Friday, June 06, 2008

What it is ain't exactly clear - 1968

It's summer, 2008. Time to celebrate the anniversary of the Summer of Unrest [1].

1968 was the Year of International Struggle, a time when many people, not all of them tripping, genuinely thought that changes could be made to the way the world was run. I leave it as an exercise to the reader to decide if it was successful.

By now most Americans have had it hammered into them (again) that 1968 was when Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King were shot - in America, and when the [mumble] Vietnamese launched the Tet Offensive - against Americans. It's an odd world, in that 40 years on, that's all the media is prepared to say about it, when it was such a momentous year for the rest of the world.

I don't propose to go into it in detail but there's a short chronology here that you can absorb in a few minutes. Poland exploded; a demonstration in London outside the US Embassy turned violent indeed; France fireballed; the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia, who had been showing their mettle. It was quite a year. They haven't made them that way in quite a while.

I can remember that wave of student riots – very vaguely, but very strongly. The feeling that something was happening, something was building, something was going to change. (And then all of a sudden it didn't and the hippies sang about gnomes and started building the Virgin Empire instead.) There are songs about how something was in the air, too, and those songs, dear reader, are on the web.

I looked up Buffalo Springfield's song Something's Happening Here (it's apparently really called "For What It's Worth") because it perfectly matches my feeling about 1968, and was surprised to see it was written in 1966, about a local student riot.

There's battle lines being drawn
I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

That spirit was just rising and rising. It was still there in 1969 when Thunderclap Newman's Something In The Air went to number 1 in England.

Lock up the streets and houses
Because there's something in the air
We've got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution's here

In 1968, even the Stones did Street Fighting Man, but this time, the lyrics are about a rock band giving up and saying there's nothing they could do except sing.

Ev'rywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy
Well then what can a poor boy do
Except to sing for a rock 'n' roll band

Next year they were releasing butterflies in Hyde Park.

It must have been all that LSD.

[1]Celebrate the memory, that is unless you're my favorite writer Meghan Daum, in which case it's time to piss on 1968's memory out of some vague (and rather belated – is she slow?) spirit of anti-'rent rebellion.

No comments:


Blog Widget by LinkWithin
I sometimes mention a product on this blog, and I give a URL to Amazon or similar sites. Just to reassure you, I don't get paid to advertise anything here and I don't get any money from your clicks. Everything I say here is because I feel like saying it.