1970 at a glance:
- Robert Altman's "M*A*S*H," premieres.
- Jeffrey McDonald murders his entire family.
- Paul McCartney officially announces the split of The Beatles.
- The first episode of US soap opera All My Children is broadcast on the ABC television network.
- An oxygen tank in the Apollo 13 spacecraft explodes, forcing the crew to abort the mission and return in 4 days, culminating the phrase "Houston, we have a problem".
- Kent State shootings: Four students at Kent State University in Ohio are killed and 9 wounded by Ohio National Guardsmen, at a protest against the incursion into Cambodia.
- The Who become the first act to perform rock music (their rock opera, Tommy) at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York.
- The Mary Tyler Moore Show, featuring its star as an unmarried professional woman, debuts on CBS.
- The Grumman F-14 Tomcat makes its first flight.
- The North Tower of the World Trade Center is topped out at 1,368 feet (417 m), making it the tallest building in the world.
By 1970, the hippie culture was in full swing-and full transition. As the society gravitated toward the new decade, a fresh breed of hippies had emerged. Growing from the roots of the original sixties hippie era, the seventies gave us a new and improved, and highly inspired version of the peace and love machine. People had hair, and they were growing it! The Woodstock festival had become legend. The world lost The Beatles, but it in the end, it gained the seventies.
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.
In 1970, the world and I lost The Beatles. Their breakup was a devastating event that happened during the spring of that year. On April 10, 1970, Paul McCartney made it official by announcing he was leaving The Beatles.
To a non-Beatles fan, this is ho-hum information, but to a kid who'd embraced the entire Beatle culture, and for someone who lived, and breathed them, and worshiped them as heroes, this was devastating news. The end of The Beatles even made it to our nightly news station. Word of the event hit England even harder than it did for us here stateside. The Fab Four were, after all, Great Britain's native sons.
Fortunately, I'd had a bit of premonition that this was coming; the album "Abbey Road" was too perfect, even more perfect than the engineering and production excellence of Sgt. Pepper. Abbey Road was sheer brilliance. The record concluded its second side with an inspiring jam session that sounded, in a word, epic. It felt like a swan song, and as I listened to the record over and over, I had a sense, that on a very unique level, they were saying goodbye to us.
The next Beatles release came in February as an odd hits-based LP that contained the full studio version of their monster success "Hey Jude". Bearing that song as its title, the LP consisted of filler Side B tunes, and some previous earlier hits. The record only made me suspicious. They'd never done anything as odd as this before, so why now? This was a record that felt as unplanned, and uninspired as any could be. My first thought of the album was "they forgot to put Hey Jude on the White Album, so they had to create a quick release to put it onto." However, it also had the hit song "The Ballad of John and Yoko", which was a fun song despite the fact that it was a paean to John's Ono transference.
Again, by April of that year, the news was out, and the damage was done. The Beatles, as a band, were done. A final LP-and in my opinion-a truly inferior bit of tripe called "Let it Be" was released. The album looked, sounded, and felt like garbage. It appeared to serve only as a vehicle for two of their final hits "Get Back", and "Let it Be", yet didn't feature the studio perfected versions that comprised the singles. This was a set of live studio outtakes that were only marginal in quality.
In essence, it was like listening the effects of an impending divorce on vinyl. The quality of the music was marginal, and didn't have the polish that even the troubled White Album had. "Let it Be" was a sad commentary, and a sadder piece of history. I believed then as I do now that this was their personal memo to the world regarding their breakup. McCartney made his history making announcement before its release, otherwise, I believe everyone would have suspected the end of something great.
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".
An after thought: 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.
North Portland Life
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 sell out at the Hollywood Bowl much sooner than The Beatles 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."
Crosby, Stills, Nash - Add Young
The spring of 1970 found me well-acquainted with the now legendary supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash. Their first album eponymously titled "Crosby, Stills & Nash" was a stellar success packed with incredible songs.
As an aside, fast-forwarding to 1971, I had to spend a couple of weeks in high school art class learning caligraphy which I hated. However, I became great at it by scripting the lyrics to "Guinnevere" with a C4 pen nib.
With the addition of Neil Young CSN & Y was an unstoppable force. "Deja Vu" became a super-album from a super-group, and the song "Woodstock" more or less an anthem for 1970. This became one of the most-played records on my turntable and earned its myriad pops, skips and scratches. During the 70's, one of the most common sights among young people - especially the Heads - was to see a person walking down the street with record albums under their arm. This album went with me to every house that did not have it stocked as a part of their household supplies. The song "Almost Cut My Hair" was my favorite followed by "Carry On".
From our North Portland neighborhood off Columbia Blvd. we moved deeper north to Vancouver Avenue about 3 blocks South of Killingsworth.