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Friday, July 22, 2011

Golden Dawn - It's Gonna Be A Golden Day

Golden Dawn - It's Gonna Be A Golden Day

It’s Gonna Be A Golden Day

This band is not to be confused with the 90s ritual-magick band. I’m sure I’ll love them too, but (like Nirvana) they should have chosen a different name; this one has been taken since the 60s. The Golden Dawn to which I presently refer produced some of the hardest-rocking metaphysics you’ll ever hear. Texas produced some of the finest music of the era, a good deal of it emanating from the International Artists label, who had Thirteenth Floor Elevators hogging most of the glory but also preserved such true freaks as the Red Crayola for incredulous modern ears.

That would have been plenty, but they also had The Golden Dawn on the roster, who if the Elevators had never existed would have been the best psychedelic band in Texas. Perhaps in fact they were, but they only managed one album (A Power Plant in 1968) and not a very long one at that. Laboring under the shadow of the Elevators and the Crayola, their star never quite attained the ‘legendary’ luminescence of their peers--but Texas music doesn’t get any better than this. The Golden Dawn was out on as farflung a spiritual tangent as were the Elevators, yet they played much tighter rock and roll. (The Red Crayola were lightyears past either, but they ended up severing themselves from the most minimal standards of coherence to get there.)

So there’s a chunk of the playing field that the Golden Dawn will have wholly unto themselves for all eternity. And a glorious chunk it is. Their liner notes attest that they were as heavily into meditation as they were into acid (they weren’t shy about the fact they’d read a little Crowley either). Their LP (both cover and title) was as unabashed a celebration of the triumph of sacred herb as anybody could desire. One wishes more present-day bands would be as militant about it. There are things like The Chronic, but I can’t think of much from the ‘rock and roll’ bands--not the Americans at least.

There’s a thriving scene in England around Hawkwind, Bevis Frond, Gong, and a hundred other interlocking bands. Prime Minister Blair, for all his punk roots, probably won’t consider giving them their Stonehenge back (as if Maggie had ever had the right to take it away), but even if they don’t have their standing stones the freaks still have each other. In America, unfortunately, hive mentality remains on the throne. So if by chance you inhale, don’t hold your breath.

Remember that cereal commercial, filmed entirely in yellow, tawny, electric brown and orange, and featuring sunbeams glistening off of a haystack’ Some corn-pone voice would drawl, ‘It’s gonna be a gol-den day!‘ Surely there were many lovely days for this band, sneaking a toke or two behind the barn. Ah, yes, people breathed easier in them thar days...The hell they did--you don’t believe that, do you?

We’re talking Texas! In the 60s! Paranoia was one of the very emblems of hipness. If you were into any sort of chemical adventuring beyond coffee, beer or cigarettes, you were best off assuming your phone was being tapped and the FBI was following you around, because it was not at all inconceivable. And the local cops would be more than happy to pick up from the feds whatever slack there was.It was one of those historic changing-of-the-guard moments. You know what that means--you’re busted! Or at least fearful of it. Nowadays it’s hard to appreciate what a brave gesture it was for a rock band in that place and time to put it all on the line, flaunting their lifestyle choices in so provocative a manner.

These people truly were ‘outrageous’ in a way to which most moderns have forgotten even to aspire--because back then the outraging of certain authority figures over that particular set of issues could get you anything from a fractured skull to 10-to-20 years in jail. Or both. Lest we forget, in the more white-trash areas of Texas (and just about anyplace else in the country where the kids still eat lead paint chips) such a fate can easily be manufactured for you, to this very day.

If I may digress: That’s one thing nobody is ever willing to give Deadheads credit for--true grit. Punk was little more than a fashion statement after the first few years, and unlikely to get you more than a lot of dirty looks, but Deadheads (especially in the years before their MTV coronation as a ‘valid’ subculture) had guts. Year after year they’d go out on tour, knowing full well that they were sitting ducks for every narc within 500 miles of the show who was too lazy or chickenshit to earn a badge doing real policework and picked upon lamblike suburban tie-dyes for the crime of flaunting themselves in front of somebody else’s parents instead. (Fun Facts To Know And Tell: During WWII, the theme song of the Bulgarian resistance was entitled ‘He Falls In the Battle For Our Freedom.’ I’m not even Bulgarian, and yet it comes to mind.)

What does all this have to do with the Golden Dawn’
What, you mean the G.D. initials aren’t enough‘..welllllll... The only parallel in recent times that I can draw to the atmosphere of young Texas in the late 60s is that of Deadheads in the early 90s being thrown in jail for nothing more or worse than their chemical preferences. (Which is going to be the next cultural war, after we win the one for freedom in our sexual preferences. Sign up now. We’re gonna need something to keep us entertained in our old age.) Anyway...I ramble ridiculously, but the fact remains that The Golden Dawn were Texas kids who were into peace, pot and microdot, as well as meditation and various metaphysical practices...and while they never were as persecuted so publicly and spectacularly as the Elevators, they lived and breathed and did their very best to practice their peace-and-love in a poisonous, rednecked, hate-filled environment not of their making, which is why they played their rock and roll with a viciousness that the Dead Kennedys or Fear never had a prayer of attempting.

Which is not to say that the latter bands weren’t louder or more raucous overall, but when all is said and done, they were merely doing what was expected of them. When the Golden Dawn were doing their thing nobody had ever heard it before, and there was no niche that had already been carved out in society for them. Nowadays you can go to the mall and the New Age boutique is right next to the body-piercing cubicle, but people back then were obliged to make everything up as they went along.

This is why the freaks of the 60s were the freaks of the century. There are modes of expression developed by latter generations that were inconceivable during the Summer of Love, but the only reason there was a possibility for such things was that the 70s and 80s kids stood on the shoulders of giants. One could say that there would have been no hippies had it not been for Elvis on the one hand and the beatniks on the other--but the hippies didn’t feel any particular debt to either, nor was there any trace of the kill-the-father hostility that the hippies ultimately inspired. Which is the other thing the punks owed to the hippies--a context.

Johnny Rotten used to parade around in a homemade, self-mutilated ‘I Hate Pink Floyd’ t-shirt. I’ve never lost any sleep over that, but it begs the question: what would Johnny have been had there never been a Pink Floyd to hate’ Precious little--a Teddy Boy with bad teeth, muttering to himself about life on the dole. Since killing-the-father is what punk is all about, one couldn’t have expected anyone to admit it at the time, but now that ‘punk’ is synonymous with Boring Old Fart it’s long overdue that somebody ought to ‘fess up.

It’s not likely to happen, and I guess it doesn’t matter. As far as the ‘ber-society is concerned, ‘punk’ and ‘hippie’ both are synonymous with Loser, and people should be distracted from making any finer distinctions, much less researching the question for themselves. But if you care to, A Power Plant (their only album--the French liner notes bemoan the fact as much as I do), was released on CD in 1992 and can be located without too much difficulty. It’s the crappy French reissue label, Eva, but that’s infinitely preferable to the crappy American reissue label, Collectables.

You will find it to be one of the most simultaneously enlightened and pissed-off records you will ever hear. For all the snarling rock and roll tunes (‘Evolution,’ ‘Starvation,’ ‘I’ll Be Around) on it, there are also beautiful mellow numbers that nonetheless have an edge to them. There’s even one midtempo tune that sounds like the Monkees. No matter. The rock and roll on this record kicks and growls and leaves tooth-marks on your aura even as it elevates your consciousness. $26’ Cheap at twice the price. Buy!

Steve Czapala

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