The Clash - Joe Strummer

The Clash – Joe Strummer – If there was one band that mattered. . . .

The Clash – in concert at Rettel Festival in France – recorded on June 14, 1980.

As something of a direct contrast in genres, between my post last night by Hanoi Rocks in 1984 and today’s post of The Clash, in concert at the Rettel Festival in 1980 – you get some idea of the scope and range the 80s had in Pop Music. The fact that they could all exist in pretty much the same shelf space was a testimony to the audience’s wide-ranging taste in music.

The Clash were something special though. Self-proclaimed as “the only band that matters”, there was a goodly amount of hype associated with them. But they did deliver, and they were one of the more exciting bands to see live during the 80s. Not that they were showy, or of the “arena rock” variety – but that they were committed to what they were doing and the energy was infectious. They were also politically aware at a time when there was a considerable amount of disenchantment going on Britain (the Thatcher years). And so they represented a voice of protest, a bellwether of the times – and that appeal was universal.

They were also one of the first Punk bands to become huge and have worldwide recognition. This concert, recorded at the Rettel Festival in Lorraine, France in June of 1980 comes as London Calling was getting rave reviews. It was also just a few months ahead of the release of Sandinista! which further cemented their popularity.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration that The Clash helped define the 80s musically – by combining Punk with later aspects of Dub, Reggae and early Hip-hop, they maintained a freshness about them that kept them at the top of their game, until things started to fall apart. But that’s another story.

If you missed them the first time around or have only recently revisited them – here is one of the reasons they were as big as they were at the time. Certainly a band not to be missed.

Play loud.

Teenagers - 1969

To be teenaged and stoned and smack in the middle of 1969.

Lucy In The Sky – Assignment: 69 – KNX-AM – 1969 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

In 1969, if you were growing up, a teenager, a young adult or anyone moderately aware of the world going on around you, you no doubt had familiarity with, personal knowledge of, bought or sold, drugs. You couldn’t help it – in a short period of time drugs; their use and misuse, became an integral part of our culture. It was the 60s version of the 20s Jazz Age and that generation’s fascination/love-affair with all things booze. Only this time it was herbal and pharmaceutical. But in the 20s, as in the 60’s, those things we loved were illegal – maybe because they were illegal we became fixated on them. Human nature has alway dictated an obsession springing up around the unattainable – and the jails all across American were (and still are) fairly overflowing with those caught in the act of illegally enjoying themselves. The big difference was, by the 1930s, alcohol became legal again and drugs have remained illegal, for the most part.

And if the legal ramifications weren’t bad enough, mainstream media was laying the message on with a sledgehammer – Drugs were the scourge of the earth and we were all destined for lives of pure hell if we dabbled in anything as much as a 2nd-hand sniff of Marijuana.

And of course, the stereotypes were alive and running roughshod over our mainstream culture – according to “all the surveys” drug addicts were young, male, uneducated and not necessarily White. Anyone smoking marijuana was destined to head straight to LSD and Heroin – and we were all invariably doomed to a life of crime, insanity and/or death.

There was no letup on the message – it permeated just about every avenue and aspect of our culture at the time – from TV shows to newscasts to newspapers and magazines – everywhere populated with eyes and ears was forum for a message that drugs were going to kill you or drive you insane.

Did any of us pay any attention? Not many. That said, it did create a certain “World War 3” atmosphere between us and our parents and relatives. No getting around it – we were the enemy. And when news broke in the Summer of 1969 that a drug-crazed hippy commune, led by one equally drug-crazed Charles Manson, massacred a group of Hollywood notables having a quiet party in a hillside estate, the pundits and Cassandras loudly barked in unison; “I told you!”.

And so the airwaves were flooded with reports and cautionary tales – of which this documentary, produced by KNX Radio in Los Angeles, as part of their Assignment: ’69 series, was one of them. Titled “Lucy In The Sky” it laid just about all the blame on Pop Culture at the time, saying in effect that The Beatles were the culprits in driving the youth of America into the clutches of Demon Dope. KNX, which had only a year earlier switched to an all-news format, was one of the more popular and one of the first 24 hour news outlets in L.A., so this documentary was heard over a wide swath of Southern California.

Not as alarmist as some of the programs at the time, it nonetheless lays out a bleak and condemning picture of Youth Culture run amok in the late 1960s. Something that only the passage time would calm down – until Crack and Molly dragged it all up again. Seems every few years the desire to escape just gets out of hand – some, it gets out of hand worse than others.

But somehow, most of us survived.

As a reminder that the 60s weren’t all accepting and carefree, and that fear and distrust have always been around, here is “Lucy In The Sky” as it was aired over KNX during the Spring of 1969.

Hanoi Rocks

Hanoi Rocks – Finnish Hair-Band. Further evidence the 80s were all over the place.

Hanoi Rocks – in session – BBC Radio 1 – July 1984 – BBC Radio 1

Hanoi Rocks – in session from July of 1984. I will freely admit, Hair-Bands in the 80s weren’t my thing – frankly, there was already enough diversity in Pop music at the time to get excited over a lot of what was going on, and these bands represented, to me anyway, a certain revival of mid-70s Hard Rock/Glam. That’s not to say there weren’t a lot of good bands in this genre – there were. Two bands I did videos for, who I enjoyed working with were Ratt and Sea Hags. Ratt became well known. Sea Hags, not so much. Hanoi Rocks, at the time, was a band I could take or leave. They were from Finland, anglicized their names, were properly androgynous and were popular in the Hair-Band/Heavy Metal genre.

So when I ran across this session, recorded for BBC Radio 1 in 1984, I pretty much blocked out all the preconceived notions I had in my head and just listened to them for the music.

One of the biggest drawbacks during the era of the Music Video was the fact that you really could no longer just listen to the music and judge it on its own terms – you had to have visuals accompany what you were listening to. And most of the time it was distracting – a lot of it was silly – some of it was Art, but most of it was commerce, at least by the later-80s. There was a time when Pop Music fueled imaginations – that you could make up your own visuals in your head and not have it spelled out for you. That became a thing of the past when Music Videos became another marketing tool, picking up the slack from radio, which had fallen down badly on the job.

But all of that is by way of saying I forgot the Hanoi Rocks videos and just listened to the music. And what I came away with was the feeling they were a very capable band, good at what they did. And this session proved to be enjoyable.

You may or may not feel the same way – it depends on what constitutes your nostalgia – where you were and what you were doing at the time you first heard something. It’s different for everybody.

Anyway, give this one a listen – you may love it or you may hate it. You have the Play and Stop buttons at your fingertips.

Edmund Muskie

Edmund Muskie – the v.p. nominee in 1968 – a party and a country in disarray.

Edmund Muskie was the Democratic vice-Presidential running mate of Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election. In a year already battered by violence and loss, the fact that Democrats had lost their guiding light, Robert F. Kennedy, to an assassin’s bullet tossed the party into a state of disarray, bordering on despair.

To many, Hubert Humphrey, vice-President to Lyndon Johnson, represented a continuation of a confused and increasingly pointless war in Vietnam without letup, a maintenance of the status quo and no real solutions to the myriad of problems in cities across America. Neither Humphrey nor his running mate, Edmund Muskie, represented new blood, or a positive change from the tried-and-mostly-failed policies of 1968.

But with the country bordering on anarchy, or the closest thing to it, a desperate bid to calm the situation and to unite all the factions was underway.

The job now was to bring back the disenfranchised; those voters who had believed that RFK would be the answer and who were sorely disillusioned after that evening in Los Angeles, were now badly needed if the Democrats were going to maintain the White House come November. Many of the voters vowed to sit out the election while others pledged to write in Eugene McCarthy as the only plausible Peace candidate, or to have McCarthy run as a fourth party Candidate (George Wallace was the 3rd Party candidate).

This interview, conducted with vice-Presidential candidate Edmund Muskie was part of the NBC Radio Meet The Press series, and broadcast on September 1st 1968. Two months from the election and a country still reeling from the division and bloodshed, Muskie attempts to put the best face on a bad situation – division was seemingly everywhere – young versus old, black versus white, left versus right, peace versus war – it was truly a time people thought we weren’t going to survive.

As a reminder of just how fractured the Presidential election year of 1968 was, a few words from vice-Presidential candidate Edmund Muskie might give a clue. How we managed to survive is still a miracle.

Billy Carter

Billy Carter (and palm reader) – “I see a man in a turban and he’s laughing”.

July 29, 1980 – on the eve of the 1980 Democratic Convention, the recurring trainwreck called Billy Carter, Jimmy’s brother, kept surfacing in the news.

Doubtless it was all good news for the Reagan camp, who were making political hay by the ton, but it was still a world of embarrassment for the President, who had to deal with one more goofy escapade from his brother at the worst of all possible times.

This time it was involvement with Libya and Muammer Gaddafi, a country and its leadership we weren’t on speaking terms with. Trouble was, he became an agent of the Libyan government, and after three trips and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from the Libyans, Billy was being questioned by the press and the government over a case of influence-peddling. Jimmy Carter went before cameras and microphones on this day, and promised to testify fully over Billy’s involvement and if any White House leaks were involved.

Since Carter’s 1980 Presidential campaign was in decline, the scandal managed to engulf the Carter campaign and was just one more straw in what was looking like a difficult, if not impossible, bid to stay in the White House.

Speaking of bids; there was the 1980 Democratic Convention to look forward to – which was slated to open on August 11. The big threat was throwing the convention open, leaving the possibility of Senator Ted Kennedy to make a bid to unseat the incumbent.

Just one more layer of icing on an already sagging cake.

And there was more news – The domestic auto industry was posting losses, with the Foreign Auto Industry doing the opposite. Ford posted losses for its second quarter of $468 million, its third consecutive quarterly loss and the biggest loss its every had as a public corporation. Experts pointed to the whole economy, which was deep in a recession and car sales were very depressed. Ford was also losing a huge share of the market because they didn’t have enough gas-efficient cars available as did GM and the competition.

However, there was good news; for the first time since the 1960s, three oil companies; Gulf, Standard of Indiana and Atlantic Richfield dropped the price they’re willing to pay for domestic oil at the wellhead. The price was down $1.00 to $1.50 a barrel, which oil company experts said was the result of the world oil glut.

And that’s just a little of what went on this rather haywire July 29, 1980 as reported by CBS Hourly News – Dan Rather substituting for Walter Cronkite’s Analysis and The World Tonight.

Ought

Ought – bringing a taste of Montreal to Paris.

Ought – in concert at Gaite Lyrique, Paris – part of the Arte Channel Festival series – April 14, 2016.

Ought are an Alternative band from Montreal, only together since 2012. Releasing their first ep later that same year, the band have been getting positive press and audience reaction ever since. By 2014 they released their debut album, More Than Any Other Day, which landed them on numerous year-end lists and enthusiastic proclamations as the band to watch over the coming months. They have been characterized in the press as an “adventuresome quartet, delivering an earnest and exuberant post-Punk; dextrous and exacting, indebted as much to Cap’n Jazz as to Talking Heads”. And “a band which shifts adeptly from sharp angles and stuttering counterpoint to softer edges and chiming flow.” Not shabby for a band together for less than 4 years.

And true to form, they’ve been continuing the enthusiasm. And with the release of their follow-up album, Sun Coming Down, issued in September of last year, it’s looking like their audience is expanding worldwide, as this gig in Paris attests.

This Summer they are continuing a tour which is taking them back over to their native Canada before heading south to do a few gigs in Georgia at the Athens Popfest in August, New York and New Jersey at the New Alternative Music Festival in Asbury Park in September.

After that, it’s anybody’s guess – and you should probably head over to their Facebook page to see what they’re up to after September. In the meantime, if you’re new to Ought, or have caught any of their gigs so far, you might want to head over to their record label’s website and check out their catalog of albums, eps and singles so far.

Clearly the French audience is enjoying the hell out of the show, and it would be a good idea to crank this one up and enjoy it just as much as they did.

JFK - This was the new Frontier

JFK – This was the new Frontier.

Sen. John F. Kennedy accepts the nomination for President – July 1960. As a continuing reminder of the power of great speeches, particularly in the political arena, the JFK acceptance speech goes down in history as one of the memorable moments in our country’s history. Below is a printed excerpt of that speech – but click on the audio player and listen to it in its entirety.

John F. Kennedy: “I hope that no American, considering the really critical issues facing this country, will waste his franchise by voting either for me or against me solely on account of my religious affiliation. It is not relevant. I want to stress, what some other political or religious leader may have said on this subject. It is not relevant what abuses may have existed in other countries or in other times. It is not relevant what pressures, if any, might conceivably be brought to bear on me. I am telling you now what you are entitled to know: that my decisions on any public policy will be my own–as an American, a Democrat and a free man.

Under any circumstances, however, the victory we seek in November will not be easy. We all know that in our hearts. We recognize the power of the forces that will be aligned against us. We know they will invoke the name of Abraham Lincoln on behalf of their candidate–despite the fact that the political career of their candidate has often seemed to show charity toward none and malice for all.

We know that it will not be easy to campaign against a man who has spoken or voted on every known side of every known issue. Mr. Nixon may feel it is his turn now, after the New Deal and the Fair Deal–but before he deals, someone had better cut the cards.

That “someone” may be the millions of Americans who voted for President Eisenhower but balk at his would be, self-appointed successor. For just as historians tell us that Richard I was not fit to fill the shoes of bold Henry II–and that Richard Cromwell was not fit to wear the mantle of his uncle–they might add in future years that Richard Nixon did not measure to the footsteps of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Perhaps he could carry on the party policies–the policies of Nixon, Benson, Dirksen and Goldwater. But this Nation cannot afford such a luxury. Perhaps we could better afford a Coolidge following Harding. And perhaps we could afford a Pierce following Fillmore. But after Buchanan this nation needed a Lincoln–after Taft we needed a Wilson–after Hoover we needed Franklin Roosevelt. . . . And after eight years of drugged and fitful sleep, this nation needs strong, creative Democratic leadership in the White House.

But we are not merely running against Mr. Nixon. Our task is not merely one of itemizing Republican failures. Nor is that wholly necessary. For the families forced from the farm will know how to vote without our telling them. The unemployed miners and textile workers will know how to vote. The old people without medical care–the families without a decent home–the parents of children without adequate food or schools–they all know that it’s time for a change.

But I think the American people expect more from us than cries of indignation and attack. The times are too grave, the challenge too urgent, and the stakes too high–to permit the customary passions of political debate. We are not here to curse the darkness, but to light the candle that can guide us through that darkness to a safe and sane future. As Winston Churchill said on taking office some twenty years ago: if we open a quarrel between the present and the past, we shall be in danger of losing the future.

Today our concern must be with that future. For the world is changing. The old era is ending. The old ways will not do.

Abroad, the balance of power is shifting. There are new and more terrible weapons–new and uncertain nations–new pressures of population and deprivation. One-third of the world, it has been said, may be free–but one-third is the victim of cruel repression–and the other one- third is rocked by the pangs of poverty, hunger and envy. More energy is released by the awakening of these new nations than by the fission of the atom itself.

Meanwhile, Communist influence has penetrated further into Asia, stood astride the Middle East and now festers some ninety miles off the coast of Florida. Friends have slipped into neutrality–and neutrals into hostility. As our keynoter reminded us, the President who began his career by going to Korea ends it by staying away from Japan.

The world has been close to war before–but now man, who has survived all previous threats to his existence, has taken into his mortal hands the power to exterminate the entire species some seven times over.

Here at home, the changing face of the future is equally revolutionary. The New Deal and the Fair Deal were bold measures for their generations–but this is a new generation.

A technological revolution on the farm has led to an output explosion–but we have not yet learned to harness that explosion usefully, while protecting our farmers’ right to full parity income.

An urban population explosion has overcrowded our schools, cluttered up our suburbs, and increased the squalor of our slums.

A peaceful revolution for human rights–demanding an end to racial discrimination in all parts of our community life–has strained at the leashes imposed by timid executive leadership.

A medical revolution has extended the life of our elder citizens without providing the dignity and security those later years deserve. And a revolution of automation finds machines replacing men in the mines and mills of America, without replacing their incomes or their training or their needs to pay the family doctor, grocer and landlord.

There has also been a change–a slippage–in our intellectual and moral strength. Seven lean years of drouth and famine have withered a field of ideas. Blight has descended on our regulatory agencies–and a dry rot, beginning in Washington, is seeping into every corner of America–in the payola mentality, the expense account way of life, the confusion between what is legal and what is right. Too many Americans have lost their way, their will and their sense of historic purpose.

It is a time, in short, for a new generation of leadership–new men to cope with new problems and new opportunities.

All over the world, particularly in the newer nations, young men are coming to power–men who are not bound by the traditions of the past–men who are not blinded by the old fears and hates and rivalries–young men who can cast off the old slogans and delusions and suspicions.

The Republican nominee-to-be, of course, is also a young man. But his approach is as old as McKinley. His party is the party of the past. His speeches are generalities from Poor Richard’s Almanac. Their platform, made up of left-over Democratic planks, has the courage of our old convictions. Their pledge is a pledge to the status quo–and today there can be no status quo.

For I stand tonight facing west on what was once the last frontier. From the lands that stretch three thousand miles behind me, the pioneers of old gave up their safety, their comfort and sometimes their lives to build a new world here in the West. They were not the captives of their own doubts, the prisoners of their own price tags. Their motto was not “every man for himself” –but “all for the common cause.” They were determined to make that new world strong and free, to overcome its hazards and its hardships, to conquer the enemies that threatened from without and within.

Today some would say that those struggles are all over–that all the horizons have been explored–that all the battles have been won– that there is no longer an American frontier.

But I trust that no one in this vast assemblage will agree with those sentiments. For the problems are not all solved and the battles are not all won–and we stand today on the edge of a New Frontier–the frontier of the 1960’s–a frontier of unknown opportunities and perils– a frontier of unfulfilled hopes and threats.”

1960 was no ordinary year and the 1960 election was no ordinary election. Then as now, brave new times.

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