ANTHEM, Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy, publishes on October 1. Each of the book’s 47 chapters begins with a song from the Sixties to set the tone, mood, and scene. Every day between now and October 1, come have a listen and read a snippet from each chapter. On October 1, these posts will be archived with a link at ANTHEM’s webpage for #teachingAnthem1969
This is Chapter 29 (day 19):
WASN’T BORN TO FOLLOW
Written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King
Performed by the Byrds
Recorded at Columbia Studios, Hollywood, California 1967
Drummer: Michael Clarke (concert); Jim Gordon (studio)
When Norman opened his eyes, Molly was there beside him. There was worry in her voice. “Want some water?”
Norman half sat up and sipped some cool water from a tin cup. He was in a real bed in a tiny adobe room with a fireplace that warmed the walls and everything within them. It was the coziest he’d felt since leaving Charleston.
“Where are we?” He vaguely remembered pulling into the yard and children crowding the bus, happy waiting arms taking Moonglow from Carol, and other, capable arms, guiding him to a place to sleep.
“You’re at New Buffalo,” said a voice on the other side of the bed. Norman turned to look at a woman with smoky brown eyes and corkscrew black curls spilling around a head scarf, like a halo around her head. “My name is Sadie.” Norman blinked and swallowed.
“Wasn’t Born to Follow” is an important transition song in ANTHEM, as Molly and Norman come into their first commune experience in New Mexico. Plus, it’s just a song I adore by The Byrds, a group that got its start at The Troubadour in Hollywood; remember that when we find our heroes there in a future chapter.
The song was also a part of the movie “Easy Rider,” which you can see scenes from in the song clip above. The actual part of the film where the song plays is here, if you want to see that. And putting the song title into the YouTube search box will give you a plethora of other choices.
I rewatched Easy Rider in 1989, at its 20th anniversary, and wrote an essay about “our generation” back then, and I have rewatched it several times since, and… wondered… about my generation. Which, of course, is one reason I’m writing about it now.
I became fascinated with the lore behind filming the movie, which you can read here (one version) in “A Reefer Runs Through It.” One line of many telling lines: “As it turned out, any problems the production may have had over finance were as nothing compared with the trauma of the Easy Rider shoot…”
I had a thing about this movie from the moment it appeared on the scene. I asked my father for an advance on my allowance to go see it. And I defied him to see it. He forbade me to go, with, “I will not give Peter Fonda three dollars of my hard-earned money.”
So I saw it with my boyfriend anyway (who is now, somehow, miraculously, my husband), in 1969. (Somehow, miraculously, a movie ticket was once $3.)
When I started researching New Buffalo for this section of ANTHEM, I discovered that the “Wasn’t Born to Follow” section of the movie sets up Captain America and Billy’s time at just such a commune in New Mexico. So I paid careful attention to it as I rewatched the movie for research.
It turns out, Dennis Hopper wanted to film this section of the movie at New Buffalo, but the residents voted against his request, so he had to film the scenes on sets they built nearby. But the landscape is the same, and the movie holds the same weird fascination for me now that it did when I was a teenager in Charleston, South Carolina, like Molly, and discovering the world.
Now Both Captain America and Billy are gone, figuratively in the movie, and literally, in life. I miss them. I miss those days. But they weren’t easy for the kids trying to create a new life in the high country, in the communes of the desert Southwest, as you’ll see in these chapters of the book, as Molly and Norman make a stop so Norman can recover, and so they can make (or argue over) plans for the next push.