Sergeant Pepper had done a good job: The pop music that followed in 1968 ignited a firework of new styles and genres, the effects of which can still be felt today. All this unfolded against the background of enormous political and social upheavals. The peaceful utopias that had made the hippies the leading force of the younger generation in the previous year seemed to have worn off and overtaken each other in a very short time. A look back at a musical year that became a symbol.
Let's start the tour through this truly turbulent year with a man who was the focus of the English music press in the autumn of 1968 like few others. His story is exemplary of the process of change which - in addition to actors from film, literature and the fine arts - young pop musicians are increasingly experiencing. In February Graham Nash turned 26 years old, and he has long since become a man made. Six years earlier he founded the Hollies with his schoolmate Allan Clarke, and since their debut hit "Just One Look" (1964) they have been staying on the Beletage of the British beat boom.
Nash is more than just the group's singer and rhythm guitarist, since the influential Beatles albums "Rubber Soul" and "Revolver" and the groundbreaking works of Bob Dylan he pushes the pop quintet in a more demanding direction, wants to make it sustainable and realize his own artistic ambitions. Increasingly, however, he encounters resistance, especially in the form of EMI house producer Ron Richards, who does not want to deviate from the formula for success that brought in hits such as "Bus Stop", "On A Carousel" and "Carrie Anne". The band, simple guys from the North English workers' metropolis Manchester, also sees little reason for a change of course - after all, the rouble is rolling, the mostly female fans are carrying their idols on their hands, and even in the USA, the largest pop market in the world, things are going well.
A magic moment in Laurel Canyon
What the Hollies and their producer don't suspect, but Graham Nash: They are on the verge of exceeding their sell-by date and losing the connection. Away from the teenage market, where the single is the measure of all things, an adult and discerning audience has emerged. A completely new market with different rules of the game has been established, and high expectations are placed on music there. Technically brilliant pop, as the Hollies do, is only in demand with girls, but the more mature underground audience can no longer be found in simple boy-meets-girl lyrics and wants more than candy-coloured choruses, namely experimental spirit, complexity and substantial contents.
In August 1968 Nash travels to Los Angeles. He visits the still largely unknown Joni Mitchell in her house in Laurel Canyon. With consequences: From now on they are a couple. And on the first evening Nash meets Byrds refugee David Crosby and Stephen Stills, whose band Buffalo Springfield has just blessed time in Mitchell's house. They sing him a new song, "You Don't Have To Cry". After a while Nash improvises another voice to the harmony songs of the two Americans - the three of them experience a great moment. In his autobiography "Wild Tales" Nash writes: "We were all three harmony freaks and came from bands that had all refined two-partism to art: the Hollies, Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds. But the sound we had just created was different, so fresh. We had never heard anything like it before. Like the Everly Brothers, but even better - and yet the principle was so simple: an acoustic guitar and three men. David and Stephen were stunned."
In the next few weeks Nash leaves his band, his wife and England behind and moves to Los Angeles, much to the annoyance of the Hollies, their fans and the local music press. Not only has he found a new artistic home, he has also taken a step that has transformed him from a musician with a glorious past into an artist with an even more glorious future. For the birth of Crosby, Stills & Nash, as described above, several developments that characterize the pop year 1968 are condensed: California will soon become the new hotspot of the scene. Pop becomes rock. And it has long understood itself as a sophisticated art form that consciously confronts the political noise of battles and the smoking scenes that make 1968 go down in history as the year of revolt.