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Danny Goldberg: In Search of the Lost Chord review - 1967 well remembered | reviews, news & interviews

Danny Goldberg: In Search of the Lost Chord review - 1967 well remembered

Danny Goldberg: In Search of the Lost Chord review - 1967 well remembered

1967 and The Hippie Idea: it was a very good year

Danny Goldberg was therePeter Cunningham

I was 10 in 1967 though I remember much about the year, indeed about the era, not least the release of Sgt Pepper and the first live global satellite broadcast, when the Beatles sang “All You Need is Love”, and all the great transatlantic hits, including of course Scott Mackenzie’s “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair)”. Soon would begin my obsession with the 1960s – Joan Baez was the gateway drug, an album from my sister’s collection my route to learning guitar and her voice and music my entree to Bob Dylan and to the folk and folk-rock that enthrals me still and to which I was listening even as my classmates screamed for Donny Osmond and David Cassidy.

Wasn’t that a time!

TV was still black and white, as were newspapers and many magazines, so the visual psychedelia of what was dubbed “flower-power” (a glib media construct) was not so immediately obvious. “Swinging London” was much-discussed – the subject of a celebrated Time magazine cover story – and through my child’s eye I was aware, somehow, that is was special. As a student in the late 1970s, I felt cheated. Typing my final-year dissertation to the election results that brought Margaret Thatcher to power seemed like the last straw. It wasn’t, not quite, but in retrospect it’s possible to see it as the moment the post-war consensus started to unravel. By the time Theresa May stood on the steps of Downing Street this time last year, it was completely unpicked. It’s unfair simply to blame the baby-boomers, for whom the 1960s were so very heaven, but it’s clear the tie-dyed alternative aspirations of so many of those born in the years immediately following World War Two have been traded for a slice of the neo-liberal status quo.

1967 – London, New York, San Francisco: three distinct but linked principal “scenes”, another version of that celebrated New Yorker map. “Come together”, as the Beatles would shortly sing. Danny Goldberg, who grew up in the Manhattan commuter belt and went to high school in New York City, experienced the vibe on both coasts (and yes, he remembers it well) has written what he describes as a “subjective and highly selective” account of 1967. In Search of the Lost Chord: 1967 and the Hippie Idea is in some measure emotion recollected in tranquillity but also a thoughtful and intelligent account of a remarkable era to which we owe much: the hippies brought yoga, meditation, concern for the environment, organic food and much besides into life’s mainstream.

Hippies also demonstrated that “youth” can make a difference if it so chooses, as it did in the 1960s, to engage: resisting segregation, resisting the war, resisting the stifling conformity of their parents’ generation. #Resist and #TheResistance – the most visible anti-Trump hashtags – were, in the 1960s and ‘70s, words signifying draft resistance and Vietnam. Here in Britain, youth accounted for this year’s general election upset, some 72 percent turning out to vote, mostly for Jeremy Corbyn who mobilised them much as Eugene McCarthy did in the 1968 presidential election. Might youth have turned out to elect Bernie Sanders last year, thus avoiding the Trump debacle?

In so many ways, 1967 changed our culture forever and it seems implausible that, after so much hope and promise, the west finds itself in its current predicament. A major war, unthinkable for so long, now horribly thinkable.

Goldberg, a journalist and author turned music business executive (his client roster today includes Steve Earle, which marks him out as one of the good guys), looks at 1967 and all that flowed from it in both macro and micro, examining the music, media and politics through specific events (the San Francisco Be-In, where Timothy Leary exhorted everyone to “turn on, tune in, drop out” – though Allen Ginsberg worried “what if we’re all wrong?”; the Congress on the Dialectics of Liberation, held at the Roundhouse in London), movements (Black Power, civil rights, anti-war) and, crucially, the underground press. 1967 was a remarkable synthesis of music, movements and beliefs and, for one brief shining moment, everything seemed possible. Goldberg shows there was so much more to the Sixties than sex, drugs and rock‘n’roll, as members of the intellectual old left made common cause with student radicals to try to improve society for everyone.

He’s good, for example, on Martin Luther King and his personal tussle over Vietnam, on which he spoke out relatively late, not long before his 1968 assassination: LBJ – after all his work on the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts – saw it as a betrayal. He shows the extent of black dissent: King was a good American and a good citizen, not a revolutionary – Stokely Carmichael wanted “revolutionaries of the world” to “fight on to the final defeat of imperialism”.

There were, Goldberg writes, “dozens of separate subcultures” but their collective energies “somehow harmonised and created a single feeling, the lost chord that last briefly, but penetrated deeply into the minds and hearts of those who could hear it.”

 
Goldberg shows there was so much more to the sixties than sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, as members of the intellectual old left made common cause with student radicals to try to improve society for everyone

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