The 1960s is often described as a “golden era” of music and it was a time when popular music underwent massive change. Young people found a new freedom to express themselves and that was reflected in the music, which was often rebellious and questioned society’s values.
The first UK number one of the 1960s was “What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For” by Emile Ford and the Checkmates and the last UK number one of the 1960s was “Two Little Boys” by Rolf Harris.
The most weeks a song spent at number one in the UK was 8 and that accolade was shared by “It’s Now or Never” by Elvis Presley, “Wonderful Land” by the Shadows and “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies.
It is impossible to talk about 1960s music without mentioning The Beatles. They had 17 UK number one records during the 1960s and are arguably the most famous band of all time. Their first number one was “From Me to You” in May 1963 and their last number one was “The Ballad of John and Yoko” in June 1969. The Beatles split up in 1970 and never got back together again.
The biggest selling single of the 60s was “She Loves You” by the Beatles, which sold more than 1.89 million copies. The Beatles had four of the five biggest selling singles of the 60s; along with “She Loves You” were “I Want to Hold Your Hand” at 2, “Can’t Buy Me Love” at 4 and “I Feel Fine” at 5. Total dominance by The Beatles was only prevented -- incredibly -- by Ken Dodd’s “Tears.”
The Beatles dominated the albums chart too with “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” at number 1 and they had seven of the top ten albums of the 1960s. The three remaining places were taken by soundtracks with “The Sound of Music” at number 2, “South Pacific” at number 5 and “West Side Story” at number 10. The next album that was neither by The Beatles nor a soundtrack was “Bookends” by Simon and Garfunkel at number 14.
The BBC used to play popular music as part of “BBC Light Programme”, which started in 1945, but the corporation felt pop music needed its own station. In 1967, The BBC Light Programme became Radio 2 and Radio 1 was launched to compete with pirate radio stations for pop music listeners. Tony Blackburn was the first DJ to broadcast on Radio 1 and the first record he played was “Flowers in the Rain” by the Move, followed by “Massachusetts” by the Bee Gees.
The 1960s saw the start of the rock festival as a live venue for bands and artists. Undoubtedly the most famous of all was Woodstock, which was held in a 600 acre dairy farm near Bethel, New York. Richie Havens was the first person to sing at Woodstock, just after 5PM on Friday 15 August 1969. A plethora of famous names played the venue, including the Who, Santana, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jefferson Airplane and Joe Cocker, and Jimi Hendrix closed the concert at approximately 11:10 AM on Monday 18 August 1969.
There were big festivals in the UK too. Perhaps the most famous were the Isle of White Festivals of 1968, 1969 and 1970 featuring Bob Dylan, Tyrannosaurus Rex, the Band, the Pretty Things, the Who, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and Jefferson Airplane amongst others.
These festivals became icons for the hippie movement, which was predominant at the time.