I’m always wondering why the 60’s and 70’s were such a golden age of music. I was born in 1978 so I am not clouded by nostalgic feelings. I don’t mean that good music stopped being made after the 70’s, only that across the board quality was higher then that it has been since. Even many banal pop songs of that time feature some great musicianship.
I think a lot of it has to do with money. Artists were allowed to indulge then. Kevin Russell always talks about how the music industry from that time was decadent. A lot of those artists were allowed to live in a drug fueled world of fantasy and wealth. I remember reading that Pink Floyd sent a photographer to capture pictures of the great pyramids for Dark Side of the Moon. Just those pictures cost more than most people spend to make the actual album these days!
I also think that the record business was in the hands of people that knew how to exploit it for money, but not control it. By that I mean they knew how to use artists and their talents to make money, but now it just seems like they stick a pretty face and digitally do whatever needs to be done to make the music sellable. Real artists do things like challenge corporations politically on occasion. You don’t want too many of those kinds of people running around with too much money.
There were also a lot less distractions. Lord knows how many people are fucking around on the internet when they could be writing a song. Look at me right now!
Technological limitations of the time also required that people really be able to perform and play in the studio. When you have some limitations on what you can do, technology wise, you have to be creative. You have to find some way to make the sounds in your head without just pushing a button. When they used to create the sound of echo in the studio they actually had a box called an echo chamber that created real echoes! Digital effects are getting better, but nothing substitutes for a real echo.
Getting back to distraction, there was also some kind of artistic community, especially if you look towards the 60’s. It seems like so many people are off on their own trip now.
There was also the antiwar movement, civil rights, and so many great political struggles that people that were college age were participating in, which is precisely the age when people begin to really come of age with their personal stamp on art.
I think drugs played a big part too. It was the kinds of drugs that people are on. A great deal of psychedelics will inspire some weird shit to be cranked out! I just read this morning that most of one of Funkadelic’s albums was recorded in one day and they were all tripping! I’m also reading Neil Young’s autobiography right now. He basically says he was high from 18 to 65. That will definitely move the mind in new directions.
This is a topic that I have talked about before. I am always curious about why certain things in the culture lead to creative high points in some field. Look at TV right now. Everyone is calling it the golden age of television. There are several cultural and economic reasons why this is so. But that, my friends, is for another day.