Boisdale Life Magazine (Issue 18) - Page 30

Fifty years ago, rock music saw off the Sixties with an
unmatched succession of classic albums and seminal moments.
Johnathan Wingate delves into the dark madness of 1969, and
its culmination with an epoch-making farewell from a recording
studio by a zebra crossing in St John’s Wood...
ooking back through the prism
of time, it can seem as though
musical history was being
made on a daily basis
throughout 1969. If 1967 gave
us the Summer of Love, and 1968 brought
the end of the hippy dream, then it was
the vertiginous highs and desperate lows
of 1969 that produced the true drama –
and an avalanche of classic records and
musical landmarks. From Woodstock to
Altamont, Abbey Road to Let It Bleed,
Led Zeppelin to Miles Davis, it was a year
in music like no other.
1969 marked not just the closing of the
decade, but a changing of the guard. It
began in January with the Beatles making
their final public appearance together on
the rooftop of their Apple headquarters
in Savile Row. Exhausted and fed up,
they were on the brink of splitting, just
as Led Zeppelin were bursting into life
with their ground-shaking debut album,
simply called Led Zeppelin I. If the
Beatles dominated the Sixties with their
message of peace and love, Zeppelin
would bestride the darker, heavier
Seventies rock world. And they put out
not just one, but two albums in 1969 (the
second was, of course, Led Zeppelin II).
Led Zeppelin’s scintillating first two
albums singlehandedly launched the
heavy rock era, while The Stooges (with
their eponymous album) and MC5 (with
Kick out the Jams) introduced punk to the
world. Fairport Convention started the
British folk-rock movement, King
Crimson laid the foundations for prog
with In The Court Of The Crimson King
and The Who released Tommy, the first
rock opera. Want more? Miles Davis
combined jazz with rock, funk and
psychedelia on the trailblazing Bitches
Brew; and artists as diverse as Dusty
Springfield, Captain Beefheart, Scott
Walker and The Band made their most
important LPs.
Yet before the year was out, it was the
Beatles who would deliver the crowning
moment – their finest album of all, and
perhaps the definitive recording of the
1960s: Abbey Road. More later, but how
fitting that this autumn, 50 years on, it
returned to a Number 1 spot.
1969’s musical achievements played
out against tumultuous events on the
world stage. At the beginning of the

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