End of the Year Woolgathering
My development as a thinking/acting adult is certainly connected to the clock and calendar. You can’t become an adult, independent from the times that are current. (Although some interesting movies have been produced that challenges this position.) So I thought it might be worth while to look historically at the years of my personal “coming of age”.
If you posit that adulthood is developed between 13 and 21, then for me that would correlate to the years 1962 thru 1970. I’m old, or at least getting there.
I may be prejudicial, but it seems to me that those years were very active historically. Particularly what was happening in the US, more particular what was happening in the West, and specifically what was occurring in the Bay Area. Lucky me.
The years perfectly matches the beginning and the final twisted end of the Vietnam War. My generation was shadowed almost completely by Vietnam. It was either in front of us as a potential horror, or it was so recently in our past that we were scarred and changed forever by the experience. I saw the massive introduction of the draft, I experienced the fear and avoidance, I protested against the war, I was finally drafted, and then I re-enlisted to avoid being assigned to Vietnam. I then experienced the end, late one night, while on duty, near the DMZ in Korea.
There were other tangential things occurring as well. The general political schema was even more traumatic, it began with the first modern assassination of a president. Kennedy was popular with the young, Washington was even correlated with Camelot. With hope shattered, there was still work to be done, but it was piece meal, with insider Johnson and the cynical Nixon. Soon after Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were also assassinated. It was a nearly a decade of violence and dreams being erased.
A very grim look for the future if this was all that was happening. What else had the power to provide a positive balance?
I placed literature in a very high place. Science Fiction, The Beat Poets, Alan Watts, Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac. They provided for me a path through the morass of war and political dysfunction. And I just recently I observed one more event that perfectly matches the exact years of 1962-1970. The official years of the Beatles.
The first album I purchased was “Meet the Beatles” (1963). I had an RCA record player. It was a Christmas present and it came with a Columbia Record company record club membership. I had to order twelve records over the next year and I had a bonus of several records that were free. I remember buying The Ventures and some Everly Brothers, and a Burl Ives album. This was a Hi Fi machine, stereo wasn’t even available. It didn’t matter, all records were monaural, stereo wasn’t common until the mid sixties.
I remember it was black and white, it folded down to use the platter and it had variable speeds, 78, 45 and the new 33 rpms. “Meet the Beatles” was the new vinyl, mono, and the most amazing music I had ever heard. I played it over and over, wearing the cartridge out until it was replaced.
The Ed Sullvan Show was a weekly staple in our family, we were one of the seventy million households that tuned in to the American debut of the Beatles. If you listen to the music critically you can hear a connection to the early Rock & Roll standards, and a slight twist to new influence from Liverpool. A remarkable album that started a movement.
So I created a small little playlist, selecting just a few songs from each album
Meet The Beatles (1963) I Want to Hold Your Hand, All I’ve Got to Do
A Hard Days Night (1964) It’s Been a Hard Days Night, This Boy
Beatles For Sale (1964) Eight Days a Week, I’m a Loser
Help! (1965) Help, Yesterday
Rubber Soul (1965) Nowhere Man, I’m Looking Through You
Revolver (1966) Eleanor Rigby, Here, There, Everywhere
Sgt. Pepper (1967) Lucy in the Sky, She’s Leaving Home, A Day in a Life
Magical Mystery Tour (1967) Fool on a Hill, Strawberry Fields Forever
The White Album (1968) Dear Prudence, Blackbird, Helter Skelter, Revolution 9
The Yellow Submarine (1969) Yellow Submarine, All You Need is Love
Abbey Road (1969) I Want You, You Never Give Me Your Money
Let it Be (1970) Get Back, Let it Be
Listening to the complete playlist was tantamount to experiencing a time capsule. it brought me back with more vivid memories of where I was, and who I was becoming to be. Certainly the historical events were powerful, the experiences of being on the road hitch hiking, the Vietnam war, the protests, finally being drafted, experiencing being a soldier, all these things were visceral and certainly shaped my mind and soul. But listening to just these songs capsulized those years in a very crisp way.
I am what I did, I am what I read, and I am what I listened to.