Going to the jasmine in my mind... It is 5:00 a.m. this Sunday winter morning in the new year and I can’t sleep. I’m staring at the tube: a marathon infomercial for “The Singers and Songwriters Collection,” 144 songs on CD from the ’60s and ’70s. A few bars of the Seals and Crofts song “Summer Breeze” reminds me of the insipid idiocy inherent in the era to which I sometimes feel a certain allegiance. This lameness factor is reinforced with the appearance of the hosts of this telepitch for the past, the two guys from America, Dewey Bunnel and Gerry Beckley, the “Horse with No Name” guys. I think I may finally have an insight into what in the hell the jasmine in one’s mind might be. It is the part of the human brain responsible for wimp rock (beginning probably with James Taylor), Earth Shoes (and later Birkenstocks), macrobiotic food (and its descendant, organic this or that), patchouli oil (still sniffable in Hillcrest), and that whole men-getting-in-touch-with-their-feminine-side scare.
Insights like these are one of the very few perks of being my age. And now watching a Don McLean video clip of “American Pie,” I wonder how many other 60-year-old, brain-dead insomniacs are out there staring at this, either ruing their past or glazing it with sentiment. I am doing both.
Save me. I’m now looking at and listening to Peter, Paul and Mary singing that John Denver song “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” The Christian Right back then had a point: evil was afoot among the youth of America — the country, that is, not the saccharine duo. Lord, and here comes Denver himself with “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” as if to confess to me personally his war crimes in the post-acid-wars era. England Dan and John Ford Coley, give me a break. And now we have Bread and three off their greatest-hits album, or what my former lovely assistant, the Specialist, called El Mejor de Pan.
Michael Martin Murphey’s “Wildfire.” Please. And “Baby, I Love Your Way,” and Peter Frampton along with the attendant nausea induced by every one of his chord progressions. Why don’t I change the channel or mute the box? All I can think of is the cliché about looking away from a train wreck.
There is some relief. Here is Rod Stewart and the Faces...even if it is “Maggie May.” Not bad, but it was run into the ground (as it were) on the airwaves 40 years ago. It should be reaching Proxima Centauri by now for any dingbat sentients out there. I never need to hear it again — not even once more.
Ah, Gordon Lightfoot and “Sundown.” Good memories. Our band once opened for him at the McCarter Theatre at Princeton University in New Jersey; 1974, it was. Gordon was getting loaded backstage and was willing to share the Seagram’s. Our band’s front man (with the record contract) forbade us to indulge and was shaking his head in disgust at Lightfoot’s intoxication and predicting a disastrous headliner’s set. During our performance of the oldie “I Remember You,” Lightfoot staggered onstage with a pair of sound technician’s headphones on and began to dance behind us with surprising grace to applause from the audience. When it came time for him to go on with two other musicians, we expected him to, quite literally, fall on his face, but he swaggered rather than staggered to the microphone and performed brilliantly as well as, it seemed for all the world, soberly.
Flipping around the cable and network channels provides an indication of who it is demographic researchers conclude to be watching in the predawn weekend hours. Apparently many of us have arthritis, back pain, gout, and (just for men) “diminished stream” or “delayed flow.” Also, we seem to be looking for new types of workouts (like pilates), or, could be, we just like watching other people (young, firm, and nubile) work out on television. Maybe these paid programming features are aimed at impulsive tweakers who, after being up all night and resolving to get in shape, will order bizarre, vibrating barbells and devices that look like alien archery weapons, all with good intentions but that just end up gathering dust in garages or basements.
Well, well, Cat Stevens, I see, as I flip back to whatever channel on which “Singers and Songwriters” was mewling along. I have certain fond associations with him. In Amsterdam in 1971, I was repeatedly mistaken for Cat. I had quite a lot of fun with that. I don’t believe any of it was at Stevens’s expense, unless a paternity suit caught up with him.
Good times. Lame soundtrack.