Anyone who knows or remembers anything about the turbulent 1960s knows about the extraordinary and revolutionary changes that happened during the decade — in fashion, politics, art, television, and especially music. This new book by author Andrew Grant Jackson analyzes one pivotal year in that tumultuous decade, and explains why 1965, more than any other year, was the most groundbreaking of all.
Jackson is a music historian, author of Still the Greatest: The Essential Songs of the Beatles’ Solo Careers, as well as a children’s book called Where’s Ringo, a takeoff on the Where’s Waldo puzzle books. In this, his latest tome, he’s taken on the challenge of 1965, presenting the vast and overwhelming changes that happened not only in pop culture, but in the world at large.
The book is divided into “seasons,” with each section of of its chapters examining events during a different three-month period during the year bookended by a prologue to set the scene and an epilogue that expands upon the later changes that were set in motion in 1965. Jackson’s analysis is not limited only to one genre, either — certainly, he discusses the still-evolving impact of the Beatles and the British Invasion, as well as other, domestic rock groups, but also the influence of new and emerging genres such as soul, folk-rock and funk, and the rise of gospel, country, jazz, and surf music to new heights on the charts. Additionally, he looks at the political climate of the day, with chapters devoted to the civil rights movement, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr., the march from Selma to Montgomery, the trials (both legal and in the court of public opinion) about long hair, short skirts, the Pill, the Vietnam War, LSD, and rioting in the streets.
Nineteen sixty-five was the year that Bob Dylan went electric and was booed offstage at the Newport Folk Festival, but that change paved the way for folk-rock performers such as Simon and Garfunkel, the Byrds, the Lovin’ Spoonful, and others. It was the year the Beatles introduced the world to stadium rock, playing Shea Stadium for the first time, and the year they expanded their artistic expressions with projects as diverse as their second film Help! and their groundbreaking album Rubber Soul. It was the year the Rolling Stones and the Who came into their own, with strong songs like “Satisfaction” and “My Generation.” It was the year that Sam Cooke’s masterpiece anthem of the civil rights movement, “A Change Is Gonna Come,” was posthumously released, but also when Malcom X was also tragically and violently gunned down at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City.
Jackson has really taken his time doing his research — and although his forte is certainly rock music, he does not stint on his coverage and analysis of other genres and other happenings. There is extensive discussion of the Motown sound and its nearest competitor, the gritty Stax Records based in Memphis. James Brown makes his appearance, morphing the soul sound into something completely new with his hit, “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” which introduced the world to Funk. He discusses jazz and John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” The San Francisco sound was emerging, with fledgling groups like the Warlocks (later to become the Grateful Dead) entering the limelight.
LSD was still legal in 1965, and Jackson also talks about the effects of this drug and others on the culture of the times and the music and musicians who partook of them. Andy Warhol was creating pop art in his Factory, and his muse was the “it” girl, Edie Sedgwick, rumored to also be the inspiration for the Miss Lonely in Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.” Jackson discusses all these myriad influences and intersections in a clear, concise, readable style that will often make the reader sit up in surprise and say, “Gee, I never thought of that!”
The things cited above are but a small part of the subjects covered in the book. It would take an article almost as long as the book itself to talk about everything contained in it. Overall, however, 1965 is a great read, a wonderful pop-culture history presented in a way that makes the subject matter interesting and never veers into dull or academic territory. A highly scholarly but thoroughly entertaining and fascinating book, it’s a terrific way to acquaint yourself with things you never knew or to reinvigorate an existing interest in 1960s pop culture, history, and the intersection of so many different cultural events that continue to shape our world.
To get your copy of 1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music, visit Amazon.