The Hottest Rock Music Of The Sixties: From 1960 to 1969

April 26, 2021

60s rock isn’t so easily defined. You can’t really put Elvis and Hendrix in the same box. There were so many artists that made their own kind of music and blurred the lines between genres. Some rock bands delved into pop, and some pop artists fell into psychedelia.

If you want to get to know 60s rock music and discover some of the hottest records of the decade, let’s start at the begining. Back to the birth of rock as we know it today.

The Hottest Rock Records Of 1960

If we tune in to the radio in 1960, we’d hear that jazz is still around. But as the year rolled on, we’d hear fewer flutes and saxophones, and we’re saying hello to more fast-paced tunes that we can twist to.

Due to the success of rock n roll of the fifties, something is becoming a regular feature of modern music – the electric guitar.  Apart from pelvis-thrusting Elvis or tuxedo-wearing Michael Holliday, there are some pretty interesting guitar sounds coming from the ol’ radio that I’d love to you to hear. Click the record and listen to some of my personal recommendations from the year 1960.

Elvis Elvis Is Back

After serving two years in the army, Elvis released his much anticipated album, Elvis Is Back. Even though he was the king of rock n roll, this record was his first step into other genres like gospel, pop and soul. A direction he would continue to pursure throughout the sixites.

The Everly Brothers A Date With The Everly Brothers

The Everly Brothers infused country with rock n roll. They became well known for how well their harmonies. The stand out track on this album is ‘Cathy’s Clown’ – a song that will stick in your head for years.

The Crickets In Style With The Crickets

After the death of lead singer Buddy Holly, Earl Sinks and Sonny Curtis stepped up on their 1960 record which is full of some great rock n roll hits. Including the original ‘I Fought The Law’ and ‘Baby My Heart’. It also has an awesome cover of ‘Great Balls Of Fire’.

Brenda Lee Brenda Lee

Even though rock n roll was a man’s world, Brenda Lee showed up with her spunky number of rock n roll style songs. They included major hits including ‘Sweet Nothin’s’ and ‘I’m Sorry’. She had released rocking around the christmas tree in the previous year which put her on the rock n roll map.

Billy Fury The Sound Of Fury

There seemed to be many Elvis alikes everywhere but few put their own spin on it. But English singer Billy Fury wrote his own music. The Sound became one of the best examples of early sixties rock n roll.

Elmore James Blues After Hours

Even though Elmore wrote many great blues tracks in his lifetime, he only released one studio album. Blues After Hours contained some of his best work including ‘Dust My Blues’ and ‘Standing At The Crossroads’. Elmore was extremey important to rock, and was a major influence to the Rolling Stones.

The Hottest Records Of 1961

Thanks to the increasingly popular sport of surfing and Elvis’ Blue Hawaii movie, everyone is donning flowery shirts and heading for the beach. Young musicians are working hard to create the perfect sound to accompany it.

Cashing in on the trend, Fender Guitars have just incorporated the use of the ‘wet’ spring reverb which gives the guitar a wave-like sound. While Fender teamed up with surf rock guitarist Dick Dale to create some interesting sounds, rock n roll was prevailing.

Wanda Jackson There's A Party Goin On

Wanda earned the title of the queen of rockabilly. Her fiesty voice was the perfect match to the rock n roll style. This album features some of her best rock n roll tracks before she veered off into the world of country. Listen to ‘Hard Headed Woman’ and the title track to fall in love with Wanda.

Roy Orbison Sings Lonely & Blue

While all the rockers were trying to portray their masculinity, Roy sang about heartbreak and being in love. It earned him the nickname ‘the caruso of rock’. In Sings Lonely & Blue, Roy said his vocals flowers on the record. More specifically on his hit song ‘Only The Lonely’.

Del Shannon Runaway With Del Shannon

Del Shannon was one of the original rockers of the sixties. His 1961 album is now regarded as one of the record that bridged the gap between rock n roll and the upcoming British invasion. The record contained his number one hit ‘Runaway’.

Johnny Burette Sings

When Johnny released one of his most popular singles, ‘Little Boy Sad’, he suffered from a ruptured appendix and was bed ridden for weeks. It left him unable to promote the single and his record Sings. Despite that, the rockabilly record did well. I wonder how well it would have done if it had been promoted.

John Dee & The Starliters Live At The Peppermint Lounge

It all began at the Peppermint lounge – the hottest place in New York. Judy Garland and Shirley McClaine, Truman Capote were a few of the lounge’s famous guests. This record, recorded live at the club is a sample of what a rock n roll night sounded like. In 1961

Rick Nelson Rick Is 21

Ricky Nelson had been a teen idol with a love for rock n roll. He starred in a nuber of TV shows to promote his records. Alhough Ricky loved rock n roll he recorded country and jazzy songs to appeal to a larger audience.

Best Rock Records Of 1962

This year has gone Space Age. New Sci-Fi programs like Star Trek and Doctor Who are inspiring shiny outfits and lava lamps are the talk of the town. Even a brand new instrumental band called The Spotnicks have become inspired by the trend and are wearing space suits while they perform.

Fashion is also getting into the futuristic theme; the bikini is finally being accepted by the prudes and mini skirts are appearing on the runway. Women are starting to believe that they can wear whatever they want, bless em.

The Spotnicks Out-A-Space

The Spotnicks were one of the most succesful instrumental bands of the sixties. As one of their gimmicks, they wore spacesuits on stage which paired nicely with their innovative guitar sounds. One of their most popular records is ‘Orange Blossom Special’.

Fats Domino Legends Of Rock n Roll

Fats Domino was one of the original rock n rollers. Even Elvis Presley attributed his success to the influence of Fats Domino. Legends Of Rock N Roll is just an example of his genius including ‘Blueberry Hill’ and ‘Ain’t That A Shame’.

Howlin Wolf Howlin Wolf Album

The Howlin’ Wolf Album was nicknamed the ‘Rocking Chair Album’ and became a rock n roll legend of an album influencing the likes of Rolling Stones, Cream, Led Zepplin and so many more. ‘Little Red Rooster’ and ‘Back Door Man’ have become essentiial listening for the rock n roll fan.

Lightnin' Hopkins Mojo Hand

Lightenin’ spent years without a backing band. His shortcomings had forced him to develop a style of playing that was a mixture of percussion, rythmn and bass all at the same time. For this, he became known as one of the greatest guitarists of all time.

Tommy Roe Shelia

Tommy climbed to the top of the charts in 1962 with his hit ‘Sheila’. Even though he rose to stardom, he was reluctant to give up his steady job in electrics. Until his record company managed to pursuade hm with a big advance. It paid off, Tommy went on to have a long and lengthy career in music after that.

The Isley Brothers Twist & Shout

‘Twist & Shout’ gave them their first top 40 hit. Though lord knows why their previously penned song ‘Shout’ didn’t get higher than number 47. The Isley Brothers’ record incorporated the sounds of RnB with elements of rock. It also includes the ballad ‘Time After Time’ which showcases how beautiful Robert Isley’s voice is.

Best Rock Records Of 1963

While California’s surf rock is gaining popularity, here in Britain a contemporary style of music has birthed a new underground scene in 1963.

If you head to Liverpool, the Cavern Club would be a place that is HIGHLY reccomended. In 1963 it’s full of the creme de la creme of modern music.

A local man called Bill Harry launched a music magazine called the Mersey Beat. The pages are full of the best upcoming bands in the city, where to go and who to see. It has become the Beat Music bible and everyone is competing for a place in its pages and one band, in particular, has become a regular feature…

The Beatles Please Please Me

By 1963, The Beatles has arrived. Their debut went straight to the number one spot. Out of the 14 tracks, eight were composed by John Lennon and McCartney. The begining of a long partnership in song writing.

Brian Poole & The Tremeloes Twist & Shout

Gerry & The Pacemakers How Do You Like It?

Gerry & The Pacemakers were the second band that Brian Epstein took from Liverpool. The first record was a success following the popular single ‘How Do You Like It?’. The record also featured ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ which became a football anthem, still used today.

The Chantays Pipeline

The Searchers Meet The Searchers

Another great example of the Merseybeat sound. Although the record contains a lot of covers, the Searchers shot up the album charts, especially due to their single ‘Sweets For My Sweets’. They covered a lot of American RnB including the Isley Brothers and Ben E King. They were a lot of songs that you’d find a lot of Merseybeat artists covering too.

The Sufaris Play

Best Rock Records Of 1964

There’s a new tribe of teenager that everyone is talking about in 1964 – the mods. They’re a subculture born out of the 1950s beat movement. The beats were known for listening to modern jazz, hanging out in coffee bars and writing poetry. Simarlily, Mods hang out in coffee bars too but drive to them in elaborate scooters and listen to rhythm and blues.

So how do you spot a mod? Their uniform consists of stylish bob cuts and striped blazers, which sets them apart from those who wear leather jackets and listen to rock n roll. You can find a full guide to Mod fashion here.

The media has been extensively covering the friction between Mods & Rockers. One fight on the English seaside has been hugely sensationalised. Although some people got hurt in the battle, it would make a great story for a movie. Whose side would you pick?

The Dave Clark Five The Dave Clark Five Return

The Rolling Stones Rolling Stones

The Kinks Kinks

Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders The Collection

The Animals Animals

The Rockin Berries They're In Town

Best Rock Records Of 1965

It’s 1965 and everyone is talking about the Vietnam war. Should America be involved in the blood, destruction and murder of the Vietnamese people? There’s a general feeling that we’re on the “Eve of Destruction”.

Artists like Nancy Spero and poets like Allen Ginsberg are taking to their craft to tell the world about peace. But music- not so much unless you’re listening to folk music.

The Zombies Begin Here

The Pretty Things The Pretty Things

The Yardbirds For Your Love

The Who My Generation

The Easybeats Easy

Them The 'Angry' Young Them!

Best Rock Records Of 1966

LSD had just been banned in 1966. But it’s too late. A lot of kids have already tried it, had far-out trips and totally dig it.

What an effect it’s had on culture. This year, art is becoming more colourful, fashion more groovy and music is turning more abstract. Word on the street is that they’re calling it psychedelia and they’re calling anyone who takes drugs “heads”.

The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson has switched from surf waves to waves of paranoia by taking copious amounts of acid. Not great for his mental state, but great for his fans because it has inspired one of The Beach Boys’ greatest pop works – Pet Sounds.

The Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones has also been finding a new source of inspiration through drugs. By picking up unpopular instruments, he has created a new layer to rock n roll music. The Rolling Stones’ cover version of ‘Paint It Black’ has become the first number one song featuring a sitar.

The Byrds drop ‘Eight Miles High‘ and it’s been banned from most radio shows. Although there aren’t any direct connotations to drugs in the lyrics, a bunch of spiffys censored it in case we’d hear it, quit our jobs and become stoners. Does music have that kind of power?

And of course, the Liverpudlian chart-toppers couldn’t miss out on this trend. The Beatles have released their innovative Revolver and shoot up the charts once again. I’ve also heard that John Lennon was spotted at an art gallery, talking to an artist from New York called Yoko Ono…

There’s so much to dig this year, I hope you’ll dig it too!

Donovan Sunshine Superman

The Byrds Fifth Dimension

The Beatles Revolver

The Troggs From Nowhere

The Lovin Spoonful Daydream

The Hollies Bus Stop

Best Rock Records Of 1967

In 1967, a lot of teenagers have run away from home to join the Haight Ashbury hippies. Who are the Haight Ashbury hippies? They drink, they take drugs and, worst of all, they like to enjoy themselves. That is until the wasps begin to attack their floral headpieces.

They’re united by complete freedom of expression and creativity. And do you know what? It works. People in San Francisco are actually getting along. So much that the hippies decided to dub this year “The Summer Of Love”. Though I’m unsure whether everyone does love each other. They might just be high.

What’s the soundtrack to this Summer of gut-wrenching affection? The Beatles, of course. They’ve taken on a new persona and have dubbed themselves “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. Not only have they created a new type of record but it has helped them get out of touring too. The lazy bastards.

This means they miss out on the rising popularity of music festivals. These are huge events where people gather to listen to a number of bands accompanied by a number of drugs.

The best festival this year was the Monterey Pop Festival which lasted for three days. Jefferson Airplane, The Who and Grateful Dead were all on the bill and it cost roughly $3-$6.50 to go. Some say that’s extortion but I say it’s part of giving back to the musicians who need the money to create more music and work on their craft. It’s great to see that they put our hard-earned cash to good use. Especially Jimi Hendrix, who lit his guitar on fire during his set.

My recommendations are out of this world this year. Have a listen!

The Turtles Happy Together

The Kinks Something Else

Cream Disreali Gears

The Beatles Sgt Pepper

The Doors The Doors

The Jimi Hendrix Experience Are You Experienced

Best Rock Records Of 1968

Three days after John Lennon divorced his wife, he’s released a record with an avant-garde artist from New York. Lennon and Yoko Ono’s record is ironically titled Unfinished Music No 1 and it sounds like two foxes mating.

Earlier this year, Lennon was spotted in India visiting the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi along with his fellow Beatles, plus Donovan, Mia Farrow and Mike Love. Following this trip, they denounced drugs in favour of Transcendental Meditation. They also produced a double record that everyone is calling The White Album. It even features another Lennon/Yoko collaboration called ‘Number 9’.

While The Beatles gain spiritual enlightenment, a lot of bands have been splitting up. The Yardbirds, The Zombies, Cream and even Freddie and The Dreamers.

Janis Joplin is also leaving Big Brother and the Holding Company. But a lot of new bands have been emerging. You could say that music is really progressing…

Jimi Hendrix Electric Ladyland

Blue Cheer Vincebus Eruptum

Another San Franciscan export has entered the radio waves. In true Haight Ashbury fashion, they named themselves after a style of LSD and are managed by an inactive member of Hells Angels. Their song ‘Summertime Blues’ is the loudest thing anyone has ever heard. The thunderous guitars woven with Dickie Peterson’s gravelly vocal is totally happeneing.

Big Brother & The Holding Company Cheap Thrills

Steppenwolf Steppenwolf


Rock is really putting the pedal to the metal this year. A new Canadian band called Steppenwolf have produced an anthem for bikers and rockers alike with their song “Born To Be Wild’. Their debut album is full of similar “heavy metal thunder” with songs like ‘Sookie Sookier’ and ‘The Pusher’. An instant classic.

The Beatles White Album

Deep Purple Shades Of Purple

Chris Curtis from the Beat band The Searchers, endeavoured to put a new band together called Roundabout. The concept was that musicians could jump on and jump out of the band like a musical roundabout. They later changed their name to Deep Purple. Although here in the UK, they’re not very popular, in the US they get a warm welcome and are heralded as the “English Vanilla Fudge

Best Rock Records Of 1969

Recently in California, the Valley Of The Dolls actress Sharon Tate and her friends were murdered by a commune who the papers are calling ‘The Manson Family’. At the scene of the crime, they wrote ‘Helter Skelter’ on the wall with the blood of their victims. It’s unclear as of yet whether they’re referring to The Beatles song or a wooden slide.
Also in California, a Rolling Stones concert ended with one of the Hells Angels stabbing a man to death. It was very “out of character” for the outlaw bikers who were policing the event. The band was further plagued by more bad news when their guitarist, Brian Jones was found dead in his swimming pool this year.
But other free concerts did go well including Woodstock. Some of the best in music graced the stage including Janis Joplin who just released her short-titled solo debut I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama.
The Beatles performed a surprise concert on a London rooftop before getting swiftly shut down by the Metropolitan police. This is the first time they’ve played live since 1966 and fans hope this is a rehearsal for a new tour.

Hendrix, George Harrison and Jim Morrison were all arrested this year for separate crimes but all related to drugs… If the tabloids are to be believed, our heroes and favourite musicians are all losing control.

Led Zepplin Led Zepplin II

This new hairy band knocked The Beatles’ new album Let It Be off the top spot of the charts. They sound heavier than Blue Cheer and the vocalist Robert Plant could rival Janis Joplin for her high notes. They’ve released two albums this year, Led Zeppelin I and Led Zeppelin II, the latter being the most succesful featuring ‘Whole Lotta Love’.

Fleetwood Mac English Rose

Rolling Stones Let It Bleed

The Beatles Abbey Road

The Stooges The Stooges

‘1969’ has to be the anthem of this year. The Stooges have this perfect angsty sound that will lead us out of the 60s and into a new century. No one is singing about peace anymore… apart from John Lennon.

Tommy James & The Shondells Crimson & Clover

Now we’ve landed on 1970 and the music game morphs in to a world of glitter, afros and spandex.

But can we take a moment to stop and reflect on the transformation of music in the sixties decade? From rock n roll quiffs to experimental sounds and heavy guitars. So much had changed in those ten short years and they would never be the same again.

Let me know your favourite record in the comments below!

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