50 Years Ago: Top 5 Albums of 1965


Photo Courtesy of BobDylan.com


1. Highway 61 Revisited: Bob Dylan’s greatest album still amazes 50 years later. His new style of obscure lyrics was in full swing and, with the help of some of the greatest session men ever, he created a wild version of blues-infused rock and roll. Howling organs, honky-tonk pianos, blues guitars, and, of course, Dylan’s signature harmonica should have been a clustered mess. With songs including “Like a Rolling Stone”, “Ballad of a Thin Man”, “Queen Jane Approximately”, and “Desolation Row”, this was a glorious triumph.

2. Rubber Soul: The Beatles were tired of writing boy-band pop songs [as phenomenal as they were] and wanted to test the boundaries they had made. “Norwegian Wood” features Harrison’s sitar and Lennon’s tale of torching the house of a one-night stand. “Nowhere Man” has George’s iconic Stratocaster guitar and has John at his most vulnerable. McCartney’s “I’m Looking Through You” is gorgeous. “You Want See Me” has the group’s greatest backing vocals. They wanted to write real songs. “In My Life” is the greatest song of all-time.

3. Bringing It All Back Home: Released before Highway 61, Dylan was at a crossroads. The first side featured his first stab at raucous blues, and it’s a doozy. “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is the perfect example, with Dylan going after anything that made him mad, like the wordsmith he is. The backing band is superb, particularly Bruce Langhorne’s striking guitar on “Love Minus Zero/No Limit”, maybe Dylan’s best love song. The second side was Dylan unleashing four of his most advanced acoustic songs. “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “Gates of Eden”, “It’s Alright Ma [I’m Only Bleeding]”, and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” were complex masterpieces, even leaving his most assured fans baffled. He abandoned the folk world here, but it was quite a way to go out.


3. Mr. Tambourine Man: The Byrds were the masters of Dylan covers, as everyone was trying them then. The debut re-imagined tunes aren’t even the highlight though. That would be their version of Pete Seeger’s “The Bells of Rhymney”, which is a soaring epic of everything the Byrds did right. Jangling guitars and perfect harmony. It’s also Gene Clark’s originals: “You Won’t Have To Cry”, “Here Without You”, and “It’s No Use”. Pure pop wonders, each one. His song “I’ll Feel A Whole Lot Better” was one of the best ones of that year, possibly ever.

5. My Generation: The Who’s debut was influenced by R&B classics and fellow Brits, the Kinks. But something set these boys apart. There was an urgency and energy that seemed new. The title track, of course, is a classic, demonstrating what made The Who a success. There are plenty of genius covers of those R&B hits they loved. However, the real standout is “The Kids Are Alright”, a Beatle-esque ballad that shows a maturity unseen anywhere else on the album.