Come gather ’round peopleBob Dylan, 1965
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin.
In the company of the likes of Frank Zappa and Richie Havens, Eric Burdon and Johnny Winter, not to mention Jimi, George, Ringo, and even Mike, the headstrong Hendrix manager (and Nancy’s lover), Nancy converted life experience into rays of sunshine that relegated ordinary reality to the shadows. She lived under the spell of what might be called “profusions of artistic grandeur,” which were seamlessly attached to the culture and activities of hippiedom, and of the 60s. She wrote:
The breakfast of the Sixties woke me sensually like a butter drenched warm piece of toast.
I breathed it in, I tasted it.
The sun was so much a part of then.
It lay on the sidewalks and climbed up our bodies.
It cleared our sinuses and made our eyes be more forgiving.
And our hearts be more open.
I loved the sienna of my ink, because it had the same golden color.
We weren’t afraid to feel passion and let it show.
And go where the wind blew. Cause it seemed so reliable.
It was the era of the idiot-savant, the runaway child, the reluctant soldier, the unfaithful troubadour, the rock ‘n roll geisha
At the same time for Nancy, the 60’s made the extraordinary seem ordinary, as she writes:
One thing the Sixties did for me was take the mystery out of the circus.
You didn’t know where to look ‘behind the scenes’ anymore.
Clowns were all over the place.
Freaks walked the streets.
The glitter was falling in broad daylight.
Your mind was boggled and your flesh tingled, as each new experience washed over you.
And it was such a short distance between the audience and the center ring.
The sideshow was your own backyard.
And the dare-devils. You wished they’d come home and stop risking their lives.
Sometimes what seemed extraordinary was indeed merely ordinary. When Richie Havens personally read Nancy’s hand-written page of poetry, he commented:
There’s a silver light coming off the page.
Richie said my poems affected his eyes the same way sitar music affected his ears.
I was caught in the grace of the moment, and the creative process, and was very confused when he tried to change the direction of the evening by trying to kiss me.
I was profoundly disappointed that he ruined the moment.
Years later I ran into Richie again.
His manager wanted to talk to me about a movie they wanted to make about Jimi.
I didn’t want to participate in their project.
As a matter of fact I hoped the project wouldn’t go any further after I saw a piece of paper on their desk, on which someone had written the name “Jimmy Hendricks.”
The filmmaker didn’t even know who Jimi was!
When Jimi died in 1970, Nancy wasn’t prepared for the hard realities of a life increasingly separate from the creative dazzle she was accustomed to, and that she associated with the times. As she wrote:
All my dreams, anticipation, education, absorption. It all found a way to be expressed, in love, creativity and production.
I was proud of what I was doing, satisfied by what I was receiving……
And then it was over.
It confused me, hurt me, stopped me and froze me.
I had no reservoir, no safety net, no support system, no clue.
I was feeling along the walls.
I could never have predicted that anyone would put a uniform or a suit on anymore.
A fatal flaw.
I was unprepared to integrate myself into the ticket-buying public.
I was walking a hubris high-wire.
There was something charming about the vagabond nature of the musicians then.
Society types were attracted to their freedom and their mystery.
Remember when John Lennon said, before the Queen, ‘just rattle your jewelry?’
Today the ‘bling’ on the stage could sink the Titanic.
We’re not charmed so much anymore as brass-knuckled.
Figure heads are be-jeweled. Workers need their hands free.
It takes time to un-pimp your hide.
FM radio played everything. Long cuts, uninterrupted album sides, very little talk. No yelling or selling. It was sort of reverent. They used stereo so much better.
They played with your ears and the inside of your head. They placed sounds the way a painter places colors or shapes or lines. Your mind was the canvas.
The brass knuckles of bling were nowhere to be found.
You don’t change the Mona Lisa to look like a soup can. So why do people re-mix ‘old master’ music?
And Nancy had a sense that, for all the free-wheeling of the 60s, in actuality everyone was caught up in a much larger and more mysterious movement. She wrote:
We, the participants of the 60s, were recruited. As were the soldiers who fought in Vietnam.
Yet, she quotes Hendrix as if to highlight the caveat that we can always make choices, even when under pressure to pick up a gun and shoot:
JIMI: “I pick up my axe and fight like a farmer now.”
Machine Gun, Band of Gypsys, Jimi Hendrix