Monday, November 05, 2007


My degeneration

Yesterday the Los Angeles Times ran my op-ed about the recent rash of rock star autobiographies. I had been eager to read them--especially Eric Clapton's and Pattie Boyd's--and the four books did fill in some useful details in the great Sixties mosaic. But I was surprised by my curmudgeonly response to the frantic drugging, drinking, and nutty dissipation. No doubt the sexagenerians will heed my advice and clean up their lifestyles. Meanwhile, I began this way:
When did the '60s end? Joan Didion, one of the great anatomists of that Aquarian decade, felt it grind to a halt on Aug. 9, 1969--when the news of Sharon Tate's murder first spread through the lotus-eating entertainment community. Others point to the violent fiasco at the Altamont music festival later that year, when one audience member was stabbed to death during a Rolling Stones concert, or to the Kent State shootings just a few months later.

For a certain segment of the population, however, the '60s may never have ended at all. I'm talking about classic rock stars: those woolly mammoths who continue to roam the Earth, practically flaunting their pickled livers and capped teeth. For them, the gaudy decade has gone on and on, like a kind of prolonged childhood.

By now, of course, most of these golden codgers are rounding the bend into old age. If they have any intention of delivering a damage report, this is the time. Paul McCartney surpassed the proverbial age of 64 earlier this year. Pete Townshend is 62, while Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane is a village elder at 68. Now as it happens, four rock 'n' roll icons have recently obliged the public with the latest batch of autobiographical musings: Eric Clapton, Pattie Boyd, Ron Wood and Marianne Faithfull. And their books, admittedly the product of many a fried synapse, make for a sobering read.
You can read the rest here. So far I've gotten two email responses: one reader gently scolded me for using the word "peripatetic," while the other insisted that most rock music was crap to begin with. No angry telegram from NORML--not yet, anyway.

Hey James,

No doubt that reading about the abuse of drugs--as compared to the responsible use of ' drugs'--by rock stars, celebrities and sports athletes can be ugly.

No doubt at all.

-Allen St. Pierre
Executive Director
NORML/NORML Foundation
Hi Allen, and thanks for stopping by. I was, of course, being facetious--I don't consider NORML to be a pro-drug-abuse organization. But I did wonder whether I'd strike some of my peers as a weird Miss Grundy figure.
The only one of those mentioned in your elegiac op-ed who looks as though she could take you in a fight is Marianne Faithful, and you said nice things about her, so: nothing to worry about!

The '60s probably ended around the time everyone started referring to them as "The '60s". For me, personally, they ended very crisply on a December day of 1980.
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