so we don’t play it – but if you don’t play it no one knows its there, hence theres no demand. How do you know if you don’t try? OK I’ll believe you if you play a track by an obscure band and thousands ring in to complain – but I’d also bet my last fiver that wouldn’t happen. So come on guys – lets have a bit of diversity let’s look further than the top ten of the time, lets get a torch out and shine it a bit deeper into those vinyl vaults! Theres whole lot of stuff lurking down there to fill your airwaves for the next 20 years.