I have always been fascinated by the American musicians that came out of the 60s. Obviously, the Beatles are in another level in talent, however there where many great bands from United States that in ways rivaled the Beatles in popularity and talent. These bands might not have as been as consistent as the amazing Beatles, but did have a stretch of years where they competed favorably to the English band.
One no-brainer rival are the Beach Boys. While much of their early music consisted of surf rock, Brian Wilson’s artistic desire to reach higher levels in the band’s music propelled the Beach boys to release a few albums that competed with The Beatles. These included “Pet Sounds” and even the unfinished “Smiley Smile.” Unfortunately I never enjoyed these two albums like many other people, however I do realize the significance and influence these pieces of art had in the mid to late 60s.
Another American band that rivaled the Beatles are more of a duo than an actual band. Simon & Garfunkel is a perennial favorite of many 60s music fans. With their breathtaking harmonies and solid lyrics, they proved that a band (or duo) can be popular without trying to “rock hard.” It is amazing to me that with only 2 people, this duo rivaled the harmonies of the Beach Boys, and even the Beatles. Simon & Garfunkel only released five albums, but “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme,” (what an album name!), and “Bridge Over Troubled Water” proved this duo is one of the greatest acts of the 1960s.
The third band that rivaled the Beatles are the Doors. This band was known for their amazing keyboard playing by Ray Manzarek, Jim Morrison’s vocals, and his poetic and controversial lyrics. The Doors released several albums, and three of them are ranked in Rolling Stones top 500 albums. While the Doors are better known for the many controversies their lead singer was in, they created a unique blend of music that was truly American. Mixing jazz, blues, pop and rock and roll, made this band stand out in the 1960s. Plus it did not hurt that Jim Morrison was considered a “sex idol” too many of the women at that time. While some of the Doors songs can become a little too “strange” (especially the 7+ minute heavily poetic ones), it’s hard deny the Doors as one of the best rivals to the Beatles. Songs like “Light My Fire” and “Love Her Madly” proved this band can rock as hard as their British counterparts. One final interesting note about the Doors is that for several albums, they never had a bass player!
The next band that I chose that rivaled the Beatles are Crosby Stills and Nash (personally one of my favorites). Better known as “CSN” (also CSNY when Neil Young joined them), directly competed with the Beatles during the late 60s. While the Beatles where ending t heir career at this time, CSN released their first albums. CSN was a super group by having members from the Hollies, Buffalo Springfield, and the Byrds. Although they aren’t fully American, their style of music is. Similar to Simon & Garfunkel they only released a few albums, but they competed well with the Beatles in both sales and artistic talents. At one time, especially during 1968-1969, CSN was the Beatle’s biggest rival. CSN’s intricate harmonies and heavily political themed music places them as an American favorite from the 1960s. Once Neil Young added the “Y” to the band, CSNY reached their peak with their album “Déjà Vu.”
The next band I choose that rivaled the Beatles, are fairly unknown outside California. The band “Love” entered the music scene at the same time as The Doors, but sadly never had the success like Jim Morrison and company. The reason for lack of success was not due to their talent, but Arthur Lee’s (lead singer of Love) decision to not promote their music outside California). If you want to talk about a band with constant changes, “Love” is your band. Despite numerous lineup changes (only Arthur Lee stayed in the band for their entire career), this band created one of the most underappreciated music of all time. Playing numerous genres like folk, rock and roll, garage rock, and psychedelic, Love always brought something new to each album. With the release of their psychedelic album “Forever Changes,” the album rivaled Beatles “Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band.” It is a shame this band is not well known, but Arthur Lee is considered one of the top tier artists of the 60s by many music critics. Fortunately, YouTube has the entire “Forever Changes” album, and gives people the opportunity to experience one of the best albums to come out of the 1960s. I am not ashamed to say it, “I Love…Love”
The last band that I chose that rivaled the Beatles in the 60s is my personal favorite. Creedence Clearwater Rival (or CCR) is the best American rival to the Beatles. They came out around the mid 1960s, and hit the American airwaves by storm. With John Fogerty at the helm of the band, this band released music that blended country, rock and roll, and blues. Their style was so unique, that critics many times named their style “swamp rock.” Despite this band coming from California, CCR sounded more like a Southern American rock band. One especially unique characteristic of this band was that while bands like The Beatles where experimenting with new techniques and styles in psychedelic music, CCR always stayed with their roots and played “good ole American rock and roll” With albums like “Bayou Country” and “Willie and the Poor Boys,” this band came out with hit after hit between 1968-1969, and their success continued in the early 1970s. John Fogerty’s guitar playing is second to none, and his lyrics with “Americana” and political themes make CCR the greatest American rival to the Beatles.
Due to time constraints (and I am sure your tired of reading this long blog) I had to cut some bands I wanted to write about. These include “Grateful Dead,” “Hendrix Experience,” Bob Dylan, “Sly and the Family Stone,” and much more. Maybe one day I will make a second part to this blog.