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Eve Of Destruction

by

Barry McGuire



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

A protest song about political issues of the '60s, this was banned from many radio stations for its antigovernment lyrics, but still managed to hit #1 in the US. The song takes on racism, hypocrisy and injustice. The Kennedy assassination was an influence on the song.
This was written by 19-year-old PF Sloan, who was a staff songwriter at McGuire's label and went on to form The Grass Roots. Sloan wrote on his website: "The song 'Eve of Destruction' was written in the early morning hours between midnight and dawn in mid-1964. The most outstanding experience I had in writing this song was hearing an inner voice inside of myself for only the second time. It seemed to have information no one else could've had. For example, I was writing down this line in pencil 'think of all the hate there is in Red Russia.' This inner voice said 'No, no it's Red China!' I began to argue and wrestle with that until near exhaustion. I thought Red Russia was the most outstanding enemy to freedom in the world, but this inner voice said the Soviet Union will fall before the end of the century and Red China will endure in crimes against humanity well into the new century! This inner voice that is inside of each and every one of us but is drowned out by the roar of our minds! The song contained a number of issues that were unbearable for me at the time. I wrote it as a prayer to God for an answer.
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."
This was originally recorded by The Turtles, who released it on their first album earlier in 1965. The Turtles did not release it as a single, and McGuire's version became the hit. As management problems and personnel changes plagued The Turtles, they finally decided to release this as a single in 1970, shortly before they broke up. It was their last song to chart, reaching #100. (thanks, Andrew - Ventura, CA)
McGuire was in The New Christy Minstrels before recording as a solo artist. He had a few hits with the group, including "Green Green" and "Saturday Night," but this was his only hit as a solo artist. Sloan explains: "Barry McGuire had just left the group and was on his own and looking for material to record. He wound up at my publishing company and he was told there was a quirky songwriter he might want to listen to. Now, Barry didn't like the song 'Eve of Destruction' that much. He liked a few other songs of mine better. One in particular called 'What's Exactly The Matter With Me,' which originally was the A-side of the record. When he was ready to record he picked 4 songs and 'Eve' was the 4th to be recorded, if there was time. If you listen to the recording he's rushing singing through the lyric because of the time constraints and he was reading it for the first time off a piece of paper I had written the lyric on! Okay. McGuire's record is released but 'Eve' is the B-side. Somewhere in the Great Midwest of America a DJ played the wrong side by mistake! So as you can see, when people had written that this song was some calculated idea on how to capitalize on the emerging folk scene, it's simply B.S. Honest to God that's what happened and how the song got played."
McGuire's vocal was recorded late at night as a rough take. His voice was raspy and tired, but the producer loved it and used that take. The producer Jay Lasker brought the song to Los Angeles radio station KFWB the morning it was finished, where it was played for the first time.
This became a hippie anthem as the Vietnam War made it more relevant.
A folk group called The Spokesmen recorded an answer song to this called "The Dawn Of Correction." The Spokesman were actually John Madara and David White, a Philadelphia songwriting team whose hits include "At The Hop" and "You Don't Own Me." Madara explained to Forgotten Hits: "We wrote the song on a Wednesday, recorded it the following Monday, and it was released by the end of the week. We did not have an artist at the time to record it, so we did it ourselves. We did take a positive stand with our lyrics and tried to answer Barry McGuire's statements in his lyric." Madara added: "In 1966, after recording Joey Heatherton for Decca, we started dating for the next two years, and I was invited in 1966 to go on the Bob Hope tour to Vietnam with Joey. I always felt a little uncomfortable about the lyrics. After the trip to Vietnam, I saw what our soldiers were going through and how much the war made no sense at all. I definitely had some personal regrets with 'The Dawn Of Correction' lyric. When we wrote the song, we were never for the war, we were just for America, and we felt that 'The Eve of Destruction' was a slap against America. Because of the anti-war sentiment, 'The Dawn of Correction' was obviously taken the wrong way."
Legendary session drummer Hal Blaine played on this, and considers it one of his favorites. Blaine has played on songs by Simon And Garfunkel, Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys and many others.
When PF Sloan wrote this song, he was a Pop songwriter and half of a Surf-Rock duo called The Fantastic Baggys with Steve Barri. Sloan had been listening to the music of Folk singers like Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie, which prompted the change of direction in his songwriting, and also the change in moniker - he was known to this point as Phil Sloan. In the ensuing years, he scored hits with Where Were You When I Needed You" by the Grass Roots and "Secret Agent Man" by Johnny Rivers, but he faced a backlash in the Pop music community, who caved to political pressure and froze him out. Sloan went into a depression and spent time in a mental hospital, earning a living at jobs like drug store clerk and telemarketer. It wasn't until 2006 that Sloan returned to music with his album Sailover, which came together at the urging of the songwriter Jon Tiven, who convinced Sloan to record the album and also produced it.
The lyric in this song, "you're old enough to kill, but not for voting," galvanized the debate over voting rights in America, since in many states citizens couldn't vote until they were 21. During the Vietnam War, support to lower the voting age picked up, as so many young people were sent to war but denied participation in the political process. In 1971, the US Constitution was amended, lowering the voting age to 18.
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Comments (30):

Whew, what a lot of comments above. First, let me say...I'll be 63 in October, 2012...and the times they are not a'changing. Next, I am a Vietnam Vet (1967 - 1971) and I loved this song when it came out and still do. There was a comment by someone above who mentioned that Country Joe's song, 'Fixin' to Die Rag' was more to the point...and I agree. I will also say if that person heard the whole album of the Fish there were much better choices for his/her argument. My personal choice would be John Kaye and Steppenwolf's album, 'Monster'. Kaye wrote the most straight forward 'protest music' of anyone out there! Not Dylan...not even my 'favorite' artist, Neil Young, could touch what's on that album.Don't take my word for it...go buy the darn thing and listen from the first song to the last without stopping. 'Draft Resister' is excellent! I've been there and done that. No, not resisting but finding the truth and turning in disgust away from the Big Business entities that got us there in the first place(can you spell Michelin/French Rubber?). I am now retired from years of traveling for a major news network (CNN maybe? lol) Kuwait, twice. Somalia, twice. Israel and Egypt, thrice. Macedonia, Kosovo, Bosnia (twice). Jakarta. Russia, twice. South Africa, Kenya, Ethiopia. Over forty countries in all. Nothing has changed people! Where are the great thinkers of my generation now? 'Gone...Everyone...When will we ever learn?' that 'A hard rain's gonna fall?'.
- Tommy, Tupelo, MS
Don't know why so many people want to complain that this song was some kind of a fake--a pseudo-protest, if you will. For me, Barry McGuire's gravelly voice was perfect for rousing people off their couches & paying attention to the dreadful foreign & domestic policies the U.S. was pursuing during the mid-60's. Over-simplified & too commercial, perhaps, but it had to be, didn't it? if it were going to make a dent on the hit parade. That line about "old enough to kill, but enough for voting" still resonates, and it augured a major change in legislation.
- Matthew, Toronto, ON
Jeff (first comment, at the bottom) has it exactly backwards regarding the connection between the Mamas and the Papas and Barry McGuire: The Mamas and the Papas' first hit, "California Dreamin'" (which they wrote), was originally going to be recorded by Barry McGuire. And indeed, if you listen closely, McGuire's voice can be heard on part of "California Dreamin'". Both recorded for Dunhill Records.
- Danny, Bronx, NY
I am going to voice an opinion that counters what many others are saying. While I like this song as a piece of music, it is a poor excuse for a "protest song". When this song was released there were a number of very serious and very disturbing things happening in the United States and this song DOESN'T MENTION ANY OF THEM DIRECTLY. Rather than being an anthem against any specific action or policy of the U.S. government (and there was lots to choose from including the Vietnam War and/or the awful racism that still persisted in much of the U.S.), this song has nothing but generalities and platitudes. If you disagree, do a little experiment: Listen to Country Joe's "Fixin' To Die Rag" and this song. Joe McDonald makes no bones about it: The war in Vietnam sucks and he doesn't want to go and he doesn't want anybody else to go. "Eve of Destruction" is more a generalized riff about international gloom and doom with no specific details relating to any U.S. policy. Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if Barry McGuire and/or P.F. Sloan were found to be working for the State Department when they came up with this bit of nothingness.
- Ken, Philadelphia, PA
'Eve of Destruction' reached #1 on 9-25-1965 and stayed there for one week, it knocked 'Help!' by The Beatles out of the top spot, it was #1 for the 3 previous weeks. I remember in an interview that Terry Melcher stated that "Eve" was 1st offered to The Byrds and they passed on it {Melcher was The Byrds' producer in 1965}
PS: 'Hang On Sloopy' by The McCoys replaced 'Eve' at #1...
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
The "Eve of Destruction" answer song : 'Dawn of Correction' by The Spokesmen, it entered the Top 100 on Sept. 18th, 1965 and peaked at No. 36...
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
Walking a perimeter in SEA in 1971 we air force SP's would watch the LERPS coming back from their patrols at dawn and crossing the wire....one of my troops put this on a cassette and played it as they came past us - they loved it.I'll always think of this as my generation's ballad. MSGT Bill
- BILL, Originally Toledo, OH
(Dawn of) Correction: The song had to be written in 1965, not 1964, and after June, because it refers to events that took place in 1965 including the march in Selma (3/65) and "four days in space" (6/65).
- John, Cincinnati, OH
Hal Blaine did not play on everyone's records. Just the ones that were hits.
- Alan, Syracuse, NY
I remember when this song was temporarily banned from the playlist of WNDR in Syracuse,NY. It was over the lyric line "you can hate your neighbor, but don't forget to say grace." After awhile, perhaps a couple weeks, it was returned to airplay.
- Alan, Syracuse, NY
This song is kind of ironic in the light of intervening history, because, while the Cold War has ended, the nuclear threat has not. And of course, the Eastern World is still "explodin'", but for any of you who may be new to history, Benjamin Franklin wrote about this, for crying out loud--the Eastern World has always been a powder keg, and probably always will be. So you could argue that the song is still relevant after forty years. But then, if we were on the "eve of destruction" 40+ years ago, and we're still here, just how long is that evening, anyway? Could it be that our greatest, most immediate fears are often unfounded, or greatly exaggerated? Of course, there's still plenty of trouble in the world, but the song isn't quite so mundane as to be about that--it's telling us that the end is imminent! Right around the corner! Many may tell you that it's even more true today!! Please remind them that people have been claiming as much not for years, not for decades, not for centuries, but for MILL-ENN-I-A!! And tell them to get back to you in another 40 years. But this is still a great song!
- Fred, Laurel, MD
This is maybe the first of what came to be called "socially relevant" songs to make it big on the US charts. It's very similar in spirit to Dylan's, "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall," written out of the fear surrounding the Cuban missile crisis of Oct. '62. It has had a fair number of covers, esp. in the first few years of its existence, often with Selma, AL replaced with the latest racial hot spot of the time. I heard an early cover by a west-coast band, I think it was either Every Mother's Son (1-hit: "Come On Down to My Boat, Baby"), or maybe Jan & Dean, on their album, Folk 'n' Roll. In this version, Selma became Watts, Calif. (The Watts riots of '65 inspired Frank Zappa's "Trouble Every Day" on the Freak Out album--great song--check it out if you dig Eve Of Destruction!)
- Fred, Laurel, MD
Jeff,
The Mamma's & The Papa's hand't arrived in L.A. yet,while McGurie was getting higher.
- Bob, Roseville, CO
I think this song is wonderful. Barry McGuire really captured the feeling of what was going on at the time. Even though I wasn't around when the song was recorded, I can say that this is a true classic.
- Farrah, Elon, NC
The Pretty Things recorded a stompin' version of this.
- Kev O'Carroll, Helensburgh, Scotland
This song is so raw and powerfull. It still stirs people. His voice and the lyrics are unmatched for thier intesity and emotion. All of that over 4 little chords and a harmonica riff.
- Michael, Carbondale, IL
im 16 and i hink that this is a great song, it just has to do with the type of music you listen to i happen to like this type of music
- Stephan, PW, NY
"This record probably sounds kind of dorky to young people when they hear it now"
I was 16 when I first heard this song and I'm 18 now. There's no way that this song could be considered "dorky" by any right-thinking person, especially when the peace it promotes is still missing in our society. It's a shame that 43 years on, it's still relevant.
- Bryony, Near Brighton, England
Years later Michael Roe would "borrow" the guitar introduction of this song for his song "The Lust, the Flesh, the Eyes, and the Pride of Life" that he recorded with the 77's. On his live album, "It's For You", Roe mentions this and plays the first verse of "Eve of Destruction" before going into "The Lust . . ."
- Bryanthemadposter, Washington, MI
This record probably sounds kind of dorky to young people when they hear it now. But my god, was it explosive to hear it on the radio in the 1960s. It was absolutely a hand grenade among most of the other AM-radio drivel of the time. People would get quiet and turn up the volume and actually listen to the words. It was totally shocking to hear some man screaming a social criticism of an American community (Selma, Alabama) on commercial radio. It just wasn't done.
- dirk, Nashville, TN
Good song for sure. Given the cold war atmosphere and the escalating war in Veit Nam it had some punch.
- greg, Victoria, Canada
One of my favorite "war protest songs" three years later I was in Nam. Go figure.
- George, Richmond, VA
There is a cool cover by punk band, The Dickies
- Jeff, Staten Island, NY
One of the quintessential protest songs of the 60s. If the song was recorded in Minnesota, the line Selma, Alabama would be changed to Red Lake, Minnesota, where there was a major school shooting.
- Howard, St. Louis Park, MN
this song is a great one you don't hear that much, and considering the issues of the day, it was and still is very relevant.
- Stefanie magura, Rock Hill, SC
the raspy voice gives the song an eerie feeling and it makes it truly great.
- Julian, Oakland, AR
I think the raspy voice makes the song sound more believble. It seems like the singer is really angry at the world.
Thanks
-Scott
- Scott, NYC, NY
Hal Blaine on the drums!!! He played on everyone's record...
- ken, Leicester, NC
About a year later a band came out(don't remember their name)with a song called"Dawn of Constuction" Also Barry Mcguire was on a PBS program,and deleted the part about Selma Alabama,and put in Columbine
- Steve, Willmar, MN
Originally recorded by the Mama's & the Papa's. McGuire's vocal was dumped over the original vocals. If you listen carefully you can still hear them in the background.
- Jeff, Oscoda, MI
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