November 20, 1965 — “Mike D” of the Beastie Boys born

Michael Diamond was born in New York City, a member of a Jewish family. In the late Seventies, he was a founding member of the band then called The Young Aborigines, in which he was the drummer. In 1981, Adam Yauch (better known as MCA) joined the band, followed in 1983 by Adam Horovitz (better known as Ad-Rock). By this time, Diamond, now performing under the stage name Mike D, was the sole remaining original member of the band, which had renamed itself The Beastie Boys after Yauch joined.

As a member of the Beastie Boys, Diamond has enjoyed creative and commercial success. Their breakthrough hit was 1987’s “You Gotta Fight For Your Right (To Party)”, with subsequent hits “So What’cha Want”, “Sabotage” and “Intergalactic”. The band broke up in 2012 after the death of MCA, a.k.a. Adam Yauch.

November 16, 1965 — Author Alexander King dies

Alexander King was born Alexander Koenig in Vienna in 1899. A troubled man, he went through multiple marriages, bouts of addiction and eventually moved to America. Here, he became popular as a frequent quest on Jack Paar’s “Tonight Show”, loved for his irascibility, his wit and his disarming honesty about his life’s ups and downs. He also became a writer, publishing several well-loved books of memoirs.

King died at the age of 66.

1965 — Alan Freed dies

Alan Freed was one of the first really famous DJs, and his efforts were instrumental in promoting early rock’n’roll music – indeed, he is widely held to have been the one to coin the phrase “rock’n’roll”.

Freed had become interested in radio while attending college, and spent his military service working as a DJ on Armed Forces Radio. He later worked as a DJ at WKST (New Castle, PA); WKBN (Youngstown, OH); and WAKR (Akron, OH). But his great fame began in 1951, when he began working for WJW (Cleveland, OH), playing rhythm and blues, hot jazz and this strange new dance music that would be called rock’n’roll. Freed nicknamed himself “Moondog” after a jazz instrumental he played as the show’s intro. He later moved to WINS (New York), where his fame grew. Freed appeared in many of the early rock’n’roll films, co-wrote songs (such as “Maybelline” by Chuck Berry)…

…and was eventually ruined when it was revealed that he had taken payola (playing certain songs in exchange for money from record companies).

Freed worked a little after that, but his prestige and status as a tastemaker were destroyed in the scandal. He died of uremia and cirrhosis brought on by alcoholism. Freed was only 43 years old when he died.

Referenced in:
Done Too Soon — Neil Diamond

1965 — US Marines occupy Santo Domingo

The Dominican Civil War was not even a week old before Lyndon Johnson decided that it posed a threat to US interests (to be fair to Johnson, the Cuban Missile Crisis was only three years earlier, and Johnson was worried that ‘another Cuba’ was about to form). The US Marines landed near Santo Domingo (the capital of the Dominican Republic) on April 28, and had captured the city within a day or so – the Constitutionalist forces surrendered the city on the following day.

The Dominican Civil War dragged on until September, and American forces remained in occupation until July of the following year, when somebody the US liked could be elected.

Referenced in:
Send The Marines — Tom Lehrer

1965 — Ben Stiller born

Ben Stiller is one of the world’s most well known actors, starring in (among others) Zoolander, Tropic Thunder, the Night at the Museum series and the Madagascar series. Unlike many actors, he’s actually using his real name in his career, not a stage name – his parents, Jerry Stiller and Anne O’Meara, are also actors, and Stillers junior and senior have frequently appeared together on screen.

Stiller is the acknowledged leader of the “Frat Pack” group of actors, and career wise, is pretty much at the top of his game as a writer, director and actor right now.

Referenced in:
The Chanukah Song (Part III) — Adam Sandler

1965 – Hurricane Betsy hits New Orleans

Hurricane Betsy was the most destructive hurricane of its day, the first in history to cause more than a billion dollars of property damage in the Atlantic region. It developed on August 27 the east of the Windward Isles, and finally dissipated on September 12, four days after making landfall in New Orleans.

The storm made landfall in the Bahamas, narrowly missed the southern tip of Florida, and hit New Orleans on September 9. Much like Katrina, forty years later, the storm destroyed many houses in the poorer more low lying regions, and breached the levees, leading to extensive flooding. A total of 76 people were confirmed killed in Hurricane Betsy, although the full toll may be higher.

Referenced in:

Hurricane Betsy — Lightnin’ Hopkins
Georgia… Bush — DJ Drama & Lil’ Wayne

1965 – President Johnson announces the escalation of the Vietnam War

On July 28, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced an increase in the numbers of American troops deployed to Vietnam. From their prvious level of 75,000, another 50,000 troops were to be sent, bringing to total level to 125,000 – representing more than quintupling of American numbers from the end of 1964. By the end of 1965, numbers would have quintupled again, and American casualties would be running at over a thousand dead each month.

Johnson was acutely conscious of the importance of public opinion in the prosecution of the Vietnam War, and watched the polls closely. He made strong efforts to downplay the war, which were largely successful. At first. Only a few years later, backlash against the war would be enough to end Johnson’s political career.

Referenced in:

Send The Marines — Tom Lehrer

1965 – Gene Seski crashes a truckload of bananas in Scranton, Pennsylvania

Gene Seski was an experienced truck driver who, on the 18th of March, 1965, was driving a semi-trailer load of bananas from the piers in New Jersey to the town of Scranton, Pennsylvania. His chosen route was Rt. 307, a long, slow descent that winds for two miles into Scranton. It features a section in which, over the course of a single mile, the road drops 500 feet in elevation.

For reasons unknown, Seski lost control of his vehicle. It was travelling at about 90 miles an hour when this happened, and the combination of the truck’s momentum and the downhill slope ensured that it travelled a considerable distance before it came to rest at the corner of Moosic St and S. Irving Ave. Seski did not survive the crash, and the thirty thousand pounds of bananas were scattered all about the vicinity, many of them smeared to a paste.

Referenced in:
30,000 Pounds of Bananas — Harry Chapin

1965 – The Young Rascals release “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore”

The Young Rascals – later simply the Rascals – were a quartet from New Jersey: Eddie Brigati (vocals), Felix Cavaliere (keyboard, vocals), Gene Cornish (guitar) and Dino Danelli (drums). In a career lasting a mere eight years, they had three number one singles in the USA, including “People Got To Be Free” and “Groovin'”.

“I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore” was their first single, which reached only to #52 on the American charts. It was included on their debut album, released in late March of 1966, and has been covered a number of times. The best known of these covers is likely the Divinyls’ version from 1992, which appeared on the soundtrack of the original “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” film. Other artists to cover the song include the Jackson Five and Shania Twain.

Referenced in:

R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. — John Cougar Mellencamp

1965 – Arlo Guthrie is arrested for littering

These things happen on Thanksgiving, especially in the town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts where this all happened. It’s the kind of town where littering could be the biggest crime of the last twenty years – or at least, it was on November 25, 1965, when Arlo Guthrie and his friend Richard Robbins were arrested for illegal dumping of garbage.

Two days later, the case came to court, where the judge, one James Hannon, was blind. Unfortunately for the prosecution, this meant that he was unable to see the “27 8-by-10 color glossy pictures, with the circles and arrows, and a paragraph on the back of each one, explaining what each one was, to be used as evidence against us“. Nonetheless, Guthrie and Robbins were each fined $50 and had to pick up the garbage in the snow.

Later, Guthrie learned that his criminal record (consisting solely of this incident) disqualified him from military service in Vietnam on the grounds that he was not sufficiently moral to be drafted.

Referenced in:

Alice’s Restaurant Massacree – Arlo Guthrie

1965 – Ian Brady and Myra Hindley are arrested for murder

Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were a couple who seemed made for each other. He was a would-be neo-Nazi, she was a survivor of domestic abuse who had been taught that violence was the only way to win respect. When they met, he was 27 and she 23 – he had already done some prison time, she had already been through a failed engagement. They each saw themselves as an outsider, and both wanted to make a mark.

Unfortunately, the only way they could think of to do so was to commit murders. From July of 1963 through to October of 1965, they abducted and murdered four people, burying the bodies on Saddleworth Moor, near Manchester where they and their victims lived. In each case, Brady would commit the actual murders, and often, he would sexually assault the victims, too.

They were eventually caught when Brady tried to include Hindley’s brother-in-law, David Smith, in their crimes. Although he played along, Smith later went to the police, and told them of the murder he had witnessed. Hindley and Brady were arrested the next day, and both eventually received sentences for lifetime imprisonment for what the British press dubbed ‘the Moors Murders’.

Referenced in:

Mother Earth – Crass
Very Friendly – Throbbing Gristle
Suffer Little Children – The Smiths

1965 – The Watts Riots begin

On August 11, 1965, a random traffic stop in Watts, a depressed area of Los Angeles with a largely negro population was the spark that set the racial tensions in the area on fire.

Lee Minikus, a California Highway Patrol motorcycle officer, pulled over Marquette Frye, whom Minikus believed was drunk. But then Minikus made a tragic error of judgement – he refused to let Frye’s sober brother drive the car home, instead radioing for it too be impounded.

As tempers frayed, and the crowd of onlookers grew, someone threw a rock at the police – and that was all it took to start the avalanche. When the riot was finally ended, 6 days later, 34 people had been killed, more than a thousand injured, and nearly four thousand arrested. It was the worst riot in LA history until the Rodney King trial verdict in 1992.

Referenced in:
One More Time – The Clash
Trouble Every Day – Frank Zappa
In The Heat Of The Summer – Phil Ochs
She Is Always Seventeen – Harry Chapin

1965 – Bob Dylan releases “Like A Rolling Stone”

Although the world is full of songs inspired by stories, few songs can claim to be the remains of one. But Like A Rolling Stone is one that can. Extracted from a short story Dylan wrote, and which he describes as “20 pages of vomit“, the song is about alienation – although whose alienation remains a matter of some debate. (The leading candidates are Edie Sedgwick, Joan Baez and Dylan himself.)

Despite being six minutes long, it was released as a single, and rose to #2 on the American charts, making it Dylan’s biggest hit to that time. (It was beaten out of the top spot by “Help”.) The song marks Dylan’s first use of electric guitar in his music, and thus represents his shift from his folk roots to a more pop sound. Not coincidentally, it also marks the point from which he became a part of the cultural mainstream, albeit remaining an iconoclastic and dissenting part of it.

The song was first performed live by Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965. Since then, it has been covered by numerous artists, including Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine proclaimed the song, with its characteristic restraint, “the greatest song of all time.”

Referenced in:
That Says It All – Duncan Sheik