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In the Summer of Love

Counter culture 2I’m looking at some 50-year-old cuttings from a morning newspaper called the Nottingham Guardian Journal. The first of them is dated Saturday, May 13, 1967. It’s from a page called The Younger Set, containing pieces on fashion and music. The reviews include Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary” (“magnificent… the most creative musician in Britain today”) and Percy Sledge’s “Out of Left Field” (“reaffirms my faith in soul music”). A week later we have the Doors’ debut album (“a very cool, tight sound”), Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love” (“a very mind-blowing cut from from one of the leading new-wave groups”) and, er, Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich (“completely moronic”).

The Guardian Journal died in 1973 and is remembered only for having been the place where Graham Greene learned the craft of sub-editing before leaving for London to join The Times. And in 1967 it carried these reviews, along with others of The Velvet Underground and Nico, Pet Sounds, Are You Experienced and Vanilla Fudge’s first album. The editor and his senior staff didn’t know much about pop music, and didn’t much like what little they knew, but they knew they had to have some of it and that there was someone in the office who was known to take an interest. That would be me, aged 20.

It was quite a year — although not, in my view, the equal of 1965 or even 1966 in terms of quality. But I wouldn’t argue with those making the case for its historic value, and now along come Harvey Kubernik and Jon Savage — two colleagues of mine from the Melody Maker in the ’70s, as it happens — to sum it up very nicely: the former in 1967 — A Complete Rock Music History of the Summer of Love , a coffee-table book containing nice photographs and a quantity of first-hand testimony, and the latter in Jon Savage’s 1967: The Year Pop Divided, a two-CD compilation of some of the year’s more interesting tracks.

Summer of LoveHarvey’s book moves mostly between San Francisco and Los Angeles on its journey from January to December, with detours to Monterey and London. Some of the oral history — from backroom people like Andrew Loog Oldham, Shel Talmy and Bones Howe as well as stars such as Jerry Garcia, Al Kooper and Carlos Santana — is of rich in opinion and anecdote, despite being mostly divided into bite-sized chunks and arranged around the visual material. There are some real gems, as when the actress Peggy Lipton, one of the great beauties of the time, tells Kubernik about her Monterey Pop Festival experience: “There was a light drizzle and we went to hear Ravi Shankar. I remember I left my body.”

It makes a nice companion to two other oral histories, Jonathon Green’s epic Days in the Life and Barry Miles’s In the Sixties, which tell the story of the era from the British perspective. (The Roy Lichtenstein pastiche at the top of this piece accompanied the publication of an extract from Days in the Life in The Times on the book’s original appearance as a hard-back in 1988; it was commissioned jointly by me and the paper’s then art director, David Driver.)

Among the 48 tracks on Jon Savage’s meticulously compiled and annotated CDs are some unexpected psychedelic gems and curios, such as the Marmalade’s “I See the Rain”, Tintern Abbey’s “Vacuum Cleaner” and the Third Bardo’s “I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time”. The more obvious choices include the Byrds’ “So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star”, Captain Beefheart’s “Yellow Brick Road”, Sonny and Cher’s “The Beat Goes On” and the Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr Soul”. There are several fine examples of soul music fighting back with Joe Tex’s “Show Me”, James Brown’s “Cold Sweat Pt 1”, the Bar-Kays’ “Soul Finger”, the Four Tops’ “You Keep Running Away” and Aretha’s “Respect” and “Chain of Fools”.

So there was certainly plenty going on in 1967, and not just in the obvious places. A very minor example: in Nottingham, a friend of mine organised a Freak Out at the Co-operative Arts Centre, with the Social Deviants on stage, Scorpio Rising projected on the wall, and a bubble machine. The young Paul Smith accepted 25 shillings to make me a blue kaftan for the occasion, with floral trim and armholes so tight that I couldn’t move my upper limbs; not much good for letting it all hang out, never mind leaving your body.

In this morning’s Observer magazine, five participants in San Francisco’s Summer of Love were invited to reflect on its significance. Peter Coyote, a co-founder of the “anarchist gang” (his phrase) known as the Diggers, comes up with an interesting verdict: “The counter-culture may have lost every political battle — we didn’t end racism, we didn’t end war, we didn’t end capitalism, we didn’t end imperialism. But on a cultural level, we won every single battle. There’s no place today in the western world where there’s not an organic food movement, a women’s movement, and environmental movement.”

I’m pretty sure that I never left my body at all during 1967, but then I never got to listen to Ravi Shankar in a light drizzle with Peggy Lipton.

* Jon Savage’s 1967: The Year that Pop Divided is out now on Ace Records. Harvey Kubernik’s 1967: A Complete Rock Music History of the Summer of Love is published by Sterling Books.

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17 Comments Post a comment
  1. zl3pah #

    NGJ – I remember the printers going on strike when I was about 14 in Nottingham and the journalists produced a cyclostyled news sheet which they gave away free I think on the streets of Nottingham.

    Cheers
    Phil Holliday

    May 21, 2017
  2. I was only 11 in 1967 but once I “got hip to the trip” around 1972 (hearing JA’s After Bathing At Baxters if you ask) I tried to hoover all of this up so I’ll look forward to checking out this book and CD.

    May 22, 2017
  3. Not that anyone asked me but I agree 1965 and 1966 were better years for pop music than 1967. In this latter year rock and pop divided, never to be the same unified force again, and a lot of the Uber-optimistic fun left young people’s music, never to return again.

    May 22, 2017
  4. Very astute comments on those albums and tracks, Richard, especially DDDBMT. They’ve stood the test of time, as has the music.
    Another very enjoyable and well written book on this era is the V&A’s Revolution. Also has good comparisons and links – London and West Coast.

    May 22, 2017
  5. Saverio Pechini #

    Third Bardo’s I’m Five Years Ahead of my Time (1967) is ,well,very much of its time . So is the Primal Scream’s rendition (2000) . But the Nomads’ one (1983) is still fresh,engrossing.Funny how time slips away…

    May 22, 2017
  6. GRAHAM ROBERTS #

    Another great Jon Savage compilation, well up to the standard set by the earlier 1966 release on Ace. The 1967 set gets off to a terrific start on tracks 1 and 3 with great bass lines from Chris Hillman and Carol Kaye on The Byrds’ ‘So You Want To Be A Rock’ N’ Roll Star’ and Sonny and Cher’s ‘The Beat Goes On’, but who plays the equally distinctive bass part on The. Attacks’ ‘Try It’?

    May 22, 2017
  7. Matthew Wright #

    Shakes you rigid to think all that was 50 years ago – I like the point you make about soul music fighting back – it seems like the last throws before Northern Soul was to later resurrect it. At the time the local places that played it in South Midlands were the Leofric in Coventry, the Cavalier in Warwick and the Gaff all-nighter in Banbury, of all places. Highlight of the year, going to see the Stax Revue at Birmingham Odeon. Soul tracks that stood out for me from that year were King Curtis’ “Memphis Soul Stew” and Aretha’s “I Never Loved a Man”. But the “Summer of Love” spent in Newquay (just before the Beatles’ Magical Mystery entourage arrived) with the Young Rascals’ “Groovin’” over the airwaves, hearing Ry Cooder on Beefheart’s Safe As Milk and the horns on Mothers’ Freak Out and Absolutely Free, reading International Times and literature from Freedom Press in Whtechapel…as was pointed out in your article, it may not have overturned the system but it helped sow the seeds for pressure-group politics. The biggest surprise is being able to remember any of it at all.

    May 22, 2017
  8. Chris C #

    Enjoyed that Richard. A year later I was doing the same thing for the Bradford T&A, and Roy no doubt the same for the Derby Telegraph. The nostalgia industry is gearing up for big year in 2017.

    May 22, 2017
  9. Peggy Lipton played the wonderful Norma at the R and R diner in Twin Peaks.

    May 22, 2017
  10. Chris Michie #

    Thanks, Richard. As always, informative, enticing, and intriguing (if that’s not redundant). I’ve put the book in my shopping cart, along with the Miles book, and may consider the CD if I can get around to comparing the track listings with Joe Boyd’s White Bicycles and the Nuggets compilations. I think I’m with you on the ’66 vs. ’67 argument — you could put fifty singles from ’66 in any top 100 singles of all time, and a lot of them would be from the UK.

    As you have always been my Pole Star for solid recommendations in music, I feel I should make some greater effort to study your oeuvre. I read (and still have) your Spector bio on release — probably the first serious bio of a record producer — but I haven’t seen much else on offer. Is Long Distance Call (mentioned in http://rockcriticsarchives.com/interviews/richardwilliams/01.html) the only compilation of your “rock music criticism”? I hope not! Whatever reputation you have amongst your fellow sports writers, you will always be the top man in my world. Keep it up, even if you are 70!

    May 22, 2017
  11. George Foster #

    Fascinating subject. One of the best exhibitions I ever saw was “The Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era” at the Tate in Liverpool in 2005. There was an accompanying book (edited by Christoph Grunenberg and available used on Abebooks). Although it concentrates on the visual arts there are very good contextualising long essays inc a piece by Simon Reynolds on Rock and Barry Miles on the London scene.

    Memorable in the exhibition were a re-creation (of sorts!) of a Velvet Underground gig at Warhol’s Factory, Janis Joplin’s psychedelic Porsche and a number of walk-in installations including one by Mati Klarwein (of Abraxas and Bitches Brew sleeves).

    The amazed and startled reactions of the groups of students visiting the exhibition were also moments to relish.

    May 23, 2017
    • Peter Garelick #

      I was fortunate enough to be on a training course near Liverpool in 2005, and finishing early one afternoon, managed to make it to the Tate for that show. A fantastic collection of Art and some great installations too if my memory is correct, plus a lot of contemporary magazines etc.
      I found out a couple of years ago that my (American) Brother-In Law used to live in the flat above Janis in S.F. and she used to park the Porsche where she could keep any eye on it out of the window. Unusually he wasn’t/isn’t a fan of rock music, so he didn’t know much about her at the time.

      May 23, 2017
  12. David Cutts #

    Thanks for bringing back a few happy memories from those wonderful times. Like you I received my musical education at the Boat, the Brit, the Union, the Dungeon, and the Ad-Lib. Happy days indeed and let’s not forget we also had Johnny Carey’s wonderful team on Saturday afternnons

    Peter Coyote’s comment is especially resonant as I have always thought that we let our generation and the generations that followed down by losing those political battles. But the second half of his comment had never occurred to me. A small consolation I suppose.

    May 23, 2017
    • David — Walking towards the Trent End a couple of Saturdays ago, for Forest’s last match of the season, I passed the Brit, the Boat and the Union — all looking completely unchanged. Funny to think of all those bands, soon to be hugely famous, we were able to see there. I mean, the Floyd?

      May 23, 2017
      • David Cutts #

        It is one of my greatest regrets that I can’t really remember who I saw at the rowing clubs. At the time their names didn’t really mean a lot, but I do remember seeing John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers on a few occasions and I think Alexis Corner’s band (name escapes me) but have no idea what the line ups were. Also remember Long John Baldry one night, but only because he was so tall and his head was almost touching the ceiling.

        May 23, 2017
  13. Peter Hamshaw #

    I always read your blog with interest, as you usually write about something of musical interest to me, sometimes of more general interest. This time, it’s become a bit more personal as I recall loads of memories from when I too was 20 in Nottingham in 1967.

    I worked on the Guardian Journal in the late 1960s (in the Classified Ads office behind the public counter) and I remember discussing Ornette, Mingus, Archie Shepp et al with you, both at Forman Street and probably at Arthur’s 2nd hand stall on the market.

    I believe you previously worked in the record department of Rediffusion, also Co-op House in the basement, where I recall buying Hold What You Got on the day of issue in 1964?

    I also remember the freakout called Uhuru, but I thought it was at the Rainbow Rooms, downstairs from the Film Theatre, and I wasn’t sure of the date. I too had a kaftan, made by my then wife from some curtain material. I think Don, Simon and Seamus organised it and I too recall the Social Deviants playing and the Kenneth Anger film(s) projected on the wall. The first time I saw Captain Beefheart was with Don and others at the Britannia club – yes, wild times for us in Nottingham.

    I’m now retired in Belper, still passionate about music, thankfully not just music from that period of my life, though I do still love some of the stuff I discovered around that time.

    May 23, 2017

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