“Today we stand on the brink of a new frontier—the 1960s frontier,” began John F. Kennedy in his acceptance speech at the 1960 presidential election, “the frontier of unknown opportunities and dangers, the frontier of unfulfilled hopes and unfulfilled threats. Aside from being a little ponderous on the word ‘boundary’, the ups and downs he predicted came to fruition and defined a decade.
Amidst race riots, assassinations, wars, massacres and endless tumult, culture has remained a beacon of positive change. “When one of those episodes happened,” Paul McCartney recalled on the Adam Buxton podcast of the wildly disintegrating ’60s and the anxiety that came with the hot spots, “it made you feel, but they didn’t happen every day of the week. ”
The musical explosion presented a jubilant downside. “You would be making new music, developing The Beatles, enjoying the development from being a small cover band to writing simple songs to writing complex songs, so that was the main thing that went on. It really made you feel. The general climate was that this was good – it was a good time, the ’60s, but there would be peaks,” he concluded.
This notion that everything unfolds in a whirlwind of days and that culture is the ever-present eye of the storm is self-evident in hindsight. As the man once said, times were changing and despite the pitfalls, the future belonged to those who could hear it coming. As Neil Young said, “The ’60s was one of the first times when the power of music was harnessed by a generation to bind it together.”
Below we take a look at the year that started for the first time and how it all unfolded. Beginning with Elvis Presley’s promotion to sergeant in the US Army, it became clear that this shiny new thing called pop culture was about to infiltrate everyday life, and we’ve planned that journey below. On top of that, we rounded it all off with a playlist of the best releases at the end of the piece.
The year 1960 in music:
Swinging into the sixties
Frank Sinatra’s silky manner also proves popular in the New Frontiers decade, as his timeless timbre scores a huge hit with “Nice ‘n’ Easy” earlier in the year.
Simone stirs people up
There’s a new voice on the folk scene, prophesying unabashed beauty forever as Nina Simone serves up her first full live album Nina Simone in Newport.
Parity via Payola
Responding to the Payola scandal, the National Association of Broadcasters is imposing hefty fines on any disc jockeys caught accepting payments to play certain labels’ records, creating a more level playing field in the music industry.
A pioneering Newley force
In the UK, David Bowie’s hero and biggest influence, Anthony Newley, ends January strong with his number one hit single ‘Why’.
Elvis Presley landed the biggest hit of the year with “It’s Now or Never”. With over 20 million copies sold, it remains one of the best-selling physical singles of all time to date.
James Brown arrives with his unflinching new album Think! His third studio album sees him pioneering an even more aggressive delivery style than before. Soon this will have a huge impact on the likes of Mick Jagger and other groovers.
The Great Leap of Jazz
John Coltrane’s groundbreaking record proves jazz still has a place in the midst of burgeoning rock ‘n’ roll. giant stepsheralds the future of the genre and is now in the Library of Congress after selling 500,000 copies and gaining universal acclaim.
France conquers Europe
The fifth annual Eurovision Song Contest begins as the competition continues to grow. France wins thanks to Jacqueline Boyer’s rendition of ‘Tom Pillibi’ at London’s Royal Festival Hall.
Bye bye baby
Billy Haley & The Comets land their latest chart hit for a new release with an instrumental version of the Zimbabwean track called “Skokiaan”.
Just for one night
The biggest names in American music unite as Frank Sinatra is joined by Sammy Davis Jr., Elvis Presley, Dean Martin and Mitch Miller Sinatra’s Timex Special for ABC. The reviews are understandably raving.
The death of a legend
In the UK, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Sharon Sheeley are involved in a car accident. Cochran dies in hospital, the other two are seriously injured.
The accompanying policeman takes home Cochran’s confiscated guitar, learns to play and soon has his own music career under the name Dave Dee.
Country singer in dire straits
Johnny Cash releases his first album of the decade, Now, There Was a Song. Obviously the public doesn’t approve of the title as it doesn’t chart anywhere in the world.
don’t stand by me
Ben E. King leaves The Drifters to pursue a solo career and gets snapped by ATCO Records.
An unobtrusive arrival the future
The Beatles, performing as the Silver Beatles, embark on their first ever tour supporting Johnny Gentle in Scotland. The young lads hardly raise an eyebrow.
Chuck Berry unleashes more groundbreaking rock ‘n’ roll with “Rockin’ at the Hops.” The single inspires many British invasion bands that are slowly coming to the fore.
Also in the UK, Eddie Cochran scored a posthumous hit with the eerily titled track “Three Steps to Heaven”. David Bowie goes on to repeat the riff for “Queen Bitch” and “It’s No Game”.
‘Col’ train wreck
The “Battle of Beaulieu” breaks out at an English jazz festival and “Trad” fans launch an attack on the hip “Progressives”.
The winners emerge
Miles Davis provides the answer to who will win this battle as he releases jazz’s most progressive and radical album yet Sketches of Spain.
Rockin’ in the free world
The charts continue to claim rock ‘n’ roll is king, as singles like Cliff Richard & The Shadows’ “Please Don’t Tease” and Duane Eddy’s smashing “Because They’re Young” have become big hits on both sides of the Atlantic prove
Chubby Checker scored a smash hit with the legendary single “The Twist”, which became the third biggest song released in 1960 and a staple of upcoming rock ‘n’ roll live shows.
The future is taking shape
For the first time as The Beatles, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Stu Sutcliffe and Pete Best take the stage to make their debut under their new name in Hamburg, Germany. It is the first of a 48-night residency.
Johnny Cash continues to try to launch his career with the release of the record Ride this trainbut again nobody comes on board and it doesn’t sell.
The Weeping Miracle
Roy Orbison, on the other hand, did far better early in his career as “Only the Lonely,” a Spanish summer hit for the vibrato singing star.
A classic is baptized
The Drifters offer the premiere rendition of one of America’s finest songbook singles, “Save The Last Dance for Me”. Written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, the track brings the band a hit big enough to become the fourth biggest track of the year.
Sam Cooke delivers one of the best songs of the year with “Chain Gang” and scores a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
The doo-wop days are over
Dion DiMucci breaks up with Deon and The Belmonts, leaving the poor old Belmonts with a crooner at Schitts Creek.
Folk finds his voice
Joan Baez releases her self-titled debut album, which received instant acclaim in the burgeoning beat circles of London and Greenwich Village, peaking at number ninth in the UK chart and number 20 in the US.
A soul masterpiece is born
After years of playing in the club circles, Etta James releases her debut album Last but not least! It’s an album that has stood the test of time and is undoubtedly the best that 1960 had to offer. Despite this, it only peaked at number 68 on the US charts.
Is this a joke?
Peter Sellers & Sophia Loren help establish the now-worn path of actors breaking the music charts as ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ becomes a hit.
The last 78 rpm records are sold in the US and UK, paving the way for a transitional period in record making and the growing importance of albums over singles.
Rock ‘n’ roll killed the radio star
Renato Carosone is retiring at the peak of his career, quoting: “I’d rather retire now, riding the wave’s crest, than be tormented later by the idea of rock ‘n’ roll wiping away everything I’ve been into.” so many hard years of work.”
A Playlist – The Best Songs of 1960: