You could, I think, make a pretty good case for 1965 as the Best Year of the Rock Era, Period. The numbers, arguably, were better in 1964, when the British Invasion was still fresh and new, and Motown had just surpassed “phenomenon” on the way to “force of nature,” and the old-timers — Dean Martin, Bobby Vinton, Louis Armstrong fercrissake — could still top the charts. My own argument for 1965, of course, hinges on one indisputable but otherwise useless fact: this is when I started buying records.
Bill Quick, a tad older than I, understands the dynamic:
I’ve got a fair amount of early stuff from the Great Ones and that amazing period from 1963-1967 when it seemed new, wonderful bands were popping up like mushrooms every week or so. Nobody since has any concept of what it was like to be young, fully into puberty, full of juice, and surrounded by this awesome tsunami of revolutionary music in a revolutionary time. The British Invasion! The San Francisco Sound! Psychedelia! The American Revival! Hendrix! Dylan! Doors! Stones! I heard all of this stuff for the first time when it first came out. That is an experience that simply cannot be replicated by those who came after, who did not actually fully live those times and that music. It’s just not the same when you “discover” some music that’s been around for five or ten years, and fully absorbed into the musical culture. The newness, the thrill of discovery within the matrix that created and nourished that sound, is no longer there.
I’m so glad I lived those times and sounds. It’s irreplaceable, and is a large part of what I became. These years and this music changed me.
The case for 1963, incidentally, begins with Paul McCartney counting off: “one, two, three, FOUR!”
Irritatingly, “I Saw Her Standing There,” which led off the immortal Introducing the Beatles on Vee-Jay, started with “FOUR!” because an engineer thought those first three numbers were just studio chatter. (Capitol’s stopgap Meet the Beatles! LP stuck the song second, behind “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” strategic because “Hand” was the A-side of the single, fatuous because “Hand” wasn’t nearly as good.) The Beatles were really good at first notes: the amazingly complex guitar-plus-piano thing that opens “A Hard Day’s Night,” the startlingly bare accusation of “No Reply” (“This happened once before…”), the feedback note kicking off “I Feel Fine.” Still, you, and they, have to make room for the likes of this:
[T]he thunderous snare drum shot that opens Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”
The operative word here is “shot”: had it been an actual pistol, it would have sounded — and it would have meant — exactly the same.