An evening of Sixties nostalgia

September 23, 2014


If I said love beads, The Pill, Vietnam the Space Race, white boots and hippies, you’d know immediately what I was talking about. Sixties nostalgia. Actually, all I’d have to say is love beads and you’d get it. The Sixties. Some of our most formative years and a time when young people were offering new ways of looking at the world.  The music of that era began in Greenwich Village and Bob Dylan was first up after Pete Seeger’s folk music, popularizing a lyrical intensity not seen in music before. The scene then moved west to California, where Laurel Canyon became the home to California rock. The Eagles, Jackson Browne, Linda Rondstat, the Mamas and the Papas–their sound was recognizable.

But when the Beatles hit the States, they and the British acts that followed closely behind offered something else: fun music, not deeply thoughtful like Baez, Dylan, Browne. A great beat, fun lyrics and a good time, that was the British Invasion, and it arrived in my life around junior high.

It’s been 50 years since British rock music invaded America –wrap your head around THAT. When the anniversary tour came to the lovely outdoor Mountain Winery in Saratoga, I knew I had to go.  The lineup: Terry Sylvester of the Hollies, Mike Pender of the Searchers, Chad and Jeremy, Billy J. Kramer and Denny Laine of the Moody Blues and other bands. These guys and groups were significant to my Baby Boomer adolescence. So any time I hear one of their songs I can’t help but smile nostalgically and move to the beat.

Mike Pender of the Searchers

Mike Pender of the Searchers

We were in the sixth row, so when Mike Pender appeared, we had a good view of just how slight his elderly frame is. And how white his hair is.  Coming face to face with our own aging reflected in Pender startled us. He told us he was 73, but once he grabbed his guitar and began his set, he had more energy than performers half his age. The Searchers are one of my favorite 1960s groups and as lead singer, he was their voice. He was great! We sang along, happily.

But–in the row behind us, a group of half a dozen women talked and laughed and shrieked throughout the set. It was annoying and we hoped they would get tired of it.

Do you remember the rock concerts of our youth, when young hippie girls in tie-dye and flowered crowns would get up from their seats and dance fluidly to the music, waving their arms and hips gracefully? In the row ahead of us,in the dim light, a thin girl who looked quite young was doing the same thing. Only it wasn’t just graceful waving, it was undulating, like a snake. She stood and waved her hands and moved sinuously throughout every song, nearly cold-cocking the woman next to her with either her arms or hips. All night. She knew every word to every song and gave each one her best with voice and movement.

“I hurt just watching her, ” M whispered.

She didn’t look old enough to know the music, and with pixie-cut hair and a flat chest, her gender was ambiguous, even if her movements weren’t.  Her performance took us back to our own youthful concerts and the four of us exchanged glances and smiled.

“I’ll bet she’s great in bed,” I whispered to M.

“You’d probably need a seatbelt,” he whispered back. We laughed.  Pender rocked on. He was clearly the hit of the evening, at least for us.


What Mike Pender looked like in our youth and his.

What Mike Pender looked like in our youth and his.

Who doesn’t remember the sweet, gentle ballads that Chad and Jeremy gave us?  A Summer Song, Yesterday’s Gone, Willow Weep for Me. Their harmonies are reminiscent of the Everly Brothers but their vibe is softer. We sat back in our seats, ready to be transported to a different time.

And then, the row of rowdy women behind us began hooting, hollering and shrieking in our ears. We turned around a few times to silently communicate that they were disturbing us. It had no impact. So, finally, I turned and told them they were interfering with our ability to hear the ballads.

“That’s my DAD up there!” one of the women said. “I get excited.”

“I get that,” I told her, “but this is our one chance to hear him and we’d like to.”


Chad (left) and Jeremy.

She apologized.

Three minutes later, the noise began again, with the shrieks going right into my friend’s ear. It was disrespectful and rude. This young woman–probably in her 20s–was raised by money Chad’s audience spent to see and hear him, but apparently that didn’t matter. Worse, from the stage, Chad seemed to egg them on. When an artist has that much disrespect for his audience, I lose respect for him, too. Get some manners, Chad, and teach your kid some, too.   Done with Chad and Jeremy.

Throughout, though, our undulating dancer kept going. When the lights came up at intermission we could see that she wasn’t young at all, and she was a she. Her partner might’ve been a man. Or might’ve been a lesbian. It was unclear. Back in the 60s, we wouldn’t even have wondered as gender wasn’t so vague, but today, life has far more shades of grey.

She turned toward me, so I had to ask:

“How old are you? Because if you’re my age and can do that, my  hat is off to you.”

“I’m 53!” she was exuberant.  She was three years old when these songs came out.  Then she almost shouted, exhuberantly:  “I teach Zumba and we use all these songs!”   I can’t imagine Zumba to Chad & Jeremy’s Willow Weep for Me. I wish I had asked her where she teaches so I could drop in to check it out.

“Aren’t Baby Boomers great?”

There were a bunch of empty seats to the left in our row and we decided to move a few seats down to avoid Chad’s noisy and arrogant family. That put us right behind a woman about our age who turned to talk to us.

“Aren’t Baby Boomers great? So friendly! Isn’t this concert great? Did you see Chicago here the other night?”  She prattled on. Within seconds the conversation turned to California.

“I’m a New Yorker and it’s just so boring here, ” she told us. “There’s nothing to do! I’ve lived here 20 years and am trapped here.”

We were taken aback. Nothing to do? In the Bay area?

“What about San Francisco?”  I asked.

“It’s just not the same. I’ll always be a New Yorker. We have access to great performances and famous stars.”

I asked her if she’d seen any performances in San Francisco. She hadn’t.  I felt sorry for her, feeling trapped in what I consider to be one of the most beautiful parts of the country.

Holy Man Jam, Boulder, CO  Aug. 1970I noticed that another couple had moved–the one right next to the dancing zumba girl. They now sat in front of us.

“I was afraid I’d get hit,” she told me.  Her husband turned and asked, “Where do you live?”

We told him.

“I’m in a group called The Grateful Dads that plays oldies in Cupertino once a month,” he said. “You guys might like to come.”  He gave us the next dates.

“So do you play 9pm to midnight?” I asked.

His wife laughed.  “Oh, no! More like 6:30pm to 9:30pm.”

It was my turn to laugh. The truth is, I go to bed around 9:30pm so their timing was perfect for me. (The next day her husband sent me an email invitation to their next gigs and said he’d put us on the mailing list for future gigs. We’ll go if we can. Who would miss a group called The Grateful Dads?)

When I have an experience that brings me back in time, like the 1968 exhibit at the Oakland Museum last year, or CNN’s series The Sixties, or any of the dozens of books I’ve read on the era, it seems such a long way from where we are now. The rude way Chad’s family interrupted the enjoyment of those around them –behavior we see all the time these days–seems a far cry from love and peace.  And yet, people like those who formed The Grateful Dads help keep the era alive for those of us who loved it.

The 1960s movement was a spiritual revolution, really, wanting to replace the materialist culture of the 1950s with one that was all about love and peace.  But Woodstock was the last of its successes. A few months later the horror that was Altamont marked the beginning of the end of our generation’s dream.


50 years–a long time ago.

Still, it was fun to time travel through these happy British rock songs for a few hours and remember the day when life seemed so much more innocent.  Oh, how I long for that feeling again and again and….

34 comments on “An evening of Sixties nostalgia
  1. Carol Graham says:

    and again! Thanks for the memories. You painted a great word picture — felt like I was there

  2. Laura Ehlers says:

    There is certainly something about those songs from the 60’s. British Invasion music makes me want to get out my Barbies and then protest something! We have a neighborhood here in St. Louis – Soulard – which has a huge 60’s vibe for me. Mostly because our friend’s band played all the great songs from that era in our favorite bars when my husband and I were dating, but the bigger reason is the people in that neighborhood just completely embrace the ‘peace and love’ philosophy. No one is a stranger in Soulard!
    Thanks for making me smile this morning.

  3. OMG hilarious! Nothing like the music of the ’60s. Concerts just don’t have the same appeal to me now as they did back then.

  4. Mary says:

    There is always an oddly dancing female at a concert, no matter who is on stage! I was at a concert last weekend and our dancer brought us tons of giggles.

  5. Jay Lickus says:

    Carol, you know it’s interesting how we see so much more at concerts now than we did in our youth. Reading your article (incredibly well done as usual) I could hear myself retelling nights at recent concerts I saw, John Cougar Mellencamp, Deep Purple or Steely Dan. There is such an incredible difference in the expectations I have. In my youth, concerts were reasons to get high, socialize and live in the moment. I guess I view them more now as an experience rather than an event. Now I want to remember everything I see, hear and feel because the music, and everything that surrounds it, ties into the fiber of my personal history and it is something I want to carry forward with me. Maybe it’s just an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia. Who knows? But I can tell you one thing, baby boomers do talk to each other more openly at concerts. It’s interesting to hear their stories about “the first time I saw……”

  6. Fun memories for me. I was ten when the Beatles arrived, and just this side of not being old enough to go to Woodstock ( who would let a fifteen year old go to Woodstock? Certainly not my parents, to whom I am grateful (now.)) But those were fun , colorful years and you did a great job showing the contrasts between the decades. I’ll take 1965’s flower children any day over 2014 computer obsessed, tuned out kids.

  7. Great review, Carol! Growing up in the Bay Area during the 1950s and ’60s, I played in a Concord garage band “Chapter 4” (pre-psychedelic), then “Looking Glass” (summer of 1967+), and we did many of the songs from the groups you mentioned, plus The Kinks. I love it when original band members play their music. I use it as a measurement of how we’re all doing in this life journey. I was disappointed 10 or 15 years ago when Grace Slick announced she would never do that and thought the whole concept was disgusting and sad. But that hasn’t stopped Mick Jagger from doing the songs we all loved… including one that begins with “What a drag it is getting old… (Mother’s Little Helper).
    Your review also highlights the fact that the lessons (some) people learned in the late ’60s of mutual respect doesn’t always get carried along in today’s all-about-me culture. All part of that life journey.
    I’d met Gerry backstage at the 25th anniversary show of the British Invasion and we got to briefly talk. GREAT guy! He had developed a lung issue during this tour and after healing on the east coast, had to fly back to the UK on doctor’s orders. Don’t know if he still smokes or not.
    Loved your honest review and the good vibes embedded within.

  8. Helene Cohen Bludman says:

    Carol!!! This tour came to my area and we saw it, too!! It was so wonderful, especially Chad and Jeremy. Just a lovely trip down memory lane.

  9. Lana says:

    What a fun concert. My younger son LOVES The Beatles and pretty much all music from the 60’s – he would have really enjoyed this.

  10. Karen says:

    That sounds like such fun, Carol! A year and a half ago I saw Randy Bachman of the Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive fame; it’s exciting to see our idols, but kind of sobering to realize how much they’ve aged.

  11. You beautifully captured what the 60’s music meant to you. While reading this, I clicked on Pandora and created a Beatles station. Reading your post without music wouldn’t have been right. Oh, and people watching at concerts is the BEST. I could totally picture the 53 year old waving girl. And I’d have been totally irritated with Chad’s daughter’s group. Can’t stand getting stuck listening to noise pollution from a gaggle of rude, clueless hens.

  12. Ruth Curran says:

    I felt like I was right there with you – smiling at the women in front of you, tisking the brat behind, and singing along!!! So funny that prime time for music is 6:30 to 9:30 :)! We have friends who are talented musicians and our age. They thought that they be bigger hit during the day so we affectionately named them The Brunch Boys! Love this and your perspective!

  13. Sounds like a great time — the concert AND the sixties. I often feel as though I’ve missed so much of that which defines the (my!) baby boomer generation, as I was born the final year of the boom and have no memories of many of the things (music, news, etc) that we boomers SHOULD know about/recall.

    That being said, I love concerts. Would go to concerts — of oldies and newbies — every darn day if I had the money… and time.

    Fun post!

  14. Sounds like you had a great time despite some of the strange (and rude) characters in the audience. The dancing lady reminds me of when the Grateful Dead played the senior concert at UMass. Now if you wanted to see a whole lot of strange dancing, that was the place.

  15. How much fun! A trip down Memory Lane. A few years ago my son went to see the Beach Boys (only 1 original left – their cousin) but I’m glad to pass the music onto the next generation!

  16. I have always said that I was born to late and missed all the magic but being born to older parents with much older siblings I was taught the greats at a very young age. I remember doing a reprt on the Altamont concert under the topic of Imporant Tragedies in U.S. History. Everyone else either wrote theirs on Pearl Harbor or Vietnam. Me being the music lover I am wrote about that night and was given an F. I’ll never forget my father taking me back to school to speak to the teacher because he had read the report and didn’t understand the F. When the teacher told him it wasn’t a tragedy just a bunch of hippies I think it was the maddest I ever saw my dad. I had a new teacher the next day (oh and the F was changed to an A). I was never so proud of my father as I was that day.

  17. Did you not get my comment yesterday? EeeGads. Anywho, I loved the 60s. It taught a lot of things that school wasn’t teaching- like political unrest. Awesome decade!

  18. tom hartman says:

    I feel so lucky to have been born in 1951, and lived my teens in the Sixties.

    Today feels so quiet in comparison….back then everything from politics to music was exploding with something new every day.

    Amazing time.

    Thanks for your story!

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