The VVA Vetera n’s Arts Editor Marc Leepson opened an envelope and handed me the book inside. “This book might be of interest to you, ” he said.
The cover art, with its hand-drawn lettering, is reminiscent of a Jefferson Airplane concert poster. The title, 1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music (Thomas Dunne Books, 352 pp., $27.99), definitely piqued my interest. Having retired from a career on the radio playing sixties and seventies rock music, I quickly took it from him and read it.
Author Andrew Grant Jackson covers the music scene in 1965, a scene that took a sharp turn with the “British Invasion” led by the Beatles. Before that, ballad singers such as Bobby Vinton, and coffee house folksingers such as Peter, Paul and Mary and The Kingston Trio dominated the charts. The Beatles were paving the way, but Bob Dylan also was a powerful influence.
The author divides the year of 1965 into its four seasons (not to be confused with the rock group of the same name). He writes about the British Invasion, and also includes Motown, the surfer music of the Beach Boys, Bakersfield, and Nashville, and the challenge of Soulsville vs Hitsville. Background information on the songs and the singers is provided in great detail.
I didn’t always agree with the author’s interpretations of what specific songs were saying. To me, this is personal—it’s how you hear a song. It doesn’t matter if the songwriter wanted to say this or that, but what you feel he or she is saying.
Jackson also too often strayed from what I was interested in—the actual music. He branched off into the history of the year, including his thoughts on long hair, the pill, race riots, and the Vietnam War. This was the year that the U.S. sent combat troops to Vietnam for the first time—the start of the Johnson administration’s massive escalation of the war. Other than the Vietnam War part, I skipped the history lessons, and continued reading what I came for, the music.
Overall, I liked the book, including the sections on the scandal Bob Dylan caused by going electric; the Beatles going from “ She loves you, yea, yea, yea” to “In My Life”; and their direction-changing album Rubber Soul . The author covered a lot more than many of the other books on music history I have read.