Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.    The Honorable Governor of Texas, George W. Bush

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.    Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, May 02, 2005

Part IV: All We Are Saying...

It’s really the years of 1967 thru 1970 that people refer to when they talk or write of the Sixties. During these years a vast counterculture—rooted in places like Greenwich Village, Berkeley, Alexandria and Old Town Chicago—exploded into every city, every small town, and most importantly, every home in America.

You can remember the Sixties for the faux-hippie culture passed off by the media’s cashing in on a trend; giggly Goldie Hawn, the pretentious Peter Maxx, the drivel of Bob and Carol, Ted and Alice, etc. You can remember the sixties by the crazy, hazy summer days of Woodstock. You can remember the sixties with a non-contextual purview of the actions of a young John Kerry or Jane Fonda, but remember this:

The Sixties is when we stood up to “The Greatest Generation” and told them to shove their military industrial complex up their asses. There was nothing “relativistic” about that, you can be sure.

To foment such revolutionary action wouldn’t it have been helpful, in order to achieve some separation from the status quo, to have a great light shone on a new spiritual path, a communion of alternative minded souls strengthened by ritual and lore?

Newspaper taxis appear on the shore,Waiting to take you away.
Climb in the back with your head in the clouds
And you’re gone
Lucy in the sky with diamonds…

It was still early in the game, at least in the exurban Midwest, for me to understand much about LSD; and though the legend of this song endures above all the others from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, my (and Ozzie Osborne’s) favorite pop song of all time is “A Day in the Life”. The profound artistry in this song is that its very revolutionary message is so gently stated.
I read the news today oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall
I’d love to turn you on...
The call to leave the tiresomeness behind and roll up to the new day doesn’t so much cry out to you as it settles around you, and in perhaps the most brilliant musical stroke since the opening motif of Beethoven’s fifth, the crashing final chord goes on for 40 seconds, as if to say, “Take some time to think about it.”

There wasn’t too much time to think; there was a lot of ground to cover in 67. The FCC was very helpful in ordering the big top 40 AMs to quit mirroring on FM, and so the FM outlets were in a large way turned over to younger, more progressive program directors with loads and loads of album cuts. Even on mainstream America’s airwaves, however, the coming of the Summer of Love was unstoppable.

Imagine the horror of our parents at discovering Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced? on their 16 year old’s dresser and figuring out what “Purple Haze” really was. How about Cream’s Disraeli Gears and “Sunshine of your Love”? Donovan’s “Mellow Yellow”? Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow with the astoundingly frank “White Rabbit” would never see the light of day in today’s Clear Channel whore-to-the-middling-masses atmosphere:
When the men on the chessboard
Get up and tell you where to go
And you've just had some kind of mushroom
And your mind is moving low
Go ask Alice
I think she'll know
Oh sure, there were the usual cutesy pop hits, and in fact there were tons of them, but a look at the album charts from 1967 and one can catch glimpses of the coming golden age of album rock. Classics found in any decent album collection might include any of these from ’67; Bee Gee’s First, Small Faces (Rod Stewart), Day’s of Future Passed by the Moody Blues, The Velvet Underground, The Who Sell Out, Between the Buttons by the Stones, Traffic’s Mr. Fantasy, The Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company (Janis Joplin) or Vanilla Fudge. Album versions of one hit wonders survived many years of nomadic lifestyle, such as Alice’s Restaurant and The Electric Prunes's Underground.

It wasn’t just about partying and getting high; the sexual revolution was picking up steam—fueled in no small way by the pill—and exploding on the scene was The Doors, with hits “Light my Fire”, “Back Door Man”, “The Alabama Song” (Whiskey Bar), and “Break on Through”. Later in ’67 would come a fifth hit, “Love Me Two Times” from Strange Days.

And, of course, there was the war. About 11,000 young Americans lost their lives in Vietnam in 1967, nearly double that in ’66. Tempers were getting short on both sides as Country Joe and the Fish recorded “The Fish Cheer & I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag”:
Well, come on generals, let's move fast;
Your big chance has come at last.
Gotta go out and get those reds
—The only good commie is the one who's dead
And you know that peace can only be won
When we've blown 'em all to kingdom come.

And it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn
Next stop is Vietnam
And it's five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates
Well there ain't no time to wonder why
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.
In '68, nearly 15,000 of our generation would come home dead from Vietnam.

That year the roster of those bands that to this day fill the classic rock playlists began to fill in. Creedence Clearwater Revival popped up with “Suzi Q”, Iron Butterfly with “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”, Deep Purple with “Hush” and Steppenwolf with “Born To Be Wild”. The Band showed with Music From Big Pink and Van Morrison debuted with Astral Weeks. The Steve Miller band showed up, too, and though Capital wasn’t really behind anyone but the Beatles they managed to crack the 100 with “Livin’ in the USA”.

There are some major survivors of 1968. Obviously The Beatles (The White Album) had a catchy tune or two, my favorites being “Helter Skelter”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, and “Savoy Truffle”. There is no way these songs compare, however, to “Sympathy for the Devil”, “Street Fighting Man”, “No Expectations” and “Factory Girl”. The Stones Beggar’s Banquet album would begin a streak that would land them solidly at the top of the heap.

Mick and the boys were in better touch, and what was once merely an anti-war sentiment in America was rapidly escalating. Radicalism was becoming widespread, leading to the Chicago Democratic Convention riots. So it was not at all shocking to kids to hear the lines:
Hey! Said my name is called Disturbance
I'll shout and scream, I'll kill the King I'll rail at all his servants
Imagine today’s right wing pundits getting a load of that one!

Then came 1969. Many experts pick this year as the greatest in rock (and American cars), and I was 18 years old. One day a guy down the hall of my freshman dorm came back to his room, opened the windows, turned his very big speakers toward the world, put his brand new copy of Zeppelin II on the turntable, cranked the knobs up to 11, and I and half of sleepy Bloomington, IL heard “Whole Lotta Love” for the first time.

How many great albums were released in 1969? Here’s a partial list.

The Rolling StonesLet it Bleed
The BeatlesAbbey Road
Led ZeppelinII
WhoTommy
King Crimson (debut)In the Court of the Crimson King
Neil Young with Crazy HorseEverybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Sly and the Family StoneStand!
The Velvet UndergroundThe Velvet Underground
Creedence Clearwater RevivalGreen River
Frank ZappaHot Rats
Crosby, Stills and NashCrosby, Stills and Nash
MC5Kick Out the Jams
Creedence Clearwater RevivalWilly and the Poorboys
Grateful DeadLive/Dead
Isaac HayesHot Buttered Soul
Quicksilver Messenger ServiceHappy Trails
Johnny CashAt San Quentin
Bob DylanNashville Skyline
Tim BuckleyHappy Sad
Frank ZappaUncle Meat
Jefferson AirplaneVolunteers
Procol HarumA Salty Dog
Blood, Sweat & TearsBlood, Sweat & Tears
Joe CockerWith a Little Help from My Friends
SantanaSantana
Blind FaithBlind Faith
Jethro TullStand Up
Laura NyroNew York Tendaberry
Fleetwood MacThen Play On
Jeff Beck GroupBeck-Ola
Joe CockerJoe Cocker!
Creedence Clearwater RevivalBayou Country
Grateful DeadAoxomoxoa
PentangleBasket of Light
Rod StewartThe Rod Stewart Album
Chicago Transit Authority (debut)Chicago Transit Authority
Aretha FranklinSoul '69
Jack BruceSongs for a Tailor
The TemptationsCloud Nine
The YoungbloodsElephant Mountain
Boz ScaggsBoz Scaggs
Roberta FlackFirst Take
Johnny WinterJohnny Winter
The BeatlesYellow Submarine
Bob Marley and the Wailers (debut)Soul Shakedown
The DoorsThe Soft Parade
Elton JohnEmpty Sky
GenesisFrom Genesis to Revelation
Neil YoungNiel Young
The Moody BluesTo Our Children's Children's Children
Joni MitchellClouds
Yes (debut)Yes
David Bowie (debut)Man of Words/Man of Music
Janis_Joplin (solo debut)I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!
John Denver (debut)Rhymes and Reason
Mott the Hoople (debut)Mott the Hoople
Pink FloydUmmagumma

Kids in a candy store we were, in more ways then one. Woodstock happened in ’69, so did the Altamount free Stones concert fiasco. Revisionist historians like to point out that the excess evident in the former led to the tragedy of the latter. In fact, great volumes of theory have been written of the “excessive” behaviors of the 60’s. Well, we were 18 year olds, partying and looking to get laid. How very unusual! We laughed just as hard at the hippies as you do. We were “heads”, not hippies. Hippies were for the most part media hyped caricatures. We smoked pot, we took acid, and we hurt ourselves far less than the boozers before us, after us and to this day. We had the pill, but the prevailing style was to have an “old lady”, not to sleep around. While we were being monogamous and sitting around in smoky rooms, the “Greatest Generation” were the ones having “key” parties and driving under the influence.

And the war, still the war. There are about 100,000 troops in Iraq these days. 1969 saw 440,000 troops in Vietnam. It was child against the father—Archie Bunker and Meathead—in millions of homes across America. Venturing from our enclaves out into the surrounding communities was becoming risky, as constantly we would be accosted by locals and law enforcement types. Just as constantly we would do what we could to make their life miserable. It was misbehaving in a big way, and it was starting to frustrate the hell out of our parent’s generation. They were learning that they couldn’t shout us down.

In Part V we would both learn if shooting us down was an option.

2 Comments:

At 4:50 PM, Blogger JD said...

this is really really really good...

 
At 2:26 PM, Blogger Bullock said...

I recently read in Newsweek/Time, whatever-they are all the same-that we baby boomers, for a lack of a better term, are being called the "Greediest Generation"(self-aggrandizement on the author's part), for our selfish capitalistic tendencies to buy and hoard stuff, whine about our entitlements due us; permanent health and social security benefits, investment returns, etc. as well as our social habits; lack of volunteerism/social activism, high divorce rate and general public rage. People will get mad about any old thing and start shooting or blowing up each other in greater numbers than ever before.
So, if this is true, what happened over the last 36 years since 1969?
Has the capitalistic and status quo conformity mind-set mutated us into unfeeling, unfriendly, spiritually bereft Borgs? We even have that Borg-like collective technology called the Internet to remember and collect all the the things that our short and long term memories have forgotten.We are no longer a tribe with common goals.
Dunno the reasons the tribe split apart.Maybe we stopped listening to the music(the'classics')because, you know, you can't hear, really listen to it one downloaded techno-correct freakin' song at a time--you gotten listen to the whole goddamn album! I don't want to hear the DVD outtakes from Who's Next, I want to hear it cover to cover, from the biggest speakers you can get,ending with "Won't Get Fooled Again". Heh, heh.
Rock, on Sequiot. Great compilation of tunes.Still great music for our tribe and tribes to come;get the message & stop being a slave to the collective. Still time to save the world and get home to the old lady before she falls asleep.

 

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