Throwback Thursday: 1966

This week I’m reviving a feature I used to do on Tunes du Jour – Throwback Thursday, with each week focusing on a different year in the rock and roll era. This week we’ll listen to the music of 1966. Some notable events:

  • The Mamas & the Papas had their first hit with “California Dreamin’.” Perhaps you’ve heard it.
  • Simon & Garfunkel had their first top 40/top 10/#1 single in the US with “The Sounds of Silence.” The duo had actually broken up already and were unaware that their record label released a version of their 1964 acoustic recording on which electric guitar and drums were added.
  • Bob Dylan released his game-changing album Blonde On Blonde, a staple of greatest albums of all-time lists since.
  • ? and the Mysterians released their debut single, “96 Tears.” Perhaps you’ve heard it.
  • Producer Phil Spector released what he considered to be his best work – Ike & Tina’s Turner “River Deep – Mountain High.” In actuality, Ike had nothing to do with the recording. Though a hit in the UK and several European countries, the single stalled at #88 in the US, leading Spector to retire for two years and produce far less frequently following that.
  • Percy Sledge released his debut single, “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Perhaps you’ve heard it.
  • The Beatles performed their last official concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
  • The Supremes scored two more #1 pop singles plus another two that went top ten. During their career the group would have 12 #1s and 20 top tens. Many more hits followed for the trio’s usual lead singer, Diana Ross. Perhaps you’ve heard of her.
  • New York City’s WOR became the first FM radio station in the US with a rock format.
  • “Good Vibrations.” Where do I start?

Here are thirty of the year’s best:

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Producer Spotlight: Sir George Martin

Sir George Martin autographed my copy of The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night album, a record he produced. He was about to set to work on a docuseries and I was asked to help with the music licensing.

A movie director takes words on a page, a script, and brings them to life, guiding actors to deliver the best performances possible and deciding on the best ways to convey the story. A music producer plays the same roles in the creation of a record, taking words on a page, a song, and brings them to life, guiding singers and musicians to deliver the best performances possible and providing input as to how the recorded song should sound.

Sir George Martin, born on January 3, 1926, is recognized as one of the most influential producers in the history of pop music. He is best known for producing all of the albums by The Beatles except for Let It Be. It was Martin who suggested the string quartet on “Yesterday.” It was Martin, with recording engineer Geoff Emerick, who combined two distinct recordings of “Strawberry Fields Forever,” played in different keys and at different tempos, into the one with which you’re familiar. Martin suggested speeding up a ballad Paul McCartney and John Lennon wrote, which resulted in the #1 hit “Please Please Me.” His production of “I Feel Fine” includes one of the earliest uses of guitar feedback. Martin conduction the string section on “Eleanor Rigby.” He brought in a 40-piece orchestra for “A Day in the Life.” On “Tomorrow Never Knows,” Martin’s use of tape loops, reversing a recording of a guitar solo in playback, and having Lennon’s vocals go through an organ’s speaker, helped Lennon achieve his desire of a recording to sound like his mind on LSD. He played piano on “In My Life,” and sped up his recording of the piano part to match the song’s tempo. He suggested the group replace original drummer Pete Best.

Sir George, who died in 2016, also produced artists other than The Beatles. Here are thirty of his finest productions.