Friday, August 10, 2012

The Long Musical Shadow of the 1960s

I've recently had the pleasure of watching Cream's 2005 reunion performance (Royal Albert Hall) on Netflix. Never mind why it took me so long, and never mind the diminished energy of these once incendiary performers; there's still no one else playing on their level. Plenty of virtuosos have followed, sure, but Cream possessed a combination of talent, innovation, and songcraft that seemed particular to their era: the 1960s.

Believe me, I don't want to be saying this. I am tired of the 1960s. For Christ's sake, I wasn't even alive then. I have no interest in the social revolution of that decade; it takes a spectacular degree of historical ignorance to enable a generation to believe that they invented free love and mind-altering drugs. Nevertheless, if such hubris contributed to the crucible that gave us The Beatles, Cream, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and so many others, then I am grateful. Most of my favorite bands came afterward but they were all, to greater or lesser degrees, derivative of what happened between 1965 and 1974 (the cut-off year, according to Robyn Hitchcock). The explosion in creativity that transpired during that period also gave rise to a disconcerting question: Where do you go from here? It's a question that has yet to be answered. And don't give me that "What about punk?" rejoinder. Punk was great, it needed to happen, it gave fresh life to the enterprise, but it wasn't seismic in the way that this stuff was. Credit must be given where credit is due.

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