I was 14 and 15 years old in 1970
January 1, 1970: The Adolescent Apocalypse
Often the word Apocalypse is taken for doom and destruction. However, the true origin of the word is Greek, and its translation literally means "to uncover, or to discover". And that's what the 70's were for me; a vast apocalypse, an uncovering, and a lifting of a childhood veil. I was fourteen years old, all legs, zero brains, and hormonally super-charged. Nothing seemed more beautiful than Peggy Lipton in a mini-skirt or more intellectually profound than Steppenwolf's first album.
Adolescence was a strange and often frustrating journey; I was too old to do the things I did as a kid and too young to understand why. It seemed that life was a blender full of impossible notions, ideas without direction, thoughts and feelings impossible to express, and a yearning for it all to mix together at once. Adolescence was an insane period; you discover things about yourself that nobody knows. You learn things that nobody had dared show you before. The world is no longer as pretty as it was before, but a wondrous playground just the same. Parents and adults didn't recognize our growing, our transitions. They didn't understand the beauty of our world and the things that so moved us.
In the fall of 1969, I was on a journey toward the infinite apocalypse.
In Portland, Oregon, a city notorious for its amount of rainfall, we'd just survived a monster blizzard that arrived on Christmas Eve and kept everyone snowbound for six days. This passing of time while isolated felt very strange, but it was a nice kind of strange. Outside were massive snow drifts topped with frozen rain. Nobody was getting out, and nobody was getting in. But inside, there was a calm in the house. Schools were closed. Each day the snow fell harder, and each day, I prayed for it to continue. Life was great, and carefree, and there was no responsibility. The snow had seen to that. Then, that awful day came when the wind was calm and the skies were clear. The sun came out and the snow began to melt. This was how 1970 introduced itself.
The first thing I can vividly recall about the 70's was the breakup of the Beatles. I, among many other people saw it coming, but it was still one of the blackest days ever. I mean what kind of super demonic force could break up such a magical band as The Beatles? Obviously, the demons came in the form of pressure, too much togetherness, boredom, and a need to move in separate directions. Next came the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, nearly back-to-back. Jimi died on September 18, 1970 and Janis on October 4, 1970. The 70's showed me vulnerability. These larger than life superstars were obviously all too human and prone to tragedy. The worst loss for me was that of Jim Morrison in 1971. He was a man I revered so much that I ended up painting portrait after portrait of him. His death was a severe shock to me. After that, the realization came to me that rock stars lived in great danger of death from drug overdoses.
Her name was Cybill Shepherd.
She broke down my defenses. She invaded my consciousness. She showed me that there was more to life than sophomore girls. It wasn't until I'd seen a Cover Girl ad from 1971 that my eyes were treated to a devastating creature with thin lips, golden locks, and devil eyes. This lithe and spirituous beauty who haunted every single waking moment was named Cybill Shepherd. Her "everyday girl" look was a sweet mix of honey-blonde hair, and azure eyes. Having spent the bulk of my time drawing portraits of rock stars, I put the guitar slingers on the back burner long enough to put Cybill to paper.
I was actually a pretty good artist in high school having won an award. I managed to finish it just in time, and Cybill Shepherd found her way to the hallway of our high school during an art exhibit.
This event opened doors that I hadn't counted on before. Soon, every girl in school knew I was a good artist. 2+2 were now adding up to 4, and I found myself constantly drawing pictures of local girls. Did this get me anywhere? No. I hadn't yet learned the fine art of "following through". That, and being painfully shy as admitted in above paragraphs, "follow-through" never saw fruition. Still, opportunity for me remained, and later in the 70's, things changed for the better. I learned to specialize in women's portraits, and to this day, I can thank Cybill Shepard for that.
BTW, the Cybill affair was longest the week of my life. After having read the book "Summer of '42", and seeing the movie posters for it, Jennifer O'Neill moved in and took Cybil's title. Jennifer was eventually beaten out by a girl in my sophomore year math class.
POINT: Teeny Bopper Magazines like Tiger Beat spewed bubble gum all over magazine racks in the stores. As hard as I tried to get away from the bubble-gummers, they came out in force. It wasn't enough that this stuff practically dominated television, but these horrible teen idols had records too! Tiger Beat was actually quite ingenious in its design; it was more like a giant scrapbook which appealed to teenage girls. The covers were generally overloaded with info, cropped photos, wild color, and opportunities galore with promos like "dream dates" and "tours of their homes".
COUNTERPOINT: Us guys on the home front of course resented these teen idols without once taking into consideration the hell these guys must have been going through. Some started off as child stars and became heartthrob sensations once they entered into their teen years. Perhaps David Cassidy liked Led Zeppelin and preferred to be jamming on stage with Jimmy Page.
I had to seek comfort in magazines more suited to my tastes like Rolling Stone. A year later, I'd be digesting mags like "Creem" and "Circus" that chronicled the albums, tours, and lives of heavy rock stars. Fortunately, these weren't gossip mags, but contained photos, tour info, and interviews as well as album reviews and articles about the bands.
All aboard, it's Grand Funk Railroad
When Springtime came, we migrated north to Portland Boulevard. This was a cross-cultural section of Portland at the time populated with white families and black families in fairly equal measure. The house we rented was a marvelous 2-story with a full basement and an awesome attic-type room which I occupied. That summer taught me much of what was to come. I fell in love with the band "Grand Funk Railroad." I soon developed an immediate hero-worship with front man Mark Farner who was a great guitarist and resembled an American Indian warrior complete with headband, armband, and played bare-chested constantly. For many 70's hard-rocking girls, Farner was the 70's love god. For the 70's hard-rocking guys, he was guitarist supreme, and led a 3-man band that was largely responsible for "hard rock" to enjoy the reputation it did. One other noteworthy Grand Funk Railroad accomplishment was to beat a Beatles record by selling out the Hollywood Bowl much sooner than they did.
Though I stayed with Grand Funk longer than I did most bands, and had their entire catalog of LPs, they went a bit sour when they converted to a 4-piece unit adding keyboards. As usual, things changed, good things and people died, and I didn't care to keep up with it all. For me, Grand Funk's signature song was "Paranoid" from the second album simply titled "Grand Funk".
1970 was a great year for music, and I had been rocking like a wild boy to albums like: "The Who Live at Leeds", "Band of Gypsies", "Woodstock", Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding's "Monterey" live album, "Hot Tuna", and "Chicago", (they shortened their name to just "Chicago" from "Chicago Transit Authority")
Oddly enough, I was also listening to Bread and the albums "On the Waters" and "Manna" were very beloved LPs for me. The primary attraction I think was that I have always admired songwriters as much as I do musicians, and David Gates is a champion songwriter. Bread never lasted too long for me though.
A blonde-haired cutie that lived next door to us had a crush on me from day one. I was considered to be one of "the luckiest S. O. B.'s in history." Her blonde hair was genuine as she was from pure Nordic stock. The whole family was blond and alabaster skinned. She was one of those girls that was athletic, cute, and should have been one who went on to be an Olympic contender or medal winner. 1970 led me to the attraction of cigarettes. I'd sneak out to the roof and puff away thinking I was cool. Unfortunately, my coolness didn't survive me as I was stupid enough to drop a finished butt down onto the porch below where my Mom sat on one warm summer evening. I remember her vividly saying "If you really want to smoke, then you have to wait until your sixteenth birthday."
Bell bottoms and flared jeans were not the worst things to happen, but these fashions earmarked the early to mid-70's. It was a nightmare of a splash; rude colors with vertical stripes and horizontal stripes all within the same ensemble. The revenge of the plaid was back. 60's paisleys had been pushed out of the style train at a high speed. The new trend was evil, like a dinner with all the wrong entrees. Bell bottoms were highly favored and accepted on girls. However, on guys, I couldn't stand them. The flare-legs were okay, but the flapping bell bottoms were despicable. Again, girls had carte blanche to wear whatever they wanted and get away with it. But they didn't; women's fashions were as grisly as anything us guys had to go through, and Rhoda wasn't the only gal who sported scarves as headbands. Anything that dangled, swept, visually assaulted the senses, or glowed in the dark was the epitome of 70's stitchery. Still, not everything was bad.
Good news for guys: legs were back!
Here was the next holy trinity: Mini, Midi, Maxi. Well, Maxi wasn't so great, but it was indeed a hard 70's fashion accoutrement. "Mini" skirts and dresses were just that; a skirt with just a bit more length than a belt. The "Midis" were those that came a little farther down obscuring more thigh or perhaps to the knees. "Maxi" dresses actually looked very good on some women. They were the dresses that came to the floor--or to the ankle. The mini-dresses, and the wonderful girls who wore them, were equally wonderful. Gams with glam were never more glorious than with this marvelous fashion statement. Let us not forget "Hot Pants" as the shortest shorts possible. I was a big fan of the "Wallace Beery shirts" and I had a favorite shirt that was nothing more than an American flag baseball jersey with red stripes on the body and blue sleeves with white stars. The shirt was actually pretty cool.
Buckskin was in! Leather, fringe, dangling thongs with beads were it.
Bright colors that clashed were also a true fashion statement. Wearing clothes that matched was no longer a requirement. Huge sweeping collars, belled cuffs on shirts, beads or stitching were hot stuff then. I was no fashion prince; I wore levis, black or white T-shirts, and harness boots. Of course I had the famous O-ring belts that were in style. I also had a "Yes" belt buckle in 1974. This was an oval belt buckle with the famous band logo on it. Anything that sent messages as to who you were was like wearing military medals. Self-defining logos and designs created a sartorial balance that spoke volumes of the person who wore them.
Another thing we used to do was rip out the hems of our Levis. I used a hem ripper from my Mom's sewing kit. It took a lot of work, but it was worth it to have that "shaggy" look hanging down. Another fad was to bleach your jeans so they looked years old and faded. At one point in time we lived in an apartment with a swimming pool and I would float several pairs in the chlorine-laden water to fade them.
Fashion was Never More Cruel than it was for Men
Leisure suits were hot stuff. Women's fashions were still okay because, let's face it, girls just looked great no matter what. But guys, oh boy, us guys, we went to hell and back in the 70's. Plaid bell bottoms, with wide vertical stripes, high-heeled boots, wide medieval belts, checks, polka dots, and all of it a splash of wild color potent enough to require protective lenses were a part of our wardrobe! Fashion hell erupted with super-long sideburns and for men who wore shirts and ties, extremely wide-collar shirts and bib-sized neckties. Then it got worse. There were vertical striped pants; plaid suits; polka dots where there should be no dots; checks; mismatched colors, awkward design, and a just plain audacity that comprised the new 70's wardrobe. Let us not forget dress shirts with the big fluffy sleeves and cuffs, or the embroidery around the collar. Yes, these were the 70's.
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