Friday, February 02, 2007

Wasted Yoof

The 1960s have gone on far too long. I blame this phenomenon for our failure to mature as a culture. A single decade should not be expected to last the best part of 50 years, yet such is the arrogance of the psychedelic sixties, that they refuse to give up control of either the pop charts or the colour charts. How do you think it feels to see the face of your own teen idol Jim Morrison on the T-shirt of one of your friend’s grandchildren? Don’t bother to answer that. From groovy to gross in a few short letters.

It doesn’t help that our icons all insisted on checking out at around 27 when you even look good as a corpse. How do you think Rimbaud and Shelley endured? If you die in your twenties, thirties, or in exceptional cases, your early forties, you’ll always look young to the young. Whereas they will very rightly go Yuuucccchhh… at the sight of Paul McCartney’s quite literal turtle neck and be only too happy to leave you to your memories, they will fawn over the image of a youthful, prime culled John Lennon and try not to think too much about the elderly Yoko.

You’d need to do some heavy talking to persuade anyone these days that Keith Richards is actually still alive as opposed to existing as an interactive roving exhibit of the Natural History Museum. Yet when Annie Leibovitz photographed him for Rolling Stone Magazine in 1971 (pictured), passed out in Byronic repose on a gruelling US tour, I clipped the photo and later reproduced it in shades of blue and grey oils for my matriculation art exam. I got a distinction. I’m amazed that this was the only reproduction of the photo I could find on the internet as I always thought of it as one of the great iconic images of the time.

Richards might as well have stayed right there, comatose in that hotel room and saved us all a lot of bother. We have tried to advance from the sixties and none of us who were kids then would ever have dreamed that we were witnessing the pinnacle of progress and had nowhere to go but back. I assumed that copying Mary Quant dress designs and running them up on the family Singer while dreaming of getting the white patent platforms off lay-by in time for the summer dance would be something I would be able to write about in my dotage with nostalgia while feeling totally alienated by current fashions. Instead I find myself wishing I’d kept those shoes.

In some ways it’s nice that fashion isn’t such a broad church and, in all honesty, I don’t think I could really have gone for the Star Trek vision of unisex dressing. The shell suit was an experiment too far in that direction and we can all be enormously relieved that it didn’t survive far beyond the Essex boundary. A niche industry continues to thrive in Grays as I understand it. I spend most of my days now in trackies so I don’t suppose I can point the stiletto too stridently. I agree that themed jumpers for men got totally out of hand but, why oh why, did they dive back into their stuffy old dad kit so readily? Black suit, white shirt, striped tie - what is that?

The sixties brought us men in velveteen which was a mixed blessing as it is a fabric that does need a bit of care. Then again we also had the wholesale rejection of the fifties overt hygiene ethic and patchouli oil is very efficient at covering a multitude of odorous sins. It was liberating and I’m sad that men have retreated back into physical uniformity but then again, I don’t know if I could continue to handle those old T-shirt faces leering at me from fifty inch girths. Che Guevara’s lean visage flesh-stretched over Family Guy tends to diffuse the heroica somewhat. Maybe it’s just as well those mantles are passed on to a generation on which they at least look contemporary. I mean, can you really wear the face of a twenty year old when you’re sixty and not look like a bit of a paedo?

Have pity on those of us whose youth has been elongated like a Modigliani map of the world. Why, why, why is Mick Jagger still being taken seriously? Shouldn’t his grandchildren be being kidnapped by revolutionaries? I don’t understand why the sixties are so determined to loom over us like Peter Wingard’s droopy moustache and even droopier hand gestures. What I would really have liked is to be able to look back on the sixties like a quaint precursor to the fine and sophisticated era that I rightly inherited. Bollocks to that. All I’ve ended up with is a faint memory of the promise of the Age of Aquarius and continued longevity of the crocheted poncho my grandmother made me in 1969…

Photo of Annie Leibovitz Rolling Stone Cover from


nmj said...

Have pity on those of us whose youth has been elongated like a Modigliani map of the world.

Hey Pants, This is a lovely line.

That's so pants said...

Thank you nmj.

Ms Baroque said...

hmm, & I'm sure it's a lovely poncho! Well, as you know TSP I have written on the painful phenomenon of dad-rock among the young. Then again, a little of the old sixties spirit of tolerance and openmindedness would sometimes not go amiss...

No, I think the thing that really lasted - the true legacy of the sixties, which I'm very sorry to have to say here like this - is that slapdash, it'll-be-all-right-it-doesn't-really-matterness, where people who knew nothing about something just kinda like sorta did it anyway - all those dresses on the Singer, no one ever finished the seams vvery carefully, did they. It was the "WE shall inherit the earth" mentaliity that won out. I.e., no one knows grammar any more. We dropped open education but never picked the grammar back up. We've lost the respect for quality. I'm sure there's a column in the ramifications of that alone.

That's so pants said...

Oh God Ms Baroque - you just reminded me that my dad came to collect me from my senior formal (prom to you) wearing short shorts with his hairy balls drooping out. That was also the night he gave my best friend a love bite just to embarass her. I think you're right about the slap-dash thing although, luckily for us, it didn't become institutionalised until the 80s. My grammar is, I think, mostly sound although I'm sure someone will have a go at me for my commas. That's what usually happens. As for the triumph of quantity over quality - I optimistically sense a backlash. What's the point of being a powerful consumer if you can't choose to shun mass production? BTW my seams were actually pretty sound as I recall. Always enjoyed needlepoint too.

R H said...

Maybe if rotten evil dogs like academic Tim "acid" O'Leary had been swung on a rope before ruining thousands of young lives in America and thus elsewhere, the Sixties would have been seen as the stupidly artificial selfish pretentious decade that it really was: full of bourgeois no-talent 'flower children'.

Crap artists.

Ms Baroque said...

Oh God. We had the same(ish) dad.

I loved needlepoint as a kid but rarely finished a project. I'm sure your seams were sounder than mine. I took inspiration from something really tiny that I noticed in our laundry room. The things my mother had when she was young - i.e., before she was in high school and college (yes, she did have these things and they were in our laundry room! Probably because she never wore them) had lovely covered buttons. Matching. They had stitch details unknown in the clothes I saw in people around me. I knew something had been lost.

We got the covered buttons back int he eighties I know. But people did stop teaching grammar. Even the five food groups are having to make a comeback now.

That's so pants said...

Hello RH - welcome. Someone isn't getting enough brown rice in their diet I think. Crap art eh - Warhol, Hockney, Brett Whiteley, Paul Rego, Bridget Riley...

Ms B - memories like the corners of my cushions, te dum. Do you remember those kits you could get for covering your own buttons? I think I need a sentimental journey into John Lewis's haberdashery section this week.

R H said...

So you don't understand what's meant by crap artists? Well how about bullshit artists: middle-class dopes dressing up in cheese cloth on weekends with daddy's present of a gold watch left at home to go out parading as the latest thing? None of these dorks were ever sincere and I know it for a fact -always intending to later dust off their university degrees and cop big salary jobs with corporations and government. "Make love not war," they said, and "Free Love" -what crap; young dames today do more of it than those shonks ever did, and get around wearing a lot less!
They were young, that's all, intelligent and naive, just as this latte lot are today. Or what do you think, do these vogues ever last a decade before getting knocked off by the following generation? You can't find anyone nowadays who'll admit to having been a hippy. Too embarrassing.
And what did Warhol do, paint a photographic image of a soup can? And is that marvellous? Who says so? Whitely was a dope fiend, that's all, and I've never heard of the rest. But I've heard of Jim Jones. Charles Manson too, and there were plenty of lecherous dirty old man gurus here in Queensland too getting the pants off naive young things too, while persuading the blokes to brain- damage themselves on magic mushrooms.
So what books came out of the Sixties, have you read On The Road? Total nonsense. And The Naked Lunch? Degenerate trash.

I started eating brown rice in the Seventies, brown sugar too, it was all the go. Focaccia's the go now, but you need to be careful saying it.

I'm not.

That's so pants said...

Hello again RH. Nice to see the spirit of Joh B-P lives on. It is quite clear to me that we will not agree on anything so I'll comment on a few things. Andy Warhol is considered by many in the mainstream art world to be the most important artist of the 20th Century. I thumbed through Dave Hickey's fabulous retrospective volume "Giant Size" in Borders just before Christmas and it was a timely reminder of the staggering achievement of Warhol's vast body of work. Brett Whiteley is a favourite artist of mine - I own one of his pieces. He was as a drug addict and died of a heroin overdose but he was also one of Australia's greatest landscape painters and was mentored by Arthur Boyd - whom I personally think IS Australia's greatest landscape painter. I wrote my undergraduate dissertation on Jack Kerouac so I am familiar with all his work. On the Road (published 1957) is a 'great American novel' by anyone's definition. Kerouac was very much a 50s man and eschewed 60s drugs - preferring to drink himself into an early grave. Burroughs,a heroin addict, lived to a ripe old age. The Naked Lunch (published 1959) was not a conventional book, being the result of Burroughs' experimental technique of cutting out and sticking together passages at random. It is therefore a nonsense to apply a judgement to it based on expectations of continuous narrative. I wasn't all that gripped by it when I first read it as a university text but my opinion was transformed by hearing Burroughs read some passages from it in London in 1982. The point I'm making is that these were 50s rather than 60s books. In any case, the connection you draw between these artists and homicidal/suicidal cults is spurious. The only link is that they all lived through the same decade.

R H said...

The idea that Andy Warhol was the best artist of last century is too absurd to take seriously (and so who was the best Hollywood hairdresser then do you reckon?).
The claim that On The Road was rushed off in one draft was a marketing stunt which has only recently been admitted. I've never believed it -which got me into strife on this internet from someone called Chickenfish. Well maybe you're the only person in the world who's read it through to the end? Congratulations.

Burroughs was a sneak thief who helped pick the pockets of sleeping drunks on the subway; quite a dashing thing to do. He mentions it all in one of his books which I've got here but can't be bothered finding.

Suggesting I'm like Joh Bigot because you can't agree with me is pretty cheap.

R H said...

I used to regret not having been to university, but I've since seen it's an advantage; once you enter you never get out.

That's so pants said...

Well Hello again RH. The thing of it is that on this blog you will get jumped on for making unsubstantiated claims and talking rubbish - if not by me, by someone else. Re Warhol - I am not an art critic - I simply report what I have read. It's either Warhol or Picasso for most. Re Kerouac - an area where I feel more comfortable as a student of his work, and to some extent, that of most of the Beat writers. Whether you like his work or not is none of my business. Also I do not stand in judgement on the private lives and personal habits of artists - few of my favourites would pass as pillars of society.

Points of clarity - Kerouac was a dedicated bibliographer, letter writier and diarist, one of the reasons it makes it so fascinating to study him. There is no dispute that the original full manuscript (86,000 words) of 'On The Road' was written in three weeks in April 1951 in a benzedrine fueled marathon on ten x 12 foot rolls of paper and then taped together to form one continuous sheet, 120 feet long. This manuscript was bought at auction a couple of years ago Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay for $2.2 million (plus a buyer's premium of $226,000), setting a world record for a literary manuscript at auction. What is also known is that Kerouac had been documenting his trips across the US with Neal Cassady in his notebooks since their first meeting in 1946 and had been continually planning and talking about a book. Some people think this devalues the 'spontaneous prose' claims of the manuscript.

There was also never any dispute that when Viking eventually published the book in 1957 they had demanded major revisions. Kerouac made no secret of his disdain for this. When it eventually came out, it shot him to instant fame, which destabilished him personally and artistically. Having sold over 3m copies in 25 languages over 50 years, I'm guessing I'm not the only one to have read and enjoyed 'On the Road'. His popularity gave him the artistic freedom to be more faithful to his 'first thought, best thought' ethos and none of the resulting books were ever as popular. I'm guessing that having read 'Dr Sax' and 'Visions of Cody' makes me a rarer breed.

The Burroughs book to which you refer is Junky (published 1953). Burroughs was a degenerate (he also shot and killed his wife while playing 'William Tell') then again so was Genet. Judge the writing and not the writer and maybe people won't assume you're a bigot.

What you say about university makes me sad because a society that disdains higher education is doomed to value only commerce as far as I can see. I enjoyed my time (at University of Queensland in fact). did not become an academic but have plenty of lovely friends who did.

Queen Minx said...

RH versus NoPants Lady!

Ding Dong!

I have never read 'On the Road', although it's in my collection. Neither have I read 'Junky', but I know a 'man' who has.

Both of these books are incredibly important to this 'man', because they go in some way to explain to him why he feels, as a 21st Century Boy (can we mention 'Glam Rock') so out of place, in time.

He gave me a book by Richard Brautigan, who will always remain one of my favourite authors, I also like Stephen King. Go figure.

And, yes ... I like Picasso, I also like Dali, mainly because I like abstract (unless it's a small orange dot in the middle of a 10 foot by 10 foot blank canvas, that just gives me shivers) ...

and ... I still might go 'oooo' at a man in a velvet jacket, I did so love the New Romantics ...

I hope my daughter finds some curiousity about the '60's', and the '70's' and so on ... because they have all featured in my 'growing up' ... I hope one day we will discuss what our favourite Rolling Stones song is, and why, at 80, Mick Jagger still ponces about on stage, albeit at that point, after 15 hip replacements ...

It's where we come from, all those decades behind us, it's where we going, all the decades ahead. I like the fact that past decades still have relevance, whether it be to scoff or celebrate.

I was a hippy!! I was also a mod! I was a punk! And, for a small period of the 80's I wore Pringle Jumpers. Now, the best description I can give myself today, is to say I am an 'Indie Chick' although, at 38, the 'chick-bit' might be taking the p i ess ess.

I love that I tried to experience a little piece of an 'era'or, decade, when I was growing up, even after that 'era/decade' had passed. I got to pick-n-mix. I still do.

Ding Dong.


That's so pants said...

Hi QM - The gloves may be off but never the pants - one must maintain some standards. I love Brautigan too!

R H said...

As someone who's done time for robbery I'm no pillar of society, but still don't consider it smart for some goat to write trash extolling drugs and booze, especially when marketed to kids. And it's pretty funny to draw a line by saying Naked Lunch published in 1959 was a Fifties book. And the same with Kerouac, who became a Sixties celebrity because of On The Road. I've made no suggestion that any artists at all were primarily responsible for the evil Sixties, but sadly there were no 1940's Albert Tuckers among them using their art to point out current evils going on (a Hogarthian Rake's progress would have been ideal). But Sixties art merely went along with what I consider a selfish and very stupid decade whose "do what you feel" nonsense meant naive youngsters raised in bourgeois comfort becoming prey for nutty and lecherous cult 'leaders'. You'll easily see similarites with the feather-brained Twenties whose Great Cult Leader was Hollywood itself, and which after some forced restraint in the Thirties and Forties, has continued its corruption of the young, and the stupid especially. Publishing is a similar enterprise, where gimmickry and notoriety pay off, and Warhol was a businessman running his own factory enterprise of supply, much as did Edison, whose inventions were exclusively thought up to make money. But Warhol was showbiz as well, an entrepreneur feeding off publicity, and nothing is more American than the combination of art, usefullness, and entertainment; all to make money.

I don't know what you got from going to university, and would like to have gone there myself, but after experiencing on this internet the shackled thinking of many of its graduates I'd be a bit afraid right now. It appears to turn out robots and that's all; bland loyalists who'll travel no further.
And golly, if I may say so; threats never bother me. And the truth is, I even accept them on behalf of other people.


R H said...

I like Dali too. And a French artist (whose name I can't think of now but which starts with P) who did canvases of slum areas. The difference between innovaters like Warhol and Dali is Dali didn't make as much cash from it. But he did try.

R H said...

One more thing, the ploy of creating an image for yourself making you vastly more interesting than anything you can actually write is a scam begun by "He-Man" Hemingway, who wasn't a he-man at all.

That's so pants said...

Hi RH (again) I'm finding your argument fairly incoherent at this point. What I think is happening is that you are blurring the boundary between artist's intent and receiver's interpretation. Interesting that you bring up Tucker, whose partisan view of the world undoubtedly influenced his international standing. I don't happen to believe that artists and writers have any obligation whatever to represent a particular value system. You are wildly mistaken if you believe that the books of either Kerouac or Burroughs were 'marketed to kids' unless of course you mean the under 40s. I wasn't being pedantic by insisting that neither can be considered a sixties writer. Kerouac held a similar view to you and loudly proclaimed that hallucinogenic drugs were 'destroying America'. He felt marginalised by the hippy movement. Burroughs had long since fled to Mexico. Ginsberg was the Beat who embraced the era and became its darling. I wonder where you stand on Gregory David Roberts or James Frey or murder mysteries and detective stories and whether or not you have to keep refashioning your argument to suit.

Re Dali - one of my favourites too - as it happens I was in Barcelona when he died in 1989 and went to his burial. Dali was an outrageous self-promoter and, towards the end of his life, was responsible for flooding the market with fake prints - he had signed thousands of blank sheets of paper and took no part in the production process. The French artist? I'm not sure but are you thinking of Pissarro?

Don't even think about dissing Hemingway!

R H said...

You not only compare me to a famous bigot, but now find me incoherent too, and have needed to warn me I should stop talking rubbish or get jumped on. And golly, there's even some dietary advice. Well thanks, but I've said nothing about you.
I agree that Artists and writers aren't obligated to criticise their society, but the best of them tend to do it -in my view anyway. By kids I mean late teen/early adult headless chickens flapping about blind and confused as to who's right and who's wrong and "Wow!- have you read what this dude says?" and all the while driven by the old in-and-out of course. I agree about Kerouac feeling marginalised by the Hippy movement (but isn't this happening now with old feminists vs the new? Doesn't it generally happen everytime an "old guard" gets displaced by a new push?) I saw him in a mid-sixties doco sitting in a studio chair and looking very fuddy-duddy in a dark suit amomg three Afro hairdos and Zapata Moustaches plus a beaded cheesecloth Mary Travers style girl, who were all deeply respectful and wouldn't dare bite back as he gave them hell. I wasn't aware of detail but am glad to have his opposition to drugs pointed out to me.
I'd never heard of Roberts or Frey, and Roberts appears to be one of those Aussies who's a celebrity elsewhere but unknown here; similar to the (very) late Steve Irwin. I don't need to de-glamourise Hemingway, others have done it already, but I don't think much anyway of a bloke who decided to get out of bed one night and blow his head off just a few metres from his sleeping wife. I'd like him better if he'd driven off somewhere.

And yes it's Pissaro, thanks.

PS: I could say something funny about the recent popularity of aboriginal paintings in this country (and in New York, I believe) and the aboriginal addiction to cheap wine (plonk) which led to a popular abo artist being bribed with it to randomly sign his names to any abo-style painting presented to him. There's likewise a case where a white woman posing as an aborigine sold lots of books on that basis alone until exposed as an imposter. And oh golly!- the arts scandals here, you've no idea. One girl ("Helen Demidenko", or something) even won our National literary prize through posing as a Russian refugee. This is how talent gets shoved aside in favour of ideological considerations. If you want to succeed at all in the arts here being a genuine refugee, aborigine - or someone whose art says nice things about them - gives you a stupendous start on the rest. (Sorry to go on so much, but I do get a bit carried away)

(A manbag when it mattered)

And this thing keeps rejecting my password too.

That's so pants said...

Robert - You have the last word.

R H said...

Aye, and thank you.