Lisa Harris (lrph) Tue 29 Sep 09 15:11
1969 was an historic year for so many reasons. Woodstock symbolizes so much of it, yet there was so much more. We are fortunate to have Bruce Pollock, author of "By The Time We Got To Woodstock:The Great Rock-n-Roll Revolution of 1969" with us. Veteran journalist, lyricist, novelist, humorist, essayist, columnist,editor, music historian, and record producer Bruce Pollock is the author of ten books on music, including By the Time We Got to Woodstock, Working Musicians, The Rock Song Index, Hipper Than Our Kids, When Rock Was Young, When the Music Mattered, and In Their Own Words, as well as three novels. He is the founding co-Editor in Chief of GUITAR: For The Practicing Musician, produced over 100 record compilations for BMG and Sony/BMG Music and was the editor of 17 Volumes of Popular Music: An Annotated Index of American Popular Songs (1983-1999). He is currently writing a mystery, a young adult novel, a celebrity bio, and massive history of 100 years of music. Leading our discussion is David Julian Gray. David Julian Gray, aka <djg> is a musician, musicologist, media technologist and long time host of the WELL music conference. In 1975, djg helped found The Klezmorim, the band universally recognized as in fountainhead of modern klezmer music. His research for The Klezmorim led to pioneering work in computer aided musicology and audio restoration. He.s restored and remastered recordings for Folk Lyric, Trikont records and the San Francisco Opera and consulted on audio production around the world. David joined National Public Radio (NPR) in 1996 to architect all digital production work-flows and speaks frequently at broadcast and media conferences. David became a beta-tester for the Whole Earth .Lectronic Link in 1985 and was the original co-host of the music conference (with Jim Stockford), a role he.s served again since 2001. Never abandoning his clarinet, djg leads the group Klezcentricity and (occasionally) performs as a guest soloist with klezmer and blues groups internationally. Thank you both for joining us.
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Tue 29 Sep 09 15:25
So happy to be here I arrived at least six hours early.
David Julian Gray (djg) Tue 29 Sep 09 18:07
Welcome, Bruce - very happy to have you here... and hope you weren't waiting long. First, let me say I really appreciate _By The Time We Got to Woodstock_ and your framing of "1969" as the election of RIchard Nixon to the shootings at Kent State - that makes a lot of sense. I have always had a sense of 1969 - or that period from November '68 to May 1970 - as the nexus of the popular music we have all lived since. The super-nova that everything just led up to and everything *everything* has emanated from. The book certainly offers compelling evidence for this view. Placing this incredible richness of releases, from "Nashville Skyline" to "Bitches Brew" to the first singles from funkadelic in the social mileu which saw the euphoria of the mid-sixties come crashing so hard into Altamont - and then Kent State exposes a paradox I never quite noticed before. The social story you tell, and that many of us lived, ends with comments like "the notion of the counter culture is a myth" from Jann Wenner or Lennon's "The dream is over." Yet, at least musically, it's clear that a world of possibility was created by the super-nova - the dream was just beginning. The book really tells both stories, one explicitly and one implicit in the recounting of the music. Is this something you see as well?
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Tue 29 Sep 09 18:57
Right away we're jumping into the deep end. I guess, with the end of 1969 and the Music as Counterculture era, the music was then set free to be just music, not chained down by the hopes and dreams, politics and mythology of a generation. Probably Bob Dylan's point by going to country music (intuitive of course). And Paul Simon's point about growing up. Also Paul McCartney's point about growing up. On the other hand, with the new delivery systems created to tap into the market of idealistic youth born in the first wave of the Baby Boom, music was also ripe to become business, instead of what was perceived to be something purer (ie. the hopes and dreams, politics and mythology of a generation). So we had four or five years of peak musical experiences--as musicians and as listeners--when the taste of the masses mirrored the elite taste of the baby boom college-age youth. By mid-1970 both the original audience and the surviving musicians were burnt out from this historic co-mingling. But the business was only beginning. This analysis may not completely deal with all the issues you presented--but we've got a couple of weeks to plumb these depths.
David Julian Gray (djg) Tue 29 Sep 09 19:41
I suppose the music being "free to be a business" (which, of course, always was anyway) is one aspect of "the dream" being over - another odd paradox, a fact you bring up several times throughout the narrative, is the insane idea of these peace and loving loving hippies that The Hell's Angels were of them and the very model of what an enlightended security force should be. I was previously unaware there were other festivals (beside Altamont) with this arrangement. I suppose the idea was the power of this Aquarian Age, not just would, but already *had* transformed the Angels into a peace and love loving criminal motorcycle gang ...
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Wed 30 Sep 09 06:01
Yes, the Angels were adopted in the mid-sixties by the acid-taking literati at Stanford (Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsburg, et al). They were pals of the Grateful Dead. In England, they stood guard at Hyde Park when Jagger and the Stones performed there for free after the death of Brian Jones. In Toronto, another motorcycle group, escorted John Lennon and his pickup band to the Toronto Peace Festival in September. I think the Angels, like everyone else, got caught up in the uniquely bad vibes surrounding Altamont (not to mention the guy with the gun). In reference to the music becoming more of a business in the 70s: what was removed from the equation at that point was the left wing idealism the original folk music civil rights crowd brought to it, through the 60s, making it just another example of an underground movement finally cresting at the top of the charts, at which point it gave way to the next underground movement. But as a child of the Baby Boom, the dead-since-1969 music of the revolution didn't entirely move out of the way until '75 or so, when punk rock started fomenting in England and NYC.
David Julian Gray (djg) Wed 30 Sep 09 11:08
Bruce - you've got a great quote in the book from Phil Ochs: "I recently came to the conclusion that Colonel Parker knows more about organizing America than Angela Davis or SDS." Ochs was making an attempt to rationalize his response to a creative drought (which ultimately drove him to suicide), but its a good point. I don't think rock necessarily became more professional, or business oriented after 1969 - or those in the business became necessarily craftier (although the revenue skyrocketed and attracted more sharks) - but there did seem to be a sense of community and common purpose that quickly dissipated after 1969 ... I don't know if Altamont and its ilk where causes or symptoms ... likely the latter ...
Gail (gail) Wed 30 Sep 09 12:16
We're visible on the web now. If you have friends who might enjoy this please remind them of the shortcut of g inkwell.vue to checkout the conference. Or if they are off-WELL, send them the external reading link to pass around, blog, tweet, etc - http://tinyurl.com/inkwell-pollock If you are reading without being a member of The WELL you may send questions along to inkwell @ well.com for inclusion in the conversation.
what another day it takes: (oilers1972) Wed 30 Sep 09 12:25
Howdy Bruce. I'm looking forward to reading your new book, which deals with a subject close to my born-20-years-too-late-to-have-been-a-part-of-it heart. Just out of curiosity, in your opinion, have there been any developments in popular or underground music that at least come close to that of the '60s in terms of its sheer creativity and also its socio-cultural-political impact? And what are your views on the viability of this lightning striking again anytime soon?
what another day it takes: (oilers1972) Wed 30 Sep 09 12:27
quote by (djg): "The super-nova that everything just led up to and everything *everything* has emanated from." And WHAT A SUPER-NOVA!!!
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Wed 30 Sep 09 14:36
To Oilers 1972, I think the operative quote here comes from Pete Townshend: "Won't get fooled again." Future generations, as early as 1969, were moving music out of the political realm (perhaps for its own good). After the war (and the draft) ended, it's been hard to mobilize people in the streets, where rock bands could hoist their chalice. England in the 70s at the time of the Clash comes close, but that was their scene and their politics. The punk rock scenes of the 70s in New York and the 80s in California, the 90s in Seattle, produced a lot of great angry music during a time of repression, and since they never did achieve any kind of mass influence, aside from Nirvana, punk is still regarded favorably by critics. Since the end of the 60s there's been a ton of great music, but none of it shared as much and used as much for life-changing motivation, as during that 65-69 period. Then again, since so much of this is a matter of age, I'd like to hear from people of different ages stating their case.
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Wed 30 Sep 09 14:41
To DJG: Once the political will of the counter culture was broken, the whole backstory of the music became subject to ridicule. To be a "folkie" in the 70s (or 80s or 90s or 00s) was to be hopelessly "granola, a person apt to break into a chorus of "Kumbaya" at the drop of a peace sign. Meanwhile, divide and conquer was the prevailing motto, as new generations entered the picture, and new business models sliced up the pie.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Thu 1 Oct 09 06:24
>>> Just out of curiosity, in your opinion, have there been any developments in popular or underground music that at least come close to that of the '60s in terms of its sheer creativity and also its socio-cultural-political impact? <<< I realize <oilers1972> asked this of Bruce, but since Bruce threw it open to the crowd... The answer is, of course. Instantly I'm thinking of the 1930s, when jazz became a serious art form at the same time the American song reached its zenith. And the socio-cultural-political impact? Much more so than in the 1920s, jazz in the 1930s brought black and white musicians together, even on stage. That was something entirely new in American culture, and it set the stage, if you will, for the great developments in integration that followed in the 1940s and '50s. And that's just the 1930s in America. I don't doubt at all that across time -- well, since the Middle Ages, say -- there have been dozens of periods of musical creativity and importance around the world that matched that of the 1960s.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 1 Oct 09 06:43
Yeah, I would also point to the same period for the same reasons. Those are the two big periods I listen to, and it's quite likely that the period between 1900 and 1925 was amazing too, but much of it was never recorded and what recordings we have are mostly too primitive for my ears. An incredible collision of cultures during that era.
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Thu 1 Oct 09 08:41
It seems like the history of music is rife with genres emerging from underground (or bad neighborhoods) that appealed to the young and thereby threatened the parents and the status quo. I'm thinking of ragtime, even before jazz. Aside from that age-old parent-child struggle, I'm wondering if political rage was ever so specifically present in the popular music of its time than in the 60s--from the protest music of early Dylan to folk/rock to acid rock, underground and at the top of the charts? I don't have the name of the group in front of me right now, but there was a kind of Peter, Paul & Mary prototype during the Civil War Era, whose songs got banned while inspiring abolitionists everywhere. Thought there might be a book in it. The last one written about them was in something like 1912.
Cogito, Ergo Dubito (robertflink) Thu 1 Oct 09 08:55
The remarks thus far suggest a kind of cultural soup to me. I'm 70 years old and have wondered over the years about music as a cause or as an effect of or even much of a connection to the broader culture. I can see the various clashes in the music scene but can't see them as necessarily either a product of or an influence on the underlying culture. If this sound a bit too skeptical, I should admit to having the view that even historians have a hard time convincing me of their views on cause and effect. I tend to suspect that the problem is an answer looking for the right questions. That said, I have enjoyed much of the music over the period with the growing limitation of my high frequency hearing in recent years and enjoy the current discussion.
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Thu 1 Oct 09 09:16
I definitely think there's a cause and effect when it comes to musicians influencing other musicians. In the early to mid 60s this resulted in folk musicians singing protest songs at civil rights and anti-war rallies. By the mid to late 60s the audience for such rallies and such songs was so big it entered the mainstream. And since the earlier audiences were comprised of so many would be and soon to be musicians, this made the left-leaning musician class huge (on a par with the left leaning college teacher class and with just as far reaching an impact). Combine this with a massive number of folk singing college age kids worried about being drafted, and you've got a pretty significant cause and a similarly significant effect. Since the end of the 60s, I don't really see this very much. Of course, the draft has long since ended.
David Julian Gray (djg) Thu 1 Oct 09 10:24
Just as Mr. Pollock as "expanded" 1969 to mean Nov 1968 to May 1970 - stevebj's "1930s" must include the mid to late 1920's - that's when jazz really started to become an art form - and also... I humbly posit, when it was at its most subversive. To speak directly to steve's post - what was *most* subversive about jazz was how it broke long held racial barriers in American society. To address <robertflink>'s post - music is often a catalyst for social change - this must go back to pre-history. Part of its power is that it communicates at a pre-verbal level - when words with meaning and social resonance are added to that - the power of the words is usually just riding on the power of the music itself. We can't ignor that is big part of what gave the musics which reached that "super-nova" status in 1969 their power was the demographic bulge that is the "baby-boom" Check out the chart in the link below... that wave comes crashing ca 1969 ... interesting ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Birthratechart_stretch.PNG
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Thu 1 Oct 09 10:55
I utilized a similar (although easier to read) chart when doing my book. If you accept the notion that most people's involvement with music starts in the teen years and peaks during the college years (hence the cliche "music was so much better when I was 21") the earliest boomers were around 17 when Dylan broke through in '63 (and the Urban Folk Scare started). They got out of college around '67 (although many of them dropped out for a few years along the way, postponing that crucial date). So 1969 found them still clinging to the shards of their youth. But the Boom kept growing and I think some years in the 50s even surpassed the output of the 40s. So you had even bigger numbers to support rock's business model of the 70s, illuminated by their older brothers' and sisters' record collections. However, once the war and the draft ended, and things continued drifting toward the right, their shared experiences, political, economic, social and musical, were so different that it's impossible to say anything categorically about 'Baby Boom Music Fans.' It's really the ones who were born up to around 1952, say, who comprise the demographic driving this book. Which is why I'd like to hear from people born in the late-50s and 60s and later, who might address the impact of music on their particular culture and politics more directly.
Ed Ward (captward) Thu 1 Oct 09 11:16
Only a data point, but I'd date the birth of the folk scare several years earlier. The New Lost City Ramblers formed in '59, Joan Baez and Bob Gibson at Newport that same year, and her first album was the next year, Doc Watson's folkie debut at Carnegie Hall with Clarence Ashley was what? 1961? Dylan's first album was '62, and I think that would be the point at which the thing became an established fact, although I remember things being pretty intense before that, at least in New York.
Every Acid Dealer Gets Busted Eventually (rik) Thu 1 Oct 09 11:25
I'd date it earlier than that. The Almanacs and the Weavers sowed the seeds in the late 40s and early 50s, and their bastard children, the Kingston Trio, blew the lid off in 1957. And everybody who hadn't gotten a guitar when Elvis hit, went out and did so immediately. Then, as our tastes matured, we went for the real stuff.
Tone deaf (robertflink) Thu 1 Oct 09 11:33
>To address <robertflink>'s post - music is often a catalyst for social change - this must go back to pre-history. Part of its power is that it communicates at a pre-verbal level - when words with meaning and social resonance are added to that - the power of the words is usually just riding on the power of the music itself.< I agree but music may be one catalyst among many. Others may include technical change, education, media developments, new ideas, etc.. How these mix and match is difficult to tease out. As an engineer, I may be disposed to make more of technology than it deserves and, perhaps how a musician might. Words riding on the power of music is a strong point, non-the-less. I tend to associate music with poetry and rhetoric, all of which are powerful and more so when combined in interesting ways
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Thu 1 Oct 09 11:35
Thanks Ed and rik; of course the part of the Folk Boom I encountered, Sundays in Washington Square Park, circa 1964, was populated by beatnik fingerpickers older than me who were deep into researching the roots while I wandered from crowd to crowd in search of long-haired girls in the image of Baez and Buffy Sainte-Marie and especially Maria D'amato, later Muldaur of the Even Dozen Jug Band. As Van Ronk once told me, "New York City was somewhat late on the scene, but its attitude was the typically New York one of anything worth doing was worth overdoing."
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Thu 1 Oct 09 11:55
To robertflink, You really hit on something in your comment about technology, especially as it regards music and musicians. Sometimes the addition of a certain piece of equipment in the studio causes a total revolution in sound that later on we bedroom analysts attribute to something utterly beside the point.
Ari Davidow (ari) Thu 1 Oct 09 14:40
I gotta wonder. I can see where post-1969 the music was increasingly separate from politics, and some of that is certainly due to the fracturing of that politics (and a waning of political involvement on the part of many people). But I don't think that "politics" ever separated from music--rather, I would think it more accurate to say that by 1969 the ways to make money from music had (happily for the musicians making it) enormously outgrown politics. Even having said that, we may remember a lot of political images twined with music from the late fifties through most of the sixties, but if we look at pop charts, most of what charted is just ... product--not political or connected to politics at all. I guess I'm taking a lot of words to say that I think that the political ferment and new music were both in the news for a while, but I'm not convinced that one caused the other, or that political movements have become separate from music, even (or especially) now.
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Thu 1 Oct 09 15:24
Ari, I think the turning point came when Pete Townshend whacked Abby Hoffman off the stage at Woodstock with his guitar. But, especially in 1969, in Berkeley for instance, musicians were intertwined with the political struggles whether they wanted to be or not (free concerts to raise money, for instance). Even in the movie Gimme Shelter, a woman is going around collecting for the Black Panthers. As far as hit songs, those for the most part are never indicative of the totality of an artist's work--it's usually their most inoffensive stuff. In 1969, most of the artists represented their (liberal) politics merely by being long-haired dope-smoking rock artists (therefore under attack from Nixon at the top and Reagan in California). These days long hair and dope smoking isn't found to be a criminal offense. You can even swear on SNL and pluck a chicken on the local news. A lot of artists like Springsteen (who was 20 in 1969) and Bono, et al, appeared at concerts after 9/11, but I don't think the audience's taste for political sentiment has really progressed past Townshend.
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