By Amy Ryan
Updated July 19, 2007 at 02:00 PM EDT
Jimi Hendrix: David Redfern / Redferns / Retna

Now that we’re officially awash in officially-sanctioned, boomer-approved Summer of Love nostalgia, USA Today performs a useful service by taking a slightly revisionist look at the one real lasting legacy of the summer of 1967: its music. It’s worth remembering that, even at the height of the Flower Power moment, not everyone who put out an album that summer was aboard the peace-love-and-acid bus. There were acts like the Doors and the Velvet Underground who pushed rock in a much darker direction, and there were the squares (Elvis, Dean Martin) who still managed to sell vinyl while ignoring the psychedelic revolution completely. And then there were the soul artists (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, or Aretha Franklin) who generally avoided psychedelia (notable exception: the Temptations, who managed to add the new sounds to their palette without embarrassing themselves) but made records that still sound righteously defiant 40 years later.

Not surprisingly, it’s USA Today‘s judgment that the soul records hold up the best, along with such now-canonical discs of the era as Are You Experienced? by Jimi Hendrix (pictured), the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Velvet Underground and Nico (ignored at the time, but as recognizably influential today as Sgt. Pepper), Pink Floyd’s The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and the Rolling Stones’ Between the Buttons. Rescued from undeserved obscurity are Love’s Da Capo (though their Forever Changes, released a few months after the summer ended, was even more trailblazing) and Moby Grape’s eponymous debut. Due for a critical upgrade, the writers argue, are such surprising choices as the Bee Gees’ 1st, the Electric Prunes’ I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night), Donovan’s Mellow Yellow, Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow, and the Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday. Also surprising: the writers don’t think much of the Grateful Dead’s self-titled debut or Stevie Wonder’s I Was Made to Love Her.

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This list surely says more about the tastes of our own era than it does about 1967; apparently, we like economy and shun jamming as self-indulgent; we like sonic experimentation but are indifferent to lyrical experimentation; and we prefer skepticism to idealism. Not sure if such preferences make us more sophisticated than 1967 listeners or just sadder, crankier, and less imaginative. The optimist in me likes to think that there could be another musical revolution just around the corner, that all it will take to create another 1967 (or 1977, or 1991) is for a few musical malcontents to throw the rules out the window and give everyone else permission to follow them into uncharted territory. Maybe they’ll be inspired by the example set by the rebels, outcasts, and pioneers listed here.