If you can remember “Incense, Peppermints”, you’re way older than 30—the age that the Hippies used to say was the cut-off date for people you could trust. A 30-year old in 1967’s Summer of Love would be 72 now. No telling how trustworthy that would be, either.
The music from that time has made a comeback with the help of Gary Raycheck, a local producer working with Ben Vereen and others to showcase the music that defined the late-’60′s eAra. Bands like the Strawberry Alarm Clock produced the sounds associated with the era of free love and turning on, tuning in and dropping out. The bands on the CD are the musicians of a movement that coalesced in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury district— and scared the hell out of the Squares who had bought the American Dream and secretly feared anyone who may have buyer’s remorse. Now, forty years later, the music on the CD sounds quaint and kind of old fashioned, much like what Yankee Doodle Dandy sounds like to a post-Cold War generation. Yet this is the music that moved millions to do a quintessentially American thing—head west, dump the wage-slavery of nine-to-fiving for the Man, and take a new shot at life by re-inventing themselves and their world. They were the inheritors of the spirit that moved their ancestors to cross an ocean in search of America, and to settle the West and stake the Gold Rush. They inherited the words of Thoreau, Mark Twain and O. Henry to live life on their own terms for better or worse. They were an anomalous American generation that respected poetry. And they had the input of people like Timothy Leary who urged all and sundry to consider better living through chemistry.
The Hippies were begat by the Beats, who were called “Beatniks” by Squares who couldn’t understand the times or keep their mouths shut. “Hipsters” were the folk who played the folk songs in the coffeehouses of the Haight, or L.A. or even here in the days before the the SDPD closed them down in an hysterical bid to stop progress. “Hippies” were the young hipsters; the little brother and little sister wannabes whom the old guard grudged acceptance at first. But as time went on, the name stuck and those who rebelled against their low-numbered draft cards and Uncle Sam’s one-way excursion to Vietnam with the last stop at Arlington were the ones to radically change the social foundation of the society that raised them. The world hasn’t been the same since—thank God.
The times were ripe for changing, too. The Cold War fearmongering and anti-communist witch hunts had choked freedom too long; the great number of youth who went to college found in education a previously unknown intellectual freedom and the promise of opportunity and millions of them wanted to do more than shoehorn themselves into gray flannel suits and commute from Levittowns to windowless offices. Women had the Pill, which allowed them to choose when or if pregnancy would happen and the recent Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act opened up new avenues that hippies’ mothers never had. The rising tide of feminism altered the Old Boy’s network permanently and all the assumptions that went unquestioned before were reassessed by the young, the restless and very often, the stoned.
The echoes of that era are still with us and the cultural counterattack by the Squares of the rightwing have moved much of the tide back to where it once was when culture was more straitlaced and less free. The “post 9-11 world” shibboleth that gave license to the Man to re-impose a direction the ’60′s turned us from is back on track and if people think they are somehow more secure, they can’t help but notice they’re less free to be themselves. A new generation is learning that security trumps freedom and that their elders were just a bunch of crackpots who did too many drugs and mean nothing.
But the music in this CD is a time capsule of when millions caused a revolution just by not showing up to the fate society had in store for them and doing something different instead. It’s 108 minutes of Jesse Colin Young, Peter & Gordon, Buddy Miles, Earl Thomas and others, with a nod to Otis Redding. Come hear the music play and see what it inspired over 40 years ago. Check Adams Entertainment dot com.