Sixties Survivors #6: Signe Anderson

When I knocked off this little piece back in 2008, I never imagined it would grow such long legs that it would still be striding along in 2014. I can’t remember a week that’s gone by since without a note from someone who, like me, remembers Signe with admiration and honor. She had a short run, but an unforgettable one.

Here’s the post as it ran in 2008:

This is a rock star? You’ve got to be kidding! She looks like a normal person. Shouldn’t a mid-sixties rocker have big hair like Dusty Springfield? Or long bangs like Cher? Rock stars aren’t supposed to wear pigtails, especially with little ribbons like Petunia Pig. And her teeth aren’t even capped. Girl rock stars are supposed to look glamorous, not like somebody’s sweet cousin from Astoria.

Signe Anderson had a couple of attributes, though, that sort of worked. First, she was a terrific singer. She could raise blisters on her microphone while sending chills down your spine. Second, we hippies loved her. She was real. She was one of us except she could sing like Aretha. Well, maybe not like Aretha – but she could sing really good.

After a year or so with the Jefferson Airplane, Signe got pregnant, but she was married, so it didn’t count as shocking rock star behavior. She sang right through her pregnancy up there on stage at the Fillmore, getting a little bigger each week, still belting it out out with her finger in her ear. She was breaking all the rock star rules, but not in the approved shocking way. We could hardly wait to see what would happen next.

(Side note: The finger in the ear posture was standard for San Francisco rock singers in those days, it was so they could hear themselves. In 1966, onstage monitor speakers still had a ways to go. And, after you got used to it, it actually looked kind of cool.)

What happened was, after Signe had her baby, she decided to move back home to Oregon. Suddenly, she was gone, leaving behind only that one so-so album, The Jefferson Airplane Takes Off.

Then the Jefferson Airplane stole equally talented Grace Slick from The Great Society, and really took off for fame and fortune. But I never could warm up to Grace, not that she cares. I can’t fault her fabulous singing or her appropriate rock star looks and shocking rock star behavior – it’s just that she wasn’t Signe, and Signe was the cat’s meow.

Signe had a rough road in her later life. In the early seventies, she was diagnosed with uterine, cervical, and bladder cancer. She has spent much of her adult life trying to beat them, plus other other physical problems that cropped up along the way, including an eighties bout with breast cancer. The thing is, she’s still out there fighting…and singing.

Her old band mate Marty Balin was up to see her in August and together they played a benefit billed as the Jefferson Airplane Family Reunion. Fans came all the way from San Francisco for the event. If I had known about it, I might have dropped in myself.

Happy 67th Birthday, Signe. You’re a gas.


Sixties Survivors #11: Tina Turner


Tina Turner, The self-styled Queen of Rock and Roll, turns 69 today.  Congrats, you old Acid Queen, you. Not too many people know this and I’m not 100 percent sure it’s true, but I’ve heard Tina actually retired from show biz two or three years ago and bought a lovely little chintz covered b&b in Lake Tahoe, where she performs for her guests in the evenings along with her old friends Aretha and Diana Ross. Lookin’ good, guys!

That’s Tina’s doppelganger selling out the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey tonight. You can see she’s slightly transparent sometimes if the light is just right.

Sixties Survivors: Joni and The Shrimp


1968-joni-mitchell-vogue1024_edited-1Joni and The Shrimp.  Odder bedfellows have never met at the corner of Pondering and Pig.  Jean Shrimpton, reigning goddess of Swinging London, riveted eternally to that black and white season, that Beatles instant, that Darling time.  And Joni Mitchell, bound to no season, music destined to live on into the forever time.

Both of them today at this moment doing the garden, digging the weeds of their Laurel Canyon yard, their  Penzance garden. And returning inside with great baskets of flowers.

Happy birthday beautiful fellow travelers on this carousel of time.

And the seasons they go round and round,
And the painted ponies go up and down,
We’re all captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go ’round and ’round and ’round
In the circle game.

Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game”

Jean Shrimpton born November 7, 1942.  Joni Mitchell born November 7, 1943

Photo Credits: Shrimp: Vandaprints Joni: Joni Mitchell Discussion List

Sixties Survivors #9: Grace Slick

Happy Birthday, Grace.  69 today.

Actually, I never could warm up to Grace’s singing that much.  Just personal taste, I guess.  She always sounded scary to me. Like a demon was showing her how to spit ice.

A lot of people liked that.  But me, I like a voice where the singer sounds like he or she laughs from time to time.  Not a cynical laugh –  a big ha ha ha kind of laugh.  Like Janis, if I might make an invidious comparison.  Grace was like, run,  here comes the ice storm!

I like this picture of her though.  Makes me wonder if I had her all wrong?

Anyway, hope your painting is coming along well, that your studio gets plenty of light,  and that you’ve found some peace in this world.

Sixties Survivors #8: Anna Karina

Could we just forget for a moment that we are all going to have to build driftwood huts on the beach or live in abandoned boxcars on the plains or find a high branch in the forest…could we just forget the financial meltdown for a minute?  I’d rather think about that Danish kid Anna Karina — 68 years old today.

Her face was an icon of sixties beauty and is still an icon to the characters in my novel who regularly reference her.  And still an icon to me.  Look at Anna play this scene from the Jean-Luc Godard’s essential film from the urban proto-hippie canon, Vivre Sa Vie (1962).  If you weren’t there to see it for yourself, it might help you understand the sixties aren’t quite what you thought they were. Or maybe not.

Happy birthday, you groovy Danish French chick.

Sixties Survivors #7: Twiggy

I’ll bet you never expected to see Vogue Magazine featured on The Pondering Pig, let alone a Vogue Magazine with Twiggy on its cover in her thermal underwear.

The year is 1966, and it’s cold out there on the magazine stands of Paris and Montreal. She needs her thermals!

Lesley Hornby, AKA Twiggy, is turning 59 on September 19, and it’s as good a time as any to welcome her to the Pondering Pig Sixties Survivors Club.  She’ll be only 59, but she got an early start.  She was probably 16 when this cover shot was taken.

I think her birthday is a moment to ponder the predominance of all things British in the sixties. The Beatles, the Stones, and their British Invasion ilk dominated the charts for years.  British artist David Hockney was, after Warhol, the most successful fine artist of the era.  Sean Connory, as James Bond, ruled the box office world wide.  British actors in general ruled the Academy Awards.  Here are two mid-sixties years as an example, winners in upper case:

British 1964 Academy Award Acting Winners and Nominees:  REX HARRISON in “My Fair Lady”, Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole in “Becket”, Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove, JULIE ANDREWS in “Mary Poppins”, PETER USTINOV in “Topkapi”, John Gielgud in “Becket”, Stanley Holloway and Gladys Cooper in “My Fair Lady”, Edith Evans in “The Chalk Garden”

British 1965 Winners and Nominees: Richard Burton in “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold”, Laurence Olivier in “Othello”, JULIE CHRISTIE in “Darling”, Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music”, Tom Courtenay in “Doctor Zhivago”, Frank Finlay, Joyce Redman and Maggie Smith in “Othello.”

Let’s see, what else?  Well, both Pop Art and Op Art invented were invented in England.  Here is the the first Pop Art collage, created by Britisher Richard Hamilton in 1956:

I already mentioned fashion.  I remember how even San Francisco hippies of the era sought out stores that featured mod styles.  For example,  a men’s clothing store on Polk Street called The Town Squire sold leather jock straps and other odd fashion items to San Francisco’s closeted gay population – now, suddenly hippies overran the place.  We all wanted to look like Mick Jagger or Brian Jones and that was the only place in town where you could find the clothes that fit the look.  There was a cheap shoe store on Market Street called Flagg Brothers.  It sold a line of Chelsea boots, known in the States as Beatle boots, for $12 to $15.  Maybe they didn’t last so long, but they looked Carnaby Street, and they sold out regularly – all walking to the Haight-Ashbury district.

Twiggy, The ‘Face of 1966’, was at sixteen the world’s most famous supermodel, and she was wearing chic clothes by Mary Quant.  We were wearing chic boots by Flagg Brothers.  I didn’t know any guys who sported a Beatles cap but our local dolly birds looked mighty cute in them.  And then, with the arrival of The Who, even the Union Jack became a fashion item.

I don’t have time tonight to think about what it all means.  I have to pack for a trip to Southern California.  I’ll be gone all weekend and back in the Pigsty Monday.  But I’m sure there is much to learn.  I, for one, never quite got over my love affair with the country that produced the Beatles, Twiggy, and other lesser beings – such as Charles Dickens and Shakespeare.  I remain an Anglophile at heart.   Could someone please think long and deeply and report in?

Meanwhile, a nice polite wink and nod to Leslie Hornby on her 59th.

Sixties Survivors #5: Mickey Hart

Born: Brooklyn, New York, September 11, 1943

Mickey Hart, the Grateful Dead’s new drummer, turns 65 today. He was born to answer the question, ‘why would a rock band need two drummers?’

Besides his ongoing percussion passion – which, since the Grateful Dead called it a day,  has bloomed into the Global Drum Project, the Mickey Hart Band, the Rhythm Devils, four books and a Las Vegas volcano, Mickey has been drumming up interest in environmental causes, the preservation of roots music, and, most recently, has been promoting Head Count, the organization that sends voter registration teams on the road with the big rock acts.

Here he is with Bob Weir just a few months ago.

Congrats, man. I will refrain from making remarks about ‘what a long strange trip it’s been’.  Welcome to the club.

Photo by Herb Greene