It’s (nearly) 2012! High time we made a collective admission; that is, for those of us who were there, or in my case, for those of us whose older brothers were there as the watershed moments went down___ the anti-war marches, sit-ins, Woodstock, the proto-occupy squats that regionalized for us as headlines in the Boston Globe about “hippies squatting on the Boston Common” (my brother L. “crashed” there with a group of suburban buddies addled by pot and the Beacon Street Union) and the birth of R-O-C-K ___ there is no definitive statement in any form on the madness that was 1969.
To each their own, or in the parlance of that day, whatever turns you on---I choose a film, over which more ink has been spilled since its appearance in 1986 than most Best Picture winners ever attract. To wit, Bruce Robinson’s comedy, Withnail and I., #29, on the BFI’s list of favorite British films of the 20th century. It’s a film for writers, druggies, drunks, poets, lovesick losers of all stripes, and ACTORS!!!!!!!!! It’s also about industry versus celebrity, Epicureanism versus stuffiness, the end of impossible friendships, and a near complete evocation of the spirit of an era.
"What do you wanna watch tonight, Joe?", "How about that Mantis in Lace flick we read about on PopKrazy?", "Yeah, that sounded like a real stone gas, now where are those burgers? Did she just call 42? Joe, go see if she just called number 42...."
Only in the wild and woolly world of sixties American exploitation film could two men like William Rotsler and Harry Novak come together for the common purpose of making a buck, create pictures which rake the gutters for inspiration, and emerge with such oddly unforgettable guilty pleasures as Agony of Love (1966), The Girl With the Hungry Eyes (1967), The Godson (1971), and Street of a Thousand Pleasures (1972).
The late 1960’s was America’s revolution of peace that flourished and spread through the rest of the world, even though we were trapped in a grueling war. The children of the revolution were commonly known as hippies, a term many say now with a lick of disdain. It was happy, free, rebellious, and any other term with positive meaning behind it. For myself, being too young, I did not get to experience this era.
And quite oddly enough, the idea I associate most with the love, peace, freedom movement is Donovan--the boy that everyone accused to be a Dylan imitator, and later, to the British government, a leading figure in drug use. But in most households today, as I’ve observed, Donovan is a forgotten legend.
When I first discovered Donovan (my interest spiked after I saw 200 Motels where they mentioned him and associated him with the hippies), my dad regarded my interest as dumb since Donovan was a man of few hits. How could you aspire to make it in music if your idol was barely successful in music himself?
My dad made the bold mistake of reducing the man to a no-name (such as The Starfires, who mysteriously fell off of the Earth after a 45 that everyone searches and pays large sums of money for). In reality, though, Donovan has made hundreds of great songs, has had his run with the best of the bests, and can probably be given partial credit to bringing Led Zeppelin together [Page, Jonesy, and Bonzo played together on “Hurdy Gurdy Man.” Later Plant would appear on “Barabajagal” with the Jeff Beck Group, but this didn’t happen until 2 years after the formation of Zeppelin.]