From time to time I will post pieces like this that will examine the ideas and motivations behind the songs on my new album beneath a flagless moon.
SEE WHAT TIME HAS DONE (for Dennis Hopper)
“We are the ones…”
Those words are repeated frequently in this song, so a sensible place to start would be to explain who “we” are.
The reason this is dedicated to Dennis Hopper is because I wrote it when I heard of his death. This song is my not-always-flattering tribute to the “children of the 60s”.
I have vivid memories of going alone to a small, now demolished cinema in Nottingham, England to see Easy Rider. I knew little about the movie, had no expectations other than I knew there was a lot of great music in it and that was enough for me.
The numbing effect of the years since then have probably rendered the movie a harmless piece of historical fiction. But as the end credits rolled I sat there totally stunned. I remember being the very last person to leave. I toyed with the idea of sitting through it again (you could get away with that in those days!) but decided I couldn’t take it.
I was shocked that in America (or anywhere for that matter) you could be killed for looking a certain way, behaving a certain way, growing your hair a certain way and liking a certain kind of music – the kind the movie score was full of. Or wanting to live a certain kind of life.
Our own battle to change the culture, in quiet little England, was fought on smaller battlefields. The constant harassment from teachers and parents to “get your hair cut” or “turn that music down” or the comment we actually welcomed, “I just don’t understand you!”
“Come mothers and fathers throughout the land
And don’t criticize what you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command…”
From The Times They Are A’Changin’ – by Bob Dylan
No wonder Dylan took off like a rocket. He nailed the feeling of the time. He did speak for a generation (or part of one) even though he would spend the next 50 years getting out from under that monstrous burden.
So, when Dennis Hopper died it made me wonder, What happened to all that energy? What happened to the wonderful feeling that the world was being put right? Civil Rights were being won, freedoms won and expressed both social and sexual, and music was the engine at the heart of much of the change.
Well, it didn’t work out quite the way we wanted.
For many different reasons, not least of which was those freedom loving children of the 60s growing older and having kids of their own, the dream did not last. And those who did try to purpetuate it became a target of ridicule. "My Generation" became the "Me Generation."
Changes happened that’s for sure and many of them were good changes. But one evening in front of the TV in America today will tell that racism is alive and well and wearing a Judge’s robes or posing as a leader in the Senate or House of Representatives.
You’ll see that women are still fighting for basic freedoms – the freedom to have government leave their bodies alone. The freedom to have the children they want and no more.
You’ll see that the rich have found a new way – or rather resorted to an old way – to stay powerful: prevent the poor from voting.
No, “We are the ones who now sometimes look like fools” for the naïve optimism we had back in the 60s. We truly thought the battles we were fighting and winning would stay won. But time does strange things …”See what time has done.”
I couldn’t find a way to put it in the song but the saddest thing of all, to me, is the fact that some of the worst offenders today claimed to be on our side back then. There are Wall Street bankers today who were singing “All you need is love” as loud as anyone back then.
What happened to you?
I hope so.