Saturday, 31 October 2015
The Sixties were a time of increased polarization, particularly in America. Straight/Freak, Black/White, Youth/Establishment, Hawk/Dove. The Vietnam War, with the draft, unclear motivation and the confusing story of what was happening, tore the country up. I personally know five men in Toronto who came North to avoid being drafted in that era. Fine people. Our gain, America's loss.
Friday, 30 October 2015
What was the Hippie ideal all about...
Don't think your world into little boxes. Stop trying to have everything make rational sense. Forget your car, house, furniture and what the front lawn looks like. Trust the wisdom of your body. Respect the intelligence of your emotions. Look for spirit, outside and inside. Enjoy your senses. Laugh, sing, fuck, dance, play...preferably with as many people as possible, in the sunlight in a public place, as nude as you dare. Make love not war.
This Canadian group formed around 1960 in Toronto as the Hawks, backing up Ronnie Hawkins and then Bob Dylan. Their first solo album, Music From Big Pink, 1968, established them as channeling the sound of a rural past, without ever being "country", and always keeping a Rock'n'Roll grittiness. Everyone was doing psychedelic music, and Big Pink came out with banjos and mandolins. "What the hell is this," we thought, and then got blown away. They somehow captured more of the feel of American music than any American band. Amazing ensemble musicians, The Band were perhaps one of the best groups ever formed, and their music never fails to move me.
I watched this movie again several years ago, and enjoyed it. Of course back in the Sixties we thought it was astonishing. Not sure now about the message, are the two main characters bikers, hard drug dealers, hippies, reactionaries? They seem to stand apart from everyone. Not that that bothered us when we first saw it, it was to us simply counter-culture against establishment, end of story!
The band Buffalo Springfield who put out their protest hit "For What It's Worth" in 1966, made 3 great abums before disbanding. That's Steven Stills pointing upward, and you can probably guess who the guy in the crazy sweater is.
This author of two acclaimed books, Sometimes a Great Notion and One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, took LSD in a CIA-funded study in 1959. Subsequently he and friends, named Merry Pranksters, travelled across the States in the first psychedelic bus, freaking out the locals, and gleefully disregarding common views of reality. Back in California, they held multimedia "acid tests", often including a new band later called the Grateful Dead. If Hippie had a father, it was Kesey. Wonderfully documented in the book The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe.
The first large rock festival of all time was at Monterey in California. There were performances by established bands such as the Byrds, Country Joe and the Fish, Simon and Garfunkel and the Jefferson Aiplane. Grace Slick and Marty Balin of the Airplane showed their mastery of the ecstatic vocal duet, something few bands have done. Bands that played to large audiences for the first time were The Who, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Big Brother and the Holding Company featuring a 24 year old singer named Janis Joplin. Janis burned up the stage in an amazing performance full of honest emotion, I don't know how she could have been better. Perhaps one of the best filmed performances from the sixties. Check it out on youtube. Janis Joplin - Monterey Pop - Ball and Chain from the doc by DA Pennebaker
The Sixties were a tremendous time for music and the graphic arts. Perhaps less so for literature. The posters for San Francisco venues like the Fillmore and the Avalon Ballroom, full of colour, swirling forms, the whimsical or bizarre, and script that had to be deciphered, expressed in part the times. This poster, more reserved than many, and in a derivative art nouveau style, I like especially. (Well I own an original print and better still, went to the concert!)
Thursday, 29 October 2015
It's almost impossible to realize today how radical long hair on men was in the Sixties. (No Western man had anything approaching long hair in the Fifties.) Today it's nothing, but back then to the "freaks" it was insanely cool and served as counter-culture identification. To the "straights" it looked effeminate and was cause for scorn and even occasional violence.
Country Joe and the Fish - Electric Music for the Mind and Body.
In 1967 this tripped out band, and first album, blew us away. We always cut up the hash on the back cover, and I still have the album, with the razor marks!!