Author of Come Together: How the Baby Boomers, the Beatles, and a Youth Counterculture Combined to Create the Music of the Woodstock Generation … Freelance Writer … Smithsonian Lecturer … Speaker … Podcaster … YouTube Talk Show Co-Host … DC Tour Guide ——– Talking 'Bout My Generation focuses on the history, culture, and lifestyle, of the Baby Boom Generation, as well as classic rock, social activism today as a continuation of concerns from the 50s/60s/70s, and issues on aging, especially as they affect men
They told me one day I would feel old, but I just refused to believe them. Age 30. Then 40, 50, 60, now 68. Nope, not old. Grey hair. White hair. Thinning hair. Definitely more hair in my ears and my nose than on the growing bald spot on the back of my head. Still didn’t feel old. Besides, wild ear and nose hair … that’s what small scissors are for.
An expanding stomach. Creaking bones. Getting up at night to pee. Still no significant difference. Hey, I thought, maybe I’m impervious to aging and its supposed incapacitating side effects.
The Decline of the Humble Bar of Soap
But all that changed recently. I had to face the fact that maybe I really am old. What happened, you ask? Well, I still use bar soap. And, according to research from the market firm Mintel, younger adults think a dispenser of liquid soap is easier to use, less messy with no slimy soap dish to clean, and more hygienic. Not only are they thinking that, they’re showing their anti-soap-bar feelings as consumers.
Bar soap sales were down 2.2 percent from 2014 to 2015, even though overall sales for soap, bath and shower products increased by nearly 3 percent during the same period. Usage of bar soap is also slipping and sliding, with the percentage of households using the traditional bar dropping from 89 percent to 84 percent between 2010 and 2015.
Generational and Gender Findings are Clear
It turns out that older men made up the only group clinging to their bars of soap. Women and younger body washers of both sexes were abandoning their old bars for new fancy plastic bottles of liquid soap.
The study reported that while 60 percent of those age 65 plus were happy to keep using bar soap to wash their face, hands, and other body parts, just 33 percent of those ages 25 to 34 were still grabbing the bar.
It also showed that men are also more willing to use bar soap than women. The survey found that 53 percent of men were willing to wash their face with bar soap, compared with 36 percent of women.
I first heard the findings on a my car stereo. Shaken, I rushed home to my apartment to check out their veracity on my computer. The internet did supply more detail. For example, the younger people were using the liquid soap because they were convinced that it had fewer germs in it. But soon I found a buried paragraph that showed I didn’t really have to abandon my green Irish Spring Soap – the only soap for really virile, really manly men.
An epidemiologist told The Huffington Post that while germs likely do live in the damp “slime” of bar soap, they’re unlikely to make you sick. And, since one of my former students Kate Sheppard is an editor there, I know the HP would never print a falsehood. And, my new favorite scientist added, rinsing the soap under running water before lathering with it should solve any problems.
Immediately, my aging fears melted like a tiny bar of my beloved Irish Spring left too long in a running shower. Not only was I not old, I was still smarter than those young whippersnappers with their dubious soap safety claims. Exclusive liquid soap use was simply like arranged playdates and bone-marrow appetizers so popular with Millennials today. So let the young have their ways. But for us Boomers, we’re not going too take it. I’m not going to let the youngsters pry my beloved bar of Irish Spring soap from my cold, wrinkly, but immaculately clean fingers
This article article is part of an ongoing series of life in the Pandemic 2020
By Dave Price (5/29)
While this current worldwide pandemic has been both terrifying and deadly, it has been teaching us just how much we have in common. For the coronavirus is no respecter of status, talent, wealth, or fame – it is an equal opportunity presenter of problems.
Take the case of Bruce Springsteen and me.
Now even before the COVID-19 crisis, Mr. Springsteen and myself shared several things in common. We are both Baby Boomers, although at age 70 Bruce is two years older than me. We were both born in New Jersey. We both spent our teenage years playing dances at our high school and then performing at clubs and bars at the Jersey shore. In the 1970s, we both had concert shows at Villanova University, where I graduated in 1973.
But then our careers diverged. Bruce Springsteen went on to become one of the leading rock stars in music history. Because of his prodigious talent, Bruce accumulated status, wealth, and fame. Because of my lack of his talent, I was reduced to playing keyboard as a sideline in some of New Jersey’s always loud, but never legendary classic rock cover bands.
But now Bruce and I have been reunited. Because of the widespread closings as America tries to control the spread of .the coronavirus, we have both been forced to have our wives cut our hair.
Actually, this is not the first time Judy has been my barber. From 1971 until I began my reporting in 1974, she would be the sole person responsible for periodically (as in rarely) trimming my hair.
The mid 1970’s however was the time period was where our two roads began to diverge. While I was enjoying my $80-a-week first journalism job, Bruce signed a big record company advance, a deal he sings about in some detail in his beloved song “Rosalita”.
But now, as I mentioned earlier, our hair, at least as far as cutting it is concerned, has reunited us once again.
Here is the cut that Jersey girl Patti gave Bruce.
And here is the trim that Jersey girl Judy gave me. Uh-oh … that’s Judy’s psycho look. Oh no … I think she’s going to stab me.
Of course, even there, you have to offer Bruce the upper hand. His haircut made the national news. I had to write this article myself to even let anybody know that Judy was back to cutting my hair. But that’s not at all bad. As everyone from Jersey knows, Bruce is the Boss, and as I can’t think of anyone else who I would rather have eclipse – or maybe in this case e-clips – me than Bruce Springsteen.
Of yeah. If you get around to reading this Bruce, you have promised to throw the biggest party ever when we can finally get back to live performances. And you know I’ll be there. Maybe before or after the show, we can get together and compare haircuts.
1964. The Beatles had kicked off the musical British Invasion. LBJ was president. The Cold War was heating up in places like Vietnam. A World’s Fair in New York City was promising a new tomorrow of technology and wonder. And on January 23 of that year the Smithsonian opened the Museum of American History.
Today, all of the above are gone with the exception of the History Museum. To celebrate its founding year, in 2014 the renown facility showcased 3 exhibits dealing with the time of its early 1960s establishment.
In April of 1964, the Ford Motor Company debuted its Ford Mustang at its pavilion at the New York World’s Fair, 6 months before it normally would. The company promised that this was a new type of car for a new generation.
It had a sporty look, a compact size, and, for the time, a low price. It evoked the spirit and the excitement of the open road. Unlike Ford’s actual sports car. the T-Bird, it could seat 4 people.
Immediately the 1964 car seen in the picture above did live up to its trendsetting pledge. By 1966, more than 1 million Mustangs had been sold. It had even become the subject of a top-selling record by Wilson Pickett.
The Mustang was shepherded through production by a young man who himself would become quiet a name in the auto industry. That man was Lee Iacocca.
Imagine you were celebrating your birthday in 2020 and you could go back to 1962 when you were an elementary school student. Or 1965 when you were in 9th grade. Or 1966, 1967, 1968 when you walked the hallways of your high school. Or 1969 when you started college. Or 1973 when you graduated college, got married, and had a son.
Well, of course, there are no time machines, but last night, on the date of my wife’s 69th birthday, Judy and I vicariously had a chance to do the next best thing as we listened to Brian Wilson and his 11-member band perform many of the greatest hits he composed for his Hall of Fame California surf-sound group The Beach Boys at the MGM Casino just outside Washington, DC.
It’s been said that each song we hear from our past is like a tiny time capsule that unlocks to let us vividly recall all the places we were and all the people we were with when we first heard the tune.
And few songwriters have the ability to transport us back to our past better than Brian Wilson and the exquisite harmonies and sense of time and place he incorporated into the string of smash hits, ground-breaking albums, and B-sides he created for the Beach Boys.
The story of Wilson’s rise to become one of the best of rock & roll music’s greatest songwriters and his subsequent descent into depression and mental illness has been thoroughly documented in print and film. Indeed, Wilson still periodically struggles with mental issues. For example, he had to cancel a portion of his tour last year, saying he felt mentally insecure. In a letter to his fans Wilson wrote: “It is no secret that I have been living with mental illness for many decades. I’ve been struggling with stuff in my head. I’m going to rest, recover, and work with my doctors on this. The music and my fans keep me going and I know this will be something I can AGAIN overcome”.
And on a chilly Wednesday night, Wilson’s fans, ecstatic that he was well enough to resume touring, showered their idol with applause after each song, even those few obscure enough only to be familiar to fervent Beach Boys enthusiasts.
And while Wilson, who will turn 80 in June, today struggles to hit some notes and is forced to rely on a teleprompter for the words to some songs, these were minor setbacks that the audience was willing to ignore as they danced in the aisles and rose as one for a heartfelt standing ovation when the 90-minute, 27-song concert ended. The night had clearly demonstrated they were in the presence of a genius who had created an entire genre (surf music), wrote two dozen Top 40 hits for the Beach Boys, composed a tune – “God Only Knows” – which no less of an expert than Paul McCartney has called the best song ever written, and has had his creations compared favorably with those of such legendary classical composers Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.
Earlier, Wilson had been interviewed by Jason Fraley of WTOP. Wilson told the reporter that although he hasn’t written any songs for a few years, he has some new ideas which he would like to record soon.
But for now, while new Wilson material would be great, his audience, which spans multiple generations, is quite content to enjoy the hits, the oldest of which would now be qualified to be members of AARP.
Asked why he thinks the Beach Boys and their music have remained so popular, Wilson told Fraley “It’s evergreen. It’s forever”.
And many of his rock contemporaries agree. Here’s a sample of what some of rock’s s best have said about Brian Wilson, his tunes, and his prodigious talent.
Jesus, that ear. He should donate it to the Smithsonian. Brian Wilson, he made all his records with four tracks, but you couldn’t make his records if you had a hundred tracks today.
Beatles Producer George Martin
If there is one person that I have to select as a living genius of pop music, I would choose Brian Wilson. Without Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper wouldn’t have happened. Pepper was an attempt to equal Pet Sounds.
David Crosby of CSNY
Brian was the most highly regarded pop musician in America, hands down. “In My Room” was the defining point for me. When I heard it, I thought “I give up – I can’t do that – I’ll never be able to do that.”
David Gilmour of Pink Floyd
Even in those very early days of the Beach Boys, songs like “In My Room” and “Don’t Worry Baby” were giving the indication that Brian Wilson wanted to paint with a much more colorful palette than was offered by surf music he was so adapt at. His brilliance leapt from strength to strength over a very short period and, in a little over four years, he mastered the art of songwriting, record production, orchestral arrangements and every form of studio trickery to culminate with the wonderful songs on Pet Sounds.
I think I would put him up there with any composer – especially Pet Sounds. I don’t think there’s anything better than that, necessarily. I don’t think you’d be out of line comparing him to Beethoven – to any composer. The word genius is used a lot with Brian. I don’t know if he’s a genius or not, but I know his music is probably as good a music as you can make.
MGM Set List
California Girls (1965)
Dance, Dance, Dance (1964)
I Get Around (1965)
Shut Down (1963)
Little Deuce Coupe (1963)
Little Honda (1964)
Salt Lake City (1965)
Surfer Girl (1962)
Don’t Worry Baby (1964)
California Saga: California (1973) – written by Al Jardine
Do It Again (1968)
Let Him Run Wild (1965)
Heroes and Villains (1967)
Feel Flows* (1971) –written by Carl Wilson
Wild Honey * (1967)
Sail On, Sailor* (1973)
I Can Hear Music (1969) – Ronettes cover
Wouldn’t It Be Nice (1966)
Sloop John B (1966)
God Only Knows (1966)
Good Vibrations (1967)
Help Me, Rhonda (1965)
Barbara Ann (1965)
Surfin’ USA (1963)
Fun, Fun, Fun (1964)
Love and Mercy (1968)
*Sung by Blondie Chaplain
Notes and Noise from the Show
There were many highlights during the night, but my personal concert capstone was the three-song mini-set song by Sonny Chaplain. Chaplain, a South African musician who has toured extensively with the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones, also played lead guitar on the three numbers – “Feel Flows,” “Wild Honey” and “Sail On, Sailor.” Chaplain brought both psychedelic guitar effects and an invigorated feel to the show. It was clearly evident that he was enjoying playing with Wilson again, whom he called “the maestro.”
When the Beach Boys began, they were known as a family band since Wilson was joined by his two brothers, Carl and Dennis, both of whom are dead. But the family concept is being continued on this tour as Matt Jardine, the son of Beach Boys Al Jardine, who is co-featured on this tour with Wilson, sings high harmony and even some lead vocals.
Wilson was one of the first rock songwriters to use a theremin (a musical instrument with high, outer-space like sounds that is played not by touch, but by running your hands over the instrument to control frequency and volume). It was extremely cool to hear the theremin live on a few songs, especially Wilson’s classic “Good Vibrations”.
Of course, with a catalog as extensive as Wilson’s, not all of his hits can be performed in every show. The one I missed most tonight was “In My Room,” one of the greatest songs about loneliness ever composed.
How many artists could close a show with this many super hits in a row – “God Only Knows,” “Good Vibrations,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “Barabara Ann,” “Surfin’ USA,” and “Fun, Fun, Fun?” Well, Brian Wilson can and did.
The last song was an extremely poignant, powerful, and, given the current divisiveness in Washington, DC and the country, appropriate “Love and Mercy,” which gave its title to the recent critically acclaimed biographical movie about the head Beach Boy. Wilson played the song alone on his piano, while the other 11 band members joined in on harmony vocals. Here are the first stanzas of Wilson’s moving message we all need to hear in these troubled times:
I was sittin’ in a crummy movie with my hands on my chin Oh the violence that occurs seems like we never win
Love and mercy that’s what you need tonight So, love and mercy to you and your friends tonight
I was lyin’ in my room and the news came on T.V. A lotta people out there hurtin’ and it really scares me
Love and mercy that’s what you need tonight So, love and mercy to you and your friends tonight
If you would like to discover more about Wilson and the Beach Boys, you can read my book Come Together: How the Baby Boomers, the Beatles, and a Youth Counterculture Combined to Create the Music of the Woodstock Generation. Come Together contains a relatively in-depth look at two Brian Wilson songs – “The Warmth of the Sun” and “Surfin’ USA”. It can be purchased at the Politics and Prose book store in Washington, DC. or by clicking here.
If you consider 1965’s “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan and “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones as the first two great classic rock singles and the Beatles’ Rubber Soul as the initial classic rock album (which most musicologists do), then that makes the genre 55 years old next year.
But as 2019’s evidence shows, you can rightfully claim classic rock is barely showing its age for a type of music that, if it were a person, would be eligible for membership in AARP in 2020.
Times for older classic rock artists continue to be productive. For example, three of the top five grossing concert acts this year – Elton John, Metallica, and Fleetwood Mac – perform classic rock. Bruce Springsteen offered 236 solo shows over two years on Broadway, with ticket prices averaging $500 a seat from the box office and more than $1,000 from re-sale. Aerosmith, John Fogerty, Santana, Sting, Rod Stewart, Def Leopard, and Journey all played sold-out residency shows at Las Vegas’ top casinos. The Rolling Stones wrapped up their three-leg, three-year No Filter tour, a series of stadium concerts that attracted 2,290,871 fans and grossed $415.6 million for the band. And the Beatles’ re-release of Abbey Road climbed to #1 on the charts, exactly 50 years after the album first accomplished that feat 50 years ago.
These eye-opening facts evoke two big questions – how did the rock music now deemed classic, which evolved from 1950s rock & roll, become so popular with the Woodstock Generation and why does it continue to thrive despite the fact that most of its first listeners are now in their 50s, 60s, or 70s?
In a three-book series he jokingly refers to as his Rock of Agers trilogy, Washington DC author and former journalist, educator, and classic rock keyboard player Dave Price explores the history of the music of the generation who came of age in the turbulent 1960s and ‘70s and attempts to explain the music’s popularity then and now.
The first book in the series, Come Together: How the Baby Boomers, the Beatles, and a Young Counterculture Combined to Create the Music of the Woodstock Generation was released in November.
Come Together begins with the dropping of the first atomic bomb in 1945 and ends with the final notes Jimi Hendrix played on the last day of the historic Woodstock Festival in 1969. The saga is told in six chronological chapters. In the first, you’ll see how a connected series of innovations, influences, and influencers in the late 1940s and early 1950s paved the way for the rise of rock & roll. The second introduces you to some of the most important early performers of this new music. The third allows you to see how the Beatles reshaped rock & roll both on stage and in the studio. The fourth places you in San Francisco in the summer of 1967, where a new youth “hippie” counterculture was being formed around revolutionary ideas about the role of drugs, sex, and rock & roll in American society. The fifth demonstrates how two of the most significant artists of the late 60s – Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones – crafted some additional touches to the type of music that would be encountered at Woodstock. In the 6th chapter, we’ll end our musical journey and join a crowd of 400,000 to vicariously experience the most-noted music festival of all-time at the historic upper New York state farmland where rock & roll emerged as something which now would soon be known simply as rock.
The second volume in the series, What’s That Sound? 80+ Artists Who Defined the Music of the Woodstock Generation, will pick up with Hendrix’s fading final notes and conclude 50 years later at the 50th anniversary commemoration of that 1969 festival, held at the original site. It is scheduled to be published in late 2020.
The third and final “Rock of Agers” book is tentatively titled Long Live Rock: Why Do the Classic Sounds of the Woodstock Generation Continue to Resonate So Loudly Today. It willdelineate two connected stories – the various ways the sounds of classic rock are being preserved and passed on to new listeners and how you can experience the entire history of classic rock by sailing on four Woodstock-like music themed cruises. Long Live Rock is planned for a late 2021 released.
Price will begin a four-month tour to promote his new book with an appearance in his former hometown of Bridgeton, New Jersey, where he lived for 59 years. On Saturday, Dec. 7th, he will stage a meet and greet and a book signing at the Bridgeton Free Public Library from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. He will be donating $1 from the sale of each book to the library.
“The Bridgeton Library is a very special place to me so it’s fitting that I begin there,” Price says. “Libraries in general, and the Bridgton Library in particular, have always served as my secular cathedrals. They truly are amazing places. You can learn just about anything you need to know if you take advantage of all the resources a local library offers”.
“I’m sure I wouldn’t have been in position to write any book without the enjoyment, elucidation, and enlightenment that I found in all the libraries I have visited over the years,” Price added. “To me, my library card is just as important as my credit card or my driver’s license. I never leave home without it.”