Thoughts on the Prospect of a Sixties Revival

Written for Rolling Stone During the Twentieth Anniversary of the Summer of Love



       There's a stench of patchouli oil in the air. The overrated, old Doors have a hit record. Hemlines are headed up. Sideburns are growing out. People are saddling their children with goofy names, like Zack. I see that the peace symbol -- footprint of the American chicken -- is giving the spray-paint industry a bad name again. Oh, God. The Sixties are coming back.        Well I've got a 12-gauge double-barreled duck gun chambered for three-inch Magnum shells. And -- speaking strictly for this retired hippie and former pinko beatnik -- if the Sixties head my way, they won't get past the porch steps. They will be history. Which, for chrissakes, is what they're supposed to be.
       Who's behind this Sixties revival anyway? Is it the present generation, the kids who are twenty right now? If so, dudes, this is some twisted stuff you're into. What if me and my friends had revived the Forties? What if we'd gone around joining the Marine Corps, selling war bonds, and kissing soldiers good-bye at train stations while standing on tiptoe and kicking one leg up? I mean, we weren't that crazy. Of course you kids don't actually remember the Sixties. So, if you're responsible for this Sixties thing, we'll excuse you with a note from your mom. (God damn it, Sunshine, I told you not to eat peyote buds during pregnancy.)
       But I suspect it's my generation, the forty-year-olds, who are dragging this mummified decade back into public and presenting it to everyone in the cheerful gift wrap of nostalgia. Are we psychotic amnesiacs, maybe? Did drugs fuse all our mnemonic brain cells together like strips of raw bacon left in the fridge? For a purely untrustworthy human organ, the memory is right in there with the penis. Sure, everyone says the Sixties were fun. Down at the American Legion hall everybody says World War II was fun, if you talk to them after 10:00 pm.
       Maybe we should freshen our recollections a bit. About drugs, for example. Personally I loved the little buggers. But we're only remembering the cool ones like marijuana, LSD (if you didn't have to talk to your folks on it), and psilocybin mushrooms. What about the STP, the PCP, the Thorazine, the crystal meth, and the little blue-green tab somebody laid on you in the park and you vomited so hard your socks came out your mouth? Then the mood police came. Your face had to go to jail. Not everybody can turn his toes into then angry, hissing lizards with rows and rows of sharp little teeth. Quick! Help! Grab that chick, she just swalled her superego. She could mellow to death at any moment. Ha, ha, ha, somebody left the lava lamp on all night and now the entire island of Oahu is gone. Wow, man, which way to the bummer tent?
       And then there was the Sixties mortality rate -- not only high but bizzarely selective. It was like some evil force was culling the citizen herd to produce a nation of intellectually and morally stunted goat mutants.

People Who Died During the 1960s People Who Were Allowed to Live
John F. Kennedy Teddy Kennedy
Robert Kennedy Lyndon Johnson
Martin Luther King Don King
Janis Joplin Bette Midler
Jimi Hendrix Prince
4 students at Kent State All the other students at Kent State

       I could go on but it would be more depressing than an old copy of Look magazine's "Youthquake" special edition.
       Music? It wasn't all Country Joe and the Fish and the Beatles' "White Album." The Lemon Pipers were also part ofthe Sixties, as were Vanilla Fudge, Blue Cheer, the 1910 Fruitgum Co., the Cowsills, Dino, Desi, and Billy, Sonny and Cher, Ohio Express, the Partridge Family, Barry McGuire, the Archies, and whoever the asshole was who sang "Ballad of the Green Berets." Even some of Bob "Immortal Adenoid" Dylan's work doesn't get an A+ on the midterm test of time:

Dogs run free
Why not we?
       Actually, that sounds like T.S. Eliot compared to most of the English spoken during the Sixties. Like, can you dig the whole riff, you know, heavy vibes with where it's at and really out of sight because I can get behind this far-out thing that's going down if you know where I'm coming from.
       I've thought about this. I'm pretty sure, during the entire 1960s, I never once linked a subject to a predicate with a verb to create a sentence that meant anything. No wonder we were so interested in talking to dolphins. We sure couldn't talk to each other.
       Plus we're forgetting all sorts of other, less important, awful things about the era:
crab lice
communal toothbrushes
Jerry Rubin
accidentally picking up hitchhiking Manson girls
brown rice
crashing
women who thought they "might be a witch"
happenings
getting your bell-bottom cuff caught in a motorcycle chain
sprocket and having your leg yanked off
jail
Yoko Ono

       But we can't re-create the Sixties, not even if we wanted to. We just don't have what it takes these days. There aren't any politicians left worth killing. Everybody's already been famous for fifteen minutes. Andy Warhol's gone to the big People magazine in the sky. So what are we supposed to do this time around, all be dead for a quarter of an hour? And too many of today's college students are majoring in Comparative Greed and Real Estate Arts. They'll never be able to come up with snappy slogans like "Tune in. Turn On. Drop Out." They'll probably bring their laptop computers to demonstrations and feed in:

Impact your data interface. Optimize networking at this point in time. Effect a core dump.

       Even if we could get the Sixties cranked up again, how could we deal with them? How could we read all those psychedelic posters through bifocal granny glasses?
       Free love doesn't seem like a particularly good idea in the current epidemiological atmosphere. And love, real old-fashioned l-u-v love, means our teenage children will be sleeping with people like us. Think it over.
       What about a war? We can't have a real Sixties if we aren't fighting a brutal, senseless war somewhere in the butt end of the third world. I'm over draft age so I don't mind myself. But what do the Nicaraguans think? Are they game? Shouldn't somebody ask them, just to be polite?
       Miniskirts are every bit as dangerous. Miniskirts caused feminism. Women wore miniskirts. Construction workers made ape noises. Women got pissed off. Once the women were pissed off about this they started thinking about all the other things they had to be pissed off about. That led to feminism. Not that I'm criticizing. Look, Babe...I mean, Ms....I mean, yes, sir, I do support feminism. I really do. But that doesn't mean I want to go through it twice.
       I don't want to go through those inner-city riots again either. What with twenty more years of hopeless poverty, crack, and torture by government welfare agencies, they're tougher down in the getto than they used to be. We rile this bunch, we're liable to get our asses handed to us in a BMW hubcap.
       And Sixties II -- The Story Continues is going to rattle the redneck cage -- just when they'd finally calmed down and started letting their hair grow like Willie Nelson. A lot of people out there still think Easy Rider had a happy ending. They could beat the shit out of us back then and they still can.
       Giving all our possessions away is going to be more complicated than it was when all we owned was a hash pipe and a set of paperback Hermann Hesse novels. I'm not even sure the Haight-Ashbury Free Store is going to want my Toro rotary mower.
       And will we have to have more huge fights with our parents? Some people remember the Sixties as the age of grooviness. I remember it as the age of screaming at the dinner table. Come on, we don't want to pester Mom and Dad anymore. They're old. They're sick. They're retired in Winter Park. We're going to have to fly all the way to Florida to shriek at our parents for not letting us share a bedroom with our girlfriend. (And, funnily enough, nowadays, our wives still won't let us do that.)
       Then there were all those loopy Sixties beliefs -- karma, Krishna, Helter Skelter, participatory democracy, who-knows-what. I remember when some people were so crazy they believed the president of the United States was a paranoid maniac who might phone-tap his own cabinet officers and wire the entire White House with voice-activated recording machines and use a bunch of lunatic-fringe Cubans to burglarize the National Democratic Party headquarters.
       Why, if we had the Sixties back, some freaks and heads would probably tell us President Reagan made a secret arms deal with Iran and let a mentally unbalanced jug-eared lieutenant colonel run U.S. foreign policy.
       But don't worry, the Sixties aren't coming back. At least I don't think so. Let's see what the I Ching says. Oh-oh. Weird hexagram. I don't know, folks, maybe we'd get back to the land, set up communes, things like that -- just in case. Because you remember what the terrible Sixties led to. That's right. They led to the loathsome, disgusting, repellent Seventies, which led to the unbelievably horrid, vicious, brutal swinish now. And that's the worst thing of all about the Sixties -- the one really unforgivable thing -- that it's been straight downhill ever since.