Sunday, June 10, 2007

Answering "LA vs. SF" Hyperbole With More Hyperbole

Posted by Trott

I can't believe (although I suppose I shouldn't be surprised) that The New York Times is rehashing the 40-year-old, boring, stale debate over whether the SF scene or the LA scene was the better one during the late 60s. Judging from the musical record, they both sucked! The Grateful Dead? The Mamas and the Papas? Country Joe and the Fish? The friggin' Doors? Please, just kill me now.

This was all resolved at the First (and only) Monterey International Pop Festival (mentioned at the end of the article). As documented in the brilliant D.A. Pennebaker movie Monterey Pop and as was painfully evident in the DVD commentary, there was all this SoCal vs. NoCal nonsense going on during it and in the end, they both learned to love each other. More importantly (and not mentioned in the DVD commentary but obvious from watching the film and the performance outtakes), the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, and all the California acts had their asses kicked by the Who, Jimi Hendrix, and perhaps above all Otis Redding. (Janis Joplin was great, but the greatness was all her and not the whole package of Big Brother and the Holding Company.)


 Will said...

You're right. I watched that movie a few years ago and Otis blew everybody off the stage. Janis was hampered by a mediocre band. (The guitarist is badly out of tune.) And Hendrix ... well, I know I'm a little uptight, but don't you think he's trying too hard?

6:45 PM, June 11, 2007
 Anonymous said...

Hyperbole or treacled sarcasm? Monterey Pop Festival was a result of music spawned from a disillusioned, disenfranchised population embroiled in a fruitless, government-sponsored war. L.A. vs. S.F. argument aside, the music had a purpose and a goal-directed message, in a addition to its constellation of groovy harmonies and sincere musicianship.

7:19 PM, June 11, 2007
 Trott said...

Will: You're right! When I first watched the movie, I thought Jimi was trying a bit too hard. But then I tried to imagine seeing it in 1967 and not knowing anything about him and perhaps being under the influence of a lot of drugs and sun.

Anonymous: No sarcasm at all. If you detected sarcasm, you've misread me. When I say the California bands "sucked," that's hyperbole. It would be more accurate (but arguably less effective) to say that, at least based on the film and performance outtakes, the most memorable performances weren't Jefferson Airplane and Canned Heat. And I certainly agree with you on the importance of the political angle of the event.

7:10 PM, June 12, 2007
 Mike Rosenstark said...

The Doors sucked? I had not realized that. I kind of thought they were moderately cool--doubly so since they were that groovy without a bass player.

7:36 PM, June 12, 2007
 Trott said...

Mike: I was being hyperbolic. The Doors aren't as annoying as the cult that sprung up around them in the late '80s and early '90s. I remember a kid who wasn't even born when the Doors released their first record telling me (in 1987) that "Jim Morrison was the last American poet."

A few experiences like that combine to make it impossible for me to fairly assess the Doors.

8:49 PM, June 12, 2007
 The Gambling Poet said...

I agree with Trott. It is impossible for members of MMMy/our GGGeneration to properly assess the Doors. I give them a pass because of Ray Manzarek's association with X and for his just being an excellent genleman/stoner, but when Light My Fire comes on the radio, I hange the channel. And egg creams suck outright.

8:21 AM, June 13, 2007
 Joellll said...

So puzzling to me...almost like North Jersey vs. South Jersey!
Didn't Crosby bail out of LA in favor of Marin shortly after CSN hit it hugely...probably under the influence of working with members of the Airplane and the Dead, if nothing else.

Hendrix was only trying to show up The Who...not needed, but certainly appreciated :)

10:54 AM, June 15, 2007
 The Gambling Poet said...

There are actual cultural differences between North Jersey and South Jersey. In North Jersy they call the little candy bits drizzled over ice cream "sprinkles" while in South Jersy they are called "jimmies". The Grateful dead and the Doors carry about an equal odiousness quotient from where I sit, and for similar reasons having to do with the bands 2nd+ generation fans asmuchas the bands themselves (neither one is exactly the Velvet Underground, if you catch what I am flinging).

9:42 AM, June 16, 2007
 Anonymous said...

Umm, you're forgetting Frank Zappa. And the Residents. Yeah, they didn't play Monterey Pop, but they didn't suck either, and they were from California.

I was pointing out to someone recently that the pop music of every era sucked... except that the 60's were an anomaly during which non-sucky music miraculously made it to the top of the charts for a few years. But, before and after that? No way.

Apparently, shit floats.

2:31 AM, June 24, 2007
 Trott said...

The SF vs. LA debate in question here has to do with flower-power music, psychedelia, protest music, and that sort of stuff. I think Zappa and the Residents fall mostly outside of those parameters. They were reactions/responses to those scenes.

But even if one thinks they should be included, hyperbole must gloss over the exception here or there.

Lastly, while I'm a fan of the Residents and Zappa, I think the assertion that they "didn't suck" is debatable. Both of those acts frequently sucked. That's what happens when you have a long and experimental career; some experiments fail and result in sucky product. (On the other hand, in 1967, Zappa had not yet sucked. But the Residents hadn't released anything yet, I don't think, so they'd be off the table.)

10:50 AM, June 24, 2007

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