Decade Profile – The 1960s

In this edition’s decade profile, we take a year-by-year look at some of the biggest events in music during the 1960s


Elvis Presley’s release from the army in March heralded the return of ‘The King’ and the subsequent releases of ‘Stuck On You’ and ‘It’s Now or Never’ flew straight to number one across the globe. The Motown Records Corporation formed in April and recorded its first top ten hit with ‘Shop Around’ by the Miracles.

Biggest #1 – Elvis Presley – ‘It’s Now or Never’


Motown signed the Supremes, consisting of Diana Ross, Mary Wilson and Florence Ballard. They went on to have 12 #1 singles and remain America’s most successful vocal group to date. This was also the birth year for the Beach Boys and the operatic debut for Luciano Pavarotti.

Biggest #1 – Ben E King – ‘Stand By Me’


‘Telestar’ by the Tornados became the first record by a British group to top the US billboard chart. The Beatles released their first EP ‘Love Me Do’/’P.S. I Love You.’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards met for the first time and went on to form the Rolling Stones.

Biggest #1 – Elvis Presley – ‘Return to Sender’


The Beatles recorded their first #1 with ‘Please Please Me’ and the Rolling Stones released their first single ‘Come On.’

Biggest #1 – The Beatles – ‘She Loves You’


Top of The Pops premiered on BBC television and off-shore pirate radio stations, such as Radio Caroline, were established fronted by the likes of John Peel and Tony Blackburn. The Beatles made their first tour to the US, which included their legendary performance on the Ed Sullivan show. The Rolling Stones made two tours to the US, the ‘British Invasion’ was in full swing and for the first time in pop history America was second to Britain.

Biggest #1 – The Beatles – ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’


Bob Dylan concludes his European tour with two concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, attended by numerous icons, including the Beatles, but later that year he’s booed at the Newport Folk Festival for playing an electric set. Jimi Hendrix signs his first record contract, receiving a total of $1 and a 1% royalty agreement.

Biggest #1 – The Righteous Brothers – ‘Unchained Melody’


In March John Lennon was reported to have claimed that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, sparking mass religious protest across America against the Beatles. Further problems throughout 1966 led to their last official performance, held at Candlestick Park San Francisco. Bob Dylan is once again booed for playing an electric set in Manchester, leading to cries of “Judas”.

Biggest #1 – Frank Sinatra – ‘Strangers in the Night’


1967 saw the release of some iconic and influential albums, including The Velvet Underground’s ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico,’ The Doors’ ‘The Doors’ and the Beatles ‘Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.’ The Montery Pop Festival is held in San Francisco; it’s the world’s first large scale outdoor rock festival and heralds the period known as the ‘Summer of Love’ – now regarded as one the defining moments of the decade.

Biggest #1 – Procol Harum – ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’


Following the disbandment of the Yardbirds, frontman Jimmy Page went on to form Led Zeppelin and they performed their first live show at Surrey University in September 1968. Johnny Cash performed his infamous concert at Folsom State Prison. The Beatles release their double-sided LP ‘The White Album.’

Biggest #1 – The Beatles – ‘Hey Jude’


One of the great defining moments of the 1960s was the Woodstock festival of 1969. With over 500,000 people in attendance, some of the decade’s greatest artists played together in an environment centered around peace and love. It seems fitting that such a decade should culminate with an event of such unprecedented magnitude and that is unlikely to ever be reciprocated.

Biggest #1 – The Beatles – ‘Get Back’

Angus Drummond


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