Field Notes

ANTHEM is coming, chapter 37

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 37 (day 11):

GOOD VIBRATIONS
Written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love
Performed by The Beach Boys
Recorded at Western Recorders, CBS Columbia Square, Gold Star, and Sunset Sound Recorders, Hollywood, California 1966
Drummer: Dennis Wilson (concert); Hal Blaine (studio)

The receptionist at Capitol Records did not know they had an appointment.
“Can I help you?” A cigarette dangled from her very red lips, and every red hair on her head was sprayed in place like it was part of a cranberry helmet. She turned her head, blew smoke toward the gold records handing on the wall, and put her cigarette into a holder in a bright red ashtray. She raised her eyebrows and gave Molly and Norman an impatient, expectant look…//
“Is Hal Blaine here, please?”
“Who wants to know?”…//
“He’s expecting us,” Norman said.
“Really,” said the receptionist sardonically. She looked Norman up and down like she was his bad mother. “Who sent you?”
“Mary Beal,” Molly snapped. 
“Who?”
Norman shot Molly a look. “Al Jackson, Jr. at Stax Records in Memphis, Tennessee,” he said.
“Really.”
“Also Roger Hawkins at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.”
“Uh-huh.”…//
“Actually,” Norman said, his voice gatherig all the authority his seventee years could summon, “Jai Johany Johansen of the Allman Brothers Band.”
He stared as menacingly as he could, directly into the receptionist’s eyes, and hoped she could hear his mental command. Hal Blaine now! And step on it

A good song for Molly and Norman’s entrance to California and its laid-back vibe and beach culture. “Good Vibrations” and the Beach Boys were an exciting, energetic shot in the arm to hear alongside records by Del Shannon, Ricky Nelson, the Righteous Brothers, even Elvis.

Suddenly we were in the middle of a musical sea change, just as Molly will be soon. Capitol Records was a huge part of that sea change.

I spent weeks researching Capitol Records — not just the history of the label, but the story of the building, and how they got that special studio sound, so I could write Chapter 37, and realistically put Molly and Norman in Studio B and introduce them to Hal Blaine.

I came to love Hal Blaine as I read and listened to interview after interview of this iconic drummer who played on more than 40 number 1 hit records and scores of other hits during his long and illustrious career. 

I’ll write more about Hal here and edit this entry and provide more links when I’m home from my travels, which I’m going to write up as well — a bit of mail coming into your box in the next few days, but thanks to Mail Chimp’s delivery system, you’ll have each day’s posts in only one email, coming soon to a mailbox near you.

Chapter 37

ANTHEM is coming, chapter 36

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 36 (day 12):

MARY MARY
Written by Michael Nesmith
Performed by the Monkees
Recorded at Western Recorders, Hollywood, California 1966
Drummer: Micky Dolenz (concert); Hal Blaine and Jim Gordon (studio)

“I won’t hurt you,” came the voice. It was a woman sitting at a table under the cottonwoods. A burro was standing next to the table, switching its tail and looking at them placidly. Flam growled at the burro but stayed behind Norman.
“You’re almost out of the desert now,” said the woman.
“Where are we?” Norman asked. Molly could feel his pulse racing.
“You’re in Daggett,” said the woman. She wore a wide-brimmed hat and a long dress. She held a notebook in her hands and a camera hung from a strap around her neck. “You are one hundred miles from your destination.”
“How –?”
“I saw you coming,” said the woman. “I can lead you back to your wagon road when you are ready.”
Molly gripped Norman harder, to steady herself. It gave Norman strength as well.
“Who are you?”

My love for the Monkees was deep and loyal. I could have cared less that they were a television band. They were wacky and fun and full of life and silliness, and that was just what I needed in my life when I was 13 years old, living in Franny’s COUNTDOWN country, Washington, D.C., while my dad was stationed at Andrews AFB in the Sixties.

Every Monday night was Monkees night, from 1966 to 1968, and I was glued to the television for that theme song, and for every second of their program. You can watch full episodes on YouTube, and of course I fell down that rabbit hole while researching ANTHEM.

Just like I had done with the Beatles, I knew every word to every Monkees song, who sang it, what album it was on, and I knew all the trivia, thanks to Tiger Beat Magazine.

Molly is past the Monkees by 1969, and I suppose I was, too, fickle me, but “Mary Mary” is a great song to remember them by, and a perfect tune for Chapter 36, as Norman and Molly survive a dust storm in the Mohave Desert and meet the mysterious and possibly magical Mary Beal. Lots of links here, to Mary, each of them a different story, all worth your time.

Mary Beal, “Botanist of the Mohave Desert,” came up in my research about the Mojave, and as soon as I stumbled upon her, I knew she was part of my story. I loved this chapter with Mary Beal, and loved pairing it with “Mary, Mary, where you going to?” as that was exactly what Molly and Norman were trying to figure out with her. Where did she come from? Where did she go?

Mary Mary leads them on their way, out of the dust, safely back to their “conveyance,” to the right “wagon road” and onward to California.

Chapter 36.

ANTHEM is coming, chapter 35

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 35 (day 13):

THE LETTER

Written by Wayne Carson
Performed by The Boxtops
Recorded at American Sound Studios, Memphis, Tennessee 1967
Drummer: Danny Smythe

“We’re stopping at Disneyland,” said Sweet Caroline. She sniffed and wiped at her tears.
Molly rolled her eyes. “We are not.”
“We must,” said Sweet Caroline. She collected herself and seemed to make a decision. “That’s why I’m here.”
“What?” Norman stood up now.
“Is your cousin really being drafted?” asked Victor.
“Just a minute,” Molly said. “I’ll be right back.” She brought Barry’s letters out to the fire. “Please,” she said to Victor, indicating a lawn chair. “Sit. You can smoke here.”
“Where did you get those!” Norman spluttered.
“You know where I got them.”
“They aren’t yours!”
“They’re written by my brother, and you didn’t even tell me you had them on this bus!”
“You didn’t ask!”
Victor covered his years. “No more war!”

Finally the contents of Barry’s letters are revealed, as is Sweet Caroline’s motivation, and Victor’s decision.

“The Letter” was such a quirky song. The Boxtops were a quirky group. They were hardly 20 when they recorded “The Letter” and lead singer Alex Chilton was only 16 years old. The Devilles, a local Memphis band, recruited Chilton after his performance at his high school talent show.

The band rebranded as “The Boxtops” and started working with Chips Moman at American Sound Studio, the same studio in Memphis where Norman and Molly meet Elvis.

Our heroes are in a campground in Kingman, Arizona, sitting around the fire after having replenished their supplies in Flagstaff, and after eating a supper of bacon and “Frittata!” according to Sweet Caroline after she added a dozen eggs to the bacon grease and let them set up like a pudding. And they’ve quartered an apple pie. Hungry.

Norman slept for hours, while Victor drove. They passed Meteor Crater Road, the Lowell Observatory, and the Clark Telescope, all of which Drew, from Little Rock’s Chapter 25, would dearly love to see:

“The Lowell Observatory is there,” said Drew. “And the Clark Telescope. It has mapped the moon.”
“It has?”
“Yes. When President John F. Kennedy said, “We choose to go to the moon!” in 1961, there was no map of the moon.”
“There wasn’t?”
“I would like to see the craters of the moon through the Clark Telescope. I would like to visit the meteor crater there, too. A meteor slammed into the earth fifty thousand years ago, and the good news is that the astronauts used the crater to learn how to drive their lunar roving vehicle, or LRV, on the moon. We will see them do this on television on July 20, 1969.”

You may recognize Drew from COUNTDOWN. He was 9 then; he’s 16 now, still Drew, still an egghead, going to Young Engineer’s Camp in Little Rock, talking about space travel, and the Titan missiles at the air base in Little Rock. Here is a still, from an ANTHEM scrapbook, of a Titan missile in its underground silo:

Space travel was such a big deal in the race to the moon in the Sixties. Here’s JFK’s speech at Rice University on Sept. 12, 1962. The space race was on everyone’s mind, as the moon landing became closer to being a reality in the summer of 1969. We are headed there with ANTHEM. Just got to get to California first.

Chapter 35.

ANTHEM is coming, chapter 34

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 34 (day 14):

THE WEIGHT
Written by Robbie Robertson
Performed by The Band
Recorded at A&R Recorder, New York, New York 1968
Drummer: Levon Helm

Norman looked at Sweet Caroline. Sweet Caroline looked at Norman. Molly clapped her hands together once and got Norman’s attention.
“Give Victor the keys,” she said.
Victor shrugged. “I drove a tank in Nam. I can drive this bus.”
Norman scrambled off the bus and stalked past some onlookers who were staring at Multitudes’ portable canvas. Molly followed him. When they were far enough away for comfort, Norman wheeled on his cousin.
“That guy’s not even conscious!”
“Neither are you!”
“I’ve just driven halfway across the state of New Mexico, and halfway across Arizona! He slept the whole way!”
“So he’s rested!”
“Why are you on my case? Yesterday at the hot spring, last night’s disappearing act, and now this — “
“Because you are being an idiot!”
“Because I go swimming with a bunch of kids? Because I win a bus race? Because I have a dog? Because I have a girlfriend?”
“She wants something Norman.”
“She wants me.” His voice caught on the word.
“She doesn’t.”

Everyone’s feeling the weight of this trip. Norman’s about to break, he’s so exhausted. Victor is carrying his own war weight, and even Sweet Caroline has secrets she’s keeping… something Molly can plainly see, even if Norman can’t.

So our heroes stop at the Visitor’s Center for the Petrified Forest. Where they are actually is what’s called today the Painted Desert Community Complex near Interstate 40, designed by famed architect Richard Neutra. It was space-age cool and modern when it opened in 1963, and I want readers to feel it that way — air conditioning in the desert! Glass walls and expansive views and everything modern. “No one had seen anything quite like it.” There are pictures and more info at that link (National Park Service), and here are a couple more:

And today, after a renovation in 2017, it still captures the imagination in the desert:

Families were vacationing like crazy — you’ll see them in Chapter 34 — traveling by car, smashed together in station wagons, in the late sixties, flocking to the national parks, and there was a concerted federal effort, called Mission 66, to expand park services in time for the 50th anniversary of the National Park Service.

Our dusty travelers are so hot, and the air conditioning is so inviting. It’s not enough to cool hot tempers and exhaustion, but it does give them some temporary relief from the various weights they are carrying.

===
They watched parents taking Polaroid pictures of their kids standing in front of Multitudes. The kids were dissolving in laughter, posing and making funny faces, raising two fingers in peace. “Sock it to me!” said one kid. “Veeery interesting!” said another.
“Wimps,” said Norman. He wiped at his eyes. “They should have gone hiking on the Appalachian Trail.”
Molly sighed, relief in her voice. “Yeah. They’re squares.”
“She likes me,” said Norman.
“Let Victor drive,” replied Molly.
Norman handed her the keys. They climbed into their chariot and raced across the high desert.

Chapter 34.

ANTHEM is coming, chapter 33

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 33 (day 15):

THE AGE OF AQUARIUS
from the musical Hair!
Written by James Rado, Gerome Ragni, and Galt McDermott
Performed by the Fifth Dimension
Recorded at Wally Heider Studios, Hollywood, California 1969
Hal Blaine

Ten minutes later, Molly bounded up the stepwell and onto the bus.
Sweet Caroline was sitting in Norman’s lap in the driver’s seat, pretending to drive. “Where were you! We almost had to leave without you, didn’t we, Norman?”
Norman tried a laugh but Molly cut him off.
“This is Victor Martinez. He’s coming with us.”
Sweet Caroline got up. She swung into the seat behind Norman, put her hand on his shoulder, and giggled.
“Stop giggling,” Molly ordered. “Norman, start driving.”
Victor Martinez came quietly up the steps. He looked at no one. There were only four rows of seats left in the bus and Victor sat in the last row. He smelled like too many days in the same clothes without a shower. He smelled like the dumpsters behind the Plaza Cafe. He carried a large paper sack with him, well creased and rolled over at the top where he gripped it.
Molly stuck out her hand to Norman, palm up. “Give me your extra burger.” She walked the sack to Victor and handed it to him. “We just ate,” she said. “We’re full.” Victor took the sack wordlessly and turned to look out the window.
Norman turned the key in the ignition. Flam jumped into the famous front passenger seat.
Molly walked back up the aisle. Caroline, I don’t care where you sit, but you can’t sit in that seat. The navigator sits there. I am the navigator –“
Sweet Caroline blinked and Molly finished.
“I am she.”

Well, we really did think a new age was dawning — “and peace will guide the planet, and love will steer the stars” –even in the midst of war. It became harder to believe it, though, when looking into the faces of war. Victor represents one of those faces, in ANTHEM.

In June 1969, Life Magazine published “The Faces of the American Dead in Vietnam: One Week’s Toll.” Face after face after face, 242 soldiers who died in one week, May 28 to June 3. Molly and Norman left on their trip June 14, 1969, just as the magazine was hitting newsstands.

LIFE magazine, June 27, 1969, featuring a portrait of U.S. Army specialist William C. Gearing, Jr., one of 242 American servicemen killed in a single week of fighting during the Vietnam War.

This issue of Life brought the war home to Americans in a way television couldn’t. There, on their coffee tables, were 242 dead Americans in one week. One week. Sons, brothers, fathers, uncles, friends. Gone. And for what?

That is Barry’s cry in ANTHEM, of course. For what? You’ll meet others along the way who are more sure of why we were in Vietnam, but for Chapter 33, I want you to meet Victor, who managed to come home, although much altered than the young man he’d been when he left.

A great short video from the Newseum about this issue of Life is here.

And here is an inside still from that Life Magazine feature, and a link to a June 2019 WBUR piece (with text and photos) of stories about the men, and the families left behind:

“All these boys, look at these beautiful boys, look at them,” she says. “Oh, there he is.”

What we wanted, now more than ever:

“Harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding// No more falsehoods or derisions — golden living, dreams of visions, mystic crystal revelations, and the mind’s true liberation… Aquarius.”

Chapter 33.

ANTHEM is coming, chapter 32

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 32 (day 16):

MAGIC CARPET RIDE
Written by John Kay and Rushton Moreve
Performed by Steppenwolf
Recorded at American Recorders, Studio City, California 1968
Drummer: Jerry Edmonton

NORMAN:

Wavy appears in front of the buses and yells, “Who’s in charge?”
“Nobody!” comes a chorus from everyone.//
Wavy climbs onto the roof of the Kitchen Bus. 
“Let’s run one at a time!” he yells. “Use a stopwatch! Fastest time’s the winner!”
“That’s for sissies!” yells the driver of the Hospital Bus.
“That’s Ken,” Red tells me. “Watch out for him. He’s a terrible driver.”
“Let’s go!” yells Ken. “Once around the meadow, turn around at the flag, and get back here first!”
The rest of the crowd surges onto the bus roofs.//
“Start your engines!” This despite the fact that all engines are revving and ready to go….//
The roof of my bus is swarming with bodies and it sounds like a stampede is going on. The whole bus rocks and I open my arms to catch a kid who slides down the front windshield.
“Wait a minute!” I say again.
“Who’s bus it this?” yells a girl in pigtails.
“Florsheim’s!” yells Red.
“Well, come on, Florsheim! Floor it!”//
Wavy gets on his knees from his perch atop the Kitchen Bus and points straight ahead with both arms. “The United States of America! And step on it!”

This was a great song for dancing or daydreaming to, pretending to, being totally crazy to. “I like to dream, yes, right between my sound machine,” inspired by John Kay’s new stereo system. hahaha.

It includes that rad base line by Rushton Moreve, which provided the engine that propelled us through the song. Norman has such an engine in Chapter 32… in fact, there are a whole lot of engines revving up to be quite the sound machine for the bus race in the Aspen Meadow on the summer solstice in 1969.

I took this chapter from an actual event that Stewart Brand writes about in the Whole Earth Catalog. It made me laugh out loud, and I decided immediately that Norman needs to be part of this amazement — all the buses from all the communes in a bus race in the Aspen Meadow, kids riding atop their magic carpets, crazily, happily, full of mayhem and joy and almost crashing… finally coming back to earth.

The “Ken” that’s mentioned is Ken Kesey, who had a much more fleshed-out role in this chapter that was cut for length, and for… well, for a middle-grade novel. I gave some of his lines to Wavy, and I slipped Kesey’s name back in, as the driver of the Kitchen Bus, but surely he would have been driving Further, which was there as well, also excised in the revision… “We’re dropping too many names here at the expense of story.” Frump.

But you can see a picture of Kesey on Further in Scrapbook 1 of ANTHEM.

And Molly has to decide in this chapter, if she’s on the bus, or off the bus… something the entire book seeks to resolve as the story continues.

Chapter 32.

ANTHEM is coming, chapter 31

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 31 (day 17):

BORN TO BE WILD
Written by Mars Bonfire
Performed by Steppenwolf
Recorded at American Recorders, Studio City, California 1967
Drummer: Jerry Edmonton

“It’s a girl!” cried a young man with an enormous mound of brown curls falling into his eyes. He stepped out of the tipi long enough to let everyone know. “Her name is Summer! Born on the solstice!” He ducked back inside. 
“Welcome Summer!” was the cry then as people circled the tipi and sang a song about peace on earth.
“To the meadow!” shrieked a gaggle of kids running and threading thenselves around the grown-ups.
“Molly, come look!” called Carol.
Norman’s bus sat in the parking area, painted white. A group of painters young and old were spattered with their handiwork Flam acted the role of inspector, walking around and around the bus as if his opinion on the paint job was the one that counted.
“Don’t you love it!” exclaimed Carol. Moonglow sat at her mother’s hip and clapped.
“How..?” began Molly, shocked. Norman would be so upset.
“We wanted to say thank you for the ride yesterday,” said Carol. “I saw that you’d started painting it already, so we just finished it for you.”…//
“Let it dry,” said Carol. “Then it’ll be a canvas just waiting for you, and you can paint to your heart’s content. We’ll help you. It will be fun to do in the meadow.”
There was no resisting them after that.

Back to “Easy Rider” for Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild,” a song that still makes me want to run away from home, young and full of possibility, “looking for adventure; whatever comes my way.”

Which is where Norman is about to find himself, in full embrace of all kinds of new sensory experiences, including skinny dipping with the gang in the Aspen Meadow on the solstice, an experience Molly isn’t about to let him partake in.

Hugh RomneyWavy Gravy — makes his first appearance in Chapter 31. Wavy is one of the real people I lobbied to keep in the story and found a way to do by cutting some other beloved sixties folks, as well as the better part of a chapter that I dearly wanted to keep, so Wavy could stay, and the story could move forward. More on that chapter coming up.

Wavy was — and is — one of my heroes in life. He makes an appearance in the last scrapbook of ANTHEM, too, arriving with the Hog Farm to be the “Please Force” at Woodstock in 1969. 

Things are starting to get a little wild in Chapter 31, as folks from all the communes in New Mexico converge in the Aspen Meadow on the Summer Solstice, 1969. There really was this gathering, which you’ll read more about in the next chapter. 

But first, Norman — who did not want to make this trip at all — is about to “let it all go for peace” — or maybe that’s love — and come into his own wild self.

As Wavy says, “We are all the same person trying to shake hands with ourselves.”

Chapter 31.

ANTHEM is coming, chapter 30

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 30 (day 18):

PEOPLE GOT TO BE FREE
Written by Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati
Performed by the Rascals
Recorded at Atlantic Studios, New York, New York 1968
Drummer: Dino Danelli

A young man with a thick head of wild black hair and a bushy beard interrupted Molly’s thoughts. “There are lots of us here,” he said. “We’re trying to create what we never had, or we’re making room for whatever is coming, because something is coming, something is asking for expression.”
“It’s the Age of Aquarius,” said Ben. “Harmony is coming.”
“Struggle is coming,” said the weathered man. He nodded to Norman and Molly. “Maybe you’ll find what you seek here with us. We’re all meeting tomorrow in the Aspen Meadow above Santa Fe for solstice. Come with us. Bring your bus. You can go on your way from there, if you want. But come see.”
“We leave early in the morning,” Molly said before Norman could answer.
“Too bad,” said Sadie. She smiled at Norman, who blushed.
“Go in peace,” said Ben. 

I have a feeling they will go in peace… to the solstice celebration in the Aspen Meadow. Otherwise, what is fiction for? 

First, though, a night around the fire at New Buffalo, where the philosophies of the counterculture are revealed. “We don’t need things for the sake of having things,” said a girl with freckles and glasses. “We don’t need a lot of money. What we need is community and caring.” 

That’s for starters. “People Got to be Free” was a huge hit for the Rascals in 1968, an upbeat song all about freedom and tolerance and peace. “Peace in the valley, people got to be free.”

We were supposed to sing it at my senior class “revue” before graduation, at Clark Air Force Base, in the Philippines, where my dad was stationed the last of my high school years, in 1971. Somewhere Franny’s dad might have been stationed, in COUNTDOWN.

Someone changed the tune, though, at the last minute, and there was a great hubbub over it, as I remember. It suddenly, at the height of the Vietnam War, wasn’t an appropriate song. Someone suggested “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” by the Animals, which was worse, lyrics-wise (but the chorus was great). 

Eventually “Get Together” by the Youngbloods won out, and we 17- and 18-year-olds living overseas on the cusp of adulthood and in the middle of an unpopular war we didn’t understand but saw our fathers fighting every day, began to learn to pay attention.

We’ll meet some of those touched by the Vietnam War in future chapters. For now, we have a solstice celebration to attend.

Chapter 30.

ANTHEM is coming, chapter 29

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.

Chapter 29.

ANTHEM is coming, chapter 28

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 28 (day 20):

GOING UP THE COUNTRY
Written by Alan Wilson
Performed by Canned Heat
Recorded at ID Sound Recorders, Hollywood, California 1968
Drummer: Adolfo “Fito” De La Parra

The next morning Molly read out loud from An Adventurer’s Guide to Travel Across America as they rode through a landscape of shinnery oaks and prickly pears, past the vast grasslands inhabited long ago by plentiful buffalo and bison herds, land tended by the Kiowa and other tribes before the Homestead Act of 1862 sent white settlers pouring into the territory.
“You mean before invaders brought cholera and chaos to Indian land,” said Ben.
“It doesn’t say that,” said Molly.
“It wouldn’t,” said Ben.
Molly frowned. “Why wouldn’t it?” 
“Because ‘the Kiowa and other tribes’ didn’t write that book,” said Ben.
“This is an official guidebook,” said Molly, looking in confusion at the cover.
“That’s the problem,” said Ben. “There’s the official version of the past, and there’s the real past.”
“How do you know which version is real?” Molly asked, genuinely curious.
“Start paying attention to who’s telling the story,” said Carol. “The story changes depending on who’s telling it.”
Molly put the book away but not her questions.
They entered New Mexico at Texline.

“Going Up the Country” indeed. I was not familiar with Canned Heat, at all, but I knew this song of theirs from its radio play (it was also sung at Woodstock), and knew it was considered a “rural hippie anthem” — and we’re getting into a new hippie incarnation now, with Ben and Carol and baby Moonglow along for the ride, and an education Molly and Norman would never have received at home in Charleston. 

Chapter 28 begins a new way of seeing the wide world and those who inhabit different places in it, and hold different stories from the history we’ve been told. 

A totally different experience of living awaits Molly and Norman in New Mexico’s communes, populated by young people who are trying to carve out an existence away from materialism, commercialism, and the life and goals of their parents… and far away from war.

I knew I would need expert readers here, as we segued into New Mexico, and we got them, from enrolled members of Indian tribes in the area — some of whom were students at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe in 1969, to those “kids” who had actually lived and worked in the New Mexico communes in 1969 and built a life there.

What an education *I* received as well. Research can take you very far, but to hear people’s stories who lived that time, and to be the lucky recipient of their expertise and knowledge about your subject matter… this is essential to writing history. You want to get it right.

And you want to have a dog… you neeed a dog:

Molly came around the corner from the bathrooms and the ice machine and saw her cousin with a garden hose, a bottle of shampoo, and something living, white with foamy suds.
“We’ve got a dog!” Norman called as he wrestled with the animal, who clearly wanted to be anywhere than where he currently was.
Molly stalked past Norman without a word and boarded the bus.
They had a dog.

Chapter 28.