Zero Population Growth, or “ZPG”, it’s acronym, was all the rage in 1971, in my head anyway. I had seen Paul Erlich, who wrote a book titled “ The Population Bomb”, on TV, or heard him on the radio, and began to follow his message. Even though Seattle was still kind of a small town, by New York, Mexico City, and Los Angeles standards, it was becoming large enough to feel the traffic crush, the lines at the theatre crush, the lines at the checkout counter crush, etc. It was buggin’ me. Overcrowded conditions bug me still. There is something not right, something unhealthy about too many people in one place at the same time. I am sure I could come up with some scientific stats about how being in an overcrowded place is not good for a person. But isn’t one intuitive enough to reach that conclusion on one’s own, without supporting science? Overpopulation breeds all kinds of problems, stress, noise, disease, poor quality of life. So in 1971, dude, I was on the bandwagon. Forget the religious dogma about birth control. Let’s fix this shit.
I had a little “Penncrest” (a JC Penney’s brand) reel to reel tape recorder at the time, to record song ideas, my daughter horsing around, maybe the guys in the band going off about something in the truck as we traveled to the Lebanon, Oregon Armory or some other God forsaken place to play. If my memory serves me correctly, I recorded a slew of dorky songs on that thing, which of course sounded horrible, cuz, besides being horrible songs, my little “Penncrest” just wasn’t up to the task. Songs with titles like, “Time to Kill”, “National Avenue”, and “Dustin’ Up”. I have been at this songwritin’ thing for a long time folks.
But I figured my dinky reel to reel would be up to the task to record a little jingle, about Zero Population Growth, which had popped into my brain, as they always do. I thought it might make a big impact on those folks at ZPG headquarters. So I got out the guitar, the mic, which was about the size of a thimble, and recorded. You are going to have to imagine the lovely melody yourself on this one, altho if you ever want me to sing it to you, I certainly will, since it is indelibly saved into the “Songs” file in my brain. It was a very short piece of music, or as we say in the biz, a “ditty”. The lyric was.......”That’s all you can have, no more than two children......to replace you when you’re gone”. End of song.
You have to remember that those little reel to reel tapes were a hassle. So going to these lengths I think, shows my resolve on the issue of ZPG. After recording it, and putting the tape in it’s little tape box, I wrapped it all up, and sent it, with a letter, to ZPG headquarters, which I think was somewhere in California. Of course I never heard a thing, if they had gotten it, if they liked it, or if they wanted to do a huge international campaign and use my ditty as their anthem.
Sometime later, as a continuing supporter of ZPG, I wrote a letter to George McGovern, who had not yet announced for the presidency, regarding my concerns. Mr. McGovern, or some nice person on his staff, was kind enough to send a letter back, in which George addresses the issue of Zero Population Growth, and actually signed with a pen. I still have that letter today, sitting in my studio. It helps provide my fond memory of that time, and the ZPG ditty which, sadly, was never to grace the airwaves. It was a splendid moment in time, and for the record, I still think we gotta pare down the planet. But those reel to reel tape recorders, they sucked.