Zimmermania 1965 (Bob Dylan Covers)

By the Summer of 1965 the US music scene had been in thrall to the Beatles-led British Invasion for 18 months. Phil Spector showed that he still had the moves with the irresistible epic “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” for the Righteous Brothers while Motown injected the same energy & imagination into African-American pop music that the Fabs & their followers did into Rock & Roll. In April & May Freddie & the Dreamers, Wayne Fontana & the Mindbenders, Herman’s Hermits  & the Mop Tops had consecutive #1 records. (Whisper it but in the UK we were moving on to the 2nd wave, the Kinks, the Who, the Yardbirds). When the Byrds struck a gold record with their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Mr Tambourine Man” they not only invented folk-rock but signposted a short-cut back to the Hit Parade for American groups. Recording Dylan songs became quite the thing after the success of the Byrds.

Of course the world’s folk singers had known about this wrinkle for some time. The lovely Joan Baez, romantically involved with the young poet, was an early adaptor & proselytiser for his talents. In 1963 Peter, Paul & Mary, no doubt encouraged by Albert Grossman, the manager they shared with Dylan, included 3 of his songs on their LP “In the Wind”. Their 45 “Blowing in the Wind” shifted 300,000 units in its 1st week of release. Bob Dylan was becoming more widely known & anyway an astonishing burst of  creative development, lyrically & musically, became a declaration of his independence from the other 136 (or 142) protest singers. At the end of 1964 the LP “Beatles For Sale” included John Lennon’s “I’m A Loser”, obviously influenced by Dylan. Similarly Dylan was surely affected by the vitality (& the commercial success) of  music made by a generation raised on the same Rock & Roll/R&B records as he was. Folk diehards shocked by the release of “Like A Rolling Stone” in June 1965 & the electric appearance at the Newport Folk Festival the following month had not been listening very hard to “Bringing It All Back Home”. Those of us who had welcomed him over to our side.

Dylan & the Hawks (who became the Band) recorded”Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window”in October & it was released in December intending to continue the hit streak after “Rolling Stone” & “Positively 4th St”. Whoever was responsible for the Vacels cover of the song was certainly on the case, the single hitting the shops in the same month. Ricky & the Vacels started as a Doo-Wop harmony group & had released a couple of Beatle-ish singles before coming around with this great record. At first listen I thought “Oh Yes ! A Garage Rock version of a Dylan song” but the arrangement (by Artie Butler, the man who played keyboards on “Leader of the Pack” !) has too much going on for it to be the product of some carport crew. There’s a glimpse of garage, a bit of Byrds, even a little 4 Seasoning. The proclamatory vocals match the urgency of the music & I love it. The record was obviously aimed at the charts, it missed & the Vacels never recorded again.

The Turtles included 3 Dylan songs on their debut LP & the title track, “It Ain’t Me Babe” took them to the Top 10. Two of the biggest American hits of the year were Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe”, almost an answer song to “It Ain’t Me…” & “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire, a protest song in the style of…The Byrds & Cher both released “All I Really Want To Do” while the Association, soon to find their own light folk-rock style hacked away at a preppy attempt on “One Too Many Mornings” which was deservedly overlooked. Dylan was suddenly a major influence on popular music. “Eve of Destruction” sounded fresh at the time but it was an odd construct which you don’t hear much nowadays. It was the Rolling Stones’ first US #1 “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” which matched the impetus & innovation of Dylan’s Rock & Roll. 40 years later Rolling Stone ranked “Satisfaction” as the 2nd greatest song of all time, 2nd to “Like A Rolling Stone”. 1965 was some year for music.

Of course not everyone got it. At a rather incredible but probably typical press conference in London in 1966 Dylan is credited with writing “Eve of Destruction”, asked how many protest singers there are (for the answer see above) & whether he is “the ultimate beatnik” before fielding a photographer’s request to suck on his glasses ! Eddie Hodges had won a Grammy when he was only 12 for his part in the original Broadway production of “The Music Man”, a fine musical in which he played Winthrop Paroo (Winnie the Pooh !). In 1960 he was the lead in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, a charming movie that put a young boy (that would be me) onto Mark Twain. By 1965, still only 18, he was a would-be teen idol of the type left floundering in the backwash of the Mersey tidal wave. The decision to record a version of “Love Minus Zero/No Limits”, a beautiful love song with surreal lyrics referencing visionary poets & the Book of Daniel, omitting the top half of verses 3 & 4 , delivering the remnant with the passion & perception of a rocking horse while the go-go dancers do the Frug seems more than ill-judged. Something is happening but you don’t know what it is. Do you Master Hodges ?

In the late-1950s songwriter Burt Bacharach was happy if his tunes were picked up for the B-side of a record. He took a job as accompanist/musical director for the great actress/singer Marlene Dietrich & travelled the world’s great cities & theatres, arranging & conducting her concerts & recordings. When Bacharach, with lyricist Hal David, became the new benchmark for sophisticated popular music he continued to work with the international star. Bob Dylan recorded “Blowin’ in the Wind” for his 2nd LP “The Freewheelin’…” in 1963. The tune was adapted from a spiritual, the rhetorical lyrics a progression from his folk ballad style. Peter, Paul & whatshername put the song on the charts & it was immediately adopted as an anthem by supporters of civil liberties across the world.

In 1964 Johnny Cash & Sam Cooke recorded their versions but Ms Dietrich had beaten them to it. Bacharach, looking to expand & contemporise her repertoire had recorded this cool, classy arrangement for a German version in 1963. In 1965, with Dylan all the rage it was re-released, this time in English. I like this take on the song, it reminds me of Nico. My good friend Paul Pj McCartney once remarked that there’s not enough Marlene around our computers & he was right. I do what I can.