Life at 33 1/3: The album classics of 1965

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Ten of the most important albums released in 1965.  Except for the first five you may rank them in any order you like.  Even replace them with your own favourites.  1965 was a good year.

The Beatles, Rubber Soul (Parlophone) – Released: December 3, 1965

“Rubber Soul” felt alien, almost threatening the first time you heard it.  You found yourself in dark and spooky rooms lit by flickering chandeliers.  It is an adult album created by four guys falling backwards through the universe, in slow motion, giggling.

Widely perceived as a folkrock-album (especially the American version, which sported a slightly different track listing), but actually its main influence was contemporary American soul music, Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, James Brown and the entire Motown hit factory.  Check the busy and quite awesome bass runs in many of the songs.  There is a reason why they called the album “Rubber Soul”.

The Beatles being the Beatles they don’t copy, they assimilate, covering their tracks by throwing lots of other ingredients into the stew, and never for a second do they sacrifice their instinct for the instantly commercial (with that clever, beatly twist).  Even if the back bone of the album is soul, it is also dope music, folk music, some country music, even world music (Greek, French, Indian, it’s all there) – with a dash of comedy thrown in for good measure.  Inhaled pleasures. “Rubber Soul” is a remarkable and timeless work.

Contents: Drive My Car/Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)/You Won’t See Me/Nowhere Man/Think For Yourself/The Word/Michelle/What Goes On/Girl/I’m Looking Through You/In My Life/Wait/If I Needed Someone/Run For Your Life

Bob Dylan, Highway 61 Revisited (Columbia/CBS) – Released: August 30, 1965

The album starts like a pistol shot.  Then the clattering dancing metal chords arrive over a feisty honky-tonk piano.  When Dylan finally opens his mouth he attacks you with a scornful coyote howl.  “Like A Rolling Stone”.  What a song!  What a way to start an album!

“Highway 61 Revisited” could in a narrow sense be called an album of revenge.  Dylan would never be so spiteful again over an entire LP.  But the songs both want and achieve more.  The album is contemporary, and it is timeless.  It’s about awareness, to dare, to be one step ahead, it’s about the lonely choices one has to make, it’s about being an outcast, a Zarathustra and a bum.  And not least, it is about going back to the roots of the original sources, not to live in the past, but to create the future.  All neatly placed in the superior sound of the electric Bob Dylan, the rattling, impatient guitar, the rickety piano, the swirling organ and that voice.  Something like that.

Contents: Like A Rolling Stone/Tombstone Blues/It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry/From A Buick 6/Ballad Of A Thin Man/Queen Jane Approximately/Highway 61 Revisited/Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues/Desolation Row

The Beatles, Help! (Parlophone) –  Released: August 6, 1965

The most underrated Beatles-album ever and recorded under extreme pressure while filming their second movie, “Help!”  They only spent 12 days in the recording studio during the months February-June, but still managed to record 20 tracks of which 14 ended up on the album, two on single B-sides, one on their next album “Rubber Soul”, one on the 1966-compilation “A Collection Of Beatles Oldies But Goldies”, and two in the garbage bin (aka “Anthology 2”).  An amazing burst of creativity.

They even had time for innovative solutions: An electric piano replaces the rhythm guitar on most tracks, the string quartet in “Yesterday”, the flute in the 12 string Dylan pastiche “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”, the drum pattern and aggressive, chiming sound and hammer punch of “Ticket To Ride”, the wonderful interplay between harmony voices and lead vocal in the title track, the tone pedal that gives “I Need You” its unique fingerprint, Paul’s raunchy and ragged solo guitar playing in both “Ticket To Ride” and “Another Girl”, the two amazing country chestnuts “Act Naturally” and “I’ve Just Seen A Face” and the hidden gems “The Night Before” and “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl”.  “Help!” is a masterpiece.

Contents: Help!/The Night Before/You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away/I Need You/Another Girl/You’re Going To Lose That Girl/Ticket To Ride/Act Naturally/It’s Only Love/You Like Me Too Much/Tell Me What You See/I’ve Just Seen A Face/Yesterday/Dizzy Miss Lizzy

Otis Redding, Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul (Volt/Atco) – Released: September 15, 1965

The greatest studio-recorded soul album of all time turned Otis Redding into a pop star.  Recorded during quite an inspired 24 hour session in July 9/10.  The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” had just been released, Steve Cropper brought a copy with him to the studio and copied what he thought were the lyrics, Otis (who’d never heard the song before) took one glance at the paper and then threw it on the floor, making the words up as he went along instead.  An overwhelmingly strong album it is.  Three Redding-involved originals, including “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, the rest a balanced choice of covers, including three by Sam Cooke.

Contents: Ole Man Trouble/ Respect/Change Gonna Come/Down in the Valley/I’ve Been Loving You Too Long/Shake/My Girl/Wonderful World/Rock Me Baby/Satisfaction/You Don’t Miss Your Water

The Byrds, Mr. Tambourine Man (Columbia/CBS) – Released: June 21, 1965

You won’t find any album more ‘summery’ than this.  The harmony voices float like a breeze through the curtains, riding on the chiming Rickenbacker, the Roger McGuinn-drawl, the hypnotic Gene Clark ramblings, the soaring god-like tenor of David Crosby.  All crucial parts of the Byrds-sound.  They were new, they were different, and embracing the spirit of Dylan they solely created folk rock.

Contents: Mr. Tambourine Man/I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better/Spanish Harlem Incident/You Won’t Have to Cry/Here Without You/The Bells of Rhymney/All I Really Want to Do/I Knew I’d Want You/It’s No Use/Don’t Doubt Yourself, Babe/Chimes of Freedom/We’ll Meet Again

Bob Dylan, Bringing It All Back Home (Columbia/CBS) – Released: March 27, 1965

The one that shook the world, shocked the folk purists and gave birth to the rock’n’roll Dylan.  Don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters!

Contents: Subterranean Homesick Blues/She Belongs to Me/Maggie’s Farm/Love Minus Zero/No Limit/Outlaw Blues/On the Road Again/Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream/Mr. Tambourine Man/Gates of Eden/It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)/It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue

The Who, My Generation (Brunswick) – Released: December 3, 1965

The most brutally exciting album any band has made ever.  Four brats out of control, heading for feedback heaven.  It’s a legal matter from now on.

Contents: Out in the Street/I Don’t Mind/The Good’s Gone/La-La-La-Lies/Much Too Much/My Generation/The Kids Are Alright/Please, Please, Please/It’s Not True/I’m a Man/A Legal Matter/The Ox

Them, Them (Decca) – Released: June 11, 1965.

Enter the Belfast Gypsy.  Electric, haunting, intense, as good as anything the Stones did, and it’s got “Gloria” on it.

Contents: Mystic Eyes/If You and I Could Be As Two/Little Girl/Just a Little Bit/Don’t Look Back/I Gave My Love a Diamond/Gloria/You Just Can’t Win/On Home Baby/I Like It Like That/I’m Gonna Dress in Black/Bright Lights, Big City/My Little Baby/(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66.

The Rolling Stones, Rolling Stones No. 2 (Decca) – Released: January 15, 1965

Partly recorded in Hollywood and Chicago, the Stones sound better and more confident than on their debut.

Contents: Everybody Needs Somebody to Love/Down Home Girl/You Can’t Catch Me/Time Is on My Side/What a Shame/Grown Up Wrong/Down the Road Apiece/Under the Boardwalk/I Can’t Be Satisfied/Pain in My Heart/Off the Hook/Susie-Q

The Rolling Stones, Out Of Our Heads (Decca) – Released: September 24, 1965

Their last album as a mainly cover-band takes the Stones closer to Stax and Motown, with impressive results.

Contents: She Said “Yeah/Mercy, Mercy/Hitch Hike/That’s How Strong My Love Is/Good Times/Gotta Get Away/Talkin’ Bout You/Cry to Me/Oh, Baby (We Got a Good Thing Going)/Heart of Stone/The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man/I’m Free