Sunday, July 24, 2016

Dunhill Records: Eve of Destruction

Now that we’re back on track with the blog, we can resume with our features. Since it’s the fourth week of the month, we turn to our Fourth Week Label Feature. For this week, I’ve chosen Dunhill Records. The company was conceived in 1964 by Lou Adler and several others as a production house for Johnny Rivers. It did not become an actual label until spring 1965.

While it is commonly cited that the label’s initial release was by Adler's wife Shelley Fabares, this is incorrect. Two singles were issued a month prior to Fabares’ recording: Ray Whitley’s “I’ve Been Hurt” and Ritchie Weems and the Continental Five’s “Natural Born Man.” These two singles were numbered D-201 and D-202 respectively.

With Dunhill’s third release (Fabares’ “My Prayer” cataloged as D-4001), the label began a distribution deal with ABC-Paramount Records – later simply known as ABC Records. Two years later, Adler sold his shares to ABC and this created the subsidiary label: ABC-Dunhill Records. Dunhill would be inextricably linked to ABC throughout its 10-year run.

By 1975, ABC began consolidating its subsidiaries under the ABC Records’ umbrella and Dunhill was no longer an active imprint.  Within four years, ABC’s record holdings were purchased by MCA and subsequent releases used its imprint. Geffen Records now controls the Dunhill catalog. This week will look at seven releases from Dunhill and ABC-Dunhill.

Numbered as D-4009, Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction” was actually Dunhill’s twelfth release and not the eleventh as one may surmise. This was because two P.F. Sloan singles that were subsequently issued shared the D-4007 catalog number and the same B-side.

Written in 1964 by P.F. Sloan, “Eve of Destruction” chronicled the unrest in the world during the mid 1960s that dealt with war, suffering, and racism. According to McGuire, he recorded the song on a Thursday and it was on the air the following Monday. McGuire’s recording was Dunhill’s first Top 40 hit and it quickly ascended to the number one slot during the fall of1965. The song hit apparently hit a political nerve at the time.

The double strike on the tom-tom found only in the intro and the first verse provides a subliminal sound effect of artillery fire that accentuates the message decrying war. The lyrics played on the real fears of nuclear annihilation – “if the button is pushed, there’s no runnin’ away. There will be no one to save with the world in a grave.” Sloan’s lyrics also points at hypocrisy found in America with the line “hate your next door neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace.”

McGuire later re-recorded “Eve of Destruction” on his second Contemporary Christian release “Lighten Up.” It was released on Myrrh Records in 1974 - a label that was part of ABC's holdings of Word Records in the 1970s. Being the album’s lead track dispels the rumors that McGuire eschewed the song once becoming a Christian. He still performs “Eve of Destruction,” but often modifies the lyrics to be applicable to the unrest of the present world.


  1. Great review--so insightful. Barry was one of my favorite artists when I was in my late teens and 20's. I believe that he is still alive and living with his wife in Australia now.

    1. Yes, he's still alive, but I didn't know that he was in Oz. Thanks Jim.