40th Anniversary of the Summer of Love
"The Summer of Love was not all that great," Bobby is quoted as saying as news outlets cover the 40th Anniversary of the Summer of Love.
Here’s the first in a series of articles by Jim Harrington:
Flashing back to the Summer of Love
Has it really been four decades since the flower children invaded San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury? What a long, strange trip indeed
By Jim Harrington, STAFF WRITER
This is the first in an occasional series of stories about the people and events of the Summer of Love, which turns 40 this year.
For everything, there is a season.
And for love, it was the summer of 1967. Or, at least, that's what folks were told - and that's what many believed. That's why thousands of young men and women, known to the world as hippies or flower children, descended on San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district for months of fun, live music and mind-altering substances. That time came to be known as the Summer of Love.
Some indeed came looking for love, the kind where all people - regardless of race, political affiliation or economic status - would accept one another as true brothers and sisters. Forty years later, that dream still sounds pretty good, doesn't it?
Yet, the reality was closer to a nightmare for many who lived in the Bay Area before that summer. Surprisingly, one person who doesn't have such warm memories is Bob Weir, who - as a founding member of the Grateful Dead - was one of Haight-Ashbury's premier attractions. When asked what he first thinks of when he hears a reference to the Summer of Love, he says, "It was time to get out of the city."
"The Summer of Love was not all that great," the 59-year-old vocalist-guitarist said during a recent interview at his home of 35 years in Mill Valley. "The summer before was wonderful."
Looking beyond the cultural implications, the Summer of Love was thought of by many as the ultimate party. But, like most good parties, it soon grew too crowded. And some of the folks clearly weren't on the guest list.
Drawn by the intense media coverage of the hippie movement, including a cover story in Time magazine, the Haight was bombarded by an estimated 100,000 new arrivals that summer. That number included a fair share of teen runaways, con artists, thieves and drug dealers - who would combine to irrevocably change the very essence of the neighborhood.
The neighborhood was on another radar as well - that of the police. The cops followed the newcomers into the area, looking for - and finding - plenty of easy busts.
Those things combined to push many locals out. The neighborhood's most famous residents - the Grateful Dead - would hightail it across the Golden Gate Bridge to Marin County not long after a well-publicized drug bust at the band's house at 710 Ashbury St. in late '67. No wonder Weir isn't exactly fond of that time.
Yet, despite those things, the summer of '67 would be romanticized as nothing short of a cultural revolution. Indeed, social, cultural and political change was in the air, blowing through big cities like London and New York City as well as college campuses across the nation.
The focal point, though, was San Francisco.
Great human experiment
Some saw the whole thing as a great human experiment, an attempt to create a gentler, more enlightened society that would value flowers over firearms and poetry over possessions. That was the dream. The reality, as Weir pointed out, was a little less lovely.
But why let reality get in the way of a good story? Let's, for the moment, focus on the positive elements that sprung from the Summer of Love. The season gave birth to, or helped solidify, several key movements - including the Free Speech, Gay Rights and Civil Rights movements.
Those are some of the reasons why many people will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of San Francisco's most famous season for most of this year. Just recently it was announced that there will be a Summer of Love celebration concert Sept. 2 in Golden Gate Park. The lineup has yet to be set, but there should be no shortage of willing participants. Organizers will give a public launch party for the event from 6 to 10 p.m. Wednesday at 3075 17th St., San Francisco.
Don't expect Weir to be there waving a heartshaped Summer of Love banner on Valentine's Day. He'll be busy that night fronting his current band, Ratdog, at the most hallowed of all '60s venues, the Fillmore. Plus, 40th anniversary or not, the Summer of Love feels pretty distant these days to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.
"It's back there a ways," Weir said. "Other stuff that proceeded that seems a little closer. I don't know. Stuff gets mixed up."
Well, let's clear things up a bit. Weir, whether or not he wants the credit, is at least partially responsible for there having been a Summer of Love. One of the biggest draws to Northern California during that time was the live music scene, of which the Grateful Dead was arguably the most significant member.
Intriguingly, for a band forever linked with San Francisco, the Grateful Dead got its start on the Peninsula. There are several jumping off points for the story, but, for our purposes, it makes sense to begin in 1963 - New Year's Eve 1963, to be exact. That's when young Weir, just 16, was strolling through Palo Alto and heard some acoustic tunes ringing from Dana Morgan's Music Store. He followed the sound and found Jerry Garcia, who would become his musical mentor.
Those are the kinds of memories that remain fresh in Weir's mind. And it's hard for him to fathom what he'd be doing today if he hadn't hooked up with Garcia that night.
"I have no idea," said Weir, who attended several schools on the Peninsula, including Menlo- Atherton High School. "I know that I would probably still be doing music. It's all I've ever wanted to do since I was 8 or 9."
Fortunately for Deadheads, Weir and Garcia became fast friends and, along with bassist Phil Lesh, drummer Bill Kreutzmann and vocalist-keyboardist Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, formed a band in 1965 that would later take the name Grateful Dead.
Influenced by a huge array of musical styles, from bluegrass and country to avant-garde classical and electric-guitar rock, the group sounded vastly different from everything else in the music business. The Dead would find an audience for its eclectic mix when it began performing at author Ken Kesey's famed acid tests, which marked a marriage of mind-bending jams with mind-altering substances that is still going strong today.
Along with such fellow sonic adventurers as Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service, the Grateful Dead would pioneer a style of music that would become known as the "San Francisco Sound." In turn, the band would help usher in the psychedelic era and indirectly influence everyone from the Beatles and the Beach Boys to Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones.
The Grateful Dead was the de facto house band for San Francisco's psychedelic period. Notably, the group performed at the Human Be-In, an event that drew more than 20,000 flower children to Golden Gate Park in January 1967. The Be-In was widely considered to be the kickoff to the Summer of Love, and it featured several other local bands, including Quicksilver Messenger Service, as well as notable poets and personalities such as Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary (who was making his first appearance in San Francisco).
The event introduced the term "in" to popular jargon, and soon every imaginable type of gathering was being described as an "in" of some type. Even television would later get in on the act, when NBC began broadcasting "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In."
Five months after the Be-In set things in motion, the Grateful Dead performed at the year's most famous concert, the Monterey Pop Festival. Held in June, the festival drew some 200,000 music fans to the Monterey County Fairgrounds to see a dizzying array of talents, including Jefferson Airplane, Otis Redding, the Who and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. (The occasion would be documented in director D.A. Pennebaker's memorable film, "Monterey Pop.") The Dead, famously, were given the unenviable task of taking the stage between the twin titans - the Who and Hendrix.
Two years later the Dead was on hand for both the apex of the Summer of Love movement (Woodstock) and its nadir (the tragic Altamont Free Concert, where the Dead didn't take the stage).
After the love
The Dead, of course, would far outlive the Summer of Love and become one of the most successful touring acts of all time. The band kept right on truckin' until its hesitant bandleader, Garcia, died in 1995. All of the surviving band members, however, have remained active in the music business. Weir still sees a lot of old Deadheads when he's out on the road with Ratdog. But it's not all familiar faces.
"There's a huge influx of 19- to 24-year-olds in our crowd now," he says. "That's great to see, because we are hitting a new generation."
In that regard, a little bit of the Summer of Love lives on.
For more information about the Summer of Love 40th anniversary celebration or Valentine's Day launch party, visit www.2b1records.com/summeroflove40th. For details on Bob Weir and Ratdog's show at the Fillmore, visit http://www.livenation.com/.
Rock Scully emerges from obscurity as Harp Magazine reports:
Non-profit organization The Council of Light will be holding a launch party on Feb. 14th for their forthcoming 40th Anniversary Summer of Love concerts in San Francisco and London. The party will feature Doc Kraft (his website describes his band’s range from “quiet ‘Cocktail and Dinner Jazz’ to raucous ‘Rock'n Roadhouse’ music”) and live soundboard concert recordings from—appropriately enough—Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead.
That’s from 6pm to 10pm at 3075 17th Street if you plan on attending.
The Council of Light includes members of the original Family Dog, original Grateful Dead management, FM programmers, and many of the poster artists from the ‘60s. Former Family Dog partner Boots Hughston is the event coordinator, while former Grateful Dead manager Rock Scully and David Bean (ex-president of CTI Records and manager for Jesse Colin Young) are organizing bands, licenses and sponsors. In a statement, the promoters indicated their intentions “to utilize the best in concert production for the musicians involved, from sound, to stage, to travel and lodging. While noted musicians from the era will be featured, organizers welcome bands from the past four decades inspired by the San Francisco music scene of the ‘60s. It is anticipated that there will be worldwide media coverage with live broadcast and streaming possibilities.”
The San Francisco show will be held at Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park on September 2, 2007. More information on the event including participating bands, will be announced at a later date. For now, visit the Summer of Love 40th website to pique your interest.