Last night, my wife and I watched a rock-'n-roll retrospective on PBS. It's obviously not contemporary, since the late Davey Jones was emcee. As we saw one Sixties group after another - The Vogues, Percy Sledge, Roger McGuinn - parade across the stage, it was just a good time being had by all. A jarring moment came when Jefferson Starship appeared, doing "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" (the latter one of my all-time faves). The vocalist had Grace Slick's voice, but the face didn't match. Either Grace has had multiple facelifts or they found a younger woman who can reproduce her sound with absolute fidelity.
The sense of cultural dislocation got even worse when I picked up today's newspaper and read: "In 1967, the Beatles album 'Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' was released." I took a very deep breath. On June 1, 1967, I was a high school graduate of all of two days' duration. There were no album-oriented rock stations on my radio dial then and I heard very little of this seminal work until I got to college in late summer. At that point, I realized that the Fab Four weren't the Fab Four any longer; they were prophets of the widening gap between generations then fermenting in the Western world.
It was impossible to escape that sound at the University of Florida in late 1967. Every guy in my dorm section except me had a copy of the album, or so it seemed. During late night sessions of pizza and (bootleg) beer, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" and "A Day in the Life" ruled the airwaves. The Tet Offensive, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy hadn't yet occurred, yet the skeins of light and dark that alternated on both sides of "Sergeant Pepper" seemed to foretell a world that would be much different that what it seemed to be.
Which brings me back to my main point, the one about cultural dislocation. Anyone who tries to recapture the sensations of half a century ago and doesn't experience some dislocation isn't paying attention. There will never be a Beatles reunion, since John and George have moved on to other realms. All the same, there aren't many artists who can stake a legitimate claim to have altered peoples' consciousness. It's unfair to blame survivors for surviving, but they must endure the endless drudgery of trying to live up to what they were as young men (and women). I'd find that kind of legacy a major burden.