ROCK’S IN MY HEAD: CHAPTER 20:1968-BE INS, TEACH INS, and ASSASSINATIONS

1968 polarized me. The news, not only in print but on TV and radio, had vivid news footage with reporting from the field of the Vietnam Conflict. Gun shots could be heard while the reports were being taped. The newspapers and magazines did not concentrate solely on the war abroad but also on the conflict developing on the home front, particularly the protests against the war occurring in every major city. The Anti-War movement was big news. Campus sit-ins, teach-ins, black arm bands, fist salutes, you know “the long hairs versus the hard hats”the hard hats being the ones who despised most protesters as being ANTI-AMERICAN.

“You faggots, you commies, you pussies, you… whatever”… shouted out in the streets. The news, the War, the demonstrations, the politics, the dynamics, I was absorbed with this which finally led to the proverbial, mostly unpleasant, verbal exchange during dinner with my WorldWar 2 Naval Veteran father. He who did NOT understand my opposition to our involvement in the conflict and he actually thought I was too young to understand, which pissed me off to no end. I was not too young, and I understood more than he wanted me to and probably more than he understood. I was 16, only two years away from the draft.

North Vietnam and the Viet Cong troops launched the TET OFFENSIVE  on The Lunar New Year, late January striking villages and towns throughout South Vietnam. More and more I began to understand whom we were fighting. My dad did not see it as I did, he did not understand that the North Vietnam Army and The Viet Cong were NOT the same army but rather two separate armies which coordinated this event. There was a huge difference between guerrilla warfare of the Viet Cong and uniformed soldiers of the NVA, both whom we were fighting. Dad fought in WWII and questioned my anti-war stance. Why should we not fight these Commies, North Vietnamese? I told him I did not want to die in a rice paddy killed by an enemy whom I could not identify.

The My Lai Massacre occurred  March 16 but was not news until later that autumn, somehow it never made the news when it occurred but when it did, WOW. The My Lai Massacre was a mass execution of between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians of South Vietnam; men, women, children and infants killed by U.S. Army soldiers under the leadership of Lieutenant William Calley, Jr. These soldiers, our soldiers, did not hold back, showing no remorse. Women were gang-raped, bodies mutilated. Twenty six soldiers were charged with criminal offenses but only Lt. Calley was convicted. He himself had killed 22 villagers and was given a life sentence. It was a short life in the slammer as he served only 3 1/2 years under HOUSE ARREST and then released.

My alarm clock was set to my favorite FM radio station which usually woke me up most morning, sometimes I needed an extra nudge but usually just the radio . One morning in April  I was awaken to the news that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr , the Nobel Prize winner, was killed. I was a bit depressed, how could any man kill another human. I was confused. This assassination made no sense, Dr. King was a Man of The Cloth, a Man of Peace. Somehow my parents didn’t get upset like I did, not that they were racists, but….

Then the morning the news that Robert Kennedy was assassinated. Those two in rapid succession affected me tremendously.  Kennedy was at least a white Catholic so I saw a few tears shed at our dinner table.

LBJ signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, USSR invades Czechoslovakia, and LBJ ends the “Rollin Thunder” bombing of North Vietnam. He also announces he will “not seek” another term for President. The BLACK POWER salute is seen during the Summer Olympics in Mexico, viewed throughout America  and the world in “living color”.

Students overtake Columbia University (thanks Mark Rudd, Dad will never let me go there now), Apollo 8 orbits the moon, and The Beatles release THE BEATLES aka as the White Album. And what was I doing?

I was listening to the Small Faces OGDEN’S NUT GONE FLAKE and SUPER SESSION.

A blurb written in Howard Smith’s SCENES in the Village Voice (February 17) addressed a Janis Joplin performance at The Anderson Theatre. Wherever The Anderson was to this Long Island boy, it could have been on Mars. I remember being amazed at how Smith described the show. This Big Brother and The Holding Company gig, with B.B. King on the bill,was meant to be a “coming out” party, NY style for the recently (8 months ago) herald band’s performance at Monterey. Smith compared Joplin to Bessie Smith (whom I never heard at that point in time), Areatha Franklin, and James Brown.  Janis, is a white girl. Hmmmm, this had to be good.

At this point in time besides the VOICE with it’s legendary Howard Smith (SCENES) and Richard Goldstein’s POP EYE column, I read CRAWDADDY , RAMPARTS, ROLLING STONE (newspaper format)and EYE magazine along with the weekly hit paraders that the local stations produced, GO(WMCA), etc. I vividly remember THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION ads run that summer in THE VOICE for their Garrick Theater performances. Also, the first Rolling Stone magazine with John Lennon gracing the cover and pictures from Monterey Pop. However, the risk of bringing home or to work a copy of THE EAST VILLAGE OTHER (EVO) was always a challenge. I only consider reading the EVO in the sanctity of my own room as some folks in my home, or anywhere in fact would deem even the comics a bit obscene. Mom would have freaked. I loved it.

But I digress, let’s go back a few months to when FILLMORE EAST opens. The  Village Voice, last week of February 1968, announced a show featuring Big Brother and The Holding Company, Tim Buckley, and Albert King at a place called Fillmore East. I needed to find out where that was. Then a friend at school brought in a program from Fillmore East for a DOORS show he had seen there. Now, I definitely need to go.

See you next time….Chapter 21:Can’t See A Thing Til’ You Open My Eyes . Comments? jazzbus@gmail.com