Thursday, March 10, 2005

Absolutely Free!

As I (re)-immerse myself in the culture and music of the 1960s, one artist stands out for his acute and spot-on analysis of the period. Frank Zappa is essential listening - as much as the Beatles, Dylan, Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground, or The Beach Boys - yet is probably far less heard than any of those artists. His essential trilogy, "Freak Out!", "Absolutely Free" and "We're Only In It For The Money" are breathtakingly inventive musically (as much as anyone at the time) and provide sharper and more cutting social commentary than anyone else delivered. Only Zappa skewered both the straights and hippies, culture and counter-culture. Simply astonishing.

Roused somewhat

Re-activated my increasingly dormant blogging activities thanks to an article on Rosie O'Donnell in today's NYT - as one mught expect, the site is swamped, and the vagaries of a clogged-up Internet led to a series of duplicate posts as I responded to her musings on depression. But there you have it, she's famous enough for the NYT to devote an article to her (thereby selling a few more newspapers - this is always the way).

Paradoxically (or perhaps not), my lull from blogging has been associated with a higher personal level of thinking than I have done for a long time. I can credit the course in the music of the Beatles that I am taking as the source of it all. To know The Beatles you have to know the 1960s and to know the 1960s you have have know the social history of world, particularly America and Europe, over the entire post-war period. That is a lot of stuff to accumulate. Complex too - so many glib mythologies and fantasies have built up today about the 'halcyon' days of the 1960s that are revealed on examination to have very little substance. People often think of the 60s as the decade of peace, love and free-thinking. In reality, it is a decade of fear, violence, and angry dogmatic jousting between culture and counter-culture. The Beatles of 'Sgt. Pepper' and "All You Need Is Love" have become icons, but there is precious little underneath. Most of all, the 60s is the decade of the Bomb.