The saying is if you can remember it, you weren’t there. Okay, I wasn’t there but I was alive in the ’60’s when it went down.
I remember 1965 and the Watts riots. We actually went to Los Angeles that year on a family trip to Disneyland. We were going to spend a week with the Timms, who’d been our neighbours until Mr. Timms got transferred stateside.
I still don’t know why we didn’t go straight in to their place. Instead we found a motel recommended by the Alberta Motor Association road book. It was on the outskirts of the Watts neighbourhood. And 2 weeks before the riots exploded
I think the motel owners realized we were just a group of pasty snow birds who didn’t know any better. They made sure we got safely on our way the next day with very clear directions to our friend’s house.
Then there was the Democratic national convention riots in 1968: I watched kids a few years older than me getting their heads caved in with police batons.
You see, by the time Woodstock came along the hippies were already being phased out by the Yippees. Abbie Hoffman, of the ‘don’t trust anyone over 3o’ fame.
So, ironically, Woodstock was already nostalgia before the first act hit the stage.
‘We’ve got to get back to the Garden’ wasn’t just a line in a song, it was the wish of a generation witnessing its own fantasy tearing itself apart.
It was a prayer whispered into a damp sleeping bag, holding onto the latest love of your life who knew how to get something to eat, to keep you warm and hold you close through the night.
That’s the part that’s left out of the accounts of peace, love and understanding. I love listening to the music, Richie Havens and the Mamas and the Papas. They were the apostles of love, testifying to the idealism. Made it real for those moments they were on stage.
But it was an island in time, a Brigadoon never to return.
A year after Woodstock, we heard the news from Ohio. Kent State university. It isn’t just a hippie song, quaint acoustic guitar riffs and harmonies. It was a kick in the face for the flower children.
51 years later we can’t smell the crowd. Or feel the cold and damp. Or the thrill of meeting your next sleeping bag buddy in the line ups for the…well, for everything. It was magic but that’s mostly thanks to the mushrooms and the acid.
But not the brown acid, man, that stuff will fuck you up.
The album does take us back to the garden. It’s still worth a listen – in sections, though, I mean a three record album strains the modern attention span. Oh, right…records…hmmm. I usually just download the bits I like…