Thursday, October 8, 2009

GMVW # 92: "A Quantum Leap (the 60's)"

Gem Music Video of the Week # 92:  A Quantum Leap (the 60’s)
Song:  Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival 
(Songwriter: John Fogerty)
October 8, 2009

No one disputes that the 1960’s were a tumultuous and contentious period.  The breadth of opinions, ranging from praise to disdain, on the 60’s counter culture and its influence on subsequent generations bares this out.  But set aside for a moment the powerful images of the time: Vietnam, protests, peace, hippies, drugs, and assassinations.  Strip the decade down to nothing but rhythm and beat.  What you are left with is a massive bounty of magnificent music.  And although revolutionary in and of itself, the music also defined the era within which it took place, just as much if not more so than how much that era defined it.  Rock music of the period was a quantum leap from what preceded, and on its own will forever thwart any attempt at historical revision of the times and their full meaning (good and bad).  The music is that good.

So, what is the historical meaning of 60’s Rock n Roll and the counter culture that produced it?  For one thing, it’s one of only a handful of periods since the Middle Ages that the West has experimented to any major degree with the non-materialistic philosophies reflective of numerous Far East ‘isms’.  It was also an attempt to connect with Native American culture:  A back to nature lifestyle that brings out individual skills and talents most of us will never know we have.  And although the period would ultimately produce at least as many hypocrites as long-term devotees, it would leave its mark.  Detractors would say it was a radical mark, and when factoring in the drugs and anger, it did indeed get to that point at times.  I suppose that’s what those three aforementioned assassinations can do to an idealistic youth movement. 

Despite the contrarian position of many I respect, I tend to think of the era in a somewhat positive light.  I believe that by bucking established norms, the counter culture forced prior generations to look in the mirror and reevaluate (think: Archie Bunker).  Some hippies likely made their WWII generation parents proud in the long term.  Every so often the establishment needs a good internal kick in the ass.  It’s the only way to counterbalance the tendencies of a successful world power from becoming too bloated, wealth skewed and self centered.  Internal (and peaceful) rebellion against a powerful minority can help to stave off the inevitable fall of great empires.  Historically speaking, the mostly non-violent peace movement of the 60’s was just another example of democracy at work, and hopefully the backlash (which continues to this day) will not induce a premature Tiananmen-like squelching of something like it from ever happening again if the need so arises.

My memories of the 60’s have little in common with the broader reality.  Like most of us, I grew up in a small town (at the time) beyond the suburbs, sheltered from the upheaval going on in cities and on campuses.  One memory of world events does stand out however: I recall thumbing through one of Dad’s Time magazine issues (or was it Life?) and seeing horrific images of what was happening in Vietnam while understanding that these events were not of the past, but of the (then) present. Other than that, I have little to reflect on.  All my remaining memories are personal, of great times with family and cousins (in those days, family and cousins made up the majority of friendships); of Sunday drives, Cape Cod, and birthday parties.

In some ways, the music of the 60’s is similar to other eras:  The lyrics of many songs were about love and happiness.  From here, though, 60’s music branched out all over the place.  What made it most distinct, however, was its songwriter’s signature ability to make classic protest songs.  Musicians of other eras before and after have attempted to write powerful protest music.  Few have come close to capturing the mainstream mood in the way that the collective works of those 60’s songs did.  Amazingly, protest songs in the 60’s were actually commercial successes. They include: Buffalo Springfield ‘For What It’s Worth’; John Lennon’s ‘Power to the People’; The Rolling Stones ‘Street Fighting Man’; CSNY’s ‘Ohio’; The Beatles ‘Revolution’; Bob Dylan’s ‘Hard Rain’; Jefferson Airplane’s ‘Volunteers’; and this week’s Gem, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Fortunate Son’.

The 60’s were also a period of artistic innovation in pop culture.  Not much today equals the style and originality of the concert posters and album covers that were a part of the story of that decade.  In honor, here’s a short list of some of the best rock album covers of all time, including other eras (any of which can be seen by typing the name in Google images):

1. ‘The Basement Tapes’ (Dylan, The Band, and circus performers in a legendary basement….what more could you ask for?)
2. ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ (What do Lenny Bruce, Marlene Dietrich, Edgar Allen Poe, Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, and John Lennnon, all have in common?)
3. ‘Who’s Next’ (What else do you do when you see a large concrete piling protruding from a slag heap by the highway?)
4. ‘The White Album’ (Minimalism at its best.  Whatever happened to ‘The Whiter Album’?)
5. ‘Terrapin Station’ (As if dancing bears and red, white & blue skulls weren’t enough, now dancing turtles?)
6. ‘Murmur’ (An R.E.M. premonition of future success?)
7. ‘Abbey Road' (an ambulance, a license plate, a preacher, a pallbearer, a grave digger, a cigarette, and out-of step bare feet) 
8. ‘Eat a Peach’ (how better to honor a fallen Brother?)
9. ‘Wish You Were Here’ (Sign here on the dotted line, and please don’t read the fine print)
10. ‘Sticky Fingers’ (Déjà vu for Margaret Trudeau)
11. ‘Nevermind’ (Break them in early)
12. ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ (You will not win a staring contest with this guy)

Next up: The 70’s and ‘Great Album Names’.  Again, input is welcome.

Below the Gem video are some other classic songs from the 60’s. Below these are the lyrics to ‘Fortunate Son’.

Peace, Brother!

-              Pete

Gem Music Video Creedence Clearwater Revival: ‘Fortunate Son’

Janis Joplin: ‘Little Girl Blue’

Jefferson Airplane: ‘White Rabbit’

Buffalo Springfield: ‘For What It’s Worth’

Cream: ‘Sunshine of Your Love’

The Byrds: ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’

The Beatles: ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’

The Rolling Stones: ‘Paint it Black’

The Who: ‘Tattoo’

‘Fortunate Son’ lyrics

Some folks are born to wave the flag,
Ooh, they're red, white and blue.
And when the band plays "Hail to the chief",
Ooh, they point the cannon at you, Lord,

It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no senator's son, son.
It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no fortunate one, no,

Some folks are born silver spoon in hand,
Lord, don't they help themselves, oh.
But when the taxman comes to the door,
Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yes,

It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no millionaire's son, no.
It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no fortunate one, no.

Some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord,
And when you ask them, "How much should we give?"
Ooh, they only answer More! more! more! yoh,

It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no military son, son.
It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no fortunate one, one.
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no fortunate one, no no no,
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no fortunate son, no no no,

About the Video: Classic video of the band performing live on a wooden stage, circa 1969?  The camera rolls around the stage.  The video is subtitled ‘At the Movies’.

Video Rating: 1

Best Feedback: Tom

I enjoyed this walk down memory (Lady) Lane immensely!

Nice weekend too,

Cuz Tom

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