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#TBT: '60s Studio Rock

by Barry Walters

#TBT: '60s Studio Rock


About this playlist

The 1970s may have been when multitrack recording reached its apogee (which you can check out for yourself with last week's '70s Studio Rock playlist), but the real renegade experimentation took place in the '60s, when musicians, producers, engineers and rapidly advancing technology all pushed the boundaries of what was sonically possible. Nearly every style that blossomed in that decade -- surf music, operatic pop, girl groups, Motown, British Invasion, acid rock, baroque pop, sunshine pop, bubblegum and psychedelic soul -- was facilitated by electronic gadgets and studio techniques that defined each respective genre. This playlist is a celebration of all those sounds of the '60s that were impossible to re-create onstage.

Whereas the early rock 'n' roll records of the '50s typically captured the live sound of relatively straightforward bands, much of the most enduring music of the '60s was created by particular combinations of vocalists, players and artificially created acoustic environments that could only exist in the studio. If a band member couldn't play what the songwriter, arranger or producer had in mind, it was common practice to replace him or her. Decades before today's digital correcting devices, singers had to actually hit the notes, although they frequently got help from healthy doses of reverb, double-tracking and background vocalists. Radio-ready records were often first mixed in mono, but engineers often went bananas with subsequent stereo mixes that panned singers and musicians back and forth from speaker to speaker, or isolated them on separate channels.

These were the records that employed all the tricks of the 1960s recording studio to suggest what it was like to ride a wave, or fall madly in love with the bad boy, or find yourself over your head with mind-altering drugs, or fear the draft, or defy social expectations, or any number of overwhelming emotional and physical states. It was a time of cultural upheaval, and so many of these are utterly tumultuous records. Even the happy ones are extreme.

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