Rock bands of the 60s: cultural and musical revolution

Rock bands of the 60s: cultural and musical revolution
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The best Rock bands that marked the 60s, with experimentation and innovation, sealed the foundations of Rock and the electric guitar.

Rock bands of the ’60s

The 60s were a time of cultural and musical revolution. It was a decade in which rock became a powerful force, and the electric guitar established itself as the emblematic instrument of the genre. From the rise of legendary bands to the development of new styles and techniques, the ’60s saw the birth of a new musical era. In this article, we’ll explore the most notable rock bands of the 1960s and their impact on music history.

You may be interested in learning more about the history and evolution of Rock ‘n Roll in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s.

The best rock bands of the 60s

  • The Beatles
  • The Rolling Stones
  • Pink Floyd
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  • Led zeppelin
  • The Kinks
  • The Who
  • The Velvet Underground
  • The Doors
  • The Byrds
  • Cream
  • Deep Purple
  • Black Sabbath
  • Genesis
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Allman Brothers

Of course, there are many other great Rock bands that have the merits to be included in this list such as The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Yardbirds, The Animals, The Monkees, The Beach Boys, The Small Faces, The Zombies and many, many more.

The Beatles

The Beatles the most influential rock band that emerged in the 60s of all time.

The decade of the 60 could not begin without mentioning The Beatles. This Liverpool quartet, formed in 1960 by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, forever changed the music landscape. Their fusion of catchy melodies, perfect vocal harmonies, and clever lyrics made them global phenomena. The sound of The Beatles’ early years is characterized by the use of the iconic Vox AC15 and AC30 amplifiers.

Their most popular songs in the 60s were “Twist & Shout”, “Love Me Do”, “Come Together”, “Yesterday”, “Hey Jude”, “Penny Lane” and many more masterpieces by this legendary rock band.

Combining the brilliant songwriting skills of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the masterful guitar playing of George Harrison, and the solid rhythmic foundation of Ringo Starr, The Beatles revolutionized pop music and laid the foundation for modern rock.

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones is one of the best Rock bands of the 60s.

The Rolling Stones formed in 1962 and embodied the rebellious rock ‘n’ roll of the ’60s. With Mick Jagger on vocals and the charismatic presence of Keith Richards on guitar, the band established a raw and powerful sound. Their unique style, mixing blues, rock and R&B, gave them an unmistakable identity. Known for his ability to create unforgettable guitar riffs, Keith Richards used open tunings on iconic songs like “Brown Sugar” and “Street Fighting Man.”

Songs that stand out from the band are “Satisfaction”, “Paint It, Black” and “Sympathy For The Devil” among many other hits.

Furthermore, the musical rivalry between The Rolling Stones and The Beatles became one of the most famous rivalries in rock history.

Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd one of the best Rock bands of the 70's.

Pink Floyd stood out for their experimental approach and their ability to create immersive sound atmospheres. Led by Syd Barrett and later by Roger Waters, the band formed in 1965 became a reference in progressive rock. David Gilmour joined Pink Floyd in 1968, replacing Syd Barrett. Gilmour is known for his soulful playing style and iconic solos, such as the one on “Comfortably Numb”.

In addition, his album “The Dark Side of the Moon” from 1973 is considered a masterpiece with classic songs like “Money” and “Time”.

You may be interested in knowing more about the secrets of the Gilmour vs. Waters rivalry within Pink Floyd.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, the guitarist's Rock band that revolutionized the way of playing the electric guitar.

The formation of The Jimi Hendrix Experience took place in 1966 and consisted of Jimi Hendrix on guitar and vocals, Noel Redding on bass, and Mitch Mitchell on drums. Jimi Hendrix, with his virtuoso talent and his ability to experiment with the electric guitar, broke barriers and set new standards in the world of music. His innovative style, combined with his stage presence and his magnetic charisma, made him a rock icon and legend.

The most popular songs from The Jimi Hendrix Experience are “Purple Haze”, “Hey Joe”, “All Along the Watchtower” and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”.

Hendrix was known for his mastery of the Fender Stratocaster guitar, which he brought to life with his unique technique and revolutionary approach. He is also remembered for his performance at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, where his rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on guitar became a historic moment.

Visit our guide to Jimi Hendrix style, tone and gear.

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin was formed in 1968 in London, with Jimmy Page on guitar, Robert Plant on vocals, John Paul Jones on bass and keyboards, and John Bonham on drums. With their style of heavy and experimental rock, the band became one of the most influential of the decade and laid the foundation for hard rock and heavy metal. His mix of blues, hard rock and folk created a unique and powerful sound. Additionally, their self-titled debut album, released in 1969, is considered one of the greatest rock albums of all time.

His most successful songs are “Stairway to Heaven”, “Black Dog”, “Whole Lotta Love” and “D’Yer Mak’Er” among many others.

Jimmy Page is recognized as one of the greatest guitarists of all time. His virtuosity and his use of techniques like the violin bow on the guitar, as heard on “Dazed and Confused” made him an electric guitar legend.

Also, you might be interested in our selection of the 16 most iconic guitar amplifiers in the history of Rock.

The Kinks

The Kinks one of the most emblematic English Rock bands of the 60's.

The Kinks formed in London in 1964 and were fronted by brothers Ray Davies on vocals and guitar, and Dave Davies on lead guitar. This band was noted for its witty lyrics and varied musical style, exploring social and cultural issues of the time. Also, The Kinks stood out for their social narrative and their mix of rock and elements of British music hall.

Some of their best known songs are “You Really Got Me” and “Waterloo Sunset” which catapulted them to success.

Dave Davies, guitarist and brother of Ray, is known for his innovative use of distortion on guitar on “You Really Got Me”, which is considered one of the earliest examples of the use of power chords in rock.

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The Who

The Who one of the most revolutionary rock bands of the 60s.

The Who, a band formed in 1964 with Roger Daltrey on vocals and Pete Townshend on guitar, became one of the most influential and explosive bands of the 1960s. Their energetic music and defiant attitude resonated with the youth of the epoch. Roger Daltrey on vocals, Pete Townshend on guitar, John Entwistle on bass, and Keith Moon on drums created an aggressive and powerful sound that influenced later generations of musicians.

Pete Townshend popularized the “windmill” technique, in which he would swing his arm around to strike chords with great force on his guitar, creating a distinctive and electrifying sound.

The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground, a cult band from the 60s.

The Velvet Underground formed in New York in 1964, led by Lou Reed and John Cale. This band was known for its experimental and avant-garde style, fusing rock with art and poetry. The Velvet Underground was a cult band that pushed the boundaries of mainstream rock. Although they did not achieve great commercial success at the time, their influence on subsequent music was significant.

Popular songs by The Velvet Underground are “Sunday Morning”, “Venus in Furs”, “Heroin” and “Pale Blue Eyes”.

Sterling Morrison, the band’s guitarist, stood out for using feedback and distortion techniques to create unique soundscapes and textures on songs like “Heroin” and “Sister Ray”. While Lou Reed experimented with different tunings and effects on his guitar, creating unique and atmospheric sounds. In addition, his album “The Velvet Underground & Nico” (1967), produced by Andy Warhol, is considered a masterpiece of experimental rock.

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The Doors

The Doors, a psychedelic rock band from the 1960s.

The Doors, led by Jim Morrison, fused rock with poetry and psychedelia. Led by Jim Morrison on vocals, Ray Manzarek on keyboards, Robby Krieger on guitar, and John Densmore on drums, The Doors created a unique sound that blended rock, blues, and classical music elements. The band formed in Los Angeles in 1965 was noted for its dark and distinctive sound, fueled by Ray Manzarek’s keyboards and Morrison’s punchy lyrics. Thus, they became one of the most influential bands of the 60s.

His most popular songs are “Light My Fire”, “Riders on the Storm” and “Break on Through (To the Other Side)”.

Robbie Krieger, the band’s guitarist, created memorable riffs on songs like “Light My Fire” and “Love Me Two Times”, combining blues and flamenco influences. Also, although The Doors did not have a traditional bassist, Ray Manzarek took responsibility for playing the bass lines on the keyboard with his left hand while playing the keyboards with his right hand. This unusual setup allowed Robby Krieger’s guitar and Jim Morrison’s vocals to shine onstage.

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The Byrds

The Byrds formed in Los Angeles in 1964 and pioneered the fusion of rock with elements of folk and country. This band consisted of Roger McGuinn on guitar and vocals, Gene Clark, David Crosby, Chris Hillman, and Michael Clarke. With their distinctive vocal harmonies and jangly guitar sound, The Byrds left an indelible mark on the music of the decade.

The Byrds, with their characteristic sound of 12-string guitars and vocal harmonies, became benchmarks in folk rock. This band formed in 1964 published famous songs like “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! turn! Turn!” which became hymns of the time.

Roger McGuinn, the band’s leader and guitarist, popularized the use of the Rickenbacker 12-string, creating a bright and distinctive sound texture.

Cream

Cream, formed in 1966 and with Eric Clapton on guitar, became one of rock’s first “supergroups”. Their fusion of blues, rock and psychedelia made them stand out. Eric Clapton, nicknamed “Slowhand”, is recognized for his exceptional ability on the guitar. His bluesy style and his soulful solos, such as on “Crossroads” and “White Room”, made him one of the greatest guitarists of the era.

Take a look at the incredible history of Blackie, the great Fender Stratocaster of Eric Clapton.

Deep Purple

Deep Purple, with their powerful hard rock sound and instrumental virtuosity, left an indelible mark on rock history. The band was formed in 1968 and achieved great popularity thanks to mythical songs such as “Smoke on the Water” and “Highway Star”, which made them icons of the genre. Ritchie Blackmore, guitarist of the band, is considered one of the best guitarists in the history of rock, standing out for his virtuoso and unique style, based on the use of techniques such as bending and the use of tremolo in his solos.

Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath, led by Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi, formed in 1968. This band is considered a pioneer of the heavy metal genre. Their dark and heavy sound, fused with gloomy and satanic lyrics, laid the foundation for an entire genre. The fathers of heavy metal became popular thanks to iconic songs like “Paranoid” and “War Pigs”. Tony Iommi, the band’s guitarist, lost the tips of his fingers in an accident, adapted his playing style using prosthetic fingers and lower tunings, creating a uniquely dark sound.

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Genesis

Genesis, founded in 1967, began as a progressive rock band fronted by Peter Gabriel and then evolved into a more pop sound with the arrival of Phil Collins as lead vocalist. His ability to tell stories through music and his sonic innovation made them an influential band. Standout songs from Genesis “Watcher Of The Skies”, “In the Cage”, and “Dance On A Volcano”, among others. Steve Hackett, a Genesis guitarist in Peter Gabriel’s time, used tapping techniques and arpeggios on songs like “Firth of Fifth”, demonstrating his prowess on the instrument.

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Creedence Clearwater Revival, formed in 1967 and fronted by John Fogerty, blended rock, country and blues into their own distinctive style. Their raw and direct sound made them one of the most beloved bands of the time. Its popularity was catapulted thanks to classics like “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” and “Cotton Fields” among other great songs. John Fogerty, in addition to being a talented vocalist, created unforgettable guitar riffs on songs like “Bad Moon Rising” and “Fortunate Son.”

Also, you might be interested in our guide on the best brands of electric guitars.

Allman Brothers

Allman Brothers, a band founded in 1969, are one of the most influential southern rock bands of the time, thanks to their fusion of blues, rock and jazz elements. His lengthy improvisations and twin guitar harmonies, performed by Duane Allman and Dickey Betts, became his hallmarks. His most popular songs are “Whipping Post”, “Midnight Rider” and “Ramblin’ Man”. Duane Allman, renowned for his slide guitar playing, left an indelible mark on the guitar world with his soulful solo on Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla.”

Final Thoughts on ’60s Rock Bands

The 1960s were a golden age for rock, and these bands left an indelible mark on music history. From the worldwide phenomenon of The Beatles to the powerful sound of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, the decade was filled with innovation and experimentation. The electric guitar became a symbol of rebellion and artistic expression, and the guitarists in these influential bands set standards for technique, creativity, and style. His legacy lives on to this day and continues to inspire generations of musicians and rock lovers.

Do not miss the review on the best electric guitar models of all time.


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Federico Valle

I've been a guitarist since I was 13 years old, which means 30 years with music. I studied guitar construction for three years. Also, I am an equipment enthusiast with a collection of guitars that cover practically all styles. In addition, I owned more than a hundred guitars.

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