April 20, 2007

Take Five--My Generation and 1965

[Take Five. Every Friday, at least in theory, Fire on the Mountain picks a category and lists five cool things in it. It's up to you, dear reader, to add your own in the Comments section. Just click on the word "comments" at the bottom of the piece and you're off to the races.]

The biggest video on YouTube this week is a version of the Who's classic song "My Generation," done by a bunch of elderly people in Britain. The group, recording as The Zimmers, are subjects in a forthcoming several-show documentary about how hard it is to get old under late capitalism.

I found incredibly--I was going to say moving, but I think disorienting is more apt. I still haven't figured out all the ways it hits me, but I hope that others reading this, both of my era and from other generational cohorts, will jot down a sentence or two in the comments section about how it strikes you.

Part of the sense of dislocation comes from the fact that "My Generation" was one of a series of remarkable songs that erupted from the radio in 1965, generational declarations of alenation, or independence, or perhaps even war. These songs made explicit for the first time some of what was latent in the drive and chaos and longing of rock and roll in the first place.


Consider that 1965, one single year, gave us:

"My Generation" The Who. As Keith Moon's drums banged and clattered loudly in the foreground, Pete Townsend was so overcome by his anger at the contempt of the larger society and so determined to have his say that he was reduced to stuttering, as he snarled, "Hope I die before I get old."

"We Gotta Get Out Of This Place" The Animals. This one beats out "It's My Life" by a nose, mostly because it became the theme song for the grunts in Vietnam. Both were written by New Yorkers in the tiny hit factories of the Brill Building and purchased by producer Mickey Most for The Animals, and the anger that was written into both was underlined and amplified by the working class kids from the North of England who made up the band.

"Eve Of Destruction" Barry McGuire. Even when I was fifteen this was a guilty pleasure. It is a protest song, I guess, but it protested everything author P.F. Sloan could think of, indiscriminately. And the real anger and fear about the state of the world that roared through it couldn't quite redeem lines like, "Yeah, my blood's so mad, feels like coagulatin.'" Still the sucker went to number one, the first non-wimpy protest song to do so.

"Like A Rolling Stone" Bob Dylan.
Ol'Bob himself had already moved well past protest songs in the traditional sense, but this talked about how it felt to be young in that amazing time in a way that won him a far wider audience than he had had up until then.

"Satisfaction" The Rolling Stones. Saving the best for last.

There was more going on in 1965. Greasers in the US and rockers in the UK fought losing rearguard actions to defend rockabilly and doowop. James Brown's musical revolution announced itself in "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" and the Black Liberation Movement pushed onto the charts in Sam Cooke's posthumoous "A Change Is Going To Come" and The Impressions "People Get Ready." New forms arose and old ones were revamped.

Most of all, though, I would argue that 1965 was about that eruption of baby-boomer anger and confusion and alienation, an eruption which redefined what the early rock and roll era had been about and pointed out where we were headed.

So, what do you think of the Zimmers?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Cuckoo’s Nest, a bar on Flatbush Ave had “Eve of a Destruction” on its juke box in the early 80s. I loved playing it.