1965: The Year the '60s Really Started to Swing

A collage of some of 1965's greatest hits
A collage of some of 1965's greatest hits

1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music By Andrew Grant Jackson Thomas Dunne Books, 352 pp., $27.99

A guy who knew a thing or two about the era, Bob Dylan, once surmised that the 1960s really started in 1965. And indeed, in addition to a sea change in social, political, pharmaceutical and sexual direction that seemed to begin that year, an abundance of pretty incredible rock and pop music was released.

Just a partial list would include Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction," the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man," the Beatles' "Help!," the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'," The Temptations' "My Girl," Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence," James Brown's "I Got You (I Feel Good)" and the Beach Boys' "California Girls."

In other genres, Johnny Cash, John Coltrane, Buck Owens, the Staple Singers, the Grateful Dead, the Velvet Underground and Bob Marley and the Wailers were making waves. And those hippies were waiting just around the chronological corner...

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Author Jackson calls the year "the ground zero moment when the monochrome door opened onto a kaleidoscopic Oz waiting on the other side," and makes a good case for 1965 as a pivotal year that hasn't gotten nearly the attention that wild and crazy 1967 has. His book is nothing if not a complete look at those 365 days, as chapters on music are also interspersed with historical scene-setting pages on the Vietnam war, Malcolm X and MLK, pop art, the Watts riots, the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, long hair and miniskirts.

Unfortunately, the book itself often reads like an extended Wikipedia entry, a clip job that's a mishmash -- if a well-put-together one -- of stories and events from other books, magazines and newspaper articles. The book's source bibliography is extensive, and even includes one entry for a Rocks Off post by our own William Michael Smith.

Any of Jackson's own observation and analysis is kept at a minimum, and it appears that no original interviews were done for the book. As a result, the text comes off as sometimes dry and factual.

So while 1965 is something of a letdown as a deeper work, it is a breezy and comprehensive read, and a portrait -- albeit a paint-by-numbers one -- of a very important and unique year in music history. Half a century ago...

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