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2012-05-18 9:57 PM
The best part of having lived through the Sixties as a teenager is that I can remember them the way I want to, not the way they're portrayed in movies and TV, and definitely not the way they actually were. The specific incidents and accidents from those years take a distant back seat to the sense memories I retain. The Smell of the Sixties. It could be a miniseries, if you could transmit the aroma of tear gas and marijuana and incense and cheap beer and body sweat over the airwaves.
That makes it sound bad, doesn't it? It's really the sounds of the Sixties that take me back to those years, though. All I have to do to remember what it felt like to be fifteen is turn on one of the Sixties channels. I have one on my television and one on my satellite radio, one or two on regular radio and several on my phone. Even those channels don't recreate the actual radio experience from that era, though, because it was much more eclectic than what we now think of as "oldies," or "classic rock."
These kids today. Actually, these kids today are getting back to where we were back then, when you could hear so many different kinds of music on the same station. It's hip-hop and pop now, instead of soul and rock, but people are listening to music they like without regard to genre. I give that attitude my stamp of approval, for what it's worth. I like that I could once hear the Rolling Stones, James Brown, Bob Dylan, the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand played back-to-back. Now there are a hundred channels, each with its own style, but more than a few that mix and match, as in the old days.
A few specific memories linger: Getting up early to watch the Mercury space launches before school. Watching the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. Listening with my best friend to Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons broadcasting Giants games on the radio. It's not that I've forgotten the marches and the riots that everyone associates with the Sixties, but those memories are generalized, and enforced by documentaries made long after they occurred. The real memories are way more personal.
My college years started in the Sixties and ended in the Seventies. I was a freshman living on campus the night Bobby Kennedy died. We watched it together in the TV room, and then I listened all night on the radio in the dark in my dorm room. It was near the end of the school year, and that was a good thing. Nobody felt much like studying in the days that followed, and we had already, a couple of months earlier, gone through it with the death of Dr. King. I was 19 but still too young to vote, so the adults elected Nixon that fall. That was 1968, the year I learned to be cynical.
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