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1965 Pt. 2 “I’ve Got Sunshine on a Cloudy Day”

March 6, 2015

While many British hits dominated US music in 1965, American music was also excellent in 1965 led by two important trends: (1) a new fusion sound called folk-rock and (2) ascendancy of Motown music as well as other soul and R&B artists. In other words, there were two more reasons why 1965 is still my favorite year for rock and popular music.

The folk/rock sound was led by Bob Dylan but it was other artists that covered many of his songs that led to the great popularity of folk-rock in 1965. Dylan  started the trend with his Bringing it all Back Home album released in March which had its entire first side backed by an electric rock ‘n roll band (a first for Dylan) including Dylan’s classic songs “Subterranean Homesick Blues” and “Maggie’s Farm”.  Side 2 was more conventional (for Dylan) with mostly acoustic guitar and harmonica but featured two other classics: “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “It’s Alright Ma, I’m Only Bleeding”. By the Summer of 1965, Dylan had released another album Highway 61 Revisited which included the ultimate electric,  folk-rock song “Like a Rolling Stone” which is far and away my favorite Dylan song and is widely considered one of the greatest rock songs of all time. The last track on the album was one of the longest, yet most interesting, folk songs (over 10 minutes) “Desolation Row”. By the end of the year, Dylan released another great folk-rock single “Positively 4th Street” which had the biting lyrics “You’ve got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend….you always seem to be on the side that’s winning”.

While Dylan technically started the folk-rock sound with his first 1965 album, it was the Byrds who popularized it with their first single in 1965- the electric cover of Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” in June which rose to #1 in the charts. The song featured guitarist David Crosby and lead guitarist Roger McGuinn with his distinctive “jangly” electric Rickenbacker guitar sound. Gene Clark played electric bass guitar. All three were excellent lead vocalists and sang great harmonies given their experience as solo folk musicians and in folk groups (McGuinn from the Chad Mitchell Trio and Gene Clark from the New Christy Minstrels). In August, the group released another Dylan cover “All I Really Want to Do” which featured great guitar and vocal harmonies. (though the not-as-good Cher version of the song did better on the charts).

The Mr. Tambourine Man album released in mid-summer was arguably the first complete folk-rock album and was by far the best individual album the Byrds ever recorded. In addition to “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “All I Really Want to Do”, it also included another Dylan song, the beautifully harmonic “Chimes of Freedom” and a great cover of folk singer’s Pete Seeger’s composition “Bells of Rhymney”. However, the album also featured original Byrds compositions, most notably vocalist Gene Clark’s ” I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better” another great folk-rock composition. A testament to the strength of this first Byrds album is that all five of these songs constituted almost the entire first side of the Byrds greatest hits album released two years later, which not surprisingly was one of the first “greatest hits” albums I ever bought. The one exception was the single “Turn, Turn, Turn” which was released in October and reached the top of the charts by the end of December. This time, instead of a Dylan song, the Byrds used another Pete Seeger composition which drew its lyrics from the Bible. “Turn, Turn, Turn” is by far my favorite song by the Byrds–its melody, vocal harmonies and electric guitar playing are superb– and it deservedly was the most popular song the Byrds ever released.

Following the Byrds successes in mid-1965, another new group The Lovin Spoonful led by singer/songwriter John Sebastian had their first hit in September the wonderfully upbeat “Do You Believe in Magic” followed by the excellent love song “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice” in December.  Meanwhile in August, Barry McGuire took folk-rock in the opposite direction with #1 hit “Eve of Destruction” in August. This was the folk-rock movement’ s ultimate anti-war song which even was banned in Scotland and restricted in England due to its lyrics about violence and war….”the Eastern world it is exploding, violence flaring, bullets loading, you’re old enough kill but not for votin’, you don’t believe in war but what’s that gun you’re toting , and even the Jordan River’s got bodies floating …..”.

Michael Stewart, brother of John Stewart of the Kingston Trio, formed the group We Five and recorded the folk-rock “You Were on My Mind” in 1965. The song’s catchy melody and vocals resulting it becoming one of the biggest hits of 1965. And another new group, the Turtles had their first hit with a good folk-rock cover of Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe”. After a few years of limited popular success , ( no top 10 hits since 1961’s “Hats off to Larry” ),  Del Shannon scored with the excellent “Keep Searchin’ (I’ll Follow the Sun)” one of my favorites of the year and certainly influenced by folk-rock. The Vogues had their first two hits in 1965 with two folk influenced songs “You’re the One” and “Five O’clock World”, both favorites of mine. And after several years of limited commercial success, Simon and Garfunkel emerged onto the scene with the December release of the classic folk-rock hit “Sounds of Silence”. (More about Simon and Garfunkel when I write about 1966 next year).

The folk-rock movement also influenced music outside the US. The Seekers from Australia and featuring the beautiful voice of Judith Durham had their first hit “I’ll Never Find Another You” which was a superb folk song. Donovan,  a new British artist, was heavily influenced by Dylan in particular and  his first single “Catch the Wind” was a beautiful and serene folk song that was a great commercial success in the UK , and a top 40 hit in the US.

As exciting as folk-rock was in 1965, it was soul and R&B music that probably best characterized American popular music with its greatest year to date. In particular, the Motown Sound dominated the year, led by the Supremes. The Supremes completed their record of five #1 releases in a row with three excellent songs that charted during 1965 “Come See About Me”, “Stop in the Name of Love” and “Back of the Arms Again” and then after missing no. 1 with “Nothing but Heartaches”, finished the year with another great tune, the #1 hit “I Hear a Symphony”. All of these Supremes hits were written by the extraordinary song writing team of Holland-Dozier-Holland.

The Four Tops emerged as the second most important Motown group of 1965 and my personal favorite. I loved all four of their singles in 1965. My favorite was the top ten “Its the Same Old Song” though the number one smash ” I Can’t Help Myself” was almost as infectious and was the Tops first number 1 hit . The less popular ” Something About You” was an excellent song as well and ” Ask the Lonely” showed that lead singer Levi Stubbs could belt out a slow ballad with the best of them. With the exception of “Ask the Lonely”, the songs were all written by the same Holland-Dozier-Holland team.

The Temptations had four hits in 1965, but it was their first song  penned by Smoky Robinson and fellow Miracles member Ronnie White that became their biggest hit to date. “My Girl” was to go to #1 in March and remains the most famous and critically acclaimed Temptations song and my favorite Motown slow ballad. Interestingly, it was also David Ruffin’s first lead vocal which was followed by three other singles by the Temps with Ruffin also in the lead in 1965 – “It’s Growing”, “Since I Lost My Baby” and “My Baby” – which were all solid Temptations songs. This trend would continue during the next two and a half years (with Ruffin the lead or co-lead singer on virtually all of the Temps hit songs) until in mid-1968 Ruffin was “fired” from the group owing to problems from his swelling ego, and his drug usage. Meanwhile, Smoky Robinson and the Miracles were having a successful year with several hit singles “Ooh, Baby, Baby” (later covered successfully by Linda Ronstadt), “My Girl is Gone” and their best single to date the beautiful “Tracks of My Tears”. At the end of the year, the Miracles released their most upbeat single and my second favorite by them “Going to a Go-Go” which had a great drum opening and rhythm section throughout.

In addition to the four super Motown groups, there were several other notable soul and R&B hits that I enjoyed. Motown solo artist, Marvin Gaye had three top tens , “I’ll be Doggone”, “Ain’t that Peculiar” and my favorite “How Sweet it is” which was later covered by James Taylor. The Godfather of Soul, James Brown had his two most popular hits “I Got You (I Feel Good), and “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”  which were both outstanding R&B songs. Wilson Pickett released the iconic “In the Midnight Hour” which though it only made #21, is one of the most memorable songs which many groups later covered. In fact, it seemed that at every junior high school dance I went to at the time, the local rock band would play it. Jr. Walker and the All Stars had the rousing “Shotgun”, their first and best hit. Lead singer Curtis Mayfield of the Impressions penned the beautiful, soulful and religious “People Get Ready” which was inspired by Dr. King’s Civil Rights March on Washington in 1964. Finally, Otis Redding had his first top 40 hit with “I’ve Been Loving You too Long” and then the single “Respect”. Both are considered among the greatest soul and R&B songs of all time , though in the latter case, it was Aretha’s more famous version in 1967 that most people remember.

There were also several artists that didn’t fit into the new dominant trends of folk-rock or soul/R&B in the US in 1965 but were excellent in 1965. This included most notably the Beach Boys who had an excellent year starting with their great remake of “Do You Wanna Dance”, “Help Me Rhonda” which reached #1, and “California Girls” which hit #3, the last song being a personal favorite of mine (and my Californian wife). While all three songs followed the surf sound that the Beach Boys had popularized in 1963 and 1964 (and which was the dominant US rock sound in those years), “California Girls” marked a change in the Beach Boys music, with its lengthy instrumental introduction, and a change in tempo to a slower pace than the typical Beach Boys hit. It was to presage the superb Beach Boys album Pet Sounds  in 1966 which marked the end of the beach music era. The Righteous Brothers also dominated the pop charts with “Unchained Melody” (later featured in the 1990 movie “Ghost”) and their greatest song ever “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling”.  The Four Seasons remained a force in the pop/rock world with two big hits “Bye, Bye Baby” and one of my favorites ever by them “Let’s Hang On”. While a brand new pop/rock group, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, had a very successful 1965 with five major hits, the best of the lot being “This Diamond Ring” and “Everybody Loves a Clown”.

Several individual US hits were also stand outs in 1965. Jay and the Americans had one of their biggest hits with “Cara Mia” which featured Jay Black’s outstanding voice and was easily my favorite song by the group. Roger Miller had the country hit of the year with the catchy “King of the Road”. The Ramsey Lewis Trio had the best instrumental of the year with the jazzy “The In Crowd”. Jackie DeShannon had the best US female solo performance in 1965 with her recording of the Bacharach/David tune “What the World Needs Now is Love”. The best pure US rock song from the US in 1965 was the McCoys “Hang on Sloopy” which later became the official rock song of  Ohio in 1985 (The McCoys were from the Dayton area) and the OSU Buckeyes to boot. In a similar vein, I also liked the garage rock “She’s About a Mover” by Sir Douglas Quintet. And for pure fun, there was the simple but catchy “Wooly Bully” by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs (which found its way into skits on New York’s Sonny Becker Show which was for kids), and one of the biggest hits of the year “I Got You Babe” by Sonny and Cher.

No doubt I have missed some other good songs , but that’s the way it was during 1965 when the music always gave you “sunshine on a cloudy day”.

From → Music 60s70s

One Comment
  1. Lou Simon (Sirius XM satellite radio director and host of the “60s Satellite Survey”) was gracious enough to read the 1965 posts. His email to me “Great remembrances. One note…it was Sandy Becker,not Sonny. You might be combining Sandy’s name with Sonny Fox, the host of Wonderama. Easy to do.

    Yep…’65 had it all, alright!!”

    I stand corrected!
    -Bruce

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