Disclosing My Biases
Look. I’m a city girl. I have spent most of my life living in cities. I spent four years in an L. A. burb while going to college and it felt like I was marooned on a desert island. Except for a few days last year on the Canary Islands, all my vacations during my adult years have centered around big cities. I love the noise, the smells, the sounds, the people, the nightlife, the culture, the food, the crowding, the energy of the metropolis. I like opening my door in the morning and feeling I’m right there in the center of it all. If I get the rare urge to do nature, I’ll take a walk in a manicured city park, head for the baseball stadium (most have grass and dirt, you know) or make for the seashore (assuming they have the proper facilities and a bar).
This is not to say that I don’t appreciate nature. I fully understand how the destruction of the Amazon rain forests contribute to global warming. I want all the animals in Africa to receive full protection from selfish, greedy humans. I love my natural, cruelty-free cosmetics. I just want nature to stay over there, away from me, and leave me in civilized peace.
I did nature once. Once in my teens, my father had the gall to take me camping, an act for which I will never forgive him as long as I live.
We arrived at the campsite on a Friday night after a 6-hour, traffic-clogged drive across the Golden Gate and through the main roads and backroads of Marin, Sonoma and Mendocino counties. All the while my father serenaded me with tales of lovely meadows brimming with wildflowers and butterflies, the sublime experience of sleeping under the stars and how much better food tasted when consumed in the great outdoors. “You mean like the hot dogs at Candlestick?” I asked, searching for a frame of reference. “Even better,” he assured me, finishing off his Disney-esque sales pitch.
We pulled into the state park, checked in with the rangers, drove a little bit further and found our reserved campsite just as it was getting dark. My father got out of the car and inhaled the fog-cooled air filled with scent of redwoods. “Ah, fresh air! Nothing like it to rejuvenate a man’s soul!”
“Whatever, dad,” I said, lighting a cigarette.
He grabbed a flashlight, surveyed the grounds, kicked some dirt around, then marched purposely over to the trunk and pulled out a couple of sleeping bags. “We’ll sleep over there. There’s a clearing in the trees and we can fall asleep watching the night sky. Look at all those stars!”
“Whoa, whoa, wait a minute. Are you trying to tell me that we’re sleeping on the ground?”
“Well, yeah, sunshine, that’s what you do when you’re camping.”
“You want me to sleep on the dirt? On the filthy dirt? Where all the bugs and worms and snakes crawl around? Where all the animals piss and shit?”
“You’re not sleeping on the dirt. You’ll be in a sleeping bag and the sleeping bag will be on a tarp. There aren’t any snakes around here.”
“But what about the worms? I don’t want to wake up with worms crawling through my ears! And what about the bugs? Bugs can fly! Are you insane?”
“I brought some bug spray. Come on, it’ll be fun! You’ll sleep like a baby!”
“You’re a maniac! I’m sleeping in the car.”
I grabbed a sleeping bag, jumped into the back seat and locked all the doors to protect myself against ravenous carnivores. Then I lulled myself to sleep by fantasizing about turning my father over to the authorities on charges of child abuse. The next morning I awoke to a knocking sound and saw the soon-to-be convict outside, holding a steaming cup. I rolled down the window and the smell of fresh coffee tickled my nose.
“Is that real coffee?” I said, hopefully.
“Yep. Here you go.” I opened the window a bit more and let him hand me a cup of coffee in a plastic mug. I started to take a sip and there, floating on the surface was a fat, disgusting bug doing the backstroke. I screamed at the top of my lungs, threw the cup and its contents out the window, then rolled up the window as far as the crank would go to protect myself from any bug buddies who wanted to avenge the death of their comrade.
My dad tried to get me to eat some bacon and eggs he’d cooked up on a Coleman stove but I shook my head violently through the sealed windows. After a while, I was finally coaxed to munch on a granola bar and drink some bottled orange juice after diligently inspecting both packages for any signs of illicit insect entry.
Later in the morning he led me on a hike on one of the park trails. I spent the entire time in a state of near panic, my ears filled with the horrible buzzing of predatory insects, my hands and face sticky from the disgusting spider webs that crossed the path, my shoes caked with slightly moistened, shit-infested dirt. We eventually arrived at a clearing where my dad stopped to take some nature pictures. I looked around and a few yards away from me I saw some birds picking at something on the ground. I moved a little closer and found they were breakfasting on the fly-covered brains of a squirrel who had gone to meet his maker.
I screamed, ran like lightning back towards the campsite, tripped on a rock and wound up twisting my ankle. Dad carried me back to our campsite and calmed my hysterics by cracking open a bottle of Jack Daniels he’d stuffed in his backpack. I don’t usually care for whisky, but at that moment, Jack Daniels tasted like manna from heaven. After a few belts and a couple of cigarettes, I had nearly recovered my sanity. While I was recovering from the terrors of nature, dad loaded the trunk, and after wrapping my ankle in an Ace bandage and helping me into the car, he started the engine and soon we were speeding away from the heart of darkness and back towards civilization.
So . . . when I think about 300,000 people who willingly spent three days on a dairy farm, eating and sleeping in rain, mud and cowshit, swimming in scummy ponds and then fucking each other with microbes and bacteria all over their bodies . . . just to hear pathetic bands like Country Joe & The Fish, The Incredible String Band and Crosby, Stills & Nash . . . I think they had to be the dumbest fucking people who ever lived. I wouldn’t have gone to Woodstock if you had filled me with enough acid that I couldn’t tell my tits from my elbows and the bill had featured The Beatles, The Stones, The Kinks and a resurrected Buddy Holly.
Now that I have fully disclosed my biases, let’s explore the album that allegedly documented the “seminal event of the 1960’s.”
In preparation for this review, I watched the extended documentary, had my dad play the original vinyl version while gathering my parents’ impressions and listened to the latest CD version with “such good sound quality.” For balance, I also listened to the grand satire of the event, National Lampoon’s Lemmings. I scoured the Internet for articles, memoirs and press coverage. I also refreshed my memory on the historical events preceding and following Woodstock as well as various myths that were prominent in the era so I could put the album in its proper context.
I have to partially commend Gene Sculatti, the author of the liner notes for the CD release for admitting that what you hear on Woodstock is not pure documentary. The cricket-chirping and the rainstorm are fake. The audience on The Fuck Cheer was dubbed in. The live performance of “Sea of Madness” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young was recorded at Fillmore East.
I can only partially commend Sculatti because when he starts writing about the music, he perceives everything through the nostalgic lens of an aging baby-boomer (who also happened to write for Rolling Stone). All the music was great. Pathetic performances are transformed into moments of legend and lore. He also fails to question the underlying ethos of the hippie movement, but that is hardly surprising. If you objectively attempt to answer the question, “What was the primary characteristic of the hippie movement?” the only possible answer is “the complete denial of reality.”
We’ll go into that topic in more detail throughout the review and in an interview with my parents at the end of this post, but for now . . . the music awaits.
John Sebastian, “I Had a Dream”: Woodstock is not a chronological record of the event; Sebastian didn’t appear until day two. It would have been better for the audience if he hadn’t shown up at all. The “dream theme” of the 1960’s is regurgitated here in a sappy piece of hippie tripe. Sculatti makes a lame attempt to link this silly song to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, calling it “poignantly anachronistic” in the classic style of a pompous ass from Rolling Stone. The most revealing aspect of the song is the mythological reference in the first verse:
I had a dream last night
What a lovely dream it was
I dreamed we all were alright
Happy in a land of Oz
The Wizard of Oz was the dominant myth for millions of Baby Boomer children, particularly in the United States. Unlike today where we can stream any movie any time we want, The Wizard of Oz appeared on television only once per year, and at least half the families in the USA tuned in for the fun. It was publicized as a special, a term that really meant something back then. And what did all these future denizens of Haight-Ashbury and Woodstock learn from The Wizard of Oz? That all you needed to show people you were smart was a diploma. That all you needed to show people you that you cared was to carry a tchotchke that symbolized love. That all you needed to show people you had courage was a medal. It didn’t matter at all that you received these gifts from a wizard who proved to be a complete fraud. All that mattered was validation from a source that was generally accepted by the public as a credible source of recognition. And how did our heroine make it back to Kansas? Glenda the Good Witch told her that she had the power all along, so she clicked her red slippers three times and in seconds she had the thing she wanted most. If you believe hard enough, all your dreams will come true. If we all believe it, it must be true.
So while Dorothy made it back home to eventually fulfill her destiny as a farmer’s wife, the scarecrows went to college to get their diplomas, the lions went to Nam or joined the National Football League to earn their battle scars, and the tin men wore beads and peace symbols and became the flower children. And they all adopted the philosophy that if you believe hard enough, all your dreams will come true; if we all believe it, it must be true. And if things don’t work out, hey, life’s a dream!
Such a ludicrous philosophy is what made it possible for 300,000 people to believe that camping in the mud for three days and nights was like a trip to the magical land of Oz.
Canned Heat, “Going Up the Country”: After the fake crickets, Canned Heat takes the virtual stage. Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson’s voice is completely shot, his falsetto cracking while the notes he tries to hit remain as elusive as world peace. Henry Vestine supports the effort with a lead solo that begins frightfully out of tune. I keep waiting for the gunshot from Lemmings to put these people out of their misery. The song fades into more fake crickets and the sounds of setting up the venue: trucks, hammering, men shouting, light crowd buzz. We get the first announcement, the famous “brown acid” warning: “It’s suggested that you do stay away from that—of course, it’s your own trip, so be my guest.” The gentleman who made that announcement probably holds a high position in the Food and Drug Administration today. A sound check guy shows that he’s making the scene by repeating “number nine, number nine, number nine” to test the mikes. Oh, for fuck’s sake.
Richie Havens, “Freedom”: “Let’s welcome Mr. Richie Havens,” intones the emcee. That’s another wrinkle in time, for Richie responds by playing the last song of his set.
Richie Havens must have been a really nice guy. The morons who “planned” the festival couldn’t get the next act to Yasgur’s Farm on time, so Richie had to play . . . and play . . . and play. He played so long he ran out of songs, so he ended this set with this improvisation based on the spiritual, “Motherless Child.” Given that context, his performance is one of the more remarkable efforts of the entire weekend. He begins tentatively, stops to tune his guitar (one of the few musicians who performed that act at Woodstock), finds a chord and rhythm he likes, patiently instructs the sound tech to adjust the guitar mike and then . . . away we go. He belts this sucker out with such absolute confidence that you’re convinced he’s played the song a thousand times before. Richie is so in touch with himself that he uses varied intonation on the word “freedom” to uncover multiple meanings: sometimes it’s a shout for freedom, other times a frustrated plea, and on one occasion it sounds like he’s pondering its deeper meaning. His only mistake was to urge the crowd to clap their hands, for what he gets in return is the acoustic equivalent of defective time-lapse photography. The film shows him exiting the stage still playing and mouthing some words, probably something like, “These dumb white motherfuckers couldn’t plan a birthday party for a five-year-old with no friends.”
Country Joe & The Fish, “Rock and Soul Music”: Man, I need to clean up my karma or something. I thought I’d gotten rid of these bastards in my review of Electric Music for the Mind and Body. Well, here they are again, and they’re going to give us “a little taste of something we call rock-and-soul music,” covering two genres in which they are completely incompetent. The only virtue of this song is that lasts less than two minutes. It ends with a shout of “Marijuana!” This proves to be an allegedly clever way to introduce the next performer and his wretched offering.
Arlo Guthrie, “Coming into Los Angeles.”: I asked my dad once, “Is there any song in your vast collection that you never, ever want to hear again?” He answered immediately and without hesitation. “‘Coming into Los Angeles’ by Arlo Guthrie. That song came out and every asshole with an acoustic guitar learned it and played it over and over and over again. You couldn’t walk three blocks in any direction in San Francisco without hearing the damn thing.” The news that this song actually achieved some level of popularity was a disturbing piece of information indeed. Explicitly designed to exploit the stoner market, this has to be one of the worst songs ever conceived, and Arlo Guthrie proves conclusively that he is no chip off the old block with his exaggerated, crowd-pandering, chit-chat (lingo italicized):
“Hey, it’s far out, man. I don’t you know if you, uh—I don’t know like how many of you can dig how many people there are, man. Like I was rappin’ to the fuzz, right, can you dig it? Man, there’s supposed to be a million and a half people here by tomorrow night. Can you dig that? New York State Thruway’s closed, man! (Laughs.) Yeah . . . lotta freaks!
I asked my dad if people back then really talked like that and he said, “Only the phonies.”
Sha Na Na, “At the Hop”: An amateurishly despicable performance of a rock ‘n’ roll classic by a group of musical entrepreneurs looking for a market niche. The lead singer doesn’t even try to initiate Danny’s classically nasal Philly accent. Bunch of fucking clowns.
Country Joe McDonald, “I Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die Rag”: Goddamn it all to hell! This guy is really starting to irk me, and I don’t like being irked! The track opens with The Fake Fuck Cheer, and then the last guy to leave the party still wants to sing us one more song on his fucking gee-tar. The song sounds weak in comparison to the studio version, but it’s probably Country Joe’s masterpiece, relatively speaking. The problem with it is that it’s a novelty song, and once you’ve heard all the punch lines, there really isn’t any reason to hear it again. The crowd at Woodstock apparently felt the same way, responding limply to Country Joe’s attempt to turn the experience into a singalong. This really irks Country Joe, and after three wimpy verses he chastises the children like an old foul-mouthed schoolmarm: “Listen, people, I don’t know how you expect to ever stop the war if you can’t sing any better than that. There’s about 300,000 of you fuckers out there! I want you to start singin’! Come on!” We’re in the land of Oz again, folks, where you can stop wars just by singing along with good ol’ Country Joe. Why, I’ll bet ol’ Tricky Dick heard those voices all the way down in Washington D. C. and called the whole thing off! Let me check the history books . . . nah.
Joan Baez and some New Left loser named Jeffrey Shurtleff, “Drugstore Truck Driving Man” and “Joe Hill”: Oh, man oh man oh man. Can you dig it? There’s actually someone in the world I find more irksome than Country Joe and that is the sanctimonious Joan Baez. Her voice communicates such ideological purity that I want to scream every time I hear it. The two-song set opens with the astonishing claim from Shurtleff hat the draft resistance movement was “different than other movements and revolutions in this country in that we have no enemies.” What? I was born over a decade after this and even I knew how all those people who voted for Nixon and Wallace felt about draft dodgers. And right now I just typed in “Carter draft amnesty” into Google and the first result was a link to the History Channel page titled “Carter Pardons Draft Dodgers.” Everything I’ve read about the New Left is that they were arrogant pricks who thought they had all the answers, but I didn’t think they were that naïve. We’re now treated to a duet between the two purists that I suppose is sort of a satiric protest song, but it’s pretty obvious that it was written with a sledgehammer. Then Saint Joan takes center stage and waxes lyrical about her New Left hubbie, David Harris, who had spent his recent stretch in the hoosegow organizing a hunger strike among the prisoners. She is so proud of her little man! Shit, any idiot could organize a hunger strike in a fucking prison—you think they serve those guys Chateaubriand every night? Saint Joan then drags out the hoary “Joe Hill,” a song about the legendary organizer of the early 20th century who was wiped out by the copper barons. The song asserts that Joe never dies, a phenomenon that fits right into the entire Oz mythology. The song also works in Oz because it completely ignores the cold reality that labor unions of the postwar era were noted more for their corrupt leaders than their efforts on behalf of the working stiff.
Saint Joan in bed with Jimmy Hoffa. Imagine that. Could have been another Jack Nicholson-Anjelica Huston matchup.
Crosby, Stills, Nash (and a little bit of Young, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” “Sea of Madness,” “Wooden Ships”: CSNY is where hippies went to die, especially those who still thought the dream was still alive after the political slaughter (both literal and at the polls) of 1968. My dad still has their records and he knows that if he ever plays one in my presence I will immediately pack my bags and leave. Here they open with that ludicrous ode to that lacy lilting lady losing love lamenting Judy Collins, and Stills’ guitar and voice are laughingly out of tune. Graham Nash hits his spots, but I’ve never known what the hell David Crosby does or why. Neil Young’s piece, “Sea of Madness,” lifted lazily from Fillmore East, is played like they had a flight to catch. The best line in “Wooden Ships” is “We are leaving: you don’t need us.” Amen to that, brother!
The Who, “We’re Not Gonna Take It”: Apparently The Who performed all of Tommy at Woodstock, so I should be very thankful that only the last five minutes are included on this record. All I can say is that the performance is much better in the movie with Daltrey’s muscles flexing through the fringe of his costume as he raises his arms to the heavens. In still pictures, his costume looks fucking ridiculous, and as for the quality of the audio-only version . . . well, folks, let me give you a tip. When you’re going to sing something, it’s a really bad mistake to miss that first note by a mile and a half. The rest of the performance sounds like The Who are very, very tired, and they probably were.
After The Who leave the stage, we’re treated to a couple of stage announcements, the most important of which is the announcement that the Woodstock Music & Art Fair is now a free concert. The announcement reveals that the hippies were not as enlightened as they claimed to be:
This is one thing that . . . I was going to wait awhile before we talked about it, but maybe we’ll talk about it now so you can think about it, because you all—we all—have to make some kinds of plans for ourselves. It’s a free concert from now on. That doesn’t mean that anything goes—what that means is we’re going to put the music up here for free. Now, let’s face the situation: we’ve had thousands and thousands of people come here today. Many, many more than even knew or dreamt or thought would be possible. We’re gonna need each other to help each other to work this out because we’re taxing the systems that we have set up. We’re going to be bringing the food in. But the one major thing you have to remember tonight when you go back up into the woods to go to sleep or if you stay here—is that the man next to you is your brother and you damn well better treat each other that way because if we don’t, we blow the whole thing, but we’ve got it, right there.
I had no idea that Woodstock was a stag party. Well, at least it was in one asshole’s mind.
Joe Cocker, “With a Little Help from My Friends”: My dad confirmed my suspicions that John Belushi completely destroyed Joe Cocker as a credible performer. “Before Belushi did his thing, Cocker’s version of ‘Little Help from My Friends’ was considered one of the great masterpieces of the decade, right up there with ‘A Day in the Life.'” I tried to get my head around that while I listened to this piece three times, hoping to magically transport myself back into that era and really try to hear the magic that the listeners of the time heard in this cover. I do think the arrangement is very clever, dispensing with the jaunty beat in the verses of the original for a more majestic, dramatic feel. And in the first couple of verses, Cocker’s not bad at all. It’s only as he starts to feel it that he begins to sound like Frankenstein hit by a bolt of lightning. I watched the film and saw no evidence of foaming at the mouth, but I sure as shit can hear it. He sounds like a madman with a splintered stick up his ass.
At the end of this track is one of the more Oz-like moments: the rainstorm. “Hey, if we think really hard, maybe we can stop this rain!” If we close our eyes and click our heels, we’ll be back home in Kansas.
Because the LP ran out of room, the rainstorm sequence continues for three minutes into the next track. You’ll definitely want to skip those three minutes, where the lemmings are deeply engaged in a rain chant. Due to the mental limitations of the participants, the “melody” is only one-fourth of the pattern of “Land of 1000 Dances.” The drumming is classic beach-bongo quality, and some idiot has to pull out a kazoo towards the end. This kazoo player is quite a show-off, replicating the five-note melody in two different octaves. What a fucking genius.
Santana, “Soul Sacrifice”: Omigod. Is that a musician I hear? One who can really play? Omigod! It is! Carlos, I could suck your cock right now, buddy! Pull it out and show me what you’ve got! Okay, now that we’ve dispensed with your touch of erotica for the day, I will simply state that the difference between Santana and all the acts who preceded them is as wide as the evolutionary difference between the human and the paramecium. They’re tight, they’re tuned-up and they’re on fire. Santana’s appearance at Woodstock, occasioned by besting It’s a Beautiful Day in a coin flip, was timed to coincide with the release of their first album. While I can admire the perfect timing of a product release, what’s more impressive is how musically superior they are to the big names surrounding them on the bill. It’s not even close.
After Carlos and crew exit the stage, we have one of the most insightful announcements of them all: the reading of The New York Times. Counterculture my ass: these people cared a great deal about what The Establishment thought of them. You can’t get any more Establishment than The New York Times!
Okay, okay. Okay people, we got The Times! Okay. On the front page, you have on the left, a very big aerial photo of a huge mass of people, which are YOU and it says, “Music was the magic for throngs at Woodstock Music and Art Fair. Towers near the stage hold large figures. 300,000 at folk rock fair camp out in a sea of mud.” (Laughs, cheers.) Dig it, dig it . . . Despite massive traffic jams, drenching thunderstorms, shortages of food, water, medical facilities, about 300,000 young people swarmed over this rural area today for The Woodstock Music and Art Fair. At the prospect of drugs and the excitement of making the scene, the young people came in droves, camping in the woods, romping in the mud, talking, smoking and listening to (unintelligible) music. Quote: “Participants well-behaved!”
After all that talk of revolution against their pig parents, they were still desperate for their approval. See how well-behaved I am, daddy?
Ten Years After, “I’m Goin’ Home”: Here I have a bias in response to bias. Alvin Lee is a fucking homophobe, and as a half-homo I find him intensely offensive. The first verse of “I’d Love to Change the World” sends me into a near-violent tizzy:
Everywhere is freaks and hairies
Dykes and fairies
Tell me where is sanity?
And here he is at the center of history’s largest love-in. I guess “try to love one another right now” only applied to heterosexuals. Fuck him.
Even if he weren’t a queer-baiting asshole, I also loathe his guitar style, which is histrionic in the extreme. It was guys like Alvin Lee who set the stage for guitar queens like Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen. Who gives a shit about who is the “fastest guitar player in the world?” Speed isn’t everything, people. If you’re a guy, do you really want to be known as the fastest fuck in the world?
Jefferson Airplane, “Volunteers”: If there’s one performance at Woodstock that conclusively proves that the hippies couldn’t put two and two together, it’s this one. Abandoning the superb melodies and harmonies of Surrealistic Pillow, the Airplane transformed themselves into the house band for The Weather Underground. The album Volunteers is full of Marxian, manifesto-like declarations about how “we” are going to take the fight to the streets and overthrow the pigs, as we hear in this not-very-stirring call to action:
Look what’s happening out in the streets
got a revolution got to revolution
Hey I’m dancing down the streets
got a revolution got to revolution
Ain’t it amazing all the people I meet
got a revolution got to revolution
One generation got old
One generation got soul
Translation: our parents won’t let us stay up past bedtime, so we’re going to start a revolution! We’ll turn nouns into verbs! That will show them!
Putting aside the sheer childishness of the message, did anybody wonder why a big, capitalistic, establishment-oriented record company like RCA Victor would agree to release a record threatening an anarchist overthrow of The United States of America? Answer, courtesy of Wikipedia: “Despite its controversies, the album was a commercial success, becoming the band’s fourth top twenty hit record and went gold within two months of its release.” Revolution was the Florida Land Boom of the 60’s!
The one good thing about this sloppily-performed piece of radical bullshit is that it gave The National Lampoon the line that inspired a satiric masterpiece: “Come on now, we’re marching to the sea.” Go, lemmings, go!
Sly and the Family Stone, “Medley”: A melange of “Dance to the Music,” “Hey Music Lover” and “I Want to Take You Higher,” this is another high point of the weekend, no pun intended. My curious indifference to the album Stand! is easily explained by what you hear on Woodstock. Free from the boundaries of the studio where Sly can’t get his hands on the latest technological gimmick, The Family Stone lets it rip in the great outdoors with ten times the energy and intensity of their studio work. There’s no question that Sly’s decision to spur a crowd of 300,000 drug users to shout out “HIGHER!” at the top of their lungs was the ultimate no-brainer (pun intended), but it’s still a very exciting passage—almost too exciting, for when they begin to play the song proper, there is a noticeable decline in kilowatt output. Sly’s vocals on this track are clearly superior to anything he ever did in the studio: he’s got the feel and he’s got the chops.
John Sebastian, “Rainbows All Over Your Blues”: Why a guy who had shot his wad as far back as 1966 got two slots on the Woodstock album is anybody’s guess, but this performance does have the virtue of introducing a supporting hypothesis to the Oz theory: that Woodstock was an experience for children who refused to grow up. Prior to the annual showings of The Wizard of Oz, the Broadway version of Peter Pan with Mary Martin in the title role was broadcast as an NBC special in 1955 and 1956, attracting record numbers of viewers. Perhaps Sebastian was watching, because here he certainly sounds like he’s flying on something, or living in an alternative reality:
“Wow. Far around! Far DOWN! Far UP! You’re truly amazing, you’re a whole city. And it’s so GROOVY to come here and see all of you people living in tents. A cloth house is all you need if you’ve got love. [reviewer’s note: I gagged here.] I’ll tell you . . . could I get a little bit of water . . . Hey, uh, I don’t know, you know, I don’t know how I could come much harder right now, but I’d like to sing you one little song, I’d like to sing you a song, actually I’d like to dedicate it to—there’s a cat and I really don’t even know his name but I remember that the chick said that uh, that uh, his old lady just had a baby and that made me think, wow, it really is a city here. But this is, this is for you and your old lady, man and whew! That kid’s gonna be far out.”
“Dreams do come true, if only we wish hard enough. You can have anything in life if you will sacrifice everything else for it,” wrote J. M. Barrie. Well, not in this case. There is no credible evidence that any babies were born at Woodstock. The Daily Mail reported that there were eight miscarriages. CBS reported that after forty years, no one has come forward with a credible story that he or she is the Woodstock Baby, despite the incalculable financial opportunity of such an association.
Butterfield Blues Band, “Love March”: Oh, for fuck’s sake. Butterfield’s band also appears post-peak, and to rub their faces in the mud, the producers of this record allotted them this embarrassing attempt at crowd motivation.
Jimi Hendrix, “Star-Spangled Banner,” “Purple Haze,” “Instrumental Solo”: Another “legendary performance” ends our slog through the muck and mire of Woodstock. Jimi didn’t appear until Monday, after most of the crowd had either gone home, entered hospitals or gotten themselves busted. He tells the waning minions they can go home if they want, and that “we’re just jamming,” so the first couple of minutes are rather dull. Interest is piqued when he starts to play that horrible melody of Francis Scott Key, and various savants have speculated as to what was running through Jimi’s mind when he chose to play this particular number at the “seminal event.” The hippie obsession with connecting everything to some larger meaning or conspiracy is operating here, but Jimi denied any nefarious motive. When Dick Cavett asked Jimi if he thought his rendition was “blasphemous,” he replied in utter simplicity, “I thought it was beautiful.” That’s what it sounds like to me: a guitarist fascinated with the music he’s playing. As he plays the melody, he is also thinking of the lyrics as he goes, so he uses his mastery of guitar effects to create the rocket’s red glare and bombs bursting in air. I think it’s one of the most interesting interpretations of a fundamentally rotten song that I have ever heard. The rest of Jimi’s performance is pedestrian at best.
Looking Back with My Flower-Child Parents
ARC: So, I want to confirm for my readers that you were indeed Flower Children, that you went to love-ins and be-ins, hung out in the Haight, spent weekends at Fillmore West, did drugs, burned incense, all the usual stuff.
DAD: Guilty as charged.
MAMAN: You forgot the headband. I loved my headbands!
ARC: Excuse the oversight. So, when it begin to dawn on you that the whole thing was bullshit?
MAMAN: (Arching her eyes.) I take it that this is not to be an unbiased interview. (Daughter hangs head in shame.) I never took it that seriously in the first place, the change-the-world idea. It was more about personal liberation for me. I would say that some of what happened made me feel hopeful for a while, but I lost that feeling after the assassinations. It took your father much longer to give up the dream.
DAD: Yeah, that’s true. I was a little down after Nixon won, but there was still a war to end, and I was still a card-carrying member of the SDS. I think my disillusionment began with the ’69 convention and the split with The Weathermen, but I couldn’t believe that anyone would take them seriously. I mean, The Red Guard in the U. S. A? I still believed we could change the system, so I didn’t really get it until McGovern got creamed.
ARC: That’s one long period of denial. The evidence shows that your generation was one of the most ineffective in history; you guys really were “King Midas in Reverse.” Everything you touched produced the opposite of your intentions. Look at the timeline. 1964: LBJ, running on a clearly socialist platform, wins with 61% of the vote. 1966: only 42% of Americans supported the death penalty. 1967: enter the hippies with The Summer of Love and an anti-war movement that was starting to gain traction. 1968: All three of the presidential candidates supported the war. In the general election, the right-wing candidates collected 57% of the vote.
DAD: Don’t remind me. I remember waking up one morning and one of the polls—Harris or Gallup—showed Humphrey running behind Wallace. I couldn’t fucking believe it. I thought the world had gone insane.
ARC: The war didn’t end for years, Americans soon began supporting the death penalty in massive numbers and The War on Poverty was transformed into whites being victimized by welfare queens. And the crime rate went through the roof. Great job, guys!
DAD: Hey, we ended the draft!
ARC: No, you didn’t. Richard Nixon ended the draft to neutralize his political opponents. Look it up!
DAD: Well, I still think we made a difference.
MAMAN: Yes, I do, too, but you have to admit we had no understanding of politics. Where we had our greatest impact was in the environmental movement.
ARC: Certainly in First World countries, yes. I also give you credit for organic food. And free love—though The Pill had a lot to do with that. But the long-term view shows that the movement was a pimple on the ass of history. You wanted to transform America into a haven of peace and today it is a paranoid country where the military are worshipped and where gun ownership rates are skyrocketing. You wanted an America of equal opportunity, and today America has a dwindling middle class and income disparity that ranks with pre-revolution France—and most of the rich are the once anti-capitalist members of the Baby Boomer generation. As for love, well, people seem to fuck a lot, so I guess that’s something.
MAMAN: You grew up in a very cynical time, so you take a very cynical view. Our generation had one thing that your generation cannot understand: we had hope.
ARC: What do you mean we don’t understand hope? Clinton and Obama sold us on hope.
MAMAN: Yes, but we had real hope, not just a campaign slogan.
ARC: And all of your heroes wound up dead.
MAMAN: And your generation has no heroes except for a few successful capitalists. You don’t have an appreciation for real hope: the belief that things can better. It is the thing that makes human progress possible. I was very sad about the assassinations, and not just because we lost two leaders who had a vision of what we could become. I was sad because I felt hopeless for a time. Hope is very important to the health of the human soul.
ARC: I don’t disagree with that, but you have to combine hope with common sense. What was the point of alienating an entire generation—your parents? Instead of trying to build bridges to the war generation, you dismissed them as hopeless. You made enemies when you would have been better off making friends.
MAMAN (sighs): Yes, yes, yes, I agree that we lacked good strategy and tactics. But at least we were trying: your generation has done nothing.
ARC: I’ll give you that one. But I do think my generation has more common sense. We know that this system is never going to produce a society of love, peace and happiness. It would take a disaster of worldwide proportions to achieve that: the whole thing would have to go up in flames. Or the aliens would have to drop in for a visit. I’m not going to spend my life waiting for Armageddon or ET to show up. I’ll work with the cards I’ve been dealt, make the best of it and let history take care of itself. Call us “the patient generation.”
DAD: You’re probably right. I think the only thing you can do now is live life honestly and try not to hurt people. The only thing we can control is ourselves, and maybe someday enough people will get it and realize that we all have to live on the same planet.
ARC: Spoken like a true child of The Sixties. “Maybe someday” should have been the 60’s tagline. Let’s talk about the music. “Spotty” is a good adjective.
DAD: There were some misses, yeah, but I think it was a lot better than you portrayed in your posts.
ARC: That’s only because I’d already done Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, Odessey and Oracle, Surrealistic Pillow and Hendrix’ first. When you add those into the mix, I think I was pretty balanced. There wasn’t much I could have done with the crap that was left. I loved the spirit of experimentation, but you have to admit that too often it was like a dysfunctional science club: experimenting for the hell of it. I was very impressed with Piper at the Gates of Dawn and S. F. Sorrow.
MAMAN: I thought you were very fair. You didn’t even touch some of the worst of that era, like Iron Butterfly and Vanilla Fudge.
DAD: Hey, they weren’t that bad!
MAMAN: You are not qualified to respond. You like everything.
DAD: Maybe it’s because I’m more open-minded than some people.
MAMAN AND ARC: Bullshit!
ARC: One more thing—did you guys ever think of going to Woodstock?
DAD: Hell, no! Travel cross-country so I could see bands I’ve already seen and would see again at The Fillmore, The Avalon and Winterland? I don’t even think I realized it was going on until that weekend.
MAMAN: If it had happened in 1967, I probably would have gone. I was up for anything then.
DAD: That’s true. Hey, that thing about your headbands made me remember the time when we were at that cabin on the Russian River and you stripped right down to—
MAMAN: Assez! This is going public! Show the proper decorum!
ARC: (Laughs.) It’s good to know that being a temp-hippie didn’t contaminate into your French soul. Thanks, old-timers!
DAD: Peace (Flashes the sign.)
Reblogged this on ringingtruenet and commented:
A tour de force covering the concert, the social history and the myths that drove Woodstock.
Superb… utterly superb. Our views on a lot of things are pretty much identical and so it is with this nonsense known as “Woodstock” – pretty much agree with most of your criticisms! Yep, Joan Baez is guaranteed to send me running away at 100mph whenever she opens her mouth… CSN likewise, at double the speed and as for John Sebastian – the most deluded pathetic piece of crap that was allowed to soil the stage that weekend. Unfortunately he turned up the following year at the Isle Of Wight festival and stank the stage out with more of the same phoney shite.
Oh, and lest us not forget, Sebastian’s “dream” song was recorded AFTER the event in some studio so that’s another piece of fakery.
It speaks volumes when Santana – of ALL bands – end up being a major highlight. It’s their best ever performance, and despite it being chopped up, that drum solo by Mike Shrieve is a rarity – an ENJOYABLE drum solo. I do love Joe Cocker’s performance but I guess I’m a little biased since he hails from Sheffield which is up the road from me and his Yorkshire accent sounds comfortingly local. Mind you, Ten Years After came from Nottingham a little further down from Sheffield and I detest their pathetic never ending wankery. I trust you’ve seen the YouTube “misheard lyrics” version of the Cocker performance? Brilliantly funny!
Sly and his family Stone were in great form – the pure evidence of how hot and great they were when Sly could be bothered. I enjoy them here but it also makes me feel a little sad realising just how Sly threw it all away.
As for the rest… not much to add really. You’re bang on about the Airplane… by the time of that live album “Pointed Head” they became – for me – a boring band jamming and jamming right up their asses to the degree it was little wonder Marty Balin got fed up and left. The Who… many love them here but I agree with the band themselves who reckon they weren’t on form… many good reasons as to why. Just whack on the complete “Live At Leeds” or the “Live At Hull” set recorded the same weekend, or watch the 1970 Isle of Wight performance and it makes Woodstock look and sound like a bad rehearsal.
Jimi? Sorry, but he bores me shitless after “Electric Ladyland” – sure the National Anthem is an inspired moment but that’s all that should had been used since the rest of the set and his band were a shambles. Then there’s all the acts that didn’t end up in the movie or the albums… to which I add no comment!
Nice chat there with your parents to try and validate and clarify the whole hippie ideal and they do make a good point about environmental awareness which was probably the only real lasting legacy the hippies made.
This “Summer Of Love” has been a fabulous journey, together, perhaps the best encapsulation of the whole psych era and ethos. A delight seeing Love, Janis and Country Joe being put in their place with lashings of cold REALITY. The Dead review was the biggest surprise and I’m absolutely delighted you love that first Floyd album, “S.F. Sorrow” and of course the ever delicious “Doughnut” all of which for me are classics that make “Forever Changes” sound like the sorry weak, limpid joke that it is! (Plus they help make me feel proud to be English!)
I know you’re glad you can now put all this psych nonsense behind you, but I’m deadly serious – with a few more reviews and insights there would be a bloody entertaining book I would be proud to own, one that actually tells it more like it really was… even though neither of us were there, but our eye for detail and dogged research shows and proves how modern history gets distorted and rewritten, hence too many people have this fake K-Tel vision of what the 60’s and the hippie era was all about. Those people need a dose of Reality!
Thank you! Robert Morrow has been pushing the book idea in various forms for over a year now, and since I started using the series form he has all sorts of ideas on how to structure it. I’ve resisted it in part because I know I’d have to go back and rewrite some of the early reviews of albums that should be included in such a book, and I’m not ready for that. My Beatles reviews are too cursory, for example. I’m always someone who likes to move forward, so I’d have to overcome my ingrained impatience to get my head around a book. We’ll see.
Typical cynical rewriting of history to fit the narrow confines of conservative “thinking.” At 33, you sound 15. We stopped a war, you boob. We cleaned the skies and the air. We made it possible for you to swear like a truck driver in print because we changed the culture overnight. Civil rights, women’s rights, consumer rights. Name ONE THING conservatives have done to improve the lot of people. *Crickets.* I can see by the vast number of comments here how much your opinions matter.
I’ll ignore the personal insults but have to comment on your misperception of me as a “conservative.” As a card-carrying member of the Parti Socialiste, and as a person who abandoned the United States because of conservative policies bought and paid for by the National Rifle Association, “conservative” is highly inaccurate and deeply offensive. I agree with you entirely that conservatives—whether in the States, in Britain or anywhere in the world—have no interest in improving the lot of anyone but themselves and their wealthy friends. Don’t know how you picked that up from that review, but you’re way, way off base.
I agree with your review. Indeed, the hippie movement had good intentions and left some good things such as concern with environment, butin practice end it wasn’t about freedom but escapism and alienation. And we all agree in that a record with so many different artistes is very unlikely to please everyone, even less so when most such artistes are not at their best or were not that good to begin with. OK, the Woostock albums cater for nostalgics (including those who weren’t even born then) and archivists. Nothing wrong with that. But then a few of these recordings aren’t even authentic… No wonder Robert Christgau suspected about the same artistes sounding in different shapes on the Woodstock I and II albums…
I like many of these albums’ performances, such as Santana, Joe Cocker, the Who (even at their worst they sounded fine to me) and Joan Baez (OK, I’m in Guilty Pleasure City). But that’s just my personal opinion. More objectively, I have just one correction to your review – the “Crowd Rain Chant” is based not on “Land Of A Thousand Dances” but on this other early 1960s hit:
And, as always, thanks for telling it like it is. What it should be takes more than just hippying and far-outing around…
Apologies for the delay in my response, but it took me a while to settle in Stockholm. Has anyone ever done a study about why all Swedish men look like dentists?
Good catch with the video AND for reminding me of Gary U. S. Bonds. I always get him confused with Joey Dee, the guy who did “The Peppermint Twist,” but he is actually quite a talented genre-crosser. I would have much rather seen Gary U. S. Bonds than Sha Na Na.
Okay, I’m going to go back to my vacation and start far-outing around now.
Yes, Gary U. S. Bonds is way underrated and, I think, worthy of an ARC scrutiny. Just as an example, his cover of the Beatles’ “It’s Only Love” improves a lot on the original – IMVHO anyway, but I want everyone to listen and opine.
June 21 1964 , Fathers Day Shea Stadium
Jim Bunning of the Phillies pitches a perfect game against the Mets.
Stadium about one half full.
Years later everyone who was a Met fan claimed they attended the game .
Some people actually saved the ticket stub……
One could have gone into any Sam Goody record store in NYC and bought
A ticket to Woodstock for I believe $15.00,starting in June of 1969.
The posters for the event were plastered all over every subway station in the city
Millions claim they attended ….
….the madness of crowds I imagine.
Chip Monck was the master of ceremonies , hired by Michael Lang
….it was Monck’s voice everyone hears on the soundtrack and movie.
He was the real deal….did the unused lighting set…and has had a 40 year
Run as a lighting designer , for theater and music events
ARC correctly pegs the late Richie Havens and Santana as being on the mark.
The rest of the album, movie, and musical acts should have been washed away in the rain.
[…] Woodstock, 1970 […]
[…] Woodstock […]
[…] Original Post on altrockchick.com […]
I enjoy your writing but must show a little cultural solidarity (I won’t address specific song critiques) with your beleaguered dad (who seems more flower-child at heart than your mom). And if I’m going to do it, I might as well start with your most damaging point, the naivete exposed by the notion that the hippie revolution was different from other movements “in that we have no enemies” (Shurtleff). Let’s assume for a moment that Shurtleff was not completely insane (OK, just grant me that one provisionally) and recognized, as you do, that many people in the “war, money, and machines” Establishment opposed the draft-dodging, bell-bottomed waifs of Golden Gate Park. Then what could he have meant? He must have meant that this was not a revolution in which one side wins and one side loses, but rather a revolution in human sensibility, which brings everyone along with it. To the cynic, this might sound naïve, but the hippies did not spring from a vacuum and other revolutionary voices prominent in the latter 20th century sounded a similar note. Gandhi repeatedly said the same thing – that those who opposed him were not evil people to be destroyed but good people who needed to be brought round. Mandela thought similarly of even the most brutal racist guards on Robben Island and after decades of trying to “bring them ‘round,” several of those guards became close allies and attended his first inauguration. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the same. This is what is meant by a revolutionary movement that “has no enemies.”
Also, it is very likely that Shurtleff has his finger on the pulse of the larger cycles of history. Ecological imperatives are bearing down (with, some might say, increasing wealth inequality as an aggravating factor). The period in human history where economies are measured by growth (i.e., by how rapidly they can churn through natural resources) and where human achievement is measured by how much private property one can amass for oneself – this period will of necessity end soon. It can end dystopically or utopically, but it will end. It seems to me that the utopic path is only possible with some fundamental shift in human sensibility. I understand the cynic’s point of view, and understand that reason might be on their side, but it’s still nice – indeed, I’d even say “practical” – to have some idealists in the mix. When it comes to assessing the situation of the day, the cynic has the upper hand. When it comes to envisioning possible futures for ourselves, individually and collectively, and setting our course, I’ll cast my lot with the naïve idealists. We have imagination on our side.
“You may say I’m a dreamer,
but I’m not the only one …”
P.S. You’re welcome, altrockchick’s dad 🙂
Ha! My dad’s going to love this! I’m on my way to see them right now so I’ll have him comment this weekend.
WordPress won’t let my father reply to a comment on an article he didn’t write, so I’m turning the keyboard over to him. Here goes:
I’m glad somebody appreciates my beleaguered state, though I have to admit that the women who put me there are the joys of my life. To the point, I don’t think my daughter understands that the struggle is two steps forward, one step back (or sometimes two steps back), and though fairly well-educated in Eastern thought, tends to discount the cycles of history you mention. Idealism is what keeps us alive—looking above and beyond the pain of the struggles of today to a better future. And I would argue that “idealistic” does not mean “unrealistic,” but is simply the means of recognizing the historical fact that human beings will continue to evolve and improve over the centuries. I’m thinking we’re nearing the end of a reactionary cycle right now and that the idealists are on their way back. Thanks much for the support.
Okay, I’m back. The flaw in the specific argument is that in the same segment, Shurtleff dissed Ronald Reagan, identifying him as the enemy of the people. Apparently he hadn’t reached the higher of level of consciousness that you two gentlemen have achieved. I will admit, however, that I may be biased by the timing of my birth, as I was born in the year that Reagan was elected president and I sure as shit haven’t seen anything remotely resembling progress, particularly in the United States. Honestly, though, I hope you naive idealists are both right. I’m really tired of living in a world in decline.
Hi altrockchick. I can see your point about how being born in the Reagan years vs growing up in the late 60s might predispose people to different world views. It’s nice to know you’re pulling for us idealists even if you can’t quite buy in. That in itself might get us over the hump as we try to pivot out of the reactionary cycle (as dad says). And your point about Shurtleff’s contradiction seems well-taken. My defense of his “no enemies” comment was not linked to any particular interest in Shurtleff per se. After reading your response, I think we can all say that Shurtleff (1) made a remark that has a continuing appeal for naïve idealists, and (2) foolishly contradicted himself in related comments; thus, we can conclude that he (3) aspired to but fell short of “the higher level of consciousness” that your dad and I have achieved
P.S. I posted my blurb on my own blog, with a link to you; hopefully this will send a little traffic your way (although I admit I’m relatively obscure as a blogger).
Hi–here in 2017 I just found this clicking thru Sly Stone vids–
I’ll start by saying I was at Woodstock. I agree that most performances/bands were not good, but how is that different from anything else in any era? (I notice you did not write about The Band, which was in fact the best band there.) One part of the issue is that the 1950s and 60s saw the rise of the amateur musician, for whom “feeling” and “original” songwriting outweighed musicianship.
You raise many points in your article–I can’t reply to all. But one overriding point for me is that the hippies insisted on the validity of freedom of thought, which gave rise to the freedom to be really stupid, and to be proud of it—witness our new president. I saw this happening at the time (1969) and ran away from it.
Another big part of your article is that you (and most others, including me) can’t really appreciate things that happened before you became conscious. Therefore, certain events or things of the olden days are seen as steps toward, or precursors of, the ultimate good that we like now, while others are dead ends. But this is not a true picture. There are plenty of things that we hate (Justin Bieber?), but they also have roots in the past, and they are all part of the picture.
One big thing I noticed about this article was that you seem to be very angry. I haven’t read any of your other pieces, but I doubt that you are angry just because the Woodstock album was so mediocre. I myself am not a very friendly person, and have little use for bad music (or thinking in general) or the people that like it. And there was alot of it at Woodstock. But I’m not angry about it–what’s the use?
which brings me to my last point; for me, the music at Woodstock was secondary (although I was drawn by the plethora of names). In the end, the point was to be there with thousands of others, hippies, for whom the ideal was that people could get along honestly (“to live outside the law you must be honest”). How insanely naive that now looks. But we were young.
As are you now.
Your diagnosis is off-base. I rarely get angry about anything, and I certainly wasn’t angry when I wrote the Psychedelic Series. My ex-hippie parents didn’t detect any anger either, and we have had lots of conversations about the era, covering both its lasting positive contributions and its silliness. If you go back and read old editions of the National Lampoon (my dad has them all), you’ll find plenty of satiric commentary directed at the “movement,” so I am hardly alone in my assessment.
Young? I don’t think thirty-five qualifies as young!
Hi–thanks for answering, I appreciate it.
I did read some Lampoons, never liked them–they were too angry, and struck me as snide for snide’s sake. Try Paul Krassner’s “Realist”.
But never mind that. You write very well, and I do agree with alot of your other opinions/analyses. (I did get around to reading a bunch of it.) Though how you can listen to Yes or Emerson/Lake/Palmer is completely beyond me.
I did wonder at your wide range of taste–I simply can’t do that.
And 35 is not yet old. If you had been 20 in 1969 as I was, you might have gone to Woodstock. This is not to say that it changed my life in any way, but I’m still proud to say I was there–I regret nothing.
Re another of my points–I note again that your reviews completely ignore stuff that, like it or not, is still hugely important in pop music history. “Stuff” being Tin Pan Alley (my field). Of course, it’s your blog, you do what you want. You do it well.
You’ll be delighted to know that my reviews of “progressive rock” like Yes and ELP are my least-read reviews. I find progressive rock a fascinating historical development, and while some efforts worked out, many didn’t because many of the artists lacked the musical training and poetic talent to pull off such “grand” schemes. It was also an important development because it had the unintended consequence of spawning the punk revolution and the return to the basics. The only so-called “progressive” I would like to cover in more depth is Robert Fripp, but his musicianship transcends that genre.
My parents might have gone to Woodstock but I can’t imagine myself camping under any circumstances! I’ve covered that era more extensively than others in part because of the parental influence, but mostly because I think it was the golden era of rock. Even if I find some of the music silly and dated, no other era produced as much music that has lasted so long and has become so integrated with the cultural fabric.
Hi again, and thanks again. You have some interesting takes on this stuff that I never considered, particularly about “prog” rock vs punk.
I’m not familiar with Fripp–King Crimson? But I always thought ELP and Yes were “classical” rock, not progressive at all really, and I never thought classical and rock could be melded. And I also thought that punk was a reaction to such stuff as later Beatles (not to mention stuff like the Carpenters).
Interesting that you don’t have a review of Zappa, arguably the most progressive and artistically successful of prog rockers. Not that I’m a big fan.
I’m not a camper either, but–Woodstock! You shoulda been there.
I haven’t touched Zappa or the Velvet Underground, the west coast/east coast alternatives to what was mainstream at the time. I own their records but don’t quite know how to approach them yet. Stand by.
Early ELO was the clearest attempt to combine classical with rock and they failed miserably. Classical music is highly structured; the subtleties lie in the way the notes on the page are interpreted. Rock at its best is unpredictable, exciting and erotic. I think The Beatles took the classical-rock integration as far as it could go with Revolver and Sgt. Pepper, and that was really just the intelligent and sensitive integration of classical instrumentation thanks to George Martin.
The early punks REALLY hated Pink Floyd. Punk was in part a reaction to the “long song” pretentiousness of Pink Floyd, Genesis, etc. In the UK the reaction was socio-political in addition to stylistic; the US reaction was more “getting back to the basics” with the relatively apolitical Ramones.
Huh—I never heard Pink Floyd, in fact I stopped listening soon after the Beatles quit.
You should know that I come from a classical music background. I think “classical” rock could never exist because classical music even at its weakest contains more organizational technique and emotional depth than rock can encompass–instrumentation is the least of it.
Meanwhile, besides THE BAND (arguably the best individual musicians of the rock era), I note that you have not looked at the 50s vocal groups at all, except a glance at Dion and the Belmonts. When they were new, I was interested in their 1st hit “I Wonder Why”. I thought they went immediately downhill, and Dion himself was of no consequence. And I really have to disagree with your opinion that Dion’s Ruby Baby was better than the Drifters–theirs was bluesy, and his was whiny. Again, not that the song was all that good.
Do not underestimate the importance of the Spaniels, the Penguins, the Silhouettes (Get a Job), the Flamingos et al—they are the roots of Black music that came after.
See the post “The Truth About Beets.” We have very different perspectives, so I appreciate your alternative perceptions. I’m definitely not a Band fan, and I think I gave a pretty balanced view of Dion’s contributions.
I covered some vocal groups in the Dad’s 45’s series, parts one and two—as many as my dad had in his collection. Since he didn’t start actually buying records until the early 60’s, all his 50’s stuff is what he inherited from his older brother. Right now I don’t have any plans to explore the era further, but I’ve been known to change my mind. Right now I have a long list of music that I’m motivated to cover due to current world events.
I’m feeling that I’m not being normal/appropriate with replies on these old threads on old posts about old music, but your writing is thoughtful, passionate, and funny enough that I couldn’t help myself.
I’m putting this here because upthread you mention even some years back that you haven’t gotten to the Velvet Underground and from a search today, it looks like you never did. Well, one can’t do everything, but I kept thinking I don’t know what your take on them would have been. Or the Fugs, who are almost as vocally challenged as the Incredible String Band, but whose anarchist charm inspired me and my longtime band partner. Well, thanks for the pieces you did do. I enjoyed the ones I disagreed with as much as ones I was just saying amen to or nodding with a new insight I gained.
I’ve avoided the first VU album because I can’t stand Nico’s voice and find her racism disgusting. I think the VU’s most significant contribution to music was to give Lou Reed and John Cale a shot at a recording career.
I’m actually rather fond of The Fugs but could never figure out a way to work them into the rotation. I thought of doing a compare-and-contrast review of The Fugs (now the Second Album) and a Frankie Avalon album but I didn’t think anyone would get the point or care much about the 50s to 60s transition. I think the key difference between The Fugs and ISB is that the latter took themselves way too seriously while The Fugs didn’t.
[…] that I’m not particularly fond of natural environments, and if you read my review of Woodstock, you are aware that I thought about turning my father over to Child Protective Services for having […]
[…] that I’m not particularly fond of natural environments, and if you read my review of Woodstock, you are aware that I thought about turning my father over to Child Protective Services for having […]
Hi again—this is unrelated to any of your posts–
I’m thinking of starting a website, and admire the flexibility of this one–can you tell me what “theme” this is on WordPress?
Retro-fitted is the theme; fonts and backgrounds are customized.
[…] Nature is there. I just don’t want to hang out with her. You can read the introduction to my review of Woodstock to learn more about the trauma that bitch inflicted on me at a very tender […]
[…] Nature is there. I just don’t want to hang out with her. You can read the introduction to my review of Woodstock to learn more about the trauma that bitch inflicted on me at a very tender […]