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Same As It Ever Was, Then And Now
By Mick Polich - 06/06/2009 - 09:28 AM EDT

Same as it ever was, but even more so – job losses, the economy, two wars, protest music, ’schlock’ music and pop culture……

Here’s the back story on this column: a few months ago, I submitted an idea to my wife’s hometown newspaper for an on-going column, ”Confessions Of A Iowa Rock And Roll Codger”. ‘Nuff said there.

Well, it was met with a tepid response for many valid reasons – probably a big one is the obvious: newspapers are dying off, and you want to keep with some sure things before you go jumping into the lake without your life jacket. I understand - completely.

So, rather than let some perfectly acceptable words go to waste on my hard drive, I decided to slice and dice, and present this baby as a Blue Collar column. We go back in time, per usual (I promise – the self-loathing will end soon, stick with the ol’ Mickster….). And I’ll try to have a music tie-in, because after all, this is a music column for a music website!

Recently, I had the pleasure of browsing the ‘new’ Schlitz beer website. I even ordered a Schlitz logo t-shirt, which seemed to be the thing to do because it was there, calling to me. Before you look at your screen and say,” O.k., NOW where are we going with this one….”, let me ramble a bit.

Schlitz beer was a good old upper Midwest mainstay for three decades – 1950’s thru the 1970’s. This was before Budweiser took over every stinkin’ ballpark, happy hour function, and backyard BBQ from here to Cucamonga and back again, brainwashing the entire social hour effect to wit that you can’t have social hour with a BUD. More so, Schlitz was a good, old CATHOLIC beer, and I know this to be true because my uncle and aunt ran a bar and a beer distributorship back in the day that sold a lot of Schlitz and Grain Belt brew. Seems you could give up sweets for Lent, but God forbid that you take away my Schlitz and Grain Belt…….

Anyway, to the present: the new Schlitz website is pretty fun, and geared directly towards us baby boomers that grew up with the stuff ( ads and layout geared retro/modern,1960’s,1970’s hooked into today’s culture). So, I get to thinking about my uncle Chuck, and my time spent on his farm….

Chuck Jesser was a service manager for Howlett Chevrolet in downtown Des Moines from the 1950’s thru the 1970’s. This was back when General Motors still meant something of integrity and value in the automotive industry. Uncle Chuck liked scotch, stayed single until his deathbed, attended daily and weekly mass, golfed, and listened to the Minnesota Twins nightly during the summer months. He also kept some Schlitz beer, of course, stocked for all his golf buddies who would come out to visit us on the farm near of Des Moines.

I say ’us’ because I lived with Uncle Chuck, Uncle Joe, and Aunt Boots for a time in the late 1960’s out on their farm. All three were brothers and sister, living single on the family farm north of town (another story for another time).

 I was there for a few reasons – my mom had died a few years earlier, and my dad worked nights at John Deere in Ankeny, Ia. until he could get a chance at a coveted ‘day position’. Well, I spent time like many of us rural kids did running around that farm when I wasn’t in school at All Saints , down at the creek back behind our barn catching crawdads and tadpoles, and trying to figure out how to start up my uncle’s BSA 350 motorcycle (oh yeah, it needs a KEY….).

 To accommodate the Howlett Chevrolet dealership, my uncle had the company bring the cars to the farm so he could take potential customers from the downtown lot to see ‘em. Now, of course, we had all the keys to all the cars in a coffee can that sat on the porch (some of you can see where this is headed).

“Hey – I can get into this 1970 Malibu, sit in it, and pretend I’m Don Garlits doing the fastest NHRA quarter mile on record at Cornhusker Speedway (yep, the drag strip was over in… NEBRASKA! Stick with, world peeps – we’ll get familiar with the upper Midwest yet…..)!”

So I did – several times over the few summers that I lived there. Now, how crazy was it to let a 10 year-old boy have access to all those car keys? Nutty, I know – we wouldn’t even think of setting up that sort of thing today - but it’s one of the fondest memories of my life. I had a ‘real-life’ toy to pretend with!

Several columns back, when I talked about FM radio, I had mentioned right around this time in my life, my dad had gotten me a Craig AM/FM/broadband radio/cassette player (the then-equivalent of an i Touch or iPod). Well, not only was I soaking up the sounds of FM radio, but I delved into the schlock hits of the day on AM. Edison Lighthouse, Steam, Pilot – pretty much the manufactured groups of the day  - the ‘brain trust’ writes the songs, produces and records them, gets some good lookin’ youngsters to front the b. s. trail and, zoota – one-hit wonders!

Anyway, that was a pretty good spot to be in life. I was soaking up a lot of pop culture, and a few years away from picking up a musical instrument to take a stab at making a living playing music. And a lot of what I see today in the world from a social and cultural standpoint, happened back then. I felt pretty safe in my little cocoon in rural Iowa then – maybe not so safe now. But what has changed? My outlook, getting older, perspective – THAT’S what has changed, not these darn kids and their crazy digital machines, propelling the world to heel in a hand basket.

I would bet dollars to donuts that my uncle Chuck thought back then if these god damn hippies would be all rounded up and thrown in jail, if the world could still follow the coolness of the Kennedy/”Camelot” years – all Rat Pack - hip in sports shirts and scotch. Forget the liberation of the minorities, the younger set, music and culture. Damn pot smokin’ Beatles anyhow – bastards oughta burn - now the entire country has this hippie shit attitude…..

So, how many people are saying that NOW in respect to what’s happening today?

I would venture to bet quite a few.

We’ve all got our childhood memories –some of them safe, some not so safe. We can immerse ourselves in them to escape what we perceive as a harsh world encapsulating us quickly. Things haven’t changed as far as outlook, especially when you get older. I’ve actually heard from my set of baby boomers,” Well, why don’t they make music like they used to? Spiral Staircase – “Come Saturday Morning” – now there was a SONG!!!”

Then, so it goes – all the Green Day heads will be wondering 20 years hence, why the hell nobody is making music like Green Day nowadays (and I happen to like Green Day).

Hey David Byrne, same as it ever was, same as it ever was……

And……I received my Schlitz t-shirt in the mail a few days ago – a beautiful thing,indeed.

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