It’s fascinating to notice those weird moments when historical eras overlap. My husband, who is 10+ years older than I am, can remember seeing milk being delivered to homes in his neighborhood via horse-drawn wagons in the 1950s. Here is a cool short oral-history video on horse-drawn milk wagons being used into the 1950s.
Dairies continued delivery with horses well into the 1960s if the anthropological record of The Andy Griffith Show can be trusted, which in 1967 featured an episode on the retirement of a dairy delivery horse (“Goodbye, Dolly,” IMDB plot summary here).
And speaking of 1967, I’m working on an academic article about movie trailers right now, and I’ve noticed “For What It’s Worth” popping up pretty frequently as a shorthand way to contextualize a film’s setting and mood as part of the late-1960s counterculture. From the twangy guitar pings of the song’s opening notes, viewers can instantly orient themselves to the feeling of that time/place in America.
And yet, this movie-trailer rhetoric is misleading. The music has created an identity that we assign to the era, and this identity is saturated with meanings we’ve attached to it. “For What It’s Worth” peaked on the Billboard chart at #7 on March 25, 1967.
Yet a year and a half later, on October 12, 1968, The Vogues also peaked at #7 with “My Special Angel.”
So a month and a half AFTER the protests/riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, this very UN-1960s-counterculture and very square, circa-1950s-era song (Bobby Helms first recorded it in 1957) broke the Billboard chart’s top ten. Very disorienting!
Movies/media rarely capture the anachronisms that, without irony, inhabit the same physical and temporal spaces of an era. Truth is almost always stranger than fiction when you take the time to think about it.