1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music, by Andrew Grant Jackson (2015): Books

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Nearly every year of the 1960s was revolutionary — musically and otherwise. It was the decade of Kennedy, Vietnam and the first moon landing. Of Martin Luther King, Civil Rights and the march on Washington. Of the Beatles, Dylan and the Rolling Stones. You’ve seen the documentaries.

But, in 1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music, Andrew Grant Jackson makes a good case for a single year being the major turning point in terms of popular music. It was the year Dylan went electric, and the Beatles took on a greater maturity lyrically with Rubber Soul and broadened their sonic palette with the sitar of “Norwegian Wood” and the string quartet of “Yesterday.” It’s when the Supremes and the rest of the Motown roster really took off. When John Coltrane released A Love Supreme, and when the Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel and others blended folk and rock.

Andrew Grant Jackson surveys all these dramatic developments chronologically and geographically in 1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music (Thomas Dunne Books), dropping into Los Angeles, London, New York, Detroit, Nashville, Bakersfield and other locales to check in with key artists and describes the music they are creating and how its unlike anything that came before. Along the way, he also describes the political social events of the time: Selma, the riots in Watts and on the Sunset Strip, the Pill and the mini-skirt, the antics of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters and our growing entrenchment in Vietnam.

Occasionally, these political and social asides sweep Jackson away and he writes more about social history than the music. He spends quite a bit of time during 1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music (Thomas Dunne Books) on Kesey, for example, without mentioning the Pranksters attended a Beatles concert that year. And he spends quite a bit of time on the classic Peanuts Christmas special, first broadcast that season. Apart from the great score by Vince Guaraldi, the show didn’t have much impact on pop music of the day.

Still, Andrew Grant Jackson’s 1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music brings home how remarkable that year, and the years surrounding it, were. And it may send you scampering to your iTunes to create a really great commemorative playlist.

John Firehammer

John Firehammer

John Firehammer, a veteran newspaper reporter and communications consultant, blogs at Pop Culture Safari and The Glass Onion Beatles Journal. He's writing a book that focuses on 1960s media coverage of the Beatles. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
John Firehammer
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