Thursday, June 13, 2019

Flashback: 2009: Woodstock ruined my life

     Those hoping to throw a 50th anniversary Woodstock concert hit another snag this week, losing their upstate New York venue. Added to their loss of financial backing and of their production company, you'd almost think fate was trying to give them a hint: move on.
     No such luck. The Baby Boom has been clinging to and venerating their great moments of youth for decades and are carrying that practice into their senescence, a habit I decried at the concert's 40th anniversary. 

     Screw Woodstock
     Really, I mean it. If you're my age—I was 9 when the three-day concert took place—you noted the 40th anniversary of the key event of our culture's endless 1960s nostalgia by thinking, "Gee, have I really been listening to these goofs celebrate themselves for only 40 years? Because it feels like 400."
     Doesn't the self-regard and self-significance make you want to vomit? OK, 400,000 people gathered for a rock concert and didn't kill each other—big flippin' deal. Ten years later, in 1979, 1.2 million people showed up in Grant Park for a mass with Pope John Paul II, and you never hear them claiming it was a rend in the time-space continuum. Even more people are flocking to the lakefront for the Air & Water Show this weekend, and we don't act like it's some giant epochal moment—just another summer weekend in Chicago.
     Woodstock ruined my life, sort of. Imagine growing up, an impressionable child, watching all those supposedly pivotal 1960s event—Woodstock, the riots at the Democratic National Convention, the moon landing—on your parents' black-and-white Zenith TV in the living room of your suburban tract house in Berea, Ohio.
     It quickly gave the impression that we lived in Noplace, that life, the important stuff in life, was always going on Somewhere Else. That, by 1974, every significant thing that might conceivably happen had already occurred. I had missed the feast but was free to pick over the scraps, had missed the party and arrived for the cleanup, the dismal denouement of the 1970s, a miserable void of disco and leisure suits and meaninglessness, at least by the judgment of the people who had so much freaky fun at Woodstock while we were busy learning cursive.
     Doesn't it ever go away? How long must we gaze raptly at the enormous waddling rump of the Early Baby Boom? Forever? Not that we want our turn, no way—hard experience has made us better than that. Should anyone announce that, for instance, the 1977 World Series of Rock at Cleveland Municipal Stadium was an earth-shattering moment of bottomless significance, at least I'd have the honesty to say, "Hey, buddy, I was THERE, and it was just 90,000 teens guzzling wine out of botas and listening to Peter Frampton."
     How come nobody who was at Woodstock has the guts to say that? Nobody says, "You know, standing in a downpour, cold and hungry and listening to Alvin Lee wasn't really all that magnificent an experience. In fact, it was miserable, and it didn't mean a damn thing."

     —Originally published in the Sun-Times, August 16, 2009


  1. Woodstock was a turning point, a sea change. Before,the overwhelming majority of people conformed to a conservative cultural standard. After a movement towards personal freedom became much more available to the average person. A pivotal moment in pop culture for sure.

    Over emphasized? Certainly. Unimportant? I don't think so.

    1. I agree. Before Woodstock anything like it was unimaginable. Neil is entitled to his thoughts, as I am entitled to mine.
      A Bunch of peace loving, tree hugging and dirty hippies ignoring their responsibility to conform to what they are SUPPOSED TO BE DOING as determined by their elders, it was a moment that the counter culture said WE ARE DOING OUR THING and will prove the naysayers wrong.

    2. I'm one to say it WAS an important moment. TO THINK OF HOW FAR REMOVED WOODSTOCK WAS TO ANYTHING ELSE That had occurred before is to ignore the realities of the 60s.
      Me thinks the Rose colored glasses have been put on by someone who abhors those who sportnthem to espouse their own views about hownl things should be rather than seeing things as they were

  2. They don't talk about the downpour because most of the people who say they were there weren't there. Just like the millions of season ticket holders that call sports radio stations to whine about their sports teams, they aren't ticket holders, they are just taking up space on earth.

  3. Cheer up, Mr. S--by the 60th anniversary of Woodstock, many more of my cohort will be dead. We Early Boomers, born between 1946 and 1952, are now geezers and geezettes (not to be confused with "gazettes"...the newspapers that are also fading away just as fast). We have reached our late 60s and early 70s.

    Both my wife and I will be turning 72 this summer, and the longer we keep breathing, the more every day is a gift. We've already lost a goodly number of friends and relatives who never made it to their 70th birthdays--some of them died far younger than that. When I hear about some famous Early Boomer kicking off, at 69 or 77, I cringe...and think about them for days afterward.

    It wasn't all that many years ago that I assumed I had plenty of time left, and that I'd make 85--or even 90--with no problem and no sweat. I don't think that way anymore. Having seen firsthand what time and aging can do to one's quality of life, I have to wonder whether longevity is a curse, rather than a blessing.

    Right now, my biggest wish is that I live long enough to see the Current Occupant of the Oval Orifice spending his final days in an orange jumpsuit, rotting away in a Federal facility and finally going insane behind bars, just like Al Capone did. Years ago I dreamed of attending a 50th anniversary Woodstock concert, having missed the original (I was in San Francisco), but such an event would either turn into a geezer disaster, with numerous fatalities, or be so pricey as to preclude my attendance.

    The fact that plans for a "reunion" have hit a "snag" no longer bothers or upsets me. The whole thing sounds like a terrible idea. Forget about it. We don't need another Mudstock...or a Greedstock.

    1. Trump behind bars in an *orange* prison jumpsuit. So fitting; why hadn’t I thought of that image before? Priceless!

  4. Geezette here. Nevee wanted to be at Woodstock. Do think the Summer of Love was the most crucial one summer event. The vibe was kindness. That students quietly or at least non violently protesting were the touchstone. That the killing og freedom marchers and Kent State were turning points.
    Half the musicians that made Woodstock are dead. The gathering of todays youth would not be all peace love and harmony. The musicians that might show up dont interest me. Even Santana, good as he is, is not the Santaba of Woodstock. Jimmy and Janis left us a long time ago. And I no longer want to stand in the sun for hiurs to see anydamnbody, let alone stand in rain and mud. Those days are gone. In more way than one. Period.

    1. Okie from Muskogee? My first wife was a Norweegie from Bemidji. I'm relieved you didn't rag on the longhairs. I hitch-hiked thousands of miles during my student radical/hippie days, and my worst experiences, by far, happened in Oklahoma...with Texas a close second.

      There were attempts to recreate Woodstock in both '94 and '99, and they were terrible. Whether that included the music depends on your age and your taste (almost all of it held no interest for me), but there's no question that the "peace, love and harmony" thing was lost on the youth of the Ninetoes. There were rapes, beatings, arson, debauchery, and other assorted acts of violence. Shootings? Not sure.

      A Golden Anniversary Woodstock in 2019 would be even worse. Mostly because so many people no longer know how to behave--or even "maintain"-- in a large-crowd situation. Too many bad-mannered, inconsiderate, selfish assholes out there now, even at non-rock concert venues. They drink too much, get too stupid, pollute and litter, and trample on their neighbors...I've found that even Parrotheads are jerks now. Buffett can stuff it. Perhaps my recent lack of enthusiasm for live music events is merely a geezer thing...or maybe it's just me.


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