Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Turn on, tune in, drop out (Timothy Leary)

My second entry in my Ethernet Bright Lights Brilliant Minds sequel comes a year after London 1966.

San Francisco 1967.

Yes - the influence of London as the cultural centre of the universe didn't last beyond that halcyon year.

Focus quickly shifted to the west coast of the United States of America in 1967 where the Summer of Love became a social phenomenon when as many as 100,000 people converged in the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood of San Francisco.  

Wikipedia tells us that San Francisco in 1967 was  'the epicenter of the social earthquake that would come to be known as the Hippie Revolution'. The city became even more of a melting pot of politicsmusicdrugs, creativity, and the total lack of sexual and social inhibition than it already was.

As the hippie counterculture movement came farther and farther forward into public awareness, the activities centered therein became a defining moment of the 1960s, causing numerous 'ordinary citizens' to begin questioning everything and anything about them and their environment as a result.'

The Beatles were certainly paying attention to the cultural shift - Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was McCartney's band-de-plume inspired by the weird names of the SF bands and George went to SF to sample the vibe for himself (he wasn't impressed though).

For me the scene in SF in 1967 marked the year when the counter culture started becoming THE culture. A roll call of San Francisco bands gives you an idea how the creative juices were overflowing in 1967. These bands are now thought of as an integral part of sixties culture.

Jefferson Airplane released Surrealistic Pillow. A brilliant fusion of pop and folk smarts with a glimpse of their future rock agenda. It was a wonderfully sunny record full of intelligence and grace. Her name was Grace Slick.

Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company (Janis Joplin), Sly and the Family Stone, Steve Miller Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Santana all either formed or recorded debut albums and started playing live gigs in SF 1967. 

In literary circles the famous beat poets were finding their voices being heard anew by the counter culture. Allen Ginsberg (writing poems that would eventually appear in 1968's Planet News), Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the City Lights bookstore were entirely relevant to the expanding consciousness being promoted in SF 1967.

The art and music worlds in San Francisco came together thanks to the heavily psychedicised posters from a bunch of talented outlaws to society. Rick Griffin, Stanley Mouse and others revolutionised pop art. It was a heady time!

And in film, there was  Point Blank - a neo noir crime film directed by John Boorman, starring Lee Marvin and featuring Angie Dickinson. The film was not a box office success in 1967 but has since gone on to become a cult classic. 

How very 1967 San Francisco!

Love and peace - Wozza

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