Pop music began in 1962. That may be a contentious claim to make but I’m not the first one to do so — and won’t be the last. In 2012, you only have to take a look around what’s happening musically on this island to appreciate the strength of the claim.
This is the 50th anniversary of all sorts of landmarks in pop music. Fifty years ago, Decca Records rejected the Beatles with the famous last words: “Guitar groups are on the way out, Mr Epstein.” Manager Brian Epstein continues to laugh out very loudly from his early grave — in October of that year The Beatles were launched with their single, Love Me Do and PS I Love You.
The band’s city of birth, Liverpool, celebrated the anniversary with an International Beatles Week in August, marked by street festivals and sold-out performances at the Cavern Club, the first place where the Fab Four performed publicly.
Then there’s the ‘grown-up’ Rolling Stones, arguably the greatest rock band ever whose fans have been speculating on an anniversary tour. For now, all we know is that on October 18, band members led by Mick Jagger will attend the London premier of a Stones documentary, Crossfire Hurricane, described by its director as “an aural and visual rollercoaster ride.”
The Stones know that Britain is hooked to live music. From Reading to Glastonbury and Isle of White, it is home to an astonishing 500-plus music festivals that entertain 7.7 million fans every year, including 357,000 music tourists.
Next up is Bob Dylan, whose latest offering, Tempest, marks the 50th anniversary of his historic debut album. Ahead of its launch around September 10, Bob has put the entire album online for an unprecedented free listen through iTunes. Tempest is an outstanding album, the latest in a phase that began in 1989 with Oh Mercy.
Like Picasso’s blue, this is Bob’s dark phase. The music’s rockier, the voice sharper and the words light up the way to hell.