ROCK’S IN MY HEAD: CHAPTER 18: AND THE JUKEBOX KEPT ON PLAYING…
“There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear”, Stephen stills wrote in the 1967 song FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH.
The music of the 60s famously captured the countercultures activism and ethos of those times. Music can inspire, it can galvanize and fuel movements, it can spread the key messages for social causes. However, do we define the music that the artists create or do the songs they sing about the social issues defined us? Sometimes it’s both as its almost impossible to separate the art from the artist.
In my generation’s time the biggest example of music affecting culture had to be the music of the Beatles. Their music created an iconic shift in our culture. Take a look at photos in any high school yearbook before 1964, and you will see the American middle-class males all have really short haircuts. However in just one years time, everyone’s hair was a little longer. The Beatles were influencing culture, as a matter of fact they changed the entire culture. Fortunately during that time the music scene was not as fragmented as it is today. With about only five popular radio stations and/or TV stations( in NY) everyone heard the same songs. It was truly broadcasting in a “broad” sense of the word as opposed to today’s “narrow” casting. Music mobilized people and songs became anthems as music was one of the strongest ways to influence our generation.
By ’67 I was an avid reader of magazines, books, news weeklies, most somewhat politically skewed to the left, well as left as I could get away with in my household. Even my newspaper of choice was the VILLAGE VOICE, a weekly out of Manhattan. My high school’s reading assignments, the general novels assigned, the poems, did little to excite me, but I read what I was asked to read, mostly. But then, I read Ralph Nader’s UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED which intrigued me. His invitation to the auto makers to produce a safer machine was researched so well, and his requests and suggestions to the industry and to the government made so much sense. Yet no one did anything about it. The CORVAIR car, transmission gear positions on cars, safety to pedestrians, wind shield standards and seat belts.WOW, simple safety. That year Nader was “the man” to me.
THE SUMMER OF LOVE: 1967
A news item came across the screen the other day (2017) declaring that JEFFERSON AIRPLANE’S album SURREALISTIC PILLOW was certified Platinum, I’m talking a few month shy of it’s 50th anniversary of its release. That’s a long haul. The LP went GOLD back in July of 1967, THE SUMMER OF LOVE, finally platinum in 2017.
50 Years ago “it” was all over the press: San Francisco and the “SUMMER OF LOVE”. The SF Chronicle was the first to depict that designation to which I am sure they regretted almost immediately. But, WHAT WAS THAT SUMMER OF LOVE LIKE?
I was 15 and it was no summer of Love for me, summer of Confusion might best describe my circumstances. SURREALISTIC PILLOW was on my turn table yet I actually had to look up and research what the heck “surrealistic” meant and how the hell did it apply to a pillow. This was too far out.
Summer of ’67 nearly 100,000 kids head to San Francisco’s HAIGHT ASBURY with “flowers in their hair, flowers everywhere”. It is time to “turn on, tune in, drop out”. This coincides with young adults declaring rock and roll was here to stay, it was not some phase we would grow out of. Rock was to be our music, an essential part of our being, the way we expressed ourselves. I’m in, I ready to volunteer. Frank Sinatra, not for me. Even the sounds recorded at that moment in time changed. Listen to JORMA KAUKONEN’s feedback on PILLOW. It was new, unique, and different.We took this music, our music seriously, and so did the musicians who made it . Singles were fading fast as bands/musicians sought to make a statement or two. Albums became the rage. Musicians experimented and so did we.
Our radio changed. AM stuck to the hit parade format. Recent legislation stated that AM stations could no longer simulcast on FM, so the clearer sounding FM was free to experiment and experiment they did. The AM dj’s catch phrases, their gift of gab would not survive the coolness of the FM disk jockey playing THE DOORS Light My Fire (extended version).And in June of 67 The BEATLES released Sgt. Pepper’s which had no singles on it. Truly the listening teens were FM bound.
Reporting on the “happenings” changed also. The cigar smoking, shirt and tie wearing newsman suddenly had long bushy sideburns, bell bottom jeans, smoked a joint and wrote from the heart. Journalism,the reporting of the news was way different from what it was only a few months before. Slanted as it might have been, these new writers helped me develop a better understanding of culture and politics. An example would be RAMPARTS magazine, which started as a Catholic Quarterly, but now in ‘67 it was a full blown anti-establishment rag. It’s articles raised the hair on the back of my neck; Vietnam, the CIA, The Black Panthers. And then the NewYork Times Best Sellers List had names like Norman Mailer, Tom Wolfe and other non-traditional authors topping the charts. Hail, hail to THE CLASS OF ’67.These “New Journalists” led me to read authors who influenced the new generation: Lincoln Steffens, Ida Tarbell, and many other so called “muckrackers” as Teddy Roosevelt named their genre.
So what was 1967 through the eyes and ears of a fifteen year old boy? Well, January 15 the very first SUPER BOWL was held with a television audience of 60 million folks.The Green Bay Packers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10. Interesting to note that according to all research this singular event catapulted the NFL in viewership which in turn drew advertising money to football. The cost of a 30 second SUPER BOWL ad in 67 was a mere $37,500.
By February my neighbor, a guy I tried to get to take me to see the Lovin Spoonful told me about a new group he saw at Stony Brook, a local university. The band was Jefferson Airplane, yes, same group I read about in NEWSWEEK. Now, I was more than interested in that band.
The 25th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in February 1967 thereby establishing the “succession” to the Presidency which was vitally important as our Vice-Presidency had been vacant at least 16 times through our short history. This Amendment gave us a clear path to what steps were needed to take place, especially after the death of JFK when we had a void. This would prove to be politically significant in subsequent years.
In April Muhammed Ali, aka CASSIUS CLAY the Heavy Weight Champ who became a CO, was stripped of his heavyweight boxing title for refusing induction in to the US Army.
THE SIX DAY WAR (June 5-10) occurred just as we were finishing our school year. The Arab Forces were defeated and Israel took possession of additional territories. This news item intrigued me as I knew little if anything about the Middle East which we had studied this past year history class, but not like this.This was for real. My knowledge or lack thereof about the Middle East would soon change.
Thurgood Marshall became the first black Supreme Court Justice in October. These events made ’67 an interesting year. Monterey Pop was held (June), Otis Redding died, and SGT.PEPPERS was released. We listed to Sgt. Peppers almost every afternoon that June at my girlfriend’s house,with the music blasting through the speakers from her brother’s stereo which she placed in the front window while a group of us were playing whiffle ball in the street. Life and relationships were simple then.
My 45’s record collection seemed to grow by the end of each week: The Letter by the Box Tops with Alex Chilton on vocals is still a gem today, Light My Fire by The Doors (the edited radio version of course), The Rascals lovely Groovin’, Little Bit Of Soul, Kind Of A Drag, Expressway to Your Heart, Soul Man, Incense And Peppermints, Somebody To Love,and Whiter Shade of Pale just to name a few. However, I used more of my limited cash on albums: The Doors(first), the aforementioned Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, Moby Grape’s first, The Beatles Sgt. Peppers, Jimi Hendrix Experience, The KinKs Something Else,The Doors Strange Days (which my dad bought for me),Cream’s Disraeli Gears, The Who Sell Out, The Rascal’s Collections and The Soul Survivors, which I was led to believe by the guy behind the counter at the local RECORD RACK sounds “exactly” like the Rascals.This proclamation was not necessarily true and another story all together. By years end I included the newly established ROLLING STONE magazine to my mandatory reading list .
By end of 1967 heading into ’68, listening to FM radio and watching television rock was not enough for me. Like every other red blooded discophile I was drawn to the fire of live music. Having no true curfew I started to attend The Hullabaloo, a local teen club in the neighboring town of Lindenhurst. A true TEEN SCENE club serving 15-20 year olds with an affordable $2.00 cover. Their stage hosted a few bands each weekend (Friday and Saturday nights), many were local garage style combos, with a few noted National acts tossed in…The Vagrants, The Hassels, and Vanilla Fudge just to name a few.
During this period I saw The Critters (Younger Girl; My Dyingly Sad) at the local Roll N Ice, followed by Every Mothers Son (Come On Down To My Boat, Baby) at my 10th grade dance, The Good Rats (pre-TASTY) at a high school art show(1968), and a WMCA (NY Radio station-THE GOOD GUYS)sponsored “Sock Hop Show” featuring The Left Banke (1967). And of course Long Island’s own The Vagrants (Leslie West), and The Hassels (Billy Joel) regularly played at the aforementioned Hullabloo.
At home I played Rubber Soul and Revolver over and over again. Two of my favorite albums at that time and probably my two favorite Beatles albums of all times.
See you next time….Chapter19:THE SUMMER OF LOVE. Comments? email@example.com