I’m old enough to have been a huge fan of Crosby Stills and Nash from the start, and used to listen to Songs for Beginners by Nash to help me through maths cramming but have always favoured Stills, as a far more cerebral musician – he writes pop music structured more like symphonies, and is the most politically active of a politically active band.
My work on wife selling somehow drew me to listen to this song, Change Partners, which is basically about young ladies at Country Club dances. Not exactly rock n roll. But my recording of it at home is from 1968, the year – I think – that the contraceptive pill was first released, so the real start of the sexual revolution. so the timing is interesting.
Also interesting is that it fits well with a theme I keep finding i my research, that of the world being turned upside down. Men are traditionally strong, in control, but this song is about women keeping them under control. I used to think that dance cards were for ensuring the less attractive girls got a dance, but here, it is about women changing partners so no young man gets too close, because if she broke his heart, she would feel bad. Women were expected to manage their men, because male feelings were hard to manage, whilst in the 18th century it was the girls who could not control their emotions. Novels inflamed their passions, but, more importantly, they gave them false expectations of romance; the stories generally ended with the marriage, with the assumed happy ever after ending. Reality requires a lot of hard work and negotiations.
It is hard for modern young people to imagine the world before the availability of reliable, safe control. It was a time when lived in fear of unwanted pregnancies, and way back in earlier centuries, the time that I blog about, a single intimate encounter could lead to death – not only infant mortality was high, so was maternal fatalities. I’ve read lots about this, and still struggle to imagine how relationships between men and women could happen.
It was further complicated by the immense power that men had over women’s bodies. Rape was not much of a crime unless it involved a wealthy virgin, so destroying her chances of a good – ie rich- marriage. In the same way, body snatching was not a crime per se- it was the shroud that was technically the object being stolen, so if this was thrown back into the grave, the thieves generally got away.