Mark McDonough (mcdee) Wed 7 Oct 09 05:20
Right. Born in 1956, I got on board for the ride in a big way. It was a very different experience from being, say, college age. As David suggests, an adolescent can really throw themselves into the spirit of the moment. And then you get to the cusp of adulthood, and oops, your entire world collapses and goes away. I still consider myself something of a displaced person, all these many decades later.
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Wed 7 Oct 09 09:04
Now that we've heard from some younger people, I wonder if there's any older folks out there, maybe some who turned 30 at Woodstock, for whom turning on and dropping out represented a crossroads from which they'd have trouble returning? One of the things about the late sixties was how it allowed so many people to prolong their adolescence way past 21. By 1969, I had already dropped out of college a couple of times, swearing I'd never go back, determined, like Dylan, to beat the system (in 1970 I went back to school; in 1972 I won the college's top writing prize; in 1974 I got my first full time writing job and a book contract).
Every Acid Dealer Gets Busted Eventually (rik) Wed 7 Oct 09 09:24
I can't imagine 30-somethings putting up with the conditions. I'm sure there were some, but I'll bet they were damned few, and that the damned few felt truly damned.
Scott MacFarlane (s-macfarlane) Wed 7 Oct 09 09:36
<In my opinion, an era ended, with the breakup of the Beatles, the defection of Dylan (again), the death at Altamont.> I loved your list of all the great variety of vibrant music listed from 1969. Yet, it is problematic to be too absolute about picking a year when talking about a supernova. Perhaps this was the brightest point of the shift that changed modern society, but music is a most ethereal lens. The use of psychedelics certainly factors into the mix, and if we are to believe Hunter S. Thompson in his 1971 opus "Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas," these mind-altering (and consciousness-altering) substances were passé by then. The years 1970, 1971, 1972 produced similarly vibrant music that was reaching mass audiences in unprecedented ways. And, yes, music (unlike the array of electronic options available to the youth of today) was king. One can argue that Altamont was a symbolic watershed moment that turned society away from the era's idealism. However, the forces at work weren't so monolithic. What about 1972 as the year when the decision came down to no longer draft young men for Vietnam? This let the proverbial air out of the so-called culture war, where otherwise apolitical young people no longer had a personal stake in opposing the mainstream "establishment". Again, the rise or ebb of change also depends on the cultural thread we are tracking. The Last Whole Earth Catalog (the one that sold 1.5 million copies and won a National Book Award) came out in 1971 as a high water mark in perpetuating alternative, self-reliant living. Or we can look to the vitality of Marvin Gaye as indicative of social change, both in race relations and a rising (not ending) environmental sensitivity. "What's Going On?" and "Mercy, Mercy Me" came out in 1971. That universally adored song by Helen Reddy, "I Am Woman" debuted in what, 1972, and can certainly be seen as emblematic of the second wave feminism that, still had no name in 1969 per the "Feminine Mystique," but ascended as a "named" social force in the early '70s. This song was certainly as significant of fundamental socio-political change as Pete Townsend at Woodstock not allowing Abbie Hoffman to steal this book(ing). So 1969 is certainly a peak year, but if we're going to talk "supernova"--which I think is apt--then the period of observation is best broadened to include 1967 to 1972. Otherwise we risk unnecessary distortion to our examination of this amazing period of monumental cultural change in our "advanced" Western societies.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Wed 7 Oct 09 10:13
>universally adored song by Helen Reddy, "I Am Woman" Snort!
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 7 Oct 09 12:22
Not your anthem, eh?
Ed Ward (captward) Wed 7 Oct 09 12:38
Just not a very good song by anyone's lights, I'd say.
Every Acid Dealer Gets Busted Eventually (rik) Wed 7 Oct 09 12:54
I am Woman, hear me bitch Buy my records, make me rich.... She's got a lot to answer for.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Wed 7 Oct 09 15:08
Well, not nearly as much as Alan Greenspan.
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Wed 7 Oct 09 15:27
I think the air went out of the music before it went out of the culture wars. By the time of the McGovern debacle in 72 the left was in tatters and all the bandwagon groupies had cut their hair. By 1972 FM radio was on its way toward being a big business and soft drugs were part of the teenage subculture, rather than anything especially sacred or profound. If you look at albums released, I'm not sure the 70-72 period can compare to the 65-69 period, other than further albums by waning superstars (or, in some cases, ascendant superstars, like Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Randy Newman, Paul Simon). Here are some new artists who debuted during the period Elton John The Modern Lovers John Prine Carly Simon T-Rex Big Star Jackson Browne Nick Drake Eagles Al Green Steely Dan I think you'd have to wait until 74-79 for another infusion of punk energy and anger.
Every Acid Dealer Gets Busted Eventually (rik) Wed 7 Oct 09 16:13
The Eagles, Steely Dan, and Jackson Browne all released their first albums in 1972. Musical and lyrical quality that's as good as anything before or since. I'm typing this from behind the counter in a music store, and there's a 15 year old kid practicing "Desperado" on one of our pianos. To him that's as far back in history as Count Basie's heyday was to me when I took up playing music.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Wed 7 Oct 09 16:33
Joni Mitchell's "Blue," released in 1971, was arguably the high water mark of her career. I'm not trying to pick on you, because if I had to pick a year, 1969 would probably be mine too. But half of the fun of picking years, making lists of best albums, etc. is starting arguments! Another point in 1971's favor: the release of "Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka." (I'm joking, but it is a weird artifact of a bygone time.) Great argument fodder: <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:1971_albums> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:1969_albums>
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Wed 7 Oct 09 16:44
Ok, aq uick at 1969 tells me that you picked the correct year. Led Zep I + II Jefferson Airplane - Volunteers Hot Rats The first Chicago album Abbey Road The Band's second album Blind Faith The first Blood Sweat and Tears Crosby Still, and Nash (first album) Everybody Knows this is Nowhere Five Leaves Left by Nick Drake Green River by CCR In a Silent Way Johnny Winter's first album Let It Bleed Liege & Lief Santana's first album and on and on.... 1971 is a rich year too, but not *that* rich.
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Wed 7 Oct 09 18:41
One of the things I go into in depth in my book is Dylan's move to country music with Nashville Skyline in 1969--to some extent satirically. But in a way it was typical of him to defy the expectations of his fans (and the generation that depended on him) ie; Newport 65, when he abandoned the folk movement for rock and roll. Similarly, the rock and roll camp was shocked when he ambled toward the music of the right, aided and abetted by Johnny Cash. 69 was a big year for country music and country rock, typified by Merle Haggard's "Okie from Muskogee" entering the chart the same week as the Byrds "Ballad of Easy Rider," both songs spelling doom for the alternate culture, even as they presaged the way for the Outlaw Country movement of the 70s (as well as the sound of mellow soft rock).
David Julian Gray (djg) Wed 7 Oct 09 19:19
1969 is the "correct" year for what? what I think Bruce conveys well in the book is "1969" - which again he defines at Nov 1968 - when Nixon won the electio to May 1970 and the shootings at Kent State - was a heady and fertile time. Not that the greatest work was done then - but the level of activity, both musical and cultural reached a particularly heated pitch. Yes - some great albums were released in '72 ... what year has not seen great and infuential work? How about 1976? - Hotel California, Songs in the Key of Life and Hejira WOW! ... but the *seeds* of all that work are clear in 1969... Bruce - you've made a number of comments in this discussion, which I found surprising in light of the book -... I was immediate sympatico with "By the Time we got to Woodstock" because I've long regarded 1969 as a particularly fecund watershed - I hold that every strand of modern popular music, from ambient to hip hop to crunk to retro-grunge (grunge is retro already) was present by and in 1969 ... all we've seen is *perhaps* some deeper exploration and refinement. There are precedents to that of course - the great jazz scholar Martin Williams holds that Louis Armstrongs playing on the Hot 5s and Hot 7s of 1925-1927 presage everything one would have heard in jazz up through Cecile Taylor and John Coltrane - That there's nothing Bird or Diz or Monk did that wasn't present in Weather Bird or Hotter than that... I agree the seeds were all there ... and so it is with "1969" I don't think, musically, there's been a period like it since. -
David Julian Gray (djg) Wed 7 Oct 09 19:27
... and on another subject ... I don't think Dylan was being the least bit "sarcastic" on Nashbille Skyline ... contrary and perhaps even a bit perverse ... oh, my, yes ... but it's actually a very pretty album. They're all fine songs. He's been a long time friend of Johnny Cash - and was spending more time with hi in that period. He recorded "Blonde on Blonde" in Nashville - in fact, chose Nashville and the Nashville cats to save that project which was not gellin' in Manhattan or Woodstock ... But Nashville skyline - consciously perverse as it may be - was NOT a put on... as claimed Whitman for himself, so does Dylan "contain multitudes" - it's sincere, and attractive and consciously designed to build a wrapper around its maker ... to confound his reputation without destroying it (unlike Self-Portrait - which was more of a lashing out ... but... I finally bought that today I *really* like a lot of it ...)
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Thu 8 Oct 09 04:43
No, I wasn't saying Dylan was sarcastic; I was the one being sarcastic about Dylan's fans decrying his move to country music--the music of the enemy. Just as in another section of the book, I quote Levy Stubbs of the Four Tops saying everyone at Motown looked toward the Beatles for the next step, Dylan's move indicated the next step for lots of other rockers and folkies, a step away from "revolution" and back to "tradition." By the way, if I haven't said it before, by 1970, the term "folkie" was hopelessly passe. But, David, I do agree that the late 60s laid the groundwork for many years to come. When I listen to my Ipod these days, which is stocked with 296 songs from 1969, it's amazing how many of them seem instantly familiar--probably because they've been getting radio play steadily for the last 40 years.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 8 Oct 09 04:59
>I don't think, musically, there's been a period like it since Which is why it was the "correct" year to pick. And yeah, I also noted the emergence of Merle in that year. He'd been around for a while, but it was certainly a banner year for him. I don't think "Okie From Muskogee" spelled doom for the counterculture or much of anything else, but the response to it certainly indicated the strength of a reactionary small town/rural culture that is still with us. To this day, Merle says (I am sure honestly) that he wrote it somewhat tongue-in-cheek and to portray a certain attitude that was not his own. That some of his fans assumed it was a reflection of Merle's own views is somewhat humorous - to this day, you can find both bohemians like me and rednecks at Merle's shows. I think "Nashville Skyline" represented Dylan trying to connect in a more sophisticated way with American roots. The initial "folk scare" impulse was to reach way back to an idealized and presumably vanished past (the songs on the Harry Smith collection, for example). By 1969, Dylan had seen that country music was still around as a viable tradition. Whether it's still around as a viable tradition today is another question.
Canto, Ergo Sum (robertflink) Thu 8 Oct 09 05:49
The posts have been great reading. Sorting out the past is always interesting to me. I get to wondering, though, as I do when reading history in general, if the cause/effect thing is that neat and, even if it is, what does it say about the larger world, then, now and for the future. That said, I like the "tongue-in cheek" idea. There may have been more of this than we realize. I recall a collaborator of Don McLean's claiming on a radio interview that "American Pie" was the product of word play over some beers. I've heard many young people since working to divine the deep meanings of the lyrics. Come to think of it, I've had some profound thoughts when full of beer.
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 8 Oct 09 06:02
I still remember people trying to sort out the hidden meanings of Dylan's lyrics. a)take one genius; b)add lots of methamphetamine...
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Thu 8 Oct 09 07:02
Expecting deep meanings in the music was definitely an outgrowth of the 60s--with the rise of rock criticism and the preponderance of verbose album cuts on the FM airwaves. I believe it was a time when the "elite" taste, that is, the taste of the generation then in college, briefly became the mass taste. After 1969, rock returned to where it once belonged, an expression of adolescent (and mainly working class) rebellion. As time went on, and a lot of former Dylanographers and Dylanologists weaned themselves off drugs, we were forced to wonder if it had all been a delusion. I'm sure the artists, Dylan, the Stones and the Beatles, especially, picked up on inclinations of their audience, tweaking their lyrics accordingly.
Steve Bjerklie (stevebj) Thu 8 Oct 09 07:32
>>> After 1969, rock returned to where it once belonged, an expression of adolescent (and mainly working class) rebellion. <<< Really?
Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 8 Oct 09 07:37
Smoking a lot of weed also encourages one to look for hidden meanings, or so I hear. Sometimes they are even there (for example, in the work of the Firesign Theatre).
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Thu 8 Oct 09 09:31
To stevebj: Not really? Are you implying that rock has consistently since the end of the 60s reflected the taste of the college audience? I think the college audience has been marginalized at the altar of the watered down. But I'd love further examples of your theory.
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Thu 8 Oct 09 09:32
I also think rock music in the late 60s was considered the elite art form as well, even more desirable for a creative kid to pursue than writing, filmmaking, or acting, etc. These days, even TV is considered more relevant (IMHO).
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