The Human Be-In Starts a Revolution
”Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Psychologist and psychedelic-drug enthusiast Timothy Leary coins the catchphrase for the 1960s counterculture while addressing the throng that has converged on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park for the Human Be-In. He thought up the term in the shower as a way to promote LSD. Many attendees appear to be in the know, however, as they groove to performances by Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. While the event takes place five months before the June 21 solstice, it’s a significant precursor to the Summer of Love, as news of the happening quickly spreads across the nation. By spring, San Francisco’s bohemian Haight-Ashbury district is a mecca for those in search of a spiritual revolution — and some heavy-duty acid.
Gary Duncan, guitarist, Quicksilver Messenger Service
”By the time we got there, there were, like, 20,000 people. Word got out, and all the news crews arrived, and it became a social movement.”
Ray Manzarek, keyboardist, the Doors
”We were in San Francisco to play our first gig at the legendary Fillmore. The four of us all looked at each other and said, We’re gonna change the world! Of course, we didn’t, but that’s another story.”
Sam Andrew, guitarist, Big Brother and the Holding Company
”I’ve never been able to decide if we were there or not. I thought for years that we were in NYC having meetings. But every third gig someone will come up and say, ‘I saw you at the Human Be-In!”’
Pamela Des Barres, self-proclaimed groupie and author, I’m With the Band ”I went to that, and soon [the love-ins] started in Los Angeles. It was the most free-floating, exquisite experience every time. My girlfriends and I would make cupcakes and put flowers in everybody’s hair. The communes were spreading, everybody living together — this was brand-new stuff!”
The Grateful Dead Come Alive…Sort Of
The Grateful Dead’s Haight house is a hotbed of hippie activity, with local musicians and artists congregating nightly. The first self-titled album from the merry band of sonic explorers pretty much stiffs upon its March debut, but their ”out-there” live shows birth the Deadheads, making them one of the most popular concert draws for decades to come.
Bob Weir, singer and guitarist, Grateful Dead
”If I had that record to do over and I could make one change it would be the Ritalin. Several of the guys had just discovered Ritalin and thought, Okay, we’ll take a little of this stuff and be right on top of our form. The music suffered for that a little bit.”
David Crosby, singer and guitarist, the Byrds
”There were jam sessions constantly [at the Haight house]. It was clean, well kept. But it’s impossible to describe. It’s like trying to describe colors if you were born blind.”
”The first time I saw the Dead, I think, was at an Acid Test at the Fillmore. They were playing because they were involved with [counterculture icon and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author] Ken Kesey, who was an advocate of dosing everybody with LSD. I took so much, it would kill a normal person. There were a lot of people who aren’t around today because they never came down.”
Jefferson Airplane Take Flight
The Airplane are the first of the S.F.-based bands to break big, thanks to their May-charting sophomore album, Surrealistic Pillow, which includes the hits ”Somebody to Love” and the hallucinogenic-minded ”White Rabbit.” New singer Grace Slick, a statuesque former model, is hailed as one of the first female rock stars.
Paul Kantner, singer and rhythm guitarist, Jefferson Airplane
”It was a very naively beautiful, fresh album celebrating life. And I was entranced by Grace almost from day one. But I don’t think any of us thought the band would be a long-term project. We thought we could change the world just by being good people, the dumb f–s that we were. [Laughs]”
The Summer of Love Gains an Anthem
Penned for folksinger Scott McKenzie by the Mamas and the Papas’ John Phillips, ”San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” hits the charts, further encouraging the migration of young people to the Bay Area.
”Phillips was negotiating [the details of the upcoming Monterey Pop Festival]. He told me about the resistance they were getting [from locals] and their fear of this wave of young people coming from points east. I said, ‘Why don’t we write a song that’s friendly advice to kids, saying: Look, not everyone’s excited about you coming here.’ [Recently] there was some nutty conservative website which [suggested] I alone was responsible for sexual immorality. Let me tell you something: I did my part [laughs], but I can’t be held responsible for the whole thing!”
The Beatles Release Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Beatles’ album is an instant classic, fueling global interest in psychedelic-drug use (”Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”), Indian culture (”Within You Without You”), and groovy military clothes.
”The day Sgt. Pepper was released in Britain [on June 1], we ran down to the store to get it. I did drop by [the recording sessions], but I was with the Small Faces when I first heard the album. We’d been hanging out, smoking joints, drinking wine, and playing guitar. It blew everybody’s mind.”
Micky Dolenz, singer and drummer, the Monkees
”Paul McCartney invited me to a session. I got on my paisley, double-knit bell-bottoms and my tie-dyed shirt and my beads and my hair all done up; I must have looked like a cross between Ronald McDonald and Charles Manson. The limo pulls up to Abbey Road Studios, and I walk inside. The four guys are sitting there in jeans and T-shirts, just playing. I was like, ‘Where are the girls?’ John Lennon said, ‘Hey, Monkee man: You want to hear what we’re working on?’ He points to George Martin, up in the booth. Martin is wearing a three-piece suit. He pushes the button, and I hear the tracks to ‘Good Morning Good Morning.’ It was a big moment.”
”We went up to Tim Leary’s place in upstate New York and listened to it. It was a bit rich for me. I found myself longing for that old, lean rock & roll quartet. But, that said, it was pretty damn good. At the end, Leary said, ‘My work is done.’ I’m not totally sure I felt that way, but…[laughs]”
”I remember it being played at the love-ins. It was magic; you could almost see flowers sprouting in the air. And if you were on acid, you really could see flowers sprouting in the air!”
Groovy: the Monterey Pop Festival
The Monterey County Fairgrounds fest features a veritable A-to-Z of Summer of Love luminaries, including the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, the Who, Buffalo Springfield, the Grateful Dead, the Mamas and the Papas, Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar, Otis Redding, the Janis Joplin-fronted Big Brother and the Holding Company, and a guitar-immolating Jimi Hendrix. Soon after, media interest in the counter-culture climaxes with the TIME magazine cover story ”The Hippies: Philosophy of a Subculture.”
Lou Adler, record label owner and Monterey co-organizer
”Woodstock is remembered for the weather. Altamont for the murder. But Monterey is remembered for the music.”
”I was standing 15 feet from Hendrix when he burned his guitar. Afterwards I was in the [musicians’] tent, and we both had black cowboy hats on. Hendrix looked at me and said, ‘That’s a nice hat.’ I said, ‘Thank you,’ and he said, ‘Would you like some acid?’ He had a little tin and handed it over — it had about 20 hits — and said, ‘Take whatever you want.’ So I swallowed about 10 and handed it back to him, and he took the rest. About 20 minutes later, he said, ‘Let’s play!’ We played for four or five hundred years. [Laughs]”
”Watching Otis was thrilling. People forget this was a fantastic time for soul music. He got more reaction in terms of traditional applause than anybody. Then we lost him [in a plane crash on December 10, 1967]. Jesus. You know, there’s no justice.”
”Ravi Shankar asked everyone not to smoke marijuana. We were impressed by that. He said, ‘You don’t need that if you’re going to listen to my music.”’
Peter Tork, singer and multi-instrumentalist, the Monkees
”The Vietnam War was going on, of course. We knew it was bogus from the start — not unlike contemporary situations. One of the reasons for the Summer of Love was that a ton of kids simply withdrew from Lyndon Johnson’s world because it was so clear that those who were in charge were totally bereft of any moral underpinning whatsoever. We said: You guys know nothing, so we’re going to run off and have our fun. It’s like that line from ‘Wooden Ships’ by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young: ‘We are leaving, you don’t need us.”’
The Doors’ ”Light My Fire” Blazes a Trail to the Top of Billboard‘s Hot 100
Jim Morrison & Co. are given carte blanche on their eponymous debut album. The result, released in January 1967, is a groundbreaking, subversive fusion of rock, poetry, and sex with a track listing that includes ”Light My Fire,” ”The End,” and ”Break on Through (To the Other Side).” But the album starts to shift significant quantities only after a truncated version of the seven-minute ”Light My Fire” hits No. 1.
”When we recorded ‘Light My Fire,’ Bruce Botnick, our engineer, was watching a Dodgers game — they were going for the pennant and the great Sandy Koufax was pitching. We’re playing the solos; Jim’s dancing around playing a maraca, and he comes across the TV in the corner. You could see him going, What the heck is this? He looks at Bruce, looks at the TV set, picks the set up, and throws it at the window. Fortunately, the glass was a good three-quarters of an inch thick. The set bounced off, fell on the floor, sputtered, and died. You don’t have a baseball game playing when the Doors are making magic.”
George Harrison Hates the Haight
Perhaps a little too late to the party, the Beatle guitarist arrives in San Francisco and is unimpressed by what he sees. Meanwhile, busloads of tourists gawk at the hippies and, often, the bare derrieres of the Grateful Dead.
”George saw that it had turned into skid row, and the older generation of bohemians that were less altruistic were selling hard drugs. The dealers started using our songs as an example of ‘Turn on, tune in, drop out.’ We didn’t mean turn on to drugs — we meant turn on to awareness.”
”The mistake we made was telling everyone what a wonderful time we were having.”
”As soon as someone saw a tour bus rounding the corner, the cry went out: Battle stations, load and prime. Whoever was around would get by a window and fire away — we’d all drop our pants.”
Jimi Becomes Experienced
The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s first album, Are You Experienced, proves the trio’s leader doesn’t need lighter fluid to set his instrument on fire. Tracks such as ”Purple Haze,” ”Manic Depression,” and ”Foxey Lady” mark the start of Hendrix’s all-too-brief reign as the world’s greatest guitarist.
”At one of the early love-ins I met a photographer. He was making a short film [with the Experience]. He said, ‘Do you want to dance in it?’ I went over to this cavernous hippie pad in the Hollywood Hills. It’s all painted psychedelic, and Hendrix is there and [Experience members] Noel [Redding, bassist] and Mitch [Mitchell, drummer]. I danced on this pedestal while Jimi was grinding out ‘Foxey Lady.’ It was a life-altering experience to be in a room with those guys. Jimi hit on me, of course, but I was too nervous and virginal. I wound up with Noel; he was willing to wait.”
”Jimi Hendrix was the opening act for [the Monkees]. The kids, I don’t think they got it. He’d be out there playing ‘Purple Haze’ to ‘We want Davy!’ It was embarrassing, but we had a great time.”
The Doors Get ”Higher” on The Ed Sullivan Show
”They asked us not to say the word ‘higher’ [in ‘Light My Fire’]. We thought, Is this a Theater of the Absurd play that we have entered into? But we told one of the top dogs that we would not say the word — and, of course, we all looked at each other and said, Let’s do it! So Jim said the word ‘higher,’ and the man came backstage and told us we would never work The Ed Sullivan Show again. Jim looked at the guy — and this is classic Morrison — and said, ‘Hey, man, so what? We just did The Ed Sullivan Show!”’
Bummer: The Death of Hippie Parade
Haight-Ashbury scenesters respond to the intense media coverage and the degradation of their counterculture ideals by drawing the Summer of Love to a close with a mock funeral procession. Tragically, real funerals follow as, over the next few years, many of the era’s prime talents — Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead’s Ron ”Pigpen” McKernan — prematurely depart for the great love-in in the sky.
Weir ”The problem with that parade was that a lot of my brethren, our kindred spirits, were already gone. This parade was for the people that had killed the hippies. [Laughs]”
”Janis was the most talented person to come out of the scene, easily. Her entire career was four years long. I often thought if she hadn’t left Big Brother as early as she did, she might still be with us.”
”What were the aims of the counterculture? Get high, get laid.”
”I do love some of the things that we tried to do. We figured, if you had peaceful thoughts, maybe there’s a chance that peaceful actions come after. And I don’t think that’s silly, I don’t think that’s worthy of ridicule.”
”This was the year that, fully, the bohemian knowledge was returned to the world. I can’t say enough about it. The Summer of Love is not a historical time; it’s a portal that was fully opened [after] it was closed for two wars and a depression. The music carried the message. And the music was absolutely f–ing great!” (Additional reporting by Rob Brunner, Shirley Halperin, Beth Johnson, and Damien McCaffery)
Some of 1967’s most far-out LPs
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Grateful Dead
The Grateful Dead
Are You Experienced
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
The Who Sell Out
King & Queen
Otis Redding & Carla Thomas
John Wesley Harding