Friday, April 3, 2015


DR. ZHIVAGO did not win the Best Picture of the Year Academy Award in 1965. That honor went to THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Yet author Andrew Grant Jackson says ZHIVAGO was the Best Picture winner in his new book, 1965: THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY YEAR IN MUSIC. The statement comes in a chapter about the British Invasion where Jackson argues that not only did the Brits dominate the U.S. airwaves, they also ruled at American cinemas. That's not an inaccurate assessment but it's sloppy and lazy to make an erroneous statement like this just to bolster your argument especially in this day and age when anyone can Google the correct Oscar winner for that year.

You don't have to have been alive in 1965 to write a book about it and judging from Jackson's author photo on the dust jacket, he certainly wasn't around back then. I was. Granted, I was only nine-years-old at the time but I wasn't in a coma. I well remember a lot of the material Jackson covers in this book. I was a regular listener to top 40 radio (KNOW-AM, The Mighty 1490!) and I bought singles and albums. I also took both piano and guitar lessons and my songbooks in both classes included many of the songs discussed here.

Jackson covers a lot of ground here, focusing especially on the headliners (The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones) along with many lesser acts and some "one-hit wonders". There's good background on The Wrecking Crew, the group of Los Angeles studio musicians (including future stars Glen Campbell and Leon Russell) who played on countless tracks.

But Jackson has let others do all of the heavy lifting here. It doesn't appear that he conducted any interviews with anyone still around from 1965 for information. Last time I checked, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (among others) were all still among the living but Jackson doesn't appear to have spoken to any of them. Instead, he pulls material from dozens of pre-existing sources including books, magazine and newspaper articles, documentary films, etc. 

He does an admirable enough job of taking a lot of material and weaving into a readable narrative of a key year in the history of rock and roll. But I would argue that as important as 1965 was, so was 1964. And 1966. And 1967. Hell, every year provides several pivotal, seminal moments in whatever sub culture you want to study: popular music, television, film, comics, literature, art, theater, dance, sports, and others.

Jackson also makes several cause and effect suppositions here about what certain song lyrics really mean. Many, he argues, are responses to other songs by other artists, with many acts commenting (overtly or covertly) about the competition. This could be true. It could also be false but Jackson makes many of these statements as a matter of fact with no sustaining evidence to back up his claims.

1965 isn't a bad book. I did enjoy reading it and it brought back many fond memories of the music I listened to then and still do to this day. But when I come across a factual error like the ZHIVAGO boner in a history book, I have to stop and wonder, if this guy could get this fact wrong, what the hell else is inaccurate in this book?

If you're of a certain age, read 1965 and take a trip back to an exciting time in American history. But be prepared to take some things with a grain of salt.

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