He peered over the keyboard bespectacled and thoughtful, playing the professor to Jim Morrison's wild man, an Apollo of musical order to anchor the drunken Dionysian front man. Morrison joined the 27 Club in the summer of 1971, expiring of his excesses in a Parisian bath tub, while Manzarek lived on another 40 some years to die on May 20th at age 74. He seems to have negotiated those calm anticlimactic years well.
Here is a beautiful 'Crystal Ship" solo from 2012. The original 1967 Crystal Ship.
Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Volume One (Simon and Shuster, 2004), p. 13:
He was different from the rest of the teen idols, had a great guitarist who played like a cross between a honky-tonk hero and a barn-dance fiddler. Nelson had never been a bold innovator like the early singers who sang like they were navigating burning ships. He didn't sing desperately, do a lot of damage, and you'd never mistake him for a shaman.
Nosiree, Bob, no shaman was he. There is more interesting material on Nelson in the vicinity of this excerpt. Dylan discusses Ricky Nelson in connection with his 1961 hit, Travelin' Man. But the great guitar work of James Burton to which Dylan alludes was much more in evidence in Hello Mary Lou. The Dylan Chronicles look like they will hold the interest of this old 60's Dylan fanatic.
Here is a better taste of James Burton and his Fender Telecaster with E. P. And here he is with the Big O dueling with Springsteen. Here he jams with Nelson's sons. Orbison on Nelson.
It has been over twenty five years now since Nelson died in a plane crash while touring. The plane, purchased from Jerry Lee Lewis, went down on New Year's Eve 1985. That travelin' man died with his boots on -- as I suspect he would have wanted to. In an interview in 1977 he said that he could not see himself growing old.
I have been listening this last week to George Jones. I was pretty much unaware of his work until his dying brought it to my attention. I linked to a couple of his tunes last week. Here are a couple more. A Girl I Used to Know.Am I That Easy to Forget?Here is an essay on Jones by Jim Goad.
In the interests of full disclosure: I am not now, and never have been, a southerner or a redneck. Worse than the redneck, however, is the librul who mocks him. Trying mocking him to his face.
As far as I know, Jones never had a crossover hit, but they were the way I learned about country music back in the day. Here are some of my favorite crossover numbers first heard via KRLA, KHJ, and KFWB, Los Angeles. My Favorite DJ? B. Mitchel Reed! (one 'l.')
Before getting on to tonight's scheduled presentation, we pause to remember George Jones who died Friday at 81, his longevity proof of the human body's ability to take a sustained licking from John Barleycorn and keep on ticking. I don't believe Jones ever had a crossover hit in the manner of a Don Gibson or a Merle Haggard. He was pure country and highly regarded by aficionados of that genre. Here are two I like:
Bob Dylan, From a Buick 6 (1966), from Highway 61 Revisited with Al Kooper on organ and Mike Bloomfield, lead guitar.
Lovin' Spoonful, Six O'Clock (1967). More proof of the vast superiority of the '60s over every other decade when it comes to popular music. No decade was more creative, engaged, rich, relevant, and diverse. Generational chauvinism? No, just the plain truth! But you had to be there.
Here is a passage from Thomas McGuane, Nothing but Blue Skies, Houghton-Mifflin, 1992, pp. 201-202, to which I have added hyperlinks.
He [Frank Copenhaver] turned on the radio and listened to an old song called "Big John": everybody falls down a mine shaft; nobody can get them out because of something too big to pry; Big John comes along and pries everybody loose but ends up getting stuck himself; end of Big John. Frank guessed it was a story of what can happen to those on the top of the food chain.
On to an oldies station and the joy of finding Bob Dylan: "You've got a lot of nerve to say you are my friend." No one compares with this guy, thought Frank. I feel sorry for the young people of today with their stupid fucking tuneless horseshit; that may be a generational judgment but I seriously doubt it. Frank paused in his thinking , then realized he was suiting up for his arrival in Missoula. In a hurricane of logging trucks, he heard, out of a hole in the sky the voice of Sam Cooke: "But I do know that I love you." Frank began to sweat. "And I know that if you love me too, what a wonderful world this would be."
No, I am not opposed to paying taxes. I am not anti-tax any more than I am anti-government. We need government, and we need to fund it somehow. It does not follow, however, that there must be an income tax. A consumption tax would be the way to go. But that will never happen.
Joni Mitchell wrote the song and her version is my favorite at the moment. Judy Collins made it famous. I am on a Dave van Ronk kick these days and his rendition, though less 'accessible,' is a haunting contender.
According to the Wikipedia entry on van Ronk, "Joni Mitchell often said that his rendition of her song "Both Sides Now" (which he called "Clouds") was the finest ever."
I was surprised, but pleased, to see that the late Lawrence Auster, traditionalist conservative, photo to the left, 1973, had a deep appreciation and a wide-ranging knowledge of Dylan's art. Born in 1949, Auster is generationally situated for that appreciation, and as late as '73 was still flying the '60s colors, if we can go by the photo, but age is at best only a necessary condition for digging Dylan. Auster's Jewishness may play a minor role, but the main thing is Auster's attunement to Dylan's particularism. See the quotation below. Herewith, some Dylan songs with commentary by Auster.
This Dylan song can seem amorphous and mystical in the negative sense, especially as it became a kind of countercultural anthem and meaningless through overuse. But the lyrics are coherent and profound, especially the first verse:
They say everything can be replaced They say every distance is not near But I remember every face Of every man who put me here.
The modern world tells us that everything is fungible, nothing is of real value, everything can and should be replaced—our spouse, our culture, our religion, our history, our sexual nature, our race, everything. It is the view of atomistic liberal man, forever creating himself out of his preferences, not dependent on any larger world of which he is a part. The singer is saying, No, this isn’t true. Things have real and particular values and they cannot be cast off and replaced by other things. And, though we seem to be distant, we are connected. I am connected to all the men, the creators and builders and poets and philosophers, and my own relatives and friends, who have come before me or influenced me, who created the world in which I live.
First off, some comments of mine on the video which accompanies the touched-up Blonde on Blonde track. The video is very cleverly constructed, providing a synopsis of milestones in Dylan's career. The first girl the guy with the acoustic guitar case is walking with is a stand-in for Suze Rotolo, the girl 'immortalized' on the Freewheelin' Bob Dylan album cover. But now we see the pair from the back instead of from the front. She is replaced by a second girl representing Joan Baez. (Dylan's affair with Baez helped destroy his relationship with Rotolo.) Then the guy gets into a car and emerges on the other side with an electric guitar case. This signifies Dylan's going electric in '65 at the Newport Folk Festival, a change which enraged the die-hard folkies and doctrinaire leftists who thought they owned Dylan as a mouthpiece for their views. A quick shot of a newpaper in a trash can with the headline "Dylan Goes Electric" appears just in case you missed the subtlety of the auto entry-exit sequence. After that we see a downed motorcycle representing Dylan's motorcycle accident, an event that brings to a close the existentialist-absurdist-surrealist phase of the mid-60s trilogy, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, and Blonde on Blonde. After the accident Dylan is further from the mind and closer to the earth. Dylan the psychedelically deracinated returns to his roots in the Bible and Americana with John Wesley Harding. The girl in the brass bed is an allusion to "Lay Lady Lay" ("lay across my big brass bed") from the Nashville Skyline album. Dylan then colaesces with the man in black (Johnny Cash), and steps over and through the detritus of what remains the hippy-trippy 60's and into the disco era, his Christian period, marked by the 1979 Slow Train Coming and a couple of subsequent albums, his marriage to a black back-up singer, and on into the later phases of the life of this protean bard on never-ending tour.
By the way, that’s the first time I’ve seen “judge” rhymed with “grudge” since Bob Dylan’s “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine),” from Blonde on Blonde. Here’s the recording.
Dylan’s lyric (not for the first time) is pretty appropriate to our situation:
Well the judge He holds a grudge He’s gonna call on you. But he’s badly built And he walks on stilts Watch out he don’t fall on you.
There is now on the U.S. Supreme Court an intellectually sub-par Puerto Rican woman whose entire career has been essentially founded on a grudge against whites, a judge who makes her pro-Hispanic, anti-white agenda an explicit element in her judging. “The judge, she holds a grudge.”
Sotomayor is not the first of that kind, however. Another Supreme Court sub-competent, Thurgood Marshall, openly stated to one of his colleagues that the philosophy behind his judging was that “It’s our [blacks’] turn now.”
Thinking about the murder of motivational speaker and “positive, loving energy” guru Jeff Locker in East Harlem this week, where he had been pursuing an assignation with a young lady not his wife but got himself strangled and stabbed to death in his car by the damsel and her two male accomplices instead, I realized that this is yet another contemporary event that Bob Dylan has, in a manner of speaking, got covered. Here is the recording and below are the lyrics of Dylan’s 1964 song, “Spanish Harlem Incident,” where the singer, with his “pale face,” seeks liberating love from an exotic dark skinned woman, and is “surrounded” and “slayed” by her. The song reflects back ironically on the Jeff Locker case, presenting the more poetical side of the desires that, on a much coarser and stupider level, led Locker to his horrible death. By quoting it, I’m not making light of murder, readers know how seriously I take murder. But when a man gets himself killed through such an accumulation of sin and gross folly, a man, moreover, whose New Agey belief in positive energy and transformative love apparently left him unable to see the obvious dangers he had put himself in, there is, unavoidably, a humorous aspect to it.
SPANISH HARLEM INCIDENT
Gypsy gal, the hands of Harlem Cannot hold you to its heat. Your temperature is too hot for taming, Your flaming feet are burning up the street. I am homeless, come and take me To the reach of your rattling drums. Let me know, babe, all about my fortune Down along my restless palms.
Gypsy gal, you’ve got me swallowed. I have fallen far beneath Your pearly eyes, so fast and slashing, And your flashing diamond teeth. The night is pitch black, come and make my Pale face fit into place, oh, please! Let me know, babe, I’m nearly drowning, If it’s you my lifelines trace.
I’ve been wonderin’ all about me Ever since I seen you there. On the cliffs of your wildcat charms I’m riding, I know I’m ‘round you but I don’t know where. You have slayed me, you have made me, I got to laugh halfways off my heels. I got to know, babe, ah, when you surround me, So I can know if I am really real.
Dylan talks about Clayton in the former's Chronicles, Volume One, Simon and Shuster, 2004, pp. 260-261.
Mark Spoelstra is also discussed by Dylan somewhere in Chronicles. While I flip through the pages, you enjoy Sugar Babe, It's All Over Now. The title puts me in mind of Dylan's wonderful It's All Over Now, Baby Blue. Comparing these two songs one sees why Spoelstra, competent as he is, is a forgotten folkie while Dylan is the "bard of our generation" to quote the ultra conservative Lawrence Auster.
Ah yes, Spoelstra is mentioned on pp. 74-75.
About Karen Dalton, Dylan has this to say (Chronicles, p. 12):
My favorite singer in the place [Cafe Wha?, Greenwich Village] was Karen Dalton. She was a tall white blues singer and guitar player, funky, lanky and sultry. I'd actually met her before, run across her the previous summer outside of Denver in a mountain pass town in a folk club. Karen had a voice like Billie Holliday's and played the guitar like Jimmy Reed and went all the way with it. I sang with her a couple of times.
Understated topicality also characterizes A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, written during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, lending it a timeless quality absent in a blatant 'finger-pointing' song such as Masters of War. The Baez version is probably the best of the covers.
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right in the outstanding PP & M version. Another permanent addition to musical Americana. Said to be inspired by Suze Rotolo, the girl on the album cover.
In her memoir, A Frewheelin' Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties (Broadway Books, 2008, p. 277-8), Suze Rotolo says this about her mother Mary Rotolo:
I remember her informing me that the career army man an older cousin was married to had lost out on a promotion that involved security clearance because of my appearance on the cover of Bob's album. I was astounded.
True, the times they were troubled. Protest against the escalating war in Vietnam was on the rise, draft cards were being burned, and colleges were erupting with discontent. Blues, bluegrass, and ballads no longer defined folk music, since so many folksingers were now writing songs that spoke to current events. Bob Dylan was labeled a "protest singer." But the absurdity of my mother, Marxist Mary, trying to make me feel responsible for a military man's losing a security clearance because I am on an album cover with Bob Dylan, a rebel with a cause, left me speechless. And that was all she said to me about the cover or the album in general.
Surprisingly, I missed the passing of Suze Rotolo some two years ago. She died on 25 February 2011 at 67 years of age. 'Dylanologists' usually refer to the following as songs she inspired:
Don't Think Twice. This Peter, Paul and Mary rendition may well be the best. It moves me as much as it did 50 years ago in 1963 when it first came out. It was via this song that I discovered Dylan. The 45 rpm record I had and still have showed one 'B. Dylan' as the song's author. I pronounced it as 'Dial-in' and wondered who he was. I soon found out.
Boots of Spanish Leather. The wonderful Baez version. There is some irony, of course, in Baez's renditions of songs inspired by Rotolo: Dylan's affair with Baez was a factor in his break up with Rotolo.
Linda Ronstadt, 1967, Different Drum. Cf. Henry David Thoreau: "“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden
On this Day in Duluth in 1959, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Richie Valens, Jiles Perry “the Big Bopper” Richardson, Dion and the Bellmonts [sic], and others played to a sell-out crowd at the Duluth Armory for a “Winter Dance Party” promoted by Duluth’s Lew Latto—three days before Holly, Valens, and Richardson perished in a plane crash. In the audience, as the famous story goes, was a young Robert Zimmerman, who became so inspired he picked up a guitar and changed his name to Bob Dylan.
The Marvelettes, 1961, Please, Mr. Postman. The summer of '69 found me delivering mail out of the Vermont Avenue Station, Hollywood 29. One day two girls came up to me and started singing this song. Something this U. S. Male won't forget.
The Showmen, It Will Stand. If you remember this underplayed oldie, I'll buy you one scotch, one bourbon, one beer. There was an apologetic sub-genre around this time (1961) of songs celebrating R & R.
Fleetwood Mac, Mission Bell. Haunting cover of the upbeat Donnie Brooks hit.
A lonely soldier cleans his gun and dreams of Galveston. Marty Robbins messes with the wicked Felina in El Paso and catches a bullet for his trouble. Joan Baez sings of a jilted lover and her counterfactual conditional, "If the ladies was squirrels with high bushy tails, I'd load up my shotgun with rock salt and nails." Gene Pitney sings of the The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. And from 1943, here is Pistol Packin' Mama by Al Dexter.
I can't speak for my housemates at the time, Ken Bower and Craig Fellin, but these three albums were my favorites among the ones we listened to, and the selections are my favorites from each.
1. Bob Dylan, New Morning (released 19 October 1970). Sign on a Window. If any song puts me in mind of Craig, it is this one. That's him to the left. He is the proprietor of the Big Hole Lodge in Montana.
Build me a cabin in Utah Marry me a wife Catch rainbow trout Have a bunch of kids who call me 'Pa' That must be what it's all about Thta must be what it's all about.
After his motorcycle accident in 1966, the protean Dylan moved closer to the earth and farther from the mind. Gone the despair and the absurdist imagery of It's Alright Ma I'm Only Bleeding (from Bringing It All Back Home, 1965) and Desolation Row (unfortunately, this is the 'stoned' version, but it too is oddly beautiful) and the haunting Visions of Johanna (from Blonde on Blonde, 1966).
2. George Harrison,All Things Must Pass (released 27 November 1970). The title song. "All things must pass/All things must pass away."
3. Derek and the Dominoes, Layla (released November 1970). The title song. The best part begins at 3:10. It still rips me up, 42 years later.
I wouldn't want to relive those early years. But what I lacked in happiness, I made up for in intensity of experience. Ken and Craig had no small part in that.
The sound of the sitar played a prominent role in the soundtrack of the '60s. To George Harrison, student of Ravi Shankar, goes the credit of having introduced it to Western popular music. Light a stick of sandalwood incense and enjoy these great Beatle songs that feature its use:
Tomorrow Never Knows. "Turn your off your mind, relax, and float downstream. It is not dying, it is not dying. Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the Void. It is shining, it is shining. That you may see the meaning of within. It is Be-ing, it is Be-ing . . . ." The depth and creativity of a song like this surpasses anything in popular music since.
Following the Beatles, everybody and the brother of his monkey's uncle got into the sitar act. The Rolling Stones for example. No, I'm not going to link to "Paint it Black." I'll link to something obscure: Richie Havens, Something Else Again.
By 1970 or so, the sitar's popularity in Western popular music had subsided. Its resonance belongs to those far-off and fabulous days of the '60s.
What would the soundtrack of the '60s have been without Shankar's sitar? Here is the Shankar I heard at the Monterey Pop Festival in '67. Here is an extended performance at the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh.
Dave Brubeck has passed beyond time signatures and time itself, ending his earthly sojourn last Wednesday a day shy of his 92nd birthday. My old college buddy Monterey Tom writes,
I don't think that you have to be either a Jazz aficionado or a musician to note Brubeck's importance in both the music world itself and in the broader culture of the 50's and 60's. His compositions, and those of his alto sax player Paul Desmond, inspired other musicians to experiment with non-traditional time signatures and tonal structures. Ironically, by performing often in college auditoria instead of night clubs and by clearly connecting his music to classical music, he put a coat-and-tie respectability to Jazz and thereby made huge numbers of young Americans aware of both the broader worlds of Jazz and modern art in general. His music was often as charming and soothing as chamber music, as joyous as that of the 1930's swingers, and as intriguing as that of the supposedly more serious innovators of the 20th Century.
Tom is much more the jazz aficionado than me, but we were both and still are Kerouac aficionados. Here is a 30 second reading, "Dave Brubeck," from Kerouac's Poetry for the Beat Generation. That's Steve Allen on piano.
The title of Take Five alludes to its 5/4 time signature. It was from the 1959 album Time Out. Wikipedia: "While "Take Five" was not the first jazz composition to use the quintuple meter, it was one of the first in the United States to achieve mainstream significance, reaching #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #5 on Billboard's Easy Listening chart in 1961, two years after its initial release." I remember hearing it in '61 from my brother-in-law Ken's car radio somewhere in the Mojave desert. Old Ken liked it. Who could not like it?
Also very accessible is Blue Rondo à la Turk in 9/8 and 4/4 time, also from Time Out. Based on a melody Brubeck heard in the streets of Istanbul.
Big Joe Turner, Corrine, Corrina. I don't remember hearing this in '56. Hell, I was only six years old. I remember the tune from the 1960 cover by Ray Peterson. Youtuber comments, which in general are the worst in the whole of cyberspace, on this one are good. There is a lovely version by Bob Dylan on his second album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, under the slightly different name, Corrina, Corrina.
The short, triumphant, tragic career of Phil Ochs illustrates one of the harder lessons of American popular culture: that audiences are moved far more by mystery than by commitment. Of all the artists of the 1960s folk-music boom, only Bob Dylan understood that in his bones, and only Dylan became a superstar. Ochs, by contrast, was the bright class president of the Greenwich Village scene, reeling off powerful, didactic protest songs in an earnest tenor. He was direct and defiantly uncool, and it doomed him.
John F. Kennedy was assassinated 49 years ago today. Here is The Byrds' tribute to the slain leader. They took a traditional song and redid the lyrics. The young Bob Dylan here offers an outstanding interpretation of the old song.
I was in the eighth grade when Kennedy was gunned down. We were assembled in an auditorium for some reason when the principal came in and announced that the president had been shot. The date was November 22, 1963. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was seated behind my quondam inamorata, Christine W. My love for her was from afar, like that of Don Quixote for the fair Dulcinea, but at that moment I was in close physical proximity to her, studying the back of her blouse through which I could make out the strap of her training bra . . . .
It was a tale of two nonentities, Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby. Both were little men who wanted to be big men. Oswald, acting alone, shot Kennedy. Ruby, acting alone, shot Oswald. That is the long and the short of it. For details, I refer you to Bugliosi.
. . . that music was the moment at which Beethoven finally passed beyond the suffering of his life on earth and reached for the hand of God, as God reaches for the hand of Adam in Michaelangelo's vison of the creation.
Well, either the adagio movement of the 9th or the late piano sonatas, in particular, Opus 109, Opus 110, and Opus 111. To my ear, those late compositions are unsurpassed in depth and beauty.
In these and a few other compositions of the great composers we achieve a glimpse of what music is capable of. Just as one will never appreciate the possibilities of genuine philosophy by reading hacks such as Ayn Rand or positivist philistines (philosophistines?) such as David Stove, one will never appreciate the possibilities of great music and its power of speaking to what is deepest in us if one listens only to contemporary popular music.
Unfortunately, the entire event was marred by the hard Left narrative particularly voiced in the most offensive manner by two artists, Tom Morello and Ry Cooder. At least Cooder is a real musician, but that does not excuse his behavior and his leftist rants delivered both in asides and in the rewriting of Guthrie’s lyrics. Cooder sang a little known Guthrie song written towards the end of WW II about how the fascists would all lose. Cooder commented, to great applause from the leftist audience, that we won that fight, but the fascists were still here, and he knew they would be defeated on election day. Singing Guthrie’s “Vigilante Man,” about hired thugs of the coal companies in the early 20th Century, Cooder changed a lyric to make it about the Trayvon Martin case. He could have grown up to be President, he said, “but he was killed by a vigilante man.” Then he sang a new verse about how those in the audience should not tell anyone that they attended the concert, or they too might be killed!
Does Ry Cooder really believe that paying an average of $100 for a Kennedy Center concert could lead anyone to be harmed, not to say murdered? Doesn’t he know that by now, Woody Guthrie is a celebrated national hero, honored and revered by many, and no kind of danger to anyone who sings his songs?
How Cooder could be such an idiot is beyond me, but then he is not atypical. Artists, actors, and musicians hang with their own left-leaning ilk and are never exposed to conservative or libertarian points of view. They reinforce each others' prejudices. Denouncing bigotry in others, they exemplify it in excelsis. Masters of psychological projection, they cannot face what they project into others. They can emote in all sorts of creative ways, but they cannot think.
Janis Joplin. Date of Death: 4 October 1970. Cause: heroin overdose. She was at Monterey too. My favorite is her rendition of Kris Krisofferson's Me and Bobby McGee. Otherwise, I didn't much like her vocal stylings: too screechy and screamy. Dead 42 years, she's been dead longer than she lived.
Tomorrow is the 57th anniversary of the death of James Dean. When the young Dean crashed his low slung silver Porsche Spyder on a lonely California highway on September 30, 1955, he catapulted a couple of unknowns into the national spotlight. One of them was Ernie Tripke, one of two California Highway Patrol officers who arrived at the scene. He died in 2010 at the age of 88. But what ever happened to Donald Turnupseed, the driver who turned in front of the speeding Dean, having failed to see him coming? His story is here. In exfoliation of the theme that "speed kills" I present the following for your listening pleasure:
"A torch song is a sentimental love song, typically one in which the singer laments an unrequited or lost love, where one party is either oblivious to the existence of the other, or where one party has moved on." (Wikipedia)
Sarah Vaughn, Broken-Hearted Melody. I loved this song when I was nine and I love it today. The guitar fills are just right: simple, tasteful and unobtrusive.
Gogi Grant, The Wayward Wind (1956). Made the #1 Billboard position. The tune has haunted me since I was six years old.
Toni Fisher, The Big Hurt (1959). Made the Billboard #3 slot. The first verse hints at the origin of 'torch song':
Now it begins, now that you've gone Needles and pins, twilight till dawn Watching that clock till you return Lighting that torch and watching it burn.
Is this the first recording to use a phase shifter? Pretty far-out for the 'fifties. While we're on the topic of special effects, the first fuzz tone occurs as far as I know in Marty Robbins' Don't Worry About Me (1961).
Poor Woody Guthrie. He never expected to see the day when the newsmen, the photographers, the media as a whole would proclaim singers like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Morello, and Ry Cooder geniuses because they are leftists, and although like all good millionaires and billionaires, they use their money as Bruce Springsteen does — to buy homes all over the world and race horses for his daughter to compete with. If Woody was alive, he at least would be honest, and would have squandered his money and given it to the CPUSA.
So go and honor Woody — he was in so many ways a bard of those who were dispossessed and down under in the years of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, and in his best works, he echoed their concerns and their lives. In his worst, he became a prisoner of the Communist movement he joined, who forced him to adopt political correctness on behalf of evil causes, and to write songs on their behalf better forgotten.
Remember this if you’re attending any of the concerts coming up. And if Tom Morello sings and I’m there, I’ll remain sitting, won’t applaud, and if you hear someone booing, it might just be me.
Nostalgia time again. Scott McKenzie, famous for the 1967 anthem "San Francisco" penned by John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas, is dead at 73. Gen-Xer Mick LaSalle gets it right in his commentary:
The thing about that song is that . . . however naive and even sanctimonious it might be, it is so clearly a true expression of a mindset, of a vision, of a moment in time, of a generation, of an aspiration that, even if it is singing about a San Francisco that never happened and a dream that never came true and never really had a chance of coming true, and that had only a scant relationship with reality . . . it’s a precious thing. It’s a document of a moment, but more than that, a perfect poetic expression of that moment.
It was not MY youth, but I can recognize in that song and in the purity of McKenzie’s vocal something that is as unmistakably honest, in its way, as Gershwin playing the piano, or Fred Astaire dancing, or Artie Shaw playing the clarinet. It is youth finding itself in the world and saying the most beautiful thing it can think of saying at that particular moment. You can’t laugh that away. You have to treasure that. Really, you have to love it.
The so-called Summer of Love transpired 45 years ago. (My reminiscences of the Monterey Pop Festival of that same summer of '67 are reported here.) Ted Nugent, the guru of kill and grill, and a rocker singularly without musical merit in my humble opinion, offers some rather intemperate reflections in a WSJ piece, The Summer of Drugs. Excerpts:
The 1960s, a generation that wanted to hold hands, give peace a chance, smoke dope and change the world, changed it all right: for the worse. America is still suffering the horrible consequences of hippies who thought utopia could be found in joints and intentional disconnect.
[. . .]
While I salute and commend the political and cultural activism of the 1960s that fueled the civil rights movement, other than that, the decade is barren of any positive cultural or social impact. Honest people will remember 1967 for what it truly was.
Although I am not inclined to disagree too strenuously with Nugent's indictment, especially when it comes to drug-fueled self-destruction, Nugent misses much that was positive in those days. For one thing, there was the amazing musical creativity of the period, as represented by Dylan and the Beatles above all. This in stark contrast to the vapidity of '50s popular music. Has there been anything before or since in popular music that has come up the level of the best of Dylan?
The '60s also offered welcome relief from the dreary materialism and social conformism of the '50s. My generation saw through the emptiness of a life devoted to social oneupsmanship, status-seeking, and the piling up of consumer goods. We were an idealistic generation. We wanted something more out of life than job security in suburbia. (Frank Zappa: "Do your job, do it right! Life's a ball, TV tonight!")
We were seekers and questers, though there is no denying that some of us were suckers for charlatans and pied pipers like Timothy Leary. We questioned the half-hearted pieties and platitudes and hypocrisies of our elders. Some of the questioning was puerile and dangerously utopian, but at least we were questioning. We wanted life and we wanted it in abundance in rebellion against the deadness we perceived around us. We experimented with psychedelics to open the doors of perception, not to get loaded.
We were a destructive generation as well, a fact documented in Peter Collier and David Horowitz, Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the '60s. But the picture Nugent paints is onesided. Here is Dylan's "Blowing in the Wind" which was one of the anthems of the Civil Rights movement. Or give a listen to the Youngblood's Let's Get Together. This song captures the positive spirit of the '60s, a spirit not much in evidence nowadays.