Another huge contributor to the music as well as the cultural scene was the music and artists that emerged from the Bay Area. Together with its counter-cultural community, the artist would perform live in the streets and in the mid 60’s and early 70’s many San Francisco based bands would record those songs. Although different in style and sound the bands from the Bay Area were similar as in their use of different chord progressions, increased emphases on the bass guitar and drums. This sound was not just influenced by the British sound but also from folk rock, Chicago electric blues and soul music of Detroit.
Notable artists of the area and time are, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape, Santana, The Great Society, Quicksilver Messenger Service, New Riders of the Purple Sage and Country Joe and the Fish.
Even today the San Francisco sound remains a model to many artists from then and today.
Psychedelic music can be found in all genres of music. Rock n’ roll does not have the corner on this form of expression. True its roots primarily come from rock n’ roll of the 1960’s when artists would combine electric sounds and Eastern influences stimulated by the use of mind-altering drugs (LSD being the catalyst for most psychedelic music of the Sixties). Nevertheless, psychedelic music could be found in folk, pop, soul and even Western art music.
Also known as Acid Rock, psychedelic music can be defined as simply surrealism or dream like. The Beatles are well known for their psychedelic music of the mid Sixties. Songs such as “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “I Am the Walrus” were supposedly drug induced. Many artists and their music of the Sixties have been associated with hallucinogenic drug use. Acts included Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Cream, Jefferson Airplane and The Doors. The real question being, were these acid rock songs written while on acid (LSD) or is it simply music one listens to while on acid? If I were to guess I would say a little of both.
One needs to keep this in the back of his mind–the music business is just that a business. A big part of an artist’s success is perception, good or bad. Whatever will sell records.
Other acts of the Sixties that have over the years been considered psychedelic music makers are Iron Butterfly, The Byrds, Big Brother and the Holding Company and Country Joe and the Fish. Even the Beach Boys and Brian Wilson’s efforts to match The Beatles released the album “Pet Sounds”. Later the single “Good Vibrations” would become a big Beach Boys hit.
Since its conception in the Sixties, psychedelic rock or acid rock still plays an influential roll to artists and performers today.
We can’t talk about rock n’ roll music of the sixties without mentioning the British Invasion. Between 1964 through 1967 there was such an influx of rock n’ roll and pop performers coming to America from the United Kingdom that the news media referred this time as the British Invasion.
Probably the biggest raid of the invasion was The Beatles’ appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in February of 1964 and the emergence of Jimi Hendrixk, an American born performer, who’s first successes came in the UK.
The Beatles’ number one hit “I Want To Hold Your Hand” which debuted on Billboard’s Top 100 on January 18, 1964 and rose to number 1 on February 1, 1964, is often earmarked as the beginning of the British Invasion.
Other noted acts that followed were The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Kinks, The Moody Blues, The Who, The Yardbirds, Cream, Donovan, The Spencer Davis Group and The Dave Clark Five among others. With this influx of musical talent and growing popularity the British Invasion had an impact on the movie and television industries in this country.
It should be noted that this period between 1964 and 1967 today is known as the “first” British Invasion. The so-called second invasion was between the early- to mid-1980’s. Although the second invasion was rich in talent, this writer feels that the invasion of the Sixties had a much larger impact and influence on music than the later.
As many as 100,000 young people from around the world flocked to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district during the summer of 1967, including nearby Berkeley and other neighboring San Francisco Bay Area cities, to join in the ultimate hippie experience. In Golden Gate Park one could obtain free food, drugs and love. A free medical clinic was established and a free store gave away basic necessities to anyone who needed them.
The allure of joining a cultural utopia during the Summer of Love attracted a wide range of people of various ages including teenagers and college students, middle-class vacationers and even the
free-spirited military personnel from nearby military bases.
The Haight-Ashbury district, however, could not accommodate this rapid influx of people, and the neighborhood scene quickly deteriorated. Overcrowding, homelessness, hunger, drug problems, and crime afflicted the neighborhood. Many people simply left in the fall to resume their studies and previous life styles.
Along with the music and artists of the Monterey Pop Festival the songs from groups like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Animals, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, The Mamas and the Papas, The Strawberry Alarm Clock and the Grateful Dead have become synonymous of the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco and the summer of love, 1967.
The 1960’s was the birth of the large venue outdoor festivals and concerts. Although there were many the three biggest in my mind was the Monterey Pop Festival, the free concert at Altamont Raceway and of course, Woodstock. Each was unique in venue but similar in type artistry. Each left its mark on how music and its generation was interpreted and preserved.
The first major event was the Monterey Pop Festival, held on June 16 through the 18th, 1967, on the Monterey County Fairgrounds in Monterey, California. The first of its kind, the Monterey Pop Festival attracted an estimated 200,000 people. It more or less kicked off the so-called “summer of love” and became a model for future events including Woodstock in 1969.
This festival featured acts including the first major American appearance of Jimi Hendrix and The Who. Others making their premier major appearances were Otis Reading and Janis Joplin. Also featured was Ravi Shankar, the famed sitar player and composer from India.
Overshadowed by the bigger Woodstock Festival, it was the Monterey Pop Festival that set the stage, launched careers and shaped music history as being truly the first rock festival.
Two years after The Monterey Pop Festival in the small upstate village of Bethel, New York some 300,000 – 400,000 folks gathered peacefully on Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm for 3 days of peace, love and music. Woodstock exemplified the counterculture of the late 1960’s and the hippie era. Although attempts have been made, Woodstock to this day has never been truly replicated. More on Woodstock in future posts. In order to give the event the homage it deserves.
Probably remembered more for the violence, riots and murder than the music was the free concert at Altamont Raceway. The concert was held on December 6, 1969 at the Altamont Raceway in Northern California, between Livermore and Tracy, California. This free concert was promoted by The Rolling Stones and featured artists including Jefferson Airplane, Santana, The Fling Burrito Brothers, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and The Grateful Dead who cancelled at the last minute due to the violent outbreaks with the Rolling Stones closing the show.
Although there are opposing sides to the story the Hells Angels Motorcycle Gang was hired by the Rolling Stones to provide security at the event. Stories have been told of the Angels working for beer and hired only to keep people away from the generators and equipment.
The event began peacefully but as the day went on and more drugs and alcohol were consumed by the patrons and the Hells Angels, tensions grew. The crowd became antagonistic and unpredictable, attacking each other, the Angels, and the performers. A six months pregnantDenise Jewkes was hit in the head with a beer bottle thrown from the crowd suffering a fractured skull. A 350-pound circus performer hallucinating on LSD stripped naked and ran berserk toward the stage, knocking guests in all directions, prompting a group of Angels to leap from the stage and club him unconscious. Jefferson Airplane’s Marty Balin was punched unconscious by a Hells Angel. By the time the Rolling Stones took the stage, a group of about 4,000 to 5,000 people gathered in front of the stage, many trying to climb onto it.
After several attempts by Mick Jagger to settle the crowd, the unthinkable happened.MeredithHunter moved to the front of the crowd and drew a long-barreled revolver from his jacket. As Hunter’s girlfriend attempted to pull the gun from his hands, a space formed around them from people scrambling to get away, and Hells Angel Alan Passaro, armed with a knife, ran at Hunter from the side, parrying the gun with his left hand and stabbing him five times in the upper back with his right, killing him. The Rolling Stones unaware of the incident continued to play. Their set finished without any further violence.
Footage shot at the concert was subsequently incorporated in a film documentary entitled, “Gimme Shelter.” Altamont was referred to as Woodstock West based on its some 300,000 attendees; however, there was great contrast between the two festivals. The Woodstock Festival was all about peace and love. Altamont and the incidents have been considered by many as the possible end of a movement, shattering the whole peace and love principle.