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From The Who to Bob Dylan: A definitive list of the best albums released in 1965

1965 was the year when more artistic sensibilities began to infuse themselves into the purest forms of R&B, Delta blues, soul and more. What resulted was blues and soul music mixing with psychedelic rock, art-rock, pop music, folk music and other popular styles. These various forms of pop music began to define an entire generation of people who found their expression and identities within rebellion and individualism. 

In Britain, skiffle music of the ’50s began to die out, giving rise to Beat bands who began using electric guitars who listened to a lot of Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. These beat bands would cover a lot of blues artists and begin to find their own voices in songwriting. Bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who, of course, come to mind, but there were many more. 

While there were a lot of great artists recording music who had been around since the late ’50s at this point, there was a new explosive talent of the future that was happening right around this time. We took a look at these new artists, most of them who represented the phenomenon of what’s often called ‘the British invasion’. 

Six best albums released in 1965:

The Who – My Generation

While it may be hard to believe this now, but when The Who’s My Generation came out in 1965, it was considered one of the hardest rock ‘n’ roll albums ever released in the history of music. With their debut album, The Who beautifully melded and pioneered ideas of Mod culture, white R&B, and youthful rebellion. 

In particular, with one of the two best singles off the record, ‘My Generation’, along with ‘The Kids Are Alight’, are some of the most covered Who songs. The Who lay the groundwork for indie pop, power pop, punk rock, and some critics would even say metal – they were certainly the hardest band around at the time.

To this day, the record is considered one of the greatest albums of all time and is culturally significant beyond any of our wildest imaginations. Shel Talmy produced the record, along with all their singles for the record that appeared on My Generation.

The Zombies – Begin Here

During this period, it was very common for new up and coming R&B beat British bands to release albums of half cover material and the other half being original songs. While the Zombies’ debut Begin Here has a few too many covers, it was clear they were honing their sound into something palatable and unique that combined an element of what bands like The Beatles and The Stones were doing, but The Zombies incorporated more jazz than what was typical for bands like these. 

In 1964, The Zombies had won a beat-group competition which got them a recording contract with Decca Records. The first single they would go on to record is ‘She’s Not There’, this one along with others garnered them attention in American markets as well as the British market.

The original portion of the record began hinting towards what the public was in store for in 1967 when the Zombies were due to release their masterpiece, Odessey and Oracle.

The Beatles – Help!

The first of two 1965 records the Beatles released that year, Help! marked a milestone in the career of the Beatles: their material began to get more mature, experimental, and introspective. Examples of this include Lennon’s ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’, which was visibly influenced by Bob Dylan’s sensibility at the time. Critics also compared their record to European art house traditions.

What some may not know, is that Help! was also the very first rock album to be nominated in the Grammys Best Album of The Year category. Among the songs to exhibit more of Lennon’s ‘darker side’ and honest introspection, was the title track.

Lennon said about the song: “When ‘Help!’ came out in ’65, I was actually crying out for help. Most people think it’s just a fast rock-‘n’-roll song. I didn’t realize it at the time; I just wrote the song because I was commissioned to write it for the movie … It was my fat Elvis period.”

The Kinks – Kinda Kinks

1965 was kind of the year for the changing of the guard when young British musicians and bands picked up on what ’50s black Americans were doing influencing countless new musicians who would come to dominate the charts during the mid to late ’60s. The Kinks started as one of them, as The Beatles and The Stones did.

Although The Kinks would find a completely different identity, later on, it would always be based on Smokey Robinson’s Motown, Chuck Berry’s rock ‘n’ roll, and guys like Muddy Waters’ blues, and everything in between.

The Kinks recorded their second record in only two weeks after they returned from a tour in Asia. The album’s single, ‘Tired of Waiting’ reached number one and the album reached number three on the UK charts. There were some great originals on here too, and it marked a maturing in Ray Davies’ songwriting.

The Beatles – Rubber Soul

While knowingly placed as the second Beatles album on this list – the list would be very much incomplete without both albums. Rubber Soul was a significant album for The Beatles and it continued a trend that the fab four had begun with their other ’65 record, Help!. 

Rubber Soul was their first record where the group weren’t bogged down by a busy schedule of touring, interviews and public performances, which allowed the Fab Four more time in the studio and more time to explore their songwriting. Consequently, it marked an evolution in their output and the songs were very different from their previous releases.

Rubber Soul was also highly influential in developing the ‘album’ as a new art form and not place so much emphasis on ‘singles’. The album was heavily influenced by soul music that was coming out of the Stax and Motown records.

Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited

Bob Dylan’s sixth album, Highway 61 Revisitedis important for many reasons, but one of them is that took what other recording musicians were doing at the time and added a depth to it that hadn’t existed in pop music so far. Dylan’s poetry was becoming more developed and was able to successfully weave them into fully formed rock, blues, and pop songs with a poetic bent.

The album was named after the long highway that Dylan had relied on so much in his life to take him from his place of birth to places beyond. “Highway 61, the main thoroughfare of the country blues, begins about where I began,” he once said. “I always felt like I’d started on it, always had been on it and could go anywhere, even down into the deep Delta country.”

Dylan continued to describe the influence behind his record. Many also attribute Dylan’s record to the start of the ’60s counter-revolutionary culture. “It was the same road, full of the same contradictions, the same one-horse towns, the same spiritual ancestors … It was my place in the universe, always felt like it was in my blood.”