What's about the mythology themed music of the 60s/70s?

I’m talking about all the “fairy folk” and “sun kings” and other themes that dominated rock music in late 60s and even early 70s. Namely The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Queen, etc.

I get the general gist - society always slides to mystical spheres when times are tough or in the middle of an unsure switch. (It’s not too different from the end of the 19th century, when symbolistic painters went crazy for all kinds of mythologies, from Ancient Greece to Medieval Europe.)

But what exactly fueled it? How did it reach these musicians? Did they actually study it carefully in order to preserve the tradition, or was it just some gibberish put together and coated with nostalgia for the dawn of our kind? Who started it? Does this trend actually have a name?

In my searching I hoped to bump into a comperhensive website that sums it all up, but no luck.

Thanks for any help.

Tolkein. And drugs.

Beaten to the punch. Tolkien was immensely popular on college campuses in the 1960s, after Ballantine put out paperback editions of the Trilogy (Ace had done it earlier, but it was nowhere near as big – people had copies of the poster using the covers of the Ballantine paperbacks on their dorm or lab walls. Nobody did that with the Ace covers). It showed up in the next decade in pop culture – the music you refer to, as well as the rise in Fantasy gaming, a variation on non-fantastic strategy and tactics wargaming that had been popular (but nowhere near as popular) before.

Plus the Tarot, various standing stones, ley lines, the Matter of Britain (& “Celtic” lore), and remnants of the Order of the Golden Dawn. (And naughty old Aleister Crowley.) There were a few serious students of folklore & the occult among the musicians. Others just enjoyed the general mystical atmosphere. (Not always because of the drugs.)

Alas, you might need to seek beyond a website. Try reading a book or two! Start here

You could make the argument that the symbolists or even the preraphaelites were comforting themselves in the ancient and/or mystical in unsure times, but the Academicians had already been painting mythological themes for the greater part of a century or more in a vaguely similar style, and the various Academies are basically the opposite of angst-ridden reaction, so I don’t think the mysticality per se of late 19th century painting comes from unsure times. The way in which the mythology is expressed may be a reaction to it, though (rejecting adademic formalism and/or being weird for weirdness sake I would say could be a reaction to it.)

Moved to Cafe Society.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

To say these themes “dominated” rock music in this era is way overstating the case. Yes, certain artists dabbled in these themes (no one has yet mentioned by far the biggest exponent, and perhaps the first: Marc Bolan in his original Tyrannosaurus Rex incarnation).

But to put The Beatles on this list on the basis of ONE song (and kind of a throwaway at that, not even particularly tied to this ethos) is silly. And if the total universe of rock songs of this era is considered, you’re likely to find a hell of a lot more of them deal with themes such as getting your rocks off than you are “fairy folk” and “sun kings.”

folk music has long included such tales. you can find the influence of folk music during that period by the existence of electric folk music (not just folk singers with electric instruments but also ancient folk music performed with electric instruments). there were a number of bands that were very popular and it was some great music.

old influences new.

Fairport Convention, to name one.

Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces probably had something to do with the surge in popularity of mythology in music as well. It was published in 1949, but influenced a number of musical artists in the 1960s and 1970s (as well as, famously, decidedly non-musical artist George Lucas).

others that got an international following are

Pentangle, Steeleye Span, Fotheringay, Albion Band

more groups well known within Britain.

Don’t forget, it was the Age of Aquarius then too.

I kinda doubt it. Hero and Campbell became pop phenomena when Lucas said he was a fan, and when Bill Moyers did his series on him, but before that he wasn’t the pop culture icon he would become. 'm not saying he wasn’t well-known before that – I knew about him and his books when I was a mythology geek in high school. But I’d have a hard time believing that he was inspiring pop music back then.

I don’t see how the Beatles fit into this.

(The Sun King is a real historical figure, though I’ve always assumed “Here comes the Sun King” to be just Lennonesque verbal riffing on Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun.”)

It’s pretty well understood that Campbell was a significant influence on Jim Morrison; while Campbell may have had a larger influence on Morrison’s poetry, his works doubtlessly crept into Morrison’s song lyrics as well.

Also, according to Jerry Garcia: "You need music. I don’t know why; it’s probably one of those Joe Campbell questions, why we need ritual. We need magic, and bliss, and power, myth, and celebration and religion in our lives, and music is a good way to encapsulate a lot of it.’’ Mickey Hart and Bob Weir also acknowledged the impact of *Hero *on their work.

The Doors and Grateful Dead aren’t what I’d classify as “pop” by any means, but that’s not the kind of music the OP is asking about anyway.

Joseph Campbell probably influenced more Americans. Generally the ones who’d had an anthro class or two–or decided they preferred Jung to Freud. (Jim Morrison definitely used Freud, too.)

The whole Brit-folk-rock thing was part of the land. Early Marc Bolan was mentioned; let’s hear a word for the Incredible String Band.

This was the first generation to grow up on science fiction and fantasy, so it would only be surprising if you didn’t see any references. The above is mostly fantasy; a long list of songs about science fiction - and a bunch with titles stolen from sf - could be compiled from that era.

I agree that the overall percentage is pretty small. And mostly uninformed gibberish. :stuck_out_tongue:

Of course, the most brilliant example (or parody thereof) of the whole zeitgeist is Spinal Tap’s Stonehenge.

No-one knows who they were, or what they were doing. But their legacy remains.

It was in the air. (And the air was scented by sandalwood incense & hashish.) Even before you actually buy a book, searching the various topics here will give you some ideas of the influences afoot.