Thursday, June 25, 2009

Coming of age

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I was listening to some Steppenwolf on my ipod while exercising and it really struck me how much of the music was still relevant. Teens and young adults coming of age in the late sixties struggled with how they felt about an unpopular president advocating an unpopular war, friends with drug problems, changing the work culture, equality, relationships and uncertainty about the meaning of life. Ok, so not much has changed. I suppose most of this generation would rather have their music about life's questions be rap/hiphop or country. They could do a lot worse than good old Steppenwolf if they would have a listen. Its easy for me to say because I am a fan of the late sixties early seventies rock sound. Steppenwolf is a classic example of the genre with the distorted electric guitar, hard driving bass and drums, Hammond organ played through Leslie speakers, and John Kay's gravelly growling lead vocals. The musicians were good, the recordings were tight, and John sang like he meant it. Most everyone knows their big two: Born To Be Wild and Magic Carpet Ride. They both became anthems for the time and show up in movie sound tracks numerous times. Some people believe the genre was named Heavy Metal after the lyrics in Born To Be Wild. There is not much I desire to add to the volumes that have been written about those songs already. Instead I will call your attention to songs like:
  • Snowblind Friend - lamenting a friends cocaine addiction.
  • The Pusher - suggesting casual drug use is harmless but heroin dealers should have total war declared on them. John Kay exclaims, "I'd kill him with my bible with my razor and my gun"
  • Monster - strongly questioning our right to bring war upon other countries and beseech the older generation to help them make things right again because "We can't fight alone against the monster"
  • Rock Me - wondering about the meaning of life and dealing with it in a decidedly sixties free love way
  • Its Never Too Late - proselytizing that you can still change your ways and redeem you life, using some well written phrases in doing so

Listening to the words to Monster I was surprised how remarkably similar many of the sentiments were to the arguments being made about occupying Iraq last year. That was catalyst enough to rediscover other songs. Not that I agree with all their views but I found current relevance, nostalgia and some fine Rock and Roll while I suffered on the exercise machine.

If you used to be a Steppenwolf fan, go back for a treat. If you have never listened beyond the big two, give it a try. If you don't want to be bothered, well, as John Kay growls, "Who needs ya!"

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