September 10, 2005

The post-Woodstock Cavett show.

Last night, I watched another episode of "The Dick Cavett Show: Rock Icons" (a new DVD set). Jefferson Airplane, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Joni Mitchell were there in Cavett's garish studio. Hippie "supergraphics" were painted all over the floor swirling up to little hassocks for the rock stars to perch on or lean against. Woodstock had just ended that morning. We're told Joni skipped Woodstock just to be on the show. Stills proudly points out the "Woodstock mud" on his jeans.

Jefferson Airplane were doing tunes from "Volunteers," including "We Can Be Together." You know:
We are forces of chaos and anarchy
Everything they say we are we are
And we are very proud of ourselves

The song ends with the prescient, Reaganesque repeated line "Tear down the wall." It was fun to see the Airplane in their prime again. I saw them myself a few times around that year, 1969. Maybe you younger readers don't realize how much we adored Grace Slick back in those days. And, I'll tell you, "Surrealistic Pillow" is one of the six album covers I have framed on my living room wall. On the show, Cavett asks Slick about her parents, and she says her mother is a housewife and her father is an investment banker. "All your private property is target for your enemy," indeed.

The other members of the Airplane are nearly catatonic, though Paul Kantner rouses himself at one point and says something either unmemorable or incoherent — I forget. David Crosby is the liveliest person in the group (for whatever reason), and while I'm working on the the theory that he's the smartest rock star in the room — and thinking that's good for Bailey and Beckett — he announces that he has an idea and, beaming with pride, lists the names of six large corporations and advises them to go out of business — as if that would save the world. There's some tedious patter about astrology, including the fact that Crosby is a Leo and looks like a lion.

The best person on the show is Joni Mitchell, who's wearing a bulky green velvet floor-length dress. She sings at least four songs, playing guitar, then piano, and finally going a cappella — for "Fiddle and the Drum":
And so once again
Oh, America my friend
And so once again
You are fighting us all
And when we ask you why
You raise your sticks and cry and we fall
Earlier in the show, she'd talked about how she writes about love and that she's a Canadian and Canadians are just not political at all. But she does say she would support Pierre Trudeau, after Cavett asks the assembled icons if any of them would support any political candidate and all the others say no — no one deserves it.

IN THE COMMENTS: Among other things, I'm asked what the other five album covers are. Instead of answering, I give hints. See if you can guess.

45 comments:

paulfrommpls said...

Ann -

Have you seen "Festival Express?" The documentary about the musical train trip across Canada, I believe in 1969, maybe 1970, featuring the Grateful Dead, Buddy Guy, Delaney and Bonnie and many others?

The traveling festival was bothered at several stops by screaming, semi-rioting radicals enraged at the $15.00 ticket price, and demanding that the show should be free, since the music belongs "to the people." My favorite moment is a story the promoter tells: the mayor of Calgary demanded that the music be provided free to "the children of Calgary," and the promoter punched him in the mouth. Don't know if it's true, but it's a wonderful image.

It's both surprising and heartening to me how ridiculous the musicians themselves find these demands, how instinctively they defend capitalism and some degree of order. Bob Weir of the Dead, who gradually became quite befuddled over the years (as he stopped doing drugs, interestingly), is very emotional as he notes that some cops injured in a small riot somewhere were just good guys trying to do their jobs.

Anyway, the point. It occurs to me that in the last few years, left politics has been taken over by the intellectual equivalent of those seriously confused rioters and demanders.

Pat Patterson said...

Possibly we can hide things like this from our children and preserve a modicum of respect. The music was good but since I was hard of hearing then I didn't really listen to the lyrics. Every time I see an old video from the 60's music scene I'm reminded of the story about Keith Richards telling people to stop doing drugs. The response was that there were none left, Keith had used them all.

Meade said...

paulfrommpls said...
It occurs to me that in the last few years, left politics has been taken over by the intellectual equivalent of those seriously confused rioters and demanders.

That brought to my mind a recent article, Jerry Garcia's Conservative Children:

The primary overlap from adolescent enthusiasm into adult ideology seems to be in the common ground of libertarianism. "My two favorite definitions of libertarianism come from P.J. O'Rourke and Jerry Garcia," Mr. Murdock says. "As P.J. put it, 'Make a right at taxes. Make a left at Sex. And straight ahead is paradise.' When Garcia was asked how Deadheads should behave at the band's concerts, he said, 'Do what you want, man. Just don't stand on anybody's head.' This just happens to parallel the Golden Rule, 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'"

SippicanCottage said...

I have often ruminated on the influence of "rock idols."

The essence of "protest" songs is to excite a kind of fervor while being kind of vague.

When you're writing a song about "Dancing Cheek to Cheek," eliciting a kind of fervor while being sly is cute and sophisticated.

To yoke fervor to vagueness in the political sphere has a definition, whether you're a singer or lynch mob:

Demagogue.

PaulNoonan said...

First came Grand Funk Railroad, who paved the way for Jefferson Airplane, who paved the way for Jefferson Starship. Next came the Alan Parsons Project, which I believe was a hovercraft of some kind.

-Homer Simpson, on rock evolution.

Paul said...

I remember their pompous, arrogant, righteous, smug attitude, dismissing any other viewpoint as if they had it all figured out. Each one should have been President based on their understanding of it "all."
David Crosby made me roll my eyes. Listen, their was little room then for dissent and when some was allowed, it was usually passionate people like me who couldn't discuss their way out of a paper radio or TV show and weren't treated as fairly. There was no Rush then and conservatives were in serious hiding.
Strictly speaking of their music, I liked it but didn't understand the words usually and didn't try.
They were entertainers not prophets, well, to me. Somehow, because they could entertain they became college icons and gurus. I lost a lot of respect for higher education then.

miklos rosza said...

I remember how sickening that line "and we are very proud of ourselves" by Jefferson Airplane struck me even then, when I was young. The smugness was intolerable. But then, I guess they realized they were the new aristocracy, the eternal (but swiftly dethroned) aristocracy of youth, suddenly expected to perform as philosophers spouting epigrams when all they wanted was to get high and come.

It ruined and rendered ridiculous a lot of bands.

Mark Daniels said...

I remember watching that show when it first aired. It would be sort of interesting to see it again now.

Ann Althouse said...

Miklos: Yeah, I think a lot of people thought the "Volunteers" album was kind of embarrassing on the lyrics level. I much preferred the psychedelic Airplane to the political Airplane. I always had the feeling they were just trying to keep up with the trends and thought you had to be revolutionaries to be cool at the time. Despite shocking calls for violence in the lyrics, they did not look the slightest bit militaristic on stage.

PatCA said...

Great comments. Do you suppose we might one day make sense of the '60s and undo the damage? I think today the overall net effect was damage.

It was demagoguery and, when it hooked up to a really great music scene, wrought havoc on us all.

"Coming Back to Me" great JA song. Sat around with friends mooning over it for hours.

Meade said...

Hey Ann, somewhat off-topic but I think you'll enjoy the slide show here.

Jamie said...

Wasn't Trudeau's wife accused of having an affair with Mick Jagger? Obviously a rock and roller's kindred spirit.

Jeff said...

"Rock stars. Is there anything they don't know?"
-Homer Simpson

Goldie said...

But she does say she would support Pierre Trudeau.....

In other words, "Viva Castro!"

boinky said...

We are forces of chaos and anarchy
Everything they say we are we are
And we are very proud of ourselves

Who is this "we"?
"we" weren't the forces of chaos...some of us were working for a living
"we" didn't "adore" Grace Slick...some of us thought she was merely another stoned singer.
And all you yuppies who got high and are still praising yourself for opposing Viet Nam never faced the fact that you ignored the boat people, Cambodia, and by weakening the public attitude toward drugs and public order, are partly to blame for the drug use epidemic in the USA....

Pat Patterson said...

As much as I liked Grace Slick, to me the band I first noticed and remembered had Signe Anderson on lead vocals with Marty Balin. Also it was Jefferson Airplane before Grand Funk Railroad the Jefferson Starship. Devo was right, we are devolving.

Ann Althouse said...

Pat: Yeah, I have that first album and was a big fan before Slick joined.

Boinky: I'm not endorsing the Airplane's politics. I didn't mean, by using "we" to express my appreciation of the music to seem as though I were including myself in the "we" that are the "forces of chaos and anarchy."

XWL said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pat Patterson said...

This is very sad. After I posted last I got out JA's 'Takes Off' then 'Surrealistic Pillow', then Grace Slick's other band The Great Society(with the original White Rabbit) and then on to Moby Grape and Country Joe MacDonald. I still like the music and still can barely understand the lyrics. Oh, well, if it was as easy to follow as 'The Mikado' then it probably wouldn't be as much fun.

Wave Maker said...

Looks like 50ish reminiscence time --

Cavitt had Jimi Hendrix on -- he was obviously tripping (when wasn't he) and Cavitt refered to the recently departe janice Joplin as a "superhero," to which Hendrix took great exception:

"Superhero? Superhero? Well I'm Superchicken, and don't you forget it."

Creds to whoever shares that moment.

XWL said...

Obviously one wouldn't find the deranged drug fueled theories of these unwashed (or barely washed) hairy hippies particularly worthy now.

But what about back then, did you find yourself nodding along with every profound statement thinking, 'yeah man, groooooooooovy' or were your BS detectors already developed enough to realize that these folks, no matter how good there music was (My favorite band of the era was Love, edgier, more cynical, not so hippy dippy) that they were the mental equivalent of a baby with a poop filled diaper.

And as far as influence beyond campus based radicals, I've always thought the most instructive bit of information of that time is that after lowering the voting age to 18 from 21 that those from 18-20 also voted for Nixon in 72 just like everybody else, hardcore hippies were never more than 5 percent of that age cohort and there were far more within the 'silent majority' even amongst the young.

Just to bring in one of the other stories of the week, it's all Bob Denver's fault, if he hadn't made Beats cute (Through Maynard) then the Hippies might not have ever gained the traction they did.

Meade said...

Larry Keenan documented the San Francisco sixties scene in b&w photography better than anyone I've seen.
link

NUREG said...

Ann,

"And, I'll tell you, 'Surrealistic Pillow' is one of the six album covers I have framed on my living room wall."

What are the other five?

BTW, have you ever listened to Blows Against the Empire (post-JA and pre-JS)?

Ann Althouse said...

NUREG: I have the vinyl of "Blows," bought soon after its release and have listened to it many times, though not in the past two decades.

What are the other five? Should I just reveal this all at once? You could at least guess! But it would be very hard to guess because the choices are a combination of liking the record and liking the cover. Hints: two are black and white photographs of a female singer. One is a black and white ink drawing representing a group. One is a photo collage of a group. And one is a beautiful still life photograph that led us to talk a great deal about what it meant. Okay -- those are the hints. Now you can guess!

NUREG said...

Ann,

I was (am) quite fond of Blows, particularly side 2. Wore out my record of it years ago (in college) and now have it on CD. Still listen to it about once a year or so.

I am handicapped on the guesses since I don’t know you and your musical tastes. Based on your original post, I’m going to lean towards the ‘60s and early 70’s. Here goes . . .

1. Two are black and white photographs of a female singer . . . Joplin in Concert? Joni Mitchell – Blue?

2. One is a black and white ink drawing representing a group . . . Beatles Revolver?

3. One is a photo collage of a group – The Doors (first album)? CSNY Four Way Street? Sgt. Pepper?

4. And one is a beautiful still life photograph that led us to talk a great deal about what it meant. Can you give me another hint on this one?

Ann Althouse said...

NUREG: You got one right: "Revolver."

I agree that the hint on the still life is too minimal. Let me add that it was a very eagerly anticipated album that came out when I was in college. (I went to college from 1969 - 1973.) Another big clue: one reason the image gave us something to talk about is that it depicts a variation on a famous saying.

NUREG said...

Ann,

I give up! What are the other four?

Meade said...

black and white photographs of a female singer
Laura Nyro - New York Tendaberry

beautiful still life photograph
McCartney (his first solo album)

Ann Althouse said...

Lmeade: Great guesses. I love the Laura Nyro, but it's a wrong guess. The McCartney is correct!

Ann Althouse said...

Let me add that the two black & white photos are incredibly good photos.

somross said...

I am exactly the same age, so I guessed "Revolver" also for the black and white ink drawing of a group. Black and white photo of a female singer: if not Joni Mitchell's "Blue" then "Hejira"? Or Joan Baez In Concert?

Ann Althouse said...

Somross: "Hejira" is correct!

Meade said...

black and white photographs of a female singer
Patti Smith - Horses (Robert Mapplethorpe)

Ann Althouse said...

Lmeade: You got it!

Only one left!

Chrees said...

I would love to know Crosby's investment portfolio and if he has ever owned any stock of the companies he mentioned...

Meade said...

Off topic, AA, but if you haven't already seen this, I think you'll find it interesting. Cynthia Lennon

somross said...

Does "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida" count as a collage?

Katharine Lindgren said...

As for the question of seeing through the cant of the late 1960s and early 1970s, that's an interesting question.

I remember being in crowds chanting "Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll." What is amazing is that these were NOT viewed as purely hedonistic, but all three activities were viewed as roads to enlightenment. How self-serving!

Of course, most intelligent kids thought that astrology was nonsense, but it probably wasn't until the mid-1970s that many people began making fun of "What's your sign?"

I remember listening to John Lennon's "Imagine" in college, which my roommate thought profound. I thought that it was a recipe for oppression. A world without private property would be a chaotic hell. A world of just one country would put our citizens at the mercy of people who did not share the same political values. My roommates thought I was pretty odd for expressing these views, since we agreed on most things cultural and political (viva McGovern).

I think that the boomers were (and are) the most self-absorbed generation we have ever had. We have dominated American music and film culture, and our generation will probably be a very greedy elderly generation.

And, like Ann, I loved Grace Slick and the Jefferson Airplane.

Jim Lindgren
Northwestern

XWL said...

I'm thoroughly unqualified to guess about the album covers (having been born 2 months before woodstock), but given the McCartney and Revolver covers I'm guessing the photo collage might be the 'Let It Be' cover
(though I'm not sure that this cover could be considered a collage it would fit in with your other choices and would seem to be placed there as a bittersweet reminder of what was and what could have been)

Now as to Prof. Lindgren's remembrance of the chants of 'sex and drugs, etc' William Blake said it far better, "the path of excess leads to the tower of wisdom".

With that construction hedonism is a means and not an end, cause once you have arrived to the destination of wisdom you will no longer be on the path of excess.

And as to his comment on boomer self involvement and greed, I have a sense of the millenials that they are growing up with the most well defined BS detectors, ever.

With the experiences they will accrue as they win the battles against the nihilist who use terror and violence to resist progress they won't be foolish enough to allow a bunch of greedy grandparents in nursing homes collapse the economic and social systems they fought to preserve.

(sorry for straying so far off topic, but somehow I think it still relates)

Those digressions bring to mind a question I have that you may or may not want or choose to answer, Can any of the Law Professors here imagine themselves as they were in their college years competing against the people they have as students now? (which group was more capable?, or has methodology you were taught with then changed so from how you teach now that it's apples and oranges).

Ann Althouse said...

Hint: stop trying to take the word "collage" lightly. This is truly a collage, artfully done, in the style of a famous artist.

Katharine Lindgren said...

Leroy,

I agree generally with your comments about better BS detection today, with the chief exception of environmentalism. Also, in 1970 young boomers had good BS detectors for nonsense from above, but extraordinarily poor BS detectors for nonsense from below.

To answer your last question about competition, I think that SAT scores peaked in about 1970. Indeed, SAT scores were renormed a decade or so ago to triple the number of scores over 700.

So I don't think that students today are generally smarter than they were in the early 1970s (though math and language training is better at top high schools than it was). Today students probably work harder and are more reliable than we were then.

But college is a lot harder to get into (the college market is now more national and more efficient), so competition for getting into the top schools today is much tougher than it was in 1970.

Jim Lindgren
Northwestern

Mary said...

Exile on Main Steet ?

Ann Althouse said...

Mary: Good guess, but wrong.

NUREG said...

Ann,

What was the last album?

Ann Althouse said...

No one ever got the last one. And now it's seven years later so I'll just say its the Talking Heads.