January 31 – Blondie Found High Tides Soon Ebb

What do you get when you put a Big Apple punk group in Hollywood and have them listen to some music of the Islands? Well, in 1981, the answer was a major #1 hit – “The Tide is High” by Blondie. It topped the charts this day 42 years ago. It was their third American #1 in less than two years.

Of course, calling Blondie a “punk” band is misleading even though many, if not most, music writers and radio people of the day did just that. Despite their CBGB origins in New York, they’d become a fairly talented bunch of players who’d scored major success with songs that varied from straight-out disco (“Call Me”, “Heart of Glass”) to pure pop (“Sunday Girl”) to good ol’ fashioned rock & roll (“One Way or Another”). That in mind, “The Tide is High” might not have been so surprising.

The song was a cover of a 1967 song by Jamaican reggae/rocksteady band The Paragons. It hadn’t received a lot of attention, likely even on their own island, since it was a b-side of a single. But somehow it ended up on a Jamaican music compilation cassette that Blondie’s Deborah Harry & Chris Stein found when holidaying in England. They both liked it straight away and decided to record it.

It made its way onto their fifth album (and third since becoming popular at home in North America), Autoamerican. They’d decided to make some changes for that record, including recording it in L.A., something Chris Stein didn’t like but producer Mike Chapman insisted upon. Drummer Clem Burke on the other hand said it “was fun! We got to spend two months in California.”

They also decided to expand their musical horizons, for better or worse, with an old 1920s-style crooner (“Here’s Looking At You”) , a rap-based song (“Rapture”, the follow-up single and their final #1 hit in many places) besides this tropical-sounding effort. Stein liked the band The Specials and asked them to play with Blondie on it, but they declined. So instead they brought in some extra session players including a trio of percussionists and some unfortunately uncredited horn players to add authenticity.

The album did well, but not as well as the previous pair of hits, going platinum in the U.S., UK and Canada. “The Tide is High” led the way being a #1 hit not only in the U.S. but Canada, the UK and New Zealand as well. It came close, top 5, in most other “Western” countries like Ireland and Australia. It earned them their sixth gold single in Britain and third platinum one in Canada.

However, their time in the sun was running out, figuratively and literally. After “Rapture”, they struggled to get noticed for years and Debbie Harry went solo by the end of 1982, leaving the band on a 15-year break.

One curious bit of trivia about “The Tide is High.” It knocked John Lennon out of the #1 slot which his “Starting Over” had been at for five weeks. That seemed fitting because according to Sean Lennon, it was the one modern track his dad really liked just before his death. He said John “played (it) constantly…when I hear that song, I see my father, unshaven, his hair pulled back into a ponytail, dancing to and fro in a worn out pair of denim shorts with me at his feet.”

Advertisement

January 19 – Parton A Part Of Many A Hall Of Fame

If anyone deserves a Happy birthday, I guess it’d be someone who’s inducted into the “Happiness Hall of Fame” (yes, that’s a real thing!). so happy 77th birthday, Dolly Parton!

No matter what your musical tastes, it’s hard not to like Dolly, the Queen of Country Music. Growing up poor in the hills of Tennessee made her appreciate life’s simple pleasures, but also to have a very strong work ethic she credits her dad with instilling in her. She told Dan Rather she still likes to get up before sunrise to work, and that pays off – she’s written some 3000 songs and recorded over 50 studio albums of her own, eight of which made it to the top of the American Country charts. Not surprisingly, she’s a long-time member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. As well, she’s had mainstream success with songs like “Here You Come Again” and “9 to 5” (taken from a movie she starred in with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda) but perhaps did best with the song “I Will Always Love You”, made into a major hit by Whitney Houston. Elvis Presley had wanted to record it, but apparently wanted to have songwriting credit for it which she refused. Besides her music and movies and Dollywood theme park (the #1 visited single tourist attraction in her home state), she’s usually doing something for others – she’s spearheaded campaigns for HIV/AIDS charities, an effort to preserve the Bald Eagle and headlined a 2016 fundraiser for fire victims in Gatlinburg, near where she grew up.

She’s been back in the entertainment news recently. Last year she ventured into fiction-writing, co-writing a story of an up-and-coming country singer with James Patterson, Run Rose Run. It was a #1 best-seller on the New York Times list for five weeks. And, more recently again with her being named to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame last fall. That, despite her asking not to be voted in, given that she’s more of a country musician. However, since she was inducted, she decided to try and earn it. “Why not just go ahead and do it…maybe have some of the greats, the legends of rock & roll sing along with me.” Thus, she’s working on a rock album, which will be largely (if not all) cover versions. Steve Perry, Steven Tyler, Pink and even Paul McCartney are already confirmed guests for it. Perhaps we will have a preview of how it will sound tomorrow. A new song, “Gonna Be You”, which she did with Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Harry and others, is due to be released.

And no, she doesn’t care if you stare at her: “it takes a lot of money to look this cheap!” is one of her famous catch-phrases!

December 28 – Brit New Wavers Toured America’s Old Highway

Britain’s Depeche Mode taught us how to travel west : get “Behind the Wheel” and take “Route 66”. The double-sided single was released on this day in 1987...in at least eight different forms (including 7 and 12″ vinyl, cd-singles, different versions for Europe and the U.S…)!

It helped the Music for the Masses album (from which “Behind the Wheel” was drawn) become their biggest hit to that point in North America and helped them sell out venues from East Germany (of all places) to California on the tour, the final show of which, at the Rose Bowl, was recorded for their live 101 album and VHS. The striking video for “wheel” (shot in B&W by renowned photographer Anton Corbijn) evoked all sorts of imagery of the American west, so “Route 66” seemed a perfect b-side. Possibly as a nod to American music, the band broke out more guitars for the song than had been their norm til then.

The song is about one of the first U.S. highways, opened in 1925, which ran between Chicago and L.A., and the song had been a hit  for Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby and the Rolling Stones. Oddly it was originally written by Bobby Troup, probably best known as the elder doctor on the TV show, Emergency. The DM version ended up being the #1 song of the year in ’88 on LA’s KROQ station. Maybe they were taking that highway west to the Rose Bowl.

December 22 – Hazy? Perhaps. Winter? Most Definitely.

Welcome to winter! Today marks the first complete day of winter, and boy, for most of North America, it feels it too! So, that in mind, what better day to look at a “winter” song so nice, it was on the charts this day twice – once in 1966, and again in 1987. We’re talking about “A Hazy Shade of Winter.”

The slightly gloomy song was written by Paul Simon, at the time barely in his 20s, but looked ahead to a character entering the “winter” of their life, lamenting “time, time, time, see what’s become of me”. It was recorded by Simon & Garfunkel, and released as a standalone single late in ’66; in fact on this day that year it was enjoying its final week in the top 40. The song was later incorporated into their 1968 album Bookends, which essentially was a concept album tracing a man’s lifetime. It was, by their standards, a bit uptempo and “rock” …allmusic for instance described it as “one of the toughest and most rock-oriented” songs of the duo’s career. Radio DJ Pete Fornatale thought it , with Decembery lines like “leaves are brown, there’s a patch of snow on the ground” as the perfect counterpoint to the more optimistic winter tune “California Dreaming” which was a hit around the same time. Cashbox thought it was “a strong session bound for Biggiesburg!”

Fast forward some 20 years and the producers of the movie Less than Zero, a dour look at college aged kids sinking into the drug culture and despair were piecing together a soundtrack. They invited The Bangles to take part, and gave them some freedom to pick a song. The ladies chose to cover “A Hazy Shade of Winter” , a song they’d played regularly in their live shows for four years. With Rick Rubin producing the soundtrack, they got to make it a bit faster and more rock-oriented still than the original, although omitting one verse about drinking vodka and lime which the record label had worried about. Michael Steele of the band said “we sounded the most on this record (like) the way we actually sound live.” Making it a bit different for them, all four harmonized on much of the song, instead of having Susanna Hoffs sing lead.

Whether or not it hit “Biggiesburg”, it did well for Simon & Garfunkel, hitting #13 in the U.S., and #11 I Canada. Later it would make the British top 30. However, the public took to the Bangles take of it better. It was in its third week on the top 40 charts this day in ’87 and would make it to #2 at home, #3 in Canada and #11 in the UK despite the soundtrack album itself posting mediocre results.

The Bangles were happy with their recording, and with getting to meet Paul Simon…after their cover of it had been a hit. “We had loved Simon & Garfunkel, and naturally we also loved Paul as a solo artist” Hoffs explained, “we were really happy to see them perform and then go backstage for a meet and greet.” But they were a bit hesitant to mention the song, which they’d done better (commercially at least, though many would argue artistically too) than the writer. “I don’t think we talked about it very much,” she said, ”I remember he was very sweet.”Better than being cold like a hazy winter day.

December 12 – Turntable Talk, Round 9 – Singalong With Bob

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! As this is the ninth instalment, regular readers know what it is. Every month, I have several interesting guest writers sound off on one topic related to the music that we look at here daily. Earlier this year we’ve looked at some topics that sparked lively debates, including if the Beatles were still relevant and people’s takes on how videos changed music. This time around though, in recognition of the calendar we have a simpler topic : Songs of the Season. We’ve just asked the guests to talk about a Christmas/holiday song that they love and why it has meaning to them.

With us today is Max, from Power Pop Blog. There he looks at great songs and albums from the early rock years through the alternative rock ones, and sometimes a few TV or movie surprises too. Like many of us, he’s a big fan of the Beatles – will that suggest his pick for a seasonal song?

I would never bet against Bob Dylan doing anything. When one of my friends told me at the time that Dylan released a Christmas album. I thought he was kidding. No, he wasn’t…and I liked it when I heard it. This song was based off a German drinking game, with the lyrics taking on a ‘call and answer’ structure… “Who’s got a beard/That’s long and white?/Santa’s got a beard/That’s long and white.”

Must Be Santa” was written by Hal Moore and Bill Fredericks. The song was first released in 1960 by Mitch Miller. In 2009, Bob Dylan covered Brave Combo’s arrangement as part of his holiday album, Christmas in the Heart.

All the profits from this album went towards Feeding America, Crisis and the World Food Program. In 2009, Dylan told Bill Flanagan that he had intended to make a Christmas record for sometime: “Yeah, every so often it has crossed my mind. The idea was first brought to me by Walter Yetnikoff, back when he was President of Columbia Records.”

If you want to know what Dylan considers to be a great Christmas meal, it would consist of “Mashed potatoes and gravy, roast turkey and collard greens, turnip greens, biscuit dressing, cornbread and cranberry sauce.”

Bob Dylan: “This version comes from a band called Brave Combo. Somebody sent their record to us for our radio show [Theme Time Radio Hour]. They’re a regional band out of Texas that takes regular songs and changes the way you think about them. You oughta hear their version of ‘Hey Jude.'”

Bob Dylan – “Must Be Santa

Who’s got a beard that’s long and white?
Santa’s got a beard that’s long and white
Who comes around on a special night?
Santa comes around on a special night

Special Night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Who wears boots and a suit of red?
Santa wears boots and a suit of red

Who wears a long cap on his head?
Santa wears a long cap on his head

Cap on head, suit that’s red
Special night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Who’s got a big red cherry nose?
Santa’s got a big red cherry nose

Who laughs this way: “HO HO HO”?
Santa laughs this way: “HO HO HO”

HO HO HO, cherry nose
Cap on head, suit that’s red
Special night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Who very soon will come our way?
Santa very soon will come our way

Eight little reindeer pull his sleigh?
Santa’s little reindeer pull his sleigh

Reindeer sleigh, come our way
HO HO HO, cherry nose
Cap on head, suit that’s red
Special night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen
Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen
Carter, Reagan, Bush and Clinton

Reindeer sleigh, come our way
HO HO HO, cherry nose
Cap on head, suit that’s red
Special night, beard that’s white

Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus
Must be Santa
Must be Santa
Must be Santa, Santa Claus

December 6 – Byrds Hit 3000 Years In The Making

Occasionally a Christian rock band crossover and have a mainstream hit song. Jars of Clay or Sixpence None the Richer for example. But it’s far rarer for a mainstream rock band to have a hit with a song that not only is Christian in message but came straight from the Bible, but such was the case this week in 1965 when the Byrds had the #1 song in the U.S. with “Turn, Turn, Turn.”

The song had been written, as it were, by folkie Pete Seeger, who apparently recorded it around 1959. He created the melody but took the majority of the lyrics straight from the Bible’s Ecclesiastes, often credited to King Solomon in the range of three thousand years earlier. It essentially tells people life has its ups and downs : “a time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to mourn, a time to dance” and so forth. Seeger added the chorus, “turn turn turn” and the “I swear it’s not too late” to the ending “a time for peace.”

Among the acts who’d recorded it in the early-’60s were the Limeliters and Judy Collins. Collins happened to have Jim McGuinn helping her as a session musician on her take, and it stuck with him. Three years later, he’d started The Byrds and began preferring to be called “Roger” McGuinn. He figured it would be a good song for his folk-rock band, and correctly guessed the lines about peace would resonate with the public who were growing concerned over the Vietnam War. He said “it’s a standard folk song, but I played it and it came out rock & roll, because that’s what I’m programmed to do.”

It took over 70 takes in five days, but he got it done. And he got it done well, with his 12-string Rickenbacker, giving it that jangly sound they were so closely associated with and that would greatly influence later guitarists ranging from Susanna Hoffs to Peter Buck (today’s birthday boy by the way – Happy 66th Pete!). Add in some great harmonies behind him from David Crosby and Gene Clark and you had one great-sounding song, no matter what your religious persuasion might be. Billboard at the time noted it was “fascinating…performed with respect and taste, and a solid dance beat.”

Indeed it was. It became their second #1 song (“Mr. Tambourine Man” being the first, about six months earlier) and spent three weeks on top that December before the Dave Clark 5 replaced it with the not-too-differently titled “Over and Over.” It ended up being the #3 biggest-seller of 1965 at home, and did well in Canada too, where it reached #3 on the charts. It was a top 10 in West Germany , but was met with a cooler reception in Britain, making it to just #26.

With a good melody and lyrics that speak to most of us and our life experiences, it’s little wonder it would end up the Byrds biggest hit, and later be covered by artists ranging from Nina Simone to Dolly Parton to Chris Deburgh.





November 21 – ’80s Live, Part 1 – When People Began To ‘Idol’ize Billy

It’s hard to keep a good song down. About six years after he first released a version of it, and about 18 years after it was first a hit, Billy Idol has his only U.S. #1 single this day in 1987 with a live version of “Mony Mony.” The song was a cover version of Tommy James and the Shondells 1968 song, which had been a #1 hit in the UK and top 5 in North America.

Idol had recorded it immediately after leaving punk band Generation X, and released it as a single back in 1981, to little real notice. However, it was a popular part of his live show for years (including the well-known custom of the crowd adding their own , umm, “suggestions” during the chorus) and he decided to put out a live recording of it to tie his fans over between albums, and to promote a forthcoming “best of” album. That time did the trick for Idol, who’d had two prior top 10s in his adopted country. It hit the top in Canada as well, and was a top 10 in a number of other countries including Australia and New Zealand. Coincidentally, the Idol version knocked another Tommy James cover out of the top spot; Tiffany’s version of “I Think We’re Alone Now.

Idol’s been keeping a fairly low profile this decade musically, but was in the news in 2018 when he officially became an American citizen. Around the same time he got together with some members of his old band (Generation X) as well as Steve Jones and Paul Cook from the Sex Pistols to do a one-off show as the “Generation Sex” in L.A.

“Mony Mony”, by the way, is a more or less meaningless phrase James came up with when needing a catchy chorus line for a song he had; he came up with it when seeing an illuminated “Mutual of New York” – MONY – sign.

November 18 – Captain Fantastic Saluted Sgt. Pepper

One good turn deserves another. So it was fitting that two of Britain’s biggest icons would help one another out. The biggest Brit act of the ’60s were The Beatles and the biggest of the ’70s, Elton John. As it worked out, Elton’s rein on the charts really took off right about when The Beatles broke up. We don’t know if Elton was friends with Paul, George or Ringo but we do know he and John Lennon struck up quite a friendship.

In 1974, Elton helped John out with the song “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” which became John’s first American #1 single. So Lennon decided to return the favor, double-fold. He visited Elton that summer at the Caribou Ranch in Colorado and worked on Elton’s version of the Beatles’ favorite, “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds.” Lennon played guitar and sang the backing vocals on it and then did the same on the song “One Day at a Time” an album cut off his Walls and Bridges album. While neither was used on the album Elton was cutting at the time, Caribou, they were released as a 7” single on this day 45 years back. The timing was perfect for Elton as his Greatest Hits was newly released and dominating sales charts but it lacked any new material that would have kept Elton front and center on the radio over the Christmas season.

Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” did just that. It quickly got to #1 in the U.S. and Canada and #3 in Australia. In the States, it was his third chart-topping single; in Canada where it spent four weeks on top, it became his sixth #1.

This of course bested The Beatles version in at least as much as the Fab Four original wasn’t released as a single, although it was an immensely popular album track off Sgt. Pepper… While credited to Lennon and McCartney as writers, history suggests that John had a lot more to do with writing it than Paul did. And while speculation runs rampant to this day about the song being a hidden ode to acid – note the initials, L.S.D. in the title – John always denied it. He says he got the idea from a picture young Julian Lennon drew for him with a flying girl, and when he asked his son what it was the reply was the song title. Lennon says he filled out the lyrics by drawing on Alice In Wonderland . Now, where Lewis Carroll got the inspiration for the shrinking girl, smoking caterpillar, top-hatted rabbit and so on is an entirely different story!

It wasn’t the only tie between the two superstars that year. Elton had apparently liked “Whatever Gets You Through The Night” so much he said to Lennon that it was a sure-fire #1 song. Lennon doubted it and bet Elton about it. The song was, so Lennon lost the bet… but the fans won. As “payment” Lennon appeared during an Elton John concert in New York City that fall and the pair played three songs together: “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”, this one, and “I Saw Her Standing There.” Sadly, it was the last concert appearance for Lennon. While not a hit in its own right, the three songs on the concert were made available as part of both Elton and Lennon compilations later on in their careers.

November 14 – The End Of Solo Career Was Beginning Of Wilburys

It was almost a last hurrah for the Beatles. George Harrison‘s “Got My Mind Set On You” made the U.S. Top 40 this day in 1987. It would go on to be his third #1 hit in the U.S. (after “My Sweet Lord” and “Give Me Love” in the ’70s) , and eventually the last chart-topper for any solo Beatle.

The song was written by Rudy Clark and originally recorded by James Ray in 1962; Harrison recorded it for his Cloud Nine album, which was co-produced by Jeff Lynne of ELO, whom he would form the Traveling Wilburys with the following year. There was even more of a tie-in between the two than that; Harrison was wanting a new b-side for another single off Cloud Nine, so he got Lynne in on the song,  in turn they got Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Bob Dylan in on it too. “Handle with Care” was the song, originally designed to be a one-off Harrison song but they all agreed it sounded so good and they liked working together well-enough to carry on as a band. Thus the Traveling Wilburys were born. 

Although he often was the over-looked Beatle, he had a very impressive solo career, starting with Wonderwall Music in 1968 (an instrumental album which was the first solo work for any of the Fab Four) and peaking with All Things Must Pass. That 1970 album was a 105-minute, triple album which drew upon his friends Eric Clapton, Gary Wright, Peter Frampton, the members of Badfinger and others and was called “the War and Peace of Rock and Roll” by Rolling Stone. while Britain’s The Guardian called it the “best, mellowest and most sophisticated” of any solo record by one of the Fab Four. Cloud Nine may not have matched that but drew decent reviews and went platinum in the States. It ended up being the last solo album George would release in his lifetime.

November 6 – Turntable Talk, Round 6 : This Year Had A Lot To Cover

Welcome back to Turntable Talk! As by now, regular readers know, that’s when I have several interesting guest writers sound off on one topic related to the music that we look at here daily. This is our seventh round of it, and if you’re new here, I recommend taking a look back at some of the earlier topics we’ve covered like why the Beatles are still relevant, or “did video kill the radio star?” or the one dealing with one hit wonders we ran at the start of last month.

This month, a simple category…but one which is challenging and should bring up some interesting memories : Those Were The Days My Friend. Simply put, we’re asking the contributors to write about “music’s best year.”

Obviously, that’s a pretty subjective choice. A few executives might try to look at sales charts and give a statistical answer based on album sales or concert grosses, but to most it comes down to the year that seemed to be when the best music was played, or when the most really good records came out. We’ve not limited it but I would expect that most are going to pick a year from the ‘rock era’ in the second half of the 20th Century. But if someone opines it was 1804 because that was when Beethoven started working on his 5th Symphony, that’ll be interesting to read about. Today we have Randy from Mostly Music Covers up in Canada. Will his interest in cover songs and how they mark a great song influence his pick? :

When Dave sent out a challenge for the guest writers to choose what we believe is the best year in music, you may as well have asked me to choose my favorite child! I like lots of genre from lots of decades, and I’m old so that’s many years to sift through, let alone remember. For some reason this analogy came to mind, just 5 minutes from where I live is the Sugar Shanty operated by Rolling Ridge Maple Products. They tap about 15,000 trees; each one will produce 15 gallons or more per season. So, every Spring they take this roughly 225,000 gallons of sap and boil it down to about 5,500 gallons of Maple Syrup. For me to find my sweet spot for music will take distilling a forest of songs and yet unfortunately, it will not yield anything so delicious. I have put my researchers cap on and tried to weight the artists and songs I love with my knowledge of the historical merits of the music.

When I first read the proposed topic the years 1969, 1970 and 1971 came to mind and I am not alone on those choices. I’m a cover song person so I tend to lean heavily on this metric to gage the significance of years, songs, and artists. According to Secondhandsongs.com there are 31,131 covers of songs that originated in 1967. In second place is 1965 with 27,876 covers. The previously mentioned years; 1969 has 20,201, 1970 has 21,912 and 1971 has 19,830. In 1972 we see a similar total at 19,269. All lofty numbers with the peak years running from about 1956 to 1977.

I then started to think about the songs from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Rolling Stone magazine and bunch of other sources that list the best years, songs, and artists. As Dave had suggested we take a scroll through our record collections and the old iPod. I did just that, my LP collection, sad as it is and un-played for many a year is almost all from the ’70’s and ’80’s with artists that I liked enough to invest in. However, the largest collection I have is in my iTunes library. The oldest songs are by Jimmie Rodgers from 1929 and the last time I downloaded an album was in 2019 so we’ve narrowed things down to a 90 year window. The most songs that I own originated in 1965. That seems as good a year as I will be able to produce, I guess I should have started there! So, be it resolved that the year 1965 is my choice for the best year in music.

Why is it that 1965 should be the best year in music? As mentioned, I am a cover song guy so it’s no coincidence I suppose that the most covered pop song of all time “Yesterday” by the Beatles/aka just Paul McCartney solo came out that year. As I mentioned above, 1965 comes in second to 1967 for the most songs covered.

Here are the some of the critical points that I believe prove that 1965 was the best year in music.

The Beatles and the British Invasion

The British invasion began in February of 1964, during that year for the first time nine songs from the UK hit #1 on Billboard and six of those belonged to The Beatles. In 1965 the trend continues as UK groups held the #1 spot for 28 weeks with new appearances by The Rolling Stones and six other bands. A record that still stands today.

To say that The Beatles were hot in 1965 is an understatement they followed their six #1’s in 1965 with another five. Apart from “Yesterday” (which currently has 1110 documented versions and there are estimates of thousands more) hitting #1 on Billboard for four weeks, in total they held the #1 spot for 12 weeks that year. Their highest charting songs were “Help” 3wks at #1, “I Feel Fine” 2wks at #1, “Ticket to Ride” one week at #1 and “Eight Days a Week”, 2wks at #1. At least twice that year British acts held the top nine songs of the week. Ok that’s not Drake or Taylor Swift stats but unprecedented for the times. From the weekly Top 40’s that year there was a total of 33 different artists from the UK.

The major point is that in 1965 the best-selling and most covered artists of all time, The Beatles or rather Beatlemania was at it’s peak. Their second U.S. tour included shows at Shea Stadium and The Hollywood Bowl with fans exhibiting a kind of mass hysteria previously reserved for Elvis Presley. The Beatles met Elvis only once, on August 27, at his home in Bel Air. The meeting was more significant to The Beatles who not only idolized Elvis but in some ways tried to emulate him, while it seems Elvis was initially somewhat non-plussed about the whole thing. John Lennon was nervous to meet the man he had worshipped since he was a teenager. The result was a friendly meeting and a jam session with John and Paul playing guitars and Elvis on bass. The Beatles would also meet with Dylan (first in 1964) and The Byrds during the tour. All these artists would take something away from the meetings that would influence their music.

Conversely in the UK the singles chart showed a reverse invasion. Something you don’t read as much about, but American acts charted very well. “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” by The Righteous Brothers followed by Roger Miller with “King of the Road”, “Crying in the Chapel” by Elvis Presley, “Mr. Tambourine Man” by The Byrds and “I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher all hit #1 for two weeks each. The last American group to hold the #1 spot were The Walker Brothers with “Make it Easy on Yourself” for the week ending September 19. There was a total of 46 American acts in the Top 40 compared to the 33 UK acts in the US, and they called this period “The British Invasion”? The difference between the two was the dominance and high chart placement of the Invasion groups with 28 weeks at #1 versus the six American Acts hitting #1 in the UK for a total of 11 weeks. Nevertheless, there was no other year other than 1965 with so many American Artists in the UK Top 40.

What happened in this exchange was a new face to Popular Music. The borders were down, and artists of all stripes and genre toured foreign destinations like never before.

Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel and Folk Rock

In March of 1965 Dylan released his first electric Rock music on one half of his fifth Album Bringing it All Back Home. This album among it’s may now legendary songs had a track tilted “Mr. Tambourine Man” on the acoustic side of the album.

Mr. Tambourine Man” was covered by The Byrds and recorded April 12, 1965. Dylan had began playing the acoustic original in concert in 1964, then recorded it in studio January of 1965 but it was not released as a single by Dylan, but it was by (I have to say) the then very loosely organized band now calling themselves The Byrds. They were inspired by The Beatles and in particular George Harrisons 12 string Rickenbacker. Along with the admiration for Dylan, it turned out to be a recipe for success. They followed Dylan’s original by just three weeks as they had started to cover an amplified version in their live performances and had received an advance copy of the recording to work from in studio. They invited Dylan to listen, and he really liked it and got the blessing to release their version and Folk Rock was born.

In July of 1965, Bob Dylan released what is now considered by many, including Rolling Stone, as one the greatest songs of all time, “Like a Rolling Stone“. It was recorded on June 15 and 16 and produced by Tom Wilson. This song is significant in so many ways beyond the merits of Dylan’s artistry as a singer songwriter. First, he was disillusioned with the music business at the time and considered quitting. The recording was more than tumultuous and a bit disorganized. The record company did not think it would sell, because it (for a Dylan song) was too ‘rock-like’ and at 6:13 minutes they were certain no radio station would play it. Not to mention the lyrics were aggressive and hard on whomever “Miss Lonely” was in her “fall from grace”. According to Shaun Considine the release coordinator at the time for Columbia Records, he said he took a demo copy and got the DJ at Club Arthur in New York to play it one night. The crowd full of celebs and music industry types requested the song be played over and over. The next day radio DJs were calling Colombia Records to demand copies. The song was Dylan’s biggest hit (not that he really cared about that stuff) and reached #2 on Billboard, held back by the pesky Beatles with “Help”.

As named above, Producer Tom Wilson was convinced Folk Rock was going to take off and he had a hunch he could overdub a song he had produced by Simon and Garfunkel from their failed attempt on the now well know album Wednesday Morning 3 a.m., recorded in March of 1964 and released that October. After the sessions with Dylan on June 15 he got some musicians together and they laid down an electronic version of the music to “The Sound of Silence” and another Folk Rock classic was born, and it reunited Simon and Garfunkel to produce more legendary music starting with the final recordings of the Sounds of Silence album completed in December of 1965.

As we move along and still in July, Bob Dylan, the face of the Folk Revival in the U.S. performed his first set of electric music. This performance at the Newport Folk Festival would change much in popular music not only for Dylan but he helped blur the lines that turned out better for Rock than it did for Folk Music. The following tour that year and the next with his backup band The Hawks (from Ronnie Hawkins) would not only lead to the formation of The Band, but would impart a renaissance in American Music, with Southern Rock and Americana being just two of the beneficiaries.

If that’s not enough, “Eve of Destruction” was recorded in July of 1965 and first released that August by Barry McGuire on Dunhill Records. Likely the greatest anti War song of all time. Folk Rock was now in full swing and The Mamas and The Papas with the help of Barry McGuire would release the soon to be hit song “California Dreamin’” in December of 1965.

R&B, Soul, and Motown

By 1965 Berry Gordy had already seen remarkable success with artists like Mary Wells, Barrett Strong, The Supremes and The Miracles. In January “Come See About Me” would reach #1 for the second time and knock The Beatles down a notch and set off Motown’s best year since the beginnings in 1959. The Supremes would follow with “Stop in the Name of Love”, “Back in My Arms Again” and “I Hear a Symphony” and all hit #1 on Billboards Hot 100 as did The Temptations with “My Girl” and The Four Tops with “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)”. Although the song “Tracks of My Tears” by The Miracles did not reach #1 it was #2 on the R&B Chart and #16 on the Hot 100 and it is widely regarded as one of the best songs to come out of Motown. On a Top 10 Songs of All Time list compiled by Mojo Magazine from the top 20 writers and producers it is ranked at #5. The soon to be legendary Marvin Gaye would have two #1 songs on the R&B charts.

In Memphis Stax Records was a successful and going concern but something changed in 1965. It was the establishment of Isaac Hayes and David Porter as the Labels creative force which would later pay big dividends. With the backing of the now legendary Booker T. & the M.G.’s, here is just a sampling of the songs and artists that year; Otis Redding with “Mr. Pitiful”, “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” and “Respect” which as we all know was taken by Aretha Franklin in 1967 and that version is ranked #1 on the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs list. Sam and Dave would record “Hold on I’m Coming” in 1965, written by Porter and Hayes, to be released in 1966. There was also Wilson Pickett with “In the Midnight Hour” which has become a Soul Music staple with over 170 versions.

The under appreciated Nina Simone released the most influential versions of “Feeling Good” and “I Put a Spell on You” and a stirring version of Billie Holidays “Strange Fruit”. Stevie Wonder hits #3 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B chart with “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”, Ray Charles releases a cover of “Crying Time” originally by Buck Owens, the song would hit top ten and garner a Grammy Award for Charles in 1967. “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” (Pt. 1) by James Brown and The Famous Flames was Brown’s first top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 hitting #8 and it was #1 on the R&B Chart.

Last notes on 1965

I know I am running long here but just a couple more notable facts from 1965, The Beach Boys Hit #1 with “Help Me Rhonda” #2 with “Barbara Ann” and #3 with “California Girls”. The much lauded “My Generation” by The Who and one of the greatest covers ever, “Hang on Sloopy” by The McCoys.

There are 32 songs from 1965 on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame List of the 500 (+) Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll, second only to 1967 with 33 songs. On the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs list, 2021 edition 1965 is second again at 20 songs, one behind 1971.

I didn’t even get to Country Music or Jazz! Ok, that’s it!