This commentary was aired on NPR's "All Things Considered" on November 6, 1998
A few months ago, I heard a guy on the radio say, as if it were obvious, that when a guy meets another guy, we size him up and think about whether we can take him, beat him in a fight. I heard that and thought, "No." I don't think that way at all.
No, I'm a standard issue Boomer and in my generation we don't measure people by whether we can beat them in fisticuffs. If it's a business setting, we think "Could my laptop take his?" In any other situation, when two guys meet the overriding, pressing social ordering question is: Do I play guitar better than he does?
In fact, if you meet a male boomer at a party, you don't ask, "What's your sign?" You ask, "What was the name of your high school band?" We were all in 'em.
I was in a typical white-guy guitar and organ band. We were called "Wheel and the Spokesmen." Three guitars, drums, singer, and Farfissa organ. The songs were the ones every band did. Every song awful. None of them, except Louie Louie and Good Lovin', has survived as anything except an embarrassment of youth. This Diamond Ring. "I see the Woman Dressed in Red." Hey Joe. Walk Don't Run. Season of the Witch. House of the Rising Sun. Wake Me, Shake Me, Hang on Sloopy.
Why did we play such dreck? I'll tell you why. Because we could. These songs had 3 chords, five chords maximum. Louie Louie, Twist and Shout, Good Lovin, and Hang on Sloopy are all essentially the same song. You learn one, you got the entire playlist for the Freddy Moswowitz bar mitzvah. You do Shout! for twenty minutes until Mr. Moscowitz suggests you knock off early, slips you twenty, and you leave in your matching psychedelic shirts thinking about how you messed up the hot guitar lick you stole from Cream.
Because each one of us male boomers knows that if we'd really focused we could today be Eric Clapton. It was really just a matter of life choices. I happened to have chosen to become a marketing guy instead of becoming Eric Clapton, and others in my peer group chose to become financial analysts instead of Eric Clapton, and others became system integrators instead of Eric Clapton. This choosing not to be Eric Clapton is the bond that holds the Woodstock generation together.It's all about choices and freedom, man.
It's like the McCoys said in "Hang on Sloopy": "Well, Sloopy I don't care what your daddy do, 'cause you know, Sloopy girl, I'm in love with you."
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