Review: “Daydream Sunset” – By Ron Jacobs

June 7, 2020

Review: “Daydream Sunset” By Ron Jacobs

Ah, the 1970’s.
Been there for sure, it’s when I had my first alcohol, first car, first real girlfriend…
It seemed like the 1970’s hit a pause button. Radicals and activists had paved the way in civil rights, women’s rights, environmental issues, and the war in Vietnam stumbled to a close.
Oregon’s (Republican!) Governor Tom McCall had decriminalized pot smoking, and car culture still captivated the youth. Cops would catch us with beer and just make us pour it out.

Yet beneath the pleasant, hazy feeling of the era, the kettle was still boiling.
In his 2015 book “Daydream Sunset – The 60’s counterculture In The 70’s”, Ron Jacobs details the continuing struggle of the “daydreamers”. Hippies, activists, music festivals, and the authorities – who had a completely different type of daydream.

Jacobs does a good job of extending the timeline of radical struggle well into the 70’s, although some of the terms of activism had changed. Newly found liberation carried with it the hangover of white and male privilege, women remained subservient or were fantasized as “Earth Mama’s”.
While marijuana and LSD were widely available, societal tolerance for drugs varied from State to State.

Add to this the crushing boot-heal of the Reagan “counter-revolution” was steadily marching into existence. Tensions were still high in many quarters.
In “Daydream Sunset” Jacobs writes lyrically as he plays us the soundtrack of the ’70’s. Much of his analysis is wrapped in a smokey wine-stain on an electric guitar. Jacobs reminds us of forgotten moments that had great impact at the time.
For instance, who remembers that on May third of 1971 12,000 protesters were arrested in Washington DC?
Jacobs writes that the 4th amendment (search and seizure) was pretty much toast by then.

Jacobs is keen on explaining the transition of the Hippies to The Yippies, from Rock to Punk, from pot to PCP. Each move on the board fogged one element of counterculture while a new one rose to the surface. In an interesting twist, Jacobs crosses the Atlantic to inspect European radicalism and how it relates to the American counterparts. It appears in many cases, the Germans and Italians in particular, were even more radical. Jacobs states that while activists in the US operated in a post-Marxist/neo-hippie/liberal decentralism, Europeans had a Marxist and left-anarchist analysis. Additionally, he suggests that European protests were (if you can believe it) way more confrontational than in the US.
Despite the cloak of anarchism, there was a surprising amount of organized cooperation for social needs.
Jacobs writes: “Where young people in the United States turned to apolitical pursuits (or joined the various campaigns designed to elect liberal Democrats), the oppositional youth movements in Europe squatted buildings, fought nuclear power and forced the corporate state into crisis”.

In “Daydream Sunset”, Ron Jacobs plays the high notes and low notes of the era. He does a pretty good job describing the radical movements even if he doesn’t fill in all the blanks.
For instance, he has only two page references for “FBI”. That agency’s brutal “COINTEL” counter-intelligence operation killed and ruined people. There is no mention of that program. In the several references to the pseudo-revolutionary Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA) Jacobs neglects to inform that the entire program was run by a CIA official embedded in Vacaville Prison – (see “Revolution’s End” – Schreiber).
In the section on women’s liberation publications, no mention is made that Gloria Steinem of Ms. Magazine was a CIA asset.
Perhaps more attention could have been given to the continuity between the dismantling of The Black Panthers, The American Indian and Chicano movements, and the turn to the far-right our country finds itself in today.

But those criticisms are just an afterthought. I loved “Daydream Sunset”, it took me back to my exciting teen years and gave a broad picture of the successes and failures of the ’60’s ethos sliding into the ’70’s.

This statement by Jacobs kind of sums it up:

“I am reminded of the response provided by Chou en Lai to a questioner who asked him what he thought the historical impact of the French Revolution was. Despite the fact that the revolution occurred almost two hundred years prior, Chou en Lai’s response was reported to have been, “It’s too early to tell”.

If you want to take a trippy jaunt through some revolutionary times with a great music “soundtrack”, grab a copy of “Daydream Sunset – The 60’s Counterculture In The 70’s”.

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