Search This Blog

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Age of Aquarius

I know that I wrote an entire post about the 1980's, but my REAL obsession is the 1960's. I really wish that I could go back in time and live within the time frame of 1958 to 1972 (I'd want to experience the overlap of decades too).

The biggest reason I say this is because of the music. However, the fashion, pop and sub culture along with the politics and current events from that period are also really far out. Well, more like tumultuous and revolutionary. I'm not trying to make them sound trite. Far from it. And I'm not trying to romanticize that decade either. I have read a TON about the sixties and I have heard first-hand accounts from friends, relatives (including my parents) about what America in the sixties was like.

I know it wasn't all peace and love, hugs and drugs, music and sex. There were a lot of complicated happenings going on, and I so wish I could have witnessed the major changes first-hand.

We had the Civil Rights Movement, the Anti-Vietnam War Movement, and the counter-culture revolution. These were all followed by the Women's Movement, Gay and Lesbian Movement, American Indian Movement, and Environmental Movement. The sixties spawned a dawn of self-activation and self-awareness. Collective activism was the new wave. The teenagers didn't want to go to the soda shop and hang out by the jukebox or go to a sock hop to have their fun. There was more than the conventional box that the fifties presented, and the youth of America were interested in changing the very framework of society. The fabric was unravelling and being re-sewn.

Bob Dylan and Joan Baez (1963) at the March on Washington:

Music had a ton to do with the politics and social unrest going on. Joan Baez and Bob Dylan were known for starting the whole political music scene with their meaningful yet charged lyrics. The unrest of the youth started with the music. It wasn't just about cars, girls/boys, surfing, and breaking-up. The music was much more meaningful and became poetry.

Disclaimer: For the following, clips, I recommend providing your own music. The first has none, and the second has such bad music that I'd turn the sound off (the song is an unfortunate remake of the Grass Roots song 'Let's Live for Today'). Just turn on Danny and the Juniors 'Let's Go to the Hop' and the Grass Roots 'Let's Live for Today' and watch both of the following videos of footage.

1950's teenagers:

1960's teenagers:

Now that you've watched those clips, it is a very stark difference between the life of a teen in the fifties and sixties (especially if you compare say 1958 to 1968). Especially if you look at the dancing; it's like constipated stiff robots versus liquid electric creatures of the sea. What I find so fascinating about the sixties is probably the fact that after 1963, America lost its so-called 'innocence'. After President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas, the country lost that good-ole fifties'/early sixties' nostalgia and naivety. By the summer of 1964, Ken Kesey and his Magic Bus of Merry Pranksters drove across America, flying high on LSD and THC (lots of other magical things too). Then, by 1966/67 the whole sub-culture was changing. As LSD seeped its way into the life of an American teen, all hell broke loose.

Everyone was 'turning on, tuning in and dropping out', or in other words heeding the words of Dr. Timothy Leary and experimenting with psychedelics. The Warlocks, later known as the Grateful Dead were the soundtrack to this whirlwind time.

There were the 'acid tests' led by Ken Kesey on his farm and Timothy Leary was giving people diplomas in mock-graduation ceremonies where they took acid and learned to 'really see the world'. San Francisco was the MECCA for all of this to go down. Bands/musicians like Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Jimmy Hendrix, The Mamas and the Papas, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and many others played in the clubs, dens, and bars in the Haight-Ashbury district. If you watch movies like 'The Trip' (1967) with Peter Fonda, 'Beyond the Valley of the Dolls' (1970), 'Easy Rider' (1969), 'Psych-Out' (1968) with Jack Nicholson (when he had hair), 'Alice's Restaurant' (1969) and of course the musical/movie 'Hair' (1967-68) displayed the hippie drug sub-culture of the sixties well.

1966 acid test clip:

1967 Timothy Leary 'Turn on, Tune In, Drop Out' album:

'The Trip' (1967) clip:

By 1967-68, the hippie sub-culture movement had gone from coast to coast. I don't blame the youth of that era for experimenting with drugs. We had young men dying every single day from a war that many Americans increasingly wanted to cut ALL participation in, Vietnam. Then there was the unrest and injustice for African Americans. Then, boom, in 1968 both Robert Kennedy and Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. were assassinated within months of one another. This at the HEIGHT of the bloodshed over in Vietnam; the Mai-Lee massacre happened around the same time. If you read 'The Things They Carried' by Tim O'Brien, he talks about his military service from 1969-1970; only one year, but as he recalls, one of the most nightmarish and gruesome of the whole entire war. It was like a burst of nightmarish fireworks colored with despair coupled with injections of melancholia and horror! Major downer, folks!

By the summer of 1968, riots were causing many big cities like Detroit, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Newark to go up in flames. There was lots of anger, unrest, and restless energy. 1968 also saw the Democratic Convention end in riots and violence. So I don't ask why so many people were taking drugs and dropping out of society. Many joined cults and communes. Some people turned to Eastern religion. It makes sense from a 20/20 vision standpoint why so many people seemed lost and confused. Control was something that the American government certainly didn't have, and the American people were taking into their own hands.

Sure, we had the whole peace and love Woodstock Festival in August of 1969 though that was preceded by the Monterrey Pop Festival of 1967. The whole summer ushered in a counter to the riots and violence from the previous summer. However, sadly the 'summer of love' and its good karma did not stick around. Later in 1969, Charles Manson made his name 'infamous' with the murder of Sharon Tate, (the then pregnant wife of film director, Roman Polanski) and her friends at her mansion. There was also Altamont, where during a Rolling Stones set, some bikers known as the 'Hell's Angels' knifed someone. Though the violence and riots that ensued were most likely the result of alcohol and heavy drugs.

I know I write a lot about the negative side of the 1960's, or at least the less romantic side, but I want to show that I know what the sixties is all about. I know that it wasn't a cup of peaches n' cream. It was tumultuous, confusing, and panicked along with being groovy and far out.

I just really love how the music coupled with politics and current events made for a crazy time that I would have loved to witness first hand. When a time machine is invented, that's the period I'm going back to. I'd gladly stay there too. Like, live in the late 50's/entire 60's/early 70's on a loop. That would be really groovy, man!

Peace n' chicken grease ,


No comments: