Tom’s Top 5’s: Albums of 1965

There’s plenty popular music I like, even love, from 1964 and earlier – Sam Cooke, early Beatles, early Dylan, Buddy Holly. But 1965 is the year when I really start paying attention. It was the year that rock n’ roll really started moving, as a genre, beyond love songs and teenage rebellion and blossoming into a true art form. It was the year Dylan went electric, the year Paul McCartney wrote “Yesterday,” the year that the Byrds invented folk rock – the beginning of the Golden Age of Rock & Roll. And so it is with 1965 that I kick off my “Top 5 Albums of Such-and-Such a Year” series.

5. MR. TAMBOURINE MAN (The Byrds)

Mr. Tambourine Man

There are few things that conjure the 60s more quickly to my mind than those jangling guitars. I’m of the opinion that the Byrds made better songs than albums. But when an album contains “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “The Bells of Rhymney,” “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better,” “All I Really Want to Do,” and “Chimes of Freedom Flashing,” it becomes great by default.

4. WHIPPED CREAM & OTHER DELIGHTS (Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass)

Whipped Cream & Other Delights

I have a serious, inexplicable weak spot for 60s lounge music. And if you’re going to go for 60s lounge music, might as well go for the best. “A Taste of Honey” was the big hit; the title track is the big winner for me, the archetypal game show theme; but really, if Herb Alpert is your bag, it doesn’t get better than this.

3. HELP! (The Beatles)

Help!

Help! is still packed with love songs, but the words are finally starting to match the music for sophistication. It isn’t on par with A Hard Day’s Night or Rubber Soul – it’s too much of a transitional record, with one foot in the Beatles’ teenie-bopper past and another in their revolutionary future. Just leave it to the Beatles to create a “transitional record” that still features several of the greatest songs ever recorded though.

2. HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED (Bob Dylan)

Highway 61 Revisited

Sure, Dylan had already gone electric at Newport Folk and Side 1 of Bringing It All Back Home. But Highway 61 Revisited is where rock n’ roll changed forever. I can’t attest to what it must’ve sounded like to hear this for the first time back when it was released. I can only aver that almost fifty years later, the snare hit on “Like a Rolling Stone” still sounds, to borrow a phrase from Bruce Springsteen, like somebody kicking open the door to your mind.

1. RUBBER SOUL (The Beatles)

Rubber Soul

I can tell you that both “Nowhere Man” and “In My Life” are so perfect that I can barely hear them without weeping. I can tell you that “Norwegian Wood” remains the best use of sitar on a rock record. I can tell you that “You Won’t See Me” and “I’m Looking Through You” are forgotten (by the Beatles’ standards) gems. But really, the only thing you need to know about Rubber Soul is that when Brian Wilson heard it, he turned around and wrote Pet Sounds. No higher praise can be offered.

(Which provides us with a great segue to 1966, come to that…)

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