Is there a song before "I Want to Hold Your Hand" that's not an "oldie"?

A couple of weeks ago an L.A. radio station played through their collection in alphabetical order. It was an interesting experience, both for the odd juxtapositions and for the chance to hear some tracks that don’t normally get radio airplay.

It occurred to me, listening to songs spanning over 40 years of rock music, that “I Want to Hold Your Hand” is the beginning of the modern rock era. I don’t think the radio station played anything older, and when I think about the big acts that preceded the Beatles – Elvis, Bill Haley, The Four Seasons, Roy Orbison – they all feel dated, while the Beatles still feel strangely contemporary.

Am I nuts?

Chuck Berry?

For a ‘classic rock’ station, I don’t think they really go back *that *far - the earliest recording is probably ‘Satisfaction,’ and nothing by the Beatles before ‘Rubber Soul.’

I certainly agree with your assessment of The Beatles and how they still sound fresh today.

But I’ve never really got the concept of a “dated” song. If a song was a great song in its era and moved you, it ought to still have the power to move you now.

It hardly seems fair to criticize an Elvis song, for example, for not sounding “contemporary,” when that is obviously an impossibility. Who could know in 1956 what a song of this, or any future decade would sound like?

The songs that I consider to be “dated” (e.g., disco, 80s synth-pop) have a sound that I didn’t care for when it was contemporary…and in most cases, I didn’t like them as songs either (i.e., divorced from their accompaniment).

Does “Gloria” by The Cadillacs sound “dated” when juxtaposed with the latest auto-tuned monstrosity by some anonymous hip-hopper? Yeah, I suppose it does…and I say, “Thank God for that!”

“True love ways” Buddy Holly - I always felt that it seemed ahead of its time, play it today and it has a modern feel, you could almost imagine it as a sub-jazz number.

There was a bit of a bad time in popular music in my opinion where the rock’n’roll became rather twee, which was around late 1960 to early 1963. You got an establishment type version of rock’n’roll, it was very safe and unthreatening, it was something of a low point and it was just aching for something else to come along.

Artists from the pre-modern/post rock’n’roll would include Bobby Darin, Connie Francis, Booby Vee (ugh),Ventures, Elvis was losing it with rubbish that was intended to accompany his dreadful films,whilst over here we had lots of balladeers, Billy Fury, Shadows, Cliff Richard, Anthony Newlay.

When it came out ‘I wanna hold your hand’ was something of a teenies song here in the UK, the Beatles were a bit of a boy band, it took some R & B to make things really move on and mature somewhat.

I think you are right about that song though, it does mark a re-engagement of music with youth, the sort of music that our parents didn’t like, as opposed to that very early '60’s rubbish.

In the UK we actually got a lot of the pioneer US rock & roll in 1960-61 the musical hiatus did not seem to last as long as perhaps it felt in the US.

I know someone is bound to pick out some great stuff from that period, such as the Coasters, or Ray Charles, but somehow there is a sort of stratification, where everything seems to be BB or AB (work it out folks)

Nope, The Beatles and the JFK assassination is where “the 60’s” start. Anything before that is definitely an oldie. In fact, I’d call anything before The Beatles a “Golden Oldie”.

Look at the Billboard Top 100 for 1963. Anything on there that’s not an oldie?

'Course the later boundary of “oldie” is a moving target; on the “music” channels that come with your cable subscription, anything before the 70’s goes in the “oldies” category.

BTW, “the 60’s” ended the day Nixon resigned, although some would argue it was the day Saigon fell.

The Phil Spector produced songs like “Be My Baby” or “Da Doo Ron Ron” have the early sixties feel while still feeling modern, IMO, in the way that the Beatles do. And I agree with Buddy Holly.

In my opinion, a lot of early surf music still sounds “current” rather than “classic”. “Miserlou”, “Pipeline” and “Wipeout” (to give three famous examples) all came out a year before “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and sound more modern to my ears.

From Annus Mirabilis by Philip Larkin

Over the 4th of July weekend we were on a roadtrip and spend a fair stretch listening to a self-described “Oldies” station that had essentially put their list on shuffle.

It was playing things from the 1950s through the early '80s. Much to my wife’s chagrin since that covers her high school years. Much teasing ensued about how her music had finally grown up from being “classic rock” to “oldies.”

Likewise “classic rock”. I’ve been noticing hearing more early to mid 90s grunge and alternative being played on my local “classic rock” station.

In any case, the definitions for “oldies” and “classic rock” were pretty much set by radio programmers. As fewer people rely on radio as their main source of music, I think such distinctions eventually won’t matter.

I would consider “I Want to Hold Your Hand” itself an oldie. But as others have been saying, there’s not a solid definition for this term. Is an “oldie” just a song that’s reached a certain age, or does the term refer to a specific period in popular music?

The Wikipedia article on Oldies is pretty interesting. Going from the article, it sounds like The Beatles may or may not have been considered early enough to count as “oldies” when oldies stations first started appearing in the 1970s, but by the 1980s all of the '60s and even up until the very early '70s counted as “oldies”…and by the early 2000s music from before 1964 was being phased out of many oldies station playlists. So by that standard “I Want to Hold Your Hand” marks the dawn of the oldies period rather than the end of it.

Oldie. All of the Beatles stuff is ‘oldies’ of course. It’s been 40(!!!) years since they last released an album. By definition they’re oldies.

I was just thinking today that Live Aid is 25 years old now. There are more years between now and LiveAid than there were between LiveAid and the pre-Beatles era.

Frankly, “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and most other early Beatles stuff sounds dated to me. Good, but dated, and cherished more as nostalgia and in honor of the much more substantial work The Beatles produced later on. I think some of the other stuff you mentioned, Roy Orbison and (very) early Elvis, as well as the work of artists like Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry that other people have mentioned, actually stands up better than most of the work of the early Beatles. But The Beatles developed very quickly, and soon went far beyond any of those people.

If you want to mark the transition from “oldies” to modern rock in terms of The Beatles’ career, I would put it at about the time that Rubber Soul or perhaps Help (the album) appeared, or in terms of singles, maybe at “We Can Work it Out.”

Incidentally, I would like to point out that, in the U.K., “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” was very far from being The Beatles first huge hit.

I think it all depends on where you define your different epochs of rock to occur.

I believe the first would start with Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88”, go through Bill Haley and the Comets, Doo-Wop, The Platters, Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, etc. and end with Elvis’ induction into the army, although there may be a slight bleed-over to the death of Buddy Holly.

With Elvis safely ensconced in Germany, the “Teen Idol” era began: Pat Boone, Ricky Nelson, Paul Anka, Bobby Darin, Bobby Vee, Bobby Curtola, Fabian, Cliff Richard, etc. All very white, very homogenized and totally non threatening; rock had been, to an extent, vasectomized, and this couldn’t even be ended by Elvis’ return, or the dawn of surf rock with the less-than-mainstream Dick Dale or the more-or-less “as heard on AM” Beach Boys. In fact, this period wouldn’t really end until November 22, 1963 and the assassination of JFK, although there had been some degree of change in the air, although not in the US: The Beatles released “She Loves You” in late August 1963. According to Wikipedia: “It entered the charts on 31 August and remained in the charts for thirty-one consecutive weeks, eighteen of those weeks in the top three. During that period, it claimed the ranking of number one on 14 September, stayed number one for four weeks, dropped back to the top three, then regained the top spot for two weeks starting on 30 November. It made its way back into the charts for two weeks on 11 April 1964, peaking at forty-two.” Although “I Want to Hold Your Hand” is the song most often associated with the dawn of Beatlemania, “She Loves You” predates it by four months."

Thus began the next phase, “The British Invasion”, which properly lasted in the US from February 1964 (when The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan) until approximately fall of 1966 when US acts were finally able to start charting with some degree of success again. There actually were two waves of the British Invasion, the original one in 1964, and a second smaller one in 1965, when more UK acts started to tour North America. “The British Invasion” can also correctly be said to also be the start of the 1960s, in musical terms.

The period from the fall of 1966 to approximately the breakup of The Beatles in 1970 is one where anything seemed to work. There really were no particular trends during this period that are really discernable.

Post the breakup of the Beatles, there was a small period where most hits were made by members of the “Singer/Songwriter” trend; concurrent to which was the infancy of acid rock/heavy metal with rise of Jimi Hendrix and the metamorphasis of The Yardbirds into The New Yardbirds into Led Zeppelin. Parts of this trend would later evolve into the “Arena Rock”/“Stadium Rock” phase of the mid-70s, in which bands like Zeppelin and Black Sabbath would be joined by the Top-40 guild which was also packing them into those types of venues, such as The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Peter Frampton, etc.

Disenchantment with millionaire rock stars and the trappings of fame would result in the rise of Punk Rock, which would run out of venom and evolve into New Wave, effectively ending the 70s.

I’d add Surf Rider and Bustin’ Surfboards, too. Tarantino pulled a bunch of this stuff for Pulp Fiction so some of these previously more obscure songs got reborn in a way.

From the rock & roll world, Elvis’ “Little Sister” stands up really well.

I think Dylan’s early stuff is incredibly timeless: Don’t Think Twice, it’s Alright, Blowin’ in the Wind, etc.

From the soul world, I think Etta James’ “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” “At Last,” and “A Sunday Kind of Love,” Booker T. and the MG’s “Green Onions,” Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road, Jack,” “What’d I Say,” and “Rockhouse” are completely timeless.

Jazz is probably too far outside the realm, but Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and even Peggy Lee’s “Fever” transcend time.

Casdave, I think The Night Has a Thousand Eyes is a great song.

Rumble, by Link Wray, back in 1958. Power chords, feedback, two guitars, bass and drums. It’s a rock song!

“Can I Get a Witness” and “On Broadway” both debuted in 1963 and have aged better than “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” IMHO.

This really goes a long way toward explaining why so many people close in age to my parents hated the rock music of the '70s and '80s with such a passion. My parents graduated from high school in 1962, and that “vasectomized” music you’ve listed is what they considered “rock” - nice, pleasant music, sung by nice, clean-cut young men (heh - and it makes Pat Boone’s little “In a Metal Mood” practical joke that much funnier). Meanwhile, my dad’s younger sisters are just on the other side of that dividing line - graduating HS in the mid/late '60s and being huge Beatles fans. They continued to be fans of rock into the '70s & '80s - not heavy metal, per se, but the “rockier” side of pop music.