Jon Savage’s 1968-The Year The World Burned.

Label: Ace Records.

When the Rolling Stones released Street Fighting Man as a single in America in August 1968, it was called their most political song to date. The song started life as Did Everyone Pay Their Dues, but it’s alleged became Street Fighting Man after Mick Jagger heard and watched events unfold across the globe.

This began when his friend Tariq Ali attended an anti-war rally at the US embassy in London, and mounted police tried to control a crowd of 25,000. Mick Jagger also found inspiration in events unfolding across the English Channel, where the student riots on Paris’ Left Bank were a precursor to the ciivl unrest that took place in May 1968. Paris was just the latest city where social unrest was taking place.

Across the Atlantic, The Civil Rights Act of 1968 had been filibustered as the year dawned. This had happened several times before, and most likely, would’ve happened again. However,  when The National Advisory Commission On Civil Disorders in 1967 published its report on the ‘1st’ March 1968, it recommended that: “a comprehensive and enforceable federal open housing law” was a possible remedy to the civil disturbances. It looked as if there was a solution to what had been a long running problem.

Ironically, as The Senate debated The Civil Rights Act of 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in Memphis, on April the ‘4th’ 1968. This lead to the worst ever wave of civil unrest in more than 120 cities. This resulted in thirty-nine deaths, in excess of 2,600 injured and many African-American communities ravaged, left with residents and business left reeling from millions of dollars in damages and losses.Suddenly, filibustering was a thing of the past.  

The House passed The Civil Rights Act of 1968 on April ’10th’ and President Johnson signed it a day later on the ‘11th’. Although this was a important day for African-Americans, the death of Martin Luther King Jr, who had been an inspirational figure for many within the Civil Rights’ Movement.

Meanwhile, many Americans realised just how brutal and pointless the Vietnam War was and protests were organised across America. However, some of the peaceful protests turned to riots. Surely things couldn’t get any worse in America?

Sadly, it did. On June the ‘5th’ 1968, Senator Robert F Kennedy was assassinated by a twenty-four year old by a Palestinian man. This sparked disorder and incidents across America.

One of the worst riots took place in Chicago, as law-enforcement officers beat what was a gathering of mostly nonviolent youths. This led to the actions of law-enforcement officers being described as a: “police riot.

Across America, riots spread to other American cities, and police brutally evicted student protesters from buildings on Columbia University Morningside Heights campus, This was a blow to students who believed that the universities were a place where dissent was tolerated and wouldn’t be crushed.

Meanwhile, in Paris, Berlin and Mexico City, students and workers took to the streets to protest, but the police were quickly crack down on the protests as blood continued to flow in the streets.

1968 was a bloody year married by violence, riots and the assassinations. It was a year many people wanted to forget as the clock struck midnight on the ‘31st’ of December 1968. However, 1968 was also an important year musically, and is documented on Jon Savage’s 1968-The Year The World Burned, which has just been released by Ace Records as a two CD set.

Disc One.

Opening disc one of Jon Savage’s 1968-The Year The World Burned is Honey Chile by Martha Reeves and The Vandellas. It finds an almost defiant Martha Reeves singing: one day I’m gonna get stronger, and I won’t need you no longer” on a song the reflects the rise of feminism.

Very different is the psychedelic rock of Sunshine Help Me from Spooky Tooth’s debut album It’s All About. Lysergic describes the mod-psych sound of The Creation’s How Does It Feel To Feel, while the pop psych sound of Grapefruit’sDear Delilah has still relevant and popular in 1968.

Big Bird was Eddie Floyd’s tribute to his friend and Otis Redding, who had died in a plane crash. It’s a fitting homage to the legendary soul man. Meanwhile, Tighten Up a fusion of funk and soul proved to be one of the finest songs of Archie Bell and The Drells’ long career. 

Continuing with what’s already an eclectic compilation, Everydays is a laid back, jazz-tinged track from The Buffalo Springfield, while Talkin’ About The Good Times is a slice of pop psych from The Pretty Things. The psychedelic sound continues on Dave Mason’s Just For You, and The Kinks contribute one of their hook laden single Wonderboy. 

Dionne Warwick’s contribution is the soul classic Do You Know The Way To San Jose. It’s one of her finest singles of her career, and has stood the test of time.

So has the Love’s Your Mind and We Belong Together which signals an end of the psychedelic era. Suddenly paranoia and withdrawal were the order of the day as the psychedelic dream became a nightmare. Other welcome additions to disc one are Canned Heat’s World In A Jug from their sophomore album, and The Beau Brummels’ folk rock single Lift Me. Closing disc one of Jon Savage’s 1968-The Year The World Burned is Al Wilson’s The Snake, which was a favourite of dancers in 1968.

Disc Two.

Given the situation in parts of Europe, South America and throughout America, it’s ironic that Fire! by The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown opens disc two of Jon Savage’s 1968-The Year The World Burned. After that, Hard To Handle by Otis Redding and People Got To Be Free by The Rascals are followed by two classics. The first is I Say A Little Prayer by Aretha Franklin which is followed by Piece Of My Heart by Big Brother and The Holding Company which features a vocal powerhouse from Janis Joplin.

Soul and funk was popular throughout 1968. The For Tops released I’m In A Different Worlds, while the Godfather of Funk James Brown enjoyed a hit with Say It Loud!-I’m Black And I’m Proud (Pt 1). One of the most underrated soul songs from 1968 was Freedom Train by James Carr.

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band released what was their finest moment Smell Of Incense. Fifty years later and it’s a truly timeless tracks.

Another of Motown’s biggest names, The Temptations, released their psychedelic soul album Cloud Nine. The title track was one of Cloud Nine’s highlights, while Sly and The Family Stone released call their for harmony with Everyday People.

Away from soul and funk, Throwaway Street Puzzle was a tantalising taste of what folk rockers Fairport Convention  were capable of. However, one of the rarest tracks on Jon Savage’s 1968-The Year The World Burned has been kept until last. That is a preview pressing of MC5’s Kick Out The Jams, which closes this lovingly curated compilation in style.

1968 was, and always will, be remembered as a tumultuous year in history, marred by violence, riots and assassinations. It was a year many people wanted to forget as the clock struck midnight on the ‘31st’ of December 1968. The cost in human and financial terms was huge in America, as well as parts of Europe and South America during the year the world burned. 

Providing a soundtrack to that year was the music on Jon Savage’s 1968-The Year The World Burned, which is a truly eclectic compilation and one of the best of 2018.

Jon Savage’s 1968-The Year The World Burned.

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