Sunday, August 16, 2009


So it is forty years since Woodstock. That makes the age of the average member of the crowd now about 60. What is left of the mythical summer of love? Not much, you would have to say, apart from the nostalgia for lost youth. The popular music industry has long been subsumed by the multinational corporations. Back then rock 'n' roll was seen as a serious threat to Western society's moral foundations. Now it has been tamed. Or maybe it was never a threat in the first place. A generation of kids dropping out never was going to trouble corporate America too much. And soon enough the hippie drop outs were dropping back in, just in time for the yuppie 80s.

It is curious that one of places where popular music really did have a political impact was on the other side of the iron curtain, in the Soviet bloc. There, listening to rock music was seriously rebellious and more than a little dangerous. As it covertly penetrated into the East, Western popular music carried a highly charged political message of freedom, individuality and intergenerational rebellion that eventually helped unseat the ruling regime. Most importantly it was something that the Communist authorities had no hope of countering or emulating with homegrown alternatives. Western popular music was (and is) as much part of the capitalist system as General Motors, IBM or Westinghouse. But it was easier to see that from Moscow
than from the mud at Woodstock.

© Brian Long 2009

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