Writing can capture life’s freshness and hold it suspended on the page so that, in thirty or three hundred or three thousand years, reader’s may realize, "Ah, as I live now, they lived then.” Thus writes Michael Lydon in the introduction to Flashbacks: Eyewitness Accounts of the Rock Revolution 1964-1974. A journalist with sharp observations and keen insights, these collected pieces do indeed capture an era.
The sixties bring to mind a variety of references for different people who either came of age during that decade or fell under its spell after the fact. Graduating from college at the decade’s midpoint, Lydon became Newsweek’s London correspondent, covering the UK’s burgeoning music and cultural scene. Two years later he became the first managing editor for the newly launched Rolling Stone magazine. His new book celebrates those heady days’, before marketing directives affected the shape and size of music writing. Social commentary was as relevant as the music, giving a context for the era’s changes. Political upheaval gave a clear delineation to the freshly minted young adults. As well-established record companies sought to jump on the bandwagon, it sometimes seemed as if all rules were tossed to winds and anything could happen. Reports from Liverpool, the Monterey Pop Festival, Haight-Ashbury ballroom shows and Dylan’s return to the stage with The Band; The Grateful Dead on a dud night, Aretha Franklin on a transcendent night, The Rolling Stones raising touring to new levels of earthy grandeur (and record breaking earnings) — nothing’s glossed over. It’s reportage by a writer with curious ears. Whether backstage, in the studio or making home visits, Lydon was in the thick of it, and possessed the smarts to wrestle with the big picture as well.