Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lads and Lasses of the World Unite!

Well, I’ve not been my groovy self lately -- feeling just a bit off. This is partly due to Brother Jonathan’s reminding me of the horrendous environmental/economic collapse that threatens humanity in this century. A collapse, I hasten to add, that the global warming deniers and pro-capitalist fanatics are pushing us toward.

On a lighter note, I’ve been reading Keith Richards’ memoir Life, and when I say “reading,” I mean listening to while driving around town. Aren’t books on CDs great?? Suddenly my optimism stirs anew!!

Anyway, there is a lot of interesting stuff in Life, including tales of Keith’s childhood (kind of lower middle class) and his early days with Mick Jagger and the other Stones. What strikes me most in this section is his dedication to musicianship. He talks at some length about how his aim (and presumably Mick’s as well), was to be the best blues band in London. They weren’t thinking in terms of world fame and all that in the very early 1960s.

Young Keith as Mod

He describes living together, five or more to a tiny apartment, surviving partly on whatever food they could pinch, and, all the while working, working, working to master the Chicago blues style. Jimmy Reed, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters are all featured as people Keith admired and tried to imitate, sometimes struggling for months to figure out a particular guitar riff from one song or another they had recorded.

He also comments on the way the younger generation, led in the UK largely by the Beatles and the Stones, overthrew a longstanding mafia-like establishment in the music industry. At one point he describes a bargaining session in which his manager, Andrew Oldham, instructs the boys to show up at the negotiations wearing shades and to not say a word, but let him do all the talking. The Stones did as they were told, and, according to Richards, they garnered a groundbreaking deal that overturned the old guard forever.

More than once he describes the younger generation as creating a new world, while those in charge of the old one stand by helplessly or, in some cases, get swept away.

Which reminds me of an interesting article in this week’s Time magazine (of all places). I have a long history of looking down on Time since in the old days, e.g., the Nixon era, it played the same role that Fox News does today: It was the unofficial propaganda branch of Republican conservatism. But Time seems to have redeemed itself, at least to some extent.

The Japan story says, in essence, that there is a generation of young Japanese who have long seemed complacent and disengaged from society, but the recent tragedy may have succeeded in activating a yearning to serve and possibly even to reshape Japanese society.

Japan has suffered a period of economic stagnation that has lasted for over 20 years so far. It may be that part of the problem is that Japan’s tradition of deferring to elders has enabled this stagnation, since it is almost always the young, it seems, who lead us into new worlds when the old one falters.

If the Beatles and the Stones (and Bob Dylan) could have been the point men in their day, could there be a young leadership in Japan today that will finally shake that country up and put it on a new and dynamic road? Could it be, as Time suggests, Yujiro Taniyama, a 38-year-old (which is young, by Japanese politician standards) who has launched a Facebook-based political campaign? I hope that some young leader manages to take the reins in that troubled country because it is a country that has a lot to offer the world. And besides, since I continue to harbor the sentiments of a Young Turk in my own tattered, not very young heart, I cherish the prospect of yet one more youth rebellion shaking up the world as we know it.

Lovely Land of the Rising Sun

1 comment:

  1. I read a book for a college class called "American Images of China, 1931-1949," by T. Christopher Jespersen, which went into quite a bit of detail on how Henry Luce used Time magazine to influence American public opinion about China, particularly through his championship of Generalissimo Chiang. The book is incredibly boring in that special way of texts that are sold exclusively in academic bookstores, but there are some interesting tidbits buried in there, if you have an interest in the topic.