Ronnie Says, “RELAX”

I was chatting with a reporter today about music in the 60’s and how back then it really felt as if it (music) had the power to energize the younger population into action, both politically and culturally; how music was used to affect change and how it united a generation through anger, fear and euphoria. Drugs played a part, as did the war in “Viet-fu*%in’ NAM!” Kids took to the street and some gave their lives to whatever cause they were fighting for. Musicians documented these times and events through what we call protest music and even if they sound pretty dated nowadays the 60’s were still an important time for change.

The 70’s changed all that. Altamont and a few other key events changed all that. Newer, more aggressive drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamine, changed all that. Disco changed things. Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter changed things. I believe that folks needed a break from all that serious 60’s stuff, and it wasn’t until Reagan came to power that kids once again felt the need to protest their times through their music. But not many.

Aids, the Age of the Corporation As God, censorship, greed, famine in Ethiopia, Libya, the cold war with Russia and the threat of nuclear annihilation, the beginning of terrorism as a threat to North Americans (air India flight #182), the so-called war on drugs. Natural disasters such as the eruption of Mt St Helens, not so natural disasters like the Space Shuttle Challenger exploding (I was in Florida at the time and witnessed it happen in real time—it was terrible and chilling, to say the least), and Chernobyl. John Lennon was assassinated, Marvin Gaye was shot to death by his father, Ronald Reagan was shot, Indira Gandhi was assassinated and the world was afflicted with an international debt crisis.

Among other things.

Looking back it was a really scary time to grow up. But I have to say I don’t remember too many people protesting in the streets, and other than the odd hardcore band (Dead Kennedy’s, CRASS, Black Flag) I don’t remember many bands documenting the times through their music. Mostly, songs were about escapism, not unlike the previous decade. It was like everybody just buried their heads and hoped their world would get better on its own. MTV played goofy-ass videos full of glam metal hair bands and goofy ass new wave bands (Haircut 100, anyone?) and nobody seemed to give a rats ass that the world was going to hell in a hand basket.

Did it get better? Well, let me just say this: we survived. And even though music didn’t really say all that much in the 80’s it did, as it always does, offer a great escape from all the bull shit. Do we need another 1960’s, musically speaking? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on your tolerance level for incompetence and an ability to tolerate the intolerable. This Great Recession is taking it’s toll on the country, and the new Death Cab For Cutie album ain’t gonna make a damn bit of difference.

Me, I’ll continue to let the music take me away to my happy place.

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