Iconic Rock & Roll Moments from the 1960s

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From the nightclubs of San Francisco to the slopes of Austria, unforgettable rock & roll spanned the globe – and musical styles – during the 1960s. Sotheby's 10 December sale A Rock & Roll Anthology: From Folk to Fury tells the story of the Seismic Sixties through a range of fascinating memorabilia and rare manuscripts, including Bob Dylan's sketches and hand-written Joni Mitchell lyrics that inspired a new generation of singer-songwriters. Click ahead for top highlights and memories from the decade. –Bill Crandall

Iconic Rock & Roll Moments from the 1960s

  • Beach Boys, Catch a Wave Autograph Manuscript, 1963. Estimate $200,000–300,000.
    “I tried surfing once, and the board nearly hit me in the head,” admitted Brian Wilson, the musical navigator and co-founder of the Beach Boys. “That was it for me.” What the famously fearful Wilson missed in terms of the outdoors he more than made up for indoors, reimagining how artists could use the recording studio as an instrument and reinventing how albums were made. Wilson drafted these lyrics to “Catch a Wave” (a song he co-wrote with his cousin and fellow Beach Boy Mike Love) on stationary from Western Recorders, the Los Angeles studio where he made his debut as a producer on the band’s 1963 Surfer Girl album. When Wilson wasn’t writing about surfing, he was writing about driving, and this manuscript also features a lyric fragment to another of the Beach Boys’ anthems “Little Deuce Coupe.” Unfortunately, the young Wilson was not much better as a driver, once confessing to a classmate that it took him five tries to get his license.

  • The Beatles, Jacket John Lennon Wore in Help!, 1965. Estimate $50,000–70,000.
    In the movie A Hard Day’s Night, Dougie Millings tries in vain to measure Paul McCartney for a jacket. After the “cute Beatle” apologetically walks away from the tailor, John Lennon utters the words, “I now declare this bridge open,” and cuts Millings’ tape measure in half. Luckily, off-camera, the Fab Four were far more cooperative, and Millings, along with his son Gordon, was able to fit them for approximately 500 garments throughout their career. For the Beatles’ second movie Help!, Millings did not appear with Lennon, but he fitted him for this stylish wool jacket, perfect for scenes shots in the Austrian Alps. Millings’ handiwork caught the eye of other fashion plates, and soon he was outfitting the Beach Boys, the Four Tops, the Everly Brothers and Tom Jones. After Dougie’s death in 2001, Gordon vowed to keep the family business going. The label on this jacket’s interior lining proudly reads “D.A. Milling & Son.”

  • Joni Mitchell, The Gallery Manuscript, 1969. Estimate $5,000–7,000.
    Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash’s two years living together in Los Angeles’ tranquil Laurel Canyon neighborhood could be described as competitive domestic bliss. “It was an intense time of, ‘Who’s going to get to the piano first, who’s going to fill up the space with their music first?’” recalled Nash. One day he managed to beat Mitchell to the piano and write a song about their charmed life together, the sweet classic, “Our House,” featuring the lyrics, “Staring at the fire for hours and hours / While I listen to you play your love songs all night long for me.” When Nash moved in, Mitchell was finishing her second and breakthrough album Clouds, featuring “Both Sides Now,” “Chelsea Morning” and the exquisite ballad “The Gallery,” one of the love songs Nash sang about in “Our House.” Mitchell wrote out these lyrics to “The Gallery” in handwriting as angelic as her voice. “From the moment I heard her play, I thought she was a genius,” Nash said. “I’m good at what I do, but genius?”

  • Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, Portrait Sketches, 1963. Estimate $30,000–50,000.
    Bob Dylan is almost as famous for his prickly personality as he is for his unparalleled songbook. The documentary Don’t Look Back captures Dylan at his most charming and churlish, during his 1965 tour of England and breakup with fellow singer-songwriter Joan Baez, whom he never invited to the stage. This was the same Joan Baez who had preceded him as a folk-scene star and shared her concerts with the then-unknown Dylan. These 1963 sketches capture the couple during happier times, spending an afternoon at in Woodstock, N.Y. Mary Paturel described Dylan as “smiling, shy and witty” as he and Baez posed for each other in her Café Espresso. The drawings seem to reveal the artists’ points of views more so than their subjects: Baez’s Dylan is earnest and polished, while Dylan’s Baez is jagged and whimsical. In the documentary Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound, Dylan publicly apologized to Baez four decades later. “I feel very bad about it,” Dylan said. “I was very sorry to see our relationship end.”

  • Original Art for Cream Concert Poster, 1968. Estimate $20,000–30,000.
    “I was born drawing,” said Lee Conklin. “I eventually showed my portfolio to Bill Graham on Friday and by Monday I was a poster artist.” Graham, of course, was the legendary promoter whose concerts at San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium served as ground zero for 1960s psychedelic music and counter culture. Graham enlisted Conklin, who also designed the ferocious tiger image for Santana’s debut album, to create more than thirty posters for Fillmore shows. In late February and early March of 1968, the Fillmore and nearby Winterland welcomed Cream, the world’s first super-successful supergroup. Conklin’s “Cream” lettering oozing from the heads of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker is the hallmark of one of his most memorable works. Later that year, Cream would implode, while Conklin, who prides himself as more of an observer than participator, continues working as an artist. “I spent much of the late 60s chained to my drawing board,” Conklin admitted. “I missed out on the sexual revolution and wasn’t really part of the psychedelic community.”

  • Velvet Underground, Typescript Lyrics. Estimate $150,000–200,000.
    The Velvet Underground and Nico is the most heralded commercial failure in rock & roll history. As musician/producer Brian Eno famously quipped of the album, “Everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.” Of course, the Velvets were more than mere musicians; they were musical art, serving as the house band for Andy Warhol’s Factory studio. David Bowie, R.E.M. and Beck are among the many artists who recorded their own versions of songs from this album, and Rolling Stone ranks it thirteenth on its list of Greatest Albums of All Time. Written by Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed, these typescript lyrics to three of the album’s songs (plus one that would ultimately wind up on Nico’s debut solo album) were owned by late theatre critic and Factory regular Donald Lyons. Patti Smith credits Lyons’ bringing her to a Velvet Underground show as the catalyst for her becoming a musician. “Lou was a poet,” said in her speech for Reed’s 2015 posthumous Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, “able to fold his poetry within his music in the most poignant and plainspoken manner.” It’s all here on paper.


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