1965- the beginning of an amazing stretch run for popular music that lasted at least 8 years. I like to refer to it was the “Impressionist” era of rock music as it was a time period where many great artists came together to create amazing and influential (both culturally and musically) art & music. By ’65 both soul music and the British Invasion had really set in. The best of the British Invasion bands- The Beatles, The Stones, The Who, The Kinks, The Animals, The Hollies, Them, The Zombies & the Yardbirds were each maturing in their own way and helping to move music forward in the process. The blues-based side of the Invasion led by the Stones, Animals and Yardbirds had now moved simply ape-ing black based blues & soul and 50’s rock n’ roll. The Stones were beginning to write more and more of their own hits- including “Satisfaction”, “Get Off My Cloud”, “The Last Time”, “Heart of Stone” & “Play With Fire” that would soon become rock standards. The Animals released three of their biggest hits in ’65 with “It’s My Life”, “We Gotta Get Out of this Place” and “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood. The Yardbirds were moving toward both a more pop formula (see “For Your Love”) and a psychedelic blues (see “Evil Hearted You”) much to the chagrin of lead guitarist Eric Clapton who would soon leave the band. After helping to invent punk rock and/or hard rock the previous year with “You Really Got me”, The Kinks and singer and main songwriter Ray Davies settled in ’65 to release a slew of hits including some of the best and most enduring songs of their career (see below). The Who released their debut single “I Can’t Explain” and their their debut album “The Who Sings My Generation”, which included the immortal title cut, creating the mod sound, which played American soul music with a reckless abandon never heard before. It took what the Kinks did the previous year with “You Really Got Me” to a whole other level.
As important as all of the above groups were to music in ’65, no one was more defining than The Beatles and Bob Dylan. The Beatles had kick-started the British invasion only two years earlier (only a year earlier in America). Taking their cues from Bob Dylan, they had matured their sound beginning with the “Help!” album but especially with “Rubber Soul”. Each album contained musically more sophisticated songs like the acoustic “Yesterday” and “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” on “Help!” and “Norwegian Wood” and “In My Life” on “Rubber Soul”. Each of the “Rubber Soul” songs along with others like “Nowhere Man” also lyrically rose above the typical boy meets girl lyrics typical of all pop songs prior to that year. In fact ’65 was really the first year of the album as an art form. And the Beatles and especially Bob Dylan deserve the majority of the credit. Somehow the Beatles also found time to record and release #1 non-album singles like “Day Tripper” and “We Can Work It Out” between these two albums. They were clearly operating on all cylinders. Dylan also released two of his very best albums in ’65 with “Bringing It All Back Home”, and “Highway 61 Revisted”. After 3 or 4 years as the hero of the folk protest movement, both albums moved away from the all acoustic folk sound and toward a more rock based sound containing existential often absurdist lyrics. It seems that The Beatles, Stones et al influenced Dylan as much as he influenced them. Dylan’s defining song “Like a Rolling Stone” came out in ’65 and proved to be a game changer. No single that long had ever stood a chance on radio or the top 40 chart. As a result all old rules would start to be broken and the sound just a few years later would be vastly different than that of the early sixties. It’s hard to imagine the music scene changing so fast in the present era.
Out West the Beach Boys were beginning to change their sound as well. Leader/genius Brian Wilson would also begin to focus his lyrics on subject matter other than cars, surf & girls & would begin to grab more control of the band in the studio creating dazzling works like “California Girls”- a prelude to his/their magnum opus the “Pet Sounds” released the following year. Their two albums “Today!” and “Summer Days, and Summer Nights” included two of their best and most well known songs- the aforementioned “Girls” and “Help Me Rhonda” along with a bunch of under appreciated gems that were only minor hits or album tracks. The Byrds also invented Folk Rock by combining the folk lyrics of artists like Bob Dylan (and covering many of his actual songs) with the harmonizing of the Beach Boys and the guitar based sound of the British Invasion. The jangly sound would prove hugely influential on countless bands in the future including Big Star, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, R.E.M. and pretty much every power pop band to ever record.
By ’65 the Motown sound of Detroit was also a dominate force. The label had huge hits throughout the early sixties but everything started to line up for them starting in ’65. The Supremes, their biggest group, were smack dab in the middle of their string of #1 hits & the Temptations, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Four Tops & Martha & the Vandellas released many of their best as well. Solo performer Marvin Gaye had two major hits as well with “I’ll Be Doggone” and “Ain’t That Peculiar”. He would soar to even bigger heights a few years later with his run of smash duets with Tammi Terrell. Second tier acts like Jr. Walker & the All Stars, Mary Wells (one of their major acts a few years earlier) & the Marvelettes (ditto) each released some of their best records as well. Soul music wasn’t just coming out of Detroit either- the Stax/Volt label out of Memphis had a harder, funkier soul sound led by artists like Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave & Booker T & the Mg’s (the Stax House band along with the Memphis Horns). Great blues-based soul was coming out of Chess Studios in Chicago and a major blues revival was taking place as well. Many of the blues greats, some who were never very financially successful in the past, were enjoying quite a renaissance much of which was due to all of the reverence shown to them by the British Invasion bands and white American bands like the Paul Butterfield Blues band who played authentic blues. It’s amazing how the Brits and Europeans in general seem to appreciate American music more than we, as Americans do. Two of the inventors of soul in the late 50’s, had some of their most important recordings released in 1965 as well. Sam Cooke, who had been fatally shot the previous year, released perhaps his best song, the Civil right anthem “A Change is Gonna Come”. James Brown invented the blueprint of Funk with “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” and “I Got You (I Feel Good)”.
Great music seemed to be coming from everywhere. As a result of the huge popularity of rock n’ roll and the British Invasion bands in particular, thousands of bands were cropping up in America and Europe- many of which were pale imitations of better bands. But others would be good for one or two great hits/songs and a few others like The Sonics and The Seeds would be able to eek out a career for a few years or more. Although the sound & location of the bands varied greatly, it was collectively known as garage rock and formed the basis (along with The Kinks & the Who) of Punk Rock. The vast majority of these bands and songs faded out of consciousness within months or a year or two of their initial splash, but critic (and future Patti Smith band member) Lenny Kaye combined some of the best of it into the immortal 1972 compilation called “Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the first Psychedelic Era 1965-68”. The best of the music is still widely celebrated today and was massively influential and much of the hard rock recorded from the 1970’s onward.
THE BEATLES- RUBBER SOUL
*Not available via iTunes
Buy Rubber Soul (Remastered) Amazon
BOB DYLAN- BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME
Buy Bringing It All Back Home Amazon
JOHN COLTRANE- A LOVE SUPREME
Buy A Love Supreme Amazon
OTIS REDDING- OTIS BLUE/OTIS REDDING SINGS SOUL
Buy Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul Amazon
THE ROLLING STONES- NOW!
Buy The Rolling Stones, Now! Amazon
THE BYRDS- MR. TAMBOURINE MAN
Buy Mr. Tambourine Man Amazon
THE BEACH BOYS- TODAY!
Buy Today/ Summer Days (and Summer Nights) Amazon
THE BEATLES- HELP!
*Not available via iTunes
Buy Help! (Remastered) Amazon
HORACE SILVER- SONG FOR MY FATHER
Buy Song for My Father Amazon
SMOKEY ROBINSON & THE MIRACLES- GOING TO A GO GO
Buy Going to Go-Go / Away We Go-Go Amazon
THE WHO- SINGS MY GENERATION
Buy The Who Sings My Generation Amazon
B.B. KING- LIVE AT THE REGAL
Buy Live at the Regal Amazon
THE ROLLING STONES- OUT OF OUR HEADS
Buy Out of Our Heads (US) Amazon
BOB DYLAN- HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED
Buy Highway 61 Revisited Amazon
VINCE GUARALDI TRIO- A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS
Buy A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Original Sound Track Recording Of The CBS Television Special