It was the Saturday before Christmas and my wife and I were hosting an annual neighborhood get-together. Old friends and new acquaintances were dropping by with cookies and fruitcakes to share a bit of holiday cheer with us.
The table in the hall was filling up with these small mementos of red and green confections and liquid yuletide remembrances.
But my wife and I had already gotten the best gift any parent could have. All three kids were home. They’d come back for Christmas from all across America and the globe. From Australia (now happily Boston), Ohio and California.
I looked around at these three young adults; ages, 20, 24 and 27, conversing with some of their friends as well as our old friends and neighbors. Two generations in the same room; chatting, nibbling and laughing. And… all listening quite happily to the same music.
As an old rock & roller and musician, this intrigued me, so I began to listen a little more carefully.
I noticed that quite unconsciously both generations were tapping their feet or humming or even subconsciously murmuring a word or two of the lyrics here and there.
All of these songs were familiar; the words, the music, the lyrics – to a room full of people ranging in age from about 10 years old to late 60’s. I stepped into the family room to catch the stations call letters to identify the format. It was what we used to call when I was working in the radio industry, an MOR station (middle of the road).
These are stations that specialize in playing music that will be familiar and enjoyed by the widest range of audience possible. So then what was this music that had spanned a half a century and is now familiar and loved by kids, parents and even grandparents alike?
As Bob Seegar sang, it’s that ‘old time rock & roll’. It’s groups like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Eric Clapton … even Sonny & Cher!
And mind you, this was not an ‘oldies’ station. This was ‘middle of the road’. Music for everyone.
I started to think. How did the music that typified the feelings of rebellion and unfettered love, evolve from the music that separated my generation from my parents’, become the music that my kids still love today?
To be brutally honest, as my 20 year old son Chris tells me, “Dad everything your generation did becomes the standard like it or not – because there’s so damn many of you.”
True enough. Remember that funny chart they showed us as kids? The one that they described as an ‘elephant moving through a python’ because every new phase that we, the Boomer children entered, would explode out of proportion in population and influence to all previous generations - or to any generation since!
Is that good or bad?
Well probably both. We certainly raised the collective consciousness about things such as racial injustice, war and poverty. But ironically enough, probably one of the most far reaching consequents the ‘Baby Boomer’ (my/our) generation will have on the social fabric for generations to come, will be the twin revolution/evolution that we had on the two items that make the world of youth go ‘round. Music and sex.
Yeah, I know I left out the third part of the 1960’s triumverant of ‘Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll’. But quite frankly I think if you asked anyone who lived through the liberated 60’s to choose the most important two out of that three, it would be no contest. It would be Rock & Roll and sex every time. And to any of my fellow ‘Boomers’ who are clucking thier tounge (hummm is that a Freudian slip?) and/or shaking their head, I have but one question. What were you doing during the ‘Summer of Love’ in 1967?
I thought so.
So anyway… as I listened to the music and thought about the early Beatles or Stones or hey, the Loving Spoonful… it struck me that in addition to changing the ways we looked at the world during the time of JFK, LBJ, John, Paul, George & Ringo. Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison, Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin; the central theme running through the music was not necessarily the revolution and protest banners of social change that everyone has come to associate with that period. Uh-uh, the real message delivered in almost every song was … LOVE.
How many songs of the 60’s had the word Love in the title? Even more telling, how many songs didn’t at least have the word Love in the lyrics?!
All you need is love, Love me do, She loves you, Good Lovin’, You’ve lost that Lovin’ feeling, and so on. And that’s just a tiny sample of titles with the word love. Like I said, I challenge you to find a hit song from the ‘Love Generation’ where the word ‘Love’ doesn’t appear at least once in the title or lyrics. Try it – you’ll be surprised.
Quite different wasn’t it than many of today’s groups like Jet who sing about a ‘cold, hard bitch’. Great tune but not, well… terribly romantic. I mean could you picture that as a sentiment to snuggle to like, ‘all we need is love’?
Ah yes, come here and ‘put your head on my shoulder’ my sweet little… ‘cold, hard bitch’? Ummm – nope, I just don’t think that makes it.
Has the sexual part of love that 40 years ago was portrayed as running through a field of flowers bursting with psychedelic colors, faded and gone dull around the edges? Or has the wonderful world of sexual liberation that we pioneered, now become as mundane as a casual handshake?
And yes, before you say it, I won’t deny that we were the generation that championed ‘Free Love’. Although to paraphrase Janis Joplin, “nothin’ honey it ain’t free.”
But while we shattered every taboo against sex before marriage, there was still a feeling – or for the more cynical among us – at least the pretense - that the person with whom you shared that lumpy mattress or hard apartment floor, was someone who you loved. Even if it was just for that one night. Or as Stephan Stills so adroitly summed it up; “ if you can’t be with the one you love, then love the one you’re with.” And we did.
So I guess that brings me down to my final point. Will the ‘groovy kind of silly, sappy, intense love that the Love Generation created in books and films but especially the music that came out of the ‘psychedelic 60’s’, fade away with those idealistic, wide-eyed innocent flower children that grew up with all of that spiritual, metaphysical and physical love?
Will the naive but sweet trust of the ‘Love Generation’ fade away ‘ like the Rolling Stone’s ‘dead flowers’? Or will a generation of the ‘cold, hard bitch’ view sex as just as a casual handshake or just another competitive game - an extension of soccer or lacrosse?
Or will they eventually want something more, and perhaps come back around to that incense and flower strewn ‘groovy kind of love’?
Shadow of Innocence
Kunati - April 2007
Ric Wasley has spent almost forty years wandering through corporate board rooms and honky-tonk bars. He now divides his time between writing mystery novels – Shadow or Innocence – A McCarthy Family Mystery – Published by Kunati, http://www.kunati.com , and observing the really ‘juicy parts’ of the human condition.
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