Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Less fun than you think

The Ottawa CitizenDecember 16, 2009

If you can remember the '60s, the expression goes, you weren't there. Or maybe you just wish you weren't.
Ravi Shankar, the Indian sitar player who famously inspired The Beatles and helped launch the flower-power epoch, remembers the '60s all too well, he recently revealed in an interview. And, like the only sober person at a wild party, he was less than amused by the experience.
Although Shankar speaks warmly of the late Beatle George Harrison, who became a serious devotee of both Indian music and spiritualism, Shankar also said he resented The Beatles for turning him into a pop star complete with adoring "drug-smoking hippies."
"All you people, bearded, long hair, wearing beads and not normal ... I would tell George (Harrison), 'What have you done?'"
From Shankar's perspective, drugs were the main event during the peace, love and flower-power era.
With the recent 40th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival, many have looked back nostalgically on an event that was billed as "three days of peace and music." But Shankar saw it differently. He said he was shocked at what he found when he got to the festival held in a farmer's field in upstate New York.
"It was raining, there was mud all over. And who was listening to music? They were all stoned. completely stoned. And they were enjoying it."
Shankar, now 89, was considered a key influence on the music and thinking of the time. But his take on the '60s puts things in perspective. Serious musicianship and spiritual exploration both require discipline, something that was completely at odds with the narcissistic drug culture of the time.
Maybe it's just as well that so many people don't remember the decade.

I saw this article and found myself, as of old, agreeing with Ravi Shankar.

The thing is, in the sixties, I was not at all part of the hippy movement. I think I was too timorous to join them. When I enjoyed Ringo Star singing "I'll get high with a little help from my friends", I convinced myself that it meant that your friends alone could make you feel high and that you didn't need drugs to do it. I felt I could get high running and jumping onto a London double decker bus as it was speeding just a bit more slowly round a corner. Other times, I would stand at the bus stop and wait for the bus to take off and then chase after it, jump on, hold on to the white bar and swing out over the receding pavement. That made me high. Movies made me high. Making love made me high. I felt I didn't need drugs. All those hippy leanings and a certain nostalgia for the Woodstock period came later, when, in fact, I was too old to be an authentic hippy.

Recently I saw "Taking Woodstock", a film by Ang Lee and I loved it. It had, I have been told, been poorly reviewed in Canada, although it had also been nominated for a Palm D'or in Cannes. I thought it was quite delightful, only marred a little by not being able to afford original recordings. The whole period was very ably recreated and, as I said, I felt a great nostalgia for something I had never dared to experience for myself.


AphotoAday said...

Oh Ravi, give me a frigging break.

marc aurel said...

Im not sure that he would

French Fancy said...

I do like Ang Lee's film so I must make sure I get this when it comes out on DVD

marc aurel said...

Ang lee is always competent, orgaised and sensitive