For What It's Worth
This summer marks the 40th anniversary of an imaginary feeling that supposedly swept the nation, for one great time, in the collective mind of a gaggle of well-to-do yuppies and senile, burnt-out ex-hippies.
The rest of us young folks get to overdose on someone else's nostalgia trip. We get to hear about how beautiful that summer of 1967 was and how we missed the last great gasp of artistic humanity.
I call bullshit, Moonflower Starsun.
A few years back, we had harrowing tales from the Greatest Generation, the ones that lobbed atomic bombs and fought off Nazis with bayonets and tanks. They suffered through a depression, rationing and human indignity. You know, all the stuff your grandma bitches about when you groan your Prius doesn't have an iPod dock.
Those stories had credence behind them: mortal terror and self-resolve, Italian dictators and brainwashed Teutonic hordes. Now their children have the floor in the ever-debatable title of "Most Awesome Generation Ever." We grandkids and great-grandkids are left holding our stomachs, doubling over in pain as this frivolous pissing contest continues (until the floor is ours).
I will admit the music of 1967 was damn near beyond reproach. The Velvet Underground slithered out of Manhattan, with the MC5 and the Stooges close behind in Detroit. The Beatles blew up everything we knew about modern record production on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Roky Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators released the mind-melting Easter Everywhere, keeping Austin weird before it was a chamber-of-commerce catchphrase. Closer to home, shaggy garage-punks the Moving Sidewalks — soon to become ZZ Top — grooved the Catacombs on South Post Oak.
Elsewhere in Houston, at Texas Southern University one day in May, a rumor circulated that a black boy had been shot by a white cop, touching off a riot Time magazine dubbed a "campus-style Watts." Lanier Hall exploded into frenzy, with students and police alike wounded and maimed. Police fired more than 3,000 rounds into the building, and 488 students were arrested. "It looked like the Alamo," one cop said.
Things settled down, and the rumor turned out to be false: a white kid was shot by another child taking target practice. Miraculously, when the tear gas cleared, only one other person lay dead: a 25-year-old patrolman. Funny how in all this nostalgia, no one much mentions TSU or Newark or Tampa or Buffalo or Detroit. Even Vietnam, which dominated the news in 1967 to a suffocating degree, is mentioned begrudgingly if at all. Better to just cue up Aretha Franklin's "Respect" or Are You Experienced? and leave it at that.
Basking in their former glory is giving boomers in the media a very profitable year. Rolling Stone ejaculated all over itself for an entire double issue, seemingly taking full credit for the entire year. Ads for tie-dyed jeans and boomer-friendly electronics splattered its pages. DVD reissues of the Monterey Pop festival, among others, have probably wrecked your Dad's 401k. But when boomers repackage all these memories to their brethren — who lap them up, perhaps because they were too stoned to remember the first time around — what they choose to gloss over, or leave out altogether, reveals just as much.
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