August 28, 2014

Dust in the Wind and the Summer of 77

We had the experience but missed the meaning,
And approach to the meaning restores the experience
In a different form, beyond any meaning
We can assign to happiness.

-- Eliot, The Dry Salvages

Following a memory of my own, I "found" this video shortly after it was posted to YouTube around three years ago. It struck me then as enormously powerful in that offhand, out-of-left-field way that found objects can be. The power of this short window into 1977 is that it captures, without intent, the elements of memory. It melds the plaintive almost psalmic acoustic hit by Kansas with an imagery whose sheer faded quality adds to an overall impression of other times once lived and now gone beyond recall. It is the essence of "time in a bottle."

Ordinary when made the film aged into something beyond itself. The better memories do that. They seem, if we think of them at all at the time we have the experience we will later remember, to be just barely beyond the cusp of ordinary. Often we don't even discover them as memories until years later when they emerge, not as they were, but as they have become as our souls expand enough to value what we thought at the time was dross as the real gold of our lives.

The fact that it was viewable by me at all was one of those strange conjunctions of love and fate that the Web has made possible. The video is under the YouTube account of "uselessdirector" who has in the years since he posted this posted only two other personal bits in his account. The response to those is what it should be. Negligible. But the response to this video is now above 3,640,000 6,277,000 views with fresh comments still coming in almost hourly.

What is the provenance of this video? Uselessdirector states only, "Filmed in 1977 by my dad, this music video nearly became "dust in the wind" until it was restored from its failing 8mm format." His role was to see the film as it was made, 8MM or 16MM, and to save it as a video before time faded the film to invisibility. He caught it just in time and in doing so caught time itself. Then because he knew it had a value beyond itself and because he could, he placed it on YouTube where, in time, it was discovered.

From the video itself, we learn the names of the "Cast" in the credits and also see a list of "The Tribe." Aside from that there are other hints to the spring or summer in which this was made. We discover it was made in Findley Lake, New York, a small rural community up near the shore of Lake Erie. Was "The Tribe" a group of friends or a small commune of the kind that were still common in those years? Did the young man and young woman paired as "Adam" and "Eve" have a relationship outside the film or was it only for the purposes of the film? Somehow I doubt it was the latter.

Looking a little deeper into the Net I found a few things worth noting. For one thing it is possible, through the odd but wonderful Google Street View to compare "Then" with "Now" and confirm, as if we did not know it with every cell of our being, that "Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky."



An interesting exercise in contrasting the present to a memory. But "interesting" is pretty much the finish of the exercise. In mere aesthetic terms it is obvious that the "Then" as evoked by the film image is far superior to the glimpse of "Now" gleaned by a Google Street View car sweeping by and capturing a slice of that particular road during the particular minute it passed that otherwise nondescript place on the edge of Findley Lake. The former is gold, the latter dross.

What was the memory I was following when I first found this film? It was the memory of that song heard first in the summer of 1977 somewhere in London, New York, or Burgundy. I loved the summer of 1977. It was one of my favorite years. It was one of those luminous years when everything seemed to fall right and come together into something you could assign to happiness. I'd wait 26 years for the next one.

I heard the song once again in memory. It was in a suburban mall parking lot in Connecticut on a chill winter evening during one of those years when it all went smash.

If I have to choose between memories I'll take the one contained in this ineffable bit of short film saved from the fade and the fog of time. It's one of those strange artifacts that evokes among those alive in the time it was made the cliched thought, "Dear God, were we ever that young?" Made on a whim during an afternoon, the film answers, "Yes, you were. Yes, we all were. And in time, with the grace of God, we will be again."

Republished from April 1010 2010. [What would I do without my prufreaders?]

Posted by Vanderleun at August 28, 2014 10:14 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Where the Internet has joined memory to memory, perhaps meaning can be restored.

The film is quite a find. Your review is an even more solid find. Thanks.

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at April 5, 2010 4:09 AM

1977. The year I bought a '73 Dodge van, shag carpeted the interior and set out to see the country. Two years and 46 states later I had my education. Maybe not one that looks ideal on a resume, but it has served me well.

Posted by: westsoundmodern at April 5, 2010 7:59 AM

Transcendent. Thanks, Gerard.

Posted by: Julie at April 5, 2010 9:11 AM

I was 15 going on 16 when that film was made. Maybe about the same age as some of the kids in that film. I have a box of Polaroids and photographs from that time. What a great find. I think I'll watch it another 3 or 4 more times. And then I'll go and look up all those old pictures.

Posted by: Jewel at April 5, 2010 9:13 AM

Thanks for the memories. They are still great.
The younger generations should be jealous.

Posted by: nbpundit at April 5, 2010 9:16 AM


That sent me back for a few seconds to a particular late '70's Saturday at the beach with my family.

...Of sunburned longhairs playing volleyball in the blinding sand, a half-dozen sails framed by a nearby island, and my little brother contentedly screwing up his little face at the taste of sea-grass whilst the big kids let me hang out with them at the end of the dock listening to that song on the radio.

A blessed Easter to you.

Posted by: monkeyfan at April 5, 2010 11:29 AM

I was 4 when this was made. A little older than my older daughter is today.

My brother (who was a teen at that time) and my cousins made videos like this with all of my other cousins. (All of them were in their teens back then.) They only got me in one of them - I was too little to remember all of that.

Posted by: newton at April 5, 2010 12:03 PM

No coincidences? Earlier today I was going through some old journal entries. I came across this quotation from "Time and Again" by Jack Finney. Referring to old photographs...

"Maybe I don't need to explain; maybe you'll recognize what I mean. I mean the sense of wonder, staring at the strange clothes and vanished backgrounds, at knowing that what you're seeing was once real. That light really did reflect into a lens from these lost faces and objects. That these people were really there once, smiling into a camera. You could have walked into the scene then, touched those people, and spoken to them. You could actually have gone into that strange outmoded old building and seen what now you never can-what was just inside the door."

Posted by: M*A at April 5, 2010 12:05 PM

Wow, you have such a talent for finding these snippets that evoke forgotten memories of times past and of times that are to be cherished.

Posted by: Bobham at April 5, 2010 12:30 PM

Beautiful piece, Gerard.

Posted by: Aquila at April 5, 2010 12:50 PM

A beautiful entry that gave me that eerie and warm pause, where the solar plexus meets the mind. I never know what to make of it but I'm glad it's there. Thank you.

Posted by: Hannon at April 5, 2010 1:56 PM

One of my favorite songs, and one of my most memorable summers as well. My first rented house. My first true love. The woman next door, who divorced her squaresville husband and opened her house to all and sundry for a summer long party. So much beer, and wine, and weed. Black beauties, lemonade and gin. All night bull sessions. Spaghetti after midnight, then smashed as all get-out, driving to Laguna Beach and not getting home until after daylight. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. But you can't get there from here.


Posted by: jwm at April 5, 2010 4:17 PM

I turned 21 at the end of 1976.
My father died an agonizing death from lung cancer on a hot day in June of 1977. I got my first real job that year (as I was out of college for a while).
Good and bad, I wouldn't live that year again, but I would never give up the memories. But there would be better years and better memories to come.

From dust we came, and to dust we will return. Thank you, God, for letting us live this small moment in eternity as sentient, feeling beings. Before we go back to dust.

Posted by: David at April 5, 2010 5:37 PM

How very odd--today in my history classes I showed a video about John Brown, which included the image of border ruffians in Kansas. It reminded me of this song--and after class I went back to my office, killed a little time on the internet, and came across this post.

I was 27 that year, struggling to find my way in a world for which I've never felt quite adequate. But then, we are all dust anyway, and maybe only the Cross lasts forever.

Posted by: Tarragon Rose at April 5, 2010 7:47 PM

I'd never visited Findley Lake, but as a child growing up outside of Buffalo in the 70's, had been to Chautauqua more than a few times.

Even before knowing the facts of it's creation everything in the the film seemed intimately familiar and has brought back a flood of memories. Not just the individual items, such as the iris and day lilies, or that certain style of van, but also the light, the texture of the grass, and the even the way the breeze seemed to make everything move. I knew that look.

We left New York State for Florida in the late 70's, and consequently many of those images were forever locked in that particular time. Seeing them again, straight out of that same time frame, and so near to the places I'd been, is comforting.

We all know that memory can be flawed, and often has a way of being altered to meet the demands of self. It is comforting to know that the reality I experienced, and tucked away as memory, comports well with the world as seen and filmed by others in a similar place and time.

Posted by: ThomasD at April 6, 2010 7:42 AM

"our souls expand enoughto value what we thought at the time was dross as the real gold of our lives"
There it is.
Good work

Posted by: flannelputz at April 6, 2010 7:55 AM

Very nice film. I wonder if it was made as a class project? You know, for an art or film class in high school.

Great post, too, Gerard.

Posted by: rickl at April 6, 2010 5:36 PM

..your find transported me back to my 'salad' days in college in upstate New York..time it was and what a time it was.. beautiful work. thank you.

Posted by: Sojourner at April 7, 2010 12:31 PM


One of my best lifelong friends died yesterday at the age of 45. He and I became friends in High School in the late-70's.

This post helps frame a bit of what I am feeling, as you can imagine.

He and I were more partial to the Talking Heads, The Sex Pistols, and Brian Eno, than Kansas. In fact, we laughed at Dust In The Wind.

But, of course, that's because we dared believe we never would be ...

Posted by: Pastorius at April 7, 2010 2:50 PM

I wasn't a Kansas fan either back in those days.

Some songs age rather well, though.

Posted by: rickl at April 7, 2010 5:09 PM

1977-I was on the "other side of no tomorrow" as another 70's song said. Out of gas, too much dope, hopeless, out of ideas. The next year I got resurrected as a Christian and found out I was more than dust, at least on the inside.
Actually was in Fredonia, NY in '77, not far from the scene of the film. Kerry Livgren, the Kansas lead man I believe became a believer also.
August 15,1969, I got on a plane at Ton Son Nhut air base in Viet Nam, strung out, believing in nothing, back to a crazy Amerika (as they said at the time).Things were bleak.
42 years later,August 14,2011, I conducted a church service in a hotel room in Saigon. Thank God for second chapters in life.

Posted by: bill at August 24, 2011 1:43 PM

How very strange. Just yesterday I was thinking of this post, the video that inspired it, the summer that it recalls, and the response I wrote on it last year.
And the question:
"Were we ever that young?"
I guess we were, huh?
...gets me a little misty sometimes.


Posted by: jwm at August 24, 2011 4:14 PM

"Republished from April 1010"

Many, you've been blogging a LOOOONNNG time!

Posted by: Donald Sensing at August 24, 2011 4:29 PM

"" "Dear God, were we ever that young?" Made on a whim during an afternoon, the film answers, "Yes, you were. Yes, we all were. And in time, with the grace of God, we will be again."""

Yea, Me too. Though I personally don't 'feel' older, per se (yes, yes, physically - but thats not what I am speaking of), I do feel that our people, our society, has aged considerably.

"Well, now young faces grow sad and old
And hearts of fire grow cold
We swore blood brothers against the wind
Now I'm ready to grow young again
And hear your sister's voice calling us home
Across the open yards
Well maybe we'll cut someplace of own
With these drums and these guitars"

Posted by: cond0010 at August 24, 2011 10:50 PM

Gerard, visiting this site makes me more human in ways beyond description. It's my opinion that your efforts change things for the better. This post improves the perspective. Thanks.

Posted by: Guaman at August 25, 2011 6:00 AM

I prefer the mirror that you set before us than that of the presstitute media. I like that it's a bit muted and some of the silver backing has flaked away, leaving mottled gaps of mystery amongst the beautiful and awful reflections of our national self.

Every time you hold up such a mirror, I am glad of it, and glad that you are still here to do the honors.

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at August 29, 2014 2:32 AM

Remember this from the first time it was posted,(4 yrs.!) just beautiful for so many reasons.

“Often we don't even discover them as memories until years later when they emerge, not as they were, but as they have become as our souls expand enough to value what we thought at the time was dross as the real gold of our lives.”

Right there is why, amongst many reasons, I love AD. Like lyrics in a song and thinking “Wish I could write like that”. Touches us deep inside. Like the video.

Personally, I’m from western NY so now I understand why I fell “connected” beyond the usual. Was 13 yrs. old soon to be 14 and my real, final innocent summer was 1977. Due to an older brother I knew “Dust in the Wind” by heart, actually unconsciously sang the words as the video played, the words spilling out unthinkably.

Anyways...just powerful, sad in a way, but wonderfully reminiscent. Like a lost love.


Posted by: tim at August 29, 2014 6:04 AM

I love this post more each time I see it. It makes me think of my wife, who was 15 in 1977. I have a picture of her riding a horse that glorious summer with her long, beautiful hair blowing in the wind... forever captured in perfect youth and beauty.

Many thanks Gerard.

Posted by: cchoate at August 29, 2014 6:56 AM

I have loved that particular video for a long time. It is ineffable.
My 77 was a busy time, preggers for the fourth time etc.

Posted by: pbird at August 29, 2014 7:08 AM

Tim - where abouts in western New York? Does Middleport sound familiar?

Posted by: D S Craft at August 29, 2014 7:40 AM

Little River Band: "Reminiscing"

Friday night it was late, I was walking you home
We got down to the gate, I was dreaming of the night
Would it turn out right?
How to tell you girl, I want to build my world around you
Wanna tell you that it's true
I wanna make you understand I'm talking about a lifetime plan

Well that's the way it began, we were hand-in-hand
Glen Miller's band was better than before
We yelled and screamed for more
And those Porter's tunes made us dance across the room
It ended all too soon
On the way back home I promised you'd never be alone

Hurry, don't be late
I can't hardly wait
I said to myself when we're old
We'll go dancing in the dark, walking through the park
And reminiscing

Friday night it was late, I was walking you home
We got down to the gate, I was dreaming of the night
Would it turn out right?
Now as the years roll on, each time we hear our favourite song
The memories come along
Older times we're missing, spending the hours reminiscing

Hurry, don't be late
I can't hardly wait
I said to myself when we're old
We'll go dancing in the dark, walking through the park
And reminiscing

(I've been married 40 years. I'm about ready to sit on the porch in the rocking chair with my Sweetie and reminisce.)

Posted by: Larry Geiger at August 29, 2014 7:42 AM



I know where Middleport is, just don't go that way much anymore.

Man, Yankee commenters representing on this post.


Congrats Mr. Geiger, go full boar and puts some Kansas on while you and the missus are on the porch.

Posted by: tim at August 29, 2014 9:04 AM

Tim - nor do I. It's only been 41 years since I left for southern California. Been back a handful of times since. Good place to be from.

Posted by: D S Craft at August 29, 2014 9:27 AM

Wonderful music, wonderful times, great words Gerard; if only it wasn't dust now. In 77 most of my days were spent in Kunsan Korea with the AF. Regardless, the entire 70's is represented in this video. I encourage my daughter at a rural college to treasure this time of life in the here and now and maybe live some of the 70's that we had. I'm not sure it is possible any longer. Maybe its just me getting old.

Posted by: DbayJ at August 29, 2014 10:01 AM

Summer of '77--I remember it well, as I do the Kansas song. It was right after I graduated from college and a few months before I went on active duty with the Army as a newly-minted butterbar. It was a very pleasant time in the upper reaches of the Midwest, not too hot, not too much rain. I lived with a college buddy, my cat, and his dog. Money was short, but leisure opportunities were plentiful, and I had no real apprehensions about what awaited me at Ft. Benning. Gas was cheap, and I could (and did) carry all I owned in my Ford pickup. Much would change over the next few years, and next few decades, but I'll always look back fondly on the Summer of '77. Thanks, Gerard, for reposting this.

Posted by: waltj at August 29, 2014 10:30 AM

Like it was last week, I was active duty army, east german border, Wildflecken, ambulance driver, bratwurst & brown mustard, frisbee, bock biers, Randy, Mark, Brian, and Alice.

Posted by: ghostsniper at August 29, 2014 2:22 PM

Darn... and all this time I thought that we were all DUCKS in the wind. Hell... I imagined myself as a dammed duck !!

Posted by: BootLegHooch at August 29, 2014 5:35 PM

As I was listening to this for the first time, came this:
'Though here for just a few sad and happy hours,
still our glory beyond heaven, towers.
We laughed and cried, tried and died.
But while alive, life itself thrived and
beyond all limits to infinity we arrived.'

Remember love, remember laughter, remember them now and forever after.

Posted by: Howard Nelson at August 29, 2014 5:48 PM

As our country or world descends into the Abyss I find my self becoming more nostalgic to the memories of my youth. I miss my innocence at times because I knew nothing of the real world as I do today. I was only 9 and had imagination. When I had less than I do today I was happier.

Posted by: Frogdaddy at August 29, 2014 7:14 PM

I fear for what children are facing now and into the future. Years ago, at the turn into the 21st century, I wished that women would take political and cultural power, men having made such a mess of things.
Merkel yes, Condoleeza Rice maybe, Hillary Clinton no. Who else among the women are out there in the Western world? The South American national leader(s) seem to be lost. Do we have female governors or Congressmyn of presidential timbre?
I mean, WTF; Where're The Females? We need some with the stainless steel balls of Joan Rivers and Sarah Palin and the brains of someone like John Bolton. Is there a new Margaret Thatcher somewhere in America?

Posted by: Howard Nelson at August 29, 2014 7:37 PM