Tuesday, September 30, 2014

***After The Folk Minute Of The 1960s Faded- Keeping The Tradition Alive- The UU (Universalist-Unitarian) Folk Circuit

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

I have spilled no little cyber-ink talking about one of the formative experiences of my young adulthood, the folk minute of the early 1960s which was ultimately dethroned, if that is the right word, by the British Invasion (the Beatles, the Stones, you know all those muppet guys your mother, looking at your hair, said needed a haircut but more importantly your girlfriend thought were “cute,”) a little by the rising Motown sound (all those great girl groups, you know The Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, Marvin Gaye, The Miracles and on and on listening to stuff that was not old time black country blues or even Chicago-etched electric blues but a more sophisticated sound that even your mother could like since they were earnest clean-cut boys and girls), and the sweep in of acid rock later in that decade  (your mother then wishing and praying for the muppet boys to come back, since looking again right at your hair, Jerry Garcia, Jim Morrison, Neal Young, and all those hippie bastards needed a haircut badly but more importantly your girlfriend, your new girlfriend thought were “groovy”).

That minute the time of the great interest in old timey roots music from down home Mississippi Delta country blues (and the “discovery” of John Hurt, Son House, Bukka White, Skip James and that old juke joint Saturday swig of liquor and a good woman gone wrong with some other guy and wouldn’t you like to cut him lyric) to jug bands (Memphis Jug Band, Cannon Stompers, name your state Shieks who an important section of the folk scene gravitated to with the likes of John Sebastian, Geoff Muldaur, Maria Muldaur, and Jim Kweskin forming and re-forming bands depending on who had a fast jug and a sweetbread kazoo) to mountain music (the music strangely enough of the old country for those hollows and hills folks who stayed put when the others deflowered the land and headed west to deflower other lands, the British Isles left behind once the land ran out or your forbears got run out for some offense against the king’s dignity, the Saturday night getting corn liquor high, fiddle, banjo, guitar, take your best girl with those ribbons in her hair music of my father’s people exemplified by the Carter Family in its various incarnations) to cowboy prairie (that going west itch never satisfied except for a minute on that Saturday blast down in some barn again your good girl swaying those petticoats with the likes of Bob Wills and his Playboys and for a short time Milton Brown and his crew) and a lot of other niche music. Music mainly craved by a young audience (mostly, a sign of the times trying to reverse that great vanilla assimilation driven by the immigrant-landed sons and daughters seeking to mesh with the great WASP central committee and their children flipping back to the roots) wearied by the pablum then current on AM radio (FM was the wave of the future, the place where acid rock, or let’s call it that to give Jerry, Jim, Janis, Jimi a name to hang onto, found a home before going bigtime in the late 1960s) where non-descript, purposely not-descript music filled the airwaves after Elvis died or whatever happened to him when he started making silly Blue Hawaii-type movies that even my girlfriend did not think were cute (all these girlfriend references are different young women from different times and not a single girl since I had and have had plenty of problems hanging onto the darlings but that is a story for another day and another venue), Chuck (who played with fire with Mister’s women and paid the price, a price being paid even today in our “post-racial” society), Jerry Lee (who loved too closely but who before the crash thrilled us with that scene on the back of the flat-bed truck flailing, there is no other way to put it, on High School Confidential in the film of the same name) and a handful of others, Buddy, Richie, the Big Bopper, Eddie who also crashed and burned.

So some of us were ready, more than ready when the new dispensation came breezing through first the radio (WBZ in the Boston area on Sunday night for starters, although I have heard more recently about folksinger Tom Rush via a documentary, No Regrets, putting folk music on the Harvard radio station map with Hillbilly at Harvard  so lots of smaller waves were coming forth) and then making the crosstown journey from North  Adamsville to Harvard Square the one of the American meccas for folk music (others being the Village, Ann Arbor, Old Town in Chicago, the Unicorn in Los Angeles and various places in San Francisco, all places which had some small long-standing traditions of caring about this kind of music).

And if one talked of Harvard Square in those days  then one had to talk about the Club 47 (now Club Passim in a different location by still providing that some kind of music for oldsters and new aficionados alike but then over on Mount Auburn Street up from Elsie’s Deli, the Harvard student savior hangout). But that was not the only location in the Square. The whole place was filled with lots of little coffeehouses where for the price of a shot of instant caffeine expresso (then the exotic drink of choice for the hip avoiding Maxwell House or whatever regular store-bought coffees were around then) and maybe some ill-thought of pastry or sandwich one could spent the evening listening to the next big thing in folk music which was producing the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Donovan ( a little later), Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band (including later solo artists Geoff and Maria Muldaur), Josh White, Jr., Eric Von Schmidt, and a host of others who all passed through one of the meccas trying to draw a fan base. Most of the names of the clubs are now forgotten although The Idler and Blue Parrot still ring a bell but the beauty of the concept, the absolute beauty was that a poor high school or college student could take a like-minded date (and there were plenty of folkie women around even in high school at one point all trying to emulate Joan Baez’s ironed long hair to, well, to impress the boys who were infatuated with Ms. Baez and her exotic look) on the cheap and still maybe “scoring,” whatever that might have entailed and not always hopping into bed, although that was the plan for most guys I assume. I know it was for me.

So like I said I was washed clean by the folk minute, wash cleaned by the coffeehouse scene, and washed clean by the whole folk ethos and remain so even today. And today is what I want to talk about. That pure searching for roots folk minute did not survive Dylan going electric, the British invasion and the musical trends that I mentioned earlier but that was hardly the end of the story since a cohort of people continued to and continue to support that folk minute idea, especially the laid-back coffeehouse idea. Funny and maybe this is a sociological observation or a psychological observation or something but there might be some truth in it. I remember as a kid in the 1950s always rebelling against my parents’ music the music of the big band era in the late 1930s and 1940s (the Duke, the Count, Harry James, Jimmy and Tommy Dorey and so on, groups like the Mills Brothers, the Inkspots, the Andrews Sisters, and individual artists like Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, and Vaughn Monroe) that got them through the Great Depression and the anxieties of World War II. Music that formed their youth and which they stayed with not branching out much throughout their lives. I am noticing, and not just in my own case, but I will use that as the example here, that I tend to favor the music that formed my musical tastes in my youth-now classic (ouch!) rock and roll, blues and folk pretty much in that order. And others have too, specifically this folk music.

And so in some areas of the country, and Boston is one of them (although not so much Cambridge as in the old days except that Club Passim I mentioned earlier), there is an on-going if not exactly thriving folk scene centered on the demographic who came of age with the music (and a source of concern as baby-boomers die off and are not replaced in the ranks by the young). Now I mentioned that the coffeehouse idea is still alive. But not like in the old days where there was one on every block (not really, but a lot) and each place seemed to be busy every night. The economics of running such a venture preclude running coffeehouse as businesses (even Passim over the last period had been a non-profit organization dependent on grants, memberships and constant concerts in that small space). Now the coffeehouse scene is centered on the churches, mainly, who open their doors maybe once or twice a month for a weekend folk concert (complete with coffee and other refreshments as well). And the king hell leader of the pack in opening their doors, and hence the reference in the title, are the U-U churches in the area (Universalist-Unitarian who merged to survive many years ago but still keep their doctrinal differences for one and all to inspect). I would say that a great majority of folk events I have attended over the past several years certainly in the New England (where U-U-dom is strongest) are those simple churches. And so one can expect the hall to be setup with folding chairs, a simple stage, a sound system worked by some volunteer magic techie, the inevitable coffee and pastry, some flyers for upcoming events, an MC who has been around since whenever the coffeehouse started and some usually very good local talent. Occasionally an “open mic” for the brave or those who are nursing their act will fill in part of the program. That open mic democratic music idea is that you have a feature artist or two for an hour and the rest of the time brave souls go up and each play one or two songs for the rest of the program . Well it ain’t Dylan-Baez-Rush-Paxton-Kweskin-VonRonk-incarnate but it does keep this important segment of the American songbook alive. All of this mainly attended by AARP-ready patrons. So if somebody asks you, at least in New England, whether there is folk music around now you know where to direct them for a start. Hats Off To The U-U (and other) Coffeehouses      

***Channeling Doctor Gonzo- Hunter Thompson’s Where The Buffalo Roam  

DVD Review

From The Pen Of Joshua Lawrence Breslin

Where The Buffalo Roam, starring Bill Murray, Peter Boyle,   

Frank Jackman thought it was ironic how many times that he had been investigating for pieces that he wanted to write kind of came full circle. You know checking something out in one context and then having that same thing turn up in another. Like when you are thinking about a word or a song and a couple of days later they turn up in the newspaper or on the radio. Stuff like that. Frank had recently finished a sketch about the old days in his neighborhood of North Adamsville (that’s in Massachusetts) where he used to have a growing up love/hate relationship with the biker scene, you know hard ass, hard living motorcycle guys out of the Hell’s Angels mode who wreaked havoc around his town. He liked their outlawry, their rebellion but was ultimately repelled by their savage destructiveness and nihilism (to speak nothing of the fact that he could not handle the power of a serious bike like an Indian or a Harley).

Of course any serious investigation into the notorious biker scene back in the 1960s when they were seen as just a little less dangerous that the red menace coming out of the Soviet Union and its fellow-travelers here then had to include a perusal of the late Doctor Hunter Thompson’s in-depth rather definitive journalistic study, Hell’s Angels, which included getting very up close and personal with a few of the dudes. The ironic part came later when a friend of his, Peter Markin, whom he had met in San Francisco back in the  1967 summer of love days there called him up, or sent him an e-mail, he couldn’t remember which asking Frank to go over to his Cambridge digs and talk about the old days in the 1960s when revolution was in the air, when the two of them had been part of a mass movement to “turn the world upside down,” and had been defeated by the dead-enders who had all the guns, the prisons, the legal system, the governmental power, and used them to the fullest to thwart that search for a “newer world.” Both recognized that defeat, whether one called it a political defeat like Frank did or like Peter  a military defeat, led to what is now a forty plus year rearguard action against the bastards who took over and have made those kindred angels pay dearly for their hubris.

One of the “parlor games” that Frank and Peter had played over the years was to date the time when the bubble burst on the counter-culture’s efforts to bring forth that newer world although their theories are not germane here. What is germane in this mix though is that earlier Hunter Thompson reference. See not only did Hunter write serious and humorous, jabbing humorous, words about the Hell’s Angels but he was a moving force via the start-up Rolling Stone magazine behind the “new journalism,” behind what became known later when time came for naming such things, “gonzo” journalism, and hence his moniker of Doctor Gonzo. To kind of wrap things together here, to make the irony, Frank after reading what Thompson had to say about bikers as was his way when something appealed to him read everything he could get his hands on by the man and Hunter became something of a muse, a now long gone lamented muse. Although they were a million miles apart politically Frank enjoyed reading Hunter’s stuff for some general insights into the absurdities of bourgeois culture by a man who definitely knew how to skewer his victims. Relished it in fact. And that brings us full circle because one night, not the first night that Frank and Peter started cutting up touches about old days but later, Peter had ordered a copy of the Hunter Thompson-centered Where The Buffalo Roam to spark some memories of the times and the man.                  

While there is no need to discuss Markin’s or Jackman’s views on when the high tide of the 1960s ebbed Thompson’s is important, at least according to Frank, since one of the episodes in that semi-autobiographical film sketch, part true, part fiction deals with the 1972 presidential campaign where one Richard M. Nixon, sitting President of the United States swamped his opponent, Senator George McGovern, swamped him without regard to all the illegal activity he commanded in his efforts to win. This is Hunter’s ebb point, the point where the downhill slide worked its way down further. So it is no accident that the period which the film covers is between 1968 when all hell broke out here in America with the Chicago police riots in the summer of 1968 at the Democratic National Convention, broke out in Europe with the May Days in Paris, and most importantly broke out in Vietnam where the heroic DNV/NLF troops rained hell on everybody with the Tet offensive that signaled that the Vietnam war was unwinnable and the ebb 1972. This is also the period when Thompson made his mark as a gonzo journalist (again mostly through his hot and cold relationship with the management of Rolling Stone), perfected his skills as an active part of the stories he was covering.   

Obviously when a journalist is living out in edge city, when his whole illegal life-style (illegal not just in the technical sense of violating various drug laws, and other high crimes and misdemeanors but illegal as a model for behavior which those dead-enders hated even worse than the drugs and a life-style which if copied would create quite a sea-change) is on display in public, as a public actor the line between fact and fiction best be blurred. Deniability becomes the beginning of wisdom so it was never clear in his books, or in this film where fact and fiction worked out.  Most of the episodes in this loosely plotted film have a half-life in something that he wrote like the Democratic National Convention of 1972, Super Bowl 1972, and the like.

The central device used in the film is a flashback by mad monk Hunter now ensconced in in cozy Woody Creek (where the buffalo roam, or did) trying to meet another frenzied magazine dead-line, an article about his lawyer/comrade/soul-mate and kindred mad monk hell-raiser Carlos Lazlo. Lazlo whose whereabouts at the time of writing are unknown, although he is presumed dead, probably either by some  drug cartel or some third world security agency who did not like the idea of a revolution in their country by a certified mad monk. But all of that is speculation. What is not speculation is Hunter’s detailing of their friendship from Lazlo’s use of his legal education to fight for the “newer day” defending street kids being busted for personal dope use which wound up costing Lazlo his license to practice and his freedom and to the trip that would become the novel Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas to the Super Bowl story to the 1972 presidential story to his going over the edge, going to a place Hunter now endowed with celebrity did not, or could not, go. In the end Hunter missed the brown buffalo, just like in the end Frank Jackman missed his muse, warts and all. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

***In The Time Of The 1930s Cuban Revolution-Jennifer Jones and John Garfield’s We Were Strangers   

DVD Review

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

We Were Strangers, Jennifer Jones, John Garfield, Columbia Pictures, 1949

The history of Cuba had been replete with struggles against tyranny well before the boys of the Sierra Madres, you know the Castro Brothers, beloved Che the Argentine internationalist heart of the revolution, the lost Frank Paisa man of the cities, and all their brethren who took down Batista in the late 1950s. Took him down almost without a fight at the end when the masses waited in the cities and farms for the boys (and girls, don’t forget Haydee Santamaria) to work their way to Havana town. Of course everybody remembers, or should, the legendary 19th century revolutionary Jose Marti, celebrated in story and song, still honored in Cuba today and his struggle to get rid of the bloody Spanish oppressors and the later struggle in the 1930s against the hyenas, the Machado, the hyenas who were replaced later by the that self-same Batista. So the island of Cuba has been no stranger to the struggle for freedom (and the Bay of Pigs-style operations to thwart such struggles) the film under review, We Were Strangers, demonstrates in its depiction of the fight against the hyenas in the 1930s mentioned above. Of course this film which was released in 1949 could not have dealt with the regime that followed, Batista’s, since this film is centered on the 1930s struggles. That later regime necessitated the Castro boys taking up arms in the hills after the initial defeat at Moncado.        

Here is the skinny. The hyenas took over in the 1920s and ran rampart over the country and for the foreign, mainly the United States, interests in the sugar production. (Cuba was a classic monoculture colonial and semi-colonial country around the sugar crop, and to a lesser extent still is). The younger generation of professionals and a smattering of workers and peasants decided that they had had enough and as was the norm in that day, and not just in Cuba, created underground revolutionary organizations in order to overthrow the strongman. A familiar enough story particularly in the 20th century.

And so the young upstarts and old freedom-lovers created an organization and devised some ideas about how they could overthrow the regime. But then they ran up against the problem every revolutionary organization faces in times of serious oppression, the passivity or resignation of the masses. The question for such organizations then becomes what to do-wait until the masses are so oppressed they will rise on their own or to nudge the masses into activity by an exemplary action aimed at the heart of the regime. Well our boys, most of them, opted for not waiting, for action now.

Of course that decision entailed making a plan to create the biggest splash possible and to a great extent the core of this film centers on the creation of that splash promoted by an angry young revolutionary who had been in exile for a while (his father had fled Cuba after some problems which caused Fenner (played by John Garfield) endless shame and a need to bring back to his family name. The gist of the plan, seemingly foolproof, was to kill some well-known top governmental official and then set a massive explosion at his funeral which was sure to be attended by the president and the major players in government. Wipe them out at one blow and set the masses in motion for their freedom. Maybe in a cakewalk. By hook or by crook the group that Fenner recruits to do the preparation and digging of a tunnel underneath the graveside complete their work under tremendous pressure. The target (a Senate President) is duly killed and… Well, and the guy in NOT to be buried where he was supposed to be. Scratch Plan A, plan B is to get Fenner out of the country but he is subject to a wide scale manhunt and is finally cornered and killed after a heroic individual struggle not to be taken alive. Shortly thereafter the freedom forces do overthrow the hyenas and set up the next level of struggle in Cuban history.              

Oh yeah, this is a Hollywood production after all, a 1940s production and there naturally has to be some romantic interest to keep the action from being too tedious. So enter China (played by Jennifer Jones), the sister of a fallen revolutionary who is intimately involved in the plan, and gets intimately involved with Fenner (1940s intimately film involved). That involvements shifts both their motivations slightly as they now want to struggle so that they can raise a family in freedom, not an unworthy motive, no question. But also one where a certain softness set in which the security forces were able to exploit in order to corner Fenner. China was let to speak his eulogy, to write his epitaph in the then new Cuba.  Fenner died heroically but if any cautionary tale is to be taken from this film then it is once again that isolated revolutionary action in lieu of mass struggle is ultimately futile. That wisdom would surely be at the top of the list.



Saturday, September 27, 2014

***“You Know How To Whistle, Don’t You?”-Lauren Bacall And Humphrey Bogart’s To Have And Have Not

DVD Review

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

To Have And Have Not, starring Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Walter Brennan, Hoagy Carmichael, directed by Howard Hawks, screenplay by William Faulkner, based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway, 1944-Take Two  

The recent passing away of the actress Lauren Bacall (Summer, 2014) prompted me to think about watching (again) her very first movie with her paramour met on the film then, Humphrey Bogart, the now classic To Have and Have Not. And so I did and reminded myself how that film has always been at the top of my list for the greatest films that I have seen. And why not. Look at the pedigree. Based on a novel by Ernest Hemingway, although in the end quite loosely for I do not believe a fox like Marie, the role Ms. Bacall plays in the film, would have stayed in the same room as the novel’s Captain Morgan for a minute. Moreover rather than being a guy who in the end tried to work on the same street as the angels the book’s Captain had no such lofty notions. Like the Hemingway short story The Killers that was also made into a film with Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner the screenwriters, directors, and producers played loose and free with the story line. Based on a screenplay at least in part written by William Faulkner who had a feel for such dialogue (and who I believe did not like Hemingway and maybe it was mutual and might go a long way toward explaining how Hemingway’s  grizzly sea saga out of cheap street turned into a hot romance-driven vehicle.

How about some musical interludes played by the great popular Midwestern-born composer (Stardust, How Little We Know), Hoagy Carmichael, as the worldly and world wary piano player, Cricket, at the bar of the hotel where Marie and Captain Morgan (Bogie’s role and Steve before long, before she gets her hooks into him, gets them in deep, after about two minutes and a couple of off-hand come hither looks his way) play out their dance. Not only does Hoagy provide the musical interludes in the club but along the way apparently Marie in her vaguely acknowledged checkered background which included some tough times also could sing for her supper and snags Steve with that look, that slight smile that had him thinking bedroom thoughts (or maybe it was me thinking that is what Steve should have been thinking) singing How Little We Know. Hell, had every guy in the room thinking those bedroom thoughts, even the guys lined up at the bar trying to drown their sorrows. Add in a very good performance by Walter Brennan as Eddie, a drunk who at one time could have navigated with the best of them but rum got the better of him like many a sea-faring man, who thinks he is watching out for the good captain. Directed as well by the well-regarded Howard Hawks who had even then a long list of film credits next to his name and who seems to have just let Lauren and Bogie go through their paces once the passion thermometer heats up the screen.    

But all of that credit acknowledgement is so much eye-wash for what makes this film great is the chemistry between Marie and Steve. Chemistry I have mentioned elsewhere in another review of a Bacall-Bogart collaboration, The Big Sleep, producing some of the sexiest scenes that two people can make with their clothes on. (Nudity would detract enormously from this mating ritual. Beside, unlike in pre-code 1930s Hollywood, no such thing would occur before the screen. Christ they were by then afraid to show assumed nudity scenes behind a shower curtain and usually gave married couples twin beds. Jesus.)              

Even the plotline pales before the dance these two put on. Frankly some of the story seems a bit of a rehash of the earlier Bogart vehicle (with Ingrid Bergman), Casablanca, where a recalcitrant world weary, jaded Rick, owner of Rick’s American CafĂ© and recovering from a lost love affair gets involved with the Free French (the good guy against the damn Vichy) as well. (Although working through his resume he had fought in Spain as a premature anti-fascist, always a plus in my book for good deeds.) Here day sports fishing boat Captain Morgan walks into the same kind of local political mess except in French Martinique (Vichy-controlled) rather than French Morocco (also Vichy-controlled). But not before shedding his doubts about taking such risks, and of course when Marie enters the scene by coyly asking him for a match for her cigarette you know those fears will fall by the wayside. (By the way it seems that they, everybody from the breakfast table to the smoke-filled night clubs are lighting cigarettes every two seconds reminding me of how much smoking went on then in the movies, and in life including mine.)

See Steve is strictly hand to mouth on this day fishing trip business depending on rich American tourists and sport’s fisherman to make his daily bread. (By the way Captain Morgan to you guys who don’t know him like those bad guy Vichy officials trying to round up once and for all those damn Gaullist Free French who interrogate Steve and Marie after some gun-play at the club when Free French agents try to hire Steve’s boat to help get a major resistance leader off Devil’s Island (see I told you the plot- line was familiar, shades of getting Victor Lazlo out of Casablanca in the film by the same name).  Right when Marie and Steve meet after she takes a room across from him in the in hotel after coming in by plane from parts unknown with funds from unknown sources (but the modern reader can guess) he has no dough having been stiffed by some goof fisherman (and a guy Marie clipped a wallet from which started the official dance between them down in the club). Once Marie tells her story though and how she hold up when the chips are down (at the police station where they are questioned by those local gestapo-types and she is slapped and later when she performs nurse duties without flinching or losing her cool under pressure) gets to him in the end.

Naturally once Steve moves off the dime he is totally committed to seeing that reckless resistance fighter sent to get the leader off Devils’ Island who got nicked the first time he tried gets to finish the job he was sent to that outpost to do. Still World War II big events, the world going up in flames, everybody forced one way or the other to take sides, and the troubles of a couple of lovers aside like I say all that is window-dressing for the moves Marie and Steve put on each other. From that first tossed matchbook when Marie need a match and Steve obliges with a double-take and she flaunts that wicked smile which speaks of adventures to come, come under satin sheets of the mind, to various “come hither” scenes to the ‘you know how to whistles scene” to her flopping down on his lap on their first kiss exchange to her seductively singing with Cricket to that shimmy she puts on as they walk out the door of the bar off to see what the future brings, Eddie trailing behind carrying her bags-together. Thanks Bogie-Thanks Lauren-RIP        

Friday, September 26, 2014

Poet's Corner- On T. S. Eliot's Birthday


Thursday, September 25, 2014

"America, Where Are You Now...."- Steppenwolf’s The Monster-Take Three
A YouTube Film Clip Of Steppenwolf Performing Monster. Ah, Those Were The Days
From The Pen Of Frank Jackman
Steppenwolf: 16 Greatest Hits, Steppenwolf, Digital Sound, 1990
America where are you now?
Don't you care about your sons and daughters?
Don't you know we need you now
We can't fight alone against the monster
Chorus Line From The Monster
The heavy rock band Steppenwolf (maybe acid rock is better signifying that the band started in the American dream gone awry 1960s night when the likes of the Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, The Byrds and groups like the transformed Beatles and Stones held forth, rather than in the ebb-tide 1970s when the harder sounds of groups like Aerosmith and Black Sabbath were  needed to drown out the fact that  we were in decisive retreat),  one of many that was thrown up by the musical counter-culture of the mid to late 1960's was a cut above and apart from some of the others due to their scorching lyrics provided mainly, but not solely, by gravelly-voiced lead singer John Kay. That musical counter-culture not only put a premium on band-written materials, as against the old Tin Pan Alley somebody wrote the lyrics, somebody else sang the song division before Bob Dylan and the Beatles made singer-songwriters fashionable) but also was a serious reaction to the vanilla-ization of rock and popular music in the earlier part of the decade that drove many of us from the AM radio dials and into “exotic” stuff like electric blues (country too, come to think of it) and the various strands of folk music.    
Some bands played, consciously played, to the “drop out” notion popular at the times. “Drop out” of rat-race bourgeois society and it money imperative, its “white picket fence with little white house attached” visions. That the place where many of the young, the post-World War II baby-boomer young, now sadly older, had grown up and were in the process of repudiating for a grander vision of the world, the “world turned upside down” as an old time British folk tune had it. Drop out and create a niche somewhere (a commune maybe out away from the rat-race places which did spring up in the likes of Taos, Oregon, and the hills of old Vermont which if you care to see what happened to that old vision once the seers got older you can go to and witness first hand these days), so some physical somewhere perhaps but certainly some other mental somewhere and the music reflected that disenchantment. That mental somewhere involved liberal use of drugs to induce, well, who knows what it induced but it felt like a new state of consciousness so make of that what you. The drugs used, in retrospect, to make you less “uptight” not a bad thing then, or today. The whole underlying premise though whether well thought out or not was that music, the music of the shamans of the youth tribe, was the revolution. An idea that for a short while before all hell broke loose with the criminal antics of Lyndon Johnson and one Richard M. Nixon, all hell broke loose with Tet, with May 1968, with Chicago 1968, with the “days of rage,” with Altamont and with a hundred other lesser downers I subscribed to. Before those events and a draft notice made me get “religion” on the need for “in-their-face” political struggle.        
Musically much of that stuff was ephemeral, merely background music, and has not survived (except in lonely YouTube cyberspace). Yeah, Neal Young, the Airplane, the Doors, the Byrds still sound good but a lot of it is wha-wha music now you know Ten Years After, a lot of Rod Stewart, even the acid-etched albums by the Beatles and Stones, it is no wonder that they do not have any tunes from Their Satanic Majesties on their playlists). [CL1]  Others, flash pan “music is the revolution,” period exclamation point, end of conversation bands assumed a few pithy lyrics would carry the day and dirty old bourgeois society would run and hide in horror leaving the field open, open for, uh, us. That music too, except for gems like The Ballad Of Easy Rider, is safely ensconced in vast cyberspace.
Steppenwolf was different, was political from the get-go taking on the deadliness of bourgeois culture, worse the chewing up of their young in unwinnable wars with no apologies or second thoughts, the pusher man, the draft resister and lots of other subjects (and a few traditional songs to about the love that got away, things like that).  Not all the lyrics worked, then or now. (See below for some that do). Not all the words are now some forty plus years later memorable. After all every song is written with some current audience in mind, and notions of immortality as the fate of most songs are displaced. Certainly some of the less political lyrics seem entirely forgettable. As does some of the heavy decibel rock sound that seems to wander at times like, as was the case more often than not, and more often that we, deep in some a then hermetic drug thrall, would have acknowledged, or worried about. But know this- when you think today about trying to escape from the rat-race of daily living then you have an enduring anthem Born To Be Wild that still stirs the young (and not so young). If Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone was one musical pillar of the youth revolt of the 1960's then Born To Be Wild was the other.
And if you needed (or need) a quick history lesson about the nature of American society in the 1960's, what it was doing to its young, where it had been and where it was heading (and seemingly still is as we finish up the Afghan wars and the war signals for deep intervention into the Syria civil war or another war in Iraq get louder, or both are beating the war drums fiercely) then the trilogy under the title "The Monster" (the chorus which I have posted above and lyrics below) said it all.
Then there were songs like The Pusher Man a song that could be usefully used as an argument in favor of decriminalization of drugs today and get our people the hell out of jail and moving on with their lives and others then more topical songs like Draft Resister to fill out their playlist. The group did not have the staying power of others like The Rolling Stones but if you want to know, approximately, what it was like for rock groups to seriously put rock and roll and a hard political edge together give a listen to the group sometime.
Words and music by John Kay, Jerry Edmonton, Nick St. Nicholas and Larry Byrom

Once the religious, the hunted and weary
Chasing the promise of freedom and hope
Came to this country to build a new vision
Far from the reaches of kingdom and pope
Like good Christians, some would burn the witches
Later some got slaves to gather riches
But still from near and far to seek America
They came by thousands to court the wild
And she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be their spirit and guiding light
And once the ties with the crown had been broken
Westward in saddle and wagon it went
And 'til the railroad linked ocean to ocean
Many the lives which had come to an end
While we bullied, stole and bought our a homeland
We began the slaughter of the red man
But still from near and far to seek America
They came by thousands to court the wild
And she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be their spirit and guiding light
The blue and grey they stomped it
They kicked it just like a dog
And when the war over
They stuffed it just like a hog
And though the past has it's share of injustice
Kind was the spirit in many a way
But it's protectors and friends have been sleeping
Now it's a monster and will not obey
The spirit was freedom and justice
And it's keepers seem generous and kind
It's leaders were supposed to serve the country
But now they won't pay it no mind
'Cause the people grew fat and got lazy
And now their vote is a meaningless joke
They babble about law and order
But it's all just an echo of what they've been told
Yeah, there's a monster on the loose
It's got our heads into a noose
And it just sits there watchin'
Our cities have turned into jungles
And corruption is stranglin' the land
The police force is watching the people
And the people just can't understand
We don't know how to mind our own business
'Cause the whole worlds got to be just like us
Now we are fighting a war over there
No matter who's the winner
We can't pay the cost
'Cause there's a monster on the loose
It's got our heads into a noose
And it just sits there watching
America where are you now?
Don't you care about your sons and daughters?
Don't you know we need you now
We can't fight alone against the monster
© Copyright MCA Music (BMI)
All rights for the USA controlled and administered by
MCA Corporation of America, INC

--Used with permission--
Born To Be Wild

Words and music by Mars Bonfire
Get your motor runnin'
Head out on the highway
Lookin' for adventure
And whatever comes our way
Yeah Darlin' go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space
I like smoke and lightning
Heavy metal thunder
Racin' with the wind
And the feelin' that I'm under
Yeah Darlin' go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space
Like a true nature's child
We were born, born to be wild
We can climb so high
I never wanna die
Born to be wild
Born to be wild
© MCA Music (BMI)
All rights for the USA controlled and administered by
MCA Corporation of America, INC

--Used with permission--
From the 1968 release "Steppenwolf"
Words and music by Hoyt Axton
You know I've smoked a lot of grass
O' Lord, I've popped a lot of pills
But I never touched nothin'
That my spirit could kill
You know, I've seen a lot of people walkin' 'round
With tombstones in their eyes
But the pusher don't care
Ah, if you live or if you die
God damn, The Pusher
God damn, I say The Pusher
I said God damn, God damn The Pusher man
You know the dealer, the dealer is a man
With the love grass in his hand
Oh but the pusher is a monster
Good God, he's not a natural man
The dealer for a nickel
Lord, will sell you lots of sweet dreams
Ah, but the pusher ruin your body
Lord, he'll leave your, he'll leave your mind to scream
God damn, The Pusher
God damn, God damn the Pusher
I said God damn, God, God damn The Pusher man
Well, now if I were the president of this land
You know, I'd declare total war on The Pusher man
I'd cut him if he stands, and I'd shoot him if he'd run
Yes I'd kill him with my Bible and my razor and my gun
God damn The Pusher
Gad damn The Pusher
I said God damn, God damn The Pusher man\
© Irving Music Inc. (BMI)
--Used with permission--