Having fun with “The Ventures” and “Sputnik”

Orly Mercado

Posted on September 8, 2007

One of my students came in early for our first meeting this semester. I was in the classroom long before the first period’s bell, to prepare my handouts, to introduce my course: Globalization and You. She carefully laid down a guitar hard case. “Is that an electric guitar?” I asked. “Yes sir, I am taking guitar lessons” she said.

As she opened the case, I mentioned that my wife just purchased a 1957 Fender Stratocaster. Not for me, I clarified to her, but for a friend who has belatedly embarked on a musical career. I had packed it for her to bring to Manila. “Have you heard of the Ventures?” I asked, ready to be labeled the dinosaur I am beginning to feel nowadays. “Why, of course sir, we play their music.” She said it like it was fun. I smiled.

The music of the Ventures, reminds me of the time we were teenagers. In our own awkward way, we had fun. This was way back during the days when our rock stars didn’t have to smash their guitars to get our attention.

With guitar music ringing in my mind, I still had time to open the day’s papers to a story about the 50th anniversary of the launching of the Russian satellite Sputnik. This event ushered in the start of the space age. The threat of bombs raining from outer space sounded dead serious at the time.In what now looks like comical disaster response, American schoolchildren were being taught to duck under their desks during a nuclear attack. In the Philippines, there was talk about our being a target, because of two huge American bases in the country. There were jokes about us all turning to soft ice cream. Even gallows humor can be fun.

The rock and roll and space age’s dominant leitmotif was its creative and intellectual energy. To be sure, the concomitant arms race channeled those energies to endeavors that proved to be a distraction from the real pressing problems of humanity. Not much has changed today, one may argue. Save for the fact that some young musicians still play the music of the Ventures and there are more participants in space exploration.

No Comments

Leave a response