|Song: Spirit In the Sky|
|Artist: Norman Greenbaum|
|Album: Spirit In the Sky - The Definitive Anthology|
|Played: 209 times.|
“Spirit in the Sky” came on the radio yesterday and I thought “that’s it, that’s my teens right there.” Not the Stones. Not the Beatles. It’s Norman Greenbaum, a Jewish boy, singing about Jesus.
Dirty. It seems as if we all were dirty. Our exquisitely belled jeans spilled over the tops of our feet and caught far under our heels in the back. Because not even denim could stand up to the wear and tear of being dragged along the streets, we trailed long bits of denim and thread that collected dirt and oil and grass—-eventually the denim broke away and we had bells in the front and nothing left in the back. Underneath, our feet were filthy. Athletic shoes like Nike and Adidas were years away; instead, we wore plain black or white canvas “tennis” shoes (my mother embroidered daises on mine in pink and yellow and white and blue) or black-edged thongs with dirt-stained toe marks that wouldn’t be called flip flops for another generation or two. Mainly, we didn’t wear shoes of any kind; the soles of our feet were leather-hard and our toenails were ashy.
While bras were being burned that didn’t mean that you weren’t still supposed to be wearing your spare. Until halter tops arrived. They couldn’t be found in any store in the Midwest. So we made our own. Since patterns for them didn’t exist, we held pages of newspaper up and kind of cut around our arms and waist and guessed about fit. We pinned our newspaper patterns to cheap material we bought at OK Discount and cut out triangular-shaped pieces with long strips to tie in the back leaving most of our back exposed. My favorite was a dusky lilac with tiny blue forget-me-not flowers. Others were tie-dyed neon pink and lime and yellow. We bought spools of rawhide strips to thread through the opening we sewed to gather around our necks. The hide chafed and cut those tender spots on each shoulder blade. You could always tell a girl who’d been wearing a halter top by the scabs bleeding or healing on her shoulders. Peace sign pendants were threaded on to the extra rawhide for necklaces and bracelets.
Wear a halter top and you were limited in where you could go. They were banned in most stores and restaurants and theaters so you’d wear a shirt and take it off later. They never fit—-too tight too loose too short. Not surprising; we weren’t seamstresses—that was something our mothers were and our mothers were definitely not sewing halter tops.
We girls wore our hair long and straight with our bangs bisecting our foreheads like curtains bisect a window. Guys wore their hair the same way although, for some reason, their hair grew in coarse waves while ours hung silky straight.
We held tattered jeans up with cloth belts with big gold hoops that you looped the cloth through. Belts with American flags that you wore upside down. Peace signs. Neon peace daisies. I don’t remember owning a leather belt.
Jesus Freaks. Originally, a freak meant someone who was cool, hip, happening. At some point, the Jesus and Freak devolved into a hippie taking the religious bit, the peace and love bit, just a bit too far. See a long-haired hippie passing out flowers and proverbs and End the War pamphlets and the adults would say “There’s one of those damn Jesus Freaks.”
Jesus Freaks. I hadn’t thought of them in years until I heard this song today. Norman Greenbaum singing that “when you die, He’s gonna recommend you to the spirit in the sky.”