My Generation’s Music
I have a confession to make. For a while, a couple of years back, I spent some time sitting around the house wrapped in an old blanket, eating brownies, and listening to music. It was like a mid-life regression thing. I was acting like and feeling like the kid I was back in the 1970’s.
When I was a teenager this behavior was perfectly normal. My responsibilities were few and my ambitions even less. I never questioned what I was doing just takin it easy, smoking a little, listening to albums with the head phones on. Head phones, what an invention. For me they were the audio equivalent of personal space travel or astral projection. I don’t know how many nights I spent totally immersed in music with the headphones on and the rest of the world tuned out, floating in my own little galaxy. And now here in my 50’s, for whatever reason, I needed to re-visit that life style.
Do you remember? There was so much music to listen to. The growing pains of the 1960’s music industry (and our country) had morphed into an exciting explosion of creativity and collaboration with incredible innovation and mixing of sounds and styles– it was mind boggling how good the music was. We had so many choices and so many different sounds, I could pick and choose all day. Did I want the mind numbing sensation of say, Yes or Emerson Lake and Palmer or Pink Floyd? Perhaps I needed to be soothed by Richie Havens or Jackson Browne. Maybe some Carlos Santana with his edgy Latin rhythm or then again the country comfort of the Marshall Tucker Band or Poco. Feeling funky, how about a little Tower of Power, or Steely Dan? It was all good. It was no doubt experimental, as was the drug scene. People were just smoking a little and getting creative and getting together and jamming and writing songs about life and love and loss and, basically, whatever they wanted. There was no formula. There were no judges. It was pure and energetic and it was a beautiful thing.
It was like music took this giant evolutionary jump and we were lucky enough to be alive when it happened. And all of us kids were so hungry for it. It seems like everyone I knew was just as tuned in to it as I was. There was always music playing in the background of our lives, no matter where we were or what we were doing. We lugged around giant reel to reel stereo systems and speakers the size of dorm refrigerators, to the beach for Christmas sake! We all got drunk and sat around singing along, word for word, to our favorite albums. I remember one night at a house party a bunch of us singing the entire Tommy album. We didn’t need any freaking karaoke machine, we knew all the words by heart because we lived with the music. It was part of who we were.
At that time in our lives, music was epic. It was our religion. We lived for the next Eagles or Who album. We went to concerts every chance we got, and sat in dark arenas thick with clouds of pot and cigarette smoke, enraptured by the music, and when the band left the stage we yelled for more as we held our Bic lighters aloft like prayer candles. In many ways John Lennon’s comment that the Beatles were like Jesus Christ was spot on. We were a congregation of music lovers who worshiped and adored our spiritual leaders as fervently as born again believers worship their savior. We were musical zealots, and we believed in the power of music. We believed in music because we experienced its power every day. The power to unite and to inspire; the power to energize and to calm; the power to heal a broken heart and the power to tear that heart apart again. At the tender age of fourteen, I fell in love listening to Jackson Browne. Forty years later, I fall in love with him all over again every time I hear “Late for the Sky”. His song “For Every Man” helped me to form my world view, and I still totally get it. Richie Havens schooled me on the horrors of Vietnam, and Crosby Stills and Nash warned me about the dangers of the concentration of power. When Jonie Mitchell cried out for a river to skate away on, my young girls heart was skating right beside her. And when Pete Townsend penned the lyrics for “My Generation”, he wasn’t writing a song he was writing an anthem.
I talk to people my age sometimes about “our” music, and we all seem to agree it was a very special time and that we were privileged to be a part of it. And some of us still find the utmost pleasure and comfort in the music of our youth. The year my husband retired, we didn’t take a European vacation or buy a beach house, we bought tickets to concerts, a bunch of em. We approached every show with the same excitement and anticipation we had so many years ago, and enjoyed and appreciated the music more than ever. We felt like kids again. I’m pretty sure that my eardrums got blasted out at that Tom Petty concert in September. I don’t hear so well and my ears feel full of cotton sometimes, but hell, it was worth it, because IT WAS AWESOME.