I was mulling over possibilities for a good year-end review to write about, and for a second, I thought of reviewing the year’s music. But, that would be ridiculous. I have no idea what’s going on in popular music today.
I Googled the Billboard Top 10, and I never heard of seven of those singers. And, for the other three, whose names were vaguely familiar, I haven’t heard any of the music they put out. So, I can’t review 2009.
However, I can do a bang-up job on one year I remember very well: 1969. I doubt seriously there has ever been another year with so much going on in rock music. And, that includes Elvis, of course. Fortunately, I have something that helps me reminisce about what happened in 1969. Time magazine published TIME 1969 – 40th Anniversary Special, and a friend gave me a copy. Here is a list of the music-related themes they cover in the book:
Beatles’ break-up, and their last concert from a rooftop.
The Doors’ Jim Morrison arrested for exposing himself during a concert.
John Lennon and Yoko in the public eye doing weird stuff.
A stabbing death at the Rolling Stones’ Altamont Concert.
Elvis returns to live performances in Las Vegas.
That would be enough for any year, but there was also the biggest event of all:
TIME 1969 devoted ten pages to Woodstock, included color photos of Santana, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and others. I had three close friends who went to Woodstock. I had a chance to join them, but, for unavoidable reasons, it just couldn’t happen. Missing my chance to go with them to Woodstock has stayed a big disappointment to me all these years. When I looked at those old crowd pictures in Time 1969, it made me sigh. Oh, well.
The Beatles incredible album Abbey Road was praised in a one-page article. Three times as much space was spent on another story about the Beatles’ demise, including that last unsuccessful recording session and their strange last concert on the Abbey Road Studio rooftop. It was their first live performance in three years, and the fans couldn’t see them.
John Lennon was in the book two more times. The first was the famous Bed-In in a hotel suite, where he introduced the song “Give Peace A Chance.” (Remember, 1969 was a big year for the Vietnam War, too.)
John and Yoko also appeared in another section of the book, with all the juicy tid-bits on his divorce and almost immediate marriage to Yoko. They put out their first single, modestly titled “The Ballad of John and Yoko.”
A black-and-white photograph and the text about Jim Morrison’s public exposure problem used up half a page. Morrison was all in black leather, so they didn’t need color.
Three other rockers shared a page: Sly and the Family Stone, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and the Jackson 5. They all enjoyed huge career successes that year.
TIME 1969 does a good job describing the Rolling Stones’ deadly concert at Altamont in California. The photo they show has Mick Jagger staring at the man down on the stage with a bunch of Hell’s Angels glowering over him. That was the last time anybody used the Angels for concert security.
So, how did Elvis do? He got just one page, but it does have a terrific color picture of him and Priscilla. The text mentions his ‘68 Comeback Special and their marriage a bit, but mostly it covers his return to the stage in Las Vegas. Here is an original quote from Time magazine:
“He stepped onstage in front of a gold lamé curtain at Las Vegas’ new International Hotel, coordinated his pelvic girdle and his phallic guitar, closed his eyes, tossed his head and sent a solar wind of nostalgia over the 2000… folks assembled for opening night.”
Music was a big part of my life in 1969, and I connected with the events in the Time 1969 review. I owned the magnificent Abbey Road and played it until it almost wore out. I had several Doors albums and was saddened two years later when Jim Morrison’s death meant no more music from them. I loved all three block-buster albums CCR released in their debut year. I watched TV with amusement when John Lennon did interviews and sang songs from his hotel bed.
I didn’t have the money for a Las Vegas trip, so I never saw Elvis perform in 1969, and I miss that. However, that’s nothing compared to the deep regret I have for my near-miss of going to Woodstock. Forty years later, it’s still a bummer, man.
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