Summer of Love – Happy 50th!
Jerry Lucky Commentary June 2017
Copyright Jerry Lucky © 2017 All Rights Reserved
Let me start off by saying Happy Birthday to an idea…that idea being the Summer of Love. You see, it was fifty years ago, in 1967 that a generation came of age and came together to celebrate an idea. Now we all may have different ideas of what came out of that era, but I think we can all agree on one thing – it was a crazy time to be alive. For myself, I was just thirteen years of age in 1967; old enough to have a very real sense of what was going on, but not really old enough to participate in any way. And that was probably a good thing. Truth be told while I spent a good deal of time listening to the classic bands of the era such as Jefferson Airplane, The Doors and Jimi Hendrix I was actually far more interested in bands like The Turtles and the Monkees. As it turned out that broad range of musical interests serve me well in later years.
I grew up in a city of about 150,000 people called Saskatoon in the province of Saskatchewan in Canada, and that summer, radio station CKOM, the place I got my first on-air job in 1970 took the time, even though they were an AM station to play the entire Beatles’ Sargent Pepper album, which is also celebrating a 50th Anniversary. Playing this album in its entirety was a very big deal. Then there was the psychedelic poster shop on Broadway, located in the old part of town that I was intimidated to enter. I even remember specific articles of clothing that at the time seemed just trendy enough that I felt I was at least making an effort to look the part. It was indeed in many ways, at least on the artistic side of things, a very magical time.
Reaching the 50 year milestone is no small matter. Naturally with this celebratory look back we’ve already started to see the issuing of new books relating to the Summer of Love like the one simply entitled “1967” and reissued videos such as the British film Tonight Let’s All Make Love in London, featuring the music of Pink Floyd. I’m quite sure there will be more, but those two just popped into my head.
Over the years I’ve written about the link between Psychedelic music and Progressive Rock. I’ve even gone so far as to suggest I couldn’t see a Progressive Rock genre had there not been the experimentation of the music in the psychedelic sixties. There were a number of years between 1969 and 1970 where it was a very blurry boundary between the two genres. Even today you will see some early King Crimson in the psychedelic listings, but there were so many other bands that straddled the line between the two forms of musical expression.
There are plenty of ways in which these two ideals diverge. While the psychedelic musicians were not afraid to create and perform long songs it took the progressive rock artist to apply a more formal structure to the approach. And while the psychedelic musicians didn’t hesitate to throw everything into “the kitchen sink” when it came to experimenting with new sounds it wasn’t until the development of specific musical technology that progressive rock artists were able to create the music we’re familiar with today. And obviously psychedelic artists tended to write and try to convey an out-of-body or even out-of-mind experience it took the progressive rock artists to look to classic literature to create lyrics that spoke meaningfully to listeners on many different levels.
Visually, when it comes to the Summer of Love and the sixties in general, what can you say, from the fashions to the light shows, there was a tremendous amount of “peacocking” going on. But certainly it’s hard to ignore the psychedelic posters and the ocular stimulation they provided. And even here there is a very clear transition to the logos for bands such as Steve Miller with the flying horse and Journey’s colorful scarab all, and much more created by the psychedelic poster team of Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley. There’s more because psychedelic poster artist Victor Moscoso created the album art for the very first Steve Miller band album and Rick Griffin created album covers for the Welsh band Man with his Mad magazine take-off. It’s not a huge leap to the first King Crimson album cover with its intense perspective facial close-up which then gets us to the album work of Roger Dean and then Rodney Matthews.
Say what you want about the sixties, certainly not all of it was “flowers and beads” and “hippy trippiness”, there was a very dark side to that period as well. You can’t have one without the other, the Yin and the Yang. However when it’s all said and done as it relates to the arts and specifically to my favorite musical genre…and I’ve suggested this a time or two in the past…there would be no Progressive Rock if it hadn’t been for the psychedelic era. So much of what we now consider defining elements of the Progressive Rock genre had their origins…their birth in the highly experimental and downright wacky world of the psychedelic era. So for that I’m actually kind of grateful. Life is one long continuum and this loony idea that based on your ideas you might find yourself on one side of history or another is…well…loony. There is no right-side or wrong-side of history…there is just HISTORY. And when it comes to the Progressive Rock genre, when it came to the sixties and the Summer of Love, we Prog fans have a lot to be thankful for. At least that’s what I think.