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 whiners.. 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, IT WILL RAIN. 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, marlene 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 work. 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 cynics. 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 test 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 counter?" "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 Wow. 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 dilapidation. 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 process. 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;)
See the main Woodstock project page for more
of the backstory.
See the main Woodstock project page for more of the backstory.
Italic footnote comments made February 2001.
Copyright 1994, 2001 The WELL. All rights reserved.