Pop music history

Why the mid-1960s was the golden age of pop music

On a Monday evening in May 1966, Paul McCartney and John Lennon visited a nightclub called Dolly’s in Jermyn Street. The two Beatles were accompanied by two Rolling Stones, Brian Jones and Keith Richards. Already at the club was Bob Dylan, stopping off in London on his European tour. Dylan had first met Lennon and McCartney nearly two years earlier at the Delmonico Hotel in New York. All four Beatles, then in the first flush of American success, had gone to meet him after playing to thousands of screaming teenagers at a tennis stadium in Queen’s. Their fascination with his lyrical and emotional maturity was already showing in their songs.

From Liverpool’s Cavern to the world stage: how the Beatles became a global phenomenon

When the Beatles’ first authorised biographer, Hunter Davies, clinched the deal in 1967, his publisher remarked that ‘we know everything we could possibly know about the Beatles and they’ll disappear soon’. In that same year, the philosopher Bryan Magee adopted an incredulous tone in the Listener: ‘Does anyone seriously believe that Beatles music will be … part of daily life all over the world in the 2000s?’ But here in the recently released statistics for the Top Ten global recording artists of 2019, among the Taylor Swifts and the Ed Sheerans, 50 years after they broke up — let me introduce you to the band you’ve known for all these

Even in the Swinging Sixties, Ray Davies was feeling nostalgic

At first glance, nostalgia does not seem like a subject much suited to exploration via the medium of the pop song; after all, this is the topic which inspired, at least in part, Ulysses and A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, two of the greatest and longest novels of the 20th century. What can one say in three minutes that hasn’t already been said in six volumes? On the one hand, we have such warnings from history as ‘Those Were the Days’ by Mary Hopkin or Terry Jacks’s implacably awful ‘Seasons in the Sun’, a rendition of Jacques Brel’s ‘Le Moribond’ which loses not just something but everything in translation.