1964. It was the year that the British Invasion and Beatlemania began. Psychedelic rock was beginning to get some traction, and Bob Dylan released an album whose title coincidentally described what was happening in rock music: The Times They Are a-Changin'.
1964 also saw the beginnings of a bumper crop of bands who would shape rock for more than a decade to come. This is our salute to the classic rock bands who reach the 50th anniversary milestone in 2014.
Origin: Toronto, Canada - 1964
Original members: Levon Helm (drums, vocals); Rick Danko (bass guitar, vocals); Robbie Robertson (guitar, vocals); Richard Manuel (multiple instruments, vocals); Garth Hudson (keyboards)
Debut album: Music From Big Pink - 1968
Best known songs: "The Weight" / "This Wheel's On Fire" / "Up On Cripple Creek"
Most successful album: Stage Fright - 1970
They were known as Levon and The Hawks and The Canadian Squires before they began backing Bob Dylan and became The Band in 1968.
The Band were active until 1977, then had a second life between 1983 and 1999.
Origin: The Bronx, New York - 1964
Original members: Peppy Castro (guitar, vocals); Dennis LePore (guitar); Ralph Scala (keyboards, vocals); Jon Finnegan (drums); Ron Gilbert (bass)
Debut album: Psychedelic Lollipop - 1966
Best known song: "(We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet)"
Most successful album: Psychedelic Lollipop - 1966
They began as The Trenchcoats, changing their name in 1966, first to Bloos Magoos, and finally Blues Magoos by the time they released their first album, one of the first of the new psychedelic rock genre..
Magoos were one of the first bands to use the word psychedelic in an album title. The band's first life ended in 1970, but they were resurrected in 2008, and recorded a new album, Psychedelic Resurrection in 2012.
Origin: Los Angeles - 1964
Original lineup: David Crosby (guitar, vocals); Roger McGuinn (guitar, vocals); Chris Hillman (bass guitar, vocals); Michael Clarke (drums)
Debut album: Mr. Tambourine Man - 1965
Best known songs: "Mr. Tambourine Man" / "Turn, Turn, Turn"
Most successful album: Mr. Tambourine Man - 1965
The Byrds were one of the few American bands who were as successful as British Invasion bands like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Originally a folk band, they branched into folk rock during their mid '60s heyday, later assimilating psychedelic and country rock influences. The band lasted until 1973.
Origin: Jacksonville, Florida - 1964
Original lineup: Ronnie Van Zandt (vocals); Gary Rossington (guitar); Allen Collins (guitar); Larry Junstrom (bass); Bob Burns (drums)
Debut album: (Pronounced 'lĕh-'nérd 'skin-'nérd) - 1973
Best known songs: "Free Bird" / "Gimme Three Steps" / "Sweet Home Alabama"
Most successful album: Street Survivors - 1977
They were The Noble Five, My Backyard, Leonard Skinnerd and finally Lynyrd Skynyrd during their first six years. The Jacksonville, Florida band carved out a niche in the forefront of southern rock.
They were at their peak in 1977 when three band members (Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and Cassie Gaines) died, and the rest seriously injured, in a plane crash in Mississippi. Skynyrd disbanded after the tragedy, but re-formed in 1987, and continue performing in the '10s, releasing a new album, Last of a Dyin' Breed, in 2012, and maintaining a busy tour schedule.
The Moody Blues
Origin: Birmingham, England - May 1964
Original lineup: Michael Pinder (keyboards); Ray Thomas (flute, vocals); Denny Laine (guitar, vocals); Graeme Edge(drums); Clint Warwick (bass guitar)
Debut album: The Magnificent Moodies - 1965
Best known songs: "Nights in White Satin" / "The Story in Your Eyes"
Most successful album: Days of Future Passed - 1967
The Moody Blues started as a R&B band, as did most of the British Invasion bands. After their debut album fell flat, they switched gears, releasing a psychedelic concept album (Days of Future Passed) and set themselves apart with the use of orchestral arrangements.
The Moodies disbanded in 1974, but re-formed in 1977, and are still active in 2014, Today's lineup has one original member (Graeme Edge) and two who joined in 1966 (Justin Hayward and John Lodge).
The Mothers of Invention
Origin: Los Angeles - 1964
Original lineup: Frank Zappa (guitar, vocals); Ray Collins (vocals); David Coronado (multi-instrumentalist); Roy Estrada (bass guitar); Jimmy Carl Black (drums)
Debut album: Freak Out! - 1966
Best known songs: "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow" / "Valley Girl" / "Dancin' Fool"
Most successful album: One Size Fits All - 1975
A R&B band called The Soul Giants -- Ray Collins, David Coronado, Roy Estrada, Jimmy Carl Black -- recruited Frank Zappa in 1964. Zappa engineered the band's name change to The Mothers, then The Mothers of Invention.
Between 1964 and 1975, TMOI released nine studio albums and one live album. During that same period, Zappa also released 11 solo albums.
The Velvet Underground
Origin: New York City - 1964
Original lineup: Lou Reed (vocals/guitar); John Cale (vocals, bass guitar); Sterling Morrison (guitar); Angus MacLise (percussion)
Debut album: The Velvet Underground & Nico - 1967
Best known songs: "Sweet Jane" / "White Light/White Heat"
Most successful album: The Velvet Underground & Nico - 1967
The fact that their first four albums made Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list demonstrates that what Velvet Underground lacked in commercial success, they more than made up for with their influence on rock music.
Even before VU formally dissolved in 1973, Reed and Cale had embarked on solo careers. Maureen "Mo" Tucker, VU's second (and last) percussionist, who joined the band a few months after its formation, resumed her music career in the '80s. VU were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
Origin: London, England - 1964
Original lineup: Roger Daltrey (vocals); Pete Townshend (guitar, vocals); John "Ox" Entwistle (bass guitar); Doug Sandom (drums)
Debut album: My Generation - 1965
Best known songs: "My Generation" / "Pinball Wizard" / "I Can See For Miles" / "Baba O'Riley" / "Won't Get Fooled Again"
Most successful album: Who's Next - 1971
Founding members Townshend, Daltrey and Entwistle, who had grown up together in London, first performed together as The Detours. Sandom left the band before the band recorded their first album, and was replaced by Keith Moon.
The Who became as well known for their music as for their onstage destruction of guitars and drum kits. The Daltrey-Townshend-Moon-Entwistle lineup remained intact until Moon's death in 1978. Since Entwistle's death in 2002, they have released only one new studio album (Endless Wire in 2006) and toured only occasionally.
Also worth noting
There were other bands born in 1964 who didn't achieve quite the notoriety of the eight listed above, but did leave marks in various ways.
The Amboy Dukes - Probably best known as the launch pad for founder Ted Nugent's solo career, and for their 1968 single, "Journey to the Center of the Mind". They are also credited as early influences on prog rock and heavy metal.
Count Five - Set the standard for garage rock with their 1966 single, "Psychotic Reaction"