STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
“Think of all the hate/there is in red China;
then take a look around to the Taliban Al Qaeda.”
So goes one of the lines of “Eve 2012,” an update by Barry McGuire of his snarling, chart-topping, 1965 protest song “Eve of Destruction.”
McGuire said in a phone interview that the World Wildlife Fund petitioned the rewrite. “Eve of Destruction”’s lyricist, P.F. Sloan, who passed away last year, complied.
Of the original record’s righteous rage, McGuire said it’s actually “starting to come back into focus” decades later. “The song is more valid today than when I recorded it 50 years ago,” he said.
McGuire will be accompanied by former Byrds bassist/guitarist John York April 28 at Sellersville Theater for a “Trippin’ the ‘60s” show. Of the duo’s onstage chemistry, McGuire quoted something York said to him: “I play the guitar, you play the audience. I’m a great Tonto; you be the Lone Ranger.”
“John is such a great musician, that if I forget the words … it doesn’t matter,” the 81-year-old McGuire added.
A member of the folk singing group The New Christy Minstrels when they were at their commercial peak in the ‘60s, McGuire will revisit their music, as well as songs by friends of his that are no longer around to perform them. Some examples: “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” by Scott McKenzie, “If I Were a Carpenter” by Tim Hardin, “Dream a Little Dream of Me” by Mama Cass Elliot, and “Creeque Alley” by The Mamas & the Papas (Michelle Phillips is the only surviving member), which mentions McGuire by name. “It’s my favorite song John (Phillips) ever wrote because it was about me,” he said, breaking into robust laughter.
“I tell stories that took place that no one knows about,” he said of “Trippin’ the ‘60s.” For instance, McGuire — who has some yarns to spin about his friends in The Mamas & the Papas — says he was the first to record the John and Michelle Phillips composition “California Dreamin’.” When the group released their own version, it became one of the biggest hits of 1966. McGuire swears you can hear the vocal from his recording faintly bleeding over in the left channel, if your ears are discerning enough. “They used my track (the instrumental backing from McGuire’s version), and I didn’t even know it. Any time anybody sings karaoke to The Mamas & the Papas, that’s my track,” he said.
Another involves how “Eve of Destruction” — which was still a not-for-public-consumption work in progress — accidentally got on the radio. A photographer, that did record promotion to radio on the side, had absentmindedly grabbed an acetate pressing of the still-unpolished “Eve of Destruction” with an armful of other records. It found its way onto a record player at a party of teenagers, which included the child of a radio station program director, making the biggest impression.
“I thought we were gonna change the world,” McGuire said of starting the discussion that led to the 26th Amendment with a single line — “you’re old enough to kill/but not for voting” — as well as bumping The Beatles’ “Help” from being the No. 1 song in America. To his dismay, however, the following week, “Eve of Destruction” was unseated by the catchy bubblegum of “Hang on Sloopy” by The McCoys.
Cast as a lead in the original Broadway production of “Hair,” McGuire had to step aside after two years and 300 performances when he injured his knee dancing in the counterculture rock musical.
Losing 10 of his friends in a 16-year span to overdoses or suicide, McGuire started reflecting on a time he had been smoking marijuana and reading the words of Jesus in the Bible, as well as a suggestion Roger McGuinn of The Byrds made to him in the late ‘60s. In 1971 Barry McGuire became a born again Christian. “I’d been to the carnival. I’d been on all the rides … after the 300th ride, it gets boring. You get off the ride and look down, and you see the footprint from where you got on,” he said of his past history of drug use, and episodes like the Woodstock Festival abandonment of a woman he had conceived a daughter with.
As a rule, he does not proselytize during “Trippin’ the ‘60s.” “I don’t like to trick people into preaching,” said McGuire, who has actually recorded more albums as a Christian musician than a folk singer.
“I could go on for hours,” McGuire repeats while discussing politics, spirituality, and why it’s not likely there will ever be another anti-war anthem with the impact of “Eve of Destruction.”
IF YOU GO
What: “Trippin’ the ‘60s” with Barry McGuire and John York.
When: 8 p.m. April 28.
Where: Sellersville Theater 1894, 24 W. Temple Ave. and Main Street, Sellersville.
Tickets: $29, $39.50.
Info.: Call (215) 257-5808 or visit www.st94.com.