Unless you are living under a rock, you’ve heard that The Grateful Dead are playing a pair of “farewell shows” in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. There is an obscene amount of hype over these shows, and they’ve sold about 8 trillion tickets for them. Not bad for a band that NOBODY knows any songs by unless you are a fan. The Dead were a huge cult band, but really didn’t do much to change popular music has a whole. The 60’s were a great time for music in the Bay Area, and there were a lot of bands that were way more important, in my own humble opinion. Feel free to get angry, but here’s a list of 10 undeniably talented bands from the Bay in the 60’s.
#10: The Count Five
Who were The Count Five? They were one of the best know protopunk bands of the 60’s. They had a genuine Top 10 hit with a song that’s both weird and aggressive in a way that was rarely heard again for at least another decade after them.
#9 The Dave Brubeck Quartet
Technically speaking, Dave Brubeck Quartet’s biggest and most influential record, Time Out, was released on December 14th, 1959. Nonetheless, that record alone is a beast of an album. It’s one of the most commercial successful jazz records of all time, all the while each track is in a totally different time signature. It defies all of the conventions of what makes a successful record, and essentially kicked off a whole new era where inventive, exciting music was being marketed to adults.
#8 The Smothers Brothers
The Smothers Brothers influence is bigger than just their music- folk music with a blend of comedy and politics. Their TV show helped bring many of the most inventive and controversial acts of the 60’s and 70’s into the homes of the people all across America.
#7 Los Tigres Del Norte
Los Tigres del Norte were one of the first bands to do a form of music known as narcocorrido. These are ballads about the drug trade. These guys were some insanely tough guys that played some impressively catchy music. They’ve also been together since 1968, performing shows all over the world continuously since then. English speakers couldn’t name a song by this band, but everyone in the great state of California has heard something by San Jose, CA’s longest running musical group.
#6 The Great Society / Jefferson Airplane
The Great Society were a rarity in the 60’s. They were a heavy psych band with a female lead singer. That lead singer, of course, was Grace Slick, who later was poached to join the already existing Jefferson Airplane. This band also stole The Great Society’s best songs- “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit.” Jefferson Airplane never quite managed to capture the raw intensity of the original “Somebody To Love,” however both of these bands opened the door for women to be accepted as rock musicians in the mainstream world. If this band never happened, we never would’ve had Big Brother & The Holding Company, Heart, No Doubt, or even modern day bands like Paramore or Haim.
#5 The Chocolate Watchband
A lot of people call it the “San Francisco Sound.” Surprisingly enough, the band that spearheaded this movement was from San Jose. The Chocolate Watchband were teenagers playing dances, mining import 45’s and covering a lot of the lesser known British bands of the early 60’s. They basically created psychedelic rock, paving the way for bands like Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and, yes, The Grateful Dead.
#4 The Residents
These avant garde weirdos have been secretly making some of the strangest records off all time since 1968. They made some of the earliest electronic music records, and basically created the framework for Primus.
#3 Creedence Clearwater Revival
Creedence Clearwater Revival were the greatest band ever to influence one of the worst musical trends ever. They brought together the country and funk of the deep south with British Invasion riff rock, creating the genre of music that we later knew as Southern Rock. And, yes, there were some great Southern Rock bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and Drive By Truckers. Sadly, this also paved the way for the unholy mess known as Pop Country. Nonetheless, in five short years, they released seven amazing records that had generations wondering how John Fogerty knew that there was a bathroom on the right.
It’s true. The last decade of Santana’s recorded output has been less than ideal. However, collaborations with Everlast and Rob Thomas don’t negate the fact that the first three Santana records brought Latin music to the rest of the United States. In addition to being a guitar hero, his compositions and arrangements influenced far outside the rock world. If Santana never happened, you probably wouldn’t know who Pitbull is.
#1 Sly & The Family Stone
Sly Stone is a genius. Sly & The Family Stone influence spreads so much further than R&B. Their infectious rhythms helped create modern pop music. Stone’s lyrical flow and beats spawned many generations of rappers. His direct and powerful lyrics were hugely influential on the 80’s punk scene. They were a solid that bridged the racial divide of the day. They took both musical and political risks in a genius way.