"1967: A Complete Rock Music History of the Summer of Love"
By Harvey Kubernik
264 pages, $29.95
"If you're going to San Francisco/be sure to wear a flower in your hair" -- Scott McKenzie
"But we should be together/Come on all you people standing 'round/Our life's too fine to let it die/We can be together" -- Jefferson Airplane
The "Summer of Love," the apex of the countercultural revolution that exploded in San Francisco in 1967, gets the glossy, coffee table-sized book treatment to mark its 50th anniversary.
"1967: A Complete Rock Music History of the Summer of Love," by Harvey Kubernik celebrates the profound changes that would soon emanate throughout pop culture, and influence the lifestyles of countless, mostly middle-class youth.
San Francisco bands, of course, take center stage, from Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service to Moby Grape, Country Joe and the Fish and Big Brother & the Holding Company. The sights and sounds from San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district that spring and summer reverberated across the United States.
"On our first U.S. tour we were in cities where all the kids came in prom gowns and tuxedos," recalled the Jefferson Airplane's Paul Kantner. "Then we came back to Iowa a year later, and they were having nude love-ins and everybody had their faces painted."
The book, with its 12 chapters organized by months, is attractively designed and fun to peruse. For those who remember "the Summer of Love," it's a walk down memory lane.
There are extensive photographs, recollections from some key participants and a hap-hazard narrative. The writing is surprisingly lead-footed for such a rich topic, making one wish for examples of the "'New Journalism" that era ushered in. If only the writing was on par with the groovy packaging.
Compensating are the book's visual appeal, and the broad array of topics covered. They include the profound influence of the Beats in North Beach a decade earlier; the first rock festivals --Monterey International Pop Festival and the less-remembered KFRC Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival the weekend before; and the key roles of concert impresarios Bill Graham and Chet Helm and the venues -- including Fillmore West, Winterland, the Avalon Ballroom and the Haight Theatre -- where they were staged, often with psychedelic light shows projected behind the bands.
The hippie-ish cultural scene is also put in the context of the times: In April 1967, the largest antiwar marches yet, held in San Francisco and New York City, drew a combined 200,000 people.
Bands outside of San Francisco who released music that year are also included, as underground rock mounted a serious challenge to Top 40 radio.
The catchy pop-soul stylings of the Supremes, the Four Tops and others of Detroit's Motown sound, Otis Redding and other acts in Stax's Memphis soul, and the avant-garde musings of the Velvet Underground are among the bands represented. L.A. bands, including the Byrds and the Doors, are also there, as are -- three years after arriving in New York City for the first time -- bands from the British Invasion, including the Rolling Stones, the Kinks and the Hollies, but especially the Beatles.
The Fab Four's trippy music and LSD experimentation, reflected in the June 1967 release of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," anticipated what flowered in San Francisco.
Perhaps not surprisingly missing in a book celebrating the past are the negatives that came out of the San Francisco scene, especially the large numbers of drug casualties as harder drugs gained a foothold. George Harrison, for one, visited that summer and rather than feeling in his element left turned off by what he'd seen.
The back of the book includes a handy playlist of songs and albums released in 1967. It's another reason to enjoy "1967," even if reading through the pages can feel at times -- for those who remember -- like looking at a black-light poster without the light turned on.
Mark Sommer is a News Staff Reporter