THE ARMS OF ZENTA? WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?
I just saw MC5: A True Testimonial, the widely unavailable doc that examines the conditions and excitement that lead to the founding of the MC5. The film was screened around the world in 2002, and even made a stop at TIFF, but apparently it has not been released on DVD because of some copyright issues with Elektra Records, or something to that effect. I urge you to find a bootleg copy, and I'd highly suggest that you watch this film with the knowledge that rock n' roll will never again have the same influence or releveance on the lives of young people as it did then. I was not alive in 1968, so I cannot claim to know what it was like to be a part of that almost other-worldly experience, but I always imagine that it was a time in which you could feel thickness and tension in the air. Life was heavy and every choice and action a person made was labelled, scrutinized and dealt with in a political fashion. The MC5 not only reflected but thoroughly expressed this tension surrounding the divisive climate between the values of the pre-war world and the generations who would later go on to form society years later in their own image.
The MC5 sounded and acted like 1968, and that's incredible. How many bands can we say act and sound like 2005? How many bands are as important or tied to the movement that they associate themselves with? Are there any movements anymore? Here we are in the midst of global conflict: what goes on in the Middle East and Africa is no different from Vietnam, but why are we not reacting with the same kind of moral drive that people did in 1968? The hippie era had its weaknesses, severe ones, like the overdramatic hostility towards the establishment, and the subsequent unparalleled naivite about solutions for the future. Yes, they were dreamers in those days, be they students in France or Black Panthers in America, but they stood up. And it came through in the music. Who stands up for us nowadays? At least no one with guitars or microphones.
Don't get me wrong. I feel that there are certain groups who represent an unpretentious, honest part of rock n' roll culture that is often lost under the glitz, the posturing and the egos. But now, all of this great music is borne out of boredom, and as passionate or as exciting as these groups may be, I still shed a tear for a time when music REALLY meant something about who you were and what you did with your life, and listening to it had serious consequences that, at the very least, set you apart from one system and put you into the teeth of another. Maybe it still does, I could be wrong, as music is still something we wear on our sleeves. But we've tucked our hearts back into our chests. Rock n' roll has become a fashion, a lifestyle, but not a cause or an action, and thus, the message is missing. We need to find it again and live everyday like the world is about to fall apart.