Saturday, August 15, 2009

Cymbal #24:: Forty Years Since Woodstock

It's a good day to assess your relationship with classic rock. It's been exactly 40 years since ground zero for the "Sixties" as a creation, as package of phenomena and emotion, even an extract of the spectrum. Viz.: Max Yasgur - unlikely countercultural hero, a raison d'etre for classic rock stations, beads and tie dye and vans, a way for every damn festival anywhere to get uppity.

The problem is that, musically, there's the hint of a doubt that it was just a bit run of the mill, wasn't it? The music had long been released. The greatest bands of the decade had already been to Monterey and to Altamont. Are you sure we aren't reverse engineering the event to get to the music?

The alleged high point of the festival is that cover of "A Little Help From my Friends". In my opinion, it strips the song of it's sly deviance on one hand and its neediness, and replaces it with the anonymous warmth and shriekiness of an arena rock song. It falters in at least three places, emphasizes nothing in particular and has that hideous falsetto going on. And some spastic air guitar.

Joe Cocker - With a Little Help From My Friends

Which digs pretty close to the root of my problem with the "Sixties" qua mythos. It's a warm pablum mashup of love and drugs and irresponsibility. And above all, the endless self congratulation. It's great to drop out and tune in, but one day you might realise you've named a daughter (or worse, a son) Galadriel. The local kidergarten will likely express concern.

Crossby, Stills and Nash - A Long Time Gone

Real magic, and real rock and roll, have evil in them, and hunting and violence and anger. Listen to the drums in the distance, hearts pound at the atavism. Someone must bleed at the stake for the sun to rise.

Santana - Soul Sacrifice

And not I, nor anyone, can deny electricity it's place in the universe.

Jimi Hendrix - Voodoo Child

If you asked me point blank, and gave me no room to weasel, then yes, I'd admit it. I wish I had been there. I wish I had spent those days in the mud watching belief turn the pages of the generational calender. Since I couldn't, I must nitpick. :-)
And of course, a happy Independence Day to all Indian readers!

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