Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Dog Days - the Turbulence of August 15




Among many other things that occurred historically on August 15, in 1769, Napolean Bonaparte was born on the isle of Corsica. He famously met his military demise at Waterloo, which the game of free-association brings my mind to the great track by Television's Tom Verlaine, "Postcard From Waterloo."

Had the French Emperor sent a postcard from Waterloo, what would he have said? Would he have remembered that on this same date, nearly 700 years prior (in 1057), the real MacBeth, King of Scotland (the one after whom Shakespeare created his famous tragic play) was slain by the son of his rival, King Duncan? Well, of course, we will never know. In more recent times, August 15 is remembered as the first date in the 3-day long Woodstock Music & Art Fair, as it was supposed to be called - but is known simply as Woodstock. It was the mid-point of the most turbulent of years, 1969. The 60s were the decade that youth culture really took front and center in the media and minds of the general population. A decade that started as anti-war, peace, love (drugs) and brotherhood turned quite ugly in the Summer of 69. Just a week before the Woodstock Festival, Charles Manson and his acolytes burst into the home of Hollywood starlet and Roman Polanski paramour, Sharon Tate, brutally murdering her and all of the guests in her Bel Air home. They continued their killing spree the next night at the La Bianca residence in Los Angeles. The crime scene included the scrawling of Beatles song title and choice lyrics from "Helter Skelter" in blood on the walls of the victims home.

While the Beatles and youth culture in general had nothing to do with the workings of a criminal mind, the White Album and youth culture forever got a bad rap because of the Manson Family's invocation of them during their crime. A week later at Woodstock, it seemed that all things good, bad and ugly happened in upstate New York at the Festival.

Of all the bands that performed, the only one that bears any relation to punk rock in any way, shape or form was The Who, whose Pete Townshend had always reflected the vibe of the times in song, from his own "My Generation" to the band's choice in covering the Eddie Cochran chestnut, "Summer Time Blues." I've always considered Pete to be a godfather of punk rock because of "My Generation" and his guitar-smashing.

Townshend-1980

Finally, there is a strange many-years-after-the-fact correlation of the photo below, Woodstock and punk rock. Artie Kornfeld, one of the creators of Woodstock was a record business guy in the 60s and had composed and/or produced many an early 60s hit, including a co-write with Jan Berry (who is pictured below with Stiv Bators and Dave Parsons) and others of "Dead Man's Curve."

Jan Berry Meets Punks

In 1994, in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the original, there was another Woodstock Festival. The closest it got to featuring punk rock was Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Primus. Other than having some performers from the original festival (The Band, Santana, Joe Cocker, Country Joe McDonald, John Sebastian and Crosby, Stills, & Nash; Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead performed with The Band), I found a most intriguing tie-in with 1969 --- Nine Inch Nails frontman, Trent Reznor recorded his breakthrough album "The Downward Spiral," while living in the same house on Cielo Drive in Bel Air where Charles Manson's Family slaughtered Sharon Tate. Woodstock 94 was one stop on the NIN tour supporting "Downward Spiral."

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