“The band known as War at absolute peak power. In the case of Gypsy Man, it’s how the song creeps in, as if carried by a distant storm, catching the moment for me, 1973, maybe fourteen years old, the Watergate thing, the Vietnam thing, the whole prolonged end of the 1960s thing, all the bright colours fading, distinct stench of garbage caught in the breeze. But at least radio was still good in 1973. You could actually hear Gypsy Man on a commercial FM station, the long album version. Because the big corporate screwing hadn’t happened yet, but it was about to, because the consultants had filed their reports. There was stupid money to be made with the FM airwaves, and all of this visionary art and truth-telling crap — it was in the way, babe.” (Philip Random)
“On one level, Sweet Virginia is just another smart and nasty Stones ballad, gritty as the shit on your shoes. But given the album it’s from (Exile on Main St. maybe the best damned rock record of all time), it’s hard not to read more into it. Just the heroin weariness of it all, I guess, and what it says about the 1960s, what they’d promised and given, but also what they’d taken from those who dared partake. Like something out of Greek mythology, a special curse brewed up by the gods, and in some way or other, the whole culture was in on the partaking, even little kids just hanging around the edges, wanting in. That was me by the way. One of the kids. I wanted shit on my shoes, too.” (Philip Random)
Track one, side one of the first Guadalcanal Diary album is pumped up, countrified fun. Philip Random is pretty sure it’s about a movie he saw as a little kid. “Something to do with American cowboys going to the Congo (or wherever), killing natives, other fun stuff. By which I mean, horrific. Which unfortunately was pretty standard in my early days of TV watching (the 1960s). White men killing non-white men, served up as rousing adventure. Anyway. Great song from a highly overlooked jangle-pop outfit.” (Philip Random)
The Hollies were supposed to be finished by the time the 70s hit (Graham Nash had split to California, hooked with Crosby, Stills and eventually Young; their whole sort of sunny pop psychedelia just wasn’t a thing anymore), but, it turns out, they still had a tricks left, including in Long Dark Road, a serious gaze into the shadows. But not without those three-part harmonies, even if some of the names had changed, and would keep changing.
As the story goes, Neil Young had at least a peripheral connection to Charles Manson. They weren’t exactly buddies, yet there was a sort of passing amity that perhaps could only have existed in the old hippie days of 1960s Los Angeles, the weird scenes up Laurel Canyon in particular. That was before all the slaughter, of course. After which Mr. Young found a way to get it into at least one song, in particular the part about getting armed to the teeth, hopping into dune buggies, then swarming down the canyon, exterminating everyone they saw, particularly all the hippie rock star types who hadn’t let Chuck join their club. Which was apparently a scheme that he never got around to executing. There were a bunch of those.
You didn’t get to hear much of Sly and Family Stone’s There’s A Riot Goin’ On when the album was new in 1971-72, certainly not if you were stuck out in suburbia. But what little you did hear was enough to make it clear: the 1960s were over, with only crushed and dying flowers left in their wake. A darker, meaner time was on us, even if many were still pursuing deep and personal extraterrestrial explorations.