by Art Chantry (firstname.lastname@example.org)
1965 was one of those pivot years for pop/rock-n-roll/boomer culture. beatlemania was in full swing, garage bands were erupting all over america, motown was dragging black pop to the top of the charts, los angeles was a teen mecca and san francisco was taking their first acid trips. this time magazine cover from may 21, 1965, is the typical (but sorta lame) attempt by that most mainstream of american news magazines to attempt to cover this ‘new’ culture phenom in a safe and digestible way for the amercian middle class. the performers on this cover (the beach boys, trini lopez, the supremes, petula clark, the righteous brothers and herman’s hermits representing the british invasion!) are all hot on the charts but sort of tame and safe and familiar to the old school culture. even the go-go dancers are fully clothed.
this cover is called a “montage”. it’s differentiated from a “collage” by the simple fact that it’s all photographic. a collection of photos arranged into a whole statement is a montage and it classically looks exactly like this. when you start to add graphic elements (or elements from anywhere other than photos), it instantly becomes a collage. however, even this montage is sorta lame, even for time magazine. when you deal with an explosive topic like mid-sixties rock, then you have be careful not to throw any gas on the fire, i guess. those hormones are dangerous!
but, the thing i enjoy about this cover is the mere fact that time magazine is attempting to write about something they really can’t understand and have no clue how to explain. this is great example of the big problem with subcultural language – a big part of it’s existance hinges on remaining exclusive and “inside”. rock and roll was the musical language of an new american elite – the baby boom teenager, a new culture unlike anything seen before in our country. it was like an invasion form another planet, overwhelming in number and impenetrable in voice. america (true to form) was terrified.
this is one of those ridiculous images that shows what is happening to the country by simply not being able to show it accurately. it’s a half-truth disguised as reality. this is a moment when rock and roll came to a full boil and was beautiful and dynamic and delicious. this artifact shows us the baby boom culture pablum just before it all boiled over and spoiled the whole meal.