PE 1966

Hippies died and Yippies take their place and head to Chicago. Lyndon quit and everybody runs for president. Hair invades Broadway. TV cancels all War Dramas, but adds Gomer Pyle . The oldest Boomers become eligible to vote…Antiheroes flood the big screen and riots in Chicago and assassinations of MLK and RFK  inspire ultraviolent flicks.

1966: Dark Shadows

President Johnson declared in his State of the Union, “The United States will remain in Vietnam until aggression there ends.” According to the polls, LBJ scored high with nearly 70% of the general public. Teenage Boomers rated him zilch, but since none of us were eligible to vote, no one (over thirty) asked for our opinion.

ROCK & ROLL

The Generation Gap dwarfed the Grand Canyonin 1966. If you flipped on Top 40 radio the day of Lyndon’s speech, you probably heard Sgt. Barry Sadler singing the praises of the good soldier in The Ballad of the Green Beret, followed by Lennon’s (He’s a real) Nowhere Man. Or, Frank Sinatra reminiscing on different periods of his long life, declaring after each verse, It Was a Very Good Year, followed by the Who, stuttering “People try to put us down/ Just because we get around/ They don’t dig our hair or clothes/ Hope I die before I get old/ Ta-ta-talking ‘bout my generation.” Teens were California Dreaming with the Mamas and the Papas, except for thousands who had already run away, and then wished that they Homeward Bound like Simon and Garfunkel. The Rolling Stones delivered the Boomer State of the Union: (Here comes your) 19th Nervous Breakdown.

Teenagers rode an emotional roller coaster. Paul Simon boasted of Feeling Groovy one minute, and then appeared isolated and withdrawn the next in I Am a Rock. A year prior, Dylan and Byrds begged, “Take me on a trip upon your magic, swirling ship.” This year, the Beach Boys sailed on board the Sloop John B, felt homesick, and complained, “This is the worst trip I’ve ever been on.” A bit later, the band was (I’m Picking up) Good Vibrations, while ? and the Mysterians cried 96 Tears. The Beatles declared Got to get you into my life, but the Supremes had another idea with, “Get out of my life, why don’t you, Babe?” Again, the Beatles were optimistic, “I can wait forever, I’ve got time,” but not so the Outsiders, who sang “I can’t wait forever/ Time won’t let wait that long.”

We heard songs of great faith from the lightweights: (You’re my) Soul and Inspiration by the Righteous Brothers, I’m a Believer by the Monkees, God Only Knows by the Beach Boys… And songs of no faith from the heavyweights: Dylan sang, “Human Gods… made flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark/ It’s easy to see without looking too far/ That not much is really sacred.” Along that same line, the Beatles told us the story of “Father McKenzie, writing the words of the sermon that no one will hear… All the lonely people/ Where do they all belong?” Perhaps aboard the Yellow Submarine? The Stones nixed the idea, “No colors anymore/ I want to paint it black.”

The radio played tunes that created images of ideal love, as in Soul and Inspiration and Cherish, and reflections of raunchy, get-down lure in (My Baby does the) Hanky Panky and Wild Thing. Even eternal teens, the Beach Boys, admitted that they lusted in their hearts, in Wouldn’t It Be Nice (“If we could sleep together?”). Cherish wasn’t a word to be found in the vocabulary of the Rolling Stones in 1966 in (Look at that) Stupid Girl and (She’s) Under My Thumb.

Nothing was simple… black and white… clearly right or wrong. Even the names of the groups were confusing. The Lovin’ Spoonful (Mary Poppins’ Spoonful of Sugar, or a junkie’s spoonful of smack?) felt up with What a Day for a Daydream, then down with “Hot town, ‘Summer in the City’ / Back of neck feeling dirty and gritty,” and then perfectly happy again with “You and me and ‘Rain on the Roof.’” Finally, even they had to admit that “It ain’t often easy, It ain’t often kind/ Did you ever have to make up your mind?”

In an intense comeback attempt, Phil Spector reflected the wide spectrum of changes going on inside our heads, as he produced River Deep, Mountain High for Ike and Tina Turner. But he used the same old Wall of Sound technique and the record flopped. Spector announced his retirement at the age of 26.

Defense Secretary McNamara revealed on March 2nd that US troop strength in Vietnam already topped 215,000, with 20,000 more Boomers on the way to the combat zone. That same month, the Beach Boys declared, “I feel so broke up, I want to go home,” and Peter, Paul and Mary released The Cruel War. Dylan, with tongue firmly in cheek, declared, “Everybody must get stoned.” Why not? The Great Society sends you half way around the world to get stoned in the Biblical sense, so why not stone yourself in a way that’s a lot more fun? The Byrds soared Eight Miles High in the “5-D” (Fifth Dimension), tripping with Mr. Space Man. The Stones’ Mother’s Little Helper pointed out that pill popping had become a traditional, popular sport for our hypocritical elders. The Beatles confirmed their diagnosis with a second opinion in Dr. Roberts. Dylan observed that Boomer daughters had inherited a pill-popping habit from their moms: “With your amphetamines and pearls… Just like a woman.”

The Association celebrated the arrival and acceptance of marijuana into mainstream pop culture, with Along Comes Mary. The Beatles encouraged us to “Turn off your mind and gently float upstream,” as the Trade Winds offered to take us on a Mind Excursion. Kicks attempted to be an anti-drug song, but Boomers interpreted the line “Kicks just keep getting harder to find” to mean that supply fell far short of a rapidly growing demand among young people. Teens rejected the recreational vehicles of the past, such as booze, prescription uppers and downers, and searched for kicks of their own. Pot was king, with LSD catching on fast. Donovan boldly (and erroneously) predicted the future: “Elec-a-tricka banana (smoking banana peels), it’s bound to be the very next craze.”

Before AM radio station managers and parents deciphered the hidden, trippy lyrics on several new records, the damage had been done. Dr. Timothy Leary spread the word for years, but Boomers heard the message for the first time: “Tune in, turn on, drop out.”

TELEVISION

Teens turned off Television. The network cancelled Gidget because kids refused to be sucked back into the beach scene. Then Shindig and Hullabaloo bit the dust… Go-go dancers and lip synch looked too phony now. TV offered teenagers a compromise, and tried to coax them back to the innocent, I-Wanna-Hold-Your-Hand era with The Monkees (modeled after the Beatles’ movie, A Hard Day’s Night). But the TV program had none of the rebellious spark of the flick. Don Kirshner put the package together, and his old Brill Building ex-assembly-line songwriters cranked out most of the songs on the show. Some Boomers (mostly 9 to 12 year-olds) took the bait, but First-Wavers just laughed. The Monkees exposed glaring proof of the communication gap…the exact opposite of the direction in which Rock & Roll was headed.

Boomers laughed even harder at Batman. Again, the networks aimed at the vast Boomer market, and completely missed the mark. War Babies bought American Dreamish DC Comics, such as Batman, Superman and The Flash, back in the dark ages of the 1950s. Boomer kids read the much hipper, Marvel Comics, including Dr. Strange, Spiderman, Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four, Captain America and The Incredible Hulk in the ‘60s. Because of this incredible misunderstanding, Batman became the first “camp” (Cannabis Aided Mass Popularity) TV series of the Baby Boomer Generation. The Caped Crusader acted just too good to be true… a hilarious bore, completely predictable and superficial, and yet, he displayed all of the correct characteristics and behavior that society had shoved down Boomers’ throats since birth. But the fact remains that Batman was a moron. Kids began to notice similarities between him and the heroes on serious law-and-order TV programs, thus diminishing their credibility. In fact, teens lost respect for most of the establishment’s champions of justice, and created their own counterculture heroes instead.

The television network remained clueless as they tried to slip in an old WASP favorite, Tarzan, into primetime. Since “uppity Blacks” at home, and “yellow Commie devils” abroad gave Lyndon such a hard time, TV decided that a little reminder of White Supremacy was in order. Television’s first Tarzan, Ron Ely, appeared naturally stronger, smarter and braver than all the Blacks in Africa. The Great White Hope defeated whole tribes of the inferior race without breaking a sweat. TV axed Tarzan right about the time of the Tet Offensive of 1968, when those sneaky Asian Commies caught us by surprise, and then seriously kicked some white butts.

The Green Hornet, the only new superhero on the tube with enough common sense to realize that some non-Whites may be equal, or even superior, hired Bruce Lee (as Kato) to watch his back. Who would you rather have on your side in a real fight, the Boy Wonder or Bruce?

The superhero shows in 1966 tried to provide little Boomer boys with macho role models, but how about their sisters? They received That Girl, a young, single woman with a career, making it on her own. Unfortunately, that girl was Marlo Thomas, child of Danny, the perfect 50’s parent on Make Room for Daddy. Marlo had a Teen Idol Era look: False eyelashes, stiff helmet hairdo and Mod clothing, just as First Wave Boomer girls moved out of Barbieville.

As teens tuned out, ratings dropped, and the networks wallowed in the mire. The titles of the new programs reflected their mood. Dark Shadows (with vampires) premiered as the only new soap opera, Rat Patrol as the new war show, and Felony Squad as the new law-and-order show. Could they win hippie Boomer teens back to tube with their new spy thriller? Mission Impossible.

MOVIES

Boomers lost all faith in television as a tool to provide role models and morals, and turned en masse to the silver screen for more accurate reflections. Just beyond the American Dream’s perfect love/marriage/family myth, came another British Invasion, this time of films about broken marriages and empty affairs: Alfie, Morgan, Georgie Girl, and a carryover from 1965, Darling. Buffy Sainte-Marie sang, “Don’t ask forever of me, just love me now” on the radio, and teens reconsidered attitudes toward love and sex. Teen girls tried to explain, “But Mom, you didn’t have the pill as an option when you were my age. The world isn’t flat anymore.”

Boomers couldn’t find any relevant heroes on either the tube or big screen in 1966, so they began their first serious celluloid flirtation with antiheroes. War Babies had Brando in The Wild One back in the Dark Ages, but Marlon and his biker buddies spent all of their time boozing, cruising, bruising and terrorizing just for the hell of it. Boomer kids identified more with The Wild Angels… a bunch of long-haired, pot-smoking, acid-dropping (Ken Kesey turned on the real Hell’s Angels in 1965) hippieish bikers, just looking for a little space. The Angels never played the aggressors in these stories; instead, they appeared as innocent victims of an oppressive police state. Peter Fonda astride his chopper looked just as romantic an image to Boomers as his father, atop his steed had for our parents. But now, the quest was no longer to tame the wild frontier, but to escape Big Brother… to hang on to your freedom and individuality at any cost.

The antihero in Fahrenheit 451 faced the same challenge in a society where television grew all-consuming and “firemen” burned books in an effort to “make history more flexible and to maintain sameness among the masses.” This movie inspired a few Boomers to drastic action… they actually began to read. 1984, Animal Farm, Stranger in a Strange Land, Catch 22 and Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest all contained a favorite hippie theme similar to that in Fahrenheit 451: “Who should be called sane in an insane society?”

Americans watched TV news in horror as nightmare images filled their living rooms with mass murderers, Richard Speck (eight student nurses, stabbed and strangled in Chicago) and Charles Whitman (13 cut down and 31 wounded in a sniper attack from a tower at the University of Texas at Austin), more race riots (the biggest in Cleveland’s Hough Ghetto), a riot of WASP kids on the Sunset Strip, growing antiwar demonstrations at the White House and at Dow Chemical (makers of napalm and Agent Orange) headquarters, as McNamara calmly announced to the press that more than 2,000 American kids died in Vietnam during the first five months of the year, and that more than 285,000 Boomer teens were now in the combat zone.

ROCK & ROLL

Dylan sang, “Sooner or later one of us must know/ And only time will tell/ Which one of us has fell/ And which one was left behind/ When you go your way and I’ll go mine.” Boomers dropped out of the Great Society in droves, but where were they headed?

Boomers turned away from TV, traditionalHollywoodfilms and Top 40 radio for the remainder of the decade, and instead, searched for better reflections in counterculture flicks, underground newspapers and psychedelic music from small, independent FM radio stations. They dug a subterranean counterculture Teen Utopia all their own.

“Who could imagine that they would freak out in Minnesota, mina-mina-mina-Minnesota?” mocked Frank Zappa in the title cut of his first album, Freak Out, in late 1966. It was true… Boomers all over theUnited States rapidly converted to hippism.

Dylan warned in Subterranean Homesick Blues, “Look out, Kid, they keep it all hid,” and the obscure lyrics cleared the censors, and gave Bob his first Top 40 hit. Zappa didn’t care about his chance on pop radio in Trouble Every Day: “And there ain’t no Great Society as it applies to you and me/ Our country isn’t free and the law refuses to see/ That all you can ever be is just a lousy janitor/ Unless your uncle owns the store.” Frank belonged to a new breed of Rock musicians who mocked hit singles and Bandstand. The Mothers of Invention packed them in on the Sunset Strip and didn’t need the Music Establishment. In Who Are the Brain Police? Zappa enticed Boomers to question traditional values: “Is that what you really believe, or is it what the media hype and your mama told you to believe?” First Wave Boomers understood, and then began to resent all the media manipulation and censorship on TV and AM radio. As Zappa continued to insult everyone, including his fans, the audience grew: “You’re probably wondering why I’m here/ Not that you care, you plastic freaks.” The Mothers traveled toNew York in the fall and advertised their show as “Absurd and a total waste of three dollars.” Anti-hype instantly caught on with the counterculture.

The music scenes in LA and NYC were just a seed in the lid compared to the explosion in San Francisco. An estimated 1,000 psychedelic rock bands called the Bay area home by 1967. San Franciscoalready claimed the title of “dropout capitol of the West Coast” (Greenwich Villagein the East), dating back to the Beat era and Kerouac’s On the Road. Hippies and freaks fit right in. Freedom of Speech headquarters lay just across the bay at Berkeley, and underground newspapers, like the Berkeley Barb and Mojo Navigator put the real buzz out into the community.

MIND EXPANDING DRUGS

As might be expected, the US government supplied the largest single contribution in the development of the counterculture. They selected Ken Kesey as one of their $75-a-day human guinea pigs for a “mind control” experiment with LSD at Menlo Park Clinic in late 1959 and early 1960 (before Leary’s research at Harvard). Ken helped himself to some free samples, and soon he and friends back at Perry Lane conducted their own experiments. They deduced that LSD was a mind-expanding, rather than a mind-controlling drug, and thus, felt compelled to spread the good news to the freak community. By 1965, Kesey, Augustus Owsley Stanley III (“The Henry Ford of acid”), a little-known band called the Warlocks (who soon renamed themselves the Grateful Dead) and a group of Ken’s friends presented The Merry Pranksters’ Acid Tests. Kesey explained his mission: “As navigator of this venture, I try, as much as possible to set out in a direction that, in the first place, is practically impossible to achieve, and then along the way mess up the minds of the crew with as many chemicals as we can lay our hands on.” With everyone in the proper frame of mind, the Pranksters proceeded with their mixed media experience: strobe lights, movie projections, taped sound effects, live cosmic raps, black lights, and some stoned-out Rock & Roll from Jerry Garcia and company, in an effort to provide a thought-provoking, mind-expanding experience and a lot of fun. The performers encouraged the audience to join in the fun, as Garcia explained: “We all preferred the anarchy of the Tests in a lot of ways. Every person was a participant and everywhere was the stage. We didn’t have to entertain anybody. We were no more famous than anybody else.”

Teens considered LSD a noble, brain-building exercise in 1966… just the thing to help shed the blind faith tunnel vision of their elders. Hippies and freaks rejected the Great Society, and the human mind became their New Frontier. They expected to explore time and space, and then to push imagination to the limit in search of a better world.

TELEVISION

TV claimed to be hip to the scene, but as usual, stumbled in the wrong direction with It’s About Time. Plot: two astronauts broke though the time barrier and crash-landed in a prehistoric cave-dwelling neighborhood. In Irwin Allen’s The Time Tunnel the heroes bounce helplessly from past to future and back again, but were never able to connect with the present. (television networks suffered from that same affliction throughout the ‘60s.) TV finally took a lucky stab and hit a spot where teens might find happiness… aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, working in harmony to rid the universe of evil for the benefit of all. The crew included women, Blacks, Asians, a Russian, aliens, and even a Scotsman! The well-written scripts were usually thinly disguised studies of contemporary social problems, cloaked in extraterrestrial settings. Star Trek reflected the highest ideals and aspirations of teens… definitely the classic show of the entire Flower Power ear. Unfortunately, hippies didn’t own TV sets and none of them bought the sponsors’ products. Most of them didn’t see Star Trek the first time around.

ROCK & ROLL

Very few members of the hippie/freak counterculture held steady jobs, and “rent parties” became an acceptable way of raising money without selling out to the system. Plenty of garage bands in the San Francisco bay area played free every weekend. Everyone chipped in a buck or two at the door, to postpone the money hassles of everyday living for another month. Local Teens asked themselves, “Let’s see. Should I 1) live on the mean streets, or 2) work forty hours-a-week at minimum wage, or 3) host a rent party once a month for a place to live?” A no-brainer for young people at the time. An enterprising group of kids known as The Family Dog decided to try it on a large scale. They borrowed money from their parents, rented the Longshoreman’s Auditorium, tacked up colorful flyers all over town, and on October 16, 1965, put on a concert called Tribute to Dr. Strange. The show featured The Jefferson Airplane and The Great Society (with Gracie Slick), and was such a hit that the following week The Dog added a light show in A Tribute to Sparkle Plenty with the Lovin’ Spoonful.

The ultra political San Francisco Mime Troupe desperately needed money to pay the legal fees from the frequent obscenity busts, and the Family Dog shows impressed their manager. Bill Graham organized a benefit, introducing New York City’s Fugs to the West Coast. The band wowed the audience with such underground classics as I Couldn’t Get High and Kill for Peace. Graham then put together a three-day “Trips Festival” for the Merry Pranksters at the Longshoremen’s on January 21-3, 1966. Anarchy ruled. Someone slipped LSD to the rent-a-cops, last seen playing with a Slinky. But one thing did become clear at this chaotic concert… people paid to see the bands, Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Grateful Dead, not for the psychedelic “experience.” Rock stepped forward as the dominant force of the counterculture.

The success of the Trips Festival amazed Bill Graham, and he searched for a permanent home for hippie concerts. He found the Fillmore Auditorium (capacity- 1,500) in the heart ofSan Francisco’s ghetto and teamed up with a couple of guys from the Family Dog to get it open. But they needed a bigger hall to hold the egos involved, and the two Dogs went to look for their own place. They grabbed the Avalon (capacity- 1,600), just a mile away.

All of the elements fell into place for the SF Psychedelic Music Scene: the bands, the drugs and venues to play. The hippies and freaks created their own music industry, ignoring most of the rules along the way. Paul Kantner of the Jefferson Airplane commented, “Nobody (of the kids in SF) listened to Top 40. We didn’t start out wanting to be on the radio or even working in that direction. We didn’t want to know anything about that stuff.” Teens didn’t swarm to the Fillmore and Avalon for a note-for-note rehash of hit singles. They expected a new and unique rendition each time and bands delivered. Pace and length varied each performance and groups like the Dead would often stretch a tune out for twenty minutes or more with long improvisations. If it felt good, the band played on. Marty Balin declared, “The stage is our bed and the audience is our broad.”

The chauvinistic counterculture movement improved a bit in 1966 as Janis Joplin joined Big Brother and Grace Slick dumped the Great Society in October to front the Jefferson Airplane. Now, two Queen Bees ruled the hive.

Teens felt great strength in brother (and finally, sister)hood. The counterculture formed its own society, dedicated to survival outside the system. Zappa sang a new Declaration of Independence:

Mr.America, walk on by/ Your schools that do not teach

Mr.America, walk on by/ The minds that won’t be reached

Mr.Americatry to hide the emptiness that’s you inside

But once you find that the way you lied and all the corny tricks you tried

Will not forestall the rising tide/ Of Hungry Freaks, Daddy…

Those who aren’t afraid to say what’s on their minds

The left-behinds of the Great Society.

Or, was that a Declaration of War and a shot at LBJ? On the opposite coast the Fugs sang, “If we don’t kill them, the Chinese will/ And you don’t want America to play second fiddle/ So, kill, kill, kill for peace.”

Dark Shadows, indeed, and things would get even darker. Bob Dylan broke his neck in a motorcycle accident on July 29th, and rumors circulated that he lay near death. California elected the new Old Ranger from Death Valley as Governor on November 8th. WASP kids rioted on the Sunset Strip. Walt Disney turned in his rodent ears on December 15th and asked to be placed on ice, with a wake-up call for better times.

Lyndon’s camp blamed the whole mess on a few drug-crazed hippies, but the Establishment got a shock on December 30th as The New York Times published (on page one) an open letter signed by several hundred student body presidents and college newspaper editors protesting the war in Vietnam: “Unless this conflict can be eased, the United States will find some of her most loyal and courageous young people choosing to go to jail rather than to bear their country’s arms.”

“… And only time will tell which one of us has fell and which one was left behind when you go your way and I’ll go mine.”

PE 1967 Summer of Love

Flower Power…America: Love it or Leave it or Make Love, Not War. A meeting of the hippie tribes at Monterey (where Boomers discover Jimi Hendrix)…Sgt Pepper confuses AM…Abbie Hoffman. The Great Society attacks the Rising Tide of Hungry Freaks, Daddy (Zappa). Hippies ridicule traditional American symbols and hold a Death to Hip ceremony.

1967: No new Soap Operas titles, hints or comments from the man.

Flower Power exploded into full bloom during the summer of 1967, and at the same time America experienced the worst inner city riots in history. The Beatles told us that All You Need Is Love, but President Johnson announced, “America needs a force of at least half a million soldiers (Boomer boys) to win the war inVietnam.” Choose your bumper sticker: “America- Love It or Leave It” or “Make Love, Not War.”

Hippies didn’t own TVs, and this had an interesting effect on the most thinly disguised reflections on the tube. No new soap opera titles premiered in 1967. The networks refused to leak any clues as to the mood of the country for reasons of national security. But the cover-up only half worked. Dig just a bit deeper and you realize that elimination can be just as revealing as addition. The networks cancelled To Tell the Truth and Candid Camera in 1967. There would be nothing candid and very little truth on the tube this year.

The Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Hour stood out as the only new television program worth watching. Tom and Dick constantly walked the razor’s edge of censorship. Ex-black list survivor, Pete Seeger, starred on their premiere show, singing his anti-Vietnam tune, Waist Deep in Muddy Water. The Smothers continued to push topical political issues throughout their run, even though they faced heavy censorship and the threat of cancellation on a week-to-week basis.

The TV networks gave up on the growing hippie market and aimed directly at innocent, younger Boomers. The new game plan tried to give the kids a good, hard look at the American Dream with fun new shows like The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, Dream Girl of ‘67 and Supermarket Sweepstakes. What more could a teenager expect from life? But TV warned young Boomers, “If you stray from the accepted norms of society and fall under the influences of the Dark Side (the counterculture), The Man has both Coasts covered with Dragnet (in LA) and N.Y.P.D.

The Western genre experienced a revival when the old Texan entered the White House. But now, Lyndon’s popularity waned in the polls. A growing dissatisfaction with his Vietnam policy chipped away at LBJ’s image, and reflected in the two new horse operas on TV in 1967. In Cowboy in Africa, the hero attempted to bring his pioneer spirit and the Code of the West half way around the world into a foreign, modern day setting. The show flopped, as did The Legend of Custer. Both shows appeared to be omens of Lyndon’s Last Stand in Vietnam.

ROCK & ROLL

If one had to choose an exact date when First Wave Boomers turned off TV, a good guess might be January 13, 1967. That night Ed Sullivan forced the Rolling Stones to sing Let’s Spend Some Time Together, instead of Let’s Spend the Night Together. Every teenager in America knew the title of the song and his blatant censorship didn’t fool anyone. One would think that old Ed might have learned a lesson from his “Show-nothing-from-the-waist-down” fiasco with Presley, but apparently not. Prior to the show, an innocent interpretation of the lyrics might have been “Let’s hang out together this evening,” but once Ed censored the line, millions of Boomers arrived at the same conclusion: “If the lyrics upset Old Stoneface, the song’s about fornicating!” The tune became a huge hit for the Stones.

Boomers tuned in to two songs inspired by the riots and ensuing crackdown on WASP teens on the Sunset Strip. The message far outweighed the talent of an LA garage band called the Seeds in You’re Pushing Too Hard (“on me/ What you want me to be?/ You’re pushing too hard about the things I say/ You’re pushing too hard every night and day/ You’d better watch out”). The Buffalo Springfield warned, “Something’s happening here/ What it is ain’t exactly clear/ There’s a man with a gun over there/ Telling me to beware… Step out of line the Man will come and take you away/ You’d better stop, Children. What’s that sound? Everybody look what’s coming down.”

The Beatles finally released a single to celebrate the New Year: “Let me take you down, because I’m going to Strawberry Fields (the location of an orphanage/asylum run by the Salvation Army in Liverpool)/ Nothing is real and nothing to get hung about/ Strawberry Fields forever.” If the Great Society served as the yardstick of sanity, then it would be, from this point onward, an honor in hippie circles to be considered as a potential inmate of Strawberry Fields. The little flurry of backwards music as a tag for the song made the perfect exclamation mark for the statement.

Ironically, the Beatles’ last live concert took place in San Francisco’s CandlestickParkin August of 1966, just as a wave of psychedelia overwhelmed the music industry. Instead of fighting the trend, and attempting to pull the Boomer audience back to a safer ground of good-time Rock, (where the band ruled as heavyweight champ) the Beatles decided to go with the flow. They created a sound more psychedelic than anything originating out of San Francisco. The lads spent more than 700 hours recording Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (as opposed to only twelve hours on their first album), and all of their hard work produced what many critics consider as the most important LP of our generation. The album is without question the most accurate reflection of the era and it revolutionized the music industry. Sgt. Pepper stunned their fans. Kids stopped dancing and then sat down to listen. Many Top 40 AM stations interrupted their normal programming, and, for the first time ever, played an album in its entirety over and over again. Radio stations had no choice. Teens insisted. No singles could be pulled for release because the album presented a cohesive opus with a theme. None of the cuts fit Top 40 formulas, and the songs confused AM stations and record companies. Music critics finally admitted that Rock & Roll might indeed be a legitimate art form. Rapt teens listened to “She’s leaving home after living alone for so many years,” and then, the Beatles added hope: “Does it worry you to be alone?/ No, I get by… I get high… I’m going to try with a little help from my friends.” One didn’t have to be a genius to reduce the title of the next cut, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, to the initials LSD. Band manager Brian Epstein begged his boys to stay away from controversial material but he no longer controlled them. The Beatles belonged to the counterculture (and vice versa).

As might be expected, Rock Hysteria raised its ugly head again. The press renamed Haight-Ashbury, “LSDisneyland,” and a local bus line offered visitors a tour of “The only foreign country on American soil.” Time, Newsweek, Look, Life and major newspapers droned on about runaways, delinquency, bad trips, VD and teen orgies.

London’s Evening Standard asked John Lennon for his views on organized religion in February of 1966. John honestly and accurately commented on the decline of the churches’ influence on modern society, and casually remarked, “It’s sad, but we’re more popular than Jesus now.” The remark went unnoticed in England, but five months later on the eve of the Beatles’ American tour, ugly headlines screamed, “Beatles Claim to be Bigger Than Christ!” A wave of anti-Beatles demonstrations spread across the South and clergymen, God-fearing AM stations and the KKK organized bonfires of their records. 35 radio stations banned their music, from New York to Salt Lake City. Pastor Thurmond Babbs of Cleveland threatened to excommunicate anyone who attended a Beatles concert. The audience threw trash and firecrackers at the band on stage in Memphis, as the Klansmen held a demonstration just outside the doors.

Paul McCartney announced in 1967 that SPLHCB did indeed drop a tab of acid from time to time. Even Brian Epstein admitted to experimenting a bit, but quickly added, “That was before LSD was declared illegal.” That statement was the final straw for many American parents. They had considered the Beatles as a safe alternative to bad boy groups like the Rolling Stones, but now, apparently even the Fab Four had been corrupted by the devil’s music.

Hollywood dusted off the Rock Hysteria genre and popped out Riot on the Sunset Strip (shades of High School Confidential), in which a cop’s daughter gets drugged and raped by LA hippies. The picture flopped.

Dick Clark called psychedelic music “the death of Rock & Roll.” Law enforcement agencies in every major city in America cracked down on teenage runaways, underage prostitutes, loiterers, panhandlers and dopers, but too late. Unlike wimpy teenagers from the First Golden Age of R&R in the 1950s, Boomers had an international communication network to rely on. The War Babies’ Army had been only half as big, and Boomer teens felt a special kinship, with Lyndon and his dirty little war as the common enemies. Boomer rebels were not without a cause.

MOVIES

Hollywood couldn’t afford any more flops like Riot on the Sunset Strip. If the kids wanted outlaws, misfits, rebels and antiheroes, so be it. The studios offered Bonnie and Clyde. Clyde, a good-hearted, bungling bank robber, thought of himself as a modern day Robin Hood, but was actually a cold-blooded killer who couldn’t get it up. When he finally does make it with Bonnie, the audience feels that Clyde now has a substitute for violence, and the two fugitives will probably give up their life of crime and settle down to raise a family. But in Hollywood, the bad guys must always pay for their sins, and thus a few hundred rounds from the good guys riddle the two outlaws just before the closing credits roll.

Boomers enjoyed The Graduate even more. Dustin Hoffman didn’t look or act like Cary Grant or Warren Beatty. He was a short, low-key guy with a big nose… just the kind of kid who Boomers could identify with. A friend of his father confided in Benjamin at his graduation party: “I’ve got just one word to say to you, Son. Plastics. The future is plastic.” Benjamin searched for the meaning of that word and found it in the world of his parents… cold, empty, lonely and phony old people everywhere. Money and security couldn’t compensate one for such a plastic life, and Ben decided to follow his heart rather than the good advice of his elders. He grabbed his girl and ran. The last shot of the film hit the teenager audience hard. The script called for the two fugitives to hop on the bus, laughing as happy refugees of that plastic world, but the scene just didn’t feel right to director, Mike Nichols. He forced the young couple to repeat the action over and over again. By the 30th take, Hoffman and Katherine Ross, tired and upset and on the verge of tears, felt very insecure. “Print and wrap!” Just the feeling that Nichols wanted as the perfect ending for the film. Millions of Boomer kids left home this year with those same mixed emotions… but they hoped that they could make it with a little help from their friends.

The soundtrack for The Graduate by Simon and Garfunkel blended perfectly with the story. Sounds of Silence and Mrs. Robinson captured the feeling of alienation that Boomers had for their parents, and Big, Bright, Green Pleasure Machine mocked the elder sets’ all-consuming passion for the dollar. The film raked in lots of those, and instantly rock scores became acceptable for mainstream Hollywood.

The first major Rock documentary hit the screen in ‘67, with Don’t Look Back. Teens waited two long years for a peek at Dylan’s 1965 European Tour. Bob held cue cards in the opening scene for a counterculture sing-along of Subterranean Homesick Blues. Allen Ginsberg, representing the Beats (of the War Baby Generation), pranced in the background to the song that first united folk protest lyrics with a solid R & R beat. Concert footage shows British Boomers falling right in step with Dylan’s music.

“What we have here is failure to communicate,” the authority figure lectured rebellious, antihero Cool Hand Luke. How right he was, and how ironic, that in the year that America celebrated the installation of the 100,000,000th phone (we now owned more than half the phones in the world), Boomer teens barely spoke to their parents. Hollywood offered a wonderful reflection of the event with The President’s Analyst. James Coburn’s star patient confides that the phone company is on the verge of overthrowing the United States Government. This black comedy seemed a little too realistic for teens and young adults currently reading 1984 and Brave New World while discussing the evils of Big Brother.

What is a Hippie? Answer: “Someone who questions authority.” What is the favorite question of a hippie? Answer: “In an insane society, who should be called sane?” The theme reflected best in King of Hearts, a film about a small French village, surrounded by the German and British/Scottish Armies during WWII. The citizens flee in terror in anticipation of a bloody battle, leaving the town in the hands of forgotten inmates at the local insane asylum. The lunatics escape, and then have a wonderful time playing the roles of normal merchants and tradesmen…until two opposing armies converge on the town. The whackos stop to watch the soldiers marching round and round the town square, just out of view of each other. Finally, one Private glances over his shoulder and spots the enemy. The two armies halt, turn and fire in an orderly fashion, and wipe each other out down to the last man. The inmates wildly applaud the spectacle, thinking it to be nothing more than a game. The crazies think it inconceivable that these men would actually kill each other. The village returns to normal by sundown… the Allied Forces take control of the area, the sane citizens resume their lives and the lunatics return to the asylum. As the Army marches away to its next battle, one soldier (played by Alan Bates) considers the situation and decides to desert. He stands naked at the gates of the asylum in the last shot, begging for them to let him in. He chose Strawberry Fields Forever over battlefields… and millions of Boomer boys agreed with his decision.

ROCK & ROLL

We didn’t get to see the Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour in 1967. The lads were finally on their own because Brian Epstein (“Don’t do anything too controversial”) died of a drug overdose. The Beatles celebrated their new freedom by producing and directing a film. It aired in Britain, but the finished product shocked American network executives. They expected a nice little song and dance film from the Fab Four, but instead received what they considered as a drug-inspired, psychedelic bit of insanity. Needless to say, American TV refused to play the show.

The Beatles belonged to the counterculture and other groups climbed on board. The Big Mamas of Motown, the Supremes, in March sang, “It shook me, took me right out of my world/ It happened to me and it could happen to you… The Happening.” Peter, Paul and Mary pulled in folk music purists with I Dig Rock & Roll Music: “But if I really say it/ The radio won’t play it/ Unless I lay it between the lines.” The tribes gathered together. The music on FM radio became their 6 o’clock news. The Rascals were Grooving (“Couldn’t get away too soon”). Aretha Franklin, in April, revived Otis Redding’s prior request, and now she demanded Respect. The Grass Roots created a new anthem for Boomers in May: Let’s Live for Today, and Scott McKenzie recommended, “If you’re going to San Francisco/ Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.” The Association claimed that you would find a beautiful girl named Windy there, “Tripping down the streets of the city, smiling at everybody she sees.” But they warned, “Windy has stormy eyes that flash at the sound of lies.” Even prefab puberty rockers, the Monkees, attacked the American Dream with Pleasant Valley Sunday (“Here inStatusSymbolLand”). All of this served as an overture to the real Summer of Love. The Doors seized the number one spot in June: “You know that it would be untrue/ You know that I would be a liar/ If I was to say to you/ Girl, we couldn’t get much higher/ Come on, Baby, Light My Fire.”

American parents gasped as Britain chose the Beatles as their representatives on an international live broadcast of Our World for 200,000,000 viewers. Lennon and McCartney composed All You Need Is Love for the occasion, and the band performed the tune with a sing-along choir of celebrities and friends. At that moment, Boomers truly believed that the magic of Rock & Roll would change the world for the better.America’s mainstream press claimed that the counterculture scene remained isolated to San Francisco, with an occasional flare up in Los Angeles and New York City, but now, the Beatles demonstrated that this was an international movement (or epidemic, for those over thirty).

American Boomers still craved their own arena… one specific place and time where all the tribes could gather to show their force to the world. In mid-June 50,000 hippies and freaks (most of them without money for tickets) showed up for the 3-day music festival at the Monterey County Fairgrounds (capacity- 7,100). A low-budget film crew cranked away as the kids turned on to sitar music from Ravi Shankar, Funk from Booker T & the MGs, Motown (Detroit) Soul from Otis Redding, Chicago Blues from the Butterfield Blues Band, Pure Folk from Laura Nero and Simon and Garfunkel, Folk Rock from the Byrds and the Mamas and Papas, SF Psychedelic from Big Brother (with Janis), the Grateful Dead and the Airplane, Hard Rock & Boogie from LA, the Buffalo Springfield and Canned Heat, and from Britain, the Who and Eric Burton’s New Animals. Tens of thousands of WASP teens heard for the first time a wonderful blend of world music that had never played on Top 40 radio. To hell with the established Music Industry… Boomers chose their own music from this day forward.

As a climax to the event, America discovered Jimi Hendrix. He could do it all. Jimi played roots Rock with Little Richard, funky R&B with the Isley Brothers, and lots of Soul and Blues on the “Chitlin’ Circuit.” He dug Dylan, and if Bob had the nerve to sing with that terrible voice, then so could Jimi. Hendrix didn’t have much initial success as he fronted a group at little clubs like the Café Wha? in Greenwich Village for $25 a night. But Chas Chandler of the Animals spotted Hendrix and convinced him to come to England, where he teamed Jimi up with Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell to form the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The band burned up all of Europe. The Experience remained a rumor here in America, and hadn’t even been asked to play at Monterey until Paul McCartney recommended the group.

The Experience managed to grab the closing spot on the bill, but they would have to follow two tough acts. The Who climaxed their set with My Generation. Townsend leaped all over the stage and smashed his guitar to bits, as Daltrey swung his microphone over his head and then crashed it on the cymbals as smoke bombs exploded. Next up, Jerry Garcia of the Dead wasted no time in winning over the crowd: “Folding chairs are for folding up and dancing on.” The audience obeyed. Finally, the unknown Experience took the stage and the crowd sat dumbfounded through the first couple of numbers. They had never seen or heard anything like Jimi. Hendrix plowed into a heavy-duty version of Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone and the audience snapped out of its trance and leaped to their feet. Jimi played his guitar with his teeth, behind his back, over his head and between his legs. He humped one of the amplifiers as he continued on with Wild Thing. Jimi made tender love to his Stratocaster, caressing the strings, and then gently laying it down. But instead of climbing on top as the crowd now expected, Hendrix doused the guitar with lighter fluid and set it aflame. The screaming feedback from the Strat pierced the air with a terrible death moan. This was obviously a mercy killing of his dearest love, with thousands of witnesses in attendance. The Experience lived up to their name.

Ironically, the performance deeply impressed Peter Tork, and he convinced Dick Clark to book The Experience as the opening act of the upcoming Monkees’ tour. Their pre-puberty fans booed Jimi off the stage and the Experience retreated back to Britain. But the legend continued with the over-twelve Boomer crowd, and by the end of the summer, the album, Are You Experienced and the single, Purple Haze sat atop the charts.

The Beatles and Dylan will probably be rated as greater influences on the Boomer generation in the final analysis, but Jimi made all the pieces fit. Monterey became a melting pot in which the many voices of the counterculture movement blended together for the first time, and Hendrix acted as the catalyst. As a fluent artist in most of the major musical languages, Jimi translated Blues, R&B, R&R, Funk, Folk, Jazz and Psychedelia into a tongue that any Boomer could understand.

Like Jackie Robinson in baseball, Hendrix broke the color barrier in Rock. Before Jimi, even superstars like Chuck Berry and Little Richard played with all-Black backup bands, restricted to R&B, Funk, Soul and more recently Motown… the Negro League of Rock & Roll. White covers usually outsold the originals. But with Hendrix, color became irrelevant… He was simply one of the two best guitarists (kids called Eric Clapton “Godshead”) at a time when teenagers considered that to be the noblest of skills in the most honored profession. Clapton, and perhaps Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Mike Bloomfield may have been Jimi’s equals as far as technique went, but none could match his versatility or mastery of electronic gear. In Hendrix’s large, gifted hands a guitar became the blast of a machine gun, the roar of fighter jet, the fury of hell, the flutter of angel’s wings, soft rain or cross-town traffic. Young guitarists today still try to analyze the work of the master. Hendrix brought Rock & Roll into the Space Age. Jimi made Monterey, which in turn led to Woodstock.

TURN ON, TUNE IN FM RADIO

America owned more TV sets than toilets by 1967, and the over-thirty crowd obtained most of their information from sound bites on the network news. Boomers found alternative sources. Local underground newspapers sprung up in most major American cities, informing the growing hippie population of relevant news for their communities. Thirty of these no-budget rags joined forces in 1966 to form the Underground Press Syndicate, in an effort to share ideas and information. “We are in favor of evolution, not revolution,” explained Alan Katzman of NYC’s East Village Other. “We hope to transform the middle class by internal and external stimuli, by means of media and LSD.” Logically, the next step was a national counterculture publication with Rock & Roll as its raison d’etre. Finally, in October of 1967, Jan Wenner, a 21-year-old unemployed writer and a couple of his buddies scraped together $7,500, and began publishing the Rolling Stone in San Francisco. Now, even those teens freaking out in Mina-mina-mina-Minnesota could catch the buzz at their local newsstand.

DJ, Tom “Big Daddy” Donahue opened up another party line of counterculture communication. Unlike poor Alan Freed, Big Daddy escaped to the West Coast just before the payola scandals hit the East in 1959. Donahue had a good gig at Top 40 AM station, KYA in San Francisco by 1961, because management looked the other way when he snuck R&B and genuine Rock into the program. Big Daddy opened his show with, “I’m here to blow your minds and clean up your face.” He began promoting concerts in 1963, and created Autumn Records the following year. Big Daddy and his partner, Bobby “Mighty Mitch” Mitchell attempted to bring the Beatles to town in 1965, but had to settle for the lesser known Rolling Stones, and Mick and company turned out to be just the right band at the right time for Frisco. But Big Daddy Donahue became bored with the restrictions of AM radio by 1967, and he spent much of his time at home, dropping acid and spinning records for friends. One day, a man from Electra Records stopped by with the debut album of a LA group. The final cut swirled with drug-induced nightmare images and/or the ranting of a madman that rambled on for eleven minutes. “Did he just say, ‘Father, I want to kill you, and Mother, I want to Aaaarrrggghhh’?” asked Big Daddy. He knew that The End by the Doors and other counterculture weirdness would never clear the censors for AM radio, and yet, these bands packed in the kids every time they played. The product and the market begged for a connection… a way to deliver the goods. Donahue and a couple of friends decided to buy the 6 PM-to-midnight spot on a dumpy little foreign language FM radio station, bring down an armful of their favorite albums and give them a spin. Did Big Daddy invent underground FM radio? Impossible to say, because lots of little maverick stations popped up all over the country in 1967. We do know that Donahue was the first to broadcast from the heart of the counterculture (San Francisco).

Do you remember the early days of FM radio? The audience heard few, if any paid commercials and the DJs made little, if any money. The job only required that the applicant own an extensive and eclectic record collection (because the stations didn’t) and be satisfied with sub poverty-line wages. FM DJs spoke mellowese, exactly the opposite of AM rapid-patter hype, and played and rapped about whatever felt good. No business executives or corporate sponsors censored them. Only news that related to the hippie community aired on FM: play-dates of underground bands or next love-in, sit-in, teach-in or anti-war demonstration, who’s been busted, who’s been burned, and the latest updates on any bad acid that’s floating around town.

AM Top 40 formulas didn’t work on FM radio. No-budget operations didn’t hassle with two-and-a-half minute pop singles. FM jockeys had no play lists or charts and preferred to put on an spacey album and let it play: Black or hybrid White R&B, sitar music, Jug Band music, Folk or Folk Rock, LA or SF Psychedelic and even tapes from local garage bands. This, of course, exposed the Boomer market to the likes of Big Brother, the Dead, Quicksilver, Country Joe and the Fish, the Doors, Zappa, the Fugs and Phil Ochs.

Within a year, nearly every Boomer teen inAmericalived within range of at least one underground FM station. They handed down their AM transistor radios to younger siblings and bought albums, rather than singles. LPs became the Boomer standard, and this new, more expensive taste had an immediate impact… the record industry topped the billion dollar mark for the first time in 1967.

Top 40 AM stations suddenly found themselves competing with, or even trailing the new, much smaller FMs in many markets, and the Music Industry had no choice but to ease up censorship rules. Longer cuts with more radical lyrics hit the pop charts. Drug references, taboo before the Summer of Love, now couldn’t be separated from the appealing outlaw image. AM rationalized playing the Byrds’ Eight Miles High in 1966 because the song could be taken literally with an innocent interpretation about soaring through the skies, rather than the effect of drugs. In 1967 Rock lyrics pulled no punches. How could the music establishment explain: “I’d love to turn you on,” or “One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small… Feed your head,” or “But have you ever been experienced… Well, I have”? AM even played a “how to” drug song, about covering up the fragrant aroma of marijuana with Incense and Peppermints.

Top 40 listeners heard references to casual sex for the first time, as the Beatles broke new ground: “Took her home and almost made it, sitting on the sofa with a sister or two (followed by heavy breathing).” Soon after, the sound of passionate lovemaking played on at least one cut of every psychedelic album. The topic heated up: “Play with me and you won’t get burned/ Let me stand next to your fire” and “Come on, Baby, Light My Fire.”

AM radio did, however refuse to compromise on songs that criticized the Military/Industrial Complex. Feel-Like-I’m-Fixing-to-Die Rag never made the Top 40 with, “Come on, Wall Street, don’t move slow/ Here’s your chance to make more gold/ there’s plenty good money to be made/ Supplying the Army with the tools of the trade…And it’s one, two, three what are we fighting for? Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn/ Next stop is Vietnam.” Nor did Phil Ochs’ The War Is Over. But it really didn’t matter what AM played because, by the end of 1967, a Boomer teen could say, I Heard It Through the Grapevine on FM.

POLITICS

The National Counterculture Communication Network emerged independent, strong and complete by the end of the year. Boomers no longer depended on the censored newscasts of the Geritol Generation, and they didn’t miss the hype and mass manipulation a bit. They had been the main target of oldest con game in advertising for nearly two decades: Attach an attractive, forceful symbol to a boring product (as in “Tony the Tiger” to Cornflakes). As the original electronic, mass-media generation, Boomers were the first to figure out that symbols are more important than substance to Middle America. Young people performed a little mass manipulation of their own by attacking some of the most cherished symbols of our society: the flag, the dollar bill and the Pentagon.

How can you get a million bucks worth of media coverage for, literally, a fist full of dollars? Ask Abbie Hoffman. In 1967, he and a few friends scraped up as many one-dollar bills as they could lay their hands on, divided the money, and then waited in line with the tourists at the New York stock Exchange on Wall Street. The scruffy group was almost thrown out by security, but Abbie started screaming, “They’re trying to keep Jews out of the Stock Market!” This confused the guards and they allowed the kids to continue. The counterculture commandos approached the viewing area high above the trading action, stepped to the rail and tossed the money into the air. Chaos broke out down on the main floor as stockbrokers scrambled after the bills like a pack of hungry mongrels after a bone. The electronic ticker tape machine (“the heartbeat of the Western World”) stopped cold. Reporters had been tipped off in advance, and TVs and newspapers broadcast the story almost as soon as it happened. “Hippies Shut Down Wall Street!” Granted, only for a few minutes, but long enough to demonstrate to Middle America the epidemic of petty greed in Big Business. What was the total cost of this amazing National anti-ad campaign? $300.

The counterculture went after another of America’s sacred icons in October. If the “March on the Pentagon” had proceeded with the initial plan of peaceful and serious demonstration, America would have seen only token news coverage. The Hippies decided to add a little spice to the occasion to stir up National interest. They claimed in interviews that the unholy five-sided shape of the Pentagon had always been a common symbol in witchcraft and black magic, and therefore a spell must be cast on the evil building to raise it off the ground as soon as possible to exorcise the demon spirits within. They volunteered to take measurements of the building to determine the exact number of (good) witches necessary to accomplish the task. Hoffman claims to have applied for a “raising permit,” but a sticking point of “How high?” delayed the process. Finally, an official decision stated that the demonstrators would be allowed to raise the Pentagon “up to, but not exceeding, an altitude of ten feet.” This confused the media, but they ate up every word. News leaked that mace had been issued to DC cops to use on the crowd, and the Hippies confessed to reporters that counterculture chemists had created a new weapon called Lace… LSD mixed with mace. “The acid penetrates the skin and makes the sprayee so horny that he or she is rendered helpless. Thousands of Lace squirt guns will be distributed to the demonstrators.” Allen Ginsberg chanted “O-o-o-o-m-m-m-m,” the Fugs sang Kill For Peace, 647 people (including Norman Mailer) were arrested and thousands of stoned-out hippies, to this day, swear that they saw the Pentagon rise up off the ground in the dawn’s early light.

One of the most powerful and well-known reflections of the Flower Power era happened right there, just outside the walls of the Pentagon at this demonstration. Super Joel, a street person fromBerkeley, walked right up to one of the National Guard soldiers on the line, placed a flower into the barrel of his rifle, and then flashed him the peace sign. The photograph of the scene became the classic image of 1967, symbolic of the inevitable confrontation between the Great Society and “the rising tide of Hungry Freaks, Daddy.” What happens when an irresistible force meets an unmovable object? Boomers would see for themselves a few months later inChicago.

Meanwhile, back on the six o’clock news… Communist China exploded its first hydrogen bomb, Israel emerged the victor in the “Six-day War,” hundreds died and tens of thousands were injured in ghetto riots in several American cities and Stokely Carmichael broadcast a message from Havana urging Blacks to arm themselves for “total revolution.” Muhammad Ali, who single-handedly remade boxing into a popular sport, announced that he was willing to give up his career by refusing induction into the Army. “I’m doing this for my religion. I’m serious. I’m ready to die for my religion… why should they ask me and other so-called Negroes to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam when so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? I am not going to help murder and kill and burn other people simply to help continue the domination of the white slave masters over the dark people the world over… The real enemy of my people is right here.” The news on New Year’s Eve told us that 9,378 American Boomers died during the year in Vietnam.

It was time for a change. The Rascals asked in August, How Can I Be Sure (“in a world that constantly changing?”), but in September, the Who boasted, I Can See For Miles. What had improved the perception of counterculture in such a short period of time? Gladys Knight explained, I Heard It Through the Grapevine. A group of hippies held a Death of Hip ceremony in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco in October. They cremated a coffin containing all sorts of hippie paraphernalia and marijuana cookies, sang God Bless America, and chanted, “Hippies are dead.” Now,Middle America was really confused. What were these kids trying to pull?

PE- 1968

Hippies died and Yippies take their place and head to Chicago. Lyndon quit and everybody runs for president. Hair invades Broadway. TV cancels all War Dramas, but adds Gomer Pyle . The oldest Boomers become eligible to vote…Antiheroes flood the big screen and Chicago riots and assassinations of MLK and RFK inspire ultraviolent flicks.

1968:  One Life to Live and Hidden Faces (New Soaps)

Time published the official Hippie obituary in October of 1967, and on New Year’s Day of 1968 “YIPPIES!” were born. Mainstream media painted a negative reflection of counterculture teens for WASP America throughout the mid- ‘60s. Hippies were portrayed as no-good, lazy, filthy, smelly, longhaired, sex-crazed drug addicts, etc. The underground now denied the existence of any such animal. A confused press asked, “So, what the hell is a Yippie?” Abbie Hoffman, one of the inventors, explained: “A political hippie. A flower child who has been busted. A stoned-out warrior of the Aquarian Age… A Yippie is someone going to Chicago.”

The Yippies’ immediate goal focused on stopping LBJ’s war machine, and as their first project, encouraged everyone to run for President in the upcoming election. Many unusual characters accepted the challenge. Dick Nixon, loser to JFK in 1960, and antiwar candidate (most Americans still believed in dominos at the time), Senator Eugene McCarthy ran on the Underdog ticket. Two great comedians from opposite ends of the humor spectrum, Dick Gregory and George Wallace, also entered the race (Wallace had captured a governorship with his absurd, deadpan style of comedy; so effective that some of his fans actually took him seriously!) Louis Abolafia, the favorite candidate of the Yippies, ran on the Love/Peace ticket. A nude photo of Louis adorned his campaign posters with his slogan, “I’ve got nothing to hide.” Abolafia had a chance until two other political rookies horned in and split the youth vote. Alfred E. Neuman announced his candidacy on the cover of Mad Magazine, and Pat Paulsen on the Smothers’ Brothers program. Pat represented the “Straight Talking American Government” (STAG) Party, whose motto declared, “We can’t stand Pat.” All of these wonderful choices fell by the wayside, however, during the moment of truth in Chicago, as the Yippies stood united behind their last minute entry into the race: “Pigasus” (a 500 pound porker from a local farm).

Lyndon had enough problems without all this competition. His popularity hit record lows in recent polls, and well-respected citizens spoke out openly against him. Dr. Benjamin Spock, writer of the bible of how to raise a Boomer, added a new chapter on common sense care for draft-age teenage boys. The government indicted Spock and the Rev. William Sloan Coffin of Yale on January 5th for “conspiring to aid and abet draft resisters.” Eartha Kitt, at a ladies’ luncheon in the White House a couple of weeks later expressed her opinion, “Discussion of theU.S.domestic problems is pointless while the Vietnam war rages.” Hostess Lady Bird looked liked a deer caught in the headlights.

Johnson and his staff had been telling the American public for some time now that “the war is near a turning point.” Unfortunately, they were correct. The Communists launched a massive Tet offensive on January 30th, against nearly every major population center inSouth Vietnam. In laymen’s terms, we got our white butts kicked. To make matters even worse, NBC-TV and the Associated Press sent back film of South Vietnamese National Police Chief Nguyen Ngoc Loan casually blowing out the brains of a handcuffed Viet Cong suspect. That one mass-media reflection changed the hearts and minds of a lot of Americans. Even the most devout hawk had a problem justifying cold-blooded murder.

Disturbing reflections bombarded the American public from every direction. Every TV newscast and newspaper front page carried bad news about the war and opposition to it. Entertainment sources offered little escape. The Moral Majority remembered fondly the quiet days, before hippies and Yippies, when Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Doris Day dominated the pop charts. Frank’s only recent hit came when he shared the spotlight with Wild Angels’ daughter, Nancy, on Something Stupid. Jumpin’ Jack Flash (Mick Jagger) declared himself a Street Fighting Man and asked Sympathy For the Devil. Teens took over FM radio, which led to a complete surrender of AM Top 40 radio and the record industry. The top selling albums had always been Broadway musicals or blockbuster movie soundtracks (Dr. Zhivago and The Sound of Music topped the charts in 1967). But in 1968 a hostile revolution occurred in the record industry, and Disraeli Gears by Cream placed number one, followed by Are you Experienced by Jimi Hendrix. The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel occupied the next four spots. The Boomer cabal controlled the music industry.

Yippism invaded Broadway. With controversial language, irreverence, counterculture philosophy and the famous nude scene, Hair became the hit of the season. The characters on stage debunked the previous media stereotyped hippie image, and instead introduced the audience to a bunch of sensitive, intelligent teens who willfully chose voluntary poverty and nonparticipation in the system. But our free society denies them an alternative lifestyle, as it inducts Clyde into the Army. His friend, Berger temporarily takes his Clyde’s place in Basic Training so the young draftee can have one last quick rendezvous with his girl. But Clyde’s unit suddenly ships out to Vietnam, and Berger soon becomes another unfortunate statistic of the Great Society. Clyde transforms from an All American boy into a full-blown Yippie by play’s end. Next stop, Chicago? WASP, Middle-aged, Middle-class American for the first time heard and applauded lines like, “My hair like Jesus wore it/ Hallelujah, I adore it/ Christ was loved by Mother Mary/ Why don’t my mother love me?” and “The war is White people sending Black people to kill Yellow people to defend land that they stole from the Red people” (apologies to Muhammad Ali). In this context, “Peace, love and understanding” no longer seemed like such an outrageous demand, especially in the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Five of the songs from Hair hit the charts, and kids all over the United States explained to their parents, “But you told me to listen to Broadway musical soundtracks.”

America looked to Hollywood to strike back with a patriotic blockbuster. The studio chose America’s greatest celluloid hero to lead a gallant group of fighting men in defense of Old Glory. The Duke even co-directed The Green Berets to emphasize the importance of our noble cause in Vietnam. John Wayne convinced an American journalist (David Janssen) in fantasyland on the big screen of our good intentions, but after the show, audiences returned home to watch the real war on the small screen news. They saw no heroes, only blood and violence, with no end in sight (Vietnam recently won the dubious distinction as the longest running war in American history). Hollywood had conditioned fans to expect the Duke to wipe out the Japs and Krauts in ninety minutes. Olive drab Berets became one of the biggest bombs of the decade.

Television

Television is, was and will be forever more, be the problem when America tries to get a good war rolling. Vietnam was the first war to receive live coverage, and the images that the public saw weren’t pretty. Support during times of great conflict always depended on the glorification of heroes, the creation of legends and an optimistic appraisal of the last battle, but horrible visuals on TV killed all those romantic notions about war. Television news gave us the eyes of the child who saw through the Emperor’s new wardrobe. There are no winners or heroes in war… at best, only survivors.

With their own news programs working against them, TV networks struggled to win back the audience in primetime. The good guys always won in Adam 12, Hawaii Five-0, Mannix, The Avengers, It Takes a Thief and the Mod Squad. The last two of these tube law enforcement organizations offered amnesty to ex-outlaws. The heroes of these shows had been caught red-handed committing a crime, and in lieu of serving time, agreed to help police arrest their peers. There are names for people like that… rat, fink, stool-Pidegon or squealer. Their methods included illegal entrapment, but the end justified the means in the minds of Middle America. Thirty-something Julie, Pete and Linc, as undercover spies in high school, busted troublesome hippies every week on Mod Squad without a trace of regret. The show flopped with its intended audience, due to all the recent bad publicity about narcs, CIA and FBI agents, using dirty tricks to infiltrate student groups on campus. The dream machine (TV) refused to compromise. The Mod Squad preceded It Takes a Thief, followed by NYPD on ABC on Tuesdays. The only possible conclusion at 9:30: That’s Life.

The television networks took heed when Phil Ochs proclaimed The War Is Over in 1967 (Yes, two years before John Lennon), and they cancelled Combat, Twelve O’Clock High, F-Troop, Rat Patrol and Garrison’s Gorillas during the 1967-68 season. The fate of our nation now lay in the hands of our only new noble warrior, Gomer Pyle.

The ignorance-is-bliss philosophy spread throughout the networks’ schedule. Yippies and the counterculture didn’t exist. A pair of Jacks (Lord on Hawaii Five-0 and Webb on Dragnet) trumped any longhairs who wandered into primetime. In television land, clean-cut young people found the meaning of life, as couples revealed intimate secrets on The Dating Game, and then graduated to The Newlywed Game. Here Come the Brides joined the celebration and they brought along The Mothers In Law.

Ghetto riots? You’ve got to be kidding. African Americans were happy in primetime. Diahann Carroll became the first Black woman to star in her own series since Beulah, 16 years prior. She played a respected professional, rather than the normal domestic servant role that African American actors usually had to settle for. And if that wasn’t enough to calm racial tensions, corporateAmerica offered a special bonus: Barbie received a token Black friend (Christie) in 1968.

So what if the hippies owned the pop charts? TV offered Dean Martin Presents the Golddiggers and The Doris Day Show, and even gave Lucy a new program.

The Smothers Brothers tried to penetrate the video soma, but CBS prescreened each show with editing scissors in hand. In 1968 they cut out a skit on film censorship, an interview with Dr. Spock, a Mothers’ Day message that ended with the words, “Please talk peace” and a segment in which Harry Belafonte sang, “Lord, please stop the Carnival,” superimposed over a montage of the Democratic Convention riots. The boys did finally get to play Pete Seeger’s Waist Deep in Muddy Water, which had been cut from their premiere show in 1967. But the brothers fought a losing battle. Hidden Faces loomed as an appropriate reflection of the state of television in 1968, and was also the title of a new soap opera.

One Live to Live, another new soap, tried to cash in on the hippie attitude of “Live for Today”, but, of course, never moved past the title. Meanwhile, Teens pondered blacklight posters that read, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life,” while listening to the Rascals sing, It’s a Beautiful Morning and People Got to be Free. The kids lived in the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius and hoped everyone would “Open up your heart and let the sun shine in.”

POLITICS

1968 will always be remembered as the first national election in which Boomers were eligible to vote. First Wavers wanted to make the most of the opportunity, and a “Children’s Army” of student volunteers helped Senator Eugene McCarthy campaign in the snow in the New Hampshire Democratic Presidential Primary. On March 12th, they stunned Lyndon, the press, and Middle America as the long-shot, anti-war candidate made it a very close election. Obviously, the number of Americans opposed to the Vietnam War now extended far beyond the counterculture. Bobby Kennedy saw just how vulnerable Johnson had become, and four days after McCarthy’s great showing, announced his own candidacy. Boomers were ecstatic. The odds on Eugene still sat at a hundred to one, but Bobby was even money. RFK could unite the anti-war groups, minorities (especially African Americans), the “Let’s return to Camelot” escapists and the Barbie faction (who judges candidates strictly on looks). With McCarthy on the ticket as VP, Bobby appeared to be a lock.

That was the final straw for the old Texan. Johnson, intimidated by the Kennedy image, hadn’t selected Bobby (the obvious choice) as his running mate in 1964, and now RFK returned to haunt him. Lyndon’s Lone Star pride and his obsession with history forced him to hang on to Vietnam as if he had a tiger by the tail. He didn’t want to be remembered as the first American President to lose a war, and now, LBJ couldn’t face the probability of becoming the first incumbent President to lose in the primaries. Why was America shocked when Lyndon announced on the tube, “I will not seek and will not accept my party’s nomination for the presidency for a second full term”? Yippies loved it, but that didn’t change their plans for Chicago. The war machine rolled on with Hubert now waiting to take the helm.

MOVIES

Baby Huey was a popular comic book among Boomers children in the ‘50s. Bullies outwitted and threatened the naïve youngster, Huey and his friends, but the vast size and raw power of the duckling always saved the day. Huey was a freak… much too large for his age. His incredible strength surprised himself and his buddies on a daily basis. Baby Boomers, as a group, seemed just like Huey in 1968, a young, naïve, clumsy giant freak with a good heart. They took great pride in their part in the downfall of LBJ. They thought that maybe they really could change the world. And why not? Boomers controlled the music industry, and after Green Berets tanked, Hollywood had no choice but to bend their way.

The films offered at neighborhood theaters shocked the Moral Majority. The success of The Wild Angels in 1966 spawned a host of Boomer biker operas in 1967: Rebel Rousers, Hell’s Angels on Wheels, Wild Rebels, Devil’s Angels and Born Losers (the first Billy Jack flick). Hollywood made big bucks off these low-budget quickies, and pressure from parents in 1968 merely caused a slight change in titles: Glory Stompers and The Savage Seven.

The recreational activities of the Angels in these movies began another new genre of chemical celluloid: The Trip in 1967, and in 1968, Psych-Out (Producer, Dick Clark’s one attempt to get hip) and Yellow Submarine. The last film looked like the Beatles on an acid trip to Pepperland, where they defeated the Blue Meanies with Rock & Roll (All’s You Need is Love). At the same time in the real world, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band attempted to create an artistic utopia of their own: Apple Corp.

The big screen also offered Boomers Monterey Pop, Cream’s Farewell Concert (at concert prices) and One Plus One (Sympathy for the Devil). The Monkees renounced pre-puberty Pop, and made a desperate attempt to join the counterculture with Head (co-scripted by Trippy Jack Nicholson and co-starring Frank Zappa and Annette Funicello!). This defiant act caused Don Kirshner to dump his prefab group.

The strangest reflection of the growing strength of the counterculture and the darkest fears of Middle Americaappeared on the screen in Wild in the Streets. Society lowered the voting age to fourteen in this little gem, and Rock singer, Max Frost (Christopher Jones) became the first Yippie president. The new Commander and Chief then moved to eliminate the generation gap by herding all adults over the age of 35 into concentration camps, and then forced them to ingest LSD. Planet of the Apes showed another version of what the world might be like if the Moral Majority lost control to scruffy barbarians. Rebellious Boomers have been called worse.

The most popular Boomer flick in 1968 was 2001: A Space Odyssey. Many of the older crowd walked out at a New York premiere, and most of the critics hated the film. Their opinions didn’t matter. Teens dug it and made the flick a hit. The director invited the audience to participate in the experience: “You’re free to speculate as you wish about the philosophical and allegorical meaning of the film.” The loose structure of the film confused old time film buffs and critics, but the kids loved filling in the spaces. To First Wave Boomers, the black Monolith symbolized LSD and HAL (the letters immediately preceding IBM in the alphabet) was Big Brother. Adults didn’t understand the famous psychedelic “trip sequence” at all, but teens agreed that the colorful light show topped anything offered at the Fillmores (East and West) or Avalon. The expression, “You’ve got to see it stoned,” for the first time in film history became a natural addition to a counterculture, word-of-mouth movie critique. Boomers had searched for a sign… an omen, and now the rebirth of Bowman as the Starchild, just after the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius showed us the way.

POLITICS

However, before there can be rebirth, there must be death. None of us realized how painful that might be. Martin Luther King became the first victim in Memphis on April 4th. On the eve of his death, King told a crowd of his admirers, “I have been up to the mountain top. I’ve looked over and I have seen the Promised Land. I may not be there with you, but we, as a people will get to the Promised Land.” Martin recently, against the advice of his associates, spoke out against our involvement in Vietnam, pointing out that the number of young African American men fighting on the front lines (and the number being killed) far exceeded the percentage of Blacks in our country. Within hours of the assassination riots broke out in 120 American cities, leaving 46 people dead, 2,600 injured and 21,000 arrested. Mayor Daley in Chicago instructed police to “shoot to kill arsonists and shoot to cripple or maim looters.”

Bobby Kennedy won the California Primary on June 5th and immediately received a bullet for his effort.America cried, “No, not again!” Had this been Pepperland, Eugene would have conceded on this day, and then join the movement as Bobby’s Veep candidate. This dynamic duo would then unite with Martin to form a powerful trio to dismantle the grim war machine. That dream team would certainly drive away all the Blue Meanies. But we lived in a violent America in 1968, and now Chicago seemed more important than ever.

Why not go after Nixon in Miami? Boomers at the time considered him a loser, without a chance of beating Humphrey. Dickie also promised a secret plan to “de-Americanize” the war in Vietnam, and that seemed better than nothing (Hubert)… if Nixon spoke the truth.

Nixon or Humphrey looked like a no-win situation to most African Americans. A riot broke out in Miami’s ghetto on the third day of the Republican Convention, leaving more than 300 dead. Young Blacks grooved with the hippies on a Stoned Soul Picnic earlier in the year, but after King’s assassination, they switched to Otis Redding’s final hit: “Looks like nothing’s going to change/ Things ‘round here just remain the same/ So, I’m Sitting on the Dock of the Bay, wasting time.” The song revealed a growing sense of frustration, and James Brown’s tribute to King, Goodbye, My Love revealed a great sense of loss. Brown’s Say It Loud: I’m Black and I’m Proud scored the biggest hit among African Americans in 1968. WASP America watched in horror on October 18th, as the Olympic Committee suspended US track stars, Lonnie Smith and John Carlos, at the XIX Olympiad in Mexico City because they gave the Black Power salute during our National Anthem.

The Moral Majority watched the hippies arriving in Chicago in August. Mayor Daley prepared for the invasion with more than 12,000 police and National Guardsmen. His office ordered landlords to deny longhairs housing and for restaurants to refuse them meals. The city turned down requests for permits to sleep inLincoln Park. The Yippies, in response, turned the city into a circus. Allen Ginsberg carried a briefcase labeled “Secret Plans” and 20,000 teens wore buttons that read “Yippie Leader.” Rumors circulated that the Yippies threatened to drop LSD into the public water system, and Daley dispatched thousands of troops to defend the reservoirs. McCarthy had no chance, and the Yippies nominated a new candidate: Pigasus (a pleasant-looking boar from a local farm). Daley failed to see the humor. Police took the real pig candidate and his common-law wife, Piggy Wiggy, into custody, before the porker had officially entered the race. The Yippies rallied around the animal shelter, chanting, “Free the Pigs.” Meanwhile, the police set up a command center in the Lincoln Park Zoo.

The inevitable confrontation began. The Yippies organized a Rock concert in the park on Sunday… the eve of the Convention. Most of the major bands promised to be there, but when the shit hit the fan, only the MC-5 and the Fugs had the courage to show up. The heat, in full riot gear, moved in on the crowd at exactly 11 PM (Daley’s curfew). Police clubbed and tear-gassed Teens for the next three days, as photographers and TV news cameramen recorded the scene. The action spilled out onto the streets, where surprised residents, just out for an evening stroll, were beaten and arrested (even Hugh Heffner got clubbed). Police and National Guardsmen beat up and/or arrested several newsmen (including Dan Rather in the hall) during live TV coverage. Walter Cronkite made his outrage public, calling Daley’s gang “nothing more than a bunch of thugs.” Senator Ribicoff declared from the podium “Gestapo-like tactics are being used in Chicago.” Daley, just a couple of rows away, stood up and yelled obscenities. A shocked Middle America read Daley’s lips: “You mother-fucker Jew bastard. Get your ass out of Chicago.”

ROCK & ROLL

Tension ruled the day. Even on AM in Middle America teens heard, “You ask who killed the Kennedy’s? After all, don’t you know that it was you and me (Satan)?” from the Stones and a new Boomer anthem, “They’ve got the guns but we’ve got the numbers” from the Doors.

The turmoil caused heartburn in the heartland. Devout red-white-and-blue necks heard a strange song on the Country/ Western AM stations. In Harper Valley PTA, the parent group accuses a single-parent mother of being “loose.” She proves that her peers are all hypocrites, and forces the Moral Majority to reexamine their own moral values. When did a message like that become legal on a Country Western station? Rednecks began questioning values and authority, and songs with a rebellious outlaw image rode the C&W, as well as the R&R chart.

Bob Dylan finally returned to the music scene after a long layoff following his near fatal motorcycle accident in 1966, and released his new, country-flavored, John Wesley Harding album. The title cut fit in nicely with the emerging country outlaw image, but the songs sounded tame to Boomers… expect for one cut, All Along the Watchtower, in which Bob sang, “There must be some kind of way out of here/ Said the joker to the thief/ There’s too much confusion, and I can’t get no relief…There are many here among us who think that life is but a joke/ But you and I, we’ve been through that and this is not our fate/ So let us stop talking falsely now, the hour’s getting late.” The last line, “And the wind began to howl,” left us with a feeling of impending doom. Hendrix released a cover of the song a few months later, in which the howling wind became an angry hurricane. The violent nightmares of two assassinations and riots in Chicago occurred between the two versions of Watchtower. Jimi’s Electric Ladyland contained other reflections of the dramatic increase in violence in songs such as House Burning Down.

In some extreme cases, shelled-shocked Americans went into full catatonic withdrawal, causing a brief resurgence of total escapist, pre-puberty Pop. Glucose classics like Yummy, Yummy, Yummy, Chewy, Chewy and Simon Says played AM, and Don Kirshner traded in his rebellious Monkees for a Saturday morning cartoon band, the Archies. LBJ, and later, Nixon wished that they could eliminate their problems so efficiently… by simply exiling protesters into the second dimension.

MOVIES

The violence of 1968 reflected off the silver screen. George Romero began the ultra-violence-as-high-camp school of horror with his first film, Night of the Living Dead. Boomers took this as a literal reflection of the Establishment: expressionless zombies, whose only purpose was to eat their victims alive, and in doing so, make everyone just like them. Only one character (the Black guy for once!) survives to the last scene, at which time the “rescue party” rashly identifies him as a zombie and shoots him through the head (friendly fire). The last sane man in an emotionless, dead society had to be eliminated.

Peter Bogdanovich made his directorial debut in 1968 with another low-budget horror film. Targets lacked the graphic blood and gore found in Romero’s quickie, and yet managed to hit a raw nerve in modern urban terror. The film contained an old theme that had been passed down from William Blake to Huxley to Jim Morrison and finally to Bogdanovich: “The Doors of Perception”: “On one side lies reality, on the other side, fantasy, yet when one stands in the doorway, he finds impossible to tell which is which.” Peter’s film updates the concept to 1968, as the era demands that reality becomes violence and fantasy turns into nightmare. A sleepy little drive-in movie theater provided the setting. An aging B-movie star (Boris Karloff) made a public appearance to plug his new cheapie horror film. As the audience watched the movie in their cars, a sniper climbed up behind the screen and began to pick them off one at a time. The targets in each car were completely unaware of the horrible bloodshed happening in the vehicle next to them, as the sniper invaded their individual worlds. The horror of the film-within-a-film failed to match the real parking lot massacre. The terror continued until the sniper became trapped in the doorway of perception between a thirty-foot close-up of Karloff on the screen, and the real flesh-and-blood man now in pursuit. The dazed killer paused for a reality check, which led to an easy capture. Watching Targets made the viewer nervous. “Could it be that I am in the sights of some copycat nut at that very moment?” The public had just witnessed the assassinations of two of the most powerful men in America, race riots in every major city and cops clubbing innocent citizens and newsmen in Chicago. With the escalation of the war in Vietnam, every Boomer boy feared that his body might soon be scattered in a distant rice paddy. Recently, there was talk of drafting women. Everyone seemed a target in 1968.

The Beatles’ White Album hit the stores late in the year with, “When I hold you in my arms/ And I squeeze your trigger, oh so tight/ I know that nobody can do me any harm/ Happiness Is a Warm Gun” and “Hey, Bungalo Bill, what did you kill?”

In 1968, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, author of The Power of Positive Thinking (1952), rethought his position and remarked, “This is an awful world, just frightening, and we’re stuck with it.”US troop strength peaked at 550,000. 14,500 Boomers died in combat in 1968…

“They’ve got the guns, but we’ve got the numbers.”

PE- 1969

A year of miracles: Americans on the moon, Tommy (the first rock opera), Woodstock and the Amazing Mets…but also, a year of nightmares: Charley Manson, Altamont, and Lt. Calley at My Lai. Rock & Roll becomes the official Boomer religion TV gives up on teens and aims at younger siblings as Hollywood cranks out more antiheroes and ultraviolence.

1969: Bright Promise (The only new Soap)

“…The Summer of ‘69/ Those were the best days of my life.” What a strange declaration from Canadian Rocker, Bryan Adams in 1984. Most American Boomers (during the nostalgic ‘70s) chose 1962 as their favorite year. (The poster for American Graffiti read, “Where were you in ‘62?”) We remembered fondly the innocent bliss of Camelot, a time beforeVietnam and the assassinations of JFK, RFK, MLK and the American Dream. But the ‘80s provided the insight of distance, and thus removed the pain and disillusionment associated the era. Only then, were we finally able to recall the “Bright Promise” of 1969.

Boomers declared this an age of miracles…bigger and better than ‘55 and the First Golden Age of Rock & Roll, or Kennedy’s Camelot in ‘62, with our last complete year of emotional virginity. We put the violence of 1968 behind us, as 1969 presented us with an American on the moon, a UFO sighting by Jimmy Carter, and the first rock opera,Woodstock, Broadway Joe and the Amazing Mets. All these lovely miracles have been overshadowed for decades by the trauma of Nixon, Charles Manson, Altamont and Lt. Calley, but now the time has come to think back to a time when Boomers stood united against the system. Society beat them back, but the kids put up one hell of a fight. No American generation since the Revolutionary War can claim to have been a greater thorn in the side of an oppressive government.

ROCK & ROLL

A funny thing happened on the way to Woodstock… Rock & Roll became the official Boomer religion and, as a result, the counterculture lost its sense of humor and an overall perspective. The new church canonized John Lennon as its initial saint. The Rolling Stone named him as their first “Man of the Year.” Actually, John looked and sounded more like the Second Coming than a Rock Superstar. “All we are saying is Give Peace a Chance”… a plea for sanity from a man of peace. Who in their right mind would argue with that? Nixon honored the celebration by placing St. John high on his infamous “Enemies List.” Lennon, at the appropriate season, staged the holy Happy Xmas, (War is Over) bed-in with Mother Yoko (apologies to Phil Ochs who wrote the song I Declare the War Is Over in 1967).

The Who unveiled a newer New Testament and a prophet named Tommy. That deaf, dumb, blind kid obviously operated on a higher plane of consciousness… something that Boomers tried and failed to achieve with LSD. Tommy’s heightened sense of touch was nothing short of miraculous: “See me, feel me, touch me, heal me.” But the masses wanted more. As with Jesus, the public admired Tommy, then worshiped him, but finally rejected their idol when they realized that he offered no easy path to enlightenment. R&R critics erroneously predicted that Tommy would be the first of many Rock Operas… the wave of the future for Rock & Roll.

Paul McCartney pleaded, “Hey, Jude… Make it better” early in the year. St. Jude is the Catholic’s patron saint of hopeless causes. Who else would one pray to in this year of expecting miracles?) Ocean sang Put Your Hand in the Hand (…of the Man who walks on water”) and Edwin Hawkins declared Oh, Happy Day (…when the Lord washed my sins away.) True believers took to the road on a pilgrimage to the holy city of Woodstock (Dylan, and later Jimi lived there for a time) to worship in their own way, and listen to the gospel of the high priests of Rock. The pilgrims received inspiration along the way as the Zombies preached, It’s Time of the Season For Love and the Youngbloods added, “Come on, people now, Smile on your brother/ Everybody get together, try to love one another right now.”

From the heavens there came a sign, just three weeks prior to the festival of the holy Rock & Rollers. Neil Armstrong set foot on the surface of the moon and declared, “One small step for man and one giant leap for mankind.” We time-warped back to Camelot. Kennedy’s dream, like Lazarus, had been resurrected. Jack predicted that a miracle such as this would happen far off in the New Frontier before the end of the ‘60s… and here the heavenly event appeared as promised, long after the departure of our cosmic seer. Every American forgot his or her problems for a moment, and stopped to watch and take great pride in the accomplishments of our nation. Proud citizens took a pleasant stroll with our astronauts along the shore of theSeaofTranquility. Our only regret was that JFK could not join us here to see his dream come true.

How ironic that only the day before (July 19), little brother, Senator Edward Kennedy stumbled along the shore near Chappaquiddick Bridge, searching for his clan’s last hope of reentering the White House… now dead beneath the water’s surface.

Teddy’s problem was political and Boomers no longer cared about the follies of past generations. They traveled to Chicago in 1968 and defeated the Johnson/Humphrey war machine, only to wind up with Nixon. The counterculture refused to be burned again. They left the existing political system to the fools who ran it, and went in search of a new world. They headed to Woodstock in 1969, and for three days 450,000 Boomers (and millions more who joined them in spirit) created their own nation… indivisible, with liberty, justice, drugs and Rock & Roll for all. Boomers needed to prove something to the world, and somehow it all worked out, despite the rain, mud, paralyzed roads, bad acid, inadequate medical aid, toilets and food supplies. The organizers expected only 75,000 kids, instead of nearly half a million stoners and freaks, running wild at a 72-hour party. Older America expected the worst, but only two deaths occurred at the scene… one drug overdose and one kid accidentally run over by a tractor. Several births more than offset the fatalities. Woodstock achieved the best violent crime record of any American city its size during any three-day period in the 1960s. The peaceful coexistence of nearly half a million stoned-out, sex-crazed longhairs amazed the world. The White House heard a thunderous echo as the huge crowd joined in as Country Joe McDonald prompted, “Give me an F… Give me a U… Give me a C… Give me a K… WHAT’S THAT SPELL?” Hundreds of thousands of refugees from Teen Utopia in Suburbia, shouting in unison the dreaded “F” word, immediately followed by “And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for? Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn/ Next stop is Vietnam…” Dickie, were you listening?

Woodstock served as a summary and a climax of an era. If you are one of the 18 Baby Boomers who didn’t attend, and/or haven’t yet seen the movie, and/or haven’t heard the album… do so immediately. The rest of us will wait… Good. Now, that we’ve eliminated the dead weight from our group, let’s skip ahead to the final act of this miraculous celebration. Fate chose Jimi Hendrix to deliver the key sermon on the final night of the holy ceremony, but the show lagged far behind schedule, and dawn loomed on the horizon as he appeared. Sleepy heads and exhausted bodies snapped to attention as they listened to a familiar tune. The crowd heard menacing choppers circling overhead and semi-automatic and machine gun fire on the ground… bodies ripped apart from the blasts and women and children screamed in horror. The bombs burst in air among other violent explosions in Hendrix’s new interpretation of The Star Spangled Banner. No Rocker ever made a guitar speak the way that Jimi did in the dawn’s early light at Woodstock. Teens heard a perfect reflection of how they felt at the time: they loved America, but to call it the “land of the free” was just a lie as long as we remained in Vietnam. The Woodstock Nation already boasted an official flag, and now Jimi offered an updated, more realistic Anthem.

SPORTS MIRACLES

All of America rooted for underdogs and miracles in 1969. Joe Namath boldly predicted that his upstart Jets from the fledgling AFL league would clobber the mighty Colts from the traditional NFL league. Broadway Joe arrogantly claimed that Old Man Unitus would be lucky to make it as third-string quarterback on his team. The experts laughed at Namath’s bravado and picked the Colts as 18-point favorites before opening kickoff. Unfortunately for football fundamentalists, Joe made good on his boasts, and experts reluctantly granted the AFL league equal billing. Soon after, the tribes of David (the AFL) and Goliath (NFL) merged.

Another New York City team in baseball performed an even more amazing feat. The lowly Mets, in their first year of existence (1962) broke the all-time record for futility with 120 losses in a single season. For the next five years they remained in the cellar, and in 1968 New Yorkers rejoiced to see their other team (the Yanks always won) climb to ninth… one game above last place. Even the most devout fan didn’t expect much at the start of the 1969 season, but the Amazin’ Mets went on to defy 100-to-1 odds and won it all. Suddenly, the Bronx Bombers became New York’s other team. Mickey Mantle, the last and greatest symbol of a crumbling dynasty baseball’s final Great White Hope, finally called it quits in 1969, and America’s first corporate team floundered. Remember that old adage from the ‘50s: “As go the Yankees, so goes America”?

TELEVISION

Miracles even popped up in the vast television wasteland. Sesame Street debuted on NET in November, providing kids with the first real educational programming in history. Of course, the youngest Boomer had already turned five-years-old at the time, so a great majority of our generation never received help from Big Bird. Teens considered the on-air wedding of Tiny Tim to Miss Vickie on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson as the real tube highlight of 1969. The highest-rated episode in the show’s history confirmed our belief in miracles; if a freak like Tiny Tim could find a mate, then anything could happen.

POLITICS

… Well, almost anything. By now, Nixon made it perfectly clear that he was not about to end the violence abroad. Instead, Dickie concentrated on eliminating the resistance at home. The trial of the “Chicago Eight” began barely a month after Woodstock, as Nixon attempted to publicly humiliate and condemn the protest leaders of the Democratic Convention. Unfortunately, most good citizens now held the opinion that if anyone should be on trial, it should be Mayor Daley and his thugs. The Yippies, as usual, took advantage of the free publicity and turned the courtroom into a circus. Jerry Rubin dressed as a World All-star Revolutionary with a realistic looking, toy M-16 rifle. Photographers captured a reflection of guards ripping an American-flag shirt off Abbie Hoffman’s back on his way to courtroom, where he claimed as residence a “state of mind called the Woodstock Nation.” A few days later, Abbie and Jerry dressed in judge’s robes and the public began to wonder who was in charge of these proceedings.

Nixon’s people cast the Black Panther Chairman in a small role in this extravaganza, as a token warning to all African Americans, but Bobby Seal upstaged his seven alleged “co-conspirators” and stole the show. Bobby had been barely involved at the scene of the crime. He flew in at the last moment, gave a brief, impromptu speech and then split, but now he stood accused as one of the main organizers. Seale loudly interrupted the court proceedings, demanding his own choice of lawyer, until the judge ordered the defendant bound and gagged. The image of Bobby tied to his chair and unable to speak in his own defense was unbearable to African Americans, who already felt excluded from the American Justice system.

Leslie Uggins, Bill Cosby (I Spy) and Denise Nichols and Lloyd Haynes (Room 222) joined Diahann Carroll as blissful Black professionals participating in the system on the tube in 1969. One quick glimpse of a bounded and gagged Bobby Seale destroyed that illusion. Tube tokenism wasn’t enough. Head Soul Brother, James Brown proclaimed, I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing on the radio.

White teens spoke out for the first time against the rigid class system in America, especially when they noticed that rich kids never got drafted. Creedence Clearwater complained in their behalf, (I Ain’t No) Fortunate Son. Even old Elvis showed the first glimmer of social consciousness since his GI lobotomy with In the Ghetto.

The tube offered Boomer teens The Brady Bunch, the movie screen gave them If. Lindsay Anderson’s film took place in a boys’ school, where students rebelled against an oppressive faculty and took over the institution by force. The final scene showed the boys gunning down adults from the rooftops. None of the Brady kids participated.

MOVIES

Concepts of love changed somewhat in 1969. Boomers listened to Led Zeppelin sing, “I want to give you every inch of my love,” and watched death-of-romance movies like Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Goodbye Columbus, Satyricon, Sterile Cuckoo and Midnight Cowboy. Television offered Love American Style in contrast.

Biker operas continued on the big screen with Hell’s Belles, Run Angel Run, Angels From Hell, Hell’s Angels ‘69 (with real Angel president, Sonny Barger in a lead role) and the genre classic, Easy Rider. Television introduced a wimpy Along Came Bronson… a two-wheeled rehash of Route 66.

Parents desperately searched the entertainment section for an appropriate movie, and finally found Henry Fonda starring in a new horse opera called Once Upon a Time in the West. Henry always symbolized the good and heroic potential in every American and the old folks loved him (i.e. in flicks like Young Mr. Lincoln and Grapes of Wrath). When the older set arrived at the theater this time, however, they witnessed their hero shooting kids and kicking the crutches out from under a cripple. Hollywood didn’t make Westerns like they used to. In Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, bad guys didn’t just roll over and die when shot. Instead, bullets slashed through their flesh, and then, exploded out the other side of their mutilated bodies, followed by bright, red blood spurting into the air. Sam showed the action from every conceivable angle in slow motion, so the viewer could fully appreciate the true beauty of violence in great detail. The 8MM footage of JFK’s assassination in 1963 inspired “slow-mo” and instant replay in TV sports, and now, the constant bombardment of TV coverage of assassinations of RFK and King and the senseless brutality in Chicago and Vietnam made the Wild Bunch a hit in 1969. Thus began the “Violence as Art” movement in cinema.

Two of the favorite films of Boomers in 1969 fell into the Anti-Western genre. The heroes in each reached the frontier, found nothing interesting, and then decided to retrace their steps East in search of a lost America. Jon Voight, in Midnight Cowboy followed his dream from his Texas home only to find the Big Apple rotten to the core. Dustin Hoffman, a fellow loser, convinced the wannabe gigolo that Utopia had flown south to Florida. The two follow, but Rizzo dies en route, and the cowboy realizes that he has been hitching a ride on another guy’s dream, and now felt alone and lost. In the second installment of this new Eastern genre, Peter Fonda (son of retired hero, Henry) and friend, Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider, scored some quick cash in a drug deal with Phil Spector on the West Coast, and then headed east to experience our great country and its people. Two rednecks in a pickup truck blew them off the road just for the fun of it and the movie abruptly ended. Random, casual, unexpected, senseless violence seemed logical inAmerica in 1969.

The big screen magnified two important reflections from the previous year in 1969. Haskell Wexler’s hard-hitting documentary, Medium Cool revealed even more horrible details of the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Arthur Penn directed Alice’s Restaurant, based on Arlo Guthrie’s classic antiwar song from 1968. Arlo played the lead, and at the draft board tried to use reverse psychology on the Army shrink: “You’ve got to let me in, Doc. I wanna kill. I wanna rape and maim. I wanna burn villages and massacre women and children.” Teens laughed at the absurd, black humor until November 16th, when TV news reported on a day in the life of Lt. William Calley at My Lai. Truth turned out to be more absurd than fiction for a Boomer kid in 1969. To this day, Gomer Pyle remains the only popular media military hero from the entire Vietnam era.

POLITICS

Nixon, jealous of Pyle, expanded the war into Cambodia. But at home, Dickie lost ground… even in the once-friendly courtroom. The Chicago Eight Circus Extravaganza inflicted great damage to the system, and now, in “Cohen vs.California,” the judge decided that a young man could legally wear “Fuck the Draft” on his jacket. The Supreme Court also ruled that students could sport black armbands in protest of the war. On July 11th, a US Court of Appeals overturned the convictions of Dr. Spock and three of his peers for aiding and abetting draft resisters.

Nixon appealed to the “Silent Majority” and they answered in a Gallop Poll: 58% ofAmericanow strongly opposed involvement inVietnam. A massive National Vietnam Moratorium Day took place on October 15th, including vigils and demonstrations in every major city. Thousands of young soldiers inVietnamdonned black armbands in support. Vice President Agnew called the protestors “the effete corps of impudent snobs.”

The Moratorium caught the media’s attention, but in the end turned out to be just a rehearsal for the main event. 250,000 Americans, including Dr. Spock, Coretta King, George McGovern, Eugene McCarthy, Senator Charles Goodell, Leonard Bernstein, and thousands of Vietnam vets and war widows staged a peaceful “March Against Death” exactly one month later in Washington, D.C. Police arrested 186 people at a “Mass for Peace” in front of the Pentagon. This group of “impudent snobs” included two Episcopal bishops and forty other clergymen. Nixon swore in his Inaugural Address, “For its part, government will listen. We will strive to listen in new ways to voices of quiet anguish.” But when it came time to make good on his promise, Dick simply ignored the massive demonstrations. Nixon suffered from extreme paranoia since the very beginning of his term. He watched the Inaugural parade from behind bulletproof glass, and when reporters asked of his plans, Dickie answered, “They gave me a key to the front door (of the White House) and I’m going to see if it fits.” But much to his surprise, it did fit, and now no one could tell Dick Nixon how to run his country. Trickie Dickie was prepared to use the CIA, FBI, IRS and the National Guard against anyone whom he considered as a threat to his authority, and judging from the size and wide variety of names on his famous “Enemies List,” that could include just about anyone.

Tyrannosaurus Nix (as christened by Lawrence Ferlinghetti) quietly went about his work to keep the war rolling, and to divide and conquer the opposition. Dick made what can only be considered as a masterstroke of genius on November 26th, as he took aim at his biggest problem. He signed into law a bill for a lottery of Selective Service draftees. “Now let’s see how hard a Boomer kid protests against the war after he knows that he is not among those condemned to go.” Nixon figured that his new law would quiet down the wimpy WASP teens. Black radicals might require a stronger message. Police broke into a Chicago apartment and shot down unarmed Illinois Black Panther Chairman, Fred Hampton and one of his peers. The ACLU claimed that the two men had been murdered.

John Fogerty predicted, “I see a bad moon on the rising/ I see trouble on the way/ I see earthquakes and lightning/ I see bad times today.” Let me make this perfectly clear… Nixon did not defeat the hippie/ Yippie/ Boomer counterculture. Instead, a series of rapid-fire, distorted, nightmarish reflections of their peers blew them away. Teens experienced heaven at Woodstock, only to find hell at Altamont. They hung on every word as one of their messiahs delivered the gospel of Give Peace a Chance, then watched in horror as the Anti-Lennon, Charles Manson, twisted the Master’s words into a gruesome message of hate and violence for his zombie family. Charlie was completely nuts, but he had long hair and a beard like Jesus and/or Lennon, and even played guitar, so the group of pathetic losers chose Manson as their leader. Too much isolation, desert sun and LSD caused Charlie to hear all secret messages as the family played Beatles’ White Album over and over again. He shared his warped revelations with anyone who would listen. Manson declared the Helter Skelter meant that Blacks would soon start a nationwide revolution. Charlie promised his group that they would be the only White survivors, and as visionaries, Manson’s clan would be worshiped as the leaders of the New Society. “Little Piggies… What they need is a damn good whacking,” according to Charlie meant that the time had come for the family to show slower people of color how to get the war rolling against the White Ruling Class.

Manson spent a record amount of time in the courtroom, although the defense offered little in the way of evidence or witnesses.America saw Charlie daily throughout the trial on the tube and in newspapers, and each time it chipped away another little piece of the counterculture’s self-image. Manson, a power-hungry wolf in hippie clothing, managed to destroy all the romantic myths about dropping out, communal living, and expanding your mind with drugs. LBJ, Nixon, Middle America and the entire US government for years tried and failed to debunk the naïve notions of the counterculture, but Charlie pulled it off in no time at all. Up until his arrest, Boomer teens truly believed that Rock & Roll would change the world. Now they saw what evil that power could cause in the hands of a lunatic like Manson. How could his followers have been so gullible? Unfortunately, many teens were extremely naïve at the time. Case in point: 1969 was also the year of “Paul is dead!” mass-hysteria: “Look, Man, right there on the Abbey Road album cover. See? Paul is dressed different from the remaining Beatles. He’s in a suit with no shoes. That’s how they bury you, Dude. And look at the license of the car in the background: ‘27 IF.’ Get it? Paul would have been 27-years-old IF he were still alive. His stand-in double doesn’t even look like Paul.”

One of the eeriest ingredients of the Manson episode in the eyes of serious students of mass-media reflections was the identity of whom Fate provided as the first random victim. The bloody scene occurred at the home of Roman Polanski, the film director who just a year prior scored his first major American hit with Rosemary’s Baby. The plot involved an actor willing to sell his soul and wife to Satan in exchange for celluloid success. The Beast raped the poor woman, but the husband convinced her that it was just a nightmare. She believed him until Lucifer came to claim his prize: the resulting newborn baby. In real life, the Manson butchers showed Polanski’s wife, actress Sharon Tate, no mercy, even though she was more than eight months pregnant at the time. Susan Atkins, one of Charlie’s disciples, told a Grand Jury: “And when it was all over, I didn’t want to go back into that house, but something made me go. I went over to Sharon Tate and flashed, ‘Wow, there’s a living human being in there.’ I wanted to, but I couldn’t bring myself to cut her open and take the baby.” The coroner, in fact, testified that the baby survived its mother by 15 to 20 minutes. If Atkins acted on her impulse, Manson could have claimed another young mind to corrupt and manipulate. Another strange media reflection: Sharon Tate played a witch in one of her final roles in the film 13: the story of ritualistic murders committed by a hooded sect of devil worshippers.

ROCK & ROLL

“Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste/ Been around for many a long, stole many a man’s soul and sealed his fate… My friends just call me Lucifer, and I’m in need of some restraint,” sang Mick Jagger at Altamont, as members of the Hell’s Angels clubbed and stabbed away memories ofWoodstock. Drug busts and legal hassles kept the Rolling Stones out of theUSAsince 1966 and the group yearned to shed some moss. As a warm-up for the tour, the Stones offered a free concert inHyde Parkon July 5th to introduce new member, Mick Taylor to the public. Unfortunately, the concert became a wake for Brian Jones, found floating face down in his swimming pool just two days before the scheduled event. The Stones planned for thousands of white butterflies to be released into the air as a final tribute, but no one thought to punch air holes in the boxes, so most the insects had already joined Brian in a better place by the time of the ceremony. A few pathetic survivors fluttered a short distance, and then nose-dived into the crowd. Mick quickly gained control of the crowd and delivered a bizarre eulogy for Jones, sprinkled with quotes from Oscar Wilde.

The Hyde Park Concert preceded Woodstock and drew a larger crowd (an estimated 500,000), but received little publicity in the USA. Most Americans didn’t realize that the event had even occurred. That pissed off Mick and he decided that his group would put on their own Woodstock at the end of the US tour. He dreamed that his concert would be bigger and better than the New York version, and best of all, the Stones’ show would be free. The Stones attempted to hold the celebration at Golden Gate Park but found miles of red tape and city regulations (aimed at the hippies) made that impossible. They frantically searched for another location, and on the day before the scheduled event, they found Altamont Speedway… just an hour’s drive from San Francisco. The Grateful Dead recommended the Hell’s Angels as security (for $500 worth of beer). The Dead often used the Angels successfully in the past, but by 1969 the gang began to believe its own sensational press clippings. The bikers took their image seriously, as they went about their day’s work of cracking the head of anyone who dared to approach the stage, and then tossing the limp body back into the crowd. Members of the Jefferson Airplane pleaded with their security to stop the violence. Marty Balin quit playing in the middle of a song, lay down his guitar and went into the audience to help one of the victims. The Angels knocked him unconscious.

An ugly mood prevailed as the Stones walked onto the stage. The set started badly and only Keith Richards seemed to remember the songs. Mick, visibly shaken, tried to take control of an explosive situation: “Let’s cool out, everybody. Just cool out.” The Angels continued to beat up fans, and then began to mock the Stones. Finally, they murdered a young Black man, in full view of the cameras. A pack of bikers jumped on James Meredith, beating and stabbing him in the back. As the victim fell to the ground, the Angels stomped the life out of the bleeding man. Members of the audience tried to stop the slaughter, but the Angels beat them back. The dust settled and Mick again attempted to win back the crowd. It was too late. The final score: One murdered, three others dead, many wounded and 300,000 Boomers completely bummed out. The Nightmare at Altamont erupted just days after the arrest of Manson, and the combination of the ghoulish media reflections of the two events erased all pleasant memories of Woodstock’s Hippie Heaven.

Do you crave more media reflections of the violence? As in the period immediately following JFK’s assassination, an army of doctors (Marcus Welby, Medical Center, The Bold Ones, etc.) invaded the tube. TV cancelled Bright Promise in its first season. On the radio the Beatles urged, “Get back, get back, get back to where you once belonged.”

PE- The Early 1970s

When did the ‘60s end? The Beatles break up and most supergroups follow. Many Boomers heed Paul’s advice: Get back to where you once belonged. Boomer teens turn on TV again. Welcome to the Me Decade and the Era of Corporate Rock.

1970: All My Children and A World Apart
1971: No new soaps
1972: Return to Peyton Place
1973: The Young and the Restless 
(New Soaps)

Boomers beat a chaotic, helter-skelter retreat in the early ‘70s. The united counterculture front crumbled and most of our leaders jumped overboard or went down with the ship. Those who remained headed straight for cover and took time out to heal the wounds and assess the damage.

When did the ‘60s end? Hundreds of books touch on this subject, proposing countless theories as to the exact time and cause of death. Some historians claim that it happened as early as the Democratic Convention in 1968, others, as late as President Ford’s pardon of Nixon in 1974. One suggests that it occurred at Woodstock, where Boomers, like lemmings, instinctively realized that the real problem lay in the obscene bulk of their numbers. Or, could it be that the ‘60s ended with the Hippie Hell reflections of Manson and Altamont? Did the era die with four students at Kent State, or was it already gone and buried with King and RFK? Perhaps, Nixon’s burglars snatched the ‘60s at the Watergate Hotel? The answer is yes… to all of the above and more. Unlike the instant, unexpected violence of an assassin’s bullet, so familiar to Americans at the time, the ‘60s suffered a slow, lingering death.

1970 began optimistically… Boomers still believed that they would change the world. A massive, nationwide Earth Day on April 22nd attracted millions in protest of environmental destruction. Nixon, consistent as ever, ignored the event. He watched Patton instead, and became so inspired after repeated viewings of the new film, he expanded the war into Cambodiaon April 29th, sending in more than 20,000 US and South Vietnamese troops. College campuses across America erupted in protest on May 2nd, and Nixon again turned a deaf ear to the vocal majority. Two days later, National Guardsmen fired into a crowd of unarmed antiwar demonstrators at Kent State, killing four students and wounding nine others. On May 8th, a group of hardhat construction workers rushed in and beat up peace demonstrators marching down Wall Street. Tremendous crowds gathered the next day in every major UScity, forcing more than 450 college campuses to shut down. Obviously, the public didn’t understand the first warning, so the government issued a second one to prove that the Kent State slaughter was not just an unfortunate, fluke accident. Mississippi State police opened fire on crowd at Jackson State College on May 15th, killing two more students. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young summed up our feelings soon after with the release of Ohio: “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming/ We’re finally on our own/ This summer I hear the drumming/ Four dead in Ohio/ Gotta get down to it/ Soldiers are cutting us down/ Should have been gone long ago…”

ROCK & ROLL

Nixon made his message perfectly clear: nothing short of total revolution would change his master plan. Should Boomers respond with retaliatory violence, or should they retreat? They searched mass-media reflections for an answer. Bridge Over Troubled Waters claimed the number one spot on the charts for 1970. The “Paul is dead!” rumors of ‘69 proved to be true after all in April of ‘70, as McCartney marked the end of the Beatles with a solo album, on which he announced that he would, from this point forward, restrict himself to “a silly little love song” (“What’s wrong with that?”). The film and the LP, Let It Be, were released posthumously the following month, about the same time as the Kent State massacre. The final summit meeting of the most influential counterculture spokesmen of the late ‘60s felt especially painful, and yet appropriate in the film. The Beatles staged an impromptu farewell concert on the roof of their Hippie Utopia (Apple Corp) and the cops busted it up. The title cut of the album offers some final advise to Boomers: “When I find myself in times of trouble/ Mother Mary comes to me/ Speaking words of wisdom/ Let It Be.” The message continued with, “Get back, get back to where you once belonged,” and “Two of us getting nowhere… on our way back home.” These words belonged to Paul, urging Boomers to retreat. John, on the other hand, not yet ready to surrender, asked for time to analyze the situation: “Everybody had a hard year/ (but) Everybody had a good time/ Everybody had a wet dream/ Everybody saw the sunshine.” He warned: “Christ, you know it ain’t easy/ You know how hard it can be/ The way things are going/ They’re going to crucify me.” Soon after, John, now sure of his direction, encouraged Boomers to continue the good fight in his first solo effort, Power to the People.

Many fans at the time blamed poor Yoko for the breakup of the Beatles, but in retrospect we see that this was not the case. Before she entered the picture the group had already become three solo artists plus a drummer. But even Ringo scored a solo hit (Don’t Pass Me By) on the White Album and George achieved an elevated status with his first A-side release, Here Comes the Sun. John headed in a different direction, leaning towards darker, disturbing word imagery: “The eagle picks my eye/ The worm he licks my. bone/ I feel so suicidal/ Just like Dylan’s Mr Jones” while Paul blissfully sang, “Ob-la-di, ob-la-da… la-la-la-la-life goes on.” The clash of styles drove the the great bards apart and none wanted to play as a backup musician. The demise of the Beatles paralleled that of the counterculture. The time had come for Boomers to go their own way in search of individual truth. But sometimes the naked truth is ugly. Tom Wolfe proclaimed the ‘70’s as the Me Decade. Before the era had even begun, Harrison complained, “All through the day I hear, ‘I, Me, Mine, I, me, mine, I, me, mine.’”

The breakup of the Beatles stunned the Rock world. Individual musicians scattered in every direction. Most of the ‘60s’ Supergroups disbanded at the turn of the decade, including the Animals, Buffalo Springfield, Big Brother, Cream, Credence, the Doors, the Fish, Iron Butterfly, the Mothers and the Rascals. Eric Clapton fled into hiding for four years with a serious drug habit after Derek & the Dominoes and a solo album in 1970. Hendrix followed Brian Jones into Rock & Roll Heaven on September 18, 1970, and two weeks later (October 4th), Janis made it a trio, on yet another drug overdose. Jim Morrison joined them (perhaps) on July 3, 1971.

Surviving artists searched for a new sound: Soft Rock (the Band, James Taylor, Carole King, Carly Simon & Cat Stevens), Southern Rock (Allman Brothers, Doobie Brothers, Marshall Tucker, Lynyrd Skynyrd & ZZ Top), Religious Rock (Norman Greenbaum with Spirit in the Sky-1970, Harrison with My Sweet Lord-‘71, Jesus Christ Superstar-‘71 & Godspell-‘72), Glitter Rock (T-Rex, Queen, Alice Cooper & Suzie Quatro), Glam Rock (Elton John, David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, Rod Stewart, and pioneer, Jagger), Heavy Metal (Grand Funk, Black Sabbath & Judas Priest joining Led Zeppelin) and the original Punk (Iggy Pop). Dylan lost much of his audience with his Country-flavored John Wesley Harding album in 1968, and his duet with Johnny Cash on Nashville Skyline was really too much to bear. The defection did, however, inspire the creation of Hee Haw and the The Johnny Cash Show in 1970. That same year Bobby Zimmerman released Self Portrait, climbed into his shell and remained mute for most of the decade.

The voice of the counterculture let out an awful death moan in 1970. In addition to Lennon’s Power to the People and CSN&Y’s Ohio and Teach Your Children Well, a Canadian group named the Guess Who scored the number two song of the year with American Woman: “…Stay away from me/ I don’t want your ghetto scenes/ I don’t want your War Machine.” Head Soul Brother, James Brown optimistically proclaimed, It’s a New Day, yet Edwin Starr declared, “War, Good God! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!” The Temptations found themselves lost in a Ball of Confusion. Neil Young felt Helpless at and on The Losing End.

Movies

The focal point for the counterculture throughout the late ‘60s was opposition to the war in Vietnam, and finally in 1970 they saw reflections on the silver screen in a series of stories about parallel conflicts in American history: Little Big Man (the Indian Wars), Patton (WW II), and M*A*S*H (Korean War). Reflections of egomaniacs like Patton and Custer disturbed us with a man like Nixon in the White House. Boomers imagined Nixon on a battlefield strewn with the mutilated bodies of American boys, confessing, like Patton in the film: “I love it. God help me, but I love it so.” Had Nixon watched the scene in M*A*S*H where Trapper John worked hard to save a Communist’s life? A nurse dryly comments, “Doctor, this man is just a prisoner of war.” Trapper relies, “So are you, Nurse. You just don’t know it.” Wait a minute… who are the bad guys in these three films, and who are the heroes? We quickly spotted the victims in Little Big Man… they called themselves the “Human Beings.” “Old Lodge Skins” explained the way of the world to a young Cheyenne Brave (played by Dustin Hoffman): “There is an endless supply of White Men, but there has always been a limited supply of Human Beings.”

A large group of films about student radicals, including Getting Straight, The Magic Garden of Stanley Sweetheart, Strawberry Statement, Revolutionary and RPM never cleared the gate. Kent State made them irrelevant prior to release. Violence threatened the counterculture and Zabriskie Point felt too painful to watch.

Recent attacks by hardhat workers on Peace marchers demonstrated that WASP America blamed the turbulent ‘60s on the young. Good-ole-boys like Joe wanted revenge. Joe hated “niggers and hippies” and found a kindred soul in a conservative businessman in a bar. The Organization Man confessed that he once killed a longhair, and Joe convinced him that they should team up to continue that noble work, and Blue-collar Labor and Big Business merged and hit the streets on a search-and-destroy mission against the “hippie plague.” After the smoke cleared on their first assault, the body count included the daughter of Joe’s new friend.

The protest movement lost direction, as reflected by Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces. The viewer almost expected a replay of a scene from The Wild One: “What are you rebelling against? I donno. You got any toast?” Love Story turned out to be the surprise hit of the year… a traditional Romeo-and-Juliet tragic romance, conceived in a lower-division college English class by Prof Eric Segal for his pathetic underclassmen students. This lowest-common-denominator fare scored a huge hit, and even Dick Nixon recommended it… until his daughters pointed out the “harsh language.” Love Story remains as one of the corniest ‘‘til-death-do-us-part tearjerkers of our generation, and that’s exactly the reason for its success. The counterculture crumbled, and First Wave Boomers felt all alone in a cold adult world. They searched for the Happily Ever After that they, as children of the ‘50s, had been promised, but they never found peace in the ‘70’s.

MASS MDEDIA REFLECTIONS

Television offered slightly more accurate reflections of the times in 1970. Terminally single adults filled prime tube time on The Odd Couple, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Here’s Lucy, The Doris Day Show, Nanny and the Professor, The Partridge Family and That Girl. The combination of the pill, free love, and a let-it-all-hang-out-and-do-your-own-thing attitude of the ‘60s produced tens of millions of lonely young adults in the early ‘70s. Network program schedulers offered a suggestion for the 1970-1 season: The Newlywed Game followed Let’s Make a Deal.

The ‘60s were dead. An era of strength and unity blew in the wind. Boomers, like Neil Young, felt Helpless, and identified with the hero in Sam Peckenpaugh’s Ballad of Cable Hogue. He survived the numerous perils of the Old West, looked forward to the serenity of his golden years, but instead, was run down by the first automobile to come his way in the new age of progress. Boomers felt trapped in mid-air without a pilot in these uneasy times as they watched Airport (‘70), or wiped out by a virus from outer space in The Andromeda Strain (‘71), or slave to our technology in Colossus: The Forbin Project (‘71). They watched sterile worlds, devoid of individuality in THX-1138, Slaughter House Five (both ‘72) and Soylent Green (‘73). Romance was dead (with the exception of Love Story) in films like Carnal Knowledge (‘71) and Myra Brenkenridge (‘72). The myth of an ideal, small-town family unit became exposed in all its ugliness in The Last Picture Show (‘71).

ROCK & ROLL

Tyrone Davis pleaded on the radio in 1970, Turn Back the Hands of Time and CCR asked, Who’ll Stop the Rain? Carole King remarked, It’s Too Late, Lynn Anderson reminded us, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, while the Bee Gees meekly asked, How Do You Mend a Broken Heart? The Who’s reaction to the assassination of the ‘60s came out angry and bitter in We Won’t Get Fooled Again (and, of course, we would). Meanwhile, John Denver planned an escape in Take Me Home Country Roads. Many teens converted to Religious Rock (Jesus Christ Superstar became the number one LP in 1971), or against it with Heavy Metal (Black Sabbath’s Paranoid placed #7 the same year). Alice Cooper spoke for Crest, or “Second Wave” Boomers (those born in the period from 1952 to 1958) with his angry declaration, I’m 18 (“and I don’t know what I want… Caught in the middle, the middle of doubt”). Crest teens felt the defeat, and yet, were born too late to have experienced the victories of the counterculture. Jimi Hendrix formed an all Black Band of Gypsies in 1970 and released the song The Power of Soul. James Brown remarked that It’s a Brand New Day, and early in 1971, declared, Soul Power. Hollywood offered African Americans their very first superhero in Shaft. But the mood soured by the end of the year, and the Father of Soul changed his tune with I Cried and Escape-ism. Talking Loud and Saying Nothing scored Brown’s only hit in 1972.

MOVIES

The New York Times published the Pentagon Papers on June 13, 1971, as (“Beware of”) Smiling Faces (“they lie”) played on the radio. The bungling attempt by our government to suppress the document turned out to be worse than the papers themselves, and the whole episode helped prepare us for the film, The Candidate. Unlike the honest, idealistic politician Jimmy Stewart played in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the Candidate of the ‘70s easily rose above his principles to achieve political goals. Power corrupts.

Money also corrupts, and nearly everyone has his price, as demonstrated in the film The Magic Christian (1970). Dignified English businessmen suddenly lost their cool and fought tooth and nail for a chance to dive into an enormous vat of excrement, urine and blood in pursuit of a few soggy pound notes. “If you want it, here it is, come and get/ You’d better grab it ‘cause it’s going fast.” A decade ahead of its time… in the ‘80s, the hit song from this movie could have served as the YUPPIE (Young, Unprincipled, Pompous Parasites, Immersed in Egomania) Anthem.

The counterculture always demanded truth, and in the early ‘70s, Hollywoodgave them more than they bargained for. The initial shock of beauty-of-violence films like The Wild Bunch (1969) wore off, but now, the theme evolved into a new genre: “The cold reality of violence.” Clockwork Orange kick started the genre, which then moved on with a vengeance to Straw Dogs (1971) and Deliverance (‘72). The heroes of these last two films appeared as normal people, pushed into extreme reactions… suggesting that under certain conditions, anyone is capable of murder.

Hollywood also hinted that law enforcement could no longer protect American citizens in these troubled times. The message: cops must work outside the system, and everyone else should arm themselves and be ready to strike back at all times. Celluloid revenge sold well in the early ‘70s. Civilians like Joe (‘70) lashed out at the hippies, Billy Jack (‘71) at rednecks, and cops worked above the law in Dirty Harry (‘71), Magnum Force (‘73) and Walking Tall (‘74). Finally, Charles Bronson symbolized the average American guy, forced to transform into an urban vigilante killer for the good of his beloved country in Death Wish (‘74).

Michael Corleone, in The Godfather (‘72), pointed out, “If history has taught us anything, it’s that you can kill anyone.” Kay, his wife, questioned his business etiquette, “Presidents and Senators don’t have men killed.” Michael answered as if he were speaking to a child, “Now look at who’s being naïve, Kay.” “I believe in America,” the first words spoken after the opening credits, would have been considered strange in the context of a typical gangster film, but not in this masterpiece by Francis Ford Coppola. The director showed powerful, ruthless businessmen, willing to use any method including murder to achieve success. Michael Corleone became just another respectable corporate giant by the end of Godfather, Part II. How he reached that high station in life was no longer relevant. He now stood above the laws of common men, and at worst could only be accused of an occasional “error in judgment.”

ROCK & ROLL

What ever happened to the Age of Aquarius, with peace, love, understanding and all that other good stuff? St. John asked us in 1971 to “Imagine there’s no countries/ It isn’t hard to do/ Nothing to kill or die for/ And no religion too/ And all the people living a life in peace/ You may say I’m a dreamer/ But I’m not the only one? I hope someday you’ll join us/ And the world will be one.” That same summer, Coke managed to cash in and trivialize the thought: “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony/ I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company/ It’s the real thing/ Coke is what the world wants today/ It’s the real thing.” Indeed.

Rolling Stone interviewed Lennon later that year, and he announced, “The Dream is over. It’s just the same, only now I’m thirty and a lot of people have long hair. That’s what it is, Man, nothing changed except that we grew up. We did our own thing… just like they were telling us to. Most of the so-called ‘Now Generation’ are getting jobs. We’re a minority, you know, people like us always were, but maybe we are a slightly larger minority because of something or other.” Harry Chapin sang of lost dreams in 1972 in Taxi: “You were going to be an actress and I was going to learn to fly/ Now, for him you’re acting happy/ Me, I drive my taxi and get high.” Don McLean, in American Pie, delivered an eulogy, not only for Buddy Holly and the First Golden Age of Rock & Roll, but for the Age of Aquarius and the hippie/yippie counterculture as well: “…The day the music died/ And they were singing/ Bye, bye Miss American Pie…”

MOVIES

An amazing era in American history ended, and reflections of crumbling civilizations filled the screens: Performance (‘70, with Jagger), King of Marvin Gardens (‘72), Slaughter House Five, The Last Picture Show and Cabaret. Joel Grey, as the emcee in the last of these it’s-over-and-I-give-up flicks, beckoned us to “Leave your troubles outside and come join the Cabaret.” The story drew a parallel between decadent Germany in the 1930s and present day America, and just outside of the club waited Hitler and Nixon respectively. Or, at least that’s how many Boomers felt as they watched this film so soon after the massacres at Kent State and Jackson State.

Boomers faced Mean Streets in 1973. Young adults identified with Malcolm McDowell in O Lucky Man!, a coffee salesman in a country that mostly drank tea. Times were hard in real life with increasing inflation, high unemployment rates and gas rationing, but our hero remained optimistic: “Smile while you’re making it/ Laugh while you’re taking it/ even though you’re faking it/ Nobody’s going to know/ And so, You’re a lucky man.”

What happened to the good life that Boomer kids had been promised in the ‘50s, “If you just eat your vegetables and study hard”? Boomers wanted to escape back to those innocent days when the American Dream still seemed plausible. George Lucas offered to take us back with American Graffiti to a time and place where the toughest problem that a teen ever had to face was finding the blonde in the pink T-Bird. “Where were you in ‘62?” (Before the death of JFK’s Camelot).

ROCK & ROLL

The music industry decided to forget about politics and world problems, and instead, returned to the serious business of cranking out love songs. They pushed the genre to a new level. Marvin Gaye sang Let’s Get It On and Diana Ross, Touch Me In the Morning (both 1973) after Billy Paul had confessed to an affair with a married woman in Me and Mrs. Jones (“We’ve got a thing going on”)(1972). Carly Simon proclaimed that the “Me Decade” had officially begun with You’re So Vain(1973). After all the pain, Maureen McGovern optimistically predicted that (“There’s got to be”) A Morning After (1973), but Dr. John wondered if this wasn’t the Right Place, Wrong Time. Vietnam released the first POWs in February, and Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree(1973) soared to number one.

It was time bid farewell to the ‘60s: (“Goodbye Miss) American Pie - Don McLean (1972), Neither One of Us (Wants to be the First to Say Goodbye) – Gladys Knight & the Pips and Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road - Elton John (both 1973).

Groups like Grand Funk Railroad forced Rock into the ‘70s: “We’re coming to your town/ We’ll help you party it down/ We’re an American Band”… but most Boomers no longer felt in the mood.

African American artists refused to forgive and forget. Stevie Wonder warned of Superstition and War complained The World Is a Ghetto.

Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert in 1973 officially buried the Second Golden Age of Rock & Roll, just as Dick Clark’s American Bandstand had done to the First. Pink Floyd provided the most controversial song of the year. Sex and political content were the main issues with censors in the past, but in the Me Decade the flap focused on Floyd’s use of the word “bullshit” in Money (Or, perhaps, because they connected the two words). A heated debate took place to decide if Money could be played on AM radio. Finally, management asked the most relevant question: “Will Money make money for us?” It played.

Big Business staged a hostile takeover of Rock & Roll in the early ‘70s. Most little, laidback FM radio stations disappeared or were swallowed up by corporate raiders, and the ones that remained sounded like Hype AM in stereo. The Money Men moved in and handed mellow DJs ad copy, play lists and, in many cases, pink slips. Bill Graham closed both Fillmores in 1971.

Independent record companies also disappeared. Warner Brothers/ Reprise bought Atlanticin 1967, Electra in ‘70 and Asylum in ‘73. Decca, Kapp and Uni Records merged to form MCA in the late ‘60s, and in the early ‘70s added ABC. MGM and Polydor merged to form Polygram, and soon after added Casablanca, Capricorn and RSO. By 1980 the “Big Six” (Warners, CBS, Polygram, RCA, Capitol and MCA) owned the market. In 1977, for instance, Warner had 23% of all record and tape sales, Columbiatook in 19% and Polygram received 14%. The Me Decade became the era of Corporate Rock… a time when senile old suits decided what was good Rock & Roll.

“… And she’s buying a Stairway to Heaven. (Led Zeppelin—1971).

You Can’t Always Get What You Want (“But if you try sometime/ You might just find/ You can get what you need”) (The Rolling Stones—1973).

PE The Mid-1970s

 TV becomes slightly more relevant, but offers weird superheroes. Hollywood offers disaster and conspiracy flicks, but the public demands nostalgia. This leads to Rock & Roll’s darkest hour: Disco. 1976 Birthdays: America’s 200th and ex-Berkeley freshmen, (who in 1964 warned, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty!”)…turn thirty.

1974:  How to Survive a Marriage
1975:  Ryan’s Hope
(New Soaps)

The exact cause and time of death of the ‘60s is impossible to determine, but one can pinpoint the burial. It occurred over a one-month span in 1974. On September 8th, Ford granted Nixon a “full, free and absolute” pardon for all crimes committed in office, and on the 25th of the month, A judge overturned Lt. Calley’s conviction for reasons of “prejudicial pretrial publicity.” On November 8th, the court acquitted all eight of the accused Ohio National Guardsmen of charges in the Kent State Massacre.

Boomers dropped out of the counterculture, and turned on and tuned in television. The networks offered (for the first time since Star Trek in 1966) decent tube fare in the ‘70s. Mary Tyler Moore finally presented young, independent, single career women with a believable role model. With M*A*S*H (1972), the tube finally admitted that war in Vietnam might not be as much fun and glory as it had promised in the mid-‘60s. All In the Family demonstrated to Boomers that one of us could actually co-exist under the same roof with one of them. Even though generational relationships grew tense at times, Archie was a welcome alternative to Joe. Spin-off, Maude irritated many male chauvinistic viewers, and that was a good thing. Blacks and Latinos appeared for the first time playing normal, everyday people on Sanford and Son and Chico and the Man (1974). Television evolved, and seemed almost worth watching.

One glaring deficiency in the pages of TV Guide in the ‘70s was a lack of superheroes. Little Boomer boys always intuitively surfed channels for champions to idolize and emulate… from Captain Midnight to Davy Crockett to Superman and Batman. But in the mid-‘70s, they found only two very strange candidates: The Six Million Dollar Man and Kane in Kung Fu. Both reflected our defeat in Vietnam. Steve Austin, a typical American male, too civilized and flabby to be a superior fighting machine faced recall. Only through superior technology (specifically bionics) could America stand a chance of defeating barbarians in hand-to-hand combat. Reflecting the violent year, Austin’s powers didn’t happen as the result of a dedicated, slow development of God-given talents, but rather, as the result of a fluke accident. Science replaced his damaged flesh and bones with new and improved mechanical marvels. Ebb Tide Boomers (those born in the years 1959 to 1964) grew up wishing that they too, could trade in their inferior human parts. Hollywood took the idea a step further with no-blooded killers (like Yul Bryner) in Westworld, and in Demon Seed (where a computer mates with a human).

TV offered a second hero with Kane… an Asian who easily defeated large groups of inferior Caucasians, with complete focus of mind and body. Kane symbolized the anti-Tarzan. Boomer boys signed up for Kung-Fu and Karate classes and began to watched Kato (Bruce Lee) films with a passion.

MOVIES

Had Americans become too civilized to survive in a violent world? In Zardoz (1974) and A Boy and His Dog (1975), the impotent ruling class of the near future lured barbarian men into their domain to fertilize their women. The pale, flabby, civilized no longer felt up to the task, and their groups teetered on the edge of extinction.

The big screen offered little hope. A decade of traumatic shocks, from the assassinations of JFK, RFK and King to an outrageous pardon from a non-elected President, left Boomers wondering, “How could things possibly get any worse?” Hollywood enthusiastically answered: Earthquake (1973). “Sensurround” blew off the back doors of the theatre at its premiere), Towering Inferno (1974), The Poseidon Adventure, Avalanche, Meteor, Flood, The Swarm (killer bees), Phase IV (killer ants), Juggernaut, Airport sequels, and a disaster spoof, The Big Bus (1976). Movies were bigger than life again. The gang in Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) dwarfed the Manson Clan. Jaws (‘76) scared Teen Utopia refugees away from the beach forevermore. Violent crime became Big Business in Godfather (‘72), legitimate Standard Operating Procedure in Godfather: Part II, and finally, in Rollerball (‘75), corporations replaced out-dated governments around the world. Conspiracy became as common as jaywalking in Klute (‘71), Shampoo (‘75), Chinatown (‘74), The Conversation (‘74), Parallax View (‘74) and All the President’s Men (‘76). In Nashville (‘76), the crowd broke out into a sing-along of It Don’t Worry Me after an assassination attempt on a presidential candidate, but Taxi Driver (‘76) suggested that maybe they should worry.

The popular Boomer flick genre of the-last-sane-man-in-an-insane-society grew darker in the mid-‘70s. The problem of abnormal behavior diminished, because society now owned a surgical cure for rebels. An inmate in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (‘75) refused heavy sedation and received a lobotomy as an alternative treatment. The Man Who Fell to Earth (‘76) appeared as a superior alien, so logically, and against his will, society arrested and surgically converted him into a normal human being. A final warning to closet counterculture diehards: “Repent or we’ll cut the rebellion right out of you.”

The first accurate and tragic reflection of Vietnam hit the screen in 1974 in the documentary, Hearts and Minds. Powerful images haunted the viewer. A Vietnamese mother mourned her dead baby on the screen as General William Westmoreland explained in the narrative, “Orientals do not value life as we do.”Columbia refused to release the film, but producer, Bert Schneider managed to slip the film out through Rainbow Productions. The film won the Oscar for Best Documentary, but few Americans could bear to watch it at the time. We preferred a closed casket funeral.

ROCK & ROLL

Something snapped after Watergate. Stevie Wonder released an angry You Ain’t Done Nothing and Billy Preston confirmed, Nothin’ From Nothin’ (“leaves nothin’”). James accused the Funky President (“People, it’s bad”). The B-side was titled Cold blooded. Al Wilson declared that the time had come to Show and Tell. Country/Western made a rare visit to the LP Top Ten with Charlie Rich’s (“No one knows what goes on…”) Behind Closed Doors (at the Watergate Hotel?) Elton John waved Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road.

The Way We Were topped the charts in 1974. This title cut from a blockbuster movie served as a nostalgic look back to a better time, and captured the mood of the country. On the eve of our bicentennial, Americans looked forward in their rearview mirrors. Jim Croce wanted to catch Time In a Bottle. Happy Days hit the tube and the soundtrack of American Graffiti became the #9 LP of the year. Many retreated even further as Grease premiered on Broadway (where it would continue to run until 1980). “Well, she was just seventeen,” had been the opening line of the B-side of the first Beatles’ 45 in the USA. Now, a decade later, Ringo reached even farther into the cradle for his first solo hit: You’re Sixteen (“You’re beautiful and you’re mine”). Television offered a bittersweet Welcome Back, Kotter (“You’re dreams were your ticket out.”) TV even coaxed Speedy (Alka Seltzer), the Campbell Kids and the Hamm’s Bear out of retirement. Only Mel Brooks bucked the trend with a new TV show called When Things Were Rotten. It flopped.

Hula Hoops and Slinkies came back into style, as did dancing. Thus began Rock & Roll’s darkest hour… the dreaded Disco Era. The genre remains a painful topic for Rock purists, but we cannot ignore an entire period. Death… disease… Disco. Stuff like that happens. There’s nothing we can do about it. Simply put, Disco music is monotonous, mechanical, superficial, emotionless, and devoid of the peaks and valleys that one normally finds in real music. Android Rock would have been a better name. Worse than the crap of the Teen Idol Era (1958-63), when the creation of a hit record still necessitated a small degree of human participation, Disco offered very few live performances in the clubs, and no Superstars emerged in the genre. The dancers became the stars, and these inept amateurs demanded a constant, monotonous beat, between 120 to 160 times per minute, which acted as training wheels for their limited repertoires. The simple-minded music (with a drum machine, and often, one chord per song), and lyrics (“That’s the way uh-huh, uh-huh, I like it, uh-huh, uh-huh”), never disturbed the fragile connection between plodding feet and empty heads. These people bopped to Bandstand as preteens, but now, many pushed thirty, were still single and just plain lonely. Discotheques served as a great place to meet meat and start up a brief, but shallow relationship, based on a mutual appreciation of flashy clothes and boring music. Boomers yearned for a safe place to hide, and possibly a one-night stand. They avoided rebellion, anger, humor and excitement whenever possible. There are no lyrics worth quoting from this musical genre, so I will have to borrow a line from mid-‘70s Soft Rock to help explain the popularity of Disco: “Some dance to remember, some dance to forget.”

Android Rock pushed the last mumbles of protest off the pop charts in 1975. The Isley Brothers urged us to Fight the Power, but Earth, Wind and Fire just sighed, That’s the Way of the World. War now asked, Why Can’t We Be Friends? The Average White Band tried to Pick Up the Pieces, and John Denver hid Back Home Again.

1976 will always be remembered as the worst year in the entire history of Rock & Roll… the absolute pits. We heard moans from Donna Summers and experienced the horror of Disco Duck. The new Disco lifestyle overwhelmed many Boomers, and Paul Simon suggested that there are 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.

The mid-70s had begun with I Know It’s Only Rock & Roll (“But I like it), and in two short years devolved into Disco Duck. How could this happen on our 200th Birthday? And who could have ever imagined that, in the Presidential Election on our bicentennial, one candidate would be an incumbent who we had never elected in the first place, and the other, a peanut farmer/ nuclear physicist who admitted to lusting in his heart and claimed to have once sighted a UFO?

1976 marked another birthday for note: the 18-year-old Freshmen, First Wave Boomers, who, in 1964, proclaimed at Berkeley, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty” now crossed over that point of no return.