Monthly Archives: March 2011

The 60’s Ain’t All They Were Cracked Up To Be

To most the sixties were just an era of personal changes and challenges. Few had a hand in the big picture. We were an audience to a spectacle that would some day be glorified as was the ‘roaring twenties.’

In my novel The Summer of ’62 one premise explored is that not everyone was changed by the ‘counter culture’ movement. Personal changes take root long before. It is a series of small events that change lives. That is one of several underlying themes to the The Summer of ’62. My main character, Rich Larsen, knows there is a world beyond the horizon. It is a world he reads and dreams about. It is the world from where the late evening radio broadcasts come from. Those are not the things that change him. They are merely an alternative to his present life.

Once We ‘Changed The World’ We Got Real Jobs

People make too much of the sixties. Perhaps because some from the sixties exaggerate their own influence or importance on events and changes. ‘We changed the world,’ some tout. Actually it was the world that changed us.

The real change of the sixties had its beginnings in the fifties. It became like a ripening apple. The beatniks became the social revolutionaries or so called ‘counter culture’ that produced hippies. They were poets, writers, and musicians. There was a strange mysticism about them that drew impressionable youth.

We were led along by cleaver people. They manipulated the way we groomed, the way we dressed, the way we talked, and so on. We have to admit we were just a part of and led along by a herd mentality.

We grew up. True, some tried to hold onto the past. Eventually we cut our hair, shaved our beards, got rid of our rose-colored glasses, bought real cloths, and got a real job.

At Least Twenty Million (20,000,000) Were at Woodstock

If everyone who said they were at Woodstock were at Woodstock there might have been twenty million people there. Not everyone was tuned in, turned on, and dropped out. When I talk to somebody my age it is common for them to say, ‘Oh yeah, the sixties, Woodstock and everything. I was actually there.” I like to say, “No you weren’t. I don’t remember you.” Just to set the record straight, I was one of the dozen or so who weren’t there.

The Only Real Life Altering Event is Death

If we grew up in the sixties, it was an awkward time. It was an awkward time because all teenage years are awkward. Sure, I know the dramatic events that impacted history. A President, a presidential candidate, and a civil rights leader were assassinated. Do those things really impact us personally? Do they mold and change our thinking? Are those people the influence on us many claim they are?

Perhaps there is something in us that likes to point to a moment our lives took new direction. I’m not convinced that epic events do. I think it is a series of small events and what changes us is what happens to us personally, not something hundreds of miles away to a person we have no personal relationship with.

Is it the media and the historians that look for that sort of seminal life altering moment. If they can identify or mark a point that things change it gives them credence and relevance. Certainly there are general moods or trends in a society that make changes possible, but it comes down to the individual and how he or she responds to the environment around them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays

Good Music Bridges Generations

Richards and Jagger with faces like wash rags. Have they no shame?

Geezers Should Not Perform Rock N’ Roll

There comes a time when geezers should not perform rock ‘n roll and just sit back and listen. For goodness sakes, don’t try to shake a booty that no longer exists. The Rolling Stones reached that plateau about twenty years ago. Mick Jagger’s and Keith Richards’ faces look like used dish rags. You can’t rock ‘n roll forever and not exact the price. I don’t care how cool they try to act, after the performance they probably spend a day or two on oxygen. Drugs eventually don’t do what they used to. They look sillier to me now than they did when my parents first scowled at them.

Admittedly geezers aren’t as old as they used to be. Geezerhood used to start in the late forties. We’re looking at the sixties now, but do you really think Jagger’s and Richards’ grandchildren are saying, “Look at Grandpa, ain’t he cool?” rather they are saying “Grandpa’s out of the home again. How did he get past the nurse?”

From Jolson to The BeatlesThe Beatles and Al Jolson

When I was young it was difficult to relate to people from my Dad’s generation and my Grandfather’s. The leap in technology, culture, and music was too great. There was a great chasm between the days of the horse and buggy and muscle cars, courting and dating, Al Jolson on radio and watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan.

Timeless James Taylor

My son listens to the Beatles and has a greater understanding of their music than I ever had. We sit and talk about it. He asks me what I thought the first time I heard some of their songs. I can tell he wishes he were there to hear it just as I did. I do everything possible to put him their. Well not everything.

No Gap For James Taylor  

In a coffee shop the other day there was a guy in his late thirties playing guitar and singing James Taylor songs. A customer in his seventies listened intently. After the performer, they discussed James Taylor at length. There was clearly better than thirty years difference in their ages. They didn’t even look as if they were on the same wavelength, but music nearly forty years old bridged the gap.

What Would My Great Great Grandpappy Do With My Hard Drive?

We’ve gone from ‘hard times’ to ‘hard drives.’ The twentieth century may be the only one of its kind, where the generation gap is so far apart technologically. There have always been generation gaps, but how great was it from the time of Washington’s father to Washington’s inauguration? I know, a nation was built, but how many changes were there in the saddle? There was not that much of a leap.

Advancements have come at an extraordinary pace, speed, and frequency. As an example my Great, Great Grandfather made a trip of twenty miles to buy supplies. It was a three-day journey. One day to get there, one day to conduct his business, and a day to return. By the time my Great Grandfather came along the same trip may have taken two days. In my Grandfather’s time it may have been the better part of a day. In my Dad’s day he could have easily completed the task in a couple of hours. Today I can go online and in matter of a couple of minutes transact some business and have a product delivered the next day. I don’t even have to leave home. In the time it took my Great, Great Grandfather to conduct a few transactions that involved a forty mile round trip, I can travel to the other side of the globe for real Peking duck and return before I stop tasting it with each belch. Never the less, when my  Great. Great Grandfather returned from his three-day ‘supply’ trip there was probably my Great, Great Grandmother saying, ‘Okay, where have you been? You could have made that trip in two days. Let’s smell your breath.”

In my life the transistor became a commercial success and changed the way we lived. The micro chip has changed the world like no other product. The two technologies are technologically eons apart. If looking at the past as a measure of advancement there is a gap of at least a thousand years, but really not quite two decades apart.

Technology has accelerated beyond our imaginations. I may need my son to help me understand my DVD player or help me reboot my hard drive, but if he wants to feel what I felt the first time I heard the opening cords to A Hard Day’s Night or the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations I always say, “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.” Just as he takes me into his world of advanced technology I can transport him into the simple world of high fidelity, 33 and 1/3 record albums, and  Hai Karate men’s cologne.

If somehow I could go back in time with my computer and show it to my Great, Great Grandfather, he no doubt would be perplexed. At times our feelings may be the same; if ya can’t shoot it and skin it what good is it?

Young Neil Young

Young Man Take A Look At My Life

Old Neil Young

If a geezer gives advice in the forest and nobody’s there to hear did he make a sound? Sometimes giving advice to young people is like talking to Bambi, Thumper, and the trees.

I think the geezers today are in a unique position. Young people still have appreciation for our music. Just maybe they will have an appreciation for what we have to offer, our experience. I’d appreciate them if they would just order faster at McDonald’s.

I used think of my Dad every time I heard the Neil Young song, Old Man. Does my son think of me when he hears it? Now that Neil Young is an old man does he somehow change the words to ‘young man’ and sing it from an old man’s perspective?

Neil Young was so cool and ‘in to it’ forty years ago. Now he’s a geezer, but yet many of his songs are timeless and take on added meaning. When I hear the Stones try to be what they used to be I think, ’man, how pathetic.’

When I hear or see the  music and performances of James Taylor and Neil Young – Wow man, what great music!

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays