Yesterday I saw an interesting 45 record at a thrift store. The name Thunderclap Newman sounded familiar, and I knew I'd heard it before, though I just couldn't recall the context. The names of the songs didn't ring a bell, "Something in the Air," and "Wilhemina". The record also said "Produced by Pete Townsend." I knew whatever it was it was worth at least the 50 cent price, so I bought it. When I put it on the record player and set the needle down I immediately recognized the song "Something in the Air" with it's beautiful twelve string guitar intro. I have always loved that tune, though was never sure who performed it. Some quick research revealed that Thunderclap Newman was a vehicle put together by Pete Townsend to showcase the songwriting talents of Speedy Keen, The Who's former chauffeur. Townsend played bass and also produced the group, recording them in his home studio. This song has made so many emotions well up from deep inside of me. You see, I was born in July 69, the Summer of love. My life counts down after the cultural watermark of Woodstock. I was born three weeks before that music festival took place. I grew up in the cultural/musical/political wake of the movement that this festival embodied, that is to say, the cultural scenery, ethos, and ideology of rock music: A universal classless society founded upon love, non-conformist creative existence that rejects the routines of rigid, soulless, technocratic life, artistic exploration, urgent questioning of traditional establishment values, hippies, drug experimentation, etc. This cultural leaven had a tremendous effect upon my early years. My earliest memories are from the very early 70s, things like gaudy green and orange textiles, wood paneling, bell bottoms, and so on. At that time the afterglow of the late 60s could still be keenly felt in music, fashion, art, across broad spectrums of the culture. That feeling will always feel like a home I was turned out from. That home was the world of the Boomer's youth. And so I grew up during this time. While the 70’s was informed by the ideals of the 60’s, much of the idealism of the former generation was lost. The more superficial trappings of 60’s culture became packaged, pitched, and made a mass produced, corporate commodity. The 70’s celebrated partying, hedonism, rebellion, commercialism, and spectacle. By the time the 80’s rolled around what had filtered down from the previous two decades had transformed into a pure and unapologetic celebration of debauchery, exemplified by the phrase “sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” I didn’t have the festivals of the 60’s, or even the stadium rock of the 70’s, but rather the corporate arena hair metal of the 80’s. All of this was absorbed into my spongelike adolescent brain. Recreational sex, drug experimentation, alcohol use, listening to rock music and absorbing the political, social, philosophical messages contained therein, these were things simply taken for granted; they were the necessary and required rites of passage for any knowing and hip teenager— which is a thing I desperately desired to be at around the age of thirteen or fourteen. Men like Pete Townsend and Roger Waters were emblematic of songwriters and artist who had something important to say. When I was an adolescent they were like philosophic gurus, worthy of deep study and respect. Their lyrics demanded erudite attention. Such artists were wide awake, seeing and living more, having a deeper understanding of things; and having the special and unique ability to communicate these things to us. We who were looking for truth in a world of confusion trusted in their honesty and sincerity. I payed more attention to and trusted the words and insights of rockstars more than those of parents, teachers, priests, or politicians. Their music filled me with hope, with the aspiration to greatness, with love for the world, with wonder. It was magical, magisterial transportation to imaginary realms of deep emotion and feeling. And the guitar as re-invented by the Boomers . . . it was a loud, distorted, overdriven, wild, dangerous beast, a dynamic monster of energy, a ferocious machine capable of being restrained only by the most skillful operator. The electric guitar appeared to be physically draining and often painful to operate, as was demonstrated by the strained expressions on the faces of those who played the thing. Pete Townsend tamed his rude and abrasive Telecasters; Neal Schon wrestled with his Les Paul; Eddie Van Halen’s wrangled with that ratty red and white striped guitar, forcing it to make sounds like no other instrument; David Gilmour not only talked with his Strat, but used it to read my mind, read my heart. The effect that rock music and the culture based upon the art form and social movement it spawned is so deep it would be difficult to quantify. Rock-and-roll’s personal effect upon me is simply incalculable. In large part I interpreted the world through the lens of rock culture. I saw value in what it preached, in the topics is passionately sung about and extolled. Rock music is amongst one of the 20th century cultural industries that created me, instructed me in what to believe, like, desire, strive for, and value. But now I'm a cynical, bitter, middle-aged man. Though my heart is pure, there is no longer any idealism in me. There is no artist today who has anything of significance or importance to tell me. They surely cannot enlighten me in any way. I have turned on most of the ideals of my youth, including rock-and-roll, exposing it to the most savage criticism at my disposal. The imperatives of growth and self-overcoming absolutely demanded it. One must smash all idols. My heart loves rock and roll, the blues, and guitar, though the intellectual side of myself despises them, just as the intellectual side of myself tells me that sex is a trick played by the imperatives of the species, though I still can't deny its allure. When I look at the young Boomers in this Thunderclap Newman video I'm filled with a combination of happiness and joyful sadness. You were so ignorant, yet so admirable in your sincerity. You expressed your feeling with such genuine talent, carrying over what was best from previous generations (Modernism, Tin Pan Alley, folk, country, the blues, jazz, etc.) while radically transforming the mode of expression. Boomers created my world, and I wouldn't be me if it weren't for you. So there it is, I am a deeply divided soul. My deep emotional reaction to this Thunderclap Newman song has made me confront and address the fact in very great detail. The question in the opening line to Charles Dicken's novel David Copperfield, "Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else . . .", when posed to myself, must be answered in the negative. You, the Boomers, are the heroes of my own life, a fact for which I both love and hate you. The icing on the cake is that I'm married to a Boomer Lady, a woman who is surely one of the most beautiful girls of that generation. Another joke life has played on me. Anyways, thanks for humoring my rambling thoughts on this subject.