It only seems fitting, after the milestone series of appearances this week by Paul Simon at The Hollywood Bowl, that a reminder for those who sat somewhere in the upper-reaches, in the cheap-seats that August night fifty years ago, brings it more-or-less full-circle. That the world has changed in immeasurable ways while stubbornly clinging on to others makes the message of the past few nights just as relevant as the emotions and expressions held those many nights ago. That was August 23, 1968 -looking back on the days and weeks surrounding it – Robert Kennedy had been assassinated only two months earlier in L.A., and only two months before that, Martin Luther King was assassinated – three days after this concert Chicago would become a battleground, with the Convention verging on anarchy and thousands taking to the streets. There were doubts if we were going to survive the Summer of Love that happened only a year earlier, it felt like another century on another planet since then.
But music was still the wellspring of energy and comfort – and those voices whose message took us to places outside ourselves, we sat mesmerized, hanging on every word. They were our salvation; the glue that held us together.
And then as now, we’re looking for the wellspring of energy and comfort; looking for the messages that tell us it’s going to be okay – it all works out. We need the glue that binds us and keeps us steady now more than ever – the words, expressions of hope and unity; giving signs and indications and direction to go on, however circuitous and uncertain those directions may be.
The dewey-eyed kids, submerged in a smokey mixture of Hash and Acapulco Gold are now the ones casting the jaundiced eye and wondering aloud where did we go wrong? The chins are many and the hairs are grey and few – for the most part we forgot. And that’s what time does; covers over, sifts and parcels. We were never really that young – never really did those things – we just pretended we were worldly. It all happened; it just happened to someone else.
The concerts were our gathering place – to check in – to maybe fall in love – to belong. And those of us who wrangled and cajoled or won our tickets via KHJ or KRLA descended on the Bowl that night – just like we descended on the Bowl this past week. To gather – to check in – to maybe fall in love, or at least be reminded – to be in the same place at the same time and feel like we belonged.
Music just does that. And while reports of this latest group of concerts with Paul Simon are uniformly breathless in their timeless praise and unflinching appeal, they still bear a certain reminder of that night fifty years ago, when we sat in the cheap-seats and wondered how it was all going to work out.
For those of you who missed it – or weren’t born yet, here is that fabled Simon & Garfunkel concert, recorded live at The Hollywood Bowl on August 23, 1968. Proof magic happened in L.A. that night.