A Brand New Bag for Pop Music . . .

Last in a series by Al Sussman on the greatest of all years for rock 'n' roll, originally published in Beatlefan #98, January 1996.

"Shindig" began its second season on Sept. 16, 1965, with a jam-packed show featuring The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Byrds. ABC had given the show a second night (a strategy that had paid off handsomely the previous season for "Peyton Place" and would yield spectacular results with "Batman" in ¹66), but the network then negated its own move by placing the second "Shindig" on Saturday night, when the bulk of the show's potential audience was anywhere but in front of a television.

"Shindig" had been a relative ratings success in its first season and had a large core audience of product-buying teenagers and young adults (in the demographics-crazy ¹90s, "Shindig" probably would be a desirable commodity). But ABC brass felt the show needed to draw a broader audience, particularly on Saturdays, so they scheduled a series of guest hosts for that night's edition.

But unlike NBC's "Hullabaloo", which leaned toward youngish celebrities such as Michael Landon who wouldn't be terribly out of place in the show's less frenetic format, ABC, not learning its lesson from the 1964 "Hollywood Palace" Dean Martin-Rolling Stones fiasco, booked the likes of Jimmy Durante, Ed Wynn, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Boris Karloff.

They looked as if they wanted to be anywhere but in the middle of this rock 'n' roll madhouse and the show's rock credibility, to a great extent, went down the drain. With "Shindig" leaning more toward pre-taped, lip-sync performances from England, the ratings went down the drain, too. America's lone true rock showcase faded away just after the New Year. And "Hullabaloo" would follow it into the TV burial ground at the end of the 1965-66 season.

Just days before the Stones' season-opening gigs on "Shindig" and "The Ed Sullivan Show", their stay in Dublin for concerts there was captured on film for what became a 50-minute documentary called "Charlie Is My Darling". The film concentrated more on the craziness surrounding a typical Stones show of that era than the actual concerts. The beginning of October brought the eagerly-awaited followup to "Satisfaction". "Get Off of My Cloud" was another classic piece of solid Stones-rock. Indeed, some consider it the equal of or better than "Satisfaction" and it quickly became top of the pops on both sides of the Atlantic.

That was followed in the U.S. by the release of a grab-bag collection of British LP and EP tracks, "December's Children (And Everybody's)", which also included "Get Off of My Cloud" and their final release of the year, "As Tears Go By". That song had begun 1965 as a hit for Mick Jagger's soon-to-be girlfriend Marianne Faithful and ended it as the beginning of a three-year period during which the Stones would slavishly follow The Beatles in their professional pursuits.

For instance, just a few short months after The Beatles released "Yesterday" with its string quartet, here was the Stones' version of "As Tears Go By", with a suspiciously similar sound. Nonetheless, with two No. 1 singles and a No. 1 album in America and three U.K. No. 1 singles, the Stones finished the year a solid second among the British bands and, arguably, the world's No. 2 group in terms of popularity.

As slow as the Stones' ascendancy in the States had been, another band that had enjoyed great success in Britain was having an even tougher time cracking the U.S. pop scene. The Hollies, one of the first of the Manchester beat groups to hit the big time in England, had a string of seven straight U.K. Top 10 singles by the fall of ¹65 before the seventh, "Look Through Any Window", became their first record to crack the U.S. Top 40.

"I'm Alive", a great piece of Merseypop that went top of the pops back home, didn't even crack the lower reaches of the charts in America. The Hollies would have to wait until the summer of ¹66 for their real breakthrough in the States.

Similarly, The Who had steadily risen in popularity in the mother country but had totally failed to catch fire in the U.S. This was never more evident than with the release in early November of "My Generation". Pete Townshend's classic song, which was quickly adopted as the anthem of the Mods and the overall British youth culture -- and is now considered a classic around the world -- barely scraped the depths of the American charts before quickly disappearing. The Who wouldn't make any real headway the States until the spring of ¹67.

In contrast, The Kinks, even more uniquely British than The Who, had continued to have success in the U.S. throughout the year but a major test of their popularity in the States came late in the fall with the release of "A Well Respected Man". A witty satire of British upper-crust society and stylistically nothing like their earlier, hard-edged singles, it marked a major turning point in Kinks leader Ray Davies' development as a songwriter. Surprisingly, this very British record was a significant success in the U.S., just missing the Top 10, and The Kinks entered an important new phase in their career.

A number of straighter, more pop-oriented tunes had considerable success in Britain and, subsequently, in America through the fall. The Fortunes broke through with 'You've Got Your Troubles" and its followup "Here It Comes Again". "Troubles" was written by the team of Roger Cooke and Roger Greenaway, who that winter would have an international hit with the George Martin-produced cover of The Beatles' "Michelle" under the name David and Jonathan.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney produced a version of "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" for a folk group called The Silkie. Another writing-producing duo, John Carter and Ken Lewis, hit tunesmiths earlier in the year with Herman's Hermits' "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat", scored on their own as The Ivy League with "Tossing And Turning".

Hedgehoppers Anonymous debuted with one of the first overtly anti-Vietnam war songs, "It's Good News Week", which was produced by future record mogul and talk-show host Jonathan King, who had an international hit of his own around this same time with the gorgeously-produced but lyrically obtuse "Everyone's Gone to the Moon".

The Walker Brothers, an L.A. vocal trio who  went to England in search of the success that had eluded them at home (and who weren't brothers at all) garnered a U.K. No. 1 single (and a Top 20 entry in America) with their Spectoresque treatment of Jerry Butler's 1962 R&B hit "Make It Easy on Yourself".

On the soul side, James Brown, who had finally entered the pop mainstream with his performance in "The T.A.M.I. Show" and the success of "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag", scored the biggest hit of his pop career late in the year with the celebratory "I Got You (I Feel Good)". Stevie Wonder, who had been unable to duplicate the success of "Fingertips" two-plus years before and was in danger of being dropped by Motown, finally got what would become a magnificent career off the ground with "Uptight (Everything's Alright)". Smokey Robinson provided The Temptations another pair of classic tunes, "My Baby" and the anthemic "Don't Look Back", before ending the year with the discotheque hit "Going to a Go Go" with the Miracles. And Holland-Dozier-Holland concluded an amazing year with another great writing-producing effort for The Four Tops, "Something About You".

The American folk-rock boom continued to reverberate as the year wound down. Bob Dylan, despite the recent release of the "Highway 61 Revisited" album, released a brand new single called "Positively 4th Street". A searing denunciation of his old colleagues in the folk scene (or so it was perceived by said old colleagues), it followed hot on the heels of the summer-long brouhaha over Dylan's move to electrified music. After burning his folk-scene bridges (including his breakup with long-time lover Joan Baez back in the spring during the British tour, captured on-camera for the film "Don't Look Back"), Dylan married Sara Lowndes in late November and moved to a sleepy upstate New York village called Woodstock.

Meanwhile, The Byrds faced the unenviable task of following up their magnificent debut album. When they appeared on "Hullabaloo" at the end of November, the band fittingly performed Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changing" and while there were originals on their second album, the best-remembered songs were their electrified treatments of folk songs. There were Dylan's "Times" and "Lay Down Your Weary Tune", the folk chestnut "He Was a Friend of Mine" (with new lyrics by Jim McGuinn in tribute to the late President John F. Kennedy), and the album's title song, "Turn Turn Turn (To Everything There Is a Season)", Pete Seeger's adaptation of the words from the Book of Ecclesiastes (which in fact, had been one of the main pieces of Scripture read at Kennedy's funeral two years earlier). Coming as it did at the halfway mark of an already turbulent decade, "Turn Turn Turn" struck an immediate emotional chord and cut a steady path to No. 1, where it remained through much of December.

There were other entrants in the folk-rock sweepstakes. The Turtles followed up their success with Dylan's "It Ain't Me Babe"  by recording P.F. Sloan's "Let Me Be". Johnny Rivers brought his Whiskey A Go Go sound to "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" (following up his summertime Top 10 cover of Willie Dixon's "Seventh Son"). The Lovin' Spoonful proved that "Do You Believe in Magic" was no fluke with another good-timey John Sebastian tune, "You Didn't Have to be So Nice". And Dylan's producer, Tom Wilson, created the next folk-rock chart-topper from an obscure 1964 album track.

The song was originally called "The Sound of Silence" from an album called "Wednesday Morning 3 A.M." by a New York-based one-time Everly Brothers clone-turned-folk duo, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. The album had attracted little notice when it was first released and Simon then journeyed to England, wrote a batch of new songs and recorded a solo album, "The Paul Simon Songbook", which also included some of the songs he had recorded with Garfunkel for "Wednesday Morning 3 A.M.".

Meanwhile, back in New York, Wilson, coming off the unqualified success of Dylan's "Bringing It All Back Home" and "Highway 61 Revisited", took the "Wednesday" version of "The Sound of Silence", dubbed on electric guitar, bass and drums, and Columbia Records released it as a single (with a  subtle name change to "The Sounds of Silence"). Simon returned to the States in the last weeks of the year to find the single climbing the charts. He and Garfunkel went into the studio and recorded new versions (several with electric backing) of some of the songs Simon had written  and recorded acoustically while in England. The single hit No. 1 in the first week of the new year.

But folk-rock wasn't all that was happening on the American pop scene in the last weeks of 1965. The McCoys followed up "Hang on Sloopy" with a rocked-up version of "Fever", Little Willie John's late ¹50s R&B hit (and a straight pop hit for Peggy Lee). The Vogues followed up "You're the One" with "Five O'Clock World". "Ebb Tide", a second straight Bobby Hatfield solo vocal on a single credited to the Righteous Brothers, led the duo to break with Phil Spector and move on to Verve Records.

A New Jersey band called The Knickerbockers was starting to catch fire with Beatlesque rocker "Lies" as the year ended. And Atlantic Records released the first single by a band that rose out of the ashes of Joey Dee's Starliters. The group started the year playing a Garfield, NJ, dive called the Choo-Choo Club; got a summertime gig at The Barge, a trendy club in the Hamptons on Long Island; cut a management deal with promoter Sid Bernstein (who gave them a plug on the Shea Stadium scoreboard during The Beatles' concert there Aug. 15); and signed a recording contract with Atlantic. The Rascals (or The Young Rascals, as they initially were billed to differentiate from another band called The Rascals) had their first single, "I Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore" hit the charts just as the year ended.

And in San Francisco, the music scene that would explode onto the national stage in 1967 was finding its local following. On Oct. 16, The Family Dog opened with Jefferson Airplane, the Great Society (with future Airplane lead singer Grace Slick) and the Charlatans. On Nov. 6, the first concert was held at The Fillmore Auditorium with the Charlatans, the Airplane and band formerly called the Warlocks and by then called The Grateful Dead.

British blues bands were still very visible late in the year with the Yardbirds' "I'm a Man", Them's "Mystic Eyes' and The Animals' "It's My Life". But the final No. 1 single in America in 1965 -- the 12th by a British act of the year's 25 No. 1s -- was by one of the original British Invasion bands from nearly two years earlier, The Dave Clark Five, who garnered their only U.S. No. 1 single with a cover of a Bobby Day B-side, "Over And Over".

Of course, it took The Beatles to put the final punctuation mark on this amazing musical year. First, they released a virtual double-A-side single, "We Can Work it Out" and "Day Tripper" -- one of the three or four best singles they ever released as a group --  which added another classic guitar riff to 1965's musical legacy.

Then came the first of the trio of albums that sealed The Beatles' place in history as musical trailblazers. In reality, they were just absorbing all that was going on around them during the year, particularly folk-rock, and "Rubber Soul" reflected that process.
So much of what was good about rock in 1965 was blended and distilled by The Beatles into the fine elixir that was "Rubber Soul". While Dylan and the Kinks already had pushed their own musical envelopes, it took The Beatles to legitimize  the concept of exploring new stylistic frontiers, thus setting the stage for the likes of "Pet Sounds", "Blonde on Blonde", "Face to Face" and, of course, "Aftermath" and "Revolver" in 1966.

Rock/pop music ended 1965 in much better form than it began the year. The British scene, overwhelmingly dominated early in the year by matching-suited, toothy-grinned pop bands, had grown rich and diverse, incorporating blues, folk, straight pop and unsweetened rock. Meanwhile, the Fab Four had reached an undreamt-of level of popularity while refining  and enriching their own music and influencing others'.

In America, the birth of folk-rock and the parade of young bands from such places as Texas, California, Ohio and New York had added a new dimension and richness to rock that would reach full flower in 1966 and 1967. And the music that had always been rock's backbone, r&b, was entering a golden era with the rapidly-growing music powerhouse of Motown, James Brown's overdue arrival in the pop mainstream and the maturation of young talents such as Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett.

For these and other reasons, 1965 produced a larger body of rock/pop classics than any other year in the 40-plus year history of the genre. More importantly, it opened the doors of musical liberation through which so many truly important and seminal acts would pour in the coming years.

Yes, 1965 indeed opened "a brand new bag."