Country Music (1956-72)
There is no period in country music that resonates today as much as it did in 1956-1972. But you’d have to dig beyond just the hits—into the B-sides and deep album cuts to get to the real meat. These were the “glory days” of day-to-day living in the United States. There were great advances toward a legitimate middle class, with movement toward racial equality, unionism, and anti-war sentiment. But in reality, the ruling class never really took their boots off the necks off the working class. The “war on poverty” would be the least successful of the progressive movement.
The myth went that even the unskilled and uneducated had access to great paying union jobs, a stable family environment, an education, and the latest greatest Chevy V-8 in the driveway. There was rock ‘n’ roll on the radio. Happy days were here again. Peace and love would triumph over war, hot and cold. But despite the historical summary, this never applied to the poor. And the ruling class has been working ever since to roll back the clock—to the 19th century.
On Record Day this year, the folks at The Omni Recording Corporation (Iron Mountain Analogue Research Facility) released a 16-track version of “The Beginning of the End.” That it would be an Australian outfit to release such a collection should surprise no one. While major American entertainment companies focus on perpetuating the myth (i.e. Garth Brooks TV concert specials), it often seems that for a deeper understanding of classic American music, one must often look overseas. Tracking down master tapes of such recordings, years of research, and a 21st century re-mastering comes from a labor of love, not a love of money.
With only 500 copies of the vinyl pressed, there was a need to hear more—thus a much-welcomed expanded version (30 tracks) on CD. The extra 14 tracks add to, not detract from, the original concept.
So how were the working (lower) class faring in those years? Well, it seems they weren’t faring too well, subjected to the same worldly fears, financial woes, and personal angst that we experience today. The song from which this album takes its name, Jimmy Griggs’ “The Beginning of the End,” captures that in it’s opening line. “People say they believe in love/ But the hate goes on.” And what rings more truer today than David Price’s “National Everybody Hate Me Week,” especially in the battlegrounds of social media? Mell Tillis’ “Survival of the Fittest?” It’s an early exploration into environmental concerns. And a questioning of faith.
Opening and closing with two different versions of “Searching,” The Beginning of the End shows exactly how much thought went into this project. As long as we search (and act) victory for the ruling class is not a guarantee.
Rating: A (best compilation of 2018)
Bill Glahn’s commentary at itsahighwaysong.blogspot.com