Saturday, September 26, 2009

Maybe You Really Had To Have Been There

When I started doing the research for the group I chose to feature this week, I found a phrase in the first paragraph of their Wikipedia entry that made me stop and think. From Wikipedia: Allmusic music journalist, Jason Ankeny states "Clad in Civil War era Union Army uniforms (complete with fictitious military ranks) and bizarrely pedophilic lyrics, Puckett and the Union Gap were in their own way as far-out and singular as any other act of the period." My first reaction to that statement was a shocked "Where did THAT come from?"

This was a group that sang love songs. So they dressed in Civil War uniforms, so what? Paul Revere and The Raiders dressed in Revolutionary War uniforms. This was the age of hippies who dressed in whatever they chose to dress in. We were striking out on our own, being nonconformists and yet conforming on some really strange level. However, my issue with that Wikipedia entry is not with the sartorial choices the band made. My issue is with "bizarrely pedophilic lyrics".

Beginning at about the age of 15, we girls couldn't wait to become 18. We experimented with clothing styles and makeup that made us look older. We were interested, not in the drippy "boys" of our age, we were interested in MEN! Those 20, 21 and sometimes as old as 22 adult males of our acquaintance who appeared to us to have so much more to offer. Did we fully understand what it was they had to offer? Uhhhh, no. This was NOT yet the age of burning bras and multiple sexual partners. We read about that happening in a place called San Francisco, but we didn't live there. We lived in Middle America where we had the same values our parents and grandparents had.

We lived in the smaller cities and towns of America where we went to church on Sunday. There was not yet a birth control pill. We didn't worry about STD's we worried about getting pregnant. For us that might have been a fate worse than death, and we were loathe to find that out. Pregnant girls were not allowed to continue their education in those days. They were deemed to be "that" kind of girl and not someone the rest of us would have been allowed to associate with. Our lives were totally controlled by parental whims. We had rules and woe betide those of us who broke them. Our parents would KILL us.

The "older men" that we were dating were also raised with the same rules. Their parents still had some influence over their behavior. They were raised to understand that if they became fathers before they were married, they'd better make sure the girl was the right choice for them because she would be their wives. There were exceptions to the rule, but no female of my acquaintance wished to find herself pregnant and out on the street so we pretty much all, despite rampant running hormones, controlled ourselves. It was easier to say no and not have problems with the "men" some of us were dating.

I suppose, that for someone unfamiliar with the society and culture of the 60's, the songs that Gary sang would have that pedophilic connection. Things are different now. On TV we can watch Maury Povich deliver DNA test results that show women to have had so many partners at the time they became pregnant that they have no idea who the baby daddy is. These days it's common for single mothers to have multiple children with multiple fathers. That concept is accepted in the very way that teenaged girls of the 60's found it acceptable to be infatuated with the "older men" who were so much more interesting than the schoolboys we saw every day. Besides, how else would we get to ride around in those Thunderbirds, Mustangs, Camaros and Cadillac Fleetwoods they drove? If the boys of our acquaintance had a car it was usually on loan from Dad. Family sedans, not the flashy cars we ooohed and ahhhed over. Looking back on it all, maybe it was the car and not the guy we were interested in.


  1. My guess is that poor Jason just got picked to see a photo and hear a song and then be charged with writing something brilliant about it...and may not had his brilliant pen that day. Perhaps he was also not old enough to be in the period as you nicely describe in your piece, and therefore couldn't relate.

    A well written look back to another time.


  2. I really wasn't a big fan of their music, but when one places them in the times they were popular during, there is a relevance to their material.

    The owner of the Cadillac Fleetwood which was a 1956 model, pink with a black top, died in 1968 in Viet Nam. There is a part of me that has regretted all the times I said no for the last 41 years.