Rain at sunset. The month of November can be seen in a calendar array here.
Last night I was reacquainted, via radio, with Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Sweet Cherry Wine,” which came out in 1969, a top 10 hit wedged between two of their monsters, “Crimson and Clover” (#1) and “Crystal Blue Persuasion” (#2).
As great as his records were, I don’t think of Tommy James as the kind of artist who was ever ahead of his time or who would lead his audience in a new direction, except maybe in the area of guitar and vocal effects. Despite the trippy lyrics, in terms of depth or heft, he was closer to, say, Lou Christie than Leonard Cohen. But to me this just makes some of the things he said in his songs that much more interesting – because he wasn’t saying anything amazing or surprising, he was saying what ‘everybody’ (of a certain generation) ‘knew’ to be the case. And it struck me as a little sad to think how mistaken Tommy, and we, may have been.
About a specific issue like Vietnam he was completely right:
Oh yeah, yesterday my friends were marching out to war
Oh yeah, listen now we ain’t a-marching anymore
No we ain’t gonna fight, only God has the right
To decide who’s to live and die
About the underlying situation, I realize of course it’s hardly news to say that people in the Sixties were ... uh ... a tad overoptimistic.
Watch the mountain turn to dust and blow away
Oh Lord, you know there’s got to be a better way
And the old masquerade is a no-soul parade
Marchin’ through the ruins of time
(Having listened again to the song after going to five different lyrics sites, it really is ‘blow’ away, not ‘glow’ away as every site has it; I assumed it was a ‘no-show’ parade, but the sites are all correct with ‘no-soul’.)
In any event, it may not be just children of the Sixties – I think Americans in general are naive about power, and tend to assume, for example, that when a new party gains the presidency, the locus of power changes as well. But to touch only briefly on a huge subject, the international network that supported BCCI and Iran-Contra in the 1980s didn’t decide to fold up and go bye-bye just because Bill Clinton was in the White House. Add neoconservatives and the old masquerade’s new again.
I love the song, but the ruins of time may be holding up awfully well.