Summer of Love REDUX

 My singing group, Spirit Voices, recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, with a concert at Nissi’s night club in Colorado. I’m the oldest member of the group, and the only one who, in 1967, spent time in both the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco and New York’s Lower East Side–the twin poles of psychedelia. I was a reporter for the Boston Globe, my first job, and because I was in my early twenties, they sent me out across the country to report on what we called the counter culture.

Over the years, the hippie movement has been trivialized, but in first bloom, it carried a sense of hope, joy, wild playfulness, and the promise of a new order based on sharing, equal rights, ending war, spiritual uplift and, above all, love.  Naïve? Sure, but at the time it was sincere and we really believed we could achieve it.

Danny Goldberg, a former hippie who became a record company president and ACLU board member, just published In Search of the Lost Chord: 1967 and the Hippie Idea.

Goldberg today

1967 was a “moment,” he writes, “when `peace and love’ was not meant or taken ironically.”

Goldberg says that among his peers, “there is a near universal recollection of a period of communal sweetness… of tribal intimacy one could have even with a stranger.”

He describes how, as a newly minted “head” or hippie, in his first term at Berkeley, he’d gone to the airport barefoot to take a plane home for Christmas break.But they wouldn’t let him on the plane barefoot. 

Goldberg then

Bummer. No time to go back and get shoes or find a shoe store. He looked around the waiting area for another “head,” spotted a guy with long hair, explained his predicament and asked to borrow some shoes. The young man did not hesitate to dig shoes out of his knapsack. Looking back, Goldberg can’t decide what’s more remarkable: that the guy gave his shoes to a stranger, or that Goldberg had no doubt that he would.

Whether you were a head, a weekend hippie, or a politico, of if you were just young and alive and breathing, what bound us all together was the music. In 1967, there was an outpouring of musical creativity like nothing I’ve seen in the rest of my life.

This was the year the Grateful Dead, a local band who lived in Palo Alto, released their first album, introducing them to the nation. The same was true for Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company, Sly and the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, and the Doors. I met my husband that summer and what I remember is lying on the unmade bed in my apartment, whose air conditioner was worthless, listening to the extended electric piano solo by Ray Manzarak that spirals up and down until it can’t go higher or become more intense until Jim Morrison comes in to sing, “The time to hesitate is through….”

It was the summer of the first rock festival, Monterey Pop, which featured, among others, the Dead, the Airplane, Janis Joplin, Simon and Garfunkel, Otis Redding, Pink Floyd, Sly Stone, the Mamas and the Papas, Jimi Hendrix, Ravi Shankar and the Who. Can you imagine? Many of them were still unknowns.

It was also the summer the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper, which upended the musical universe. A few days after its release, I ran into a friend who was a classical music maven and looked down on rock as an inferior form. He said he’d just had a “life transforming” experience. “I spent four hours playing  Sgt. Pepper.”  Eyes glazed, he told me, “I am blown fucking away.”

Fifty years later, as my group of 22 women prepared for the concert, the big question was: “What would we wear?’’ Our leader extraordinaire, the musician, composer and teacher, Janis Kelly,suggested we dress in hippie style.

Janis Kelly

Many had never seen actual hippies, so they trolled the internet and found “hippie clothes” that were fabulously colorful but did not look authentic. Thinking back, I remembered that my go-to outfit then was bell-bottom jeans pulled over a purple short-sleeve leotard. My hair fell nearly to my waist, and I straightened it by applying Dippity Doo and wrapping the hair around and around my head, securing it with clips, so the head served as a giant roller. My self image rose and fell with how well my hair looked–frizzy, unruly, sleek?  Goldberg, whom I’d just met then, told me that men with long hair felt the same way.

Where is that leather shirt with beads? What wouldn’t I give to have it back?

When I wanted to look fancier, as I did when I went to Copenhagen to report on the Rolling Stones’ European Tour, I wore a nightgown of two-tone lavender jersey that hung to the floor, believing it would pass as a maxi-dress.

I bought clothes at unisex stores, where, in the next dressing room, a young man might be trying on the same jeans, shirts and belts that I was trying. The sales clerks were hot-looking guys who were happy to give you their opinion. Like:  “Man, if I saw you in those pants, I‘d want to ball you.” (This was before women’s lib came rolling out in ’68, and such opinions became fighting words.)

When we took to the stage at Nissi’s, we began with “Aint no Mountain High Enough,” then the Mamas and Papas’ version of “Dedicated to the One I Love,” and after a half dozen more hits, closed with “Higher and Higher.”

I can’t hear that song without remembering an image from a party I went to around that time, in Tiburon, just north of San Francisco. Word had gone out that the party would be at a luxurious home with a pool and decks looking out on the ocean and the Golden Gate Bridge. The owners were away… And this party was for “the people.” More than 200 showed up on a Saturday morning and stayed till dawn on Sunday. The hosts had set up a killer sound system and, over and over, they played Jackie Wilson singing “Higher and Higher.”

“The people” were getting higher and higher, jumping up and down, waving their arms in the air, reaching for the sky. And every single one of them… was naked.

You can WATCH an amateur video of our group performing “Higher and Higher,” with clothes. It’s hard to hear our voices, so crank up the sound and you’ll get the idea.

I also recommend listening to the show Terry Gross did about the re-mixing and re-release of Sgt. Pepper this year, interviewing Giles Martin, who led the project and whose father, George Martin, was the Beatles’ producer.

More good news: Janus Films is releasing an enhanced 4K version of Monterey Pop, the legendary documentary by D.A. Pennebaker.

We’ll be singing at other venues in Colorado. On Saturday, July 15, at 7pm, we’ll be at Deviant Spirits in Boulder. If you’d like to join us in dancing and celebrating, please email leap@saradavidson.com and we’ll send you details of other shows.

PLEASE LEAVE A COMMENT, like: Where were you when you first heard Sgt. Pepper? Or, what article of clothing would you like to retrieve from that time?

 

 

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31 thoughts on “Summer of Love REDUX

  1. Susan Rammacca Josephs

    My daughter has my white, hand crocheted, backless mini dress that I wore in 1967, to the opening of my consignment department store in Boulder, the Raggedy Ann Clothes Emporium. She also has the bell bottom Seafarer jeans I embroidered for my husband and his chocolate brown velvet wedding suit with bell bottom pants and an Edwardian jacket that we purchased on Carnaby Street at the end of our year long European trip where we lived in a VW camper. We’d had the honeymoon. It was time to get married.

  2. Barb Warner

    Last week I was wondering where all those wonderful souls were who were wanting to give peace a chance. Maybe I have found a few.
    I joined the Peace Corps in 1964 wanting to share with others the gift of knowing that they indeed they were loved and deserved the opportunity of being all that they could be. I remember first hearing the Beatles at a Peace Corps party in Ankara Turkey.

    After retiring 10 years ago, I wrote a book, Keep Your Fork: Dessert Is On The Way: Savoring the Second Half of Life. I now enjoy giving talks where I give my peers the joy of knowing that they can have a life that is magical. Keep Your Fork is a way that they can be reminded of that.

    I am now facilitating Wisdom Circles in Denver modeled after the vision of Rabbi Zalman who had a vision of giving elders the opportunity of knowing the possibilities of becoming.

    I am glad to have read your post and given me a chance to share myself with you.

    1. Sara Davidson Post author

      My first lover joined the Peace Corps in ’64, in Africa. That was a major thing to do for people who wanted to make a difference. Your book and wisdom circles sound terrific.

  3. Jude

    Next Wednesday is Reb Zalman’s z’l, yarhzeit.
    3 long years, that at times without him have felt longer.

    Heard Sgt. Pepper the first week it came out, while living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, participating in and awaiting the coalescence of B’nai Or.

  4. Katya Sabaroff Taylor

    I first heard Sgt Pepper when I lived in a 3rd floor walk up in NYC between amsterdam and columbus. I was going to Columbia Teacher’s College, and about to join the staff of Liberation News Service, which had a storefront then around the corner from TC. I was probably lying on a couch in the living room with my roommate (getting her degree in English at Columbia), having smoked a joint, and listening raptly.

    In those days, my go to outfit was jeans, rolled up below the knee, and a cordoroy shirt. At LNS, we all wore workboots.

    At the age of 73, i have gone to a recent party at a friends where we all tie-dyed t-shirts. So, keeping the tradition alive.

    xo
    katya

  5. Teresa

    Thanks for sharing! I was only 8 in Summer 1967 for years I always wished that I had been born earlier so I could have experienced the Summer of Love and the ’60s.

    1. Debra

      I was 4 in the summer of ’67 and after reading “Loose Change” 10 years later, I thought that college was going to be like that: full of protests and fun. Not at all.

  6. Jan Anisman

    Oh Sara, your blog brings back so many memories. Of course, the memories are not literal, but are remembered through a mist of what I have read since, what I want to believe was real and what I choose to remember. In 1967, I was twelve years old, living in Sherman Oaks in the San Fernando Valley. However, my older sister was eighteen years old and had just completed her first semester at UC Santa Barbara. My grandmother was very ill that summer and my mother, who usually attempted to prolong my childhood was not around. I did not understand Pepper at first, but my sister told me to lay down on the floor and listen and just feel the music. I got it. I still love the Beatles, I still long for the feeling that the world was going to change and we were going to change it. Of course, this was before Bobby, Martin, Altamont, Manson, etc. I remember lying on the beach, either Zuma in Malibu or Tees in Santa Monica (my body covered in baby oil and my brown hair stiff from lemon juice to try in vain to get blond streaks) and dreaming of a world where everyone loved one another, there was peace and nothing really bad, like JFK’s death would ever happen again. And I agree, the music was the glue that held it all together. Along with the Beatles, I still listen frequently to Janis, the Doors, the Airplane, the Dead, along with the folk heros, Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, of course, Simon and Garfunkel. I truly believed it was the dawning of the age of Aquarius and that “peace would guide the planet and love would steer the stars”. How fun for you to visit that time, and the music. It seems that not much later I read a book called “Loose Change” and I have been an ardent fan ever since. Sorry, feeling old and nostalgic today, turning 62 next week. Love your blog almost as much as your books.

  7. Maureen

    Sara,

    As always, the minute I see your newest post in my inbox I open it out, read it (twice usually – once at regular speed, to enjoy, and once at slow speed, to savor how you write). This post didn’t disappoint. Thanks so much for consistently sharing a fresh, thoughtful perspective.

    With Aloha, Maureen

  8. Christine Clayworth

    I grew up in Berkeley in the sixties and clearly remember listening to Sergeant Pepper’s on my transistor radio as I walked to Berkeley High School with my best friend. We both had long straight (ironed) hair down to our waists and wore sandals from Mexico, blue jeans and old t-shirts, possibly ripped and preferably white. Sometimes we put flowers in our hair. That was in ’67. When we graduated in ’69 we had plans to buy a camper van, drive to Mexico and teach english. Instead, she joined Synanon (a drug program of that era) although the only drug she had ever used was the occasional joint and I took a job with an insurance company. The best laid plans…..

  9. Debra

    I first listened to Sgt. Pepper sometime in the summer of 1976. It was the year that I became a “Beatlemaniac,” as I put it back then. I had already loved Paul McCartney’s music with Wings, so an uncle who was more like an older brother started teaching me about the other three Beatles. I was 13.

    A year later, I read “Loose Change,” which I still peruse every few years, the last time on my Kindle while flying to Santa Fe. I can’t believe it’s been 40 years since the first time I read it. I was all ready to go to college and protest but by 1980, there really wasn’t any visible protest at my college. Oh well, I eventually did get to join some protests (like the recent Women’s March) but I was a LOT older.

    The good thing about being older is that I got to experience the 60s music when it was NEW. I didn’t know much about the Beatles until ’76 but I remember listening to “Hello Goodbye” when it first came out. Not to mention the Temptations, Supremes, Four Tops, Simon and Garfunkel, Mamas & The Papas, Sly and the Family Stone, Rolling Stones…the music then was incredible and we always had the radio on in our house.

    As for the “hippie clothes” picture, this was interesting because I recently found a photo in which I am wearing something similar. It was taken in 1970 on the last day of second grade (in New York City). I suppose “hippie” fashions had become pretty harmless by then if I was wearing them at 7. I like that I was an actual CHILD of the 60s.

    Lastly, I enjoy reading your stories and posts, Sara. Thank you.

  10. Kirby Cannon

    This was a great piece. But I was about as far removed from the experience of the time as it was possible to get. I returned to Travis AFB from Viet Nam escorting the body of a best friend who died as I was leaving. We went on to the Air Force Academy for his funeral which was a major downer with his widow (a close friend of Susanne) , her family and his family all devastated. Following that, Susanne and I meandered down to my next assignment in Del Rio, Texas where I was to be flight instructor for boys who would be headed to Viet Nam. After a month or so I was sent to Sherman Texas to be trained as an instructor. At the end of that program in September the second child, a daughter, was born (there had been a Christmas R&R in Hawaii). Then it was back to Del Rio and the instruction business.
    This was a small Texas town with an air base which was important to the economy and in our four years there we found no evidence of the turmoil that you found. We weren’t thinking about Canada in case of revolution. It was pretty much business as usual – going to work and raising children. We had absolutely no first hand interaction with 60s as you and so many others did.
    But we did experience the music and fully agree that nothing in the past 50 years has approached it.

  11. Donna Greenberg

    The summer after my junior year of high school (1967), my best friend and I spent as many hours as possible lying out in the sun, playing the LPs of Sgt. Pepper and The Doors until we wore them out. The whole world seemed to explode with possibilities in 1967 and 1968. Music was and continues to be the passion that runs through my life, and I still go to as many live shows as I can squeeze into a week. I live in Philly, home of Terry Gross and Fresh Air, and I loved her show with Giles Martin. I’ve heard some other shows on Sgt. Pepper on Sound Opinions, and on our great local indie radio station, WXPN-FM.

    Hard to believe that this week, both Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson turned 75 — only two days apart. Between Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds, pop music was turned on its head all over again. I know one of them influenced the other but I can’t remember which!

    As for a piece of clothing…..I’ve saved some of my favorite long scarves and long earrings and still wear them. I’d love to have some of my peasant shirts and original tie-dies back.

  12. Elizabeth Betts

    I was in eighth grade the year that Sargeant Pepper’s came out. I asked for the album that year for my 13th birthday and got it! My sisters and I were all big beatle fans. My mom was too, and she always bought us the latest albums-what a cool mom, eh?

  13. Joey Bortnick

    Hi Sara,
    Loved reading this. Just home from Golden Gate Park at Conservatory of Flowers Surrealistic Light Show and Concert! Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Hot Tuna, Rightious Brothers, Phil Lesh and Friends, Big Brother and the Holding Company etc… fabulous free concert to acknowledge the 50 years since the Summer of Love. They began with SergantPepper and ended with All You Need is Love. The Conservatory went psychedelic, I got high just from breathing, I braided ribbons and flowers into my long hair. It was a sea of tie dyes and almost ten thousand happy hippies celebrating the Solstice in the way only San Francisco can. You look and sound amazing and I know you’re remembering…. much Love, Joey🌸🌺💜❤🌺🌞💜🌺🌸❤

  14. Gini Maddocks

    Now I realize why I have felt a strong bond with you since first receiving your blog posts–we are of the same fabric.. We must have come in on a vibe and recognize like-minds when we see them. It’s a story that we share, a Vision with momentum that shows itself in so many mundane ways that it goes unnoticed. But we remain. Enough of us to recognize the contribution of our generation. It will not die–it was our purpose. But many of us have died for that shared Purpose. And still we sing their songs.

    Graduating from high school in 1969, many of us felt that if we were ever in need–we could simply find another ’69’er to help! I still think it would work.

    Purposeful. We were mighty with our purpose–‘though it took many of us the long way around to find purpose but we were united in that urgent pulse… the same pulse that drove our music.

    I remember thinking a long time ago–“Will i ever be able to talk-OUTLOUD–about the drugs, the music, the voluntary eccentricities we embodied?” And just to prove that we create our world as we go, collectively, we find ourselves doing just that. We are talking about it. We created “rap”, does anyone remember what “rap” meant to us? Sitting in that circle, passing ideas as we passed our herb. That’s what rapping was to us.

    Kudos to you, Sarah, for being one of the free and the brave. May we live and breathe and realize (real eyes) our purpose was to sing our song–out-loud and strong.

  15. Farrell Dyde

    I enjoyed very much reading about your experiences. — Farrell Dyde

    The Summer of Love

    Do not forget,
    dear Harold,
    that 1967 was the
    Summer of Love
    and how we did love

    to spend weekends
    in Boulder
    being drunk
    and stoned
    and listening to

    Sergeant Pepper’s
    Lonely Hearts
    Club Band
    by the Beatles
    (Oh, Ed!).

    And sleeping
    with whatever
    came along
    with the songs we came
    to love so much.

    (Oh, you thing!)
    “Let’s Do it in the Road”
    Oh, no
    that was the
    White Album, but,

    so what!
    The time is
    blurring
    now as I
    think of you

    coming over late
    at night
    stoned on acid
    and feeling
    so very bright

    and such
    conversations
    we had
    and how brilliant
    we were

    and now to think
    that I had no idea
    who you were
    when you
    friended me

    on Facebook
    and I confirmed you
    as just another
    stranger to add
    numbers to my list.

    And then you
    mentioned
    the Camp. —
    Oh yes, the Camp
    where we all fell

    in love with Carol
    and then her
    Marine boyfriend
    fresh from Vietnam
    came to visit

    and wanted to
    kick the shit
    out of
    all us
    “Hippies.”

    So, we took
    all the chairs
    out of the dinning
    room, making room
    for nothing

    but screeches
    of disbelief
    at Breakfast
    with no one with
    a place to sit down.

    Ha! Ha!
    Ha!Ha!
    Ha! Ha!
    Ah, yes
    the Summer of Love!

    FD.11.3.11

  16. Marc Raphael

    This is the kind of memory I will use in my course on the 1960s next spring called THE SIXTIES:Coming apart!

  17. dolores g deluce

    I drove to Boston from New Jersey with 2 of my high school friends, home on break from college. We arrived at one of their friends apartments in Boston and all I recall is smoking the strongest weed I have ever smoked, it may have been my first time, (not sure) and just listened to the Sgt. Pepper Album, for the first time over and over for hours it seemed. I recall being laid out like a corpse too stoned to sit up in the back seat of their car, tripping out the whole way back to New Jersey. Oh those were the days.

  18. Michael Sims

    I was in between 7th& 8th grade during the summer of love…and have many memories of that time, too many to go into here. But what really struck me from this blog, Sara, is your mention of Dippity Do!!! I would roll up my hair religiously every school night with that goop…until I realized in my super strait hair was “happening”.
    I also remember the afternoon my mother (who was an uber cool mom) came home with her new cache of LP’s that included Sargent Pepper, Tommy by the Who, and The Buffalo Springfield! Music that became the soundtracks of the times. Thanks for taking me down this memory lane!

  19. Rob

    Sara: I just came across your book “Cowboy” at a senior center library here in Arizona and was prompted into memory of loving your bool about the women in the sixties. I sort of lost track of you after reading that book but am happy to see that your are alive and still kicking ass years later. Keep up the good work and I regret being born in 1954 and not 1949 being I missed my chances of being a hippie by a few years.
    Peace and love Sara!
    Rob

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