“As Nixon left the Whitehouse…”

On the 40 year anniversary of his resignation, I have no nostalgia or hard feelings about Nixon, except for some pride in my father, who voted for McGovern in ’72 when many Democrats his age and demographic jumped the ship. I do, however, fondly remember this lyric from the concert film Storefront Hitchcock.

“As Nixon left the Whitehouse, you could hear people say,/ ‘They’ll never rehabilitate that mother, no way.’/ Yup.”

A friend insisted that I go see this in a cavernous auditorium at a film society in Minneapolis one night in 1998 or ’99, knowing zero about Robyn Hitchcock. Between his songs and signature trippy monologues, I became a fan right away, but the song I keep coming back to is “1974.”

Talk about good writing! His entry point is two friends who knew each other back in London in the waning days of the hippies meeting for coffee twenty-some years later. Then a cascade of pathetic details. There’s a solo line of nostalgia for the McGovern-esque optimism of the Labour Party of the ’70s, but it’s otherwise all “ghastly mellow saxophones.” I’ve hardly spent any time in London, but feel like I know it, just from listening to this song, oh, a few hundred times.

Watching it now, I feel an odd nostalgia for New York and life in general before the juggernaut of smart phones. Jonathan Demme’s concept, setting up an intimate concert Let It Be-style, but in a storefront, so that passersby could peak in, was still a novelty, and the “guy on the street” was still a presumed proletarian. At the same location today, neighbors would probably drop by and ask, “Who’s producing?” “Is it union?” “Do you have distribution yet?”

I’m not quite as old as Hitchcock’s characters reminiscing about the summer it all ended, but one day I’ll meet my old friends and say “They used to show films in that auditorium, remember?” and the epicycles of nostalgia will keep spinning.