Tuesday 14 April 2009

"Eve of Destruction"

In 1965...... Vietnam: 3,500 U.S. marines are the first to arrive there.
Rioting in Selma Alabama, beatings, hatred, murder, Malcolm X assassinated in Manhattan, civil rights marches, U.S. troops sent to Dominican Republic, "for the stated purpose of protecting U.S. citizens and preventing an alleged Communist takeover of the country", China and Taiwan clash at the Battle of Yong Ding, Australian infantry battalion joins US troops in Vietnam, the draft in the US increases from 17,000 to 35,000 per month, 18 year olds can not vote or drink alcohol, but they can be given a gun and sent to war against their will. Gemini 4 spends four days in orbit, first u.s. spacewalk, (cosmonaut Alexei Leonov was first, a few months earlier, 12 minutes outside the Voshkod capsule). Rioting in Algeria, Mariner 4 sails past mars. The Beatles play the first ever stadium concers, Shea Stadium. Pakistan and India declare war on each other, Chinese troops sent in force to the Chinese/Indian border. The cuban missile crisis is not long ago, kids are taught to "duck and cover", (remember, if you hear the sirens warning of imminent nuclear attack, get under your schooldesk)...

Against this world background, a nineteen year old, Phil Sloan writes "Eve of Destruction".

"The eastern world, it is exploding
Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’
You’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’
You don’t believe in war, but what’s that gun you’re totin’
And even the Jordan River has bodies floatin’

But you tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve
of destruction.

Don’t you understand what I’m tryin’ to say
Can’t you feel the fears I’m feelin’ today?
If the button is pushed, there’s no runnin’ away
There’ll be no one to save, with the world in a grave
Take a look around ya boy, it's bound to scare ya boy.

And you tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve
of destruction.

Yeah, my blood’s so mad feels like coagulatin’
I’m sitting here just contemplatin’
I can’t twist the truth, it knows no regulatin'.
Handful of senators don’t pass legislation
And marches alone can’t bring integration
When human respect is disintegratin’
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin’

And you tell me
Over and over and over again, my friend
Ah, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve
of destruction.

Think of all the hate there is in Red China
Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama
You may leave here for 4 days in space
But when you return, it’s the same old place
The poundin’ of the drums, the pride and disgrace
You can bury your dead, but don’t leave a trace
Hate your next-door neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace
And… tell me over and over and over and over again, my friend
You don’t believe
We’re on the eve
Of destruction
Mm, no no, you don’t believe
We’re on the eve
of destruction."

"Eve" is a Viet-Nam guntruck, believed to be the only one surviving, in the US Museum of Military Transport, Fort Eustis, Virginia.

Lou Adler:
I'd heard the first Dylan album with electrified instruments. This is strange, but it's really true: I gave Phil Sloan a pair of boots and a hat and a copy of the Dylan album, and a week later he came back with ten songs, including "Eve of Destruction." It was a natural feel for him - he's a great mimic. Anyway I was afraid of the song. I didn't know if we could get it played (on the radio). But the next night I went to Ciro's, where the Byrds were playing. It was the beginning of the freak period.... there was this subculture that no one in L.A. knew about, not even me, and it was growing. The Byrds were the leaders of the cult, and the place was jam-packed, spilling out on to the street. ln the middle of it was this guy in furs, with long hair, and dancing; I thought he looked like a leader of a movement. Terry Melcher told me that he was Barry McGuire, and that he'd sung with the New Christy Minstrels. A week later we cut the record and it sold six million. I didn't think it was a copy of anything. It was the first rock'n'roll protest song and Sloan laid it down in very simple terms, not like the folk people were doing. If you listen to the song today, it holds up all the way - it's the same problems. It's certainly an honest feeling, from a 16 year old. Melody Maker, Feb 5, 1972, p. 43; reprinted in Dave Laing, "Troubadours and Stars," in Dave Laing, et. al., The Electric Muse: The Story of Folk into Rock, London, 1975, pp. 58-59."

McGuire also mentioned that "Eve of
Destruction" was recorded in one take on a Thursday morning
(from words scrawled on a crumpled piece of paper), and he got a
call from the record company at 7:00 the following Monday morning,
telling him to turn on the radio - his song was playing. The
recording includes an "ahhh" where McGuire couldn't
read the words.
Read Phil Sloan's explanation. 

"One last thing. The media frenzy over the song tore me up and seemed to tear the country apart. I was an enemy of the people to some and a hero to others, but I was still only 20 years old and nobody really was looking. I have felt it was a love song and written as a prayer because, to cure an ill you need to know what is sick.
In my youthful zeal I hadn't realized that this would be taken as an attack on The System!
Examples: The media headlined the song as everything that is wrong with the
youth culture. First, show the song is just a hack song to make money and therefore no reason to deal with its questions. Prove the 19-year old writer is a communist dupe. Attack the singer as a parrot for the writers word. The media claimed that the song would frighten little children. I had hoped thru this song to open a dialogue with Congress and the people.

The media banned me from all national television shows.

Oddly enough they didn't ban Barry. The United States felt under threat. So any positive press on me or Barry was considered un-patriotic. A great deal of madness, as I remember it! I told the press it was a love song. A love song to and for humanity, that's all.
It ruined Barry's career as an artist and in a year I would be driven out of
the music business too."