Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Eve of Destruction

Because you can hear "Joy to the World" only so many times, here's the contrasting point-of-view. Set up by an excerpt from my memoir of growing up in the '60s (which will finally be out early next year!). The video provided comes from a network teen music show on NBC called HULLABALOO. Like SNL, it featured a weekly guest host, someone kids would find totally cool. This week's guest was Jerry Lewis. No wonder no one watched HULLABALOO. I also love in this video that to sell the theme of the song, Barry McGuire is surrounded by burned out cars and Go-Go dancers. Enjoy the excerpt and the video.

1965 was really the last year of the 1950’s. We still thought and acted like we were in The Donna Reed Show or Ozzie and Harriet. There was an innocence that steadfastly persisted despite pesky flashes of reality – riots, a war, civil unrest, drugs, teen rebellion.

But we were growing more and more uneasy, to the point where we had to finally take action: We sang.

My generation could not have a thought or a feeling or bowel movement without singing about it. So out of this unrest came “the protest song.” Bob Dylan and Joan Baez were the vanguards, but the tune that perhaps had the biggest impact was “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire. Barry McGuire had been the lead singer of The New Christy Minstrels, a wholesome collection of apple-cheeked young goody-gooders who sang about hayrides and gooseberry preserves. McGuire veered somewhat from the Hootenanny by singing a tale of imminent world doom. Within weeks it was the number one record in the country. Written by P.F. Sloan, the lyrics were filled with cheery bon mots like “the world is exploding”, bodies are floating in the Jordan River, the button could be pushed at any moment, and the world will soon be in a grave, De-lightful!

The song fed directly into the terror and foreboding fear we all lived with every single day… although it wasn’t so terrifying that we didn’t buy the record and dance to it at parties.


Keith said...

I've always loved this song. It's strange that protest songs didn't make a comeback in the Bush era. I guess every form of entertainment is now "least offensive programming".

RCP said...

Powerful - even with the superfluous background dancers (whose movements remind me of my cats trying to dislodge furballs.) One song can do more to reach people than a dozen lectures.

paleotectonics said...


Protest songs did make a comeback, although not particularly folky. But the record companies are not in favor of songs that they feel uneasy about marketing - not a right or left thing, but typical business ("First, do no harm to the bottom line.")

There were larger artists who did protest, especially rap/hiphop (Eminem, Kanye) and heavier/punkier stuff (Green Day, Rise Against), and 170,000,000 MySpace sites (while MySpace mattered).

paleotectonics said...

There were right-wing protest songs during that period, particularly in country music, which has a particularly Fox-wing audience - especially the 9/11 stuff like Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, Charlie Daniels, and Hank Williams Jr.

Dave Scharf said...

Being from Saskatchewan, which boasts Regina as its capital city, we have always enjoyed singing along to the immortal lyric: "Think of all the hate there is in Regina."

Anonymous said...

"Think of all the hate there is in Red China
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama."

-Yeah, I'd rather be in Alabama in the 1960's than Mao's China. This guy has obviously never heard of the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution.

GRayR said...

That brings back memories. And those dancers...

I was 15 and this song really hit home with me. And Mr. McGuire brings it home with his emotion.

Strangely enough I went on to be a part of that, 8 years in the Navy on Boomers. One sub, 16 missiles, 7 to 9 warheads on each missile. 40 Subs. Was MAD worth it? I am now a confirmed anti-war progressive.

Strange times.
Thanks Ken,

VP81955 said...

"Think of all the hate there is in Red China
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama."

-Yeah, I'd rather be in Alabama in the 1960's than Mao's China. This guy has obviously never heard of the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution.

The Cultural Revolution didn't take place until 1966.

IIRC, there was an "answer" record to this called "Dawn Of Correction."

waltm said...

Always liked this song. I'm trying to get my geezer band to play it. The older I get the more mystified I grow because we had three copies of this song at my house.

Wallis Lane said...

VP, you're right, a group called The Spokesmen did answer back with "Dawn of Correction." It's probably the last musical gasp of the young student government center-right wing. It's also a hoot, however heartbreakingly well-intentioned:

"The western world has a common dedication
to keep free people from Red domination.
Maybe you can’t vote, boy, but man your battle station
for there’ll be no need for votin’ in future generations.

Chorus: So over and over again, you keep saying it’s the end,
but I say you’re wrong,
we’re just on the dawn
of correction.

"There are buttons to push in too many nations,
but who’s crazy enough to risk annihilation?
The buttons are there to insure negotiation,
so don’t be afraid, boy, it’s our only salvation.

You tell me that marches won’t bring integration,
but look what its done for the voter registration.
Be thankful our country allows demonstrations,
instead of condemning, make some recommendations.
I don’t understand the cause of your aggravation.
You mean to tell me, boy, it’s not a better situation.

You missed all the good in your evaluation,
what about the things that deserve commendation?
Where there once was no cure, there’s vaccination.
Where there once was a desert, there’s vegetation.
Self-government’s replacing colonization.
What about the Peace Corps organization?
Don’t forget the work of the United Nations."

Dan Tedson said...

We didn't find out till 2002 how close we actually came.

Paul Duca said...

Wallis...thanks for supplying the lyrics to "Dawn of Correction"--it was co-written by the future poet laureate of CBS News, Charles Osgood.

"There is nothing that I wouldn't do
If you would be my POSSLQ"

(Persons of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters)

WV" happyiin--the next Prozac?

YEKIMI said...

Yes, the ever popular "Answer" song "The Dawn Of Correction". An amazing example of a one hit wonder. It only made it to #36 on the Billboard charts. and here's a video of The Spokemen singing it:

I could see Dick Cheney dancing away to this and running up to them afterwards and asking them if they wanted to help him invade The Royal Guardsmen or The Young Rascals

VP81955 said...

One senses "Dawn Of Correction" was a big hit in Orange County.

In regards to comments on "Red China" -- a few days on BBC radio, a man from China who lived near the North Korean border was interviewed; he sponsored day trips for Chinese to a city just across the border. He was saying (through an interpreter) that visiting North Korea was like going back in time some 40 years to a land in the grip of a cult of personality. And that's true; in light of the stories about Kim Jong Il and his five holes-in-one on his first round of golf, it reminded me of how the Chinese propaganda machine proclaiming how Mao supposedly set world swimming records on the Yangtze River. As a China-watching boy of 11, I humorously thought that if Mao could do that, imagine Don Schollander (Olympic swim star) as head of the People's Republic.

Ger Apeldoorn said...

And not playback! That's what's really wonderful about it.

emily said...

I kinda miss those gooseberry preserves songs...

Cap'n Bob said...

McGuire took the song so seriously he became a minister. As for answer songs, I prefer The Girl From Wolverton Mountain. BTW, the distortion on that clip was so bad I had to stop it right away.

Roger Owen Green said...

And Red China was not on the evening news in 1965 as much as Selma, Alabama. the infamous march was on my 12th birthday.

Roger Owen Green said...

Apropos of absolutely nothing, Don Mattingly in the Nutcracker.

VP81955 said...

As for answer songs, I prefer The Girl From Wolverton Mountain.

There was also an answer record to Jim Reeves' 1960 crossover hit, "He'll Have To Go."

wv: "larnalac" -- someday, some company will use this as a name for an artificial milk formula. It simply sounds as if that's what it should be.

VP81955 said...

So Donnie Baseball now has something in common with the Washington Nationals' racing presidents...

DyHrdMET said...

it was long before my time, but I thought the 50's ended the day JFK was killed.

Write Away said...

The scariest song ever sung by a man in riding pants and a cardigan!

DwWashburn said...

PF Sloan has always been one of my favorite songwriters. His music had a lot of action and heart in them. "Sins of a Family", "Where Were You When I Needed You", "Let Me Be", "A Must to Avoid", "Take Me for What I'm Worth", etc. etc. Just an excellent songwriter who does not get his due in the music industry.

Pat Reeder said...

I don't have any anecdotes about the New Christy Menstruals, but here is a chipper tune from a famous alumnus of that other group of smiling, happy folkies, Up With People:

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing, christmas never grows old with me, makes me feel young but am not so old lol, was born in 70's but still love those shows mainly my fokes watched alot of Fred Astaire and listebed to old songs, I was really happy to see that funny guy, Jerry Lewis:)
That song I have loved to hear when I was younger and now, I loved the tune but funny never really listened to the words till now, thank you for showing me a new perspective:/ lol still love it though.

Anonymous said...

Of course Red China was not in the American news in 1965...we had no relations with them until Nixon/Kissinger reopened them. Just trying to point out the stupidity of this hippie.

VP81955 said...

Of course Red China was not in the American news in 1965...we had no relations with them until Nixon/Kissinger reopened them.

You evidently weren't reading Time magazine then, were you? The Luces' paranoia about mainland China, on behalf of their old buddy Chiang Kai-Shek, permeated virtually every issue.

wv -- "arcatels": A 21st-century R&B vocal group, one with some "new wave" overtones.

Paul Duca said...

Pat...did you know that Glenn Close and her then husband were members of Up with People?

Hooray for Everything!

gottacook said...

I knew. In center-city Philadelphia around 1980, I was living in a huge shared house near Rittenhouse Square full of former residents' books and other possessions, among them a glossy Up with People program that mentioned "Glennie Close" by name. She may have been in it before her marriage.

Pat Reeder said...

To Paul Deluca:

Check out the link in my post. It's all about Glenn Close and has a clip from a song she wrote and recorded with her own small group that was a part of Up With People.

Mike Steinberg said...

Now that it's almost half a century later, it's interesting to note that despite all the praise for and success of Eve of Destruction and the ridicule and lesser success of Dawn of Correction, Dawn turned out to be more correct than Eve. Hopefully, given where we are now, the future will turn out equally better than expected (although I doubt it).

The New Chris Berman said...

Barry Mac tells us he doesn't believe in war, but what's that gun HE is totin'? 60s white pants...way too tight.