Everybody loves music. But like a fine wine, the music you love is very much a culture, taste and fashion statement. Retro music is typically songs that were written in the 60’s, 70’s or even 80s, and heaven forbid in the 90’s. But when we at UPR think of the term Retro we are thinking more about songs that have a song creative content that were created in styles that a signature for certain years in the past. So enters that endearing term “RETRO” as the first part of the description. Retro seems to depend on what age you are for what seems “Retro” to you, for example maybe 80’s is retro in your mind, or 70’s and late 60’s; But one thing is for sure, it evokes a familiarity when you hear music that subscribes to style’s pervasive in that era.
Brit-Am stands for British & American music where the development of much of what we listen to today as retro became popular. There are leaders in the “micro” Genre’s we are considering because terms like POP and ROCK are way to broad for the detail we are looking for.
We at Unlimited Power Records have coined the phrase “Retro Brit-Am Pop” to carefully label the style of music that we promote. When we refer to Retro Brit-Am pop music we target it as mid-late 60’s to early 70’s POP ROCK style music from the signature SONGS that occured during those years. We leave out music that is really important but definitely doesn’t land in the POP genre (like Led Zepplin) although Zepplin influence can sneak in. We definitively include the mid to late 60’s styles of artistic music from Britain and Psychedelic rock from areas like California so that means we include both British and American band styles. The POP genre is used to focus on mainstream music but we realize that there is a very strong Pop Rock and even Classical music component to the material at times as well, and we love music that experimental in that same era.
Music of that era is defined by the songwriting styles AND the instrumentation that was available at the time. Why instruments? Because many of today’s instruments didn’t exist yet. For example; The digital synths are an 80’s thing and you won’t hear 80’s style Fm synth bass lines in the 60’s….Other instruments were tremendously popular. Of the ones mentioned here, every single one of these was investigated by the Beatles.
- 12 String Guitars (Yardbirds)
- Orchestra instruments (Notably brass, strings and flutes)
- Fuzz (Stones)
- Wa Wa pedal (everywhere, lots of this in groups like Cream, Hendrix, Early Chicago)
- Reverb (Ever heard those reverb crashes where they banged the top of the amp?? LOL)
- Old School Echo (Echoplex and multiple tape decks)
- Feedback, mostly on guitar and sometimes on voice as an effect.
- Reversed phrase (done by clipping tape and feeding it backwards) – Everywhere
Albums started to contain LONG songs toward the end of the 60’s whereas in the early 60’s songs were typically 2:30-2:45 minutes long MAX.
and the list goes on….and on…
The paradigm band in the 60’s was the Beatles both early and late but there where many players in the game of music back then. A huge quantity of musicians both British and American were trying to fill any empty space and especially heading into the 70’s. Some of the other early biggies are Kinks, Hollies, The Who, The Stones,The Yardbirds and all it’s spin off’s. There were lots of 1 hit wonders as usual. Finally there were the heavily experimental bands like Iron Butterfly whose album side left a deep impression and help promote the 20 minute self indulgent song best done as a jam with each instrument soloing somewhere. Moving into the 70’s created a wide open playing field musically with the Beatles splitting and many other bands coming of age, and the emergence of glam rock like Bowie, Mott the Hoople and many many more styles.
What would Retro Brit-Am Pop music be without California, Chicago, New York and many of the other sound power house areas in the states?
The first sounds that come into mind are the California/West coast sounds that were more psychedelic and often contain reverb, etc. Groups that did this sort of thing would be Paul Revere and the Raiders, Jefferson Airplane, Strawberry alarm clock, Beach Boys, Monkies, etc. Top 40 bands like Mama and the Papas sound very garage band today but had great harmonies. Songwriters were used for commercial pop but many bands tried to get into the mix with their own tunes which grew into a lot of amazing bands in the 70’s. Still bands like Paul Revere and the Raiders and Monkies had writers.
Yes, it’s get’s a bit muddy and is open to interpretation but if you listen to the types of sounds that were popular you’ll quickly realize that there are styles that date the sound of the music as well as the instrumentation. Many Pop sounds are serious crossover songs. They might have elements of Rocks, Latin or otherwise.
I love being positive but it’s very instructive to understand what doesn’t make a good Retro Brit-Pop song. Obviously, we are calling it pop; so…. for the most part are leaving out the super heavy metal inspired by groups like Led Zepplin (70’s), Black Sabbath (70’s). The 70’s on had very diverse music that grew out of the early music styles. Disco doesn’t fall under our radar either. Nor does the big hair bands of the 80s, or Girl Pop Rock like Madonna, or 90’s Nirvana and Grunge Rock. Of course, we leave out jazz music or smooth jazz. Our last (but certainly not final) exclusion would be the popular bands of the 2000’s like Lady Ga Ga, Maroon 5, and all hard core rap based tunes, or Hip Hop. Essentially if the music has heavy rap in it (not talking which was done) then it doesn’t fit. Digital vocalization doesn’t fit (auto-tunes). But I must stress, if you incorporate a TINY bit of a newer technique it’s very cool as long as it isn’t the main idea in the song.
The best way to understand the Genre is to listen to some of the bands involved in it and try to EMULATE them. Write a melody that takes one of the existing melodies and tweeks it.
Because this is a short article I’ve left off a long laundry list of bands and discussion ideas, but it is meant to give you an idea of the song sounds that get incorporated into the Genre of Retro Brit-Am Pop.
The goal of this article is to push deep the idea of getting inspiration for creating BRAND NEW songs that are tagging off of this era. Even if the have a “splash” of modern, that’s ok! But the core of the song should create RETRO BABY!
REFERENCE SONGS: (mega short list)
These songs will help understand the era (there are many more but these are great representations).
Can’t get no satisfaction – The rolling stones (fuzz sound)
Day in the Life
Elenor Rigby (no drums! strings & more)
(Actually, any Beatles is to reference and learn to recognize the musical differences between the albums)
Paul Revere and the Raiders – Let Me, Kicks
Strawberry Alarm Clock – Incense and Pepermints (fuzz guitar and harmonies)
Jimi Hendrix – Reverse Guitar – Castles Made Of Sand
Spirit – Natures Way
Lemon Pipers – Green Tambourine – Tambourine, Sitar
Iron Butterfly – In a Gadda Da Vida – Fuzz Guitar, Organ
Cream – White room – Any from their last album (wa wa, blues guitar work, vocal)
Harmonies – Beatles of course, practically untouchable in perfection
Electric Prunes – I had too much to Dream – (Reverb Smash, Psychedlic sound, reverse instruments)
The Who – I Feel Free – The must hear pure rock tune (snuck this in) – Free styling Keith Moon drums..
Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit – Psychedelic CA pop rock