In 1966, America was at a crossroads, but most Americans didn't know it. After decades of minor financial and manpower support for the war on Vietnam - aiding the French until 1954 and propping up South Vietnam after that - America began funneling combat troops into Southeast Asia. Lyndon B. Johnson fell for the "domino effect" meme so popular at the time and, fearing he would be fatally tarred as "soft on Communism," began to send America's youth into a horrifying and needless conflict. The nation, for the most part, supported the war ... and just let it happen.
But dissent against the war began to grow, and people started to pay attention. Perhaps 1966 was the last year that America could have come to its senses and looked in the mirror with a little useful introspection. Perhaps not. But the war got worse and the protest movement expanded quickly. By 1968, the protests could not be ignored. But it was far too late to get out of the war gracefully. At least for the people in power who had staked their reputations on it. (But not THEIR OWN lives. They never do.)
(more below the fold.)
This diary is more of a cultural diary than anything else. I have been thinking about 1966 most of the day. I took a break from working on my thesis and walked over to Amoeba Records in Hollywood, where I purchased a compilation tape. It's one of those Billboard Top Pop Hits things, the music of 1966.
I love the music of this period, from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. I can listen to this stuff all day. I was born in 1964 and I grew up with this stuff. I remember rocking out to stuff like Simon and Garfunkel's "Baby Driver" when I was 7 or 8.
Vietnam I don't remember so well. I remember the election of 1972 very well. And I remember the fall of Saigon. But 1966, I was two years old. I do not remember what I was doing the first time I heard "Sunshine Superman."
Think about 1966. What was the music like. What would a 1966 compilation be like, restricted to No. 1 songs only. It was the Vietnam era. Were they getting mad yet?
This compilation starts with "She's Just My Style" by Gary Lewis & the Playboys. Released in January. Great song. I would never have associated it with the Vietnam era. Still very much a song in the style of the early 1960s.
In March, a Vietnam-themed song came out ... but it's hardly a protest song. Think John Wayne. That's right, this was the year of "The Ballad of the Green Berets" by SSgt Barry Sadler. The movie not only starred John Wayne, he directed it. I liked the movie when I was a kid, but I'm sure if I saw it now I would start cackling uncontrollably.
Back at home, a young wife waits
Her Green Beret has met his fate
He has died for those oppressed
Leaving her his last request
"Put silver wings on my son's chest
Make him one of America's best
He'll be a man they'll test one day
Have him win the Green Beret."
Also on this CD: "Last Train to Clarksville" by the Monkees; "Sunshine Superman" by Donovan; "Daydream" by The Lovin' Spoonful; "Cherish" by The Association (a song I used to hate, but now it has a certain priceless, camp value); "Winchester Cathedral" by New Vaudeville Band (a great song that sounds like it could have been recorded in 1956 as easily as 1966);and "Red Rubber Ball" by the Cyrkle, a song I love, definitely my favorite song on this CD.
I listened to this today several times and I kept thinking, "It was 1966. There was a war on. People were dying. And somebody wrote "Cherish" that year. Why?"
Of course, the "Batman" TV series debuted that year. It was also the year of "What's Up, Tiger Lily?" and "The Last of the Secret Agents?" and "Godzilla vs the Sea Monster" and "One Million Years, B.C." with Raquel Welch.
It was a silly time for many people who were not in Southeast Asia.
We were on the edge of the precipice. And soon we would know.
Battle not with monsters, lest ye become a monster
and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzche
Somebody has to fight the monsters. But those who are doing the fighting must take a break and hang with those who are being silly to remember that there is a point to the fight.
Do the Bat-usi!