♫ Eve of Destruction ♫

Somehow, this song has remained relevant for more than 50 years now.  Tonight, I am looking upon the world, and as I do, this song comes to mind.  It very much feels, at least here in the U.S. and I’m sure other places like Ukraine, Somalia and others, like we truly are on the eve of destruction.  Human forces are largely to blame … no, let me recant that … human forces are completely to blame by destroying the environment, building weapons of mass destruction, slashing human rights ’round the globe, even in western democracies like the U.S..  And nobody seems to be doing anything to stop the destruction … hell, half the people see the damages in a positive light!  And so, while I wish I could give you a nice, happy tune tonight, I am deep within the rabbit hole and simply cannot.  Perhaps tomorrow.

According to SongFacts …
A protest song about political issues of the ’60s, many radio stations refused to play “Eve Of Destruction” because of its antigovernment lyrics. There was an upside to this controversy, however, as it piqued interest in the song, sending it to #1 in the US.

The song takes on racism, hypocrisy, and injustice at a volatile time in American history. The assassination of US President John F. Kennedy in 1963 was a big influence on the lyric.

This was written by 19-year-old P.F. 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 engage 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.”

One thing I did not know, or if I did I have long since forgotten, is that 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.

Eve of Destruction
Barry McGuire

The eastern world, it is explodin’,
Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’,
You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’,
You don’t believe in war, but what’s 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 trying to say?
And can’t you feel the fears I’m feeling today?
If the button is pushed, there’s no running 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 coagulatin’,
I’m sittin’ 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!
Ah, you may leave here, for four days in space,
But when your return, it’s the same old place,
The poundin’ 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 you tell me over and over and over and over again my friend,
You don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

No, no, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.

Songwriters: P. F. Sloan
Eve of Destruction lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management

32 thoughts on “♫ Eve of Destruction ♫

  1. I had forgotten all about Eve of Destruction! I must have been around 16 years old when I first heard it. I surprised myself by being able to sing along to it (if you can call what comes out of my mouth singing), so it must have had quite an effect on me at the time. Neither the Turtles version nor the Barry McGuire version sounded quite as I remember it. Perhaps there was a local cover version. But then when I consider that I first heard EoD 57 years ago, I’ll forgive my rusty memory.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I love it when I hear a song I once loved but had long since forgotten about! Then it gets stuck in my head and I spend the next several days whistling, humming, or on rare occasions ‘singing’ it! Like you, it’s a stretch to call what comes from my mouth singing! Being nearly deaf doesn’t help 😉 Hmmmm … I wonder if there were other versions … given the song’s popularity, it wouldn’t surprise me. Our memories do get rusty or worn with time … but what’s funny is that we can remember odd, irrelevant things from long ago better than we can remember why we got up and went into the kitchen! Or at least that’s true for me.

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  2. Jill, as a teenager I met Barry after his conversion to Christianity during the Jesus movement of the late 1960s. He is now in his 80s and living in Paris. I had a nice conversation with he and his wife a bit over a year ago, but concerned with what is happening here. He wrote a song in the early 1970s entitled “Don’t Blame God for the Sins of America.” It is a segue to Eve of Destruction. Eventually he went to Europe when he realized that his understanding of Christianity didn’t fit in with the United States of the 2000s. He released it on his Album “Lighten Up” in 1974 in which it was proceeded by the first verse and chorus of Eve of Destruction:

    If you’re still alive
    And you can hear this song
    You know this world cannot survive
    ‘Cause something’s all gone wrong
    You may not like hearing it
    You may bе right in fearing it
    But this land of ours is dying
    And you know it won’t be long
    Until it’s gone

    Yеs, she’s building up a debt
    That she can never pay
    Piling up the bodies
    That she can’t hide away
    Her Godless people failing her
    Like drunken seaman sailing her
    Head on upon a deadly reef
    Of greed and moral decay

    So don’t blame God
    For the sins of America
    America has fallen
    From the ways of the Lord
    Don’t blame God
    For the sins of America
    Living for the dollar
    She’ll be dying by the sword.

    Both songs were prophetic and appropriate to now.

    Thank,you for posting,


    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you, Padre!!! I had no idea he had done a segue to “Eve of Destruction”! I thought he pretty much faded away after that. I will try to find it and give it a listen.

      It’s so good to see you back in the blogosphere … I’ve missed you!


  3. Pingback: EVE OF DESTRUCTION. |jilldennison.com | Ramblings of an Occupy Liberal

  4. I guessed correctly, then. It is sad that this song is possibly even more relevant now than it was when it came out in 1965. The Turtles version is good but it really needs Barry McGuire’s growling voice for best effect. This song has a special place for me – I even wrote about it in my former Saturday Songs series. To be found in the menu on my blog, if you’re interested.

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      • I traveled over there and was reading your intro, then read the post from your SaturdaySongs, then actually listened again to the song, planning to ‘like’ and comment, only to find that I had already ‘liked’ it and even reblogged it back in July 2021!!! I had no idea … yep, my friend, senility is definitely setting in here! Anyway … I enjoyed reading again about your youth, and how you came by your love of music and how you came by the record!!! Methinks you and I will both redux this one again in the future … unless I completely give in to senility before then. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed you did! I think you’re right, that it is at least as relevant, perhaps more so, today as it was in 1965. I never heard the Turtles’ version and don’t think I’ll waste the time to go in search of. I’ll go look for your post in a bit, once I get caught up here! I’m definitely interested!

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  5. Jill, this has always been an evocative song. The world has managed to survive many less than brilliant decisions. Our country has also survived similar poor decisions. Jon Meacham’s book and documentary “Soul of America” has noted how we have been able to overcome Jim Crow, McCarthyism, KKK influence in Congress, Japanese American internment, et al. We will survive Trump and Trumpism, but we need everyone to step up. It may take time, but we have to seek the truth and truth tellers. Trump and his allies are not among the truth tellers, so they must be called out. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

    • Agreed … the world and the human species have survived centuries of poor decisions and destruction. But there is one today that I don’t think the world can survive if humans don’t sit up and pay attention, and that is climate change. Water and food crises are already happening, air quality is already poor in many areas, including my own. I have read Meacham’s book, but never saw the documentary … I should go in search of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I first heard this song in Junior High school and its message stirred my soul to fight for human rights. The Vietnam occupation dominated my late Jr High and early High School years. We had POW bracelets and I remember my best friend’s POW never came home. I have been discouraged in the past two decades to see the degree of apathy among the next generation of adults until recently. It’s sad that it takes so much oppression to inspire the urge to defend human rights but, then again, it has been many years since anything has affected such a large segment of the population in so profound a way. Surface appearances are so deceiving. Women have never ceased to be undervalued, demoralized and targeted for supremacy and victimization. It just morphed along the way. Thanks for this song Jill. I still sing along with all the hopeful vigor of my fifteen year old self. As a side note, I loved it’s use in one episode of The Greatest American Hero. Next favorite protest song of mine is John Lennon’s Working Class Hero. It is quietly defiant of the times that appear to be cyclical, as is the darkness that drives them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was just a couple of years ahead of you, and already several friends had left for ‘Nam, while others were participating in the massive protest movement. In fact, my boyfriend would eventually go to ‘Nam as an army clerk, and he, too, came back in a body bag. So yeah, for those of us who are of a certain age, this song is a large part of our history. But today, it has just as much relevance … although the issues are different, the threat to our freedom, our lives, is just as real. I don’t recall “Working Class Hero” … I’ll have to check it out! My next favourite, not really a protest song, but one advocating for peace and love, is also by Lennon … “Imagine”.

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      • Oh Jill. It breaks my heart to learn of your losing your boyfriend and at so young an age. 💔 It shows that the nature of the mob mentality hasn’t changed much over the decades. Now they’re armed and dangerous, though. The way people turned on those vets and compared their service to ‘nobler’ wars, as if such a thing exists. We shouldn’t have been there but those kids were fighting for their country too. That era and its numbed mentality is exactly what the religious right is hoping to return to. I fully expect to see Greg Abbott submit that Reefer Madness be added as a required subject in elementary school. Right behind the ‘Relocation Theory’ of slavery.
        Imagine is my personal theme song. Let me know when you listen to the other. It’s very honest and heartbreakingly true. Hugs my friend. (Psssst… today’s my birthday and I can honestly say in my 60 something years I have seen some sh@#! ❤️😏)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks, Cheryl! It was a sad time for so many. And no, not much has changed. It seems that war will be with us as long as humans exist, for in their arrogance and greed, they seem to believe that ‘might makes right’ and that they have the ‘right’ to kill in order to see their own goals met. Sigh. I used to believe there was hope for peace on earth, but I no longer believe that.

          And on a brighter note …

          ♫ 🎈🎁🍰🎂🍰🎁🎈♫ Happy, Happy Birthday!!!

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