60s rock songs that changed it all

An introduction to rock and roll’s most remarkable hits

The late 60s to early 70s marked the best and most formative years of rock and roll. Some rock groups created their own unique sound that would influence new styles of rock music, including progressive rock, psychedelic rock, punk rock and heavy rock. Here are some of the songs that, not only changed the very face of rock, but inspired a whole new generation of music.

The Kinks: “You Really Got Me” (1964)

This song showed The Kinks’ ability to create a unique sound that was way ahead of their time. The guitar solo was a precursor for heavy metal. The use of power chords heavily influenced future rock players in the realms of heavy metal and punk rock. The popular American rock band Van Halen even covered this song in 1978. Brothers Ray Davies and Dave Davies were the very heart and soul of The Kinks, and the combination of their talents made the band a huge success for many decades following this release. The younger brother, Dave, was an extraordinary guitar player, and Ray, on the other hand, was one of the greatest songwriters in rock and roll, with hundreds of songs under his belt, such as “Come Dancing,” “Lola” and ‘Waterloo Sunset.” “You Really Got Me” was the British rock band’s breakthrough hit, establishing them as one of the top British Invasion acts in the United States. It was also a number one hit on the UK’s singles chart when it was released in 1964. After decades of success, the band was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.


The Rolling Stones: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (1965)

This song not only launched the Stones’ career, but it hit a raw musical nerve. The song’s lyrics clearly express the annoyance of constant advertisements and incessant consumerism. The song also talks about their frustration with the female sex and a woman’s inability to be satisfied sexually, which was controversial at the time. While they definitely had bold, in-your-face lyrics, The Stones’ music told powerful stories. The very first note of the song is the devil’s interval, otherwise known as the augmented fourth, which quickly gives a distinct sense of tension and anger. The distorted guitar sounds, done through a Gibson fuzzbox, only furthers this feeling of dissatisfaction and aggravation with the world. The title, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” rebels in its rejection of proper grammar. Needless to say, the song opened up a whole new world of rock music, paving the way for musicians to be more colourful and expressive in both their lyrics and their instrumentals. Rolling Stone Magazine placed this song second on its “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” list. This song, however, only marked the beginning of what was to come for the band, as they went on to be one of the greatest rock and roll groups of all time.

Procol Harum: “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (1967)

This deep and powerful song was not only a precursor to many styles of rock music, but it had an enormous impact on many rock musicians. The sound of the organ takes you on a journey through time, in a majestic and other-worldly way. The song incorporates classical music and rock, making it a precursor to symphonic rock and, by extension, progressive rock. People who have analyzed the song over many years notice the band took many of their influences from the classical pianist Johann Sebastian Bach, according to Billboard magazine. This track also has psychedelic rock elements—music that mimics the mind-altering experiences of being on psychedelic drugs. The descending bassline sounds both classical and ceremonial, while also giving the impression of timelessness. There are other psychedelic aspects that are layered throughout the song, such as the distorted, almost backwards-sounding guitar. The song has garnered an enormous amount of success, in fact, according to Rolling Stone Magazine, the song has sold 10 million copies worldwide. This song was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.

The Beatles: “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (1967)

The Beatles must be included in the list of most influential rock songs of all time. Around 1967, the band decided to take a break from touring and playing their music live. Paul McCartney came up with the idea of creating an entire album that sounds as though they are  playing in front of a live audience, and it opened up a whole new door for the band. By moving away from the constraints of their well-known and established band, this also gave The Beatles all the creative freedom in the world to explore their musical identity and their sound. This kind of creative spunk is what is most inspiring about both the song and the album. The album won four Grammys in 1968 and Album of the Year, the first rock LP to receive this award.

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