David Browne’s take on 1970 is an intriguing read. He takes four of the era’s major artists, The Beatles, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Simon & Garfunkel and James Taylor and in the telling of their struggles through that year reveals the ending of the dreams of the sixties; cultural and social as well as artistic. John Lennon suggested as much not long after in his song God and Jackson Browne would write his Before The Deluge and The Pretender on a similar thesis so nothing new there but the way Browne uses Let It Be, Deja Vu, Bridge Over Trouble Water and Sweet Baby James and the artists who made those records is an intriguing drama and argument. The idea might be better than the follow through but if you are a fan of the era and these particular artists, as I am, you end up glad that Browne’s wife suggested he do a book about his favourite artists and era. It is informative. I was amazed to learn things I didn’t know about The Beatles and he had me uploading the records that I carefully listened to while reading.
In the end I couldn’t help but ask a question that Belfast singer Brian Houston suggested over a Lisburn Road breakfast; did God bless the sixties with some kind of Renaissance and then withdraw it. Browne gives 1970 an almost Babel-like Biblical cataclysm. This book does argue reasonably well that the artistic dreams of the sixties were switched off just as the housing market was at the start of the recent recession. From Oasis to Fleet Foxes much of the last twenty years has been a rearranging or rediscovering what had been original back in the sixties. Was 1970 a watershed; Browne does his best with his argument and entertains as he attempts to convince. If you’re a fan of two or three or all of the four artists it’s a must read.