Barry McGuire has an old blog that I found with a post from 2005 with the story of how “Eve of Destruction” was made. The song seems to be an accident that had a great outcome.
McGuire says in his blog that he had “been working on “Eve” and had the hand-written lyric sheet in [his] back pocket, so [he] said [he] would really like to do “The Eve of Destruction”’ and the record producer agreed to record it. They wanted to try this third song, but did not have much time left in the recording studio. McGuire ended up only recording the song in one take. Barry McGuire was not happy with this one take because he “didn’t like [his] vocal because [he] had missed the last note in the chorus and there was a place in the song where [he goes], aaaaaaaaugh.” This mistake actually ended up working out for McGuire. People did not realize that it was a mistake in the song and took it as an act of frustration towards the current events that he was singing about. Vietnam was a war that brought out a lot of political resentment and McGuire’s tone and small mistake in the recording was a perfect way to exemplify the public’s feelings.
McGuire never thought of “Eve” as a protest song. He decided to sing the song because it had an emotional appeal to his own thoughts and feelings. Barry McGuire believes the song to be “nothing more than a societal mirror, reflecting back at the world the hypocrisy of this present age, political hypocrisy, industrial hypocrisy, social hypocrisy, spiritual hypocrisy.” He writes that “the song offers no answers, it just asks the questions.” He recorded the song to help inform the people of the dilemmas occurring in the world around them.
“Eve of Destruction” became popular in 1965. This was a time when Vietnam’s problems had not erupted yet. I think that the Civil Rights played a factor in promoting this song’s popularity. This song describes the issues of the 1960’s and Vietnam was not the only issue occurring at this time. The Civil Rights was a heated topic in America and protests were in full swing. Civil rights activists, such as Martin Luther King Jr., lead many marches in the year of 1965 to promote his cause against segregation. Also, “on August 6, President Lyndon B. Johnson sign[ed] the Voting Rights Act into law, which illegalize[d] discriminatory voting requirements, like requiring a literacy test before registering to vote…” These events were prominent within the American population. It is no wonder that Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” was an influential song in 1965.
In the song, McGuire sings: “And marches alone can’t bring integration/When human respect is disintegratin’/This whole crazy world is just too frustratin’.” These lyrics describe the frustration that is provoked among the civil rights activists when their marches and protests do not bring an end to segregation. McGuire sings of this “eve of destruction” that he believes is occurring in America because of all of the hatred people have towards one another.
In conclusion, Barry McGuire may not have thought of his song as a protest song, but “Eve of Destruction” did have an important impact on the American people. The frustration of Vietnam is brought out in the song along with other wrathful topics of that time period.