MIRST Competitors Release (3 of 13): The Demise of Rock & The Promise of Soul, 1959-1963

Note: All information below is based on my notes from my History of Rock course. The songs found at the bottom will be competing in our “Most Influential Rock Song of all Time” (MIRST) tournament, which will begin here at LivingTheDream.org on Sunday, August 20th.

Mike Stoller (L) and Jerry Leiber present a song to Elvis Presley for review in the late 50s. Taken from http://blogcritics.org/going-to-kansas-city-journeying-through/

The Brill Building, located at 1619 Broadway in New York City, became a songwriting factory of sorts and the music business began focusing on the best interests of songwriters. Heading up efforts were Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, who had built a prominent place in the music through the 50s. Also key was Aldon Publishing at 1650 Broadway. At both locations, songwriters worked tirelessly everyday and then at the end of the day matched the songs they wrote with artists on the label.

The music industry almost cynically pushed the business toward teen idols, trying to find a new Elvis that wasn’t as threatening. Valued looks over singing talent. Early important teen idols included Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Bobby Vee, Bobby Vinton, and Bobby Darin.

Phil Spector and the Wall of Sound. Taken from http://scrapetv.com

The rise of the producer can be best epitomized by the rise of Phil Spector & The Wall of Sound. The Wall of Sound refers to Spector’s desire to do records entirely in mono, with all sound coming through a single speaker. Wanted the “biggest sound” possible. Good examples include the Crystals, the Ronettes, and the Righteous Brothers.

Sweet Soul becomes relevant here, and blends of R&B and pop begin to become more prominent. The Drifters, Sam Cooke, & Ben E. King the big hitters here. TV and movie begins to operate as vehicles for marketing music (Blue Hawaii, Viva Las Vegas, Beach Blanket Bingo.) The rise of American Bandstand supports dance crazes (including Chubby Checker’s “The Twist.”)

In response to the lack of depth in the teen idols/dance craze side of things, the Folk Revival begins and has an audience in post-college young adults. The Kingston Trio, The Highwaymen, The Rooftop Singers, and The New Christy Minstrels. Peter, Paul, & Mary in Greenwich Village. Bob Dylan is around, but relegated to songwriting at this time (important to remember that Dylan and Joan Baez, while eponymously folk, did not hit their stride until the mid to late 60s.

Rockabilly popsters emerge as well- safe versions of Elvis. The Everly Brothers hugely influential, both Lennon & McCarthy as well as Simon & Garfunkel have admitted to imitating Everly Brothers style. Ricky Nelson and Roy Orbison.

Dick Dale in a Fender ad. Taken from last.fm

Surf Music emerges in SoCal— can be split into “instrumental” and “vocal” styles. On the instrumental side, Dick Dale is probably the most important guitarist in the history of surf music. On the vocals side, the Beach Boys create a jazz-oriented harmony style of music. Brian Wilson has huge respect for 50’s R&B as well as Phil Spector— when he hears “Be My Baby” for the first time, has to pull his car over on the 101 to listen.

We’re making the leap to Spotify- check out the songs that will be competing below! Note: please comment below if you have problems with the playlist. I want to get feedback now as opposed to when the tournament starts to make sure I’ve got the kinks worked out for a clean start.

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About g-mo

The day I was born, Michael Jackson's Thriller album was at the top of the Billboard 200. I've been trying my best to live up to that expectation ever since.
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