I came into this world not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it.
Life, I love you, all is groovy.
The Woodstock Music and Art Fair has become in retrospect
the greatest event in counter-cultural history (historian William O’Neill in Coming Apart in the Sixties, but anyone could have said it). It came and went and will not be found again until circling time future returns us to time present and time past and gathers together half a million people in the steady New York rain to hear and to not hear a parade of major and soon-to-become major musical talents, to share their food and the limited toilets and a lot of dope and love and comfort, to become briefly the third largest city in the state and to survive without violence or crime, if only for a few days.
We remember Woodstock at this great remove as the golden moment of the decade, “a real mindfucker.” Three deaths, four births. No riots, no disasters, no hassles despite traffic jams that extended dozens of miles in all directions, despite the hundreds of thousands of celebrants who overwhelmed all preparations (entirely inadequate anyway), despite the bad acid, despite the pouring rain. Here was conclusive proof that the love generation could survive and even flourish under the most adverse circumstances if left to its own vices and devices. Conclusive proof that a new consciousness was being born. That it had been born and was alive and growing. That the transcendent Yes could survive the evil of the world around it.
Police were impressed. So were friends and neighbors and even old folks. And the news media. Here was incontrovertible evidence of the new order’s moral superiority.
Sheriff Rather called them
the best kids I ever met in the world. A police assistant described them as
the most courteous, considerate, and well behaved group of kids I have ever been in contact with in my twenty-four years of police work.
For a moment, with nothing more than a some dope and good will, half a million ordinary freaks had greened America. Bombers were turning into butterflies, the Age of Aquarius had found a home in Bethel, New York. Flower children had their paradise regained.
We are stardust, we are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.
Politics and protest, racism and the war in Vietnam existed only in another dimension, a hundred million light-years away.
If a part of the sixties mind could throw itself self-sacrificingly upon the wheels of the military-industrial-educational complex, discipline itself to tedious hours of close analysis and careful planning, make a firm and long-term commitment to social reform, another part of the sixties mind did not much care. It demonstrated because doing something was better than doing nothing, and more fun. It joined the Peace Corps as an excuse to travel. It supported candidate Gene McCarthy (a religious man who wrote poetry, who was never ever going to become his party’s candidate for president, let alone win the votes of a majority of Americans) because he was pure and would take them all down heroically. It joined CORE as a quest, quixotic and holy. It was hopelessly disorganized, self-obsessed, inconstant and inconsistent. It kind of dug losing. It very much dug enjoying itself.
It was not political, not practical.
Teach us to care, T. S. Eliot had once written,
and not to care.
The sixties generation confounded Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey and the liberals. It terrified the conservatives.
The Yes of the sixties, very different in almost all particulars and presuppositions from the Angry No, was just as loud, just as compelling. Rooted in idealism, this affirmation could overlap and encompass both protest marches and liberal politics, yet it transcended politics and social reform and economics to the point that the blueprints and programs and votes and angry shouting didn’t really matter.
It might even affirm the very conditions reformers sought to remedy, embrace the poverty of mind and body it might, in a different frame of mind, find tolerable.
There are heroes in the seaweed.
Besides, this world is not so very important after all.
Here is the paradox of the American. While accepting his own wealth as a token of divine approval, he argues quite sincerely that adversity breeds character, and luxury breeds sin. No nevermind. A foolish consistency, Emerson thought, is the hobgoblin of little minds. Wrote Whitman, Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.
The Yes of the sixties was a romantic Yes, and children of the sixties exhibit all the characteristics of a wildly romantic generation. They adore youth, novelty, excess, the eccentric and the exotic. They struggle, heroically, hopelessly, and often unnecessarily. They quest—after the past and the future and an infinity of alternative presents. After personal fulfillment, after freedom, after America and the world. After social justice and nirvana. After a higher high and a louder rock album. They feel sorry for the poor, the outcasts, and the good outlaws. They actually prefer losing to winning, outlaws to sheriffs, poverty to wealth, because losing and outlaws and poverty are all somehow pure. They believe in little people and in big people masquerading as little people. They have elevated feeling to a station equal to or higher than that of thought. So they love. They believe the impossible dream, and they also believe that it is impossible. However, they believe the Horatio Alger myth of America, land of opportunity, and they pulled Elvis out of his truck, Little Richard away from the sink of a Greyhound bus station restaurant, Chuck Berry from his cosmetics shop, and the Beatles from working-class Liverpool, and made them all Big Stars overnight just to prove that miracles can happen. They are almost totally disorganized and lack staying power; they flit from project to project, leaving things half done. They are idealistic beyond hope. They prefer imagination to practicality, tending to think broad thoughts and leave details fuzzy. They will do anything just for the sake of doing it, for the sake of gathering more evidence, having a new experience, pressing Furthur along. The generation, although contemptuous of most middle-class denominations, is religious in the broadest sense. It is keen on dogs, children, and old folks. And on its own sweet self. Reading its shapeless books, listening to its formless music, watching its home-made films can drive you nuts. It suffers. It loves. It hates. It is full of silliness and madness and all the colors that ever were.
The increasing romanticism of the sixties can be measured in the heroes it fashioned to replace the organization men of the late fifties: Eldridge Cleaver and Bobby Seale and the Black Panthers replaced Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (whose popularity among the young crested in 1963); Gene McCarthy replaced Hubert Humphrey; Che Guevara replaced John Foster Dulles; Mario Savio of the Free Speech Movement replaced college president Clark Kerr, father of the so-called multiversity; activist priests Dan and Phil Berrigan and the Maharishi replaced Billy Graham and Norman Vincent Peale; long-haired Bill Kunstler, defender of the Chicago Eight Minus One, replaced Joe Welsh from the Army-McCarthy hearings of the early fifties; Abbie Hoffman and Lenny Bruce replaced J. Paul Getty and Steve Allen; Dr. Timothy Leary replaced baby doctor Benjamin Spock; Chairman Mao replaced Dwight Eisenhower. Ho Chi Minh became an American cult hero. Talk about romantic!
The Yes of the sixties, like all other expressions of the romantic spirit, was essentially private: not so much a social movement, organized and programmed and charted, as a groundswell of developing individual psyches. Ten million people discovered their separate consciousnesses in ten million different ways, mostly quiet and un-newsworthy, like a flower uncurling into blossom. Before the decade was out, however, whole slums were in bloom, and the public mind was ever so slightly aware of a meteor shower of exploding consciousnesses, a great kaleidoscope of color, patterns, textures. The Yes of the sixties was a magic Yes, a hidden reality that might break out (or through) in any circumstance, at any moment, quite ordinary and most extraordinary, extraordinary in its ordinariness, lunacy, spontaneity, play, freedom.
The Yes can be described, but it cannot be charted. It can be tasted at the remove of a decade in the remembered savor of public moments like Woodstock and of exquisitely private moments. It can be caught in recreations of the great kaleidoscope (histories faithful in spirit as well as fact to the decade) and in the fragments of the sixties from which those recreations must be made.
Like the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour, a film tucked away in the vaults of many American libraries, an album tucked in the collections of most sixties children, a nothing and an everything, magnificently amateur and home-made, incoherent, affirmative, as faithful a reflection of the Yes as was Woodstock (or this chapter). A real mystery trip, you know, a little Boxing Day puzzle put together for BBC viewers by the magicians from Liverpool.
Away in the sky, beyond the clouds, live 4 or 5 Magicians. Who is the fifth, who walks always beside us? By casting wonderful spells they turn the Most Ordinary Coach Trip into a magical mystery tour. If you let yourself go, the Magicians will take you away to marvelous places.
So off go the Beatles, and a coach full of just ordinary folks, and Ringo with his aunt Jessie, in a foul temper both and quarrelsome as hell, on this magical bus tour (roll up for the mystery trip), a big yellow and blue bus with courier Jolly Jimmy Johnson and hostess Wendy Winters. Before you know it, skinny Mr. Buster Bloodvessel has fallen in love with fat Aunt Jessie (love is all you need) and is drawing large hearts in the sand of a beach somewhere, while the waves pound and the enraptured (but grotesque) couple embrace, and yes indeed, love conquers all. And the bus is flying, and the world is tripped out in a swirl of colours as it cruises over the ice peaks of Antarctica (yellow, red, blue, green), and everybody is having a wonderful time. (Have you listened closely to Magical Mystery Tour, to that bus that roars out of one speaker and crashes into the other? Now there is a mystery, all right, number two. Or to I Am the Walrus, all those words at the end about death, quoted out of Shakespeare’s King Lear? Mystery number three. Who is the walrus? Why does Paul wear a black carnation while the other three wear red? Check that sign on the desk of the army recruiter:
I You Was. Mystery, mystery, mystery.)
So the bus trip and the day and the film and the album unravel, a delight of spoofs and bits and scenes, and even a strip show (with the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band), and by the time the bus returns from wherever it is returning from, they’re all there, Mr. Bloodvessel and Aunt Jessie and George and Ringo and John and Paul, having a wonderful time doing the most ordinary thing you can imagine, singing corny old show tunes to an accordion accompaniment.
BUT I WILL TELL YOU IT IS MAGIC!
(Out we go to Let’s All Get Up And Dance To A Song That Was A Hit Before Your Mother Was Born.)
The point is, of course, that mystery (and love) is all around us, and excitement and groovy things to do, and it’s all magic, and life is groovy even if you’re not at Woodstock or Big Sur, and you never quite know when you’re going to stumble into a magical mystery tour.
Maybe YOU’ve been on a MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR without even realizing it.)
Maybe you can make a mystery trip of your own, build it out of memories and fragments, some description and some reconstructions, with a little help from your friends, and maybe you can catch a sense of the swirling Yes of the sixties.
The most obvious aspect of sixties romanticism was the great value it placed on youth. Like all other romantics, sixties heads pretty much assumed that age equals senility and is scarcely so well qualified a teacher as youth. The child arrives trailing clouds of glory which dull proportionate to its years on earth. Everything is straight downhill after twenty-one, and after thirty you might just as well be dead. (This assumption, so self-evident, so obvious, so passionately true, would cause big trouble as the generation passed traumatically to the north of 30, but during the golden decade it provided self-justification.)
Hope I die before I’m old.
She’s too cute to be a minute over seventeen.
I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors. They have told me nothing, and probably cannot tell me anything to the purpose.
And may you stay forever young.
Infatuated with youth, romantics are especially soft on children. I’m very strong on kids myself, in fact: you can siphon gas, vandalize phone booths, cheat on your income taxes, joyride stolen cars, maybe even burgle homes (we’re all insured these days, eh?), and I’ll shrug my shoulders. Maybe even make you an outlaw hero. But mess with kids and you are in big trouble. Mitchell, Nixon, Haldeman, Hoover, Agnew—that crowd hated kids, you can just bet. Communists hate kids. Me, I love my own kids Stephen and Kristin more than I love anything in this world. I love everyone else’s kids too. I’ll even sit around and swap cute kid stories with you. (It’s nothing—just somethin’ I picked up back in the sixties when I was a camp counsellor.)
This fondness for children collided head-on with an equally great fondness, for the self. How much self do you mortgage to your kids? Phew!
Pete Seeger: Beans in My Ears
Peter, Paul, and Mary: Puff, the Magic Dragon
The Rolling Stones: Dandelion
Tom Paxton: We’re All Going to the Zoo
The Beatles: Yellow Submarine
The Buffalo Springfield: “I am a child, I last a while, You can’t conceive of
the pleasure in my smile.” The Jefferson Airplane: Lather
The Beatles: Dear Prudence, won’t you come out and play?
The Airplane: White Rabbit (see Lewis Carroll)
The Beatles: Lucy in the Sky (see Lewis Carroll)
John Sebastian: I Had a Dream (see The Wizard of Oz)
Johnny Thunder: “Let the boys sing it, Here we go loop de loop,
Here we go loop de lie
(a-loop, a-loop, a-loop)
All on a Saturday night.” Kenny Loggins: The House at Pooh Corner (see A. A. Milne)
Paul Kantner: The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil (see A. A. Milne) We love it.(We believe it.)
Romantics—and the sixties—also tend toward a mystical religiosity. In fact, all romantics are religious in an offbeat way: you find them professing agnosticism and hanging around ruined Gothic abbeys. Or drawing fuzzy pictures of a soft and loving Jesus. Singing Jesus is just all right with me or spirituals like Twelve Gates to the City or folk songs full of second-hand religion. Meditating with the Maharishi. Studying Zen.
A prominent indictment of the fifties made by the sixties was loss of spiritual values: the sellout of virtues taught in Sunday School, the loss of what Paul Goodman had called (in terms borrowed from theology) “justification” and “vocation.” Sixties people sought both, and they sought religious affirmation in the broadest sense, in the very act of rejecting the orthodoxies of traditional religious denominations.
Some got themselves right down to basic Christianity, Christ without the theologians. It’s interesting, for example, that radical Beatle John Lennon insisted that he was “all for Christ.”
I’m very big on Christ, claimed John;
I’ve always fancied him. He was right. And again:
Christ was all right, really. It was just his friends that thickened things up a bit. And yet again:
I used to go around calling myself a Christian communist.
(It was during the sixties that Christians and communists discovered that their positions were not as mutually exclusive as corporate businessmen and aging generals claimed, that they could affirm significant elements in each other’s theologies.)
But most sixties people could not or would not draw Lennon’s distinctions between Christ and followers. They found even fundamentalist Christianity too compromised to deserve serious consideration. The result was an awakening of fuzzed mysticism, often linked with ritual use of soft drugs and sprinkled with paperback Zen philosophy. Tim Leary was religious. Pot was “righteous sacrament.” Acid was an avenue to God.
The Western world had been feeling its way tentatively toward the East for many years before the sixties: Thomas Merton (The Seven Storey Mountain, 1948, and a prolific writer until his death in 1968), Hermann Hesse, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, Alan Watts, Gregory Corso, and even Jack Kerouac (The Dharma Bums) all functioned as carriers of the new orientalism. All had large audiences and influenced countless individuals.
So you were not a nincompoop or a jerk if you went around talking The Big Picture in the sixties. Regular folk spoke seriously of God, truth, ultimate reality, vocation, ontology, eschatology. A sense of religious awe and mystery infused even the most mundane activities (and sold J. R. R. Tolkien’s vaguely religious allegory Lord of the Rings, and the Moody Blues’ vaguely mystical albums, and Rod McKuen’s badly religious verse by the hundreds of thousands of copies).
Even the intellectual lightweights turned temporarily religious, sliding off the back of the movement with pseudo-religions like astrology and witchcraft and a lot of science fiction theologies invented for fun or profit or both. When the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Transcendental Meditation came bouncing into England, and into the consciousnesses of the Beatles, and into the consciousnesses of the world, older people who had been doing the religious thing for many years found him suspect, simplistic, and maybe even slick. (His association with camp follower Donovan Leitch, with the sticky mush of A Gift from a Flower to a Garden and the contrived love-and-flowers of Donovan’s 1967 tour, didn’t help much either.) The Maharishi was, however, perfectly attuned to the popular, romantic religiosity of the times and achieved instant assimilation into the artifice of the sixties.
It can’t be one hundred percent without the inner life, can it?
Harrison had been traveling east ever since he picked up the sitar, Ravi Shankar, and Autobiography of a Yogi. In 1967 he (and John, Paul, Ringo, Patti, Patti’s sister, Mick the Jagger, and Marianne Faithfull) came to the Maharishi, presumably in search of that 100%. Following the Beatles would come Donovan, the Doors, the Beach Boys, the world. Most of them would fall away into the world of politics or the world of play, leaving Harrison to transcend it all on his own in All Things Must Pass:
My sweet Lord, I really want to know you I really want to go with you. . . .
The song, the album, the call resonated in the sixties consciousness, and at the close of the age My Sweet Lord was everywhere.
Every time I put the radio on, it’s ‘oh my Lord’, complained Lennon.
I’m beginning to think there must be a God!
(God had been around AM radio for the duration, however. Gospel was one of the rivers which converged to form rock-‘n’-roll, and from Little Richard to Aretha Franklin to right now gospel is a driving force in even very hard rock. On the strictly religious side, Ferlin Huskey had had a top-forty hit with Wings of a Dove, and the Highwaymen with Michael Row the Boat Ashore in 1961; later religious songs included hits like Oh Happy Day, Spirit in the Sky, Holly Holy, and three important recordings—by Judy Collins, Joan Baez, and Aretha Franklin—of Amazing Grace. Religious songs that were not hits lay scattered around the albums of Dylan, Paul Simon, and the Association. In 1967 the Electric Prunes did a Mass in F Minor, complete with Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei, and Benedictus.)
“So have you ever tried a threesome before?”
“Well no, of course not.”
“Well you shouldn’t knock what you haven’t tried.”
“Have you ever been drunk before?”
“Did you ever think of marching in there and just demanding instead of asking?”
“Have you ever made love before?”
“I’ve never made it, you know, interracially before.”
“Have you ever smoked pot?”
“There’s a lot in bluegrass, once you get into it.”
“Ever get high on acid?”
“Ever try quackers?”
“Well, you can’t knock it until you try it.”
“Ever been to London?”
“You ever go to a wrestling match?”
“Ever get busted in a real demonstration?”
“Ever snort coke?”
“We could slum it tonight and do a shit-kicker bar.”
“Well, you can’t knock what you haven’t tried.”
(The logic of the sixties.)
Enough! or Too much.
“I like you too much not to say it. You’ve got everything except one thing—madness. A man needs a little madness, or else. . . .”
“He never dares cut the rope and be free.”
The painting job, meanwhile, with everybody pitching in in a frenzy of primary colors, yellows, oranges, blues, red, was sloppy as hell, except for the parts Roy Sebum did, which were nice manic mandalas. Well, it was sloppy, but one thing you had to say for it; it was freaking lurid. The manifesto, the destination sign in the front, read: ‘Furthur,’ with two u’s.
Sixties people would go anywhere, do anything, fill themselves full of (almost) any chemicals, explore any argument, try any living arrangement, take any class, read (at least ten pages of) any book, look at any movie, listen to any song, talk to any individual, tolerate the most unbelievable bullshit or pain for the sake of doing more. Just to press Furthur. They were the most open-minded people in the world, to the point of refusing to draw any distinctions at all. It is not true you couldn’t tell sixties people anything: you could tell them everything. They would sit and listen for quite a while, and then make up their minds very definitely. They may have decided “bullshit,” but they would listen and try to empathize and encourage. No matter what the hour, no matter what their other commitments, they were always ready to go. More is better. Sixties people were quite mad. They had cut the rope and they were free, not uptight, valuing experience for experience’s own sake, as a way of knowing. Sixties people were impatient with sitting on their asses, with habit, with boredom. They were in constant motion.
Life, I like to tell people, consists of getting yourself into and out of trouble, and I do my best at both. Many people are convinced I’m quite a lunatic. I, however, am convinced they are quite dead.
More than anything else, romantics are keen on themselves. It was, in fact, the sanctity of the self which underlay the sixties quest for absolute freedom. It was the sanctity of self that caused people to pull back from protest once individuals started getting killed, to internalize the revolution, to straighten out their own heads instead of everyone else’s , to cut the movement off in mid-march. The sanctity of self was in constant conflict with the search for community and meaningful relations, and with the love ethic of the decade; the complexities and paradoxes have yet to be resolved in the heads of many sixties people: me or him? I or us? How much of myself can I trade for the well-being of others, yet still retain my own integrity? My individuality? My identity?
The important of self produced a great personalizing of writing, music, and art. Self was all over pop music during the decade and on into the seventies, not only rock and shlock rock, but songs like I Gotta Be Me and I Did It My Way, which were served to the fifties generation. Even pop music reviews and criticism began to say more about the I of the writer than about the song or album or performance being examined. The so-called “me generation” of the seventies derived from this element of sixties character, which it developed much to the exclusion of other sixties virtues.
Most prominent among the egos of sixties rock were Paul Simon and Bob Dylan (whose egos conflicted publicly). The young Simon was an incurable romantic, filled with New York City-inspired angst and lit. crit.-fueled sensitivity, both of which aggravated that disease so common among self-preoccupied artists, self-pity. How the young Simon suffered! How it showed in his songs! Bleecker Street (the best of Simon and Garfunkel’s first album) is a poem-song about failed communication, more specifically about the poet’s inability to communicate with his audience. Sounds of Silence (their first hit) trades in the same currency, in slightly clichéd images: the poet walks the cobblestone streets alone at night, neon lights flashing around him, people deaf to their non-communication . . . and to him.
I Am a Rock continued the suffering and the self-pity.
Well, Simon was a young Queens College English major doing an occasional gig in the Village or in London or in Paris. On later albums he matured, becoming one of the three or four great rock poets of the seventies, but he never (even in Bookends, his best album) outgrew his essential romanticism. Or his concern with himself. In songs like St. Judy’s Comet and Run That Body Down, Simon out-Dylaned Dylan in turning his personal life into public art. The most intense of Bookends’ portraits look inside, not out: A Hazy Shade of Winter, Fakin’ It, Overs. There are songs full of dreams and the death of dreams, full of the nervousness that’s bound to develop when self-fulfillment becomes the focus of one’s life, a kind of unintentional critique of the dangers of self.
When it came to the self as subject, however, everybody was upstaged by the boy from Hibbing, Minnesota, whose primary subject in virtually all of his best work is the boy from Hibbing, Minnesota. Look at Dylan’s albums: invariably a picture of Dylan on the front, sometimes alone and sometimes with a girlfriend or a few friends (it might even be a drawing by Dylan); more often than not you’ll find notes, poetry, a story by Dylan. And maybe even a picture of Dylan on the back. And Dylan on the inside as well.
(Let it be noted, however, that Self-Portrait was constructed mainly from songs by other writers—including an abominable version of Simon’s The Boxer. But Self-Portrait is also Dylan’s worst album.)
I’ll tell you another discovery I’ve made, Dylan once said in an interview.
On a strange level the songs are done for somebody, about somebody, and to somebody. Usually that person is the somebody who is singing that song. Not that sixties heads much cared. Dylan—struggling hero, outlaw, seer, far traveler, lonesome wanderer, confused clown, juggler, thief, artist, and general romantic image of the age—had a self that was the self of the generation, and he spoke for it, about it, and to it.
Two views of the self:
They hate us, don’t they? I like it that way, that is the way it’s supposed to be. If they didn’t hate me I would have to hate myself.
Well, the doctor interrupted me just about then,
Sayin’ “Hey, I’ve been havin’ the same old dreams,
But mine was different you see.
I dreamt that the only person left after the war was me.
I didn’t see you around.”
Sixties people were disorganized probably because they were so wrapped up in themselves. They could not abide schedules, plans, structures. They tended to leave projects half done, to take on eighty different things at once and spread the butter too thin. Their work often showed embarrassingly rough edges and imperfections, like Dylan’s studio work or the singing (and recording) on many folk and Motown albums of the young decade. In fact, sixties people sometimes made a virtue out of imperfection, preferring the rough to the polished, the flawed to the perfect. Barbara Streisand drives many sixties people nuts.
This disorganization annoyed their elders, especially parents and professors, and it doubtless has liabilities. Still, it has a certain art (the randomness of juxtapositions, much like fiddling with a radio dial or listening to the second side of Abbey Road), a little sense of the genuine, and a lot of spontaneity. It gave sixties people a certain breadth which their elders lacked. And it produced a healthy disrespect for the real danger: big organization in the forms of depersonalizing big government, big education, big business, increasing specialization and compartmentalization in all areas of life.
As eager as sixties people were to explore alternatives, they were—like all other romantics—exceptionally sentimental about their roots. Public history they had little respect for, as an artificial monument to the rich and famous, but private histories were something else. Ancestors, heirlooms, photographs, memories—romantics tend their past like a hypochondriac nursing an ulcer. For all their insistence on the Now, children of the sixties devoted enormous energy to assimilating the past, pillaging the centuries for whatever could be had for the taking. Professional historians accused them of a superficial eclecticism, but in truth the Portobello Road flea market clothing, the refinished washstands and Art Nouveau glass, and the Victorian mansions of Haight-Ashbury which sixties children shored against their anxieties brought them much closer to the touch and feel of history than their more scholarly (and distanced) critics came.
It isn’t simply that [the Beatles] have an instinctive nostalgia for period styles, as in She’s Leaving Home or When I’m Sixty-four, or that they absorb the past through the media of the popular arts, through music, cinema, theatrical conventions, bands like Sgt. Pepper’s , or music hall performance. . . . No, the Beatles have the distinction in their work of knowing that this is how they see and feel things and of enjoying the knowledge.
The romantic seeks a personal tie with the past, not an idea he can understand or a complete sweep of history (certainly not political history, which is dismissed on principle), but a chunk of bygone days—solid, palpable, useful. An Edwardian jacket. An old brownstone to call home. A few Gothic ruins. A brick of the Roman Forum, a piece of Notre Dame de Paris, a chip of Stonehenge. A brick from the street on which he grew up. These may be bits and fragments, nothing coherent, and collecting these shards of history may definitely pose a threat to the Roman Forum, Notre Dame, and Stonehenge . . . but here also is a touching sense of intimacy with a human past.
This respect for the past intensified during the seventies as the price of antiques doubled and quadrupled and societies sprang up everywhere for the preservation of buildings, parks, crafts, even medieval and Renaissance lifestyles. Remarkably, it became chic to buy and restore an older home . . . in America, land of the throwaway container, throwaway car, throwaway home, throwaway life. Even more remarkably, the generation of the sixties did the restoring and preserving, and it was their conservative parents, the generation of the fifties, who did the systematic leveling in the name of new housing projects, new expressways, new public office buildings, new franchised businesses, and all the other manifestations of so-called progress.
Rock music, of course, the music of the sixties, has always been considered the music of Now, the music of the moment, the music of youth.
Which it is.
As it developed during the sixties, however, rock also came to incorporate much of the musical, social, and cultural past. How Gentle Is the Rain borrowed a tune from Bach; so did A Whiter Shade of Pale. Folksingers brought back border ballads, spirituals, and the legendary Woody Guthrie; the Doors brought back Brecht and Weill. The Beatles’ famous white album is an encyclopedia of musical styles. Into the end of All You Need Is Love they wove fragments of thirties ballroom music, the French national anthem, their own She Loves You, some boogie-woogie, In the Mood, Greensleeves, and a few phrases copped from some Indian bazaar.
Rock lyrics also felt the tug of the past. Donovan resurrected Atlantis. The Beatles looked backwards in Yesterday and In My Life. Dylan looked homeward to Hibbing in poems like My Life in a Stolen Moment and 11 Outlined Epitaphs and half a dozen songs:
With half-damp eyes I stared to the room
Where my friends and I spent many an afternoon,
Where we together weathered many a storm,
Laughin’ and singin’ till the early hours of the morn.
The Kinks fossilized the past in Village Green Preservation Society (1968). Early in the seventies, the Who—epitome of mod and flash and Now—looked over their shoulders with Quadrophenia. From rock, Dylan turned to country life and country music; the old music, he thought, would be a bedrock upon which to build a new sanity after the confusion of the middle of the decade. And the Band, who most influenced Dylan in his retreat to copper kettle, came steeped in the past, from the Civil War of The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down to the American West of Across the Great Divide and Up on Cripple Creek. The Band’s album The Band is, in fact, an American Village Green Preservation Society.
The Middle Ages, a traditional romantic favorite, also infiltrated the music and consciousness of the sixties in The Kinks’ Arthur, Leonard Cohen’s Joan of Arc, Joan Baez’s Sweet Sir Galahad, David Crosby’s Guinnevere, and the title song of Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush:
I dreamed I saw the knight in armor coming, Saying something about the queen; There were peasants singing and drummers drumming, And the archer split the tree.
(Time it was, I have a photograph.)
(Mama, don’t take my Kodachrome away.)
Roll over, Beethoven, tell Tchaikovsky the news.
In 1967 Marty Balin wrote the most bittersweet memory of all, the Jefferson Airplane’s Comin’ Back to Me:
The summer had inhaled and held its breath too long;
The winter looked the same, as if it had never gone;
And through an open window where no curtain hung,
I saw you.
I saw you comin’ back to me.
(These fragments we shore against our ruin. If time past and time present are both indeed contained in time future, then our past is money in the bank, and infinite cause to rejoice.)
I have always retained an especial fondness for Wittenberg University, my alma mater, the place of my becoming in the early sixties. It is the taproot of my consciousness, holy ground. Each time I return I stoop down and kiss the earth in front of the fountain which marks the old entrance to the campus. I preserve Wittenberg against all the inroads of time: although in the years since I left all the focuses of my life there have without exception been leveled or altered, in my mind’s eye I reconstruct the college of 1965. Ort Hall, the old student center, the fraternity house—all long ago demolished—are rebuilt each time I return. Campus roads return to their 1965 configurations. Buildings are un-renovated, new buildings are deconstructed, old rooming houses long gone are reconstructed in their place. Trees lose their rings. The field house and library lose their additions; the lecture hall in which I took freshman psychology—now a faculty lounge—becomes a classroom once more. Each time I visit Wittenberg, I take precisely the same walk around my old campus, look in precisely the same directions, cross the streets at precisely the same comers, hum precisely the same tune, think precisely the same thoughts, and enter precisely the same past. When I die, I want to be cremated and I want my ashes to be sprinkled across Alma Mater Hollow at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio.
To the romantic, and to the sixties person, feeling is as valuable a mode of understanding as rational thought. The romantic will rely on intuition rather than on analysis and synthesis, or at least in addition to more rational processes. He is a mystic and a sensualist. The rationalist position—having been commandeered by the liberal establishment which brought America cold war politics, Vietnam, the multiversity, systems and technologies, and all the other demons against which the generation rebelled—was suspect from the start. And when gut reaction, the bone marrow knowledge that something was rotten in Washington (and Mississippi, and Chicago, and Kent, and elsewhere), was substantiated by establishment actions and reactions to the challenges of youth, and later by the establishment’s own investigations like the Walker Report and the Kerner Report . . .well, reason has never recovered. To this day an opinion is as good as an argument, and all analysis is suspect.
Diggers are zenlike in that we have totally destroyed words and replaced them with doing—action becomes the only reality. Like Lao-tzu:The way to do is to be.
We are only what we feel.
You think too much. That is your trouble. Clever people and grocers—they weigh everything.
I remember reading somewhere of an Indian tribe that made a practice of considering all matters of importance twice: once stone sober and once again stoned. Once under the influence of reason, once under the influence of emotions. Equal weight was given to both conclusions.
This has always seemed to me a sensible way of doing things.
In my youth I was a great fan of Keats and Shelley.
I fall in love at least ten times a day.
Occasionally I weep.
I see no reason to be embarrassed.
There are the moments we live for, and moments we live through. And we never know when we will transit, one to the other.
In 1966 I had a one-month Eurail pass, and I think I spent maybe two nights of that month in a hotel (one of those was at Elna Peterson’s invitation to spend the night beside her in Munich). The rest was on a train, every night; you’d just walk into the railroad station around midnight and take the first train leaving for anywhere, climb into an empty first class compartment and bag out. Next day you wound up in Florence or Frankfurt or Nice. I’d go from Munich to Florence one night, then to Venice the next, then back to Munich, then off to Paris, then maybe San Sebastian and Hemingway’s Spain, then back up to Paris and further north to Copenhagen, like a goddam pool ball, bouncing from cushion to cushion. Food all over the place, and beer. Cheap. Three-course dinner in Rome, fifty cents. With wine. Steak and French fries and salad and soup, maybe $1.25. I lived like a king over there.
People would talk to you, ya know, and give you things and take you in. They liked Americans, still remembered the war. I met this guy in a bar in Barcelona, he says, ‘You ought to come see me when you get to Switzerland.’ So I do. Turns out he’s a fucking millionaire or something, lives in a goddam palace. After the Eurail pass ran out, I spent two weeks there sopping up food, driving his car all over Switzerland and Italy and Germany and Austria. Unbelievable. Those mountains, those little villages. Those people. . . .
One thing sixties people, like other romantics, really grooved on was travel. In many respects, their antsiness was a legacy from the fifties and the Depression, from Guthrie and the Dust Bowl refugees, from Kerouac and the Beat poets. Parents just reunited after the war may have spent a lot of time digging in and hunkering down, but their kids were ready to roll, and the federal highway system was getting put together courtesy off the gasoline and automobile interests, and by the 1960s, migration to nowhere was a national pastime, a national heritage even. A nationwide consciousness developed from radio and newspaper and television travelogues: highways lined with motels, free maps and cheap gasoline, the 65 mph speed limit (70, 80, all you could get out West), a whole generation with summers free, with time and energy and a few dollars scraped together from temporary jobs, squeezed out of college funds, begged, borrowed, or just gratefully accepted from the oldies. The economy was opening up, odd jobs were not hard to find, maybe down at the shore or out on the coast, Denver or Chicago, or even overseas, where the Bundesrepublik found itself overemployed and was willing to import Greeks, Italians, and American college students to work menial jobs in factories, hotels, and restaurants. You might work a couple of weeks or a couple of months, then pack up for another job down the line, or spend a few months looking for America. Or the world.
Even in less footloose lives there was lots of driving around late at night, deep in big talk. And spring and fall journeys from and to college were great, heroic adventures packed five or six to a ‘58 Buick, each kicking in $10 and sharing the driving down the old Pennsylvania Turnpike with its tunnels and turns, through Wheeling, West Virginia, at 2:30 in the morning, across the Ohio River on that old steel bridge with a roadbed of vibrating steel grid, through a string of tiny Midwestern towns in eastern Ohio, fighting through Columbus traffic in the early morning hours, and then onto and off of and back onto interstate through Indiana and Illinois and the West; or nights on the Greyhound, perilous with cigarette smoke and ham sandwiches, the aqua-colored tiles of the Pittsburgh bus station and the dirty restrooms in Wheeling, rest stops killed at pinball machines, and hard waitresses killing the night in empty conversation with drivers and cops, fits of uncomfortable sleep, nearly confessional talk with some chick you’d never seen before and would never see again; AND to awake to a new world full of people from Algoma, Wisconsin, from Kewaunee, Illinois, from great red-eyed Chicago and Washington and Cleveland, everybody with tales of summer and of high adventures coming and going; and the college year spent chasing after football, basketball, even baseball games, maybe a Peter, Paul, and Mary concert in Dayton or (later in the decade) a demonstration in Columbus or an art flick down in Yellow Springs, wheels always somehow available, the going and the coming, the absorption of a continent full of places and a whole country full of people.
So wouldn’t you, Stu?
I’ve got an answer:
I’m going to fly away.
(What have I got to lose?)
And, for the lucky few, the Peace Corps, or maybe just Europe on $5 a Day.
So wouldn’t you too?
By the close of the decade the global underground of travel freaks and itinerant transcendents stretched from California to New York to London to Marrakesh to the Middle East to India and beyond, Tibet, Trinidad, Panama, Turkey, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Mexico, Marseilles, Katmandu—students, drop-outs, hippies, sons and daughters of the idle rich and the idle poor and the busy middle class, yes, bums and heads and journalists, beautiful people in search of What’s Happening Now, everybody stoned (some jailed), bulletins floating into clearinghouses in Paris and London and New York from everywhere and by every conceivable carrier: Turkish border officials beating heads; unsigned traveler’s checks bringing half face value in Calcutta; blood $50 a pint in Kuwait; bus from Corinth to Athens 40 cents one-way; northern Afghanistan cut off because of Moslem-Hindu war; Hotel Thai Son Greet in Bangkok, $.98 for a double.
Arthur Frommer’s Europe on $5 a Day (which remained $5 a day as late as 1970-71) became a million-seller, and a new way of travel was born: native, cheap, and cheerful. America was four days gone into running.
All come to look for America.
Travel and the quest were prominent motifs in sixties music. So just where is Washington Square, anyway? Colorado Boulevard? That bus marked “Lakeshore Drive”? Indian Lake? South Street?
Rock filled with geographical particulars, a clear indication of the decade’s fondness for new and—to all but natives—exotic places. Saginaw, Michigan. Muskogee. Penny Lane. Abbey Road. Galveston. The Mersey. Liverpool. Much of the appeal of Dancing in the Streets and Chuch Berry’s Sweet Little 16 derives from the simple recitation of American places: Pittsburgh, P A, St. Louie, Boston, New Orleans, Chicago, Baltimore and D. C., don’t forget the Motor City. What made the British Invasion groups popular was largely the way they brought the sounds and places of exotic England to those who could not travel and to those who had and wanted to remember.
Traveling the train through clear Moroccan skies . . .from Casablanca going south.
I’ve been doin’ some hard travelin’
The sixties also taught that travel is more than just a groovy way to spend time (which, of course, it is), and to satisfy the yen to see faraway places with strange-sounding names. Travel is a protest against habit and convention, and a mode of self-discovery. Travel (sixties style, Europe on $5 a Day style) strips travelers to basics, measures them against the day-to-day struggle for food, clothing, and shelter. It introduces new people, new places, new attitudes. It becomes a code. You who are on the road must have a code, Graham Nash preached in Teach Your Children. What he did not say, but what everyone knew, was that the road is a way to develop a code, a code based on traditional American values of independence, self-sufficiency, and community developed not by growing up in the same vegetable patch but by struggling together out on the frontier.
Travel is not an escape. It is a discovery, although it may be in part self-discovery (we understand who we are by encountering what we are not). As Parzival searched for the Holy Grail, he found himself first, then the Grail. Dorothy’s journey along the yellow brick road–though it brought her friends, adventures and the Witch’s broomstick–was above all else a process of self-realization. For this reason we revere the weary traveler just in from long hours on the open road and sleepin’ in the rain, his clothes muddy, thirsty boots kicked into a corner while he drinks a quick cup of coffee: he has learned something, come into a part of himself which we only intuit in our own selves. To Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, travel, like acid, served as a metaphor for life: you were either on the bus or off the bus. In Tales of the Brave Ulysses (1967) Eric Clapton suggested that travel is for some the only possible self-realization. It is symbolic and fitting that Richard Nixon, who cooled the generation of the sixties and its values and its motion, effectively killed cheap, quick travel in the U. S. and abroad by lowering domestic speed limits, raising the price of gasoline, screwing up the value of the dollar, and substantially diminishing opportunities for easy quick-cash jobs. But that was the seventies.
Then this geezer leans across the table, over his pint, real confidential like, with a little regret, and tells me them days are gone for good. There just ain’t the money any more. It’s all he can do to get to the cinema. England’s not what it used to be. But that don’t bother him any, really. Money’s not everything. “Y’ know, mate,” he says, all large and confidential, “it’s just ‘avin’ some young uns to come ‘ome to at night, an’ some mates to ‘ave a pint with, ‘at’s what it awl boils down to, ain’t it now?”
Another important element of the romantic creed, and a basis for the sixties affirmation, is that little people are as important as big people. They are more interesting, they are more deserving, they are the legitimate concern of government and of history and of literature and of decent folk everywhere. Romantics take the side of labor against big business, family grocery store against chain supermarket, individual citizen against bureaucracy of any form, David against Goliath. The angry farmer rises up and smites the coal company that would devour his land. A few GIs blow the lid on My Lai. John Dean from Wooster College dusts off President Richard M. Nixon. The angry student tells his professor, “That’s a lot of shit.”
And so the stories of those GIs, the average farmer, the kid from Wooster College become important stories. Rolling Stone publishes autobiographies submitted to the magazine by ordinary readers. Nostalgia books contain interviews with everyday people as well as with big names. (Ultimately, in the land where “anybody can be elected president,” one of those anybodies gets himself elected president . . .much to the surprise of the entire country.)
We are the same, whatever we do, Sly Stone told us in Everyday People.
Does the Prime Minister realize he’s just a bloke? John Lennon asked.
Ain’t no use a-talkin’ to me, Bob Dylan told us; It’s just the same as talking to you.
A working class hero is something to be.
Let’s drink to the lowly of birth.
The people yes. I am a lineman for the county. The little people yes. Hooray for Hazel. Drink to the salt of the earth.
Aaaaah, everyday people.
Little people and outlaws. Because outlaws are little people trying to assert themselves against the big system. Because outlaws have hearts of gold and will protect little people against the big system. Because outlaws are underdogs, like the mythical figures of the American past resurrected in the folk revival of the late fifties and early sixties: Tom Joad, Pretty Boy Floyd, Joe Hill, other martyred union organizers and American Robin Hoods.
There’s many a starvin’ farmer,
The same old story told,
How this outlaw paid their mortgage,
And saved their little home.
Others tell you of a stranger,
That came to beg a meal,
And underneath his napkin
Left a thousand-dollar bill. . . .
Like Paul Simon’s fugitive robber of Wednesday Morning 3 A.M., like the Kingston Trio’s Tom Dooley (1959), like Dylan’s John Wesley Harding who was such a friend to the poor, like Tim Hardin’s Smuggling Man, like the would-be thief in The Lady Came from Baltimore, like the Shangri-Las’ Leader of the Pack. Like Billy the Kid in a movie Dylan acted in and scored. Like Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke. (Like the driver in Vanishing Point: everybody after him, cops in ten states on his ass, a line of wrecked vehicles long as a turnpike in his wake, everybody on the screen plottin’ after him and everybody in the whole theater on his side.)
We’re all outlaws in the eyes of America, sang the Jefferson Airplane in Volunteers.
(The sixties soft-headedness about criminals began with Caryl Chessman. It reached a climax with Ken Kesey’s late sixties love-in with the California chapter of Hell’s Angels. It reached absurdity with the Black Panther demand that all black prisoners be freed from American jails.)
The sixties were the great age of the common person, the most democractic America has been in a long while. Such was the beneficial effect of this romantic identification with little folks and outlaws. A less desirable effect was the sixties habit of accepting losing as somehow more legitimate, more holy, more worthwhile, and even more desirable than winning. Woody Allen may be a cool loser-as-winner, but on the street, losing is not fun.
And children of the sixties, suspicious of winners, developed a strong losing habit. Traditionally romantics champion causes lost and improbable, which makes a certain sense, since losing builds character, is more interesting than winning and more psychologically complex. Considerable evidence suggests that part of Gene McCarthy’s appeal as a sixties hero was the lostness of his cause. Likewise Ho Chi Minh, Bobby Seale, and the New York Mets . . .who, the moment they won and began to take themselves and their press clippings seriously, became only the New York Metsees, a National League version of that other Big Apple team all America loves to hate. The Chairman Mao of the sixties imagination was Mao of the great march; the Fidel Castro popular with sixties people was the guerrilla leader of seven brave men hiding out somewhere in the green hills of Cuba. (Castro in power was less attractive than Guevara, who died in action.)
To make it with the sixties crowd, you had to get beaten on the head, starve, freak out, lose your job, try hard, get barred, get a little drunk and land in jail. Possibly all the New Left rhetoric about provoking police into violence to demonstrate the corruption of the System was nothing more than a thinly disguised desire to go down heroically. What kind of demonstration was it, really, if people didn’t get hit on the head? Maybe sixties folks made impossible demands not to expose Establishment bankruptcy, but to insure that those demands would not be met.
Suzanne takes you down
To her place near the river.
Now the rain falls down on last year’s man.
An hour has gone by and he has not moved his hand.
Leonard Cohen lived in a world of losers, people in need of grace, usually a little kinky, strung out, plagued by dope, paranoia, uncertainty. Suzanne. Sisters of Mercy. Bird on the Wire. (And wasn’t it a long way down?) Joan of Arc. Winter Lady. He called his 1966 book Beautiful Losers, and the sixties took him to their hearts, because the sixties liked misfits: honky-tonk women, junkies, hoboes, Mr. Bojangles, gypsies, tramps, thieves. Everybody must get stoned, Dylan once said. It gets you down to basics, to honesty. When you are invisible, you have no secrets. There is no success like failure, sang Dylan in Love Minus Zero/No Limit.
I’m a loser, the Beatles sang.
I am a man of constant sorrow, went the old folk song, quite popular throughout the decade.
You can be cynical if you wish, since it is easier to decide that losing is more holy than winning, and that workers are more important than captains of industry, than it is to transform losers into winners and workers into captains of industry. Still, transcendence has cogency. Because there are no wants in heaven, all wants are satisfied. Transcend, transcend.
My greatest skill has been to want but little, wrote Thoreau.
The same may be said of poverty, on which romantics—and most sixties people—usually claim to be keen. The sixties generation saw the poor as rich, the rich as poor. Poverty was most definitely blessed, and wealth could be an embarrassment. College students cultivated the faded, tattered look of madras shirts, shredded jeans, worn-out tennis shoes, and dingy T-shirts. The idea was to look like a beachcomber or a garage mechanic. Their parents, who were spending several grand a year to send them to school so they would not have to live as beachcombers or mechanics, wondered what the hell was going on.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Poverty was blessed for two reasons. First, sixties people distrusted the machines that made the goods, and the jobs that made the money. Both were dehumanizing and alienating. Better to do without the riches and make your own tools, clothing, furniture. Poverty meant simple, cheap, hand-crafted objects. Folk music. Earth colors. Secondhand possessions, with some history behind them, with some past clinging to them.
Second, being children of relatively comfortable if not affluent parents, sixties youth had discovered the truth of the axiom that money does not buy happiness.
Fun is the one thing that money can’t buy, explained the Beatles in mock melodrama. All the money you’ve made will never buy back your soul, Dylan warned the Masters of War. So if money couldn’t buy happiness, maybe poverty could.
(It couldn’t, of course. Poverty doesn’t buy anything. There would have been a lot less bullshit about blessed poverty had middle-class whites confronted the permanent, genuine, life-long, Ray Charles cotton-is-down-to-a-quarter-a-pound-and-I’m-busted, no food and no job poverty that stared at American blacks and working-class British youth. Black mythology and British Mod and Ted mythology left no room for honest poverty. Theirs is the ethics of conspicuous consumption: clothes, cars, scooters, televisions. More is better, and we’ll take ours right now, thank you.
Well, Janis Joplin made it sound like fun, singing Kristofferson’s Bobby McGee: busted flat in Baton Rouge, feeling near as faded as my jeans, ready to trade all of my tomorrows for one single yesterday.
Steal This Book is, in a way, a manual of survival in the prison that is Amerika. It preaches jailbreak. It shows you where and exactly how to place the dynamite that will destroy the walls. The first section—SURVIVE!!—lays out a potential action program for our new Nation. The chapter headings spell out the demands for a free society. A community where the technology produces goods and services for whoever needs them, come who may. It calls on the Robin Hoods of Santa Barbara Forest to steal from the robber barons who own the castles of capitalism. It implies that the reader is already “ideologically set,” in that he understands corporate feudalism as the only robbery worthy of being called “crime,” for it is committed against the people as a whole. Whether the ways it describes to rip-off shit are legal or illegal is irrelevant. The dictionary of law is written by the bosses of order. Our moral dictionary says no to heisting from each other. To steal from a brother or sister is evil. To not steal from the institutions that are the pillars of the Pig Empire is equally immoral.
(This sort of survival made plenty of outlaws and plenty of losers during the late sixties. It built a lot of character. Then sixties people got tired of losing. Their character built, they looked—although not very successfully—for the pay-off . . .just about the time the job market collapsed.)
Consciousness III starts with self. In contrast to Consciousness II, which accepts society, the public interest, and institutions as the primary reality, III declares that the individual self is the only true reality.
Thus it returns to the earlier America:Myself I sing.
“In the last year or so I’ve been doing a lot more of what I want to do and a lot less of what other people want me to do. At first they were puzzled at the change, a little hurt, a little put off. But it’s mellowed me out and I’m not as up tight as I had been. I don’t resent people the way I used to for imposing themselves and their trips on me. I have a stronger sense of being true to myself, and when I’m with family and friends I’m more relaxed and more genuinely happy. I mean, what it comes down to is that I’m happier with the way I am, so I’m happier with the way they are. Everybody should be on their own trip, not on somebody else’s . In the short run it hurts other people when you pull back and become independent, but in the long run it’s better for you and them.
I have come to believe in open friendships, open marriages, and open lives.”
(Just a little something left over from the sixties.)
God commanded me some time ago to do the two things that are required of his messengers: one, not become a martyr, and two, to do my trade union job—to write a Bible and a theology and a prayer book. So now I have accomplished that task. High Priest is the Bible, the first book of the Bible, and the Politics of Ecstasy is our theology. Psychedelic Prayers is of course our prayer book.
“Make Love Not War.”
Romantics love. It’s part of their preference for feelings over ideas, and the taproot of their transcendence. Love is part of their religiosity and the reason they take care of children, dogs, old folks, outlaws, little people, the poor, themselves.
The sixties loved. Almost indiscriminately.
Don’t you want somebody to love?
Don’t you need somebody to love?
Wouldn’t you love somebody to love?
You better find somebody to love.
Love is everywhere in sixties music. There was not a pure hate group to the decade, not even the Who, self-confessed early in their career as
a group with built-in aggression. Did they not come ultimately to Love, reign o’er me? And the Beatles: She loves you, yeh, yeh, yeh. And the Stones: Ruby Tuesday. And other sixties songs as well: Cactus Tree. If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with. Soft love: Cherish. You’ve got a Friend. Sexual love: Why don’t we do it in the road? I Want You (Bob Dylan and the Beatles both). Transvestite love: Lola. Mrs. Robinson: love across the generations. (Why not, Benjamin?) A threesome: David Crosby’s Triad: I don’t see why we can’t go on as three. Jim Morrison: Love your neighbor ‘til his wife gets home. Johnnie Taylor: Who’s makin’ love to your old lady while you’re out makin’ love? Groupies: Superstar: You said you’d be comin’ back this way again, baby. Metaphysics: He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother. All you need is love. Reach out in the darkness. Soft Dylan: Girl from the North Country. Hard Dylan: Love is just a four-letter word. Obscene Dylan: Lay, Lady, Lay. Transcendent Dylan: I’ll be your baby tonight.
I’m the friendly stranger in the black sedan. . . .
Help me make it through the night.
Whatever gets you through the night.
Kind woman, won’t you love me tonight?
The metaphysics of sex.
Never to look back and never to hold a grudge. I got you, babe. (Easy to be hard.)
Love, reign o’er me.
I once heard Ralph Bunche speak, on what subject I cannot remember. But I do remember that during the question and answer period somebody asked, “Mr. Bunche, you have spent a lifetime in international diplomacy. What has it taught you?” Bunche thought for a moment and answered quietly, “I have learned that we must be kind to each other.”
Despite the disillusionments of growing up, the generation of the sixties has held to the love ethic: they are still soft touches. “Whenever we have a case that could go either way,” an elderly woman living on Social Security told me in 1976, “we always try to get assigned to a worker who is around thirty. They seem to understand better. They will help you more than the older ones or the kids just out of college.” Sixties people remain genuinely kind, ready to help, always up for one more romance, one more attempt at understanding.
The ability, social consciousness and conscience, political sensitivity, and honest realism of today’s students are a prime cause of student disturbances. As one student observed during our investigation, today’s students take seriously the ideals taught in schools and churches, and often at home and then they see a system that denies its ideals in actual life. Racial injustice and the war in Vietnam stand out as prime illustrations of our society’s deviation from its professed ideals and of the slowness with which the system reforms itself. That they seemingly can do little to correct the wrongs through conventional political discourse tends to produce in the most idealistic and energetic students a strong sense of frustration.
Many of these idealists have developed with considerable sophistication the thesis that these flaws are endemic in the workings of American democracy.—Cox Commission Report on the Disturbances at Columbia University in April and May 1968.
Don’t trust anyone over thirty.
America is Hard to See: Eugene McCarthy for President: 1968
Crete, Greece.I recently spent 2 weeks at the ‘Oceanis,’ Florinis Street 52, Poros, tel. 284-628, owned and run by George Vlataki and his family—they speak English and also operate a small wine shop in the basement where a litre of red wine costs 6 drachmas (18 cents) and is supplied free with the marvelous 25 drachma dinner. The rooms and facilities are adequate and clean and a double costs 30 drachmas per person ($1). The Vlatakis are also very helpful and warm. The pension is a ten-minute walk from the ferry port to Athens, 5 minutes walk from the beach, and a ten-minute walk from the center of Iraklion and the central Cretan bus terminus.(Alvin I Sher, University of London, England)
Money is not essential for anything that is important in life. In fact, making money only gets in the way. Henry Thoreau explained it a century ago:
The farmer is endeavoring to solve the problem of a livelihood by a formula more complicated than the problem itself. Take care of business, Mr. Businessman, warned Ray Stevens.
You must decide whether you want to be rich or happy. There is no middle ground in your life.
“What the world needs now is love, sweet love.”
To be young. To play. To sing. To make love. To be passionate and intense and unreserved in commitment. To take long journeys. To talk long nights away in earnest conversation. To dream long dreams. To be simple and free. To make the most of work and leisure, nothing a job merely to be done, everything an experience to be bitten and chewed and savored. To be committed. Not to be uptight and not to give a fuck. To relax. To believe. To enjoy. To play and be young.
Children of the sixties are harder workers and harder players than either their parents or their younger brothers and sisters.
A Yes to rival, even to overshadow, the Angry No for which the sixties are so much remembered. “Joy to the World,” to all boys and girls, to the fishes in the deep blue sea, to you and to me. “I just want to celebrate another day of living.” A time for dancing in the streets. Hurry on down to the stoned soul picnic. Block parties. Carnaby Street. The Haight. The height. Beach parties (wish they all could be California girls). Festivals at Monterey and Big Sur and Woodstock. Music. Even the shlock rockers rejoiced. And the philosophers all, without a single exception, came down heavily on the side of Yes.
In 1948 Allen Ginsberg heard a voice:
My first thought was this was what I was born for, and second thought, never forget—never forget, never renig, never deny. Never deny the voice—no never forget it, don’t get lost mentally wandering in other spirit worlds or American or job worlds or advertising worlds or war worlds or earth worlds. But the spirit of the universe was what I was born to realize.
The dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Yes.
We are stardust.
We are golden.
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden.
And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make.