Eisenhower and the Hippies

Back in the late 1990s I became enamoured with the surf-punk band Man or Astro-Man who, if you’re not familiar with, I strongly recommend. They’re a lot of fun.

One of my favourite tracks of theirs is Eisenhower and the Hippies. It’s firmly lodged in my brain and pops out at all sort of moments.

Turns out it’s a bit of a rarity, being from a niche covers album Oh Canaduh, celebrating the 1977-81 Vancouver punk scene. Eisenhower and the Hippies was originally recorded by a band called UJ3RK5, pronounced You Jerk. The 5 is silent. Because of course it is.

There’s a nice personal history of UJ3RK5 here, including the tit-bit that William Gibson was in the band for a short while. And they were featured on mp3 blog (remember mp3 blogs?) Silent Shout.

I was excited to hear their version and it turns out to be pretty much as the Astro-Men interpreted it, albeit with some odd noises towards the end.

The cause of this exploration was a planned appropriation of the title for my own uses and a desire to learn what the actual lyrics were, in case doing so would be a terrible faux pas. All I’ve found so far are:

Eisenhower and the hippies / one synonymous with the other / try to make it clean as houndstooth.

Which is… um…

I did, however, discover that the title is taken from an article written by conceptual artist Dan Graham, as outlined in this Frieze article:

Eisenhower and the Hippies is ostensibly about an exhibition of paintings by Dwight D. Eisenhower held at the New York Cultural Center in May 1967. Graham’s essay is partly a parody of a typical think piece in a magazine, but it is also a highly ironic, psychedelic reflection on the Eisenhower era of the 50s, the time of the artist’s childhood, through the lens of the mid-60s. The irony is that although the 60s counter-culture was avowedly anti-Eisenhower, anti-conformist and anti-suburban, Eisenhower and the Hippies suggests that many of its values - such as those about a communal future and about some great past - in fact look suspiciously like the middle-class dreams of the previous decade.

In other words, the mainstream culture and the counter culture, they’re not so different.

(After a LONG search I found the article as a scan of a photocopy of a book on an academic pirate site and have popped it here if you’re curious. It’s quite nicely written.)

My intention is to use ARPANET and the Hippies as the heading of a piece about the curious connection between Back-to-the-Land hippies and Cold War systems programmers, two groups which should be diametrically opposed but which, it is suggested by Fred Turner, came together to define the culture of the Internet in the 1980s, laying the ideological foundation of the online tech explosion post-2000.

It was just an amusing reference that had a nice rhythm and I didn’t think meant anything. It’s somewhat delightful to discover it fits the original perfectly.

And also to add a new 70s Canadian art-punk band to my faves pile.