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Sixties

I have always heard the Doors’ “Light My Fire” thusly

The time to hesitate is through
No time to wallow in the mire
China we can only lose
And our love become a funeral pyre

Let me explain. There was a phrase, common in the McCarthy era: “Who Lost China?” As in, who was responsible for allowing good, decent, Pearl-Buckesque China to be subsumed by the Kremlin Red Slava Rodina Konspiracy (Spoiler: McCarthy, upon consultation with what he pulled out of his own ass, decided it was Owen Lattimore)? By including the saying in “Light My Fire,” Jim Morrison was mocking the anticommunist piety of the previous decade, putting the ghost of Tailgunner Joe on the altar of his Fire

Did I honestly ever think those were the lyrics? Not really. But that’s what hit my brain.

(I also got the first line wrong, though not in any way that changed the meaning)

“Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin,” by Alice Echols

Very good bio of Janis, well conveys the transition between the folk/beatnik early Sixties and the rock/hippie High Sixties (a transition that Janis herself experienced). Things that stick with me are:

-the idea of the “Saturday Night Swindle,” which Janis heard from her father: “…about how you hear over and over that if you work real hard, you’ll go out Saturday night and have a really good time. And everybody lives for that good time, but it never really happens.”

-that Mnasidika, one of the first hip businesses in Haight-Ashbury, was originally intended as a store for lesbians. Due to lack of lesbians in the neighborhood, it switched focus to hippies.

-From Linda Gravenites, one of the best one-sentence summaries of the Haight I’ve ever heard: “Up until then [1967], people came because they were full to overflowing and were sharing their fullness. After that, it was the empties who came, wanting to be filled.”

The story of Janis herself is very sad, a cautionary tale of wanting fame and getting it. The main testimony to Echols’s abilities as a biographer is that you want to reach into the page and give Janis a hug, to comfort her. But it’s far too late for that.