|"Eve of Destruction"|
|Single by Barry McGuire|
|from the album Eve of Destruction|
|"What Exactly's the Matter With Me"|
|Recorded||July 15, 1965|
|P. F. Sloan|
|Lou Adler, P. F. Sloan, Steve Barri|
|Barry McGuire singles chronology|
The song references social issues of its period, including the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the draft, the threat of nuclear war, the Civil Rights movement, turmoil in the Middle East, and the American space program.
The American media helped popularize the song by using it as an example of everything that was wrong with the youth of that time. Due to its controversial lyrics, some American radio stations, "claiming it was an aid to the enemy in Vietnam", banned the song. The song also drew flak from conservatives. It was also banned in some parts of the United Kingdom.
The song had initially been presented to The Byrds as a Dylanesque potential single, but they rejected it. The Turtles, another L.A. group which often recorded The Byrds' discarded or rejected material, recorded a version instead. Their version was issued as a track on their 1965 debut album It Ain't Me Babe, shortly before McGuire's version was cut; it was eventually released as a single and hit #100 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970.
McGuire's recording was made between July 12 and July 15, 1965, and released by Dunhill Records. The accompanying musicians were top-tier Los Angeles session players: P. F. Sloan on guitar, Hal Blaine (of Phil Spector's Wrecking Crew) on drums, and Larry Knechtel on bass guitar. The vocal track was thrown on as a rough mix and was not intended to be the final version, but a copy of the recording "leaked" out to a disc jockey, who began playing it. The song was an instant hit, and as a result, the more polished vocal track that was at first envisioned was never recorded.
McGuire recalled in later years that "Eve of Destruction" had been recorded in one take on a Thursday morning, reading lyrics scrawled on a crumpled piece of paper. The following Monday morning he got a phone call from the record company at 7:00 am, telling him to turn on the radio -- his song was playing. McGuire's single hit #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the UK Singles Chart in September 1965.
After becoming a born-again Christian, McGuire re-recorded "Eve of Destruction" as the lead track on his second contemporary Christian release: "Lighten Up". He updated the lyrics when he performed at a reunion of folksingers, with the line about the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches replaced by the words "Columbine, Colorado", referring to the student massacre of 1999.
On March 12, 2008, McGuire appeared on the Australian music comedy/game show Spicks and Specks, performing an updated version of "Eve of Destruction", with new lines such as "You're old enough to kill/you just started voting" and "...can live for ten years in space". The reference to "Red China" was also removed, and in its place were the more generic "Now think of all the hate, still living inside us/it's never too late, to let love guide us".
In the first week of its release, the single was at #103 on the Billboard charts. By August 12 Dunhill released the LP, Eve of Destruction. It reached its peak of #37 on the Billboard album chart during the week ending September 25. That same day the single went to #1 on the chart, and repeated the feat on the Cashbox chart, where it had debuted at #30. McGuire would never again break into the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. It went to #1 in Norway for two weeks.
In addition to its being banned in some parts of the U.S., it was also banned by Radio Scotland. It was placed on a "restricted list" by the BBC, and could not be played on "general entertainment programmes".
A group called The Spokesmen released a partial parody and answer record entitled "The Dawn of Correction". A few months later, Green Beret medic SSgt. Barry Sadler released the patriotic "Ballad of the Green Berets". Johnny Sea's spoken word recording, "Day For Decision", was also a response to the song. In addition the British musician Alan Klein wrote and performed a parody and attack on folk-singers such as Donovan and Bob Dylan entitled "Age of Corruption" on his album Well at Least It's British.
The Temptations' song "Ball of Confusion (That's What the World Is Today)" mentions the song title. The song was briefly featured in Stephen King's 1994 miniseries The Stand. With a burning Des Moines, Iowa, as a backdrop, Larry Underwood sits atop the hood of a car, belting out the song to amuse himself until interrupted by another survivor of the superflu. It also appeared in The Simpsons episode GABF16, "The Girl Who Slept Too Little", and was featured in Michael Winterbottom's 1997 film Welcome to Sarajevo.
A Joey Scarbury cover was played repeatedly in the original airing of The Greatest American Hero episode "Operation Spoil Sport," to encourage the hero to prevent an automated nuclear strike being triggered by a renegade U.S. general (the aliens who provided the hero's super-powers commandeered his car radio and tuned it to stations playing the song). Due to copyright issues, the song does not appear in the DVD version of the episode.
A French translation is used in the closing credits of Michael Moore's film Sicko. "Eve of Destruction" also makes an appearance in The Doors (directed by Oliver Stone), as the opening act performs it before The Doors take the stage in Miami.
The song is played during the fourth-season finale of The A-Team, "The Sound of Thunder," when the team returns to Vietnam and flashbacks recall their tours of duty.
The song is featured in the fourth level of the Vietnam War video game Men of Valor. While the song is playing, the main character's lieutenant is dying of his wound on the battlefield. "Eve of Destruction" is featured in the 2016 video game Mafia III.
ESPN sportscaster Chris Berman, famous for inventing nicknames for sports figures, and often bringing song titles into the play on words, dubbed slugger Mark McGwire as "Mark 'Eve of Destruction' McGwire".
The song, like many other popular songs of the day, gave its name to a gun truck used by United States Army Transportation Corps forces during the Vietnam War. The truck is on display at the U.S. Army Transportation Museum and is believed to be the only surviving example of a Vietnam era gun truck.