This non sequitor that invaded this place and state of mind was none other than the New York avant garde rock group The Velvet Underground. Already, the group had recorded an unheard-of song about matter-of-fact addiction called "Heroin" in which the protagonist both rationalizes his addiction and admits that death awaits him. This was more than ten years before J.J. Cale would write his famous song "Cocaine". "Venus in Furs" further assaulted the senses with its unflinching depiction of masochism. The Velvet Underground did not receive a happy hearing in California.
From From the Velvets to the Voidoids: A Pre-Punk History for a Post-Punk World:
Rather than indulging in the contemporary fascination with hallucinogenics, the Velvets were an amphetamine band – in every sense – loud, cynical, brutal and frenetic. They were not interested in mellowing out an audience. (p. 22)
[Velvet guitarist] Sterling Morrison: When we finally made it to San Francisco we were attacked directly. They convinced themselves that we were there to destroy the innocence and purity of their music. Ralph Gleason said that we were the urban evil of New York, and we were there to corrupt the simple beauty of the California music. (p. 23)
- It is easy to say that hippie optimism about the human condition, just like contemporary Evangelical and secular optimism, is related to the optimism of the Enlightenment and Great Awakenings. That would be true. But it has always been so. It has been the default human position from the very beginning. No one wants to hear an accurate diagnosis. Even if it is true. Especially if it is true.
It is said that a minister can empty out a cocktail party with talk of original sin, total depravity, the bondage of the will and other pessimistic insights into human potential. So, when it happens, just know that it has happened before; when the Velvet Underground emptied out Haight-Ashbury.
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