Thursday, December 08, 2005

Strawberry Flashback Forever

Woke up to hear the radio play The Ballad of John & Yoko. I was gratified, not just for this welcome departure from the overplayed Imagine, but because the song so ably embodies the charms of 60s pop music -- or the Boomer soundtrack, if you must.

Here's what I like -- no, love -- about 60s music: I love how nearly every artist on the air took nearly every bit of personal whimsy that occurred to them, then inflated it to mythic proportions. The common criticism is this was an indication of just how grotesquely seriously this generation took itself, but at least it made for interesting songs. So here we have John Lennon, a man who has grown irreparably rich and famous off the music he made with his mates, hopping from country to country with this bird he's taken up, and holding press conferences from their hotel bed. The press responds with the expected head-scratching and contempt -- say, this is perfect material for a song! Keep the melody light, don't clutter it up, but make sure it builds to the expected peak and thumb your nose at The Establishment.

I think the 60s songwriting mode -- for male artists, if not their long-suffering female counterparts -- is to take everything personally, but nothing seriously. The Beatles and Dylan worked in tandem on this school of music, but the apex of this mode is best exemplified by Steely Dan. Fans of the Dan twist their own pretzel logic, trying to locate the sense of their disjointed lyrics, but Fagan & Becker have a fairly stringent approach to their hallucinogenic show-tunes: find a grotesque subject, and see if you can't shine a whimsical light on it.

That's the sort of thing I ate up in my 20s. I could dig the music of my own time -- The Clash, The Cure, The The and finally Nirvana (the cure to The Cure) -- but only if their grim smugness was offset by the giddy smugness of their hippie progenitors. The hippie scene was sure to end badly, but the merry foolishness had genuine charm to it. Occasionally it's fun to re-visit, and that's where you'll find me today.

11 comments:

DarkoV said...

Let me go up to our attic, or is that, Let me go down to our basement and dig out the plastic and wooded memoribilia of that hazy age. Geez, the Grateful Dead DVD's are now part of the regualr Public Radio telethons, so '60's resurrections are almost de rigeur.

And the "Dan" lyrics? A cakewalk to town compared to the ostentatiousness that was the prose of "Yes". I need to talk to someone, anyone who understood one sentence of these overblown wankers!

That's where you'll find me today. Smoking about the '60's. Waht potential! What disgrace!

DarkoV said...

WP,
In discussing Steely Dan, have you caught this site?

http://www.donaldfagen.com/writing.html

Whisky Prajer said...

DV - it's been a while since I visited the Fagen site. The last time was probably after he'd posted the Morricone "interview". I'm lukewarm (at best) on things Grateful Dead. As for Yes, I've got one word: No. Still and all, I like the bounce of the 60s. If the 60s musical scene was started on surfboards, my impression of it all is of boys in baggies on balsa-wood, utterly convinced they will catch the big wave into the future. My impression of the current musical malaise is of a bunch of well-outfitted surfers, bobbing about in chaf.

DarkoV said...

bobbing about in chaf. Lovely image, that. How about bobbing about like chav, chav being defined as

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=chav

Whisky Prajer said...

Leave it to a Croatian to enrich my English. Yes, "like chav" fits the bill perfectly.

Cowtown Pattie said...

I ain't gonna bash my music idols of the past. I love 'em all, especially John. (Yoko can take a dive in some chaf, though...)

Who could forget Moby Grape, Uriah Heep, or Foghat? What about Grand Funk Railroad, CCR, Poco, or Jefferson Airplane? Can you let bad fathers diss the wonderful Mothers of Invention? Forget the Brick Windows (a local garage band of my teenaged years), what about The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Sly and the Family Stone, The Yardbirds, The Turtles, or Donovan?

I could become a broken record here...

Sorry, kids, but most of today's music is lacking everything that the old bands had, including longevity, I predict.

Whisky Prajer said...

Excellent list, CP - I loves 'em all (except for Brick Windows, who I've never heard - oh, and The Doors in moderation)!

Bleak Mouse said...

The Doors in extreme moderation. Also Janis -- who seemed never to have felt a tenderly nuanced emotion she couldn't scream about; and who seemed to go out of her way to find the very worst musicians available -- which required a certain talent in the 60s rock scene, given that every city block had a hundred truly bad musicians on it.

"Brick Windows"? No wonder they never made it. I can imagine fans of The Grateful Dead, Moby Grape, Jefferson Airplane, and Foghat scratching their heads and muttering, "What kind of a name is THAT? It makes no sense."

Also for the 60s hall of fame: Quicksilver (the first two albums only), The Left Banke, The Bonzos, The Zombies, The Beau Brummels, The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Van Dyke Parks, Soft Machine, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, Tim Buckley, The Incredible String Band, Buffalo Springfield, Laura Nyro, Jack Bruce, and others to be added in unlimited listings to be appended hereto.

DarkoV said...

Apropos of nothing in your blog entry...

Why aren't you listed as one of the contestants here?

http://weblogawards.org/2005/12/best_canadian_blog.php


Modesty does not become you. I have somehow failed as your (self-designated) promotional mgr. Excuse me while I procure a sword to throw myself on.

Whisky Prajer said...

Was that you, DV? A little heads-up, and I might have actually made mention of it!

Whisky Prajer said...

Wup - wrong list. I received anonymous notification that WP had been nominated for someone's list of Canadian blogs. I checked out the site, and since I didn't know who they were I just assumed this was another rigged opportunity to generate more spam and ignored it. This list would have some tough competition. It is kind of you, however, to think of me in "best Cdn blog" terms.