Thursday, June 17, 2010

When the Music's Over, Turn Out the Sixties

Who was Mama Cass Elliot? What were the sixties?

I just fell in like with Cass Elliott, watching a Biography channel documentary on her life. She had the pipes. She was tragically overweight. Tragically all alone, never able to find a love while public adoration came her way. So she got herself pregnant however she managed, gave birth to the love of her life and raised a daughter proudly, all alone. She had somebody. And advanced out the subversive '60s syndrome that I suppose tagged everybody who played with or around a guitar then, finding a welcome audience in TV land. Maybe the country through her grew up a little. Matured from youthful defiance to neighborly acceptance.

Until now, I refused her a legit place in my life, like I've refused other sixties rock icons. Hated Hendrix and Joplin. Spaced out, drugged up howlers in a vacant night. Loved the Doors, When the Music's Over, Yes, Crosby Stills Nash, Santana, too. Black Magic Woman. I lived ambivalently through the sixties, half in, half out. Brought with me Sinatra and old Broadway. Nobody could ever replace Sinatra and old Broadway, even if the Beetles were every bit as good. Even if Yes produced fantastic symphonic hard rock concerts. Well, no, that's not right at all. For me, fifties bubble gum pop music can't begin to compare with what was to follow.

The '60s must have been the richest decade in pop music ever. But so much of it today I can't play; so much I gave away in vinyl stacks left at the library for others to house. I just don't want to go back there. Not to that wild smelly drugged-out hippie place. I was too old or too young. In between. It was the great music that seduced me too. A new album by the Beetles: Magical Mystery Tour, Fool on the Hill -- Heck, as good as a new Broadway cast show album! And then, soon they were singing, Just a song before I go ...

I shutter to estimate the high medical costs so many of them will wrack up from those reckless days getting high, dropping down or shooting up.

They were so talented, so many of them, like the Mamas and the Papas. Composed wonderful songs. Guys wore long hair, gals long flowing home-made dresses. In their smug communes, they used each other sexually. Took food stamps from a government they railed against. Lit a lot of incense. I burned it too. Persian rugs. I had one. And all the drugs I would never drop or shoot up, right there in the middle of it all. Friends going stupid on acid and speed. Me acting stupid cool.

"I'll Be Seeing you" sang Cass at the end of the Bio program. So sweet and clear an un-hippie. At 33, she was dead. So many of them checked out young, too.

After all these years, tonight finally giving her a chance on BIO, I fell in like with the overweight woman with a great big embracing voice.

Oh, the sixties, how I feel a bittersweet satisfaction half-way pushing them out of my mind, wanting them to go away forever. But, the music still isn't over, and it never will be, it was too good, and that's what I love from a troubled time I tolerated my way through, charmed by the weird bohemian tilt of it all ... Black Magic Woman. Summer Breeze. Rider's on the Storm. Light My Fire ...

Just another song, please, before they go ...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

David, I am so happy that you have written about Mama Cass. I haven't heard her name uttered in a very long time, but I absolutely loved her voice....AND WHAT A VOICE SHE HAD!I know that the "60's" were a very troubled time. How sad that so much talent was lost from getting high, dropping down,or shooting up. Mama Cass was a very special treat and I am sad that we lost her at such an early age. I can still hear her singing "Dream A Little Dream Of Me, probably my favorite song of hers.

Thank you so much for remembering Mama Cass and her wonderful talent. Brings back wonderful memories for me, and I will never forget her voice.

And David....I'm so glad that you remained "stupid cool" place to be!