There are many ways to slice and dice music history. Andrew Grant Jackson does it by zeroing in on one year in his new book, 1965 The Most Revolutionary Year in Music. While some might counter that the Summer of Love or the first wave of Beatlemania were bigger, Brown lays out a convincing case.
The year began with Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home, The Temptations’ My Girl and The Beach Boys Pet Sounds. It ended with the Beatles Rubber Soul. Along the way, The Stones came up with Satisfaction, Otis Redding asked for Respect, James Brown announced Poppa’s Got a Brand New Bag, and the Mommas and Poppas beguiled us with California Dreaming. And that’s just for starters.
Throw in The Byrds, The Kinks, The Who, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Animals, The Velvet Underground, Wilson Pickett, Barry McGuire, Simon and Garfunkel and even a Sinatra comeback.
Fueling the creativity was the roller coaster of politics and violence of 1965: The assassination of Malcom X, Selma, the swelling tide of American troops going to Vietnam, Watts, Medicare and the Voting Rights Act.
Jackson has done his research (he has written two books about the Beatles) and has footnotes for every anecdote in this tapestry of exquisite rock and roll trivia. Here are a few examples.
--Stephen Stills flunked his audition for The Monkees TV show but recommended his friend, Peter Tork.
--Roger McGuinn discovered the Byrds’ signature 12-string sound after seeing George Harrison playing a Rickenbacker in Hard Days Night.
--Animals manager Mickie Most flew to New York to buy Brill Building songs from Don Kirshner, including “We Gotta Get Outta This Place” and “It’s My Life.” He passed on “Kicks,” which went to Paul Revere and The Raiders.
--Dylan road manager Bobby Neuwirth to Carole King: “You’re the chick who writes songs for bubblegum wrappers, right?”
There are also funny scenes such as Dylan turning the Beatles on to pot in a New York Hotel room and how Johnny Cash started a 500 acre forest fire in California that cost him $82,000 fines for scattering 44 Condors.
Best of all is the way Jackson traces the creative process of the song writers and their times. He devotes a chapter to how Satisfaction started with Keith Richards’ midnight guitar riff, evolved by a pool in Florida, went from folk song to rock during sessions in Chicago and LA and was completed when a roadie offered a fuzz distortion box to the band.
The result in Jackson’s words was how “…the Stones found their golden formula, mixing the beat of Motown, the lyrics of Dylan and Berry and the novelty of new technology to synthesize their own style of R&B/pop/rock.”
Jackson also documents how the sting of being booed at the Newport Folk Festival and the subsequent harassment drove Dylan into the studio where in three days he created Highway 61 Revisited. That escalated the music competition toward year’s end when Brian Wilson declared (after first hearing Norwegian Wood on his car radio), “We gotta beat the Beatles.” Many people think he did, with his next album, “Pet Sounds.”