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Running from the Sixties

November 26, 2007

Edie Sedgwick ran until 1971. She had it all. Scion of an old New England family, picture girl of Andy Warhol’s Factory, beautiful almost beyond the possibilities of the physical.

Watch here:

The Sixties were a strange time. Looking back, it was an age described by an arc, at one end innocence, at the other, corruption. Innocence was defined for us by Simon and Garfunkel, corruption by the The Velvet Underground (whose song, below, was said to be about Edie Sedgwick, envied by all). Some of us went for the one, some for the other.

Innocence:

Corruption:

 

______________________

It’s hard to understand the Sixties now. Forty years down the track, who really cares for the dreams and the fantasies that were the playgrounds of the present generation’s adolescence? But that period of the past was a crucial time for the present, because those who grew up then basically run the place now. We were children, and cruelly naive. Naivete was the key to our innocence and our corruption.

We resisted our parents, for we thought (wrongly — oh, how wrongly!) that we knew far more than they did, the generation of war, the generation of suffering, of toil, of stoic endurance. We had the answers to everything, and we listened to no-one. Most of our answers were tragically, or comically, if not indeed criminally wrong, and the resonances of our mistakes are only now becoming fully felt, a generation later.

But it was an intoxicating time, and that almost makes the wrongness right, especially through the softening veil of memory. We rode the crest of the wave of the times, and we didn’t care where we rode it, or to what ending. It was enough to ride. Like Edie Sedgwick, we rode the wave right up to the wall, and there we crashed, like she did, at the end of that lacerated decade, although it took us another thirty and forty years to realise the fact.

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3 comments

  1. Amazing post. I went for the innocence consciously, took on the corruption unconsciously. Paid too. My son died of an overdose of heroin on May 9th 1999 in Cairns. I never took hard drugs myself but had too soft an attitude toward soft drugs. Like you said – we listened to no one. Funny, I can’t remember Sedgwick at all, but certainly knew Andy in those days mainly through Jerry Malanga who worked at the Factory but was better known to me as a poet. I published C Magazine which was edited by Ted Berrigan. But that’s a whole other story. The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’groovy) was my song of innocence then and now. Then as now the Velvet Underground’s Heroin signified corruption.


  2. Heroin, well, I was going to post that as the signature of the time but I remembered what it did to one of my best friends. She died too, like your son, a year or two after him, and of the same cause.

    Wasn’t there a sweetness about S&G though, something almost virginal? To me, even at the time, the real counterweight wasn’t the Velvets, but Dylan’s sneering misanthropy. I loved Dylan of the 60’s, hard and unforgiving. I never took much to anything he did after that.

    Strange times.


  3. Yes, S&G had that sweetness but an authenticity and uniqueness that the earlier Kingston trio utterly lacked. And yes Dylan was the man – the counterweight in the 60 folk scene. For me the Velvet Underground was part of the NY art scene and not folk at all – something newer and lot darker. That’s why I thought your choice of them for the corruption end of the 60s was spot on. I associated them with Andy and his transgressivness but in a way that was more socially challenging than Warhol’s visual shock tactics. Heroin is just more corrosive than Brillo boxes. I remember the kerfuffel over Dylan’s first electric album and how I was concerned until I heard it and realized that the changes signified by the album seemed to track the changes I was going through. I think I was positively plugged into the collective at that moment of time – and well I was listening to it in an apartment at the corner of 4th and Avenue B. I have a very east coast NY centric view of the 60s- I was there 60-67.



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