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5 Questions with Author and Music Historian Andrew Grant Jackson
1. So, what was so special about music in 1965? What was happening back then?
Basically the combination of the civil rights movement, Vietnam, the Pill, marijuana, LSD, and long hair on men caused a lot of people to start questioning things and demanding more personal freedom, and the musicians reflected that by creating new genres like folk rock, funk, baroque pop, and psychedelia, and experimenting with new sounds like Indian instrumentation, feedback, and distortion. Bob Dylan inspired his peers to write new kinds of lyrics for rock and pop: surreal, introspective, topical. The civil rights struggle fueled the golden age of soul. Songs began to reflect the changing morality of the Sexual Revolution.
2. What was the scene like for female musicians in 1965?
Nina Simone accompanied herself on piano, and Odetta, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and Jackie DeShannon accompanied themselves on guitar. Maureen Tucker started drumming for the Velvet Underground at the end of the year. In R&B, you had vocalists like the Supremes, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Fontella Bass, Dusty Springfield. In folk you had Marianne Faithfull, the Mamas and the Papas just starting up, We Five, the Seekers, Cher. Petula Clark had pop hits on both sides of the Atlantic.
Later comment from author: Somehow I neglected to mention in the interview one of the greatest female musicians of the ’60s and beyond: Carol Kaye, the session bassist on “Help Me, Rhonda,” “California Girls,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling,” “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” “This Diamond Ring,” and countless others. (It’s her photo on the home page.)
3. Top three favorite songs that you cover in your book?
Narrowing it down to three is a killer! If you were talking about “influential” or “important” I’d say “Like a Rolling Stone,” “Satisfaction,” “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” or “People Get Ready.” But since you’re saying “favorite”… I’ll change my mind tomorrow, but “Freedom Highway” by the Staple Singers, “That’s the Chance I’ll Have to Take” by Waylon Jennings, and “I’m Not Sayin'” by Nico. Can I add one more? The Who’s “Anyhow, Anyway, Anywhere.” On the book’s website there’s a list of my favorite 125 tracks from the year: http://www.1965book.com
4. In your opinion, have there been any other years in more recent decades that compare to 1965 in terms of new/popular music?
There aren’t too many years that have a comparable level of radical innovation. 1977 had the Sex Pistols’ album, Saturday Night Fever, and hip hop starting up. The whole synth revolution was the biggest change in sound – going all electronic with drum machines – but I don’t think there’s one year you can point to for that. 1992 you had Nirvana at the top of the charts, and Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, so that was a huge era for alternative and rap. Naturally, I love the garage revival of the early 2000s. But part of the excitement of 1965 was that the music was contributing to a cultural reformation, and I don’t think there’s been one on that scale since the 60s. Obviously hip hop changed the culture, but that took place over a longer span of time. I don’t know if you can zero in on one explosive year for it.
5. Do you sometimes feel like you were born in the wrong era?
Yes! I came of age in the era of drum machines and crack and AIDS. I would’ve much preferred the psychedelic early years of the Sexual Revolution with the sounds of jangle pop and classic soul and music recorded live in the studio with lots of vocal harmonies. But then I might’ve gotten drafted.
Andrew Grant Jackson will sign and discuss 1965: The Most Revolutionary Year in Music on Thursday, March 12 at 7pm.