Retrospective thinking is OK. Yes, I believe on the whole, painful memories notwithstanding, that it’s OK sometimes to think about the past. The older I get, the more roseate, forgiving and generally benign it all seems. Especially the past from a long time ago. It has a Hemingway quality – soft sunsets and September rain.
We tend, unfortunately, to remember things as they were, not overlain with the emotional cobwebs and inevitable decay of the years. It’s curious too how the journeys themselves don’t spring into sharp, metallic focus, just individual, inconsequential events, small spikes, like jagged rocks in a featureless sea.
I found myself reminded of folk clubs in the late 60’s where we went with guitars, fiddles pipes and tambours, just to join in. The acrid aromas of pipe smoke and stale ale mingled with the smells of wet wool – why was it always raining outside – and the smoke from the fire. We could actually sing, because the rhythms were simple and the words and their meaning unambiguous and clear. We listened to Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, the incomparable Joan Baez, (Woodstock, yeah) Dylan and the others.
All of the above came about because I had been trawling around for some of the stuff I used to listen to. Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden in May 2009 was an iconic event with a surprisingly articulate and powerful introduction from Bruce Springsteen – I watched almost all the YouTube footage on it, plus a few little extras like “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” sung with Seeger’s grandson Tao Rodriguez (whose band appeared at Newport Folk this last week) and Arlo Guthrie at Wolf Trap, (Seeger was 83 on this recording) but I thought this song from 1965 really echoed my own undergraduate fervour and formative years with all the power it had then.
Dear me. I’m close to tears.