Christmas 2017 – Still Stuck in the 1960s

by James Wallace Harris, Monday, December 25, 2017

Much can be revealed about myself from examining my Christmas presents this year.

  • The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) – Blu-ray
  • Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) – 2-CD 50th Anniversary edition
  • The Complete Monterey Pop (1967) – 3-disc Blu-ray edition
  • Trouble No More by Bob Dylan – live recordings 1979-1981

I already own various versions of these works. This is the fourth time I’ve acquired Sgt. Peppers (LP, CD, remastered CD, and now remastered again 2-CD).

beatles-sgt-pepper-50th-anniversary-2xcd_01

I wish I could say my wife knew me well enough to have picked these out, but they were all put on my Xmas-2017 wishlist at Amazon by me. Susan actually knows what I like, she just can’t keep up with what I buy. All the other items on my wishlist, except the Arduino starter kit, were pop culture items from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

Is being stuck in the past a sad state of psychology, or just normal for a 66-year-old guy? One reason why I keep rebuying the past is to get higher resolution recreations of art  I resonated with from my teen years. I generally never got to experience the Sixties directly except for a few exceptions. For example, I got to see Cream live on their Farewell Tour in 1968 in Miami. I never got to see The Beatles, The Byrds, or The Beach Boys in the 1960s. I didn’t attend Monterey Pop or Woodstock. I got to see a lot of legendary bands in the 1970s and later, even ones who got their start in the 1960s, but that’s not the same.

Until I started getting Rolling Stone Magazine in 1968, most of my news of rock and roll pop culture was highly delayed. It was mostly gossip told by DJs or news items in Life, Time, or on television. The Beatles were always in the news. Most of my favorite bands didn’t make it to television except for cheesy fake performances on The Ed Sullivan Show (1948-1971), American Bandstand (1952-1989), Shindig! (1964-1966), Hullabaloo (1965-66), The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1967-1969). I remember one time catching a great segment on Jefferson Airplane on the Today Show, where they demonstrated the liquid light show. Made me want to run away to San Francisco.

In a way, buying these old recordings is like trying to return to the past. I know that’s impossible. Maybe a better way of looking at it is to say I admire artwork from a particular era. That too is revealing. I feel closest to all forms of pop culture from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. I also love work from the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and stuff from the 1980s through today, but there’s a powerful affinity for art created for us Baby Boomers. I’m in-sync with modern television and movies but completely out-of-sync with the contemporary music scene. (Maybe I’ll catch up one day before I die.)

It’s interesting that one of my Christmas gifts is from the 1979-1981 era when Bob Dylan was going through his Christian phase. Back then I bought Slow Train Coming (1979), Saved (1980) and Shot of Love (1981) as they came out. I even saw Dylan live during this time period. But I didn’t feel for this era Dylan like I did for 1964-66 Dylan or 1961-1963 Dylan. Listening to this new bootleg series of 1979-1981 performances I realized I had missed out on something great. Dylan had left me behind, and now I’m catching up.

Am I really hearing the 1960s again? This time when I played the new version of Sgt. Peppers it was both the same and subtly different. In 1967 when I first heard the album, I played the LP on my little console stereo. That technology defined the sound for back then. Today I played it on a Denon AV receiver through four floor standing Infinity speakers. The sound filled the room and Susan and I felt like we were in the middle of the soundstage.

I’ve always admired Sgt. Peppers as a concept album, and loved many of its songs, but I’ve never played them heavily in repeat fashion like I do all my favorite tunes. Sgt. Peppers feels like a music hall performance that needs to be listened to from start to finish. It never sounded better than it did today. This remastered edition felt airier than the last remastered edition, and I thought in a few places I heard things that weren’t there before. Of course, that’s probably tricks of memory. I rediscovered once again what a wonderful work of art this album represents for The Beatles and the 1960s. Just buying Sgt. Peppers again and taking the time to listen to it intently with no interruptions makes it worth the dollars.

Merry Christmas! What did Santa bring Y’all?

JWH

Young @ Heart – Don’t Wait for the DVD

There are some films that you need to see in theaters, and Young @ Heart is one of them.  I’m not the kind of guy who cries, but if I wore mascara my face would have been a mess during this great feel good movie.  I’m curious if this show has any impact on those are are currently young of body, but I think any middle-aged person will find this story of the oldest rock-and-roll cover band to be uplifting and inspire great reflection about dealing with getting old themselves.

This is a little story about a chorus of old people who don’t give up no matter what, even when two of their own die in one week, and their little revue gets an emotional jet assisted take-off by being seen on the big screen in the dark theater.  I never admired wrinkly-old-people more, because this tribe of oldsters rocked out and kicked my ass when it comes to living and gumption.  At Rotten Tomatoes its rated 87%, and I’ve got to figure that other 13% of reviewers are Dead @ Heart.

Sure these old farts would get the boot from Simon and the American Idol tribunal, but songs like Coldplay’s “Fix You” was totally owned by a really fat old guy with an oxygen breather in tow.  On the big screen, the lyrics of these songs were totally showcased in a way that made them sound far more meaningful than when sung as anthems to the young.  “Road to Nowhere” by the The Talking Heads and “I Wanna Be Sedated” by The Ramones took on whole new meanings.

I’m listening to Coldplay sing “Fix You” right now and it just doesn’t have the impact it did in the movie.  But I now admire the lyrics all the more.  I’m reminded of another movie about music I saw a few weeks ago, Once, and how the songs just don’t translate with the same impact off the screen without being able to see the tortured faces who were singing words that matched their expressions.

I can imagine some viewers thinking that all of this is camp, or stupid oldster tricks, but I found the ancient ones hard core for getting up and doing things I’ve been too scared to do all my life.  Janis and I sat up close and I think seeing these little people on the big screen magnified the issues of standing every day with Mr. Death in the room.

I think Young @ Heart had major impact with me because I’ve been around a lot of dying people in recent years, and I can read much more into the scenes than the film maker really worked to show.  The more you know about pain, suffering, deteriorating bodies and death, the more real this movie becomes.  Unless you have some inkling of what it takes to make such an effort late in life, then you’ll not truly get this film.  It might be fun and a lot of laughs but you’ll miss the Sigmund Freud lessons.

It’s one thing to rock in your teens, that’s fucking easy man, it’s a whole other thing to rock out when you’re in your eighties and nineties.  I think I’ll go play Mr. Young’s “Hey, Hey, My My (Into the Black).”  I’ve got to keep remembering those lessons.

[Here are a handful of YouTube clips to give you an idea, but they don’t work like being at the theater.]

Jim