The ‘60s are often overly romanticised by those who remember them and those who wish they did. While they may not have been the flower-powered paradise some folks would suggest, though, the ten-year period produced some undeniably superb music which still influences and sounds amazing today.
You needed many attributes to make it as a top tier rock band. The songs, of course, but beyond that the youth appeal to tap into the new consumers, and a certain aesthetic distinction to set you apart from the herds of new groups. To that end, you needed an amazing frontman.
Some rock frontmen would burst onto stage like a force of nature, demanding that the crowd came along for the ride with them. Others would take a more thoughtful or mysterious approach, cultivating an aura and inspiring devotion through wit and charisma. Some were sex symbols, others outsiders who transcended physical form through the power of music.
Whether they were the driving force of the band or the mouthpiece who hung it all together, these frontmen were instrumental in creating immortal work, becoming icons themselves.
10. Ray Davies
The Kinks frontman and primary songwriter wasn’t the most performative of the decade’s singers, but he may well have been the most influential. In telling tales of everyday life in a straightforward, witty manner, injecting humour into his lyrics but never dipping into novelty, he paved the way for the likes of Billy Bragg, Damon Albarn, and plenty more besides.
Davies began as a guitar player around London bands of the early ‘60s, but when The Kinks were signed to a record deal, he quickly began to experiment and develop the group in new directions. “You Really Got Me” is frequently heralded as the birth of heavy metal with its then-exceptional levels of distortion. He could write heartbreaking love songs, reference French history, provide state of the nation addresses, and crack wise with the best of them.
This Londoner also refused to Americanise his band’s sound; his references firmly British, his influences drawing from music hall traditions. He and brother Dave were a volatile pairing, and their tension would ultimately see The Kinks crumble. In the ‘60s, though, they were untouchable and entirely their own thing.