Understanding the sixties (with subtitles)

One thing about the sixties. If you weren't there, it can be hard to understand the real message. For the age challenged, here is one of the great Beatles songs sung by the one-of-a-kind Joe Cocker at Woodstock in 1969, complete with subtitles so you can understand the words:

Hat tip Jesus General.


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There were many performances at Woodstock that are just unrepeatable classics, that vividly bring back to me the ethos of the times. This is one of them. I was in the UK at the time; the nearest I came to a Woodstock experience was the first Glastonbury Festival in 1971, and Joe sang there too. Less understandably. Less dressed. No pants. But that's the Joe we love. (he was not alone with the no pants thing either)

I am assuming the subtitles are supposed to be a joke. Or were transcribed by somebody who just had never been in the right space... Did anybody actually ask Joe what he said?

By GrayGaffer (not verified) on 24 Jun 2008 #permalink

GG: Yes, it's a joke (that's why I put the "humor" tag on it). I assume the words are the words of the Beatles song. But who knows? Maybe not even Joe.

Thanks reVere for ??? My husband was at Woodstock from Day One until, well, let's just say he was there after it ended. Every time the subject comes up it's happy conversations of days gone by.
I was in California dreaming of being at Woodstock.
The best I could do was three California "Jams".

BTW, my husband has told me that Joe Cocker would take a bath in cocaine before he performed, therefore the interesting body movements. Don't know if this is true but what a rush nevertheless.

Lea: LOL. You and hubby are DFHs? As I've recounted before, I was asked to go to Woodstock to staff a medical station, which I did on occasion at "youth" events (I was already a doc by then). I said, "What? Are you crazy? It's going to rain!"

Live and learn.

Well now, if DFH means what I think it does the answer is no.
You blew it by not going revere, once in a lifetime event.

Did you know that's where granola was basically invented?

DUH...Joe's hand movements are of someone playing the guitar, but without the guitar. It's as if he's not used to singing the song without his guitar and so he's keeping time/the beat etc. by doing all the guitar chords.
By the way - the song is a classic.

Well, it was great to hear this song again but I don't think that the added captions are any help in understanding the 60s.
The 60s were an amazing time and were formative for defining a generation. If you weren't there, you just can't understand it and most attempts to explain it (such as this) just end up trivializing it.

the mesage is : you can create a culture without content, without words, without ideology ?
And you claim this "culture" is superior - just because of its songs and rituals and such ?

"...Joe Cocker would take a bath in cocaine before he performed, therefore the interesting body movements. Don't know if this is true but what a rush nevertheless."

That sounds dubious for several reasons.

-A cocaine high does not last long at all, usually less than an hour. I seriously doubt Joe Cocker had a bathtub offstage and he went and soaked himself between sets to maintain his high.

-More generally, cocaine is very expensive (it was even more expensive in the 60's and 70's than it is now) and it is not efficiently absorbed through the skin (except for lips and gums, and most likely the anus, vagina, and uncircumcised glans) into the bloodstream. Taking a bath in it would probably be a big, expensive, and pointless waste, since traditional ingestion methods are much more efficient. Since it is metabolized very rapidly in the body, and a high is only produced when there is a sufficient concentration of the drug in the bloodstream, I expect it would be prohibitively expensive and wasteful to mix enough cocaine into such a large volume of water so that enough could get into the bloodstream at a given moment to give a desirable high. Again, a person would have to keep soaking in the tub to maintain the high -- not a desirable way to use a party drug that makes users energized. And how would unabsorbed cocaine be recovered from used and soiled bathwater?

-Although I suppose its numbing properties might be felt all over the body if indeed someone did take a bath in it, its psycho-stimulant properties should not be any different than those produced by more traditional and efficient routes of ingestion (eating, snorting, smoking, injecting). The cocaine high is the result of its effects on brain chemistry, not its local numbing and vasoconstricting effects (which are medically useful and are the reason cocaine is still used in certain types of surgery).

By PsychoFarm (not verified) on 24 Jun 2008 #permalink

Grooooooooovy man, cool, lay down the lovin, psychedelic love, drugs, rain, crutch rot, VD, rock and role, peace, Mary Jane, mud, oodles of poo and piss. Sorry, I just not nostalgic about Woodstock, was not there, it is all a a bit big yawn to me.

I don't know if the comment from 'anon' that follows mine was in response to my post since it seems to make a bunch of rather odd assumptions but I thought it might be good to explain my post further.
The culture of the 60s was rich with images, words, music, and emotion. Fortunately, the music survives as a rich reminder of that time and this song (which was trivialized in this video) brings back many happy memories.
I have no idea if the culture of the 60s is superior to any other culture. It defined the generation and has had a profound effect on the lives of the people who came of age at that time. This includes George Bush as well as John Kerry who each learned different things from that culture.
I know that I formed certain opinions and principles during that time that I have held throughout my life. It is extremely difficult to describe or explain the strong and complex social forces that occurred during that time and their effect but to those of us who were there, it had a profound influence.

Sorry should read

rock and roll

Sorry, I'M just not

Mark: Since I was there, I couldn't agree more. You may be interested in this post on that very subject and especially the comment thread after it. This post is tagged "Humor". It isn't meant to be a decoding of the sixties. If you want another view of it and a reminder of what a dark time it also was, you might refresh your memory with Rick Perlstein's book Nixonland.

anon: It's humor.

Thanks for the reference to the earlier post on Obama, JFK and the sixties. It is very well written and well reasoned. Interesting parallel also that the country was coming out of the dark oppressive McCarthy era which has echoes of our recent war on terror and culture of fear. This may be a natural social cycle.
The discussion thread following the post is also interesting. It's disappointing that some people are so cynical and bitter to resort to personal attacks but unfortunately, that is what happens in these discussions... probably a symptom of the culture of fear.
We can only wish for Pandora to release hope.

I see a recent drift of this forum towards "culture",politics
in opposite to its claim of objectivity,science.
I'm aware, in America your handling of "humor"
is most important in social acceptance,politics, even science.
So important and apparantly natural that people don't even
realize that humor is just only culture too and thus
very limited in time and space.
Culture is then being used as an "argument" to dismiss foreign
science or other culture, ethics, religion or even go to war.
A movement or culture isn't better just because it has the better music
or comedy.

Nothing better than to start the day with a laugh. Thanks. Wouldn't it be great if another mass awakening - which the 60's was - could happen again and move a generation to embrace progressive change?

Far out dude. That is like some heavy, rightous licks.

"Joe Cocker would take a bath in cocaine before he performed, therefore the interesting body movements."
I had heard that his movements were the result of a neurological disorder. Regardless of the reason, I love his voice.
On a related note: am I the only one here that remembers the parodies of Joe Cocker by John Belushi performed on SNL?

Revere, you're a public health guy, you ought to know better!

I was old enough to see the pictures on the television. What I saw was people sleeping in piles of garbage.

I will never forget my reaction: "Eww, that's so unsanitary! Those people are all going to get sick! They're all crazy!"

And I had a sense of foreboding that if they ever ended up running the country, we would be back to the dark ages with piles of garbage in the streets and drug-crazed loonies running loose.

Well, guess what? We're there. President AWOL was a good ol' coke-snortin' partyin' kinda' guy.


Ten points to Victoria for mentioning the shitty sanitation too. Yeah, getting diarrhea for a week isn't my idea of fun, much less sleeping in it. Holy cow, imagine how that place must have smelled!


When I was in the punk rock scene in the 80s - 90s, the bands I was involved with didn't "go there." They took showers after shows. They were monogamous and practiced safe sex and didn't expect women to "put out." Using fans & audience members for sex was considered sexist and gross. As for drugs, a little beer and a little pot and that's all folks, but some didn't touch any of that because they felt it made them stupid.

And the "peace and love" factor was as strong with us as they say was the case in the 60s. As was the social conscience factor. There were of course parts of the culture that were purely headbanger get-stupid scenes, but that happens everywhere. Most of us were smarter than that.

We didn't have the draft to rebel against but that's OK, considering President AWOL and Five-Deferment Dick.

And our music isn't going to end up getting turned into Muzak either.

I just want to point out that until recently, Joe Cocker is/was the only artist who ever did a Beatle's song as well as or better than the original artists.

I say ""until recently" only because I know there are two recent runs at this, a movie and a stage play, and I have heard neither so I don't want to pass judgment or start a fight or anything.

For those interested in THE BEST of Joe Cocker, check out the double album Mad Dogs and Englishmen.

If you are old enough to remember Woodstock, you obviously didn't go to it. . Peace, Love and Understanding


By gilmoreaz (not verified) on 25 Jun 2008 #permalink

None of the ugliness described by some commenters was my husbands experience at Woodstock.
It's like Mark said, "The 60s were an amazing time and were formative for defining a generation. If you weren't there, you just can't understand it and most attempts to explain it (such as this) just end up trivializing it."

Dean: I was going to mention SNL, but decided not to. However, once up, how about Gilda's renditions of IIRC Janis Joplin?

anon: there there, sorry you missed out on emotions,. There were several cultural themes in the '60's, we are talking about only one of them. The only one centered on love thy neighbor (really, not just lip service) and cooperation.

health: think of Woodstock (and also Glastonbury) as a third world environment. People put up with a lot of discomforts not because they were stupid or drugged out of their gourds, but because of the community of minds rewards. Yes, the toilets sucked, massively, but we dealt with it as best we could.

Sex, Drugs, and Rock'n'Roll: you may not understand this if you were not in your physical prime at the time, but that was a brief period when there were, as far as the medical establishment knew, no incurable STDs. Band members did not 'require' sex from fans; their major problem was fighting the girls off, not enticing them. And yes, many succumbed to cocaine, it was the speed of the day and started out as a way of getting through endless rehearsal sessions. Then became the social necessity. Then became death. This generation seems to have skipped all the intermediates and gone straight to Death. I really hope we (homo sapiens sapiens) survive it.

Who's running the country now? Bush was never a member of the counter-culture. Nor was cocaine restricted to the counter-culture. For the same reasons. If anything, more of it soaked Bush's crowd than the hippies - pot and LSD and shrooms were the preferred highs. Followed closely by the TM/Zen/New Age crowds who believed in purely mental highs, highs which drugs hurt. These folks are still alive. Many still practicing. But low profile: being an example rather than a missionary characterize them so you may not have noticed.

Cultural Legacy:

Personal freedoms untrammeled by "what will the neighbors think". Supplanted by Political Correctness in the 80's and onwards. I hate PC. I came to the States in 1975 and realized I could be whatever I wanted to be, and stayed.

Music: I remember trying to get my mother to understand the greatness I saw in Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Without success. So it is with some sense of irony that I find myself saying the music of the time - 1965 to 1980 - has produced more classic and enduring works and performers than any time since. DS spent at least 40 years in the top 100 _selling_ albums. Being a virtuoso musician seems to have gone out of style, at least in the pop scene. Back then it was an essential component of success.

By GrayGaffer (not verified) on 25 Jun 2008 #permalink


Dark Side 40 years on the charts. well, may still happen. It's been over 37 already. Although I think it just dropped off within the last couple of years. At Billboard.com it shows at #175 as of last month. There are millions of albums. That is not too shabby at all.

By GrayGaffer (not verified) on 25 Jun 2008 #permalink

GrayGaffer: Thanks for your comments. While I wasn't at Woodstock I was at three wannabe events in California. There was never a problem, never saw drugs, and never saw anyone acting to out of line. We were there for the music and to be with like minded individuals. We were so sick of the path the world had taken and the direction that it was headed in.

A group that was not at Woodstock but meant a great deal to me was Yes. (the old Yes).
Just like the Dark Side of the Moon, only a few could possible grasp what was being said and what was being heard.

I wonder if I'll need subtitles for his concert on Thursday. That would certainly add a comedic aspect to his performance.

Ever hear of Burning Man Festival. . . give it a google. . . A week in the alkali sands of Nevada. Sweating by day and shivering by night . . . For art. . .

By gilmoreaz (not verified) on 25 Jun 2008 #permalink

Woodstock was an amazing event that existed, and as an historical reality continues to exist, at a level higher than the absurd comments we read above denigrating it as some kind of dirty third world experience. Shame.

Having said that, Burning Man and Woodstock are utterly different in one very important way, and I am absolutely certain they are connected through this difference. After Woodstock there was indeed a huge mess left behind. Ever since Woodtock, all involved (yours truly included) in organizing smaller scale (usually) but similar events took pains to make sure that there was no mess at the end, that the landscape used for the concert/whatever was cleaned up very nicely.

Burning Man continues this tradition that I'm convinced emerged because of of Woodstock. Nothing is left behind but the footprints.

Of course, being a somewhat fragile environment, the footprints would be kind of a disaster, but that is another story...

Groovy Greg. How long has it been since you've heard that?!

In the hubsand's own words: Day three, tired, end of Woodstock. With the huge amount of people that were there Tom and I decided to stay a day afterwards. We helped clean, pick up trash, and basically make the area presentable.

Greg: perhaps I should explain my "third world" comment. The living conditions were terrible at those concerts, at least at the similar one I attended at Glastonbury. Food, sanitation, money, protection from the weather: all bad. I said it as a reaction to the earlier comments from g336, who seemed to think those conditions were a measure of the worthiness or otherwise of the event. My point was to think of it rather as an existential context, that way because there was no alternative, not that way because we made poor choices. Glastonbury #1 was every bit as muddy, the sanitation was just a row of extemporized pits, food simple, yet the spirits were astounding and all resources shared.

Spirits. We found the farm via the sound of drumming heard from the distance. Not stage performance, no, there was a community drum pit running separately whenever there were people around to participate, with about 30 or so people at a time drumming, being spelled as they ran out of steam by whoever was closest. Everybody else was dancing. Or running the mudslide nearby. It was the pulse of the concert. See if you can get a viewing of the "Glastonbury Fayre" documentary. There are three films about the venue, but that is the only one covering the first impromptu one exclusively.

Since then the Glastonbury Fayre is more organized, and apparently quite a bit more commercialized too, with better facilities and shops etc. The UK answer to Burning Man, with more of a music focus than art bit still plenty of art.

By GrayGaffer (not verified) on 26 Jun 2008 #permalink

Turns out there are a lot of clips on YouTube. Of course. Search "Glastonbury Fayre" or "Glastonbury 1971".

By GrayGaffer (not verified) on 26 Jun 2008 #permalink

What is perhaps more interesting than the existence of the YouTube clips is how recently people have been watching and commenting on them. Something is re-awakening.

By GrayGaffer (not verified) on 26 Jun 2008 #permalink