Folk rock! When Worlds Collide. The inevitable and incredible merger of two uniquely American musical genres. Folk Music, performed almost exclusively on acoustic string instruments and “borrowed” its themes and lyrical message from the “Beat Generation” and the “Beat Poets” who came of age and notoriety in the fifties. Folk music gave them a new voice.
Rock and Roll, also originating from the 1950’s was loud, driven, electric, and lays claim to being the first music to divide generations and has been a continuous rich source of controversy and scandal ever since! But! In 1965, inspired and influenced by the British Invasion, in particularly The Beatles, Folk rock was born. SMS has often discussed the many musical genres that were born in the 1960’s and while most musical styles gradually crept into our souls and psyche’s, many music historians can nail down the birth of Folk Rock to a very exact date!
In 1965, both Folk Music and Rock and Roll had fully matured and on July 25th 1965 at the annual Newport folk festival Bob Dylan took the stage ( this was his third appearance) unpacked his Fender Stratocaster,and started playing his new single “Like a Rolling Stone” which had just been released only a few days before. The crowed went crazy, however, to Dylan’s surprise, half the audience was “Booing”
Bob Dylan being booed?…Afterall at this point in time Dylan had reached “Icon” status as Americas leading singer/songwriter and the current Godfather to the world of Folk Music, where “electricity” just simply wasn’t allowed. Dylan purists were outraged, but the rest of the world loved and embraced this new sound. However, as spontaneous as “Dylan goes electric” may have sounded, 3000 miles to the west in Los Angeles “Folk Rock” was taking hold, but even on the west coast Dylan’s influence and contribution was omnipresent. “Like a Rolling Stone” skyrocketed to the top 10….Meanwhile in June of ’65 The Byrds scored their first number one with “Mr. Tambourine Man” a Dylan song. just a few weeks later Columbia releases The Byrds second single. Dylan’s, “All I really want to do”! Ah, but, dear reader it gets better. As “All I Really Want To Do” is climbing up the charts. EMI records releases Chers version of the song. Chers version takes over at radio, shooting past the Byrds and ultimately peaking at #15 with The Byrds stalling at #40. Then, in Sept. perennial Top 40 hit makers, The Grass Roots release their debut single Dylan’s “Ballad of a thin man” ( Mr. Jones ) still later in October of ’65 a former surf band called The Crossfires, recorded another Dylan Composition called “It ain’t me babe” changed their name to The Turtles and Folk Rock takes root. Didja know that The Turtles originally spelled their name Turtles ? A tip of their hat to The Byrds and the British Invasion. Sooo, if you’ve payed attention and did the math, you’ll note that Bob Dylan had six songs by four artists in The Top 40 during the summer of 1965! Dylan went from The Godfather of Folk to ground zero and The High Priest of “Folk Rock!
But wait! There’s one more incestuous Folk rock tid bit….In late 1964 Roger (then Jim) McGuinn and Gene Clark wrote a song called “You Showed Me” It was recorded and released by The Turtles in 1968 and it was their final hit. The Byrds ignored it till 1969 when they released their original demo of the song including it on their Preflyte album.
By the end of ’65 it was clear that the Jingle Jangle of Folk rock was the future and Los Angeles was the place to be. Like the British Invasion, each day you’d turn on the radio and a new, soon to be superstar was playing. In addition to all the inside trading between The Byrds, The Turtles and Dylan, There was The Buffalo Springfield, Poco,The Beau Brummells and The Beach Boys……That’s right, The Beach Boys! Just listen to Sloop John B. And of course, Sonny and Cher!
The Byrds and The Buffalo Springfield would morph into mega stars Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Poco would become Loggins and Messina Cher, would go on to have three or four careers, beginning with her breakthrough hit “All I really want to do followed by multiple hits with hubby Sonny Bono, including their gigantic breakthrough, the very Dylan sounding “I got you Babe” eventually, they would have their own variety T.V show, where their music credibility suffered greatly, but Cher persevered and ventured off on a solo career, again with several hits……Remember “Gypsy’s Tramps and Thieves”….”Dark Lady”….The list goes on up till the eighties with “Believe” at this point Cher was also enjoying a thriving film career ( career number four ).There are so many more Artists, Simon and Garfunkle, The Lovin’ Spoonful and The biggest of all super groups who made the migration from the East Coast to the West. And they had two hits about the process. the first hit was about The dream and motivation to come to L.A. The second hit was a song about the actual struggles and process to relocate to “La La Land ! The band of course was The Mama’s and The Papa’s and the songs were “California Dreamin’ and “Creeque Alley.”
The truth is the title of this post…”John and Mitchy were gettin’ kinda itchy” is taken from a line of lyric from “Creeque Alley” The complete line is, “John and Mitchy were gettin’ kinda itchy just to leave the folk music behind.”……John and Mitchy are John Phillips and his beautiful wife Michelle….essentially the song describes the formation and evolution of The Mama’s and Papa’s and how they gave up the east coast folk scene to move to Southern California ( California Dreamin’ ) and play their unique version of Folk rock!
Finally, there is so much music to choose from but let’s listen to Dylan’s “All I really want to do. First by Cher
And then, The incredible Byrds