The book, "Sex, No Drugs & Rock'N'Roll (Memoirs Of A Music Junkie)" is based on the premise that our baby-boomer generation has gone through the same maturation process as the country itself. In the fifties following WWII, we ruled the world and everything was simple. As we entered our teens in the early 60's and began to rebel so went the country. And as we became cynical in the late 60's, assassinations, Mayor Daley, Nixon and Watergate fed our disenchantment, all reflected in our music. Then, the complacency of adulthood in the 70's through the 90's into creeping old age and the arterial sclerosis of today.
The 50's - A Portrait in Black & White
World War I brought us out of the womb to help our British parents and by WWII, we were superheroes, strong enough to beat back the bullies threatening the world. Like our newly invented televisions, where the good-guys wore white hats and the bad-guys black, everything was simple. We believed in our government and the police who were there to protect us, even though the cops all drove black cars, probably to scare and confuse the criminals. Our hair was short, parted to the right, and jeans were not allowed in school, that was until... until Elvis. Elvis was the symbol of youth and rebellion. Parents and teachers and ministers and politicians spoke out against him as I tried desperately to make my hair straight with hot metal combs and gobs of Brylcream. All over the country, teenage collars went up and side burns grew down. Pants got tighter and my lip began to curl when I sang. Radio broke wide open with the Rockabilly music of Carl Perkins, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, and Jerry Lee Lewis...and the seeds of teenage rebellion were sewn.
The Early 60's - Teenage Years of Confusion
As our TVs went from black & white to color, so did our world. And ironically 'colored' people became 'black' and nothing was simple anymore .In 1963, I remembered standing up every morning with my hand over my heart reciting 'One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all' the TV mirror in my living room reflected something else. We weren't 'one nation.' We were still a North and a South (not to mention East and West). The Supreme Court struck down prayer in the schools, so there went 'under God.' When federal troops were sent in to Birmingham to fight the Governor and state militia, it seemed to indicate that perhaps we were 'divisible.' And to this day 'liberty and justice for all' had proven to be the biggest lie of all.
Meanwhile, the outside world seeped into our consciousness, As governments were overthrown in the Congo, the Dominican Republic and Vietnam, we tried to figure out which ones were the good guys. Then, just when we thought we had it straight, we got caught in the Bay of Pigs trying to invade our neighbor's little island. Eichman was sentenced to death while I watched 'Judgment At Nuremberg' in the movies and 'West Side Story' sang and danced to the theme of racism and murder. My neighbors were building fallout shelters and Ernest Hemingway shot himself in the head. The whole world was going crazy. We actually had atomic bomb 'safety drills' in school diving under our desks to cover the back of our necks with our hands. Nothing seemed to fit anymore as we outgrew our morality and began to question our parents and their rules.
Mid to Late 60's - Rebellion and Revolution
In college I was introduced to the concept of 'cognitive dissonance,' the difficulty when one's beliefs seem to conflict with reality. By the mid-sixties the entire country was experiencing some serious cognitive dissonance. Simultaneously the Civil Rights and Anti-War Movements moved from demonstrations and civil disobedience to revolution and violence. The country was literally tearing itself apart. In 1967, it was 'A Happening' when more than 50,000 marchers arrived at the Lincoln Memorial suggesting 'All You Need Is Love' as they moved across the Memorial Bridge to the Pentagon, where hundreds were beaten and arrested by helmeted soldiers and federal marshals. The sidewalk was splattered with blood as a Roman Catholic priest did the same to Selective Service files in Baltimore urging, 'move with us from dissent to resistance.' Although Aaron Neville pleaded 'Tell It Like It Is,' Vice President Humphrey assured the nation that we were 'winning the war in Vietnam.' (And if we believed that, he had a bloody bridge to sell us in Washington.)
At the brokered un-Democratic National Convention the next year, we watched Humbert Humphrey inserted as the presidential candidate, despite the fact he hadn't won a single primary, as the peace plank of youth backed Eugene McCarthy was defeated and Mayor Daley sent his helmeted police goons into the streets to beat and arrest us. A televised testament to political corruption, like watching a prizefight, all the time knowing 'the fix' was in. And we'd seen reporters caught up in a mêlée before, but never the entire mainstream press, intimidated and beaten as they pointed fingers in disbelief at the hijacking of the democratic process. This one event, more than any other, would change the media's coverage of government and its officials, no longer editing, but now focusing on misconduct and stupidity.
Also in 1968, five days after the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned-down, the country exploded. In Chicago, 5,000 federal troops were dispatched to quell the sniping gunfire, street fighting and raging fires. Five died in Baltimore where 'Law And Order' Governor Spiro Agnew ordered 6,000 National Guardsmen in to arrest over 500 looters. A white graduate student was pulled from his car and stabbed to death while attempting to drive through a black area of Cincinnati, and entire sections of the nation's capital went up in flames. But these were just cracks in the surface from ripping off a scab of complacency that had only just begun to heal over the JFK amputation. The real damage was deep within the nation's soul as we lost another limb to a cancerous genetic human defect; A reminder that beneath the bandages and restraints of civilization, we're just animals that tend to kill our own. Within a week, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was signed into law in an attempt to cauterize the wound. But as a practical matter, hate and distrust continued to ooze in black and white and would fester for years to come. (and 'Everything Old Is New Again.')
The 70's - Entering Adulthood
Upon graduating college and entering the workplace, for me a recording studio in Chicago, the explosions of the 60s had subsided. In the midst of an ignominious withdrawal from Vietnam and 'Four Dead In Ohio,' and the civil rights movement relegated to a 'poor people's march,' its charismatic leaders now gone or marginalized, the country gradually entered a period of relative complacency. This was a time for seeking or deciding on a personal career. In my case, chasing that elusive record deal and musical stardom, always just out of reach. My book , exploring this evolution, ends in the 70's, on becoming a music executive, like many others, my dreams giving way to reality.
The 80's & 90's - Home, Career, and Maturity
To continue the analogy, these were the years of career development. The time for establishing a family and seeking financial security or perhaps, like me, building a business. The 80's was the scary time of AIDs, reactionary conservatism and 'Reaganomics,' but also the beginning of the digital age with the ubiquitous personal computer. Going heavily into debt, we bankrupted our biggest competitor, and as The Soviet Union collapsed we entered the 90's running a victory lap on borrowed time. The 90's was a period of 'Pac Man' mergers and acquisitions and Wall Street speculation as big business expanded and the middle class shrank. And the birth of the Internet would shake our world as we entered the new millennium.
The 2000's - The Twilight Years or a New Beginning?
The country had gone through this aging process before... from the birth of the nation, the simple morality of the frontier, to a civil war and starting over. From reconstruction, to gradually body building our industrial strength, until big business monopolies led us into depression and collapse. So where do we stand now? Like us boomers, the old bones of our country's infrastructure are creaking and the arteries of our legal and political system clogged with years of bureaucratic buildup, as cancerous multinational corporations corrupt the circulatory system of our economy. Will fear and uncertainty lead to paralysis? Are we due for another collapse? Will we recover? Will our natural resources or science save the day? The answers may come sooner than later... and the band plays on.
L.E.Kalikow's current book "Sex, No Drugs & Rock'N'Roll (Memoirs Of A Music Junkie)" is available as a paperback, eBook, iBook, and AudioBook online and through www.LEKalikow.com