Sunday, July 26, 2009

That Vacuous 60s Counterculture

I recently stumbled into a remarkable little shop on Oakton St. in Skokie. It had the effect of compelling me to recollect on my days as a boy growing up in that vast cultural wasteland known as the 1960s.

The newly opened shop, Selective Memories Resale and Collectables, deals in assorted bric-a-brac, junque, collectibles and objects d'art and is heavy on 60s memorobilia.

It is run by an effusively genial 50 something guy, Dave Zorig, who exudes a genuine love of pop antiquity.

His recently deceased dad, one of the very few American existentialists I have ever heard of (he was reading a volume of Sartre's scribblings when he passed on,) actually invented a primitive version of the rock video in the 60s. The geniuses at the mobbed-up Chicago juke box companies passed on the invention. They said that kids would never want to watch rock musicians perform to their music. This was 15 years before MTV and VH1.

Maybe that kind of foresight explains why Sam "MOMO" Giancana's social club and benevolent society has been in a precipitous decline since about that very time.

So Dave reported to me that he was personal friends with several members of the flash-in-the-pan pop group the Turtles, and gets a lot of their memorobilia to vend.

We began discussing several of their hits from the 1966-67 timeframe and for the rest of the day those Turtle songs kept running thru my head.

There is a name for this phenomena, but I forget what it is. If you doubt it exists, just go to one of the McDonald's that plays tapes of oldies music and tell me that for the next 24 hours your brain is not running a non-stop reel of, "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to."

So this got me thinking about the caliber of lyricism that formed the sound track of the antics of that "smartest generation," of the 60s.

Take this gem from the Turtles"

"Eleanor, Gee I think you're swell
And you really do me well
You're my pride and joy etcetera."


Aside from the fact that the only person I ever heard of in the 60s who still used the term "swell," was Judy Garland's little peach, Liza, "Etcetera" as the end of a lyric?

What that says to me is major intellectual and artistic laziness. It also says that the kids who ate this stuff up and plunked down hard cash for the vinyl discs were about as discerning as West Virginia hayseeds.

Can you imagine Cole Porter writing:

"I love Paris in the morning when it drizzles
I love Paris in the evening when it sizzles
I love Paris every moment
Every moment etcetera."

A poll of 60s college students taken at the time found that they rated Bob Dylan as the greatest poet of all time. Move aside Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. Who needs Shakespeare's sonnets when you can ponder:

"I don't want to meet your kin
make you spin or do you in."

Paul Simon once expressed irritation that his peers were attributing great profundity to his lyrics and said that could only be because the vast majority of rock lyricists were quasi-literate nincumpoops.

They were and we bought it.

And now the unreconstructed countercultural gnomes of the 60s are tenured professors who dominate our universities and senior executives at our major news organs.

What is more frightening, is that in the incarnation of David Axlerod and Bill Ayres, they have the ear of the young, inexperienced, coffee-complected nincumpoop-in-chief.

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Comments invited, however anonymous commentors had better deal directly with the issues raised and avoid ad hominem drivel. As for Teachers' Union seminar writers -- forget about it.