The Greatest Year in Rock Music

by Chaz on February 26, 2011

Bruce Springteen

Bruce Springteen

1969–Nineteen Sixty-Nine was a mad, mad year. Across the U.S.A, people protested silently or violently against Vietnam War, racism, poverty. Crew-cutted men traversed the moon’s surface I giant leaps and bounds. Against all odds, the New York Jets won the Super Bowl and the New York Mets won the World Series.

In scenic Bethel, New York, a joyous crowd, half a million strong, braved the elements and personal discomfort to witness history at Woodstock. Outside lovely San Francisco, California, at Altamont Speedway, equally joyous cowds joined the Rolling Stones in witnessing murder.

Nineteen Sixty-Nine was the best of times and the wildest of times, so it should come as no surprise that it was an incredible year for music. So incredible, in fact, that we at XtremeMusic believe it to have been the greatest rock and roll year of them all. Yes, that’s a big statement, the kind of proclamation one associates with boorish, opinionated know-nothings. Now, before we take offense at such a harsh characterization, let us hastily make this point: We got proof.

The proof, so to speak, is in the vinyl. The notion of 1969’s supremacy is, of course, an opinion—until one examines the incredible number of landmark albums issued that glorious year. True, many fine records first saw the light in 1968, 1970, 1979 and 1994, for that matter, but nothing compares to MCMLXIX when it comes to sheer volume of rock achievement.

But how is “achievement” gauged? On the one hand, there is the matter of durability. Turn on any classic rock radio station tomorrow morning and you’ll find an incredible array of songs recorded in 1969 in regular rotation. Led Zepplin’s “Whole Lotta Love” (Led Zepplin II). Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising” (Green River). The Who’s “Pinball Wizard” (Tommy). These songs are not oldies but as current as the latest crises in the Balkans. Another measure of greatness, whether an album was issued in 1969 or 1989, is its impact on subsequent generations of musicians. Where would today’s punk rockers be without Iggy Pop’s The Stooges and the MC5’s Kick Out the Jams? Fifty thousand rock and metal bands without the two Led Zepplin albums of ’69? The world without Let It Bleed and Abbey Road?

One more specific Xtreme level, 1969 was a bonanza of power and glory. The arrival of the Allman Brother Band, with their twin guitars from heaven. The novel tunings and sweet rhythms of Crosby, Stills & Nash. And the fantastic funk stylings of James Brown’s unsung guitarist Jimmy Nolen.

The moment which best represents all the fire and rain of a most chaotic and cretive time belongs to Jimi Hendrix, who on one July day at the Woodstock festival forever enshrined a cosmic moment in an incredible year with his majestic version of “The Star Spangled Banner.” It was 1969, and America Rocked.


Bruce Springsteen, Santana, The Stooges, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zepplin, Cream, MC5, The Doors, Grand Funk Railroad, James Brown, The Jefferson Airplane, Frank Zappa, The Jeff Beck Group, The Grateful Dead,nThe Allman Brothers Band, The Velvet Underground, Blind Faith, The Who, Jethro Tull, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, The Kinks, Johnny Winter, Kin Crimson, The Beatles, The Band, Sly and the Family Stone, Creedence Clearwater Revival

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