Global Rock Legends
In honour of his recent Nobel Prize for Literature, the preview contains an excerpt from the Bob Dylan section of the book.
MOST of us born in and around the 1950s probably never got much time, in later years, to sit back and ponder the impact that growing up in the 1960s and 1970s – when there was an unprecedented outpouring of innovative music – had on our lives.
We were raised on vinyl records, starting, for me anyway, with the Big Five – the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix – but obviously overlapping with a whole host more.
For most of us this phenomenon was simply part of our upbringing. While many “lived” for their music – like kids today are obsessed with computer games, cellphones, iPods and the Net – few of us had the time or inclination to make even a half-serious study of it.
Now, as we mature like a good cabernet sauvignon, those legends are literally a dying breed. And suddenly we come to realise that we lived through two incredible decades of music.
This book is an attempt, by one whose life was shaped by the sounds of that era, to make sense of those special times. By taking each group, or artist, and looking at their biographies and music – especially the lyrics – I hope to rekindle a delight in the soundtrack of our youth. These were the rock pioneers, the people who turned music on its head.
On the southern tip of Africa, in a South Africa under the yoke of apartheid, we were cut off from the Western world not only geographically but also through our increasing isolation due to cultural boycotts and other sanctions. We had no television till the mid-1970s. But we did have music, and it constituted a covert form of rebellion against the strictures of a hypocritical, ultra-conservative regime.
On a personal note, having been born in 1956 and with two older brothers, my childhood was steeped in the A to Z of the good stuff – from Audience to ZZ-Top. In this book, and subsequent parts, I will investigate each group from my personal perspective – and in so doing hope to build up a case for this period to be recognised as the musical equivalent of the Italian Renaissance in art.
I begin by looking at my own early childhood, when my parents’ records were the dominant factor, and follow that with the next stage, when most of our sounds came via the radio. I then plunge into the first few of a vast list of brilliant groups and solo artists who shaped our lives. This not only includes rock groups, but also has a strong bias towards folk music.
So, after exploring my early years, in this book I also take a close look at the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Neil Young as a solo artist, and British blues legend John Mayall.