The 60’s: A Societal Earthquake

60s Collage

Every so often, the ground shakes beneath your feet. Usually it’s just a little tremble, testing your ability to stand upright while all that surrounds you shakes. But every once in a while, your entire world is shaken to its very foundations. All that has been built over last few decades, maybe even centuries could be uprooted, shaken, and crumble to the ground. During the 1960’s the world that had been established by generations previous — a perfect little world with definitive lines to divide right and wrong — experienced a violent earthquake that shattered the validity of previous belief systems.

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Welcome to the Machine – Pink Floyd

The purpose of art is expression, either of oneself, an opinion, or an ideology. The world full of voices, each one screaming for attention, dying to be heard. Art magnifies the voices of those who might otherwise have been drowned out by the din. Art attracts the eyes and ears of the world to the problems we face in everyday society when we are otherwise ignored by our superiors. Art takes a stand when the world stands against us. That is, until money is involved. Once the big commercial industries take over, art plundered of all that it stands for and simply becomes a money making machine. Rather than giving people what they need to hear, they are sold what they want to hear. Pink Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine” dares to speak out against the industries that have morphed the music business into simply a cash-cow rather than a place for artistry to flourish.

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Pink Floyd left to right: Nick Mason, David Gilmour, Roger Waters, and Richard Wright

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Cult of Personality – Living Colour

Everybody is susceptible to following a charismatic leader. A few times every century, time and time again, a major issue of some sort will occur — whether a revolution in Russia, a thirst for the end of British imperialism in India, civil rights movements, or the Cold War — heating up until conflict is just about ready to boil over. No matter what the situation, the story is always the same. Someone, whether a humanitarian or an opportunist, will take charge of the situation and direct the needs and desires of the people towards a cause. And because the people believe that this person can give them what they desire, whole nations will follow a charismatic leader to the ends of the earth, even if it turns out that their interests were never truly with the people. It is those that see a need and fulfill it (or at least claim to) that bring about change in the world, for better or for worse, and are written down in history textbooks as benevolent champions and liberators or as megalomaniacal tyrants and oppressors.

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I’m One – the Who

What are we all? Is each person just a blind, confused creature searching to find his or her place as a cog in the machine that is the world? Or are we more like quarrelling dogs, trying to assert dominance in our packs and to leave the greatest mark upon the world? The the search for one’s identity is a wildly conflicted journey both mentally and physically. Often, we try to stand out amongst the others while simultaneously trying to fit in with a group and be accepted. This psychological battle with the self is accurately depicted in the Who’s song “I’m One”, from the concept album (one of my favorites) Quadrophenia. Everything about this album is phenomenal, from the plot to the lyrics to the instrumentals (the Entwistle-Moon combo is in my opinion the greatest rhythm section of all time) to the composition and even the cover art (by rock photographer Ethan Russell). Continue reading

Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd

The world is filled with walls. Walls that divide different social classes, walls that keep humans and nature separate, walls that keep different nations, races, religions, alliances, and opinions apart. We build the walls to boost our self esteems, because somehow exclusivity equals superiority. We hurt each other because of the walls. We wage war and kill  to prove that it is our side of the wall that is right. It is the walls that encourage prejudice, hatred, and contempt for our fellow man. If it is the walls that cause so much pain, so much anguish, and so much suffering, then why are they even there? Through the timeless “Wish You Were Here”, it is arguable that the walls are not there at all, not in reality anyways. The walls exist only in our minds.

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Time – Pink Floyd

At some point (most likely multiple points) in a person’s lifetime he or she will experience the feeling that time has passed him by. Perhaps there was an opportunity, a risk that could have been taken, that he refrained from and therefore missed out on the benefits of taking that risk. Or maybe he has just realized that he is no longer who he once was in the past – he is no longer in the spring of his youth, he has outgrown interests that he once had, he is not the person that the younger him would have expected him to be, etc. This concept is embodied in Pink Floyd’s “Time”, which describes the passage of time, how its meaning is different to people of different ages, and its devastating impact on the human race. Continue reading

We Can Work it Out – the Beatles

There will always be conflict in world, whether over resources, political views, religion, or our physical differences, but there is also always a solution. The question is, if there is always a solution that avoids conflict, then why do people continue to fight wars? To persecute one another? To kill over our problems rather than reason them out like civilized human beings? The legendary Fab Four discuss the many reasons why people are unwilling to peacefully cooperate with each other in their timeless classic, “We Can Work it Out”. Released in 1965, “We Can Work it Out” initially appears to be about a couple’s struggles in their relationship but has since grown to be a song that portrays a message of love and tolerance, teaching that there is always hope for a peaceful solution to conflict. Continue reading

I’d Love to Change the World – Ten Years After

I think we can all agree that the world can be a pretty messed up place. Whether it’s war, discrimination, pollution, suppression, poverty, disease, or any of the other myriad of problems with the world, the human race always seems to be entangled in an issue of some sort. We always have and we probably always will, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try to make things better. Ten Years After’s “I’d Love to Change the World” describes the uncertainty that a person experiences throughout life’s trouble and the struggle to gather up the courage to change it. Continue reading

Aqualung – Jethro Tull

“Aqualung” by British rock band Jethro Tull tells a story of human perception and the diverse perspectives that people have of others as well as themselves. The song was inspired by a picture of a homeless man that the wife of Ian Anderson, the multi-instrumentalist lead singer of Jethro Tull, took, thus awakening Anderson’s muse. The song discusses the conflicting emotions and uncertainty when judging a person, or in the case of the song, the character of “Aqualung”, the homeless man. Anderson may also have intended the song to be critical of the person who is judging Aqualung. Continue reading