‘The Sixties’ is the name of Bowen’s newest band for two reasons: it’s the minimum age for membership and it’s the only era of music the band plays.
Band members Peter Clarke, Peter McLean, David Graff and Terry McKeown have more than 200 years of musical experience between us, all having started in our early teens–– playing ‘60s music when it was new. That music changed our lives and shaped our futures in ways we couldn’t imagine.
Starting a new decade is always a reminder that we tend to define life by these otherwise random 10-year time periods. Just because events happened in the ‘50s or ‘70s or ‘90s doesn’t mean they share any unique historic character. But if there was ever a decade that deserves its branding in our memories, it’s the ‘60s. It’s not that the decade had just one mood or style or was really a time of “peace, love, and understanding” throughout; bad things happened––like the assassinations of an American president and a civil rights icon, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, student protests, election violence. Really, there was more bad than good in the ‘60s. But one thing saved the decade and gives it that fuzzy glow in our collective memory: the music.
In music, the ‘60s were unique. We’re used to seeing pop music styles change with every new high school freshman class and be defined entirely by the youth market. But until The Beatles played the Ed Sullivan Show in 1963, the record companies and radio stations that were the star-maker machinery of pop music were almost entirely devoted to serving adult tastes. The Beatles took over North American radio, and everything changed. Discovering the youth market wasn’t an act of altruism by the music industry. But it had a huge effect on popular music forever more.
In other eras, there was generally only one genre of pop that dominated the charts at any time. But in the ‘60s everything musical was possible and happened. The Billboard Hot 100 for 1968 included pop (The Beatles, The Rascals), rock (Rolling Stones, Steppenwolf), hard rock (Cream, Vanilla Fudge), country (Jeannie C. Riley, O.C. Smith), Latin (Sergio Mendez, Jose Feliciano), R&B (Sam & Dave, Aretha Franklyn), alternative rock (The Doors, Status Quo), adult contemporary (Tom Jones, Bobby Goldsboro), bubblegum (1910 Fruitgum Company, Ohio Express), folk rock (Simon and Garfunkel, Donovan), funk (Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown) and much more. All played back to back on the same radio station.
The point is, when we young wannabe musicians lay in bed listening to a distant pop station on our transistor radios this buffet of musical sounds and styles opened the whole creative world to us. And now, in our sixties, we’re indulging ourselves with a trip back and a tribute to the place we started, playing some of the ‘60s songs we liked the most.
‘The Sixties’ are playing at the Bowen Island Pub on Friday, January 24, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. (There’s no cover charge, but a cash donation to the Food Bank would be appreciated.) If you’re old enough, it will stir up some memories for you. If you’re younger, you’ll hear what pop music sounded like when it was shiny and new.