“Acoustic or Electric?”


I retrace my musical steps to introduce my experiences in Cambridge at the Club 47. This  coffee house, in the basement of a building across the street from the Harvard Book Store(The Coop) presented live acoustic music most nights of the week. It was inexpensive, easy to walk to, and hosted wonderful singers.

Here I first heard Tom Rush, Eric Anderson, Phil Ochs, and Judy Collins. The atmosphere was quiet so that you could easily hear the words to the songs. Songs explored issues pertinent to the crowd, from love lost to political action. I felt at home there in a way I often didn’t feel in the intellectual climate at Harvard.

Reflecting on this time in my life, I realize it was then that I chose the “path less traveled” and stuck with acoustic music, eschewing the more popular amplified sound. The Rolling Stones were very popular at that time, but I found their music ugly and disturbing. Perhaps my disinterest in drugs helped me choose which musical path to follow. Perhaps it was my abhorrence of loud loud loud sounds. Perhaps it was a distaste for bad lyrics. At any rate, I was an English major because words mattered. I wanted to be able to hear the words, think about the words and remember the words.

In the last twenty years, I have enjoyed discovering a whole new group of what are now called “singer-songwriters” rather than folk musicians.  There exists a whole raft of excellent writers playing acoustic instruments whom I now follow. I will write about them later on in this musical odyssey. Suffice it to say, I don’t need to follow the very popular “tribute bands” now raking in millions from my generation. I don’t need to remember those old loud songs. I can peacefully listen to the new singers who choose their words as carefully as the ones I listened to in Cambridge in the late 1960’s.

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