Monday, 23 July 2007

Losing My Religion


You know how something only becomes apparent years later in retrospect? Usually, these sorts of moments occur long after the event and it takes a catalytic jerk to slot all the pieces together in your brain.

It happened to me recently when I was forced into thinking about my school years following a meeting with an old schoolfriend – someone I hadn’t seen for over 30 years. This meeting was the catalyst that suddenly jolted me into the realisation that I had actually witnessed the end of the hippy dream, in real time, as it were.

It was about 1970 and I was sitting at my school desk paying my usual non-attention in a class designed to impart religious instruction. Following a prolonged bout of window gazing, I had tuned in just long enough to hear the teacher say, “I just don’t know about John Lennon any more…once it was ‘All You Need is Love’, but now…”

And she trailed off into a sort of melancholic reverie for a few moments during which there was total silence in the class. I think we all realised that this was a moment of discovery for her, but it is only now that I can appreciate what it was. It was the catastrophic awakening to the fact that hippydom had failed and the real world had re-invaded our consciousness.

1970 was certainly a defining year. It marked the end of those years with a ‘6’ in them, the Beatles were no more and suddenly reality was as grim as it had ever been. The Vietnam war raged, the UK began its slide into industrial unrest with strikes and the three day week only years away. For my teacher, who clearly saw the future in that far off instant, it must have been a crushing blow after the na├»ve optimism of the late 60s.

Funnily enough, John Lennon and religion always seem to be linked. I once swapped my copy of ‘Imagine’ for the Who’s ‘Who’s Next’ with a member of the God Squad at University. Clearly he thought that Lennon was more likely to redeem his soul than Pete Townshend. And who’s to say he was not wrong. After all, Lennon had once claimed that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus so perhaps he had a point.

But Lennon alone was not enough to save the world from the 1970s and by the middle of the decade, not only was the UK in turmoil but pop music was on its knees waiting for the deathblow of punk to re-start the circle of raw development that had originally occurred in the 1950s. Nevertheless, I didn’t really expect to witness the end of an era in last period before break.

1 comment:

TR1-Guy said...

As a side note to this, did you also notice that the '60
s music became the "oldies" even as early as like 1971 or 72? Today, the "oldies" stations still play mostly '60's music and some early '70's music (Carpenters, etc.) The 1980's did not call '70's music "oldies" and on down the line. The 1960's, even though I was a mere young child glued to the TV watching Irwin Allen TV shows, was an era of itself and we'll probably never see anything like it again.

But, the USA is currently heading in that direction again as the anti-war movement kicks up again and as we stand poised to finally get rid of King George as our President. The music industry is stuck in a rut here and nothing sells very well. "American Idol" is total crap and creates corporate-driven artists (which we just discussed in the previous comment). Gone are the days where an artist like the Beatles defines themselves in the small clubs of the UK and then blasts itself onto the world itself.

I remember the moment you are talking about in 1970 as my sister who is 4 years older than me (and 17 at the time) was destroyed by the Beatles' breakup and eventually with Lennon's death 10 years later. John was a great person and only today do we really get what he was trying to say.

Excellent comment again my friend. I see you still have some brain cells left... I used most of mine up drinking too much in the late '70s!! :)