Showing posts with label jefferson airplane. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jefferson airplane. Show all posts

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Old Hippies

I have a certain fascination with the hippie era. Not as in, I wish I had been there, but more as an entomological study. On the Midwestern prairie we had no Summer of Love. We had a summer of working, a summer of riding bicycles and pressing transistor radios to our ears; a summer of stretching the coiled cord of the kitchen wall phone all the way around the corner into the hall so we could have private conversations.

The war was, of course, on everyone's mind, but more urgently than college kids who had deferments and spent their lunch periods carrying signs. To my big brother the war wasn't abstract -- he had to worry if his number was going to be pulled out of the big bingo jar and if he was going to die in a rice paddy. Working class boys didn't have a lot of options. They could flee to Canada or they could join the National Guard, which is what my brother did. My brother was hardly the military type, but he ultimately did his civic duty...and he stayed alive. Meanwhile, boys with wispy goatees in San Francisco twirled around in tie-dyed tee shirts.

I was twelve that summer. On TV I saw mystified CBS News reporters chronicling the Haight-Ashbury scene. All the characters looked like dizzy dorks. I especially loved the dance of the scarves, which was a classic. One could not flip the television dial without glimpsing some barefoot bra-less chick whirling on a hillside with a multi-hued scarf. So profound!

Old hippies probably don't grasp this, but we didn't envy them. We thought they were imbeciles.

Fifty-odd years later, I wonder how many of them have managed to maneuver life with all their brain cells intact. They'd be -- well, past retirement age. Do they entertain their grandkids with tales of past acid trips? Did some get elected to congress? (yes) Did they at some point learn to appreciate the joy of bar soap and penicillin?

Sage Midwesterners always knew that life was life, and there was no escaping it. My brother didn't "drop out", and I didn't, either. We didn't have that luxury.

Marty Balin died this week. He was a founding member of Jefferson Airplane, a band that encapsulated the summer of love. Reading about him, I learned that he was a pretty good guy, but that band epitomized everything I hated about the times.

Marty solo:

In my town we weren't listening to Jefferson Airplane. This is what we were tuning in to on our local radio station:

And especially this:

See? We were hip, too.

And we still possess all our brain cells.

Friday, July 21, 2017

If You're Going To San Francisco

There are a lot of fables in popular culture about the sixties. I was there.

The Summer of Love is represented in TV montages by young girls with garlands of daisies in their hair dancing about (not really dancing, but rather, floating on a marijuana cloud). Apparently teens in the late sixties were endeavoring to blot out the cruel world of reality. Frankly, I don't remember reality being all that awful. That's not true, of course. I was twelve in 1967 and life for me was a minefield of evading my mom's bitching and cursing and my dad's tipsy staggering across the parking lot of our motel. Luckily for me on that front, I rarely saw my dad.

Too, if one watched the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, things were definitely not fine. Young boys were getting killed in Viet Nam for no Godly reason. Truth was, though, Viet Nam was so far away, and we were safe and sound beside the pool, slathering Coppertone on our legs; white-framed sunglasses shading our eyes -- it was easy to get hypnotized by the summer sun and by Jim Morrison wanting to light our fire.

Nineteen sixty-seven was the summer of denial.

Despite, or maybe because of, my family issues, I let the July sun warm me; bake me; anesthetize me. The Rascals wafting from my transistor's speaker turned everything all right. "Groovin" helped me forget.

Much like today, I think the more "politically active" teens protested simply for something to do. It's not as if they were political science experts -- I learned more by just keeping my head down and studying actual civics than they did from holding "be-ins".  And geographically, things were just different. In the semi-rural Midwest, we watched these strange beings frolicking on our TV screens and saw them as otherworldly. They were apparently "Communists" -- today known as "Socialists", or "Idiots". Yes, life would be sublime if we could all just gather together on our communes and barter our organically-grown lettuce for a used radio. Sure, everything is groovy until human nature kicks in, as it inevitably does; and bad things like "jealousy", "greed", and "betrayal" rear their ugly heads. Changing the human essence is a losing battle.

Nevertheless, all we really needed to make this world a better place was:

"Love" was a very important word in 1967 (unlike now). Everything, every life's goal, was to obtain "love". The Jefferson Airplane sang about love, but it sounded angry, sort of like the "love" I experienced in my family; which was not a desirable state:

"Love" actually sucked, and it was phony. Perhaps that's the issue I have with 1967 -- its artifice. Frankly, I could have just as well worn flowers in my hair and have been equally happy:

And, naturally, it was the Age of Aquarius, which is another way of saying I'm a gullible imbecile who reads my horoscope every day in the newspaper and believes it. Of course, I have to barter away my hemp-woven moccasins for a newspaper, but still, it's well worth it. The Fifth Dimension, in retrospect, was just trying to make a living in show business, and they hitched their wagon to little Jimmy Webb, who, while on an acid trip, wrote a song about balloons:

Truth be told, there were a lot of crappy songs that were hits in 1967. By the same token, there were a bunch of good tracks, the ones we rubes really liked. But that's for another day, another post. Listening to these "hits", though, kind of makes me feel icky -- takes me back to a time and a place I don't care to remember. That's why I prefer the "nice" songs. 

Stay tuned...

Friday, February 5, 2016

Paul Kantner

I missed the "Love Generation".

I was only twelve years old in 1967, and I was pretty enamored with "She'd Rather Be With Me" by the Turtles and "The Letter" by the Box Tops.

Sure, I saw the whole Haight-Ashbury thing unfolding on TV, but I didn't get it and didn't really want to. It just didn't seem like music to me. Music (to my childish ears) was supposed to have a melody and at a minimum, rudimentary lyrics that made a modicum of sense. The sixties were...odd. Big, orange flowers were a "thing", and paisley non-matching pants and fur vests and absurdly-long false eyelashes were groovy. Guys on acid, I'm sure, found the lyrics of bands like Jefferson Airplane profound; mind-expanding. In reality, in the cold grey of morning, they were inane. Not that it mattered.

In the long spanse of decades, though, I "sort of" gained an appreciation for the band. Grace Slick is a phenomenal singer. Imagine if she'd had good material to work with!

And Paul Kantner was a co-founding member of the group.

The New York Times wrote:

Mr. Kantner came to be seen as the intellectual spokesman for the group, with an ideology, reflected in his songs, that combined anarchic politics, an enthusiasm for mind-expansion through LSD and science-fiction utopianism. (Source)

Let's relive those days:

In a lot of online polls, a song by the then "Jefferson Starship" is considered the worst rock song of all time. Funny, because that's the time that I actually got on board with the band. Sure, the song is cheesy, but it's not, at least, and endless jam, a la the Grateful Dead.

That song is thus:

On a side note, watching this video with the sound off is hilarious. But it was the eighties, after all. We accepted lot of stuff that, in hindsight, was sadly, cheesy.

I realized, as I was tripping down memory lane tonight, that I am the wrong person to commemorate Paul Kantner. I sure didn't mean this post to be disrespectful. He was a musician and a songwriter. Just because I was not the target audience of Jefferson Airplane doesn't negate the group's importance in the pantheon of rock and roll. It's not them; it's me.

I didn't get it.

But I'm trying to.


Why didn't I write anything about David Bowie? Because I can't fake it. I understand he was a legend and that people on all points of the earth are mourning his passing. I acknowledge that. I feel for their grief.  But he was not a part of my musical world. I frankly only have a hazy picture in my mind of who the man was. In the seventies, my musical tastes were cloistered. I refused to even listen to the Eagles, for God's sake, because they weren't "country". I was wrong about a lot of things in the seventies, but I was young and cocksure in my beliefs. I'm sorry I missed that chunk of pop history.  I probably would have liked it if I'd given it a glance.

Sometimes we like to go back. Sometimes we wish we could. Life is full of "sometimes".