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Summer of Love 50 Years Later: The Psychedelic San Francisco Sound

Summer of Love 50 Years Later: The Psychedelic San Francisco Sound

In the summer of 1967, America found itself in a very similar place to where it finds itself today, 50 years later.

The country was bitterly divided, torn asunder by a generation gap; glaring racial, cultural, political, economic, educational, and lifestyle differences; a seemingly endless and possibly unwinnable war in a distant foreign land; and an increasingly unpopular president in the White House.

However, first in San Francisco, and soon spreading around the country and much of the western world, a movement blossomed where a group of rebellious dreamers were convinced they had discovered a way to reject materialism and find peace, love, and happiness.

They were called hippies and they unleashed what is called today the Summer of Love. In a 7-part series, Booming Encore is examining that special summer of 1967 and its lasting effects today. This is part 4.

By Dave Price

While the 1967 San Francisco sound wasn’t solely responsible for the creation of psychedelic jam bands and acid rock, the plethora of counterculture, anti-establishment, and flower-power bands exploring new musical ideas in the Bay Area during the Summer of Love certainly made a major impact on both genres.

For example, a partial list of the local bands you could hear performing at free outdoor concerts and in clubs and larger venues during that fabled summer would include: The Grateful Dead, The Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe and the Fish, Moby Grape, Santana, and The Steve Miller Band with guitarist Boz Scaggs.

But, of course, this new music for a new generation was bound by no geographical borders. Artists from music capitals like London, Los Angeles, and New York were placing their new  sounds on records, too.

Here is an overview of some of who and what you were probably listening to if you were coming of age in 1967:

The San Francisco Scene

The Jefferson Airplane

The first band to deliver the new sounds emanating from Haight-Ashbury to the rest of the world was the psychedelic rock pioneering Jefferson Airplane, which in 1967 released the singles “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit,” both of which are among Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Songs of All-Time.

Written by lead vocalist Grace Slick, “Somebody to Love” features two-line verses setting a scene of alienation and despair, which accurately captured what many young people of the time were feeling. The chorus provides an alternative – you need somebody to love, which, by implication, you will able to find in the peace, love and flower-world then being born in San Francisco.

“White Rabbit,” also written by Slick, employs imagery lifted from the Alice in Wonderland writings by Lewis Carroll and became one of the greatest drug songs of the 60s. Slick, now long retired from the rock scene, has stated that the composition was about following curiosity and engaging in drug-inducing mind expansion and social experimentation. To learn more, you’ll need to check out Alice “when she’s 10 feet tall.”

In addition to Slick, the Airplane consisted of backup vocalist Marty Balin, rhythm guitar player Paul Kantner, drummer Skip Spence (who was later to leave the band and start Moby Grape), and two Washington, D.C. East Coast transplants, lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady.

The band officially broke up in 1972, with Slick, Balin, and Kantner forming Jefferson Starship and Kauknen and Casady founding Hot Tuna. As the Airplane, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

The Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead, with its legendary live performances, lengthy instrumental jams, and fanatical followers known as “Deadheads,” is regarded as the Godfather of the hundreds of jam bands to follow.

Led both musically and spiritually by guitarist Jerry Garcia, the original Dead consisted of second guitarist Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh, drummer Bill Kruetzman and organist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan. Second drummer Mickey Hart and non-performing lyricist Robert Hunter joined in 1967. With the exception of McKernan, who died in 1973, the core of the band stayed together for 30 year until the death of Garcia in 1995.

Since then, different members of the band have performed variously as Furthur, the Rhythm Devils, RatDog, and Phil and Friends. Today, Kruetzman and Hart, joined by younger musicians, tour as Dead and Company, still setting venue attendance records.

The Grateful Dead, with its all-for-one and one-for-all philosophy, turned the music industry upside down. It has always let its fans tape performances and in its long, storied career only had one song – 1987’s “Touch of Grey” enter the singles chart. However, with careful cultivating of its tie-dye, drug-taking fan base and its tireless touring, the Dead continue to be an annual multi-million-dollar-making organization. It’s estimated that during their career, the Dead have sold more than 50 million albums, which of course doesn’t even count the millions of home-made tapes that fans still avidly trade and collect.

The Grateful Dead was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and was ranked 57th by Rolling Stone magazine in it’s The Greatest Artists of All-Time issue. In 2012, a recording of the band’s May 8, 1977 concert at Cornell University was added to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress.

Los Angeles

The Doors

The literary and visionary aspect of The Doors was established immediately from the name the band members chose – The Doors. The name was taken from Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception, which itself was a quote from groundbreaking 19th Century British Romantic poet and artist William Blake.

Fronted by charismatic, enigmatic, and unpredictable poet/singer Jim Morrison, the Doors trippy music was provided by three jazz-influenced musicians: keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robbie Krieger, and drummer John Densmore.

The Doors broke through to fame in 1967 with their brilliant debut single “Light My Fire.” During their brief four-year career, which ended with the death of the troubled Morrison in a Paris hotel in 1971, the band released eight albums, with all but one of them hitting Billboard magazine’s Top 10. The group amassed 20 Gold, 14 Platinum, 5 Multi-Platinum, and 1 Diamond album awards in the United States alone. “Light My Fire” was one of three million-selling singles the band produced. Musicologists believe that the Doors have sold more than 100 million records worldwide.

Three of the band’s studio albums, the self-titled 1967 debut, L. A. Woman, and Strange Days were included in Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time, at positions 42, 362, and 407 respectively. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

The Monkees

Put together as a TV sitcom creation and an American answer to the popularity of Beatles’ movies Hard Day’s Night and Help, The Monkees consisted of former American television child actor Mickey Dolenz, British stage actor and singer Davy Jones, and two unknown American musicians, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork.

While disparaged by many after it was discovered that initially the Monkees didn’t play their own instruments on their recordings, the group serves to demonstrate just how powerful the new lifestyle and experimental music of the era was becoming.

As the wildly popular TV show moved into its 1967 season, the Monkees demanded, and received, more control over both their music and the show. On the screen, their hair got longer their clothes hippier, and their scenes trippier. In the studio, they became more innovative, releasing two best-selling albums that year – Headquarters and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.

Headquarters actually rose to number one on the album charts on May 24, 1967. However, the release the very next week of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band forced the Monkees’ album to the number 2 spot, a position it held for the next 11 weeks, the same weeks as The Summer of Love.

Over the years, the Monkees, in various combinations, have continued to tour. However, the 45th anniversary tour would be the last with Jones, who died of a heart attack at age 66. The three surviving Monkees actually released a well-received and reviewed album Good Times! to celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2016. Despite the fact that the Monkees did much to promote the growth of rock n’ roll, produced one of the better songbooks in pop history, and are credited with coming up with some of the first music videos, they have never been inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame, which its fans and some critics feel is a definite slight to a band whose popularity in its time was only eclipsed by that of the Beatles.

New York

The Young Rascals

Combining the blue-eyed soul vocals of singers Eddie Brigati and Felix Cavaliere, the garage band instrumental power of Cavaliere’s B-3 and Gene Cornish’s guitar, and the stick-spinning drum beats of Dino Danelli, the Young Rascals (later shortened to just The Rascals) proved to be one of the top chart-toppers of the mid-60s.

Their 1967 album Groovin’ produced 8 singles, with the title track reaching number 1. Supportive critics at the time maintained the album moved into the psychedelic genre, yet allowed the group to maintain its soulful New York City core.

The original group disbanded in 1970. Over the ensuing years there were often two factions of the group touring – The New Rascals with Cornish and Danelli and Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.

Long heralded by Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt as a major influence on the Jersey shore sound of their mighty E Street Band, Van Zandt convinced all four Rascals to reunite in 2013 for a 15-show run at the Richard Rodgers Theater on Broadway. In addition to the band’s performance, the innovative sold-out show offered a history of the 1960s complete with previously filmed interviews with all four members, filmed scenes of actors enacting key moments in the band’s history, news clips from the times, and archival footage of the band. Today, Cavaliere, now 74, keeps the Rascals’ catalog alive, by continuing to tour.

Vanilla Fudge

The Vanilla Fudge may be one of the most aptly named bands of 60s. According to legendary rock drummer Carmine Appice, the name was offered by a waitress at a Long Island Club where the band was playing who said the group, which was looking for a name to replace The Pigeons, should call themselves Vanilla Fudge because “you’re like white soul music.”

Actually, the band, which issued its debut self-titled album in 1967, has been credited with being one of the few links between soul, psychedelic, and heavy metal music. Initially, Vanilla Fudge consisted of vocalist/organist Mark Stein, bassist/vocalist Tim Bogert, guitarist/vocalist, and drummer/vocalist Carmine Appice. With four strong vocalists, the group was able to employ intriguing, complex harmonies to their reworked cover songs and originals.

Vanilla Fudge’s biggest hit was “You Keep Me Hanging On,” originally recorded by Motown’s The Supremes. The Fudge’s version was slowed down and featured Stein’s pscychedelic/baroque organ intro and Appice’s powerful drumming. The band was also great admirers of the Beatles and included psychedelically reworked versions of “Ticket to Ride” and “Eleanor Rigby” on its debut album, as well as interesting takes on Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready,” The Zombie’s “She’s Not There,” and Sonny and Cher’s “Bang Bang.”

The original band broke up in 1970, but has been reuniting in various combinations ever since. Currently, the group continues to tour with a lineup of Appice, Martell, Stein and bassist Pete Bremy, who replaced Tim Bogert when he retired from all performing in 2010.

London

Eric Burdon and the New Animals

The original Animals – Eric Burdon on vocals, Alan Price on organ and piano, Hilton Valentine on guitar, Charles Chandler on bass, and John Steele on drums – were an integral part of the British Invasion along with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks, The Dave Clark Five, and Herman’s Hermits.

The Animals produced several great songs including “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” “It’s My Life,” and “Don’t Bring Me Down.” Of course, the Animals also recorded (in 10 minutes) and released its classic “The House of the Rising Sun,” which became the first British Invasion song to become number 1 in the United States, England, and Canada that wasn’t a Beatles’ tune.

The band however never truly got along and by the end of 1966 had broken up. Burdon, extremely interested in exploring the new sounds of acid-influenced rock, formed and brought a new lineup to the United States in 1967.  The new band introduced itself to American audiences with a stellar performance on the opening night of the now-legendary Montery Pop Festival in June of 1967.

Led by Burdon, the band recorded and released three singles in 1967 which came to define California and the Summer of Love sounds – “When I Was Young,” “San Francisco Nights,” and “Monterey.” Despite the new group’s popularity, Burdon left the Animals in 1969 to join an all-black band called War, which released the giant hit “Spill the Wine.”

After leaving War, Burdon has continued to tour with more than a dozen versions of the Animals, as well as solo projects with other musicians. Currently now 76, he is touring with a new, young band of Animals, all of whom are in their early 30s. Acknowledged to be one of the greatest white blues singers ever, Burdon was ranked 57th by Rolling Stone magazine on its list of The 100 Greatest Singers of All-Time.” The original Animals band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

Pink Floyd

Of all the British bands debuting in 1967, none have reached the musical and monetary heights achieved by Pink Floyd, whose name came from combining the first names of two American black bluesmen – Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.

Pink Floyd – originally consisting of guitarist and lead vocalist Syd Barrett, Roger Waters on bass and vocals, Richard Wright on keyboards, and Nick Mason on drums – burst onto the scene with almost universal acclaim for the progressive, psychedelic music contained on their debut album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. It took only a single listen to songs such as “Interstellar Overdrive” to realize that this was something brand new.

In December of 1967, guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour joined the band while Barrett, one of rock’s first casualties from heavy LSD use, left the next year due to deteriorating mental health.

Floyd carried on as a four-piece group. Distinguished by their use of philosophical lyrics, sonic experimentation, extended compositions, and elaborate live shows with incredible visuals, the group commanded a devoted worldwide following. They produced hit album after hit album, with The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and The Wall (1979) becoming two of the best-selling LPs of all-time.

However creative tensions caused Wright to leave Floyd in 1979. Waters left six years later. Founding member Barrett, who became a virtual recluse, died in 2006 and Wright in 2008. Despite hopes from its legion of fans, Gilmour and Waters have maintained that they have no desire to play together again. Pink Floyd was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.

Some Final Musical Notes from A Love-Filled Summer

If You’re Going to San Francisco, Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair

While curious, disenchanted young people would probably have flocked to San Francisco anyway, it’s fairly certain that the May release of the song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair)” prompted at least some of the 75,000 new arrivals to take the journey.

Written by John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas and sung by his old Washington, DC-area friend Scott McKenzie, the 2-minute, 58-second folk song quickly became one of the unofficial generational anthems of the peace and love movement, reaching number 4 on the charts in America and number 1 in England.

Despite its counterculture vibe, Phillips actually wrote the song as a kind of public service announcement for the planned money-making venture The Monterey Pop Festival, which was set for the middle of June. Because of its financial roots and the fact that it was composed by a “plastic” Los Angeles musician, most of the San Francisco music community reportedly detested the song.

However, young people listening to the tune on their radios or record players were unaware of the San Francisco-Los Angeles controversy, and with lines such as “there’s a whole generation with a new explanation” and its refrain “people in motion,” believed it was a good summation of how they felt. And for some, it was the perfect pitch to make them leave their home communities and head for the promise provided by Haight-Asbury and its burgeoning community of hippies, heads, peaceniks, and flower children.

Bill Graham and The Fillmore West

Although he never played an instrument (unless you count a few times on tambourine with The Grateful Dead), Bill Graham was a seminal figure in the emergence of San Francisco music and indeed much of the classic rock music of the next four decades.

Escaping the horrors of the Holocaust, Graham (born Wolfgang Wolodia Grajonca) came to New York City at the age of 10. Eventually, he made his way to San Francisco, where he received his promoting start, serving as the business manager of the San Francisco Mime Troupe.

Soon he was producing and promoting shows at the Fillmore. Graham viewed rock concerts as theatrical performances and was known for featuring eclectic mixes of artists. His musicians were always equipped with the best sound and lights available at the time and he is credited with ordering visual artists to create glaring, daring, psychedelic posters for the shows, which have become collectibles. He also created the first independent ticket-distribution system by having local head shops sell tickets to his shows. A marketing genius, Graham also became the first retailer of T-shirts that allowed musicians to receive royalties, thus creating the monster rock merchandising industry today.

After the Summer of Love, Graham would open a second Fillmore in New York City, produce the American Live Aid Concert, promote an American tour of the Rolling Stones, and stage concerts for Amnesty International.

In 1991, Graham was flying home from a Huey Lewis and the News concert in Oakland when his helicopter crashed and he was killed. The legendary promoter, acknowledged by many to be the greatest ever in the music business, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three months after his tragic death.

The Monterey Pop Festival

Although it wasn’t the first rock festival ever staged, The Monterey Pop Festival, held on three days in June of 1967, is heralded as the first of the huge rock festivals of the late 60s and early 70s. The accompanying Montery Pop film and the event-specific single “Monterey” by Eric Burdon and the New Animals introduced even more people to the San Francisco concept of peace, love, drugs, and music.

Today, the festival is best remembered for three acts which performed at Monterey and became superstars – San Francisco’s own awesome blues belter and Southern-Comfort-chugging Janis Joplin, fronting Big Brother and the Holding Company; the explosive, equipment-smashing, British band The Who; and the triumphant, fiery black West Coast native and guitarist extraordinaire Jimi Hendrix, who with drummer Mitch Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding, had electrified the London pop scene as The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Noted rock critic Michael Lydon also singled out the Grateful Dead for special performance praise: “The Grateful Dead were beautiful. They did at top volume what (Indian sitarist Ravi) Shankar had done softly. They played pure music, some of the best music of the concert. I have never heard anything in music that could be said to be qualitatively better than the performance of The Dead, Sunday night.”

The festival is also remembered for the three biggest artists of the time who didn’t perform – Bob Dylan, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. However, the Stones’ Brian Jones did attend the festival, strolling around the grounds with stoned-eyed and dressed in the flashy, colorful, outlandish regalia of rock royalty and introducing Hendrix on stage. Both Paul McCartney and George Harrison of The Beatles were later to visit the San Francisco scene. Dylan, however, spent 1967 missing-in-action in Woodstock, New York, as he recovered from a motorcycle accident he suffered the previous year.

Next Week: The Summer of Love acquires a worldwide soundtrack – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Bandand rock music is never the same again.

Booming Encore Encore

Top Psychedelic Radio Hits of 1967

  • Light My Fire – The Doors
  • Incense and Peppermints – The Strawberry Alarm Clock
  • Somebody to Love – The Jefferson Airplane
  • Purple Haze – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  • For What It’s Worth – The Buffalo Springfield
  • (We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet – The Blues Magoos
  • White Rabbit – The Jefferson Airplane
  • I Can See for Miles – The Who
  • (You Keep Me) Hanging On – The Vanilla Fudge
  • Strawberry Fields Forever – The Beatles
  • Ruby Tuesday – The Rolling Stones
  • San Francisco Nights – Eric Burdon and the Animals
  • I Had Too Much to Dream – The Electric Prunes
  • People Are Strange – The Doos
  • When I Was Young – Eric Burdon and the Animals
  • Penny Lane – The Beatles
  • Monterey – Eric Burdon and the Animals
  • Love Me Two Times – The Doors
  • We Love You – The Rolling Stones
  • I Am the Walrus – The Beatles
  • Hey Joe – Jimi Hendrix
  • I Feel Free – Cream
  • Break on Through – The Doors
  • The Beat Goes On – Sonny and Cher

Lasting Love Songs from The Time of the Summer of Love

  • The Letter – The Box Tops
  • Windy – The Association
  • I’m A Believer – The Monkees
  • Happy Together – The Turtles
  • Groovin’ – The Young Rascals
  • Ode to Billie Joe – Bobbie Gentry
  • I Think We’re Alone Now – Tommy James and the Shondells
  • Kind of a Drag – The Buckinghams
  • Expressway to Your Heart – The Soul Survivors
  • All You Need Is Love – The Beatles
  • Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison
  • A Whiter Shade of Pale – Procul Harum
  • I’ve Been Lonely Too Long – The Youn Rascals
  • Carrie Anne – The Hollies
  • Let’s Live for Today – The Grass Roots
  • Daydream Believer – The Monkees

My Favorite Psychedelic LPs Released in 1967 (all of which I once had)

  • Are You Experienced – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  • Axis: Bold as Love – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  • Disraeli Gears – Cream
  • The Doors – The Doors
  • Strange Days – The Doors
  • Vanilla Fudge – The Vanilla Fudge
  • Winds of Change – Eric Burdon and the Animals
  • Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles
  • The Who Sell Out – The Who
  • Between the Buttons – The Rolling Stones
  • Their Satanic Majesties Request – The Rolling Stones
  • Piper at the Gates of Dawn – Pink Floyd
  • Time Has Come Today – The Chamber Brothers
  • The Grateful Dead – The Grateful Dead
  • Big Brother and the Holding Company – Big Brother and the Holding Company
  • Surrealistic Pillow – The Jefferson Airplane
  • Something Else – The Kinks
  • Magical Mystery Tour – The Beatles

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Dave Price operates a freelance writing/speaking/consulting/tour guiding practice in Washington, D.C., where he focuses on 3 topics – the Baby Boomer generation, classic rock, and issues on aging, especially those affecting men. A former journalist and educator, Price is researching 2 books, one on the status of classic rock music and its songs, performers, and fans today and the other a DC guidebook designed especially for Baby Boomers.