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Romanticizing the ’60s and ’70s.

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I should get it out in the open that I don’t listen to much music before 1977. Before punk came along, music was boring to me outside of a select few bands. Punk ushered in an entire underground world of music that was able to spread by word of mouth, fanzines, and, later, the internet. But prior to that, music consisted almost entirely of major label supported and doctored bands — an ironic thought, given how many who idolize the ’60s and ’70s would have us believe it was a more innocent and creative time. Artists wrote all their own songs, music was about defying The Man, everyone was free. It was rock, man. Or that’s what they tell us, anyway.

But what was really going on during this time? Well, Vietnam is definitely one that sticks out. The Monterery Pop Festival is another eye sore. Monterey was a cavalcade of confused and rebellious young adults who ended up being partially credited with starting a “revolution,” when really, while I hate to diminish their accomplishments, they just sat around and got high while listening to awful music. Kennedy and King were assassinated, racism was rampant, drug abuse and other excesses were the norm among teens and young adults who were trying to break free of authoritarian WWII generation parents, Nixon betrayed the trust of a nation, and the government in general exceeded its bounds in every way imaginable. People who idolize this time period will try to put it in glowing terms: these hippies were just “exploring” and “finding themselves” through acid trips, long hair, and ugly skirts. And that’s fine, I guess.

But why am I talking about this in the first place?

Someone asked me tonight why teenagers in my generation have such a proclivity for the music cultures of past decades — mostly the ’60s and ’70s.

I think for a lot of people, they were just raised to believe by their baby boomer parents that Hendrix is the greatest guitarist of all time, Led Zeppelin is the best band of all time, and Paul McCartney used to be really sexy. It’s sort of like how some people born into religious families don’t explore outside their birth faith.

But then there are other people who look at the ’60s and ’70s as a more free-spirited, creative age, independent of what their parents may or may not believe. Why, though? Clearly it’s historically inaccurate to believe the ’60s and ’70s had a lot of good stuff we don’t have any longer. At no time in American history have more people been freer than now. At no time in American history has artist-controlled music been able to reach an audience like it does now. Why is it that my fellow youngsters idolize what is probably one of the most annoying and screwed up generations (musically and otherwise) in American history? I’m genuinely asking this, because I’m not totally sure myself. I do have a few theories, but I’d love to hear yours too.

I’d posit that baby boomers were never really surpassed by their children, largely Generation X, because Generation X was off, you know, being cynical punks — but Generation X also got involved in the work force in a way that the baby boomers seem to have avoided. Generation X seems to have mellowed and matured in a way that their parents haven’t, for one reason or another. Generation X hasn’t gravitated to political office, so our country is run by the sort of people who once employed trip tents for those who suffered bad experiences with acid during music festivals and such. The baby boomers have left an indelible, and somewhat inedible, impact on this country. Their culture still has a significant mark on my peers, even generations after their culture’s prime has expired. This is in part, I think, why people are just unable to escape the ’60s and ’70s no matter how hard they try.

Another part is that corporations (largely run and managed by baby boomers, not coincidentally, I’m sure) market the Age of the Hippie as something that is romantic and purer than this corrupt world we have today. Even now in 2008, retired hippies seem be of the opinion that by following the Grateful Dead around the country when they were 23, they somehow managed to purify the country in some way, shape, or form. This is marketed to my generation and partly why it is suddenly cool to wear mass produced t-shirts about “dropping beats, not bombs” and how much we should all love the environment. Kids are being told by companies that it is cool to be retro, that it’s cool to want to be like your grandparents or parents when they, you know, fought for something.

When it comes down to it, I think that’s the main attraction. Kids look at the ’60s and ’70s and see that the history books and their peers and teachers tell them that it used to be that people fought for things. That music brought them together, that a more loving lifestyle was the solution to all of our problems. The long hair and make out parties are really what booted Nixon from office, after all.

When people think of the ’60s and ’70s, I think, they think of people with long hair gathered around in circles, or maybe standing nude in the mud listening to Hendrix, smoking dope and looking like they had just fought the law and won. People don’t see that today in their music (unless you count that absolutely absurd set of concerts to raise global warming awareness or whatever, but those were so hypocritical and fake looking it was hilarious) and so they look to the past, which has been sold to them as this musical generation in which bands were able to bring people together to solve problems. I think the need to feel the music they listen to is currently important or once was important is what brings people back to the revisionist’s perspective on music from what is, for us, our grandparents’ generation. Everyone wants to imagine they were there listening to Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth when it first came out, looking cool and out to confront the world. I think that’s why people idolize the ’60s and ’70s so much.

But that’s just me; what do you crazy kids think?

I’ll leave you with what is, in my estimation, the worst song of all time:


Written by M

June 20, 2008 at 4:52 am

Posted in Commentary

Tagged with , ,

5 Responses

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  1. Great article man. Personally, the only reason why I ever listened to Hendrix was to see how its like to “trip” on his songs. It makes me feel like im sober listening to annoying guitar squeels. I guess that’s why we have stoner rock/metal nowadays for us to really trip out on songs that are worth doing so.

    I am not condoning the use of drugs to be “good”, but I also feel like the only real reason for kids to be listening to 60’s and 70’s music is to find an excuse to use drugs and hallucinations.


    June 20, 2008 at 4:38 pm

  2. oh yea FUCK THE DEAD


    June 20, 2008 at 4:38 pm


    Marshall B

    June 20, 2008 at 4:40 pm

  4. As someone who was a little twerp during the ’70s, I have a handful of bands from that era that I like, but I agree that most of it is fodder for hippie reminiscing. The Who, who (no pun intended) I believe to be one of the earlier inklings of punk rock attitude will always be one of my all-time favorite bands (thanks to yer mom, Marshall — that is not a mom joke, either).

    I recently helped a local teen record a bunch of local high school music acts for his classmates as part of his senior project. Despite the excessive Jack Johnson influence, I was fascinated how he and many of his friends were huge fans of classic hard rock bands like Zeppelin. When I was a teen, we rebelled against much of that, instead opting for the punk/underground/college rock stuff.

    Anyhow, I think a big part of it is that mainstream music these days is so homogenized and pre-packaged. Whether one likes the music of the ’60s and ’70s or not, it had more of a real, tangible feeling to it. People had actual talent. They had to record in real studios with real engineers, instead of their own living rooms. Sure, lots of it was comprised of knock-off bands of knock-off bands, but they didn’t use autotune on every vocal track, the major labels didn’t sterilize everything, drum tracks were not micro-managed down to perfect timing, and honestly, people could actually play their own instruments and write their own songs.

    The advent of the Internet has helped the youth market gain access to music they might otherwise not hear, which is awesome in my opinion. Marshall, you are a prime example of this. Every time you post about an obscure punk band that I wouldn’t expect you to know about, I get a little teary eyed—like a father whose son has won the big football game. That’s how pathetic of a music geek I am. But there will always be the masses who don’t take the initiative or care about hearing something that isn’t endorsed by Z-100 FM or the Jay Leno Show. And in my mind, this site exists to do just that: educate the masses about the world of amazing music out there that the major labels don’t want you to know about.


    June 21, 2008 at 11:53 am

  5. It must just be a personal preference thing, because I have always always always hated music from that age. I got stuck listening to oldies and classic rock format stations galore when I was a kid because my dad’s so into that sorta thing. I could just never find myself enjoying it unless it was one of those rare occasions when they played a Funkadelic song or something (I had no idea who they /were/ when I was 8, but I liked the sound). I don’t know what about it drives me crazy, but something there just makes me want to rip my hair out. I actually don’t have an issue with bands like The Who at all. I just really absolutely hate hippies. I’ve never seen The Who as much of a hippy band that way, I guess. But if you have to be stoned to enjoy the music (I can’t explain another way of sitting through a Grateful Dead song), I think that’s where I gotta draw the line. <_<

    Yeah, I mean, the studio engineering is pretty cool – especially with the experimentation a lot of bands did when they found out the different ways they could record. Without studio geeks, we wouldn’t get guys like Steve Albini or Kevin Shields anyway. But on the other hand, I have to hand it to the guys in Have a Nice Life who between two guys managed to literally record this really brilliant CD in their bedroom or something. It sounds really great to my ears. But then I found out yesterday that Vampire Weekend recorded their stuff in a bedroom and it made me wince for extreme independent recording. :x!!

    It’s interesting how music labels used to be a little more relaxed about stuff like that. I wonder why they changed? Is it because they just face all this indie competition now? Or like… I dunno what the dealio is. They’re probably just scared and they boxed themselves into a corner they probably can’t get out of. Maybe. I don’t know.

    Ohh wellz. This thing I wrote he-ah was stupid anyway. I was just up at like 3 in the morning and didn’t think things through when I wrote it. <_< It was what was on my mind and for whatever reason I opened the dashboard up and posted it. 😮

    Marshall B

    June 21, 2008 at 4:23 pm

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