Fifty years ago the United States was in the middle of a British Invasion. In response to mid-century American blues and rock & roll, the Brits answered with their own version of these styles blended with distinctly English youth culture. Starting with Beatlemania in 1963, wave after wave of music, cinema, and fashion crashed on the shores of popular culture in the states.
A look at the top album chart from February 1965 reveals three critical bands in the top slots, The Rolling Stones with their second album The Rolling Stones No. 2, The Beatles with Beatles for Sale, and the Kinks with their self titled album.
Although there are many other principal bands from this era of pop/rock & roll, including The Who, The Animals (Eric Burdon later of War), and The Yardbirds (Jimmy Page later of Led Zeppelin), the top three from February 1965 are “must listens” for the audiophile.
Although albums included singles designed for radio play, these singles were intended to drive sales of albums. The days of iTunes’ a la carte style song purchase did not exist yet. Fans in the 60s (until the 2000s and streaming music sales) could only buy select singles or whole albums. These recordings were released at a time when album length was constrained by the number of grooves that could fit on a 12 inch 33 1/3rpm LP record (roughly 22 minutes per side).
The Rolling Stones No. 2 comes in at 37 minutes, Beatles for Sale at 34 minutes, and The Kinks at 33 minutes. It was not until laser-read compact discs came out in the early 80s that albums could be extended past the 45 minute limitation of vinyl records. Thus the re-release of these classic albums on disc or digital download often have loads of extras, live cuts, outtakes, and B-sides (the opposite side of a single that was released on 45rpm SP records).
Songs in the 1960s pop and rock were considerably shorter than the average single today. Anything beyond three minutes was considered too long for the radio, and anything over five minutes was often criticized as unlistenable. Yet times were a-changin’ and lengthier tracks began to be more normal. That said, eight of the tracks on Rolling Stones No. 2 come in under three minutes. The Beatles were more pop than the Stones blues-rock ,and thus their music was driving top forty radio play; every track but one on Beatles for Sale is two and a half minutes or less. The Kinks, likewise had an album of almost entirely short tracks by todays standards. Although individual songs such as the Stones’ Time is On My Side, the Beatles’ I’m a Loser, and the Kinks’ You Really Got Me are noteworthy singles, these albums should be listened to as they were intended for the fans who were willing to lay down the three dollars for a dozen or so tracks, as whole albums.