Monday, April 27, 2009

For a Song: Lather

Jefferson Airplane: Lather


Over at Star Maker Machine, we just completed a week of songs about drugs. This got me thinking about how alien the 60s must seem to someone born to a later generation.

The hippies of the 60s believed that they represented a sharp break from everything that preceded them. The term “generation gap” comes from this time. And the age of thirty was thought to be a sharp line between the generations. Somehow, once you turned thirty, you became part of “the establishment”, and were not to be trusted.

So here is Lather on his thirtieth birthday. The establishment, represented here by his parents, expect Lather to magically become a different person, and embrace establishment values. He could become a banker or a military officer, as did his friends before him. But Lather is perhaps the ultimate counterculture hero; he refuses to give up his innocence. By retaining his childish nature, from the hippie perspective, Lather remains part of the solution, instead of becoming part of the problem.

Now, the members of the Jefferson Airplane are themselves well past thirty. They are the same people they were before, only older. Musically, they did sell out eventually, recording We Built This City as Jefferson Starship. And some hippies did become bankers and military officers and so on. But some hippies started music labels, and supported new musicians whose dreams, perhaps, reminded them of their own. And some have continued to make the music of their hearts, even as the marketplace passed them by. And some, it should be said, were consumed by the drugs that were so much a part of their youthful experience. So I would say that Lather lives on, not as a cultural movement, but as an inspiration to individuals. Time has mixed the message somewhat, but the dream still lives.