Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Fri 2 Oct 09 05:02
There's politics, there's protest, there's protest politics. And then there's the desire to, I don't know, just *do* something. Bruce, what about the mainstreaming of music politics -- LiveAid, Farm Aid, Rock the Vote, etc. etc.? These events don't really move with that 1969 old-time religion, but they do have a political component. And let us not forget rap and hip-hop. Much of it is overtly political.
Politics, as usual (robertflink) Fri 2 Oct 09 05:33
>Much of it is overtly political.< A little help here. By political do we include social and cultural commentary? This would seem overly broad to me unless it is asserted that formal politics controls society and culture, an assertion that some make but that could stand some supporting arguments. Come to think of it, protest of any kind could be seen as political for those that expect the political system to be the cure or the blame for most every aspect of life.
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Fri 2 Oct 09 05:35
I always thought hip hop was the pop version of rap, with the politics and the profanity removed. I could be wrong. But definitely rap turned 60s protest upside down, although much of it was directed inward. It was certainly angry music, and in many cases poetic. The seeds of it were planted by artists like Gil Scott Heron and the Last Poets, who started early in 1970, with songs like "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised."
David Julian Gray (djg) Fri 2 Oct 09 09:26
Politics was heavy in the Zeitgest of 1969 ... but ... the great rock'n'roll revolution of 1969 (subtitle of Bruce's book) was about a lot more than politics... there was plenty of revolutionary music which wasn't overtly political. That said - Pete townsend wacking Abbie Hoffman off the stage was - in its own way - a political act - although I'm sure Townsend's primary motivation was mostly about show business - entertaining as Hoffman could be - he was not in Townsend's league and it was The Who's stage.l I'm sure an argument could be made that Miles Davis "Bitches Brew" was as much a political statement as a musical statement - but the revolution that recording advanced was musical.
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Fri 2 Oct 09 12:27
In some ways the book's subtitle is misleading, in that one of my main themes is that the "great rock and roll revolution" that started around 1965 (you might even say 1955) was all but over by the end of 1969. Nevertheless, with Miles Davis inventing fusion, King Crimson, Yes and Genesis debuting progressive rock, the emergence of country rock with the Byrds, the Band, Poco and the Flying Burrito Brothers, the guitar heroics of Hendrix, Clapton, Beck, Page, Lesley West, Johnny Winter and Alvin Lee, the songwriting breakthroughs of Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, James Taylor, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen, the experimental forays of Kaleidoscope, Pearls Before Swine, the Holy Modal Rounders and John Fahey, the energy coming out of Detroit from Iggy Stooge to George Clinton, and from Marvin Gaye to the Temptations to the Jackson 5,and great voices like Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Rod Stewart, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Richie Havens, Sandy Denny, CSN, Nina Simone and Dion, wrapped around great songs--not to mention emblematic efforts by the Beatles and the Stones--and you can see why the year in rock, 1969, was not too shabby.
Ed Ward (captward) Fri 2 Oct 09 12:43
So what you're saying, in effect (the Well doesn't send books internationally, sad to say, or I'd have more to say here), is that 1969 is the year that rock became America's mainstream, default pop music, that the "revolution" against the Patti Pages and Mitch Millers of the world was over?
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Fri 2 Oct 09 13:08
Joni Mitchell as Patti Page, hmmmm. Bob Dylan as Lawrence Welk? But what you say may sum it up to a certain extent, at least until the punk revolution of '76-81, which resulted in a lot of great music, although not supported with the kind of numbers as the previous revolution. And then there was the rap revolution (now totally the mainstream). One of the points of the book is that eras come and go and their audiences with them, leaving a great wrenching sadness at what might have been. But usually the era has more than outlived its welcome by the time the next era supplants it.
David Julian Gray (djg) Fri 2 Oct 09 14:35
BUt what's amazing about the 'revolution of 1969' - is that it encompassed the the "Punk Revolution" and rap! (although, I think Gil Scott Heron's "the revolution will not be televised" may have missed your window of May '70 by a bit ... at least as a released record - but the Last Poets were out by May) Yes - the "revolution" was over - but its repercussions linger still - not just linger, but continue to BE the mainstream musical culture(s). 1927 was another amazing year in American music - Show Boat opened, setting the stage for a new symbiosis of theatre and sophisticated dance music/platform for improvisation. Ralph Peer showed up in Bristol, TN and made the Carter Family and Jimmy Rogers starts and the genesis of commercial "Country" Ellington wrote "Black & Tan Fantasy" and Louis Armstrongs Hot 5's and 7's were re-educating two generations of musicians to a new concept of swing ... But 40 years on, the revolutions of 1927 were distant echoes and the new things - Hendrix, Dylan, Joni, Motown, were well on the way to the critical mass that drove them super-nova by '69 ... and ... 40 years on that explotion is not a distant echo - but still the stuff of daily life ...
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Fri 2 Oct 09 15:24
http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:0xfuxqu5ldfe Small Talk at 125th and Lennox was released on Flying Dutchman in 1970. I'll see if I can nail down the date.
Hugh Watkins (hughw1936uk) Fri 2 Oct 09 22:32
1927 - 1930 improved microphones allowed the transition from tuba to double bass on 78 rpm records and the transition began from 2 beat "marching" tonic dominant bass lines to 4 beats in a bar of the swing era
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Sat 3 Oct 09 06:57
Other than the advent of FM radio, I'm wondering what the big technological and/or instrumental breakthroughs were in the 60s. I know the Farfisa organ sound was pretty big for a while. The Airplane recorded Volunteers at Wally Heider's new studio in SF.
Every Acid Dealer Gets Busted Eventually (rik) Sat 3 Oct 09 07:17
Multitrack recording, and stereophonic phonograph records. Overdubbing goes back to the 30s, when Sidney Bechet made a record on which he played all the parts, and Les Paul was messing with it in the late 40s - early 50s, first with sound-on-sound, and later with his development of a recorder with discrete tracks. But it was in the 60s that you could buy commercial machines that were made for the purpose. Remember everybody's amazement that "Sgt. Pepper" was made on a 4-track. And the studio experimentation of George Martin and the Beatles popularized the idea that a recording could more than simply the documentation of a live performance. Stereophonic phonograph records were available in the late 50s, but really took off in the 60s, making it possible to place instruments and voices in specific places in the stereo field, and even allowing them to move about. Just add drugs, et voila, psychedelia.
Gary Lambert (almanac) Sat 3 Oct 09 07:55
Hi, Bruce. Good to see you here again. I had the pleasure of conducting the inkwell.vue interview on your 2003 book "Working Musicians" (which I strongly recommend to anyone who missed it first time around -- it's a kind of rock 'n' roll counterpart to Studs Terkel's "Working," with Bruce eliciting wonderfully insightful observations from a wide variety of musicians about their jobs). As rik says, the great leaps made in recording technology (and the eagerness of musicians and their producers to turn the studio into a laboratory for the development of previously unimaginable and/or unattainable sounds) would have to be counted among the big 60s breakthroughs. Another would be the emergence of distortion as a desirable component of rock rather than something to be shunned. Guitarists in particular started realizing the musical benefit of overdriving their amps, exploiting the particular characteristics of their instrument's body types, pickups, etc, in ways that transformed the music significantly (and paved the way for metal, punk and other joyously noisy subgenres). The use of outboard effects as part of the aesthetic also came to the fore in the 60s, for good and ill. The Wah- wah pedal was popularized by Hendrix and Clapton (and quickly became a pretty tiresome gimmick, save for its use by a handful of funk innovators); the technique known as "flanging" (given its name by John Lennon to describe something that purportedly happened by accident during a Beatles session) would soon become available in a pedal emulating that sound; pioneering geeks started developing boxes that could add distortion, overdrive, echo and other effects with a tap of the foot. Oh, as for that "Farfisa" organ sound you mention. Somehow Farfisa became the default brand name for that sound, but I always like to note that a lot of the greatest keyboard-dominated records of that era were made with the underappreciated Vox Continental - ? and the Mysterians' "96 Tears," the Sir Douglas Quintet's "She's About A Mover" and "Mendocino," Alan Price's solo on The Animals' "House of the Rising Sun" - all played on the Vox.
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Sat 3 Oct 09 09:24
So the "revolution" of which we speak probably had as much to do with what was happening in the studio as what was happening in the street. Very fitting. Like the quote I got from Roger McGuinn. "People imagined all these great things going on. This guy's a spokeman, a leader. To me it was usually just punks trying to make music."
Ed Ward (captward) Sat 3 Oct 09 09:30
>>So the "revolution" of which we speak probably had as much to do with what was happening in the studio as what was happening in the street. Except that all the tech that Gary notes made the stage more like the studio than ever before. And, of course, there was the rise of the monitor speaker, so people playing amplified music could hear what the hell was going on. Shows became more professional, for better or worse.
Every Acid Dealer Gets Busted Eventually (rik) Sat 3 Oct 09 10:19
"People imagined all these great things going on. This guy's a spokeman, a leader. To me it was usually just punks trying to make music." That came home to me on a regular basis. We'd have people rolling up to the autograph line in wheelchairs telling us that we'd given them a reason to live. And, as much as I appreciated being appreciated, the truth is, we were just a bunch of pothead musicians who were having a good time in CBS's studio. The high point of 1971, for us, was finding out that we could sync up two eight track recorders, giving us 16 TRACKS!!! We wondered, for about five minutes, what we were going to do with all those tracks.
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Sat 3 Oct 09 16:14
All of this paving the way for the D.I.Y. revolution of the 80s & 90s, music stripped bare again. And so the beat goes on.
David Julian Gray (djg) Mon 5 Oct 09 17:25
I don't think technology had much to do with changes in music itself - and it has very litle to do with the theme of Bruce's book... Music was so central to the Zeitgeist of the mid to late 1960's - and beyond the surging creativity in the music itself was that message of endless possibility and endless love - as expressed in this great quote from Essra Mohawk in the book: = We were all just adolescents forever. We were allowed to remain children longer than any other generation... We didn't know responsibility. We didn't know caution. We were living and promiting a Grand Illusion ... then the Manson murders happened, then Altamont ... The illusion shattered ... maybe not for everyone, at once ... A key organizational aspect you use in the book, Bruce is a focus on regional music scenes: "The LA Trip" "If your Leaving San Francisco" "East is East" "Don't Forget the Motor City" .. in each one celebrate the explosions of creativity each of these cities saw - tracing it through that same trajectory as each city had its own rude awakening at the end of "1969" Was that your key motif from the start - or were you focused on the music first and the bursting of the Zeitgeist emerged as the dominant theme?
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Mon 5 Oct 09 18:30
Actually, I was focused on the bursting of the Zeitgeist; the balloon may have burst in 1968, but all the air went out of it through 1969, when things turned very sour. What surprised me was how much incredible and enduring music came out in 1969 nevertheless. In my opinion, an era ended, with the breakup of the Beatles, the defection of Dylan (again), the death at Altamont, and another began with Led Zeppelin, the Stooges, Funkadelic and James Taylor, paving the way for 70s genres like heavy metal, punk, funk and singer/songwriter reveries. Lots of good music came in the 70s but I think many of the original baby boomers retired at the end of the 60s to the oldies revival. Woodstock was like their commencement day ceremony.
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 6 Oct 09 11:46
Bruce, this conversation keeps reminding me of another book by another author... I'm thinking of "1968: The Year That Rocked the World" by Mark Kurlansky for a companion or a preamble that is more about the international youth revolt and less about music, but also traces the counterculture. I don't know if anybody reading this topic also read that book, but one interesting conclusion to draw was that 1968 protests and cultural celebrations terrified governments and police around the world. If that is accurate, then part of the "bursting" in 1969 was very likely to be planned, external repression, infiltration, dirty tricks and even drug supply manipulation, on top of all the young egos and all the other factors at work. For me that resonates as one good way to see it in a political framework. On a more personal level -- and you did ask for personal stories of that time -- I was a young teen in 1969, and I grew up in a California backpacking family -- so I was in Mt. Rainier National Park while Woodstock was happening, as part of a Sierra Club youth train crew outing. I was one of the youngest, and I was thrilled to be with college age guys, for one thing. We repaired hiking trails in the morning, swam or climbed in the afternoon, sang around the fire with a guitar or two, shared some cheap pot and wine and paired up with one another in the evening. It was stunningly lovely and uncrowded. A few people on the trip knew about Woodstock, and mentioned the bands there, but we had our own back to the garden magic going on. So there was no sense of missing anything. I started tenth grade a little later. So in the trajectory of my life, it was not the end of anything. It was a summer of promise. Much of the counterculture glories and agonies in my life were lived out in the burgeoning and radical anti-nuclear movement of the 70s and the sassy feminist anti-Reagan culture of the early 80s. There are generations, and they are not finite but overlapped. Zeitgeist does have to do with culture, and culture has more and more to do with generations and subgroups. Woodstock -- where I didn't go -- and Altamont -- close to home, so I was there -- were preambles for the years of young adulthood, not the apex and the unraveling. The meanings are partly generation-dependent, and the generational time slices are pretty thin... being in tenth grade hoping to go to college was not like having heeded Leary and already dropped out of school, nor like playing in a band, planning a commune or the like. A few years made a difference.
Ed Ward (captward) Tue 6 Oct 09 11:57
You mention drug manipulation, <gail>, I think that's about the time that the dirty tricks squad started flooding Detroit with heroin.
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Tue 6 Oct 09 14:42
The meaning of 1969 probably resonates most (if not exclusively) with people born between 46 and 51--men who were old enough to be affected by the draft lottery and the women who knew them, people who were old enough to have turned on in college and dropped out to the tune of rock music. This was the turning point in their soundtrack. Did rock lose its idealism and turn to big business after that? Maybe it depends on how old you were at the time. Once the draft ended and the war ended and Nixon was re-elected, a different generation had a whole different soundtrack, which included Watergate, AIDS, Jimmy Carter and, eventually, Ronald Reagan.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Tue 6 Oct 09 15:02
I was in middle school, and if you were influenced by older siblings (or in my case other people's older siblings), you could definitely pick up on the music. What was different for me, since 68/69 was the year of my musical awakening, was having very little perspective of what had gone before. I thought every year produced a similar flood of musical marvels, and was quite disappointed when this didn't turn out to be the case.
David Julian Gray (djg) Tue 6 Oct 09 19:23
<scribbled by djg Tue 6 Oct 09 19:23>
David Julian Gray (djg) Tue 6 Oct 09 19:36
There are some of us born after 1951 who are still - perhaps as little teeny boppers (in the old way the term was used) - went through a lot of the same changes - paid keen attention to the same memes and tropes ... By the time I was 10 (1963) rock and roll was the most important thing in my life ... and by the time I was 14 I was seeking spiritual enlightenment - and keen to get the help they said psychedelics offered - and keen to not be sent to Viet Nam and die (or kill) I wasn't at woodstock - but I did feel the turnout was more a sign of the end of the generational rapture ... even if it was also its confirmation. One week after the "Woodstock" festival, I was at the Philly Folk Festival and some folks had set up a little site with a sign "Remember Woodstock" "That was just last week!" I yell - a precocious curmudgeon ... But there started to be large crowds at music festivals who were more there to be there than there for the music... "Crowd Festivals" I started calling them ... Then came Manson, then a "Crowd Festival" in DC to try to end the war... I was at that one - then Altamont ... then came the first Supplement to the Whole Earth Catalogue which declared on its back cover ... The Dream is Over.... "It is..." I sighed in agreement... and I'm barely 17 ...
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