Counterculture Moments: CBC RetroBites

From the top-down: Iggy Pop, Hunter S. Thompson,
Jack Kerouac, and Jimi Hendrix
I absolutely love vintage footage of artist interviews and last fall I began to follow and collect YouTube clips from the CBC’s RetroBites series. Canada’s national public television and radio broadcaster has been putting out these fantastic selections from its rich archives for some time now, and I am always surprised and delighted with the great insight and material these vintage clips offer. I recently blogged on the topic of film director’s defending their craft with a great juxtaposition of CBC interviews done with Orson Welles, Leni Riefenstahl, and David Cronenberg, and it made for great classroom discussion with students about the question of artistic intent in the understanding of how meanings circulate for specific art projects.

In this post, I have collected interviews with four famous counterculture figures—Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, Jimmy Hendrix, and Iggy Pop. Starting with Jack Kerouac, his associations with and influence on the post-WWII Beat Generation are well known, but many may not realize his French-Canadian heritage and the profound role it played in the development of his oppositional politics. I find the brief yet powerful CBC interview fascinating for the way it captures Kerouac’s Quebecois accent (he even digresses into French) while defending the validity and power of the Beat movement. By contrast, Hunter S. Thompson’s defence of his infamous book on Hell's Angels culture is much lower key and signature blasé. Still, the inventor of “gonzo journalism” offers viewers more than a glimpse of his approach through the use of sarcasm, irony, and humour to expose his object of scrutiny. Moving on to Jimi Hendrix’s interview, we are presented with the famous musician as very relaxed and open to discussion on a range of topics, from underground radio, to his fans, and even the experimental nature of electronic music. His charisma is infectious in this clip, as is his demonstrated passion for tying music to social change. Finally, the Iggy Pop interview offers up a remarkable and beautifully concise defence of punk rock music by one of the movement’s most influential and innovative artists. I especially love how the idea of “punk” is dissected and qualified here—brilliant!      

Enjoy the videos as follows: Jack Kerouac (1959); Hunter S. Thompson (1967); Jimmy Hendrix (1969); Iggy Pop (1977)

Further Reading:

Bill, Roger. "Traveller or tourist? Jack Kerouac and the commodification of culture." Dialectical Anthropology 34.3 (2010): 395-417.

Itzkoff, Dave. "Iggy Pop: Open Up and Bleed." Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 31.1 (2008): 199.

Klein, Joe. "Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson." Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 31.1 (2008): 207.

Price, C.G. "Got My Own World to Look Through: Jimi Hendrix and the Blues Aesthetic." Journal of American & Comparative Cultures 25.3/4 (2002): 442-446.