The year 1962 did not seem to portend great things in the world of pop music.
The brightest lights of '50s music -- including Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley -- were either inactive, in jail, or not making the kind ofrock 'n' roll that made them famous.
The charts were filled with songs like Chubby Checker's "The Twist" and the Four Seasons' "Big Girls Don't Cry" -- hardly the kind of music that electrified teenagers and frightened parents just a few short years before.
But beneath the surface, a youth-quake was bubbling:
On Jan. 1, 1962, four young men from Liverpool, who called themselves the Beatles, auditioned for Decca Records. They failed that test, but passed one months later with EMI and entered the recording studio for the first time.
In March, a scruffy, 20-year-old singer named Bob Dylan released his first album, consisting mostly of his versions of folk standards.
In July of that year, a new group called the Rollin' Stones played their first gig. The lineup included Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones.
And in October, a clean-cut vocal group from Hawthorne, Calif., called the Beach Boys, released their first album, "Surfin' Safari."
Though their early accomplishments were little noted at the time, the artists went on to revolutionize music and popular culture.
"It was a change in a generation and a style," said Dave "Stoney" Stone, program director of 96.5 BOB FM in Fayetteville.
Stone noted that artists such as the Beatles and the Beach Boys were able to take advantage of studio techniques that were not available just a few years before. Even stereo was a novelty.
"It was an experimental time in recording, and a lot of new things were coming around," Stone said. "Suddenly, we were layering tracks."
For local musician Bob Steele, the music of acts such as the Beach Boys and Bob Dylan is "embedded in our society."
Steele noted that most of those artists who debuted in 1962 were born while World War II was raging. Their music, he said, represented the more affluent and optimistic post-war world.
"They're celebrating a lot more than rock 'n' roll," Steele said. "They're celebrating a world that came back from an apocalyptic war. Rock 'n' roll brought us back."
Bill Joyner is part of the popular local band Joyner, Young and Marie and hosts the "Down Home Blues" program Fridays at 6:30 p.m. on public radio station WFSS.
Joyner said the artists' music has persisted in popularity because all four acts were innovators in their own way. And each pushed the others on to greater creative heights.
"It's why you're still hearing their stuff on the radio," Joyner said. "There's no substitute for good."
Behind the Music
Here's a look at the legendary artists and where they were 50 years ago.
What'd they do in '62? On the first day of the year, the group -- with Pete Best on drums -- auditioned for Decca Records. In one of the biggest music business blunders of all times, Decca passed, instead signing a group called Brian Poole and the Tremeloes. The Beatles had the last laugh, signing in May of that year with EMI, recruiting Ringo Starr on drums and recording for the first time at Abbey Road Studios with George Martin at the helm.
Reaction: The first Beatles single, "Love Me Do," reached No. 17 on the British charts in October. In early 1963, "Please Please Me" topped both the album and singles charts and Beatlemania was under way.
Next up: Conquering England was just the first step. In February 1964, the band appeared on"The Ed Sullivan Show"and the entire world succumbed to the charms of John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Today: The Fab Four broke up in 1970. John Lennon died in 1980, George Harrison in 2001. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr continue to record and tour.
Your ultimate Beatles playlist: "She Loves You," "Eleanor Rigby," "A Day in the Life," "Hey Jude"
THE ROLLING STONES
What'd they do in '62? On July 12, the Rollin' Stones -- named after a Muddy Waters song -- played their first gig at the Marquee Club in London. The lineup at the time consisted of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Ian Stewart, Dick Taylor and Tony Chapman.
Reaction: The group gained a strong local following for its hard-edged blues sound. Decca Records, burned after missing out on the Beatles, signed the group, and a 50-year (and counting) career was under way.
Next up: After adding a "g" to their name, The Rolling Stones washed up on U.S. shores in the wake of the Beatles-led British Invasion, scoring their first No. 1 hit in 1965 with "Satisfaction."
Today: Founding members Jagger, Richards and Charlie Watts remain. The group tours and records occasionally.
Your ultimate Rolling Stones playlist: "Satisfaction," "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Gimme Shelter," "Tumblin' Dice"
THE BEACH BOYS
What'd they do in '62? The Beach Boys, who already had scored a regional hit with "Surfin' " in 1961, released their first album. "Surfin' Safari" combined original numbers with instrumentals and cover songs.
Reaction: The album only made it up to No. 32 on the charts, but the group persevered with more surfing and car songs, gradually increasing its audience and broadening its sound.
Next up: The Beach Boys were one of the few American groups to survive the British Invasion, landing their first No. 1 single in 1964 with "I Get Around." For a time, the creativity of leader Brian Wilson would rival that of the Beatles.
Today: After decades of estrangement, the surviving Beach Boys recently released an album of new material and embarked on a tour. Wilson also has a solo career with critically acclaimed albums.
Your ultimate Beach Boys playlist: "Surfin' USA," "California Girls," "Good Vibrations," "Surf's Up"
What'd he do in '62? The artist formerly known as Robert Zimmerman released his first album, "Bob Dylan," on Columbia Records on March 19. The soon-to-be prolific songwriter penned only two of the album's 13 tracks. The rest were versions of folk standards such as "House of the Rising Sun."
Reaction: The album sold poorly, and Columbia was said to be on the verge of dropping Dylan from its roster. Dylan's manager, John Hammond, reportedly persuaded the label not to give up on his protege.
Next up: In 1963, Dylan released "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan," including the classics "Blowin' in the Wind" and "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall." The young singer-songwriter was dubbed "the voice of a generation" and went on to pioneer folk-rock.
Today: The singer has reportedly finished a new studio album, his 35th. Dylan was recently awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Obama.
Your ultimate Bob Dylan playlist: "Blowin' in the Wind," "Like a Rolling Stone," "Visions of Johanna," "Tangled Up in Blue"
Staff writer Rodger Mullen can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3561.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times