Sunday, August 30, 2009

You say you want a revolution

As most people would know it was recently the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock festival in 1969. I have the documentary on VHS (and remarkably still own a working video player), so thought I would break it out as I hadn't really watched it since my university days. It is a great movie, but right through the feeling that I got was:
a) Gosh the hippies were so earnest thinking peace and love could bring down Nixon;
b) We are so cynical now to think that it couldn't.

The documentary is fantastic. There are of course the classic performances from Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker (showcasing the invention of the air guitar). And some moments of unintended hilarity; Arlo Guthrie talking in hippie code "I was just rapping with the fuzz.. can you dig it?", the announcer trying to discourage people from taking the brown acid.

For me the best band there was The Who, for the shear fact that they didn't buy into the hippie ideal. They simply blow everyone else off the stage. At the time, Tommy had just been released and they were at the peak of their powers. To see Townsend playing so hard his fingers were bleeding, is the dictionary definition of rock'n'roll. Nothing was going to stop them that night. Not even Abbie Hoffman, the famous hippie radical, who ran on the stage and stole the mic for a polemic, got a smack to the head by Towshend's guitar for his troubles.

I can dig it... The next fucker who comes up on this stage is going to get fucking killed... Gold.

The documentary itself is a great snapshot of the hippie ideal, and while their hearts were mostly in the right place, it shows what an absolute sham most of it was. Free love mainly entailed guys wanting to have sex with women without committment. A large amount of the hippie dream was about getting high, which was bound to end in mindless ramblings and narcotic addictions.

To contrast how the hippie dream failed you only need to look at the video's below.


Became this:

Indeed. Just over ten years later the same people at Woodstock and settled down and voted for Regan and were listening to some of the same bands playing pale versions of their former selves (including The Who).

Still, hindsight as they say is 20/20. At the time, it probably would have been amazing to be in such a worldwide movement, when so many things were turned on their head in such a short space of time. Youth culture now is so fractured, music is so commercial, it is hard to imagine their ever being another festival like it, much like there will never be another band as popular as the Beatles.

I guess, going back to my point before, it is a measure of how cynical we have become that some of these ideals are dimissed as 'hippie dreams'. And maybe that was the failing of the 60's generation, they failed to realise that given time they would settle down and become their parents. But once again in hindsight it is very easy to judge.

Thirty years later we had Woodstock '99, a festival marred by riots, violence, rape, overpriced commercialism, and Limp Bizkit. So which concert would I have rather gone to? Stupid question.

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