“In 1967, nearly 100,000 free-spirited adventurers congregated in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood near Golden Gate Park to join a cultural revolution that created some of the era's most memorable music, art, fashion and literature. Wearing flowers in their hair, people danced through the streets, promoting peace in a war-ravaged world. Their legacy remains, and five decades later San Francisco will pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.”
Yes, it’s 2017. 50 years have passed by since most of the greatest masterpieces of the psychedelic era were released, thus there will be plenty of anniversaries to take note of this year! From The Doors, celebrated worldwide on January 4th, to 13th Floor Elevator’s Easter Everywhere and Love’s brilliant Forever Changes (both released in November), through Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow (February 1st), The Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday (February 6th), The Grateful Dead’s first album of the same title (March 17th), Country Joe and The Fish’s Electric Music for the Mind and the Body (May 11th), Jimi Hendrix’s Are You Experienced (May 12th), Red Crayola’s The Parable of the Arable Land (in June), and Tim Buckley’s Goodbye and Hello (in August). And let’s not forget that, in the volcanic creative folly of the moment, some bands even managed to work on and put out a second record in the same very year, as for instance The Doors (Strange Days, on September 25th), Country Joe (I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die, in November), Jefferson Airplane, with their hippiest record After Bathing at Baxter’s (released on November 30th), and Hendrix with Axis: Bold As Love (December 1st).
Frisco will celebrate in style, with flowers, 60’s dance parties, wine tastings, fashion fairs, and a very interesting bunch of special exhibitions, among which it is worth mentioning “Summer of Love: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll”, from April 8th to August 20th at the de Young Museum, “Jim Marshall’s 1967” which will be opening on January 26th at the San Francisco City Hall, and “On the Road to the Summer of Love”, curated by Grateful Dead Historian Dennis McNelly at the California Historical Society, from May 12th to September 10th. And, of course, music. Plenty of it. From a new version of the Monterey International Pop Festival at the Monterey County Fairgrounds (June 16th-18th) to the Jerry Day at the Jerry Garcia Amphitheater on August 6th, with more not-to-be-missed gigs as part of the Stern Grove Festival (June 25th-August 27th), the Marin County Fair (June 30th-July 4th), the outdoor Fillmore Jazz Festival (July 1st-2nd) and the mid-October Treasure Island Music Festival.
While across the pond they look busy celebrating the 40th anniversary of punk, we would also love to make sure that the greatest works of British psychedelia won’t be forgotten over here, on their 50th birthday. Records such as The Beatles’ iconic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mistery Tour, Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, with its unique collection of spacey tunes conceived by the borderline genius of Syd Barrett, Incredible String Band’s The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion, Kaleidoscope’s Tangerine Dream, Traffic’s Mr Fantasy, and Cream’s Disraeli Gear, to name a few, were equally influential, over the years, throughout the world. And even the clumsy attempt at hippieness from The Rolling Stones - whose album Their Satanic Majesties Request marks quite a unique point in an otherwise rather consistent career - is nowadays worth a mention (and a listen), even only to understand how appealing the flower-power call was in those frenzy days.
It’s relevant to notice that, far away from the lysergic path, some other unforgettable works were given birth in 1967, possibly the most important year in rock history. Here’s a quick list with the most significant: the dark, heroin-soaked trip of The Velvet Underground & Nico, Captain Beefheart’s Safe as Milk, Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding, Nico’s Chelsea Girl, Songs of Leonard Cohen, Aretha Franklin’s I Have Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, Buffalo Springfield Again, Frank Zappa’s Absolutely Free, Moby Grape’s and Procol Harum’s namesake first records, and last but not least Nina Simone Sings the Blues. Still young, but already remarkably rich in so many facets and nuances, at the end of the sixties rock and roll - and possibly mankind as a whole - was living its golden age.
P.S.: If you go to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair!