Sometimes I come up with the germ of an idea for discussion here in the Halls of Rock without knowing exactly where I expect things to go. This is one of those times. I think a lot about the notion of hippies and wish there was some kind of true neo-hippie vibe that I could be swept up in. I’m going to share a few thoughts on the matter and see if any of you have your own thoughts on the subject.
A few of you may have heard me say this story before, but when I was about 6 or 7 years old my parents, who were not hippies in any way but were pretty liberal in terms of the pop culture they’d expose me to, took me to a drive-in double-feature of Easy Rider and Hell’s Angels on Wheels. We went with another family and their young boy. I still remember the other boy and I sitting atop the roof of our old station wagon, and I still remember the thrill I got from all the hippie stuff on screen that night: Dennis Hopper’s mustache, the football helmet, the choppers, Steppenwolf, the bad biker in Hell’s Angels on Wheels getting shot right between the nose bridge of his rectangular Roger McGuinn glasses… From that night forward I wanted to be a hippie.
Maybe a year or two later, I recall an older girl in my grandparents’ neighborhood taking a bunch of us little kids to see to see the movie Willard. (Good god! As a parent of two preteen boys myself, what was going on in the late-60s/early-70s, with my not-normal-but-not-progressive, middle class family, taking me to a double-feature of hippie biker flicks and trusting a 12-year-old girl to take a group of 8 year olds to see another flick about a young man who loves rats?) The girl asked us what we wanted to be, and the other kids wanted to be butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers – the usual stuff. The girl got a real kick out of my wanting to be a hippie, but I recall walking her through my thought process – you know, getting to have long sideburns, a ‘stache, a chopper, a cool helmet, shooting bad bikers right between the eyes… Honestly, to this day I still want to be a hippie, in the rebellious, searching, cowboy sense Easy Rider, and that’s why I’m asking for your help in rebuilding Team Hippie for the Modern Age.
Team Hippie needs to have an edge. We should be flying our freak flag, for sure, but leave out all that phony peace and love stuff. The love should be evident through the trust we display in each other’s presence, not through that “Dead dance” or 12-string acoustic guitars and Rug Harmonies. And no comic book-cosmic lyrics. I’m cool with truly cosmic thoughts, as we rebuild Team Hippie for the Modern Age, but nothing that’s inspired by Tolkein or Timothy Leary. The Captain Beefheart clip I’ve used to kick this thread off gets at the sort of Peace Warrior hippie culture that I have in mind – none of that overbearing patchiouli oil nonsense, no pretenses that we’ve moved beyond a sense of danger. Revisiting Leon Russell has also told me something about what the modern-day hippie could offer. Think of how earthy Russell and his band are in that silly clip I posted yesterday. They’re the kind of guys I aspired to hanging with when I was a boy. I want to cut the bullshit that happened in between and pick up where that vision left off.
There’s a lot of work to do. Clearly, my thoughts are still formulating, but the prudish, puritanical state our culture’s been stuck in needs a shake up. I’ll be the pathetic old “professor” at the fore of this youth movement, if necessary. Can you help me develop a relevant set of hippie tenets for the modern age? This shouldn’t be about reliving a Time/Life notion of the ’60s. This should be our way of moving beyond these stunted, thumbsucking times. Where are we headed?