Woodstock, Manson & The Enduring 1960s"/>
What a coincidence that Manson Family member Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme was released from prison right before the 40th anniversary of the first Woodstock concert? The Rolling Stones' show at Altamont, Calif., is seen as the anti-Woodstock, but there's a more profound juxtaposition: Woodstock and Charles Manson marked opposing perceptions of the counterculture in 1969. Depending on your worldview, hippies were about peace and music or dope and death.
Krist Novoselic column runs every Tuesday on the Daily Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @KristNovoselic.
I barely remember the '60s. I was 5 years old living in San Pedro, Calif., when the decade ended. I grew up around Croatian immigrants who were mostly hardworking, straight people. As a child I perceived hippies as bad. At that time, there was a terrible murder two blocks from my house. The next day the newspaper ran a photo of the killer on the front page. He had long hair and a beard--just like Manson or John Lennon!
In the early '80s I gained a better awareness of the 1960s by discovering the music of the era. I would haunt thrift stores in Grays Harbor buying clothes, records, and other things left over from the '60s. Hendrix, Beatles, Rolling Stones--all kinds of great music to discover, and the prices were so cheap!!! Cool shirts were $1, and I still have the English pressing of Rubber Soul I got for a quarter at the Salvation Army. Rummaging through the bins, I'd usually come across the soundtrack album of the documentary Woodstock. Many times I'd take out the record, see that it was scratched and played to death, and have to put it back in the stack. I finally found a good copy, and enjoyed the many great performances.
In the book section of the store, as common as the Woodstock album, a thick paperback could be found that shared the title of a Beatles song--Helter Skelter. It was co-authored by Vincent Bugliosi, who prosecuted Manson in 1969. Just browsing the many photos was so creepy. I can still see the censored crime scenes where the victims' bodies are meticulously cut out of the image, leaving ghostly white silhouettes instead.Like the Woodstock soundtrack, Helter Skelter had a soundtrack too. Some years later, I found an album called LIE, with an image of Manson taken from the cover of LIFE magazine. I was amazed to hear an entire record of Manson performing folk songs. Most amusing is the tune "Garbage Dump," Manson's take on the world, in which he "sums it up in one big lump." "Cease to Exist" is troubling when you think about the way Manson manipulated young, drugged minds. He sings to the "pretty, pretty girl" that "Submission is a gift and come on and give it to your brother."
There was a wide generation gap in 1969. Manson became a symbol of hippies run amok. There can be manipulators everywhere. For many who are averse to change, it was easy to pile the tumultuous youth/anti-authority movement into "one big lump." Woodstock was still an issue in last year's presidential campaign.
The great music of the era stands strong to this day. Woodstock was a milestone for people who shared ideals regarding sexuality, natural healing, food, alternative energy sources--all those Whole Earth sensibilities that are now mainstream. And it's wonderful that the emergence of these enduring ideas is associated with a rock concert.