"Nostalgia Is A Weapon": The Woodstock Myth

woodstock.8: "Nostalgia Is A Weapon": The Woodstock Myth

woodstock.8.0: Steve Silberman (digaman)  Sat 6 Aug 94 15:57

 The phrase is Douglas ("Generation X") Coupland's.
 How is nostalgia disempowering?  How does a generation harkening back to the
 glorious innocence (or naivete, or innovative vigor, or willingness to risk
 and experiment) of its youth lessen the vital possibilities of the present?
 (A billboard for a popular radio station here in SF reads, "Are oldies
 getting better, or is everything else getting worse?")
 Woodstock - as anyone who was there, or saw the movie, or heard the album,
 knows - was a great concert.  I describe Woodstock in my own book as "a
 flowering before the scattering of many seeds."
 But why do so many kids who were probably conceived around the time of the
 original concert (if not in the actual crowd ;-) look back at Woodstock
 as a Golden Age of Unity from which they are forever barred?  What
 complicity does the inevitable nostalgia of a generation have in creating
 the image of a paradise that (the teargas, the clubs, the war, the laws, the
 homophobia, the sexism, the greed) was an ideal, an aim, at best a temporary
 achievement, not an Era?
 Deconstructing the Woodstock Myth.

woodstock.8.1: David Gans (tnf)  Sat 6 Aug 94 23:15

 Nostalgia is a shortcut for the media.  They've got the film and the
 videotape, so "_____ revisited" is a swell hook.  And the promoters have no
 problem with that, as long as they get covered.  But to the musicians, the
 production people, sound and light crews, the concessionaires, and the
 ticket buyers, it's a gig and it's happening now.  Nostalgia is beside the
 point now.
 Taking stock ain't a bad idea, though.  Thinking about 1969 and 1994 and the
 crooked road from then to now...

woodstock.8.2: Are We Really? (really)  Sun 7 Aug 94 09:55

 I think it is ok to be nostalgic...we celebrate Christmas, Easter, 
 Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Passover, your birthday, Mother's Day, Father's Day,
 Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day and Saint Stupid's Day every year.
 Woodstock was a marvelous event.  It was the right thing at the appropriate
 time.  It spawned all kinds of stuff all over the place.  It empowered youth,
 creativity, love, peace, sliding in the mud, music, getting stoned, tribal
 gathering, and fun.

woodstock.8.3: Steve Silberman (digaman)  Sun 7 Aug 94 10:24

 Of course, and I'm nostalgic myself for things like the marsh on Cape Cod
 where I once saw a wild turkey, that is now the Priscilla Alden Condominium
 Village.  Only people younger than a certain age, however - ROUGHLY mine, 36
 - can understand the particular sting of having been told one's whole life
 that the Really Cool Thing JUST happened, wow it was great (sorry our hair
 and society are a little ragged in the postapocalyptic orgiastic
 dishevelment) remaking all forms of art & human interaction in a totally
 open field blessed by the muses;  you shoulda been there.  Oh well, you'll
 have to make do with Nixon/Reagan/Bush, radio stations crammed with 20 year
 old hits, and AIDS.
 When one turned on the radio in 1968, one did not hear Gene Krupa bashing
 his way through Sing, Sing, Sing - yet when one tuned in in 1988, one could
 barely escape In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, or Badfinger, much less the Beatles.
 It's funny - I was on America Online the other night, and most of the kids
 in the "Wonderland" Woodstock chat room were dissing Woodstock II;  yet when
 I mentioned that the Dead had not played very well at the original
 Woodstock, a young woman became furious, until I posted a long quote from
 Garcia to that effect.  These kids are used to finding gold scraps in a
 wasteland, and making do.  In fact, making Beauty from "samples."  But
 OVERestimating the uniqueness of access to creativity decades ago, or being
 too lazy to recognize that beauty now is as beautiful - and more appropriate
 to this historical moment, more healing - as the beauty of those hours in
 Bethel, perpetuates something dark and unhelpful.

woodstock.8.4: The Next Generation (mglito)  Thu 11 Aug 94 13:05

 The cool thing about the show going on this weekend is that a lot of the
 bands playing are *very* here & now (Cypress Hill, Arrested Development,
 Spin Doctors et. al.), and the older acts, for the most part, are still
 playing excellent music.

woodstock.8.5: GERM189 (wstock3)  Thu 11 Aug 94 14:01

 If *very* here & now is someone working for a large label motivated by money
 then, yes. Of course there is beauty in everything, even ugliness. I've
 found that everyone here is aware of the difference. The beauty here with
 everyone bitching about Woodstock II is they are aware of the situation.

woodstock.8.6: David Gans (tnf)  Thu 11 Aug 94 14:02

 Believe it or not, it is possible to make a lot of money and still be
 interested in other things besides making money.  And it is possible to be
 affiliated with a major record label without turning into a worthless pig.

woodstock.8.7: The Next Generation (mglito)  Thu 11 Aug 94 14:33

 Absolutely, thank you, Dave.
 And I think that the bands I mentioned above are doing it for more than the
 money, as are lots of artists out there who happen to be very rich.

woodstock.8.8: on the other side of the sun (miga)  Thu 11 Aug 94 15:12

 about "the Really Cool Thing JUST happened"  and also 'making
 Beauty from "samples."'
 I think Really Cool Things are stilll happening .

woodstock.8.9: Philips guy (wstock3)  Thu 11 Aug 94 15:17

 This can be a win win situation for corporate america and the new youth

woodstock.8.10: on the other side of the sun (miga)  Thu 11 Aug 94 15:19

 oops... what I meant to say is I think Really Cool Things are still
 happening, you just can't get to the future via the past, necessarily!   I'm
 looking forward to the RAVE tomorrow night and expecting to hear lots of
 beautiful samples.  And anyway, the concept of sampling is not new to this
 era.  Jazz musicians play each other's riffs, remember?  d;)

woodstock.8.11: Jennifer Powell (jnfr)  Thu 11 Aug 94 17:51

 Arrested Development ...worth the price of admission.

woodstock.8.12: Puddnhead Wilson (warfrat)  Thu 11 Aug 94 22:59

 hmmm..."Arrested Development"...maybe a metaphor in this topic for those 
 who have gathered those scraps of gold and woven their own versions of 
 the original gathering?
 I know that, until I researched what really took place at Woodstock, I 
 thought it was the MOST perfect gathering that EVER took place and 
 probably ever would. Later in life, I ultimately realized that, 
 sometimes, our best, inspired moments in life come from times of great 
 diversity. From what I understand, Woodstock was similar to this. Lots of 
 rain, mud, people, bad acid, very few toilets, not much food and most of 
 the attendees being totally unprepared for what they encountered. But 
 what people got from it didn't come until after the event, with as many 
 different meanings of the event as there were people who attended.
 Woodstock itself was not fun. Ask anyone who remembers being there. It 
 was more the realization of the meaning of it that came afterwards that 
 most people associate it with.

woodstock.8.13: yo dude. (wstock1)  Fri 12 Aug 94 09:23

 I can see what you are talking about, but I think woodstock stands for so
 many things that you have to pick out the good stuff from the bad

woodstock.8.14: had to work that weekend (tigereye)  Fri 12 Aug 94 09:45

  To understand the Woodstock phenomenon, you really have to understand the
  climatic patterns of upstate New York, where I was living at the time.
  It rains a lot in upstate New York, and winter can hang around until late
  May. After enduring close to eight months of rain, sleet, snow, ice, and 
  cold feet, punctuated by below-zero temperatures in January and February,
  upstate New Yorkers don't just welcome summer weather. From June through
  August, young folks celebrate a continual seething bacchanal. I have never
  seen such partying, drinking, toking, snorting, and dropping of unidentified
  substances as I did during my youth in upstate New York in the late '60s
  and early '70s.
  Furthermore, by 1969 the wannabe hippies of the Northeast were thoroughly
  envious of the love-ins and happenings and acid tests and such they had
  heard were going in San Francisco, not to mention the (drought-induced)
  sunny weather on the West Coast. So in August 1969, you had the confluence
  of summer weather, a groovy West Coast-type rock concert, and a huge
  pent-up baby-boomer cohort just itching for a wild good time in Bethel,
  which was within an easy few hours of Rochester, Albany, Syracuse, etc., 
  not to mention the relatively balmy downstate areas of New York City and 
  that major incubator of the baby boom generation, Long Island.
  (I'll bet that if you go back and do the weather research, you'll find
  that the winter of 1968 was a particularly bad one in upstate New York. 
  Coincidentally, *last* winter was also record-breakingly awful.)
  By the time the press got to Woodstock, the party supposedly was half a
  million strong. The story was begging for what Joan Didion calls "the 
  narrative," and what we got was the perspective of the square East Coast 
  media establishment: there was a youthquake going on up in Woodstock, 
  and it had some extraordinary significance for society in general. It 
  was August, remember, dog days for news. 
  Don't blame the baby boomers for the Woodstock myth -- it was reported in 
  terms the older media audience could understand -- smarmy portentousness. 
  Hype for the film "Woodstock" followed in this vein, and Woodstock was 
  elevated to myth.
  As usual, even many of the participants eventually persuaded themselves to
  believe the hype.
  Sigh. The late '60s and early '70s, upstate New York. It sure was a good 
  time for parties!

woodstock.8.15: gimme an "F"! (reva)  Fri 12 Aug 94 09:55

 Great post, Tigereye. Thanks for the perspective!

woodstock.8.16: editorial comment (green)  Fri 12 Aug 94 09:57

  >>I have never seen such partying, drinking, toking, snorting, and
   dropping of controlled substances as I did during my youth in upstate New
   York in the late '60s and early '70s.
  *Were* you anywhere else in the late 60s and early 70s? It was like that
  in San Francisco and Detroit too. I mean, that *was* the late 60s and
  early 70s!
  >>As usual, even the participants eventually persuaded themselves to
   believe the hype.
  I respectfully submit that for this participant at least that statement
  bears no relation to the truth. It was a singular event; we were aware of
  it at the time, though we would have called it cool rather than singular,
  and we were aware that we had been through it at a time that many of us
  never even *heard* any of the hype. This was not necessarily a big
  newspaper reading tvnews watching crowd. This was the last foolish array
  of a genuine innocence.

woodstock.8.17: erinita (wstock2)  Fri 12 Aug 94 10:08

 nostalgia for anything is neat, you spend your whole life collecting
 memories, but when it reaches the point where one group feels the need to
 say that their fun times were "better" than others.. that's what gets 
 under my skin. You know the lyric "every generation blames the one 
 before".. ?  I think our time ("our" meaning that i was busy being 
 conceived in '69) is unique in that you find the generation before 
 blaming the generation *after*, then have the audacity to call us 
 allow me to vent how pissed all the media's articles on the "slacker" 
 generation (who seem obsessed with the need to stereotype the shit out of 
 everything) makes me..  what really drives  me nuts is how my parents 
 read that shit about us lacking values, etc, etc.. the big question to 
 throw back in their faces *every* time you hear their bullshit is "who 
 raised us to be that way?!?"  i feel so fucking frustrated that i have to 
 spend my time unlearning the crap they taught me, the racism, the sexism, 
 the homophobia, the bureaucratic shit..  i feel like we're screwed in 
 that we have to clean up the mess that they've made.. 
 it'd be one thing if they woke up & said hey, shit is pretty bad, it's 
 time to get to work & make life respectable again, or even if they just 
 stopped & let us get to work at turning it around, but they don't, they 
 just blame us..
 I'm not saying that everyone over 30 is an idiot (no need to recycle that 
 line)..  but i will say that the mudslinging does bother me. 
 i guess the best thing to do is just to ignore it, cuz we know who we 
 are, & anyone with an open mind will learn who we are, so hell, let 'em 
 do what they feel they have to..  change has been going on for years, & 
 it will keep going on.. the paradigm shift is happening whether or not 
 some can't identify with the age of aquarius anymore..
 anyway, i'm psyched for the rave this weekend..  take care of each other  :)

woodstock.8.18: David Gans (tnf)  Fri 12 Aug 94 10:13

 Great stuff, tigereye and green and erinita!
 By the way, ALL generalizations are bogus, including this one!

woodstock.8.19: Adele Framer (tigereye)  Fri 12 Aug 94 10:16

 By the way, if upstate New York August weather holds true to form, 

woodstock.8.20: editorial comment (green)  Fri 12 Aug 94 10:36

 FWIW, probably very few of the kids who were actually *at* the festival 25
 years ago had much to do with the hype that appeared in the media. They
 didn't have to.

woodstock.8.21: Adele Framer (tigereye)  Fri 12 Aug 94 10:51

 The people who were reporting on Woodstock were about 20 years older than 
 the people attending Woodstock.

woodstock.8.22: on the other side of the sun (miga)  Fri 12 Aug 94 11:27

 Still true today, I'd guess! [re #21.]

woodstock.8.23: otis (nycjag)  Fri 12 Aug 94 11:45

 exactly, #21! erinita, you speak wise words...

woodstock.8.24: yo dude (wstock1)  Fri 12 Aug 94 16:30

 I think generation X should stand for Xtra horny, hot , and hip!

woodstock.8.25: marlene ryan (wstock5)  Fri 12 Aug 94 23:36

 barry ryan so sorry you didn't open up at woodstock 94 miss you love,

woodstock.8.26: Howard Rheingold (hlr)  Fri 12 Aug 94 23:50

 Twenty years from now, somebody will be nostalgic for this era that we are
 experiencing right now. So if now is the then we'll be longing for later, then
 the guy who said "Be Here Now" was right. So that was then and this is now.

woodstock.8.27: David Gans (tnf)  Sat 13 Aug 94 08:16

 And here we are!

woodstock.8.28: carolina (wstock1)  Sat 13 Aug 94 08:16

 erinita I think you are angry at yourself and take it out on those who
 criticize the Xers.  Loose in bud!

woodstock.8.29: Howard Rheingold (hlr)  Sat 13 Aug 94 09:02

 Loose in bud!

woodstock.8.30: Alan Turner (arturner)  Sat 13 Aug 94 10:05

 words to live by.

woodstock.8.31: Loose in bud (judyb)  Sat 13 Aug 94 10:10

 Think I'll make it mine.

woodstock.8.32: just an old hippie (tigereye)  Sat 13 Aug 94 10:38

 Hi, judyb, my bud!
 Just wanted to note that it was the mythologizing of the original
 Woodstock -- calling it the start of a new era -- that led to the
 disappointments and cynicism about "failure" of "the movement" in the '70s
 and '80s. Expectations were simply pegged too high by raising Woodstock as
 an icon. Fact is, the principles of cooperation and community that
 manifested themselves at ol' Woodstock had been abuilding for years, in
 political action, food cooperatives, and spiritual communities all over
 the country. And the people who learned those principles are *still* at
 For example, grassroots organizers in many cities have built community
 structures to care for AIDS patients and make collective purchases of
 drugs and supplies (one of the more controversial collectives in San
 Francisco buys marijuana for use by AIDS patients.) And, if I may be so
 bold, it is the knowledge that communities take care of their own that
 keeps Hillary and Bill Clinton (who is our first baby-boomer president)
 pushing for national health care, despite massive resistance from the 
 conservative front.

woodstock.8.33: David Gans (tnf)  Sat 13 Aug 94 11:34

 Good points, tigereye!  And Woodstock became the false standard against
 which everything else was judged and found wanting, by idealists as weell as

woodstock.8.34: Mad Hatter (airman)  Sat 13 Aug 94 12:03

 So let's give up grass roots/community efforts for national health care.
 Now that's a false standard...

woodstock.8.35: editorial comment (green)  Sat 13 Aug 94 12:06

 fwiw. I personally don't know anyone, nor have I ever met anyone, who felt
 thike three royal crowded days meant much more than perhaps an emblem to
 people who weren't there representing what many of us spent years in
 communes or in alternative experiences of various kinds thinking we could
 create. Any cynicism was surely not based on one weekend's expectations, but
 on years of seeing a possibility, and trying to live towards it, and coming
 slowly but surely face to face with reality and republicans.
 and yet many of us *have* managed to keep whatever those years meant to us
 alive in our work and lives however we could.
 It was an incredibly innocent, uncynical moment - perhaps the last.

woodstock.8.36: J Matisse Enzer (matisse)  Sat 13 Aug 94 12:46

 There will be others Lily, if human history is any guide.
 There will be others.
 Innocence has its own rewards, as does knowledge.  Both are opportunities 
 and states of being.

woodstock.8.37: lll (wstock0)  Sat 13 Aug 94 13:43


woodstock.8.38: Puddnhead Wilson (warfrat)  Sat 13 Aug 94 13:46

 check...1...check...1,2. test...check...1,2,3,4...hello.
 closed by un foreign hostess...press # for further options...
 your message has been deleted...
 to leave a message in someone elses voice press 1230954 and hang up.
 this is a recording. 
 Hello from Haight Ashbury in San Francisco.

woodstock.8.39: Conceived at Woodstock? NOT! (mglito)  Sat 13 Aug 94 14:03

 (r)espond, (p)ass, or ? for help: browse
 Hey, no touching!!!
 Are you gonna buy something?
 Have a nice day :-)

woodstock.8.40: Puddnhead Wilson (warfrat)  Sat 13 Aug 94 14:41

 "Excuse me sir, could I take a closer lood at that T shirt behind your 
 "Sure! Twennydollahs. Yawannabuy? Huh? Yawannabuy? Well? It's nice, yes? 
 Onleetwennydollahs. Cash, check or creditcard?"

woodstock.8.41: editorial comment (green)  Sat 13 Aug 94 16:13

 "I'm just here to dig the music and put holes in people."

woodstock.8.42: Winky (wstock2)  Sat 13 Aug 94 21:23

 I noticed a lot of young frat types using the phrase "Woodstock spirit."
 They were taking pictures of basically white trash types who were drunk and
 loud and saying "here is the symbol of woodstock spirit." I also saw people
 photographing themselves alongside drunks passed out on the ground. In fact
 many of the drunkest and the loudest seem to be considered symbols of
 Woodstock past by the youth here.
 Some activities I found were too self concsiously reenactments of what went
 on in the Woodstock movie, like mudsliding. But I must admit these
 youngsters have developed there own new Woodstock myths and heroes, like the
 Mudmen, or Mudwomen. They walk through the crowd in the darkness and
 everyone cries out their coming by saying "
 "Here comes a Mudperson!"
 I think these Mudpeople are a very healthy piece of ritual theater. They
 smear themselves with mud, thus becoming very earthy. They also become an
 inspiration to let it all go, get totally immersed and let go ones
 inhibitions and become WILD, which is a good thing.

woodstock.8.43:    (ernie)  Sat 13 Aug 94 21:35

 >many of the drunkest and loudest seem to be considered symbols
 >of woodstock past by the youth here

woodstock.8.44: Jane Gallion (chalis)  Sun 14 Aug 94 08:31

 I say the Mudpeople should get a grant from the National Endowment for the
 Arts & take it on tour! We could use some Mud theater in Austin.

woodstock.8.45:    (ernie)  Sun 14 Aug 94 08:50

 There's a group of mudpeople that walk through the financial
 district of San Francisco once a year.

woodstock.8.46: boris bullwinkel (wstock2)  Sun 14 Aug 94 09:27

 nothing presumed, something is presupposed , thus occurence ands

woodstock.8.47: Howard Rheingold (hlr)  Sun 14 Aug 94 10:17

 Today is the day that Woodstock II veterans get to start pumping up the
 nostalgia! The cycle is accelerating! I'm already nostalgic for this morning!

woodstock.8.48: Ruler of the (cosmos)  Sun 14 Aug 94 11:03

 Nah, the mud people are just taking advantage of that age-old skin treatment

woodstock.8.49: schmely (wstock3)  Sun 14 Aug 94 11:07

 Despite the swell of negativism, I managed to have a killer time.

woodstock.8.50: on the other side of the sun (miga)  Thu 18 Aug 94 15:39

 Me too!  And I think innocence and anticynicism are alive and well.  They go
 to raves!  d;)

Italic footnote comments made February 2001.

Copyright 1994, 2001 The WELL. All rights reserved.