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Sunday, September 12, 2010

British Invasion

Guitar music has been a favored listening choice since first hearing the acoustic folk songs of Peter, Paul and Mary. Puff the Magic Dragon was my first favorite song as I recall. Simon and Garfunkel were singing ‘sounds of silence’ accompanied by an acoustic guitar. Although I liked the guitar music of Bob Dylan, I thought he had a speech impediment and a terrible voice and I couldn’t understand one word he sang. The Beatles gave me an ear for electric guitar and I could understand their lyrics. Then, I was introduced to The Doors, Cream and Jimi Hendrix and great guitar music has been my ear’s delight ever since. But music has always remained as mysterious as a quadratic equation in algebra.

As with algebra, my mind rebelled at the prospect of learning something beyond the experience of my immediate family and friends. There were no musicians in my life other than those projected on the television screen and their music released by a needle from a plastic disc; initially a 45rpm single and then a 33rpm album. I still remember the first records bought by my folks at the department store when I was a kid after we acquired our first “record player”.

Sergeant Barry Sanders released the Ballad of the Green Beret “…pin silver wings on my son’s chest, make him one of America’s best”. We bought that one following the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy in the early days of the Vietnam War.

The Mommas and the Poppas were singing California Dreaming all over the ‘radio waves’. Yes, transistor radios were the consumer item of the day. We bought that album, too. We bought a comedy album released by Bill Cosby which “cracked us up” and left our sides in stitches.

The Rolling Stones and The Beatles were “all the rage” back then. We bought the newest album of each group. There was some talk about competing British fashions of ‘Mods’ and ‘Rockers’ following the two groups leading the “British Invasion”. After burning the White House in the War of 1812, the British changed their tactics and came to American shores armed only with guitars and drums. They disarmed America’s youth with our own American innovation called “Rock and Roll”.

Britain crossed the “Big Pond” and won the “minds and hearts” of America’s youth. I consider this cultural invasion to be the landmark event leading to modern globalization. Barriers and boundaries of separate societies were breached and cultures melded.

Guitars and music were the assault weapons of the cultural conquest of the sixties. Ed Sullivan controlled the television airwaves for CBS on Sunday night and opened the floodgates to the tides of change. America was still watching the major three television networks compete for their attention. Most families owned only one television and watched programs together. There was a good chance that you were watching the same popular program as your friends at school and there was something in common to discuss each day. There was lots of talk on Mondays after The Ed Sullivan Show; especially when the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Doors or other new rock group was featured the previous night.

The sands of time have continued to fall through the neck of the hourglass but the memories are still crisp. The music seems timeless.

Music and musical instruments, particularly the guitar, and my struggle to learn the basics will be a feature of my new Blog.

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