…Summertime will be a love-in there

Forty five years have passed since that Summer of Love, when nearly 100,000 people cascaded into San Francisco’s (then and now) bohemian Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. 1967 was very much a year for “people in motion” but “the strange vibration” had its genesis that January, with a counterculture “gathering of tribes for a Human Be-In” at neighboring Golden Gate Park. Perhaps you were there too.

Organized by Beat Generation icon, Michael Bowen, the “Be-In” featured prominent counterculture speakers along with some of San Francisco’s finest rock bands and was specifically devised to be imitated because, in Bowen’s words, “A new concept of celebrations beneath the human underground must emerge, become conscious, and be shared, so a revolution can be formed with a renaissance of compassion, awareness, and love, and the revelation of unity for all mankind.”

More than 30,000 people showed up and the event succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.  Certainly John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas was impressed and, with the “Be-In” spirit in mind, he and some associates conceived, planned and (throughout the spring) organized the three-day Monterey International Pop Music Festival.

Held that June at the Monterey Fair Grounds (a couple of hours down Highway 1 from San Francisco) where popular Jazz and Folk festivals had long been enjoyed, Phillips and his fellow promoters saw “Monterey Pop” as a way to uphold rock music as an art form.  Mixing musical genres and placing established groups next to groundbreaking acts, it has since become the template for popular music festivals right to this day.

By the festival’s Sunday-at-midnight culmination, nearly 90,000 people had gathered in and (especially) around the fairgrounds, having grooved to performances by the likes of: Simon & Garfunkel, Country Joe and the Fish, The Grateful Dead, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Jefferson Airplane, Steve Miller Band, Moby Grape, Canned Heat, Eric Burden & the Animals, Johnny Rivers, The Butterfield Blues Band, The Association….and the relatively unknown Laura Nyro.

But Monterey Pop is best remembered for serving as the first major American venue for Ravi Shankar, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding (with Booker T. & the M.G.s), The Who and The Jimi Hendrix Experience.  As a matter of fact on that final evening Pete Townshend won a coin toss with Jimi Hendrix and The Who appeared first, as each refused to go on after the other, mainly because both acts featured instrument-demolishing conclusions to their sets – Townshend smashing his guitar amid smoke bombs while Keith Moon kicked over his drum kit; Hendrix kneeling before his wailing guitar while playing “Wild Thing”, then dousing it with lighter fluid and setting it aflame before smashing it and throwing the still keening instrument into the audience.

While John Phillips and his (much more mellow) Mamas & the Papas, followed Hendrix, Scott McKenzie helped to close the show with today’s selection. Written that spring by Phillips, specifically for his childhood friend and former band mate, McKenzie (born Phillip Blondheim in 1939) the song was initially meant to be a means of promoting the Monterey Pop Festival.

Instead, “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”  instantly became a global hit upon its May release, reaching Number 4 on the U.S. Billboard Charts while topping the charts in the UK and throughout much of Europe.  It even crossed the Iron Curtain and served as an anthem during the following year’s Prague Spring uprising.

And when combined with the Media’s sudden infatuation with all things counterculture it was this song in particular that fueled that massive summer convergence all those years ago. While a hippie revolution was in the works in major cities throughout North America and Europe, Haight Ashbury remained its epicenter and by mid-July a full-blown social experiment was underway, with its unbridled creative expression, guileless communal living, mind-bending psychedelia….and (“people in motion”) rampant free love.

 LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Wednesday 11 July

San Francisco

If you’re going to San Francisco

Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

If you’re going to San Francisco

You’re gonna meet some gentle people there

For those who come to San Francisco

Summertime will be a love-in there

In the streets of San Francisco

Gentle people with flowers in their hair

All across the nation such a strange vibration

People in motion

There’s a whole generation with a new explanation

People in motion, people in motion

 For those who come to San Francisco

Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair

If you come to San Francisco

Summertime will be a love-in there

If you come to San Francisco

Summertime will be a love-in there

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