EVE OF DESTRUCTION

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs

EVE OF DESTRUCTION

 

“Eve of Destruction” is a protest song written by P. F. Sloan in mid-1964. Several artists have recorded it, but the best-known recording was by Barry McGuire. This recording was made between July 12 and July 15, 1965 and released by Dunhill Records. The accompanying musicians were top-tier LA session players: P. F. Sloan on guitar, Hal Blaine (of Phil Spector’s “Wrecking Crew”) on drums, and Larry Knechtel on bass. The vocal track was thrown on as a rough mix and was not intended to be the final version, but a copy of the recording “leaked” out to a DJ, who began playing it. The song was an instant hit and as a result the more polished vocal track that was at first envisioned was never recorded.

The song had initially been presented to The Byrds as a Dylanesque potential single, but they rejected it. The Turtles, another LA group who often recorded The Byrds’ discarded or rejected material, recorded a version instead. Their version was issued as a track on their 1965 debut album It Ain’t Me Babe, shortly before McGuire’s version was cut; it was eventually released as a single and hit number 100 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970. The song was also recorded by Jan and Dean on their album Folk ‘n Roll in 1965, using the same backing track as the McGuire version, and by The Grass Roots on their first album Where Were You When I Needed You in 1966.

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.

After becoming a born-again Christian, McGuire re-recorded “Eve of Destruction” as the lead track on his second contemporary Christian release: “Lighten Up”. McGuire updated the lyrics when he performed at a reunion of folksingers, with the line about the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches replaced by the words “Columbine, Colorado”, referring to the student massacre of 1999. On March 12, 2008, McGuire appeared on the Australian music comedy/game show Spicks and Specks, performing an updated version of “Eve of Destruction”, with new lines such as “You’re old enough to kill/ you just started voting” and “…can live for ten years in space”. The reference to “Red China” was also removed, and in its place were the more generic “Now think of all the hate, still living inside us/ its never too late, to let love guide us”.

 

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 whats 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 you boy, it’s bound to scare you 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 coagulating

I’m sitting here just contemplatin’

I can’t twist the truth it knows no regulation

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 four days in space

But when you return it’s the same old place

The pounding 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

Mmm, no, no, you don’t believe

We’re on the eve of destruction