A wistful resignation falls over the scene, as the narrator walks among
the ruins of his generation, searching for any signs of the world he once
knew. And to the numbed surprise of the flower children all was not well
either, as their enormous hopes for a Good Society and an American culture
of transcendent values had by now begun to seem like so much smoke. Their
idealism shattered, what is left in its wake is something of a wasteland,
as their illusions fade under the specter of their indifference at Altamont.
I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
cynical figure, who when asked for any "happy news"—any
return to the innocence and stability of an earlier time—can
only smile knowingly and walk away. This is most likely the rock 'n'
Janis Joplin, whose death in 1970 of a heroin overdose seemed to reinforce—along
with the drug overdose deaths of rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix a few months
and The Doors' Jim Morrison a few months later—the failures of
the movement. The requested "happy news" also echoes the "maybe
they'd be happy for awhile" music of the first verse, bookending
I went down to the sacred store
Where I'd heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn't play
The sacred store would be a record store, following on the religious/musical
metaphor established in verse two. But the music of years before would
no longer play: literally, the music stores that had once provided listening
booths for their customers were by this time no longer offering this service.
But even more than this, the cynicism of this generation had annihilated
the innocent world the narrator had grown up in; that kind of music wouldn't
play anymore. He can't go home again.